Thursday, December 29, 2011

Productive Afternoon

Good Evening, Friends!

Wow two posts in one day, aren't you lucky!  Well, not really, this is going to be a short one - I have dinner and Ryan Reynolds waiting for me.  Okay, you got me dinner and the Green Lantern movie.  Let a girl dream a little :)

Today I met up with one of my friends from grad school, who is actually back in school getting her Ph.D. She moved to NYC back in August and even though I visit home (NJ) often I still haven't gotten the chance to meet up with her.  Anyway, she was heading back to the city today, but was still able to fit in a quick lunch with me at Panera.  Let me just take a minute and say that I am in love with Panera's "You Pick Two."  I always get the same thing (Classic Salad and Black Bean Soup), but everything is just so yummy! 

After lunch I came home, made myself a Tone It Up Peppermint Latte and got to work on my paper outline.  Apparently the latte was just what I  needed.  I was able to crank that baby out in a little over an hour.  Woohoo! 

Then it was to the GYM, where I was looking forward to running again.  I haven't ran since my fall on Christmas Eve.  I was so ready... I got on that treadmill, did my 5 minute warm up and then started to run at a pretty steady pace of 6.0.  Although after about 10 minutes I suddenly felt drained.  I didn't give up though, I went about 5 more minutes and then changed to walking on a 10.0 incline at 4.3.  I am not quite sure what my body was trying to tell me (other than, "Rachael, slow down"), but at least I was able to get a good solid 45 minutes out of it.  I am hoping tomorrows run will be a bit more productive than today's, because let me tell you walking on the treadmill ... BORING!

Tonight's dinner was inspired by a recipe I found on Chelsey's website "Clean Eating Chelsey." 

I tweaked the recipe a bit and promise to share it with you tomorrow.  I would write up my version now, however, it is currently staring me in the face saying " me" and I must comply with its request! And I also have Ryan waiting in the other room :).   

How do you deal with your body saying slow you comply or push just a little harder?

- Rachael -

Frosty Thursday Morning

Good Morning, Friends!

I don't know about you, but it is a frosty Thursday morning here in Massachusetts!  The weather channel may say it is 17 degrees out there, but let me tell you it certainly doesn’t feel like it...brrrr! 

So, a lot of people have started to write their reflections of 2011 and post their resolutions for 2012.  You should read some, they are truly inspiring.  Many have me thinking about what I would like to accomplish next year, while others call on me to remember all I have accomplished this year.  I will write about both my 2011 accomplishments and 2012 aspirations in another post don’t worry.  But right now all my brain can handle is the topic of Juvenile Probation Officers and Decision Making, fun I know!  It feels as though I step into a whole other world when I read/write/talk about nutrition, blogging, and fitness.  While this world is life for many, and is definitely part of my everyday routine (eating and exercise), I am not as well versed as I would like to be.  Hmm do you see the start of my goals/aspirations for 2012!?

Anyway, today is an at home writing work day for me, which means YUMMY meals all day long!  (and of course some writing thrown in here and there, just kidding!)

Breakfast – Chia Pudding with Rolled Oats

I’ve been eyeing this recipe for quite some time now on Brittany’s Blog, Eating Bird Food (it’s great, you know you want to check it out, but after you have finished reading this ;).  I have tried a couple of her other recipes, which have all been amazing, so (as you could imagine) I was very excited to try another. 

Chia Pudding with Rolled Oats
  • 1/4 cup whole chia seeds
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/2 scoop vanilla brown rice protein powder (Brittany uses Sun Warrior)
  • 1 T rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 to 4 drops of liquid stevia, or other natural sweetener
  • 1/2 sliced banana
  • 1/8 cup blackberries
In a bowl, mix together all ingredients expect the banana and blackberries. You’ll need to stir quite a bit because the protein powder clumps and resists dissolving into the milk. Once everything is well combined, let the mixture sit on the counter or in the fridge for 8-10 minutes. Sir in the banana, top with blackberries and enjoy!
**In Brittany’s original recipe she uses blueberries.  After yesterday’s fiasco at the grocery store, I wasn’t able to get blueberries so I substituted with some blackberries, which were equally as delicious. 

Looks tasty, right?!  Just want I need before a long morning of writing. 

Check in with you all later!

Have you tried Chia seeds yet?  If so, what are some of your favorite recipes?

- Rachael -

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Weekend Wrap-up

Happy Tuesday, Friends!
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas with your friends and family.  I know I did, which is why I haven’t written these past couple of days.  Sorry, don’t be mad! 
Here are a few highlights of the past few days, in no particular order…
Peanut Butter and Peter Pan
On Friday, my mom and I ventured into NYC.  Typically we would stay away from the city during the holiday season (too many tourists), but we had tickets to a play.  My parents live 30 minutes from the city so growing up we used to visit at least once a week for plays, dinner, visiting my dad at work, etc.  I was supposed to partake in today’s festivities with my brother; however, he was feeling under the weather so my mom was nice enough to step in.  First stop… lunch at Peanut Butter & Co.  I don’t know about you, but Peanut Butter & Co, is definitely my favorite peanut butter.  Their flavors are downright sinful and I am not ashamed to say that I could eat it straight from the jar by the heaping spoonfuls.  I use their peanut butter in all of my recipes.  So, once I found out they had a sandwich shop in NYC, I was all about adding that into the schedule.  As soon as I saw the blue and white stripped awning I knew I was in trouble!  I walked in, took a menu, sat down and smiled …
My mom and I were so overwhelmed by all of the peanut butter sandwich choices, they all sounded delicious. 
After about 10 minutes of staring at the menu, we finally picked our sandwiches.  I went for the classic Elvis, a grilled peanut butter sandwich stuffed with honey and bananas.  I even opted for the Black Vegan Bread - so delicious!

And my mom choose the Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Sandwich, a cinnamon raisin peanut butter and vanilla cream cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread, stuffed with crisp apple slices.

Let’s just say it took longer to pick our sandwiches than it did for us to eat them ;).  YUM!!! 
After our tummies were happy and full we made our way to Madison Square Garden to see…Peter Pan!  The play was spectacular and Kathy Rigby was as wonderful as she was in the original.  It was a treat to see her live and in person.  I definitely recommend this play to anyone young or old – my mom and I sang along with every song J.  It was a perfect mother/daughter day – Peanut Butter and Peter Pan. 

Encounter with Ladder and Attic
It is a known fact to anyone who has had the misfortune of walking with me, that I will undoubtedly trip over or bump into SOMETHING.  With that being said, Christmas Eve started out like every other year.  There was stocking stuffer shopping, Christmas mass and the traditional Christmas Eve dinner, Chinese food!  After dinner, we changed into our PJ’s, poured some wine, started a fire and then started wrapping presents.  About half way through my mom realized we didn’t have anything to put our stocking stuffers in; apparently my dad couldn’t find the stockings…hmmm.  This was clearly not acceptable to us.  So, I took it upon myself to climb up the “fake” attic stairs (my dad hasn’t installed the real ones yet since finishing the remodeling of the bathroom) and push myself through the hole in the ceiling to find the Christmas stockings.  Well, that was the plan…  I got up the stairs, got my arms through the ceiling hole, went to put my foot on the ladder for stability and BOOM I was DOWN for the count.  Yes, I fell from the ceiling and the only thing to stop me was the top of the ladder, which I very nicely dangled from until my mom helped me down.   I am sure I was a sight to see.  I am now rocking a black eye and numerous bruises on my legs and arms.  The one part of me that is not bruised or sore is my stomach.  My mom thinks it’s from all of my wonderful Tone It Up ab exercisesJ.  

Christmas Morning
Let’s see here are a few of my favorites…

I see a lot of Peanut Butter Jar Oatmeal breakfasts in my futureJ. 
Woohoo, more Mind Body Barre classes with Heather!

Wii Fit Zumba, Lia Sophia Jewelry and Stop & Shop gift cards.  I definitely made out, huh!?!

Well, that is it for now.  I have to go stretch for my 30 for 60 workout since I can’t do much of anything else.  Hopefully tomorrow I can show my face at the gym and not cringe when thinking about running, leg lifts, or arm curls.  I miss my routineL.
Have a great night!

What is your favorite holiday tradition?

- Rachael -
Santa was particularly good to me this year.  I got everything on my list, and MORE! 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Peanut Butter Jar Oatmeal

Good Morning, Friends!
I hope you are all having a fabulous morning!  I know I amJ.  Currently, I am sitting in my parents living room (finally home!), in my PJ’s, drinking coffee and singing along to Christmas tunes.  I haven’t done this since being on winter break from college – oh my, weren’t those the days!  While all is well in “Rachael Land” this morning, there is one thing I am pretty bummed about … and that is the fact that my brother did not pick up my granola at the grocery store last night.  I was all ready to have the oatmeal-berry-granola breakfast I had been craving yesterday, but couldn’t make because of my flat tire.  Yes, that means my tummy has been craving this breakfast for two whole days now and I have yet to deliver it.  Although, I am sure know it is content with the breakfast I am currently having J.
Every time I visit my parents house I always bring “emergency” food supplies, which include, but never limited to: (1) Flax seeds, (2) Zico Mango Coconut Water (their grocery store NEVER has Mango, huge mistake on their part), (3) Cliff, Lara and Think Thin bars, (4) Whey Protein Power, and (5) whatever leftovers I have in my cabinet and fridge.  This trip it included vegan chocolate chips, as well as an almost empty container of my new favorite peanut butter – Peanut Butter and Co. Crunch Time (yum!). 
So, despite that fact that my wonderful brother forgot to pick up my granola at the store, I had all of the ingredients to make another breakfast favorite.  Can you guess what I made?
That’s right … Peanut Butter Jar Oatmeal. 

(Oatmeal recipe adapted from Hungry Girl 300 Under 300 Cookbook)
  • ½ cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Breeze
  • 1 cup water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 no-calorie sweetener packet (I used Stevia)
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 medium banana, sliced
  • 10 Vegan Carob Chips
  • 1 almost empty jar of Peanut Butter and Co. Crunch Time
In a nonstick pot combine oats, salt and sweetener packet.  Add Almond Breeze, 1 cup water, and vanilla.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer.  Cook for about 12 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently (or your oatmeal will stick to the bottom), until thick and creamy. 

Once your oatmeal is finally ready, immediately spoon ½ into your empty peanut butter jar along with some sliced banana and five carob chips.  Repeat with remaining oatmeal, banana and carob chips.

The peanut butter melts, combining with the oats and carob chips so you get peanut butter goodness with every bite. 

I finished mine even before writing five sentences of this post and now I want another!  I definitely scraped everything out of this jar today...

Besides being pretty darn delicious, the best part about this recipe is that you can substitute the peanut butter with any nut butters (i.e., sunflower, almond, cashew, nut, etc.).  I better get working on the almond jar I have in my fridge!
Okay, off to run a few errands before lunch with my mom at my favorite vegan/vegetarian restaurant – CafĂ© Metro.  I promise to share my delicious lunch with you all later. 

Have a wonderful morning/afternoon my friends!

What is your favorite way to finish the last 1-2 tablespoons of peanut butter in the jar?

- Rachael -


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Birthday Week: Celebrating with Emer D

Happy Thirsty Thursday Everyone!

What is birthday week you may ask?  Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like…celebrating your birthday for a WEEK!  Mine started last Saturday and will finish up this Sunday.  Although, there will be a bit more celebrating when I head home to NJ next week.  One can never over celebrate a birthday.  I mean I have to get it all in while I can; Christmas is coming in exactly 10 days! 
So, since Saturday I have treated myself to a Starbucks Americano (everyday),

bought myself new running shoes,

went on a bit of a JCREW shopping spree (at the outlet and everything was an additional 30-50% off, this spree was definitely a no brainer), and slimmed down/toned up with TIU’s 7 Day Slim Down.  Now some might ask why I choose to take part in the 7 Day Slim Down during my celebratory birthday week, a time when you are supposed to indulge.  Well, the rational for doing so is pretty simple actually…I want to look DAMN good when I go out Friday and Saturday this weekend!  See, I knew you would understand ;). 
However, tonight, by far, has been the best celebration.  Tonight I babysat Emer D (that’s what I call her).  I’ve been babysitting (or as we now call it now, having date nights) with Emer D since she was five months old…she just turned four a few months ago.  We have a pretty special relationship, and I absolutely love watching her.  Seeing as though my birthday is Saturday, Emer D wanted to pick out a present, all by herself, for me this year.  So she did.  She was SO excited for me to open them and couldn’t wait to try them out – the box was open even before I finished reading my card.  Seriously, how cute is she!?

(Disco ball and she is standing on my new comfy fleece blanket)

Then she wanted to sing me happy birthday, but realized she didn’t have a cake…so we improvised.  She toasted some bread and spread on some Cookie Butter (I will get to that later) and even put on candles.  After she sang happy birthday, she ripped the bread in half so I could share with her. 

We then continued to color by light of my new disco ball until bed time.  And if that wasn’t special enough, she also read to me tonight.  For her birthday she asked for reading lessons (yep, you read correctly, reading lessons) and was so excited to show me what she has been learning.  She read the entire book perfectly, by the way.
So all in all, tonight was, again by far, the best birthday celebration.  Emer D made me feel so special, from picking out my presents, helping me open them, singing happy birthday, making my “cake” to reading me a bedtime story.  I love how innocent and sassy she is, all at the same time.
She wanted to take the picture.

I have a couple more posts coming your way which include a recipe for Fruit Pizza, a fun holiday homemade gift and a few other things…so stay tuned! 

What is your favorite way to celebrate your birthday?

- Rachael -

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Testy Tuesday ...

Happy Tuesday!
I’m SOO sorry for neglecting you lovely people these past couple of days.  Please forgive me?!  I know I said I would try to post something every day this week; however, give me a few minutes and I will explain what has been going on and you WILL hopefully totally understand!

Let’s start with today…  I woke up at 5am for my Tone It Up booty call, made coffee and turned on my work computer.  As soon as the computer started up I was greeted with THIS...  “Computer failed; cannot find c:/ drive.”  I mean really, come on now!  And to make it even better, the screen was completely black and all of my files/programs were nowhere to be found.  My first thought was crap, not the exact word, but you know what I mean ;).  I grabbed my phone and called my dad, he is my computer go to guy; however, once I told him it was my work computer he so helpfully said, “Rachael its 5:30am, this is your work computer, go call your help desk!”  Not what I really wanted to hear, as you could imagine.  So, I quickly got ready for work and got to my desk (at 6:30am no less) and frantically called our help desk!  Normally I would love the idea of having no access to my e-mail for an entire day at work; however, we are in our final two weeks of a grant and moving at a very quick pace.  No time for slacking.  All-in-all the entire help desk (those guys are amazing) had my computer up and running by 11:00am!  First crisis of the day averted, check!
Second crisis of the day is now in full swing, well was up until about 30 minutes ago.  So tomorrow is our work “extended business meeting” because of course you can’t call it a holiday party even though our conference room is all decked out in holiday gear!  Anyway on to the good stuff…So last week after seeing these cute snowman treats on Julie's website, Willow Bird Baking, I signed up to bring them.  I mean how cute are they and how much fun would they be to bring to my holiday party, oops sorry “extended business meeting?” 

So on Sunday I went out and got all of the ingredients.  I also premade the base of the snowman and saved the rest for tonight, so that they would be fresh for tomorrow.  Don’t they look cute already?

HAHA – that’s what I thought too, just wait!  My first mishap was with melting the chocolate.  Normally an easy task, but apparently not for this girl!  I bought candy quick, just like the recipe called for; however, once that chocolate hit the microwave everything went downhill.  The chocolate was not melting all together and I ended up heating it too long.  So, what did I do?  Well, I went to Michael’s to buy the white chocolate saucers of course!   The chocolate was melting perfectly until it was time to dip the snowman balls in.  Once they made contact with the chocolate, again, everything went downhill.  I salvaged a couple; however, they are pretty sad looking and nothing like Julie's - she must be a magician, or I just have no skill.  I'm going to go with the I just have no skill option!
So, yet again, what did I do?  I threw those suckers out, keeping these sad looking ones, and went back to the grocery store. 

This time I purchased ingredients for a recipe I knew I couldn’t mess up…Fruit Pizza.  I literally make this dessert for EVERY function I go to.  Not only is it healthy, but it is SO easy to make and everyone loves it!  Tonight I will make the crust and tomorrow I will top it with fruit.  I promise to share the recipe and pics tomorrow :).
Now after ALL of that I either need a huge glass of wine or a good workout.  I am opting for the good workout – I’m doing the 7 Day Slim Down to look extra cute for my birthday this Saturday!  And a huge plus was coming home to Tone It Up’s Tuesday workout, one that is guaranteed to put you in a good mood!  These girls are seriously the best.  Have a great night (and workout) everyone! 

What is your go to recipe to bring to parties?
- Rachael -

Friday, December 9, 2011

TGIF, enough said!

Happy Friday! 
Can I just say THANK GOD IT IS FRIDAY!  I don’t know about you, but for me this has been one hectic, stressful, never-ending week!  I am finishing up one research grant at work, so we are trying to crank out paper/journal submissions left and right.  If I misspell anything in this post or my grammar sucks, I blame it on the long hours of editing and writing. 
Luckily my job allows me to work from home one day a week, which just happens to be every Friday.  I was especially grateful for today’s work from home day.  I really do enjoy rolling out of bed at 8am (the time I am normally at my desk at work), making coffee (lately it has been Starbucks K-cups for my Keurig) and checking my e-mails while still in my PJ’s!  Sounds wonderful, right!?  My favorite part about work from home Friday’s are the amazing breakfasts I make myself.  Today I was craving feta cheese, which meant GREEK omelet.  However, I was also craving avocado.   
Here’s how I mixed both my cravings together to make a mouthwatering, fantastic, yet healthy greek/California omelet:
1/4 cup spinach
1/4 cup mushrooms (portabella mushrooms are my fav)
1/4 cup diced tomatoes
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup egg whites
2 tablespoons avocado
1 tablespoon fat free feta cheese
2 tablespoons salsa (Trader Joes Roasted Fire-Roasted Tomato Salsa is my fav)

1.    Add spinach, mushrooms, and onions; cook on medium heat until onions are tender, stirring frequently.

2.    Stir in tomatoes.

3.    Pour egg whites evenly over spinach mixture.

4.    When eggs are almost set, sprinkle evenly with feta cheese and avocado.

5.    Remove from heat; and top with salsa.

6.    EAT and enjoy!

However, today my avocado craving didn’t stop at breakfast.  Lunch included a Tone It Up recipe, Black Bean Burger topped with avocado and salsa.  I had yet to make these burgers and boy have I been missing out. 

Yum, right?!  Thank goodness I have two left over and let me tell you, they will not last the weekend!

So, my goal for the next week is to try and blog at least every day, if not every other day.  So get ready for some fun posts – well at least I think they will be fun, I have been racking my brain all day to come up with seven original ones. 
I hope you all have a great night J!

Does anyone have any fun and exciting plans for this weekend? 
What ingredients have you combined to satisfy your cravings?

- Rachael -

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I LOVE running…wait, what?!

Until about a year ago the thought of running for even more than five minutes made me sick.  I would step on the treadmill, walk about 10 minutes and then start running.  After about five minutes I would huff and puff, try to catch my breath and then slow to a walk.  Yes, this is what I counted as my exercise.  Pretty sad, huh?!
I’m sure most, if not all, of you have heard of the Couch to 5k Plan. Well, I hadn’t until one of my good friends shared this AMAZING plan with me earlier this year.  After reading a bit about the plan and tons of the success stories, I figured why not give it a try.  What did I have to lose, right?  Thank god it is based on the premise that you must ease into running gradually.  The first few segments of running were definitely a challenge, but after nine weeks I was able to run three miles – woohoo!!  Let me tell you running for 30 minutes is something I NEVER thought I would be able to do.
Running must have made me delirious because after I finished Couch to 5k I had this fabulous idea to sign up for a 5K Mud Run.  I recruited my brother and a friend to participate with me.  It didn’t take much to talk them both into it, especially after I told my brother I would pay for him to run in the mud.  Wouldn’t you be psyched to have someone pay you to run in the mud J?!  The particular run we signed up for was the Merrell Down and Dirty 5K Mud Run – Operation Gratitude.  It was a three mile off-road course filled with 8 military like obstacles, commanding cargo climbs, wild water crossings, mud, mud and yes more mud.  Also, throughout the course there were military personnel yelling cheering you on. 

This is what we looked like at the start of the race.  Don’t we look all nice and clean?

Well it only took two and a half miles before we looked more like this.  We were dirtier; however, they had us run through the ocean, which helped to clean off all of the mud we had caked on us during the first two and a half miles.   

And then the last obstacle was the mud pit.  You had to go through this pit on your stomach or else you were yelled at – no joke, can't you see them yelling, cheering us on?!

So, of course we got on our bellies and treaded through the mud pit and ended up looking like this J.

We all had SO much fun and couldn’t stop talking about what we were going to do next.  Seeing as though my brother (he could run circles around me) and my friend (who ran the Boston Marathon) are avid runners to say the least, I knew I would have to step it up for the next race.  Last week I started the Bridge to 10K program.  I am on my second round of the first week (I wanted to ease myself back into it) and I’m already running 9 minute miles - a personal best for me!!  I can’t wait to get on the treadmill and run more tomorrow – I LOVE RUNNING! 

Has anyone completed in the Couch to 5K or Bridge to 10K? 
Has anyone particpated in a Mud Run?

- Rachael -

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas in the Park

So, what is with this weather we have been having lately, I mean 60 degrees in December – seriously?!  Where is the winter weather??  Winter is definitely my favorite season, it means peppermint, Starbucks red cups (I mean come on, who doesn’t love coffee in a red cup), Christmas, family & friends, cute sweaters/boots, and of course my birthday!  So, let’s go winter, I am patiently waiting.  I know I may regret this objection to mother nature’s gift of 60 degree weather in December when I am knee deep in snow, but for right now my mindset is enough is enough “bring on the snow!” 
Anyway, given the gorgeous weather yesterday I was able to take advantage of it and run outside. I have lived in the New England area for about five years now and there are certain things I have come to love about the area, and the park by my first apartment in Pawtucket is one of them.  Of course I didn’t really take advantage of this park until I moved away from it, never know what you have till its gone right?
First off, I absolutely love this park – Slater Memorial Park in Pawtucket, RI.  It is definitely one of my favorite places to run.  It is clean, paved, hilly, safe, and has great scenery.  In the summer there are even swans swimming on the lake, so pretty. 

After my great 3.5 mile run (which counted for my 30 for 60 workout J) I stumbled upon TONS of people decorating trees lined up the side of the road.  Being the curious person I am, I parked my car and started walking around.  I asked a couple of people what all of the trees were for and boy did I love their answer.  Apparently, every year the park puts on a Winter Wonderland.  There are about 100 Christmas trees lining both sides of the street (Winter Wonderland Lane – appropriately named) and each tree is dedicated in someone’s memory.  Families and local businesses are able to sponsor a tree and are then responsible for decorating it.  There are also a lot of additional decorations making it look like a little Christmas village.  Not all of the trees had been decorated yet, only a few.  Luckily I grabbed my phone so I could take a couple pictures to share with you.  Some of the trees were decorated pretty creatively …

while others were more traditional looking. 

What a great idea, huh?  And to think I used to live in the park’s backyard for an entire year and I never knew all it had to offer.  I definitely plan on going back to see it completed, lights and all, later this week.  I may even stop by Starbucks for a Soy Peppermint Latte first, yumm! 
Oh and I love how all most of the blogs I follow end their blog with a question, so I am going to steal borrow that idea.  Hope you all had a great weekend!
What is everyone’s favorite thing about the Christmas/Holiday season?

- Rachael -