Thursday, October 31, 2013

And Now it's November

Scout got in the Halloween spirit tonight!

I found that ridiculous little cat bow tie at PetCo when I stopped for cat food. It has some little symbols that are apparently related to Star Wars. (I've seen half the movies, but I never got into it.) Still, Scout looks pretty adorable, and I decided that his costume is Terry. Because Terry's a nerd and loves wearing ties and bow ties. It works, right? He's pretty adorable.

Did you see any particularly good costumes today? My favorite (which I didn't see in person) was my friend (my friend Amanda's sister, who works at Disney and participates in the costume contest) Stacy. Check out her video to see how amazing her costume is!

My Halloween--well, aside from playing dress up with Scout--is particularly mellow this year. We're currently cuddled up on the couch under a blanket, enjoying the glow of the jack-o-lanterns. Some ice cream may or may not be involved. (Spoiler alert: It is.)

So that brings us to November. Crazy, right?  Don't forget to say Rabbit, Rabbit! (Sometimes I forget to say it first thing when I wake up, and I think that means it doesn't work, but I still say it anyway.) This month brings...

  • Terry being gone almost the entire month, which sucks, but I'm going to visit him in two weeks. He'll be in St. Augustine, Florida, and I've never been there! I've heard it's a cute town with some good restaurants, so I can't wait. Also I miss my husband. 
  • Health Interactive, a health/fitness workshop in Santa Monica this weekend (I'm not 100% sure I'm going, but it sounds awesome). 
  • Several visits with good friends already planned.
  • A few more games of Bruin football, which will hopefully be better than the last two.
  • A Christmas tree lighting ceremony, which I don't think I've ever been to before!
  • An increase in the frequency at which I'll see Christmas decorations. 
  • A trip up north for Thanksgiving at my aunt and uncle's house!
Before we know it, December will be here, so I'm trying to soak up this month and all the pumpkin deliciousness that comes with it. 

What are you looking forward to this November?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

WIAW for One

Today is WIAW, and I had the best of intentions for taking fabulous photos of my food throughout the day, but it just didn't happen. Mostly because I ate almost every snack in front of the classroom and in front of a bunch of students, and I thought it would be even weirder to bust out my phone to take pictures. So I only have a few pictures to share, but they'll have to do.

Check out the other WIAWs!

Breakfast: Made at home, sipped throughout first and second periods.

Smoothie with about a cup of frozen berries, a banana, a big scoop of Greek yogurt, a tablespoon or so of almond butter, a handful of oats, and apple juice. It filled the mason jar perfectly and kept me delightfully full until fourth period.

Morning snack: 1/2 whole wheat pita dipped in eggplant hummus from TJs.

Lunch: Eaten in two parts: half of a leftover sandwich from Whole Foods (turkey, cheese, avocado, spinach, and onion), and a whole wheat tortilla with peanut butter and jelly

A few grapes here and there throughout the day


1/2 baked sweet potato topped with turkey chili, pepper jack cheese, avocado, and Greek yogurt (instead of sour cream). This combination was seriously phenomenal. I can't wait to eat it again for lunch tomorrow!

Dessert: Ice cream topped with chocolate chips! Perfect way to end the day. Would you believe I completely forgot to take a picture, even though I was halfway through with this post and knew I hadn't taken enough pictures? Well, believe it.

Tonight's dinner was a challenge, because it was the first of many I'll be eating on my own. Cooking for one is a bit of a struggle, especially when it seems to be easier and less expensive to buy and cook in bulk. I spent some time today planning out meals and grocery lists to ensure that I make well rounded meals (sometimes difficult when I don't have anyone to impress) and avoid impossible amounts of leftovers.

Tonight's meal still ended up being more than I expected, but I did my best. I cooked up a pound of ground turkey and added half an onion plus a green bell pepper.

Then I put half the turkey-veggie mixture into a Pyrex for another meal later this week and made my chili with the other half (added chopped tomatoes, kidney beans, and spices and let the whole thing simmer for about 15 minutes).

I baked two sweet potatoes and used half of one for tonight's meal. I'll use the other half for lunch leftovers tomorrow, and I assume the other sweet potato will become lunch another day (topped with peanut butter and cinnamon, of course).

Other meals I have on tap:
  • taco salad (using the other half of the ground turkey & veggies mixture)
  • chicken--I bought this one in "bulk" (three giant breasts) and I'll freeze at least one and throw the rest in the crock pot tomorrow with some chicken broth. Then I can shred the chicken and eat it in salads, wraps, maybe even a chicken salad.
  • breakfast for dinner--always a favorite and SO easy to make just one serving
  • soup--I can easily halve the recipe or freeze the leftovers
Luckily, I'm not one to get sick of leftovers too quickly, so I don't mind eating a meal twice or even three times. But I also tend to over-buy, so I really limited myself when I went to the store today to just what I need. 

Off to bed for another day of subbing tomorrow. Have a wonderful Halloween!

How are you celebrating the big day? I'm being an old crazy cat lady and staying home with my kitten. So what I do every night. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Italian Chopped Salad

Today's lunch is really all I can think about, and it's pretty much all I'm going to write about. I just feel the amount of attention I give to the meal should be proportionate to the amount I loved it.

I was inspired by a few salads I've had over the years. I never realized it, but when there's an Italian chopped salad on a menu, I usually order it. Something about those flavors and textures just makes my taste buds do a little happy dance.

Last week, I picked up an Italian chopped salad from Trader Joe's. You know how they have all their pre-made salads? Those are not too shabby in a pinch. Well, this one was new to me, and it was decent but not great. They did well with the mozzarella and salami, but I thought they could have added more veggies, and I was disappointed in the mustard vinaigrette dressing (I ended up skipping it).

Today, Terry and I both got off work a little early and agreed to grab something quickly at the grocery store to eat at home. He suggested TJ's salads, which reminded me of the Italian chopped, and suddenly... It was one of those moments I assume I'll never forget. You know that feeling: You come up with a brilliant idea, practically without even trying, and suddenly you recognize your innate genius. You think to yourself, "Wow, if I can come up with brilliant thoughts like this, I must be far more valuable to the world than I originally realized."

Yes, folks. That was the moment when I had my epiphany. We would purchase the ingredients to make an Italian chopped salad at home. 

I know what you're thinking: Man, I wish I had thought of that! But rest assured: I will share the recipe with you.

And at about this point, you're likely realizing: Wait, an Italian chopped salad is just a bunch of ingredients chopped up and tossed with olive oil. And to you I say yes, yes it is. And sure, perhaps you could change one or three or all of these ingredients and still call the result by the same name, and no one would think anything of it.

But I'm choosing to ignore those facts. This salad was one of the best I've ever had, and the fact that it's simple and basically a hodgepodge shouldn't deter me from posting it or you from trying your own variation. So here you go.

Italian Chopped Salad

Serves 4, but really just 2 if you're like us and eat two bowls in one sitting
  • 2 heads Romaine lettuce, rinsed
  • one can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tomatoes (I subbed in one small package of cherry tomatoes)
  • 1/2 lb. mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 jar roasted bell peppers* (set peppers on towel to dry slightly)
  • 1 jar artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1/4 to 1/2 lb salami
  • handful sliced olives (if that's your thing--not for me)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Chop the lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, bell peppers, artichokes, and salami. I enjoyed that all the pieces were around the same size (about the size of a garbanzo bean), but you can vary the sizes, too. Then toss it all together with the beans, olives, oil, and salt and pepper. Serve with crusty bread.

*Note: Fresh bell peppers would also work well and would add a nice crunch, but I opted for the roasted today.

Of course, you can add or sub a variety of ingredients to make this salad even more magical, depending on your tastes. Consider:
  • ham
  • pepperoni
  • pepperoncinis
  • red onion
  • Parmesan cheese
  • varieties of olives
  • whatever tickles your fancy
And there you have it! How can you go wrong with so many delightful ingredients?

(Forgive the phone photos--our camera's on loan this week.)

This afternoon, once our salads had digested, we headed to the gym for a quick leg workout. After a 5-minute warm up, we completed three rounds of the following:

  • 20 alternating walking lunges
  • 10 dumbbell squats
  • 10 dumbbell plie squats
  • 10 dumbbell one-leg deadlifts (per leg)
  • calf raises to fatigue
Plus about a two-mile walk around our neighborhood. 

It was a lovely afternoon and a nice way to get in some quality time before Terry's big trip. Now it's time to catch HIMYM and gobble down some pumpkin cookies before bedtime!

What's your favorite type of salad? I'm not normally a salad person, but I can usually get on board if there's lots of "stuff" and not a disproportionate amount of lettuce. Greek salads and Italian salads are my go-to.

And a special birthday shout out to my friend Heidi, who is expecting her first child with her awesome husband Edward in the spring! Happy birthday and congratulations, Heidi!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Halloweentime for the Heinrichs

It was pumpkin weekend at our house!

My parents were in town, so among our other adventures--a lovely hike, a fancy dinner out, and a tough UCLA game watched from the comfort of our home--we stopped by the local pumpkin patch to grab our orange globes.

Today, my parents headed back home (always a sad event), and Terry and I got to work on our pumpkins. Of course, The Nightmare Before Christmas in the background set a delightful ambiance.

Scout was thrilled with the pumpkins.

And then he actually got pretty into it.

And then he was over it.

And here are the finished products!

Terry opted for a winking Mickey face (there's a giant one at the end of Main Street in Disneyland), and I just searched "pumpkin carving ideas" and found the crooked mouth guy. Not bad, if I do say so myself.

I have three sub days lined up already this week, and unfortunately Terry takes off midweek for his latest work trip. Thankfully, I feel like I have enough to keep me busy, and I've been brainstorming fun ideas for meals for one. I'm also lucky to have offers from friends to come over for dinners now and then, which they might regret when I actually take them up on it.

I'm off to spend the rest of the night with my main squeeze and our little kitten. On the menu: leftover homemade tomato bisque (I make a few minor adjustments: only 2 tablespoons of butter and no bacon) and leftover BLTAs (bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado on whole wheat) from last night's dinner, and maybe a few other snacks to fill us up. Plus pumpkin cookies for dessert!

As for workouts this week, I'm planning the following (in no particular order):

  • a few long walks
  • at least two jogs, maybe some interval walk/jogs
  • leg day, maybe an upper body day too if I'm feeling wild
  • full body strength, perhaps courtesy of Jillian Michaels

Have a great start to the week!

Any exciting meals or workouts on your calendar for this week? Please share so I can live through you. Thanks.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Baking Day

One day last week, I didn't get called in to sub, so I took advantage of the time to get a ton of work and errands done around the house. Most importantly, I made cookies.

I used one can of pumpkin to make two batches of cookies and a loaf of pumpkin bread. And everything still tasted plenty pumpkin-y, so that one can really went a long way! I even mixed things up for the cookies and made a few varieties:
  • pumpkin chocolate chip
  • pumpkin white chocolate chip <--If I had made this batch first, they all would have been this variation, because it is SOOOOOOO tasty!
  • pumpkin chocolate chip with pecans

Here's the recipe for the cookies (from An Organic Wife), and here's the recipe for the pumpkin bread (from 100 Days of Real Food). I can always rely on these two sites for simple, classic recipes with a wholesome twist.

Unfortunately, I haven't had much of a chance to devour these cookies. I know, it's so unlike me! Usually baked goods last about three days in this house, but we've been rather busy. Terry and I also went out to dinner on Monday night at a classic LA restaurant, El Cholo, which was a fun date night. Terry is leaving once again for a LOOOOONG work trip, and I'm soaking up as much time with him as possible before he goes. Scout and I miss him when he's gone. (Actually, while I do think Scout misses him, I think Scout also loves the extra attention he gets from me during these nights. Somehow I tend to spoil him just a little bit more when Terry's gone.)

The workouts around here have been sporadic, at best. To be fair, we did walk eleven miles the other day, but I feel like we're still struggling to get back into a normal workout routine--especially strength training--ever since we got back from Europe. Which was approximately 18 days ago. We're winners.

So tonight, it all changes! I hit the gym for an upper body workout and some intervals. And actually, this morning I woke up a little early so I squeezed in about 20 minutes of core work to start the day on a healthy note. And here's tonight's workout: 15 exercises, 15 reps, and you're done!

Some notes:
  • You can see a pattern here: Two exercises working a particular body part (shoulders, triceps, biceps, chest, back), then a full-body exercise that emphasizes that muscle group.
  • To lighten up this workout, you can reduce the number of reps, use a light weight, or omit every third exercise (the full-body ones).
  • To challenge yourself more, increase the weight, and/or complete as many exercises as possible on a stability ball or on one leg. The added balance challenge increases how much your body has to work, and you'll incorporate your core. 
For the intervals, I did three minutes running, one minute walking, total of 5 rounds (20 minutes, plus warm up and cool down). The entire workout, including strength, took 50 minutes, and it felt fantastic to get back to my usual! Now we just have to continue tomorrow, and the next day, and the next...

Alright, enough shenanigans. Let's get to the fun of WIAW!

Breakfast: two pretty small slices of pumpkin bread, one of which was toasted and topped with peanut butter. Looking back, I probably should have gone with some eggs and toast and brought the pumpkin bread to school as a snack, because now I'm realizing that my snacks and lunch are less than exciting.

Recycled photo. Just imagine the peanut butter.

Morning snack: a banana and some crackers. See what I mean about the boring snacks?

Lunch: Leftover Greek quinoa salad from Saturday's football party. Delicious, but the tomatoes are just about done and I have a TON leftover still in the fridge. I'm seriously considering picking out the tomatoes in there and chopping up some fresh ones for the rest of the week. Is that weird?

Afternoon snack: half an apple and a small bowl of cereal, plus a little bit of cheese

Dinner: Remember yesterday when I mentioned all those tomatoes and the impending marinara sauce? Turns out, I also had a pound of ground turkey, so I whipped up some turkey bolognese. I browned the turkey and sauteed it with 1/2 a chopped onion and some minced garlic, then set it all aside. Then I sauteed the rest of the chopped onion in the same pan with some olive oil and garlic, added about 3/4 cup of red wine to scrape up the browned bits, and let it reduce just a bit. I processed five tomatoes to a pulpy soup texture and threw those in and brought it all to a boil with salt, pepper, oregano, Italian seasoning, basil, and red pepper flakes. I left the whole pot to simmer (without the meat) for about 30 minutes, and then I added the meat back in and let the flavors come together.

I was worried the sauce wouldn't thicken because I didn't have any tomato sauce, but I think letting the wine reduce helped get the right consistency. I also made it two days before actually serving it, which is my favorite way to let all those flavors marry and become united as one in holy matrimony.

Tonight I served the sauce over whole wheat spaghetti with roasted asparagus and a small Caesar salad. So simple, so delicious!

And I'll bet you can guess what we ate for dessert. (Hint: It's at the top of this page!)

Have a wonderful Thursday!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Weekend Recovery

Yesterday morning, I met up with my brother and sister-in-law for breakfast at Blue Daisy Cafe (let's just pause here for a moment to admire how delicious this food was:

), and we agreed we all felt like we had hangovers--except we didn't have any alcohol last night. We just completely exhausted ourselves on Sunday, and I'm certain it'll take another day to recover.

But let's back up. Obviously, I took the weekend off from blogging to spend some awesome quality time with my bro, Chris, and his wife, Ashley. They live in Northern California and haven't been in LA in several years, so I was thrilled to have them visit. They arrived Friday and stopped at our friend Nick's house to drop off their things. (Our apartment is too small for overnight guests to be comfortable, but Chris's best friend, whose family we grew up with, lives with his wife Jocelyn about a mile away from us in LA.) Then we met up for some sushi to kick off the weekend.

Friday afternoon was mellow, and Terry joined us at Nick and Jocelyn's, where we played with Cali, their sweet three-year-old lab mix. For dinner, we all went to Upper West, a new favorite of ours. We made it there in time for happy hour, which allowed us to order some delicious drinks and food for pretty reasonable prices. I definitely recommend the burger! Next up, Ashley (the non-local) recommended Urth Caffe, and none of us locals had ever been. The cafe is famous for its desserts, and we all ordered cheesecakes, which were phenomenal. Unfortunately, Terry wasn't feeling great after dinner, so we headed home after that while the others went to Mom's Bar.

Saturday, Terry felt better, and good thing because we had plans to host a whole bunch of people for the UCLA-Stanford game! While it was a great game, we ultimately lost--our first loss of the season. Next week against Oregon will be even tougher. Anyway, the day was still a blast. We invited the same group from the night before plus two of their friends from college who were up from San Diego, and we also had to increase the Bruin spirit so we also invited our buddies Heidi, Ed, Corey (Katie and Ainsley couldn't make it), Jenn, and Justin. Terry grilled burgers, I threw together a quinoa Greek salad, and everyone else brought something to share: puff pastry with cream cheese and jalapeno, amazing beer, cocktail mixers, fruit salad, bean dip, and more. An amazing day with amazing friends!

After the excitement (and agony) from the game settled down, a group of us headed to Santa Monica for a few drinks at Copa d' Oro and then to Wahoo's for some tacos. We ended up back at Nick and Jocelyn's for games, which was a blast.

And on Sunday we hit up Disneyland!!! This trip was just Chris, Ashley, Terry, and me, and we had a fantastic time. We arrived at the park around 9 am and stayed until almost 10:30 pm, hopping back and forth between Disneyland and California Adventure a few times, trying new-to-us rides, and dominating the food scene. We ended up walking around 11 miles (25,000 steps)! Crazy! Some highlights:

  • Corndog Castle, recommended by Ashley's friend Maggie--a wise woman
  • French Market Cafe--Terry and I used to eat here whenever we went to Disneyland, but it has really stepped up its game. I ordered a gigantic Caesar salad, which came with a ton of deliciously moist and seasoned chicken. At $11, it felt like a steal, especially when most meals at Disneyland feel ridiculously overpriced.
  • For dinner, Chris suggested pizza, and we found a tiny place just across the street from the park (not actually in the park or Downtown Disney), which turned out to be incredible! Pizza Press impressed us all--delicious crust, awesome and creative options for toppings, make-your-own salads, made-in-front-of-you pizzas, and friendly service. Plus great prices and a nice reprieve from the lines and chaos of the parks.
  • A stop at In-N-Out on the way home, which made my taste buds dance with joy.
As far as the rides and park experience, we hit up a bunch of rides and had so much fun. Our favorites were California Screamin', Tower of Terror, Haunted Mansion, and the new Cars ride. It was such a fun day!

Chris and Ashley headed back to Nor Cal yesterday, and I'm cleaning and recovering from the weekend. I bought way too many tomatoes, so homemade marinara is happening today!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

WIAW: Pinterest Chicken

I haven't posted for a What I Ate Wednesday in quite awhile, and I'm glad to be back!

Late last night, I got called in to sub for today, but I was only asked to sub until noon. So this morning, I asked Terry if he wanted to meet me for lunch at our favorite soup place, and he agreed. Instead of saving leftover quiche for lunch, then, we enjoyed that for breakfast. I used Lisa's recipe as always, and I added broccoli (I roast the broccoli before adding it as a filling), two types of cheese, tomatoes, and spinach. I made it on Monday night, and I love having leftover quiche for quick meals throughout the week.

We did, in fact, meet for lunch at our favorite soup place. Terry got the mulligatawny with 1/2 grilled cheese; I got tomato basil with 1/2 grilled cheese. It was perfectly tasty and totally hit the spot, even on a very warm LA day.

I had some snacks throughout the day, like some crackers with cheese and a bowl of cereal. I guess today was a bit lacking in the fruit department.

Jenn came over in the afternoon for a leg workout. We alternated stable and unstable exercises, including Romanian deadlifts, hamstring ball roll ins, walking lunges, ball squats, hip abductions on the ball, and plie squats. It was a good one, and we topped it all off with some ab work--supermans, V-ups, ball crunches, and ball back extensions. I'm glad Jenn came over to motivate me!

For dinner, I was so excited to try this new recipe that I found on Pinterest. Originally from The Comfort of Cooking, I thought it looked simple and tasty, so we added it to our menu for the week. Today I whisked together the marinade (took about five minutes), threw it in a bag with the chicken, and let the meat marinate for a few hours. I placed it all in the baking dish with some orange, lemon, and onion slices around 6:00, and we were eating by 7:10!

We paired the chicken with leftovers from the world's most amazing vegetable dinner yesterday--more pita, goat cheese, hummus, and veggies. Amazing.

After dinner, I convinced Terry that we should go for a get milkshakes. Luckily, he thought it was a terrific idea, and the three miles seemed to balance out the delicious treat.

Go check out the other WIAWs!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Grilled Vegetable Kebbs

When I made up the menu for this week, I wanted to try something fun and different. Terry and I are making a huge effort to eat at home (since we got back from Europe, we've eaten homemade every night except one (for him) and two (for me)!). But eating at home every night presents challenges:
  • Making sure I have all the ingredients--and when I don't, forcing myself to go to the store instead of just giving up. 
  • Staying organized and making sure we have enough time to make the meals we plan (not as much of a problem now that I'm subbing instead of teaching full time). 
  • Coming up with creative, unique ideas so that we don't get tired of it.
Today I think I did a good job, especially in that last category. We decided to go vegetarian and use the pita and hummus we purchased at the farmer's market over the weekend, and we grilled up some veggie kebabs!

Vegetable Kabobs
Serves 4, but easy to double or triple for a crowd

For the kabobs:
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 bell peppers, ideally of different colors
  • 2 medium zucchini or yellow squash (they're at the end of their season here, so in the winter I would use winter squash or whatever you can find with similar texture)
  • Special tools: kebab sticks (1-2 per person)
For the marinade:
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • Dash red pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (we like a lot of garlic, so use less if you prefer)
For serving (optional):
  • Feta or goat cheese (1-2 ounces per person)
  • Pita bread (1-2 whole pitas per person)
  • Hummus (we had a variety of options from the farmer's market)
  • Greek yogurt, maybe mixed with lemon or dill
  • Whatever else sounds delicious--diced tomatoes, Kalamata olives, red wine, etc.
Fill a small rectangular dish with water and let your kebab sticks soak while you prep the rest of your ingredients. Whisk the marinade ingredients together and set aside to let the flavors marry. Then chop up your vegetables. Ideally, aim for pieces that are approximately the same size (I liked the chunks to be about half of a ping pong ball, and I kept the onion chunks slightly smaller). Throw all those chunks into your marinade and toss until they're evenly covered. You could soak them in the marinade for a bit, but I didn't; I would think they'd get soggy pretty quickly, so I wouldn't go too long.

Slide your marinated veggie chunks onto the sticks in whatever order sounds most delicious to you. I liked onions on the ends, perhaps because they're a sturdier vegetable. You could do all the previous steps in advance and stop here if you're prepping for later. You can then store them (on a plate, covered with plastic wrap) in the fridge until you're ready to grill.

When you're ready to go, heat up the grill and throw the veggies on, rotating so all sides get slightly charred, about 10-15 minutes total (our grill is tiny, so it took about 15 minutes). Serve with the pita, cheese, hummus, and whatever else tickles your fancy!

As amazing as the vegetables were with just the marinade, the goat cheese + hummus combo took them to a level I didn't believe was possible. I loved this meal, and I think they would be fun for kids, too. Kids love "playing" with their food, and this meal is pure finger foods! You're constantly assembling, dipping, spreading, and munching! And I ate more vegetables than I have in awhile.

These kebabs would even be a great side dish or appetizer, especially if you're serving grilled lamb. Something about lamb and grilled vegetables sounds just delightful to me.