Tuesday, March 31, 2009

hot mess

My dinner tonight was a hot mess! A tasty hot mess.


Let’s back up, though. After I worked out (35 minutes elliptical, some unenthusiastic ab work- I hate hate hate hate crunches but yeah yeah swimsuit season approaches) they were giving out free mini cliff bars at the gym.

clif bar

And I do mean mini. 100 calories for something that tiny? I’m also seriously unimpressed by the ingredient list of Clif Bars- the first ingredient is brown rice syrup, also known as SUGAR. I was thinking of just pitching it and having a more substantive snack, but by the time I got back to my apartment after a grocery run it was already like 5:20 and close enough to dinner that I knew I should have something small and not super filling, and hey, it was free.

Honestly, the taste wasn’t very good either. Annoyingly chewy and just… thick. Not getting that again!

Anyway, at Trader Joe’s they were out of tempeh. AGAIN. I’ve been really wanting to buy some, and it just keeps not happening! So I tried to think of a protein source that was non-meat (fish was okay- yeah, we Orthodox can’t have meat but can have fish during Lent, it’s weird, I know, but it does make things easier), not beans (had those for lunch), not tofu (sick of it), and not grossly expensive and/or creepy (Tofurkey). I came up with this:

salmon can

That blurrific picture is of canned salmon. When I thought canned salmon, I thought pasta, and I thought of a pasta thing that my mom and I threw together over Spring break- she had leftover salmon, and a can of these:

 roast tomatoes

Fire roasted tomatoes are the best. EVER. I know it sounds like a weird combination with salmon, but she was standing over the pot saying “It’s this or tahini!” (my mom goes for the improvisational cooking!) and those looked way less frightening with salmon and pasta than tahini (?! I don’t think she would have done it, but I’m glad I was there to talk her down) and it actually turned out fab.

 sauteeing mushrooms

I also sauteed up some mushrooms and garlic in my cooking pot I was using for tomorrow’s dinner (which you will find out about tomorrow! It is cooking on my back burner right now! GOD I am so organized) and threw those in.


I figured I’d just use brown rice instead of pasta cause it’s a whole grain and I had a refined grain in my Chipotle lunch, plus it was already cooked and I didn’t feel like dirtying up another pot.


Et voila, my hot mess of a dinner! Brown rice, canned salmon, fire roasted tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms and garlic, topped with some crushed red pepper flakes and (so inspired!) a squeeze of lemon juice! It was DELICIOUS. NO LIE! I am a fan of simple, hearty food with good flavors, and this dish delivered. All the flavors were good on their own and yes, actually melded together. And the nutrition is also pretty spot on!


On the side, a sweet potato, nuked for 3 minutes on each side. It was a small one, that’s a small plate. Look how it’s making a pretty little heart for me… I love you too, baby.

buen almuerzo


So I had a free Chipotle coupon that was set to expire yesterday. Since I already had my delicious dinner planned, I got takeout and saved it for lunch today after my rather intense three hour seminar (!) and before my over the phone job interview at 2 (!!!).


I am really not the hugest Chipotle fan, but free food is free food! Part of it is just that I think their burritos are offensively large- either you don’t eat everything and are wasteful or you consume like 3,000 calories in one sitting. However, the burrito bowl is a decent option, which is what I got, vegetarian, with rice, black beans, fajita veggies, pico de gallo, and guacamole.


I also added my own, low-fat cheese, since Chipotle’s is fattier and they always give you SO MUCH! It made for a perfect ratio of warm to cool, rich to zesty.


I loved getting the pico. I tend to not buy tomatoes in the winter because they’re overpriced and just not as good, but in this fresh tasting salsa they were yummy. And actually, they gave me ridiculous amounts of guacamole and pico, so I saved them for a delicious meal I’m planning for tomorrow!


The flavors were really nice- I love grilled veggies. I wish I knew how to grill!

Monday, March 30, 2009

evening snack


Brew some tea. While your tea is brewing, slice up half an apple and dust with cinnamon. Take 3 Goya Maria cookies (Goya is so cheap it’s scary- an entire pack of 15 cookies was on sale for 3 for $1! 33 cents! Maybe they rounded it up to 34, ooh!). Arrange attractively.

Dip your cookies in your tea :D

Perfect, PERFECT evening snack.

For those not in the know, Maria cookies are not too sweet and super crisp, but INCREDIBLY satisfying, and a serving of 5 is 110 calories.

They remind me of the cookies my English grandmother has at teatime sometimes. I LOVE the English habit of afternoon tea. I have morning tea, afternoon tea, evening tea (I did have decaf tea- Celestial Seasonings Thai Coconut Chai, decaffeinated. The spiciness of it went so nicely with the sweet blandness of the cookie, and picked up on the cinnamon in the apple!)

I know people say dire and ominous things about carbs at night, and probably my tummy’d be a little flatter in the morning without my evening snacks, but it is nice to have a comforting evening snack. I generally have one between 9:30 and 10 at night, as I start to feel panicky about the amount of coursework I have due the next day, heh x_X

And it’s good to have a snack at night I’m still low on calories for the day, today and in general. Which I know is bad, but my undocumented dinner last night was unsatisfying dining hall noshing that added up to some pretty serious calories. While I still was at max- MAX- 1700 calories yesterday, which I know is really still under what I should be eating, my body is used to eating like 1200-1300 calories. And eating that much more than usual made me feel gross.

So, eating more and getting into maintenance mode is still a tricky little dance I’m trying to accomplish. I’m trying to just do what makes my body happy. And my little snacksie made me very happy indeed!

last meal

On this season of Top Chef, they had a challenge where they had to prepare- for famous chefs- the meal they would want for the last meal of their life. I thought it was a GREAT challenge, and of course the things people want for their last meal are not fancy or frou frou- they are simple and delicious. I couldn’t think of my last meal, though!

Well tonight, I figured it out. Which, incidentally, made me really proud and excited! Not that I want to eat my last meal anytime soon. I want to eat a lot more meals (and do a lot more things!) before then. But when I do, I too want something simple, delicious, and FRESH.

Two words: fish. tacos.

There’s a place in the Outer Banks- a totally fun, laid-back neighborhoody restaurant called Mama Kwan’s, that makes the best fish tacos EVER. I am usually an adventurous eater at restaurants and try new things, but whenever I go there, I get the fish tacos, because I just don’t think it’s possible for anything else to be better.

BUT tonight I tried to recreate them- and I did a good job! I used this recipe from recipezaar (my new favorite website!), and I followed it pretty much exactly, dividing everything by 4 and only using 1 tsp oil.

Here’s my fish marinating:


Once it had sat in the lime juice for 20 minutes, it looked cooked! It was ceviche-like!


And here’s the fish  once it finished cooking. So professional looking!


I presented the taco fixin’s in my new favorite format, for the blog and for my own satisfaction. Big, gorgeous, colorful platter!


Incidentally, this was frozen mahi mahi that I brought at Trader Joe’s and then thawed- affordable and delicious! They call it the poor man’s lobster for a reason!


I also had some of my shredded reduced fat cheese for just a bit of creamy richness (it’s how they do it at Mama Kwan’s- I know fish and cheese sounds like a weird combination, but trust me, it’s SO GOOD), and diced green onion (again, Mama Kwan’s inspired- again, trust me, it’s the perfect, zesty accompaniment)



For the tortilla, as per usual, I used my Trader Joe’s whole grain, and broke it in half to make for easier loading and to prolong the eating process! I also shredded cabbage (again, Mama Kwan’s does that- it makes for a nice crunch!). I also added Trader Joe’s Salsa Autentica. Mama Kwan’s makes this insanely delicious limey sour cream but I didn’t have sour cream and I’m sure it’s wicked fatty. It was good with salsa too, though!

Finally, I have the last of my fresh papaya. I ate it last, and it was the perfect conclusion to the dinner- I have really enjoyed ending dinner with a fresh fruit “dessert”, it’s kind of a new thing for me.

So if I’m sitting on death row, or know the apocalypse is pending, barring being able to drive very quickly to Kitty Hawk, NC, I will make these bad boys.

Manic morning


Multigrain Cheerios are identical to original in terms of nutrition, but hey, why not add some color to my breakfast?

They were tasty, particularly topped with 1/2 a banana with 1/2 an orange on the side!



Right now I’m on what I call my “tea break”, which is my one hour break between 10 and 11. I was feeling frazzled, AGAIN, so I did some yoga (20 minute Morning Flow from yogadownload.com- sooooo soothing!), had some more of this:


And got a head start on lunch, since I have a grand total of 15 minutes to prepare and eat lunch and get ready for work on Mondays and Wednesdays! Frazzle frazzle frazzle!

My lunch will first feature this:


I haven’t tried Caramel Nut Brownie yet, and I’ve heard it’s tasty. I’m excited!

I also made a yummy, Mediterranean inspired salad.


Mixed greens with lemon juice and a bit of olive oil, with sliced mushrooms, radish, and cucs. For protein, some hummus. For flava, some tapenade!


Pretty, huh?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

In need of soothing.

Lunch I had a cup of this:


Mint soother. I needed soothing. 

This had chamomile in it, and I usually hate chamomile, but in combo with the mint it was, actually… soothing.

My sink is clogged, and in an attempt to bail out the water I used a big pot to transfer it into my bathtub… but now I think I’ve clogged that. And then my roommate was whining about it, and it was like “Did I see you having any bright ideas?”


It’s also rainy and blah out, which doesn’t help.

I started today with more peanut butter and banana oats. Then I headed out for a good workout (30 minutes elliptical, 5 minutes stairmaster- I want buns of steel but man I hate the stairmaster- and 10 minutes of the sitting down kind of stationary bike). I had Elle to read, that was nice.

Lunch did somewhat cheer me up, cause it was tasty.


Spinach and lentils! Mid cook. This recipe is a rough adaptation from a recipe by Madhur Jaffrey. If you get a chance, get Madhur Jaffrey's World-Of-The-East Vegetarian Cooking‎. One of the greatest cookbooks ever. EVER. Everything she makes is so simple but delicious and perfect. She really honors the integrity of the ingredients. I did tweak this one, a little bit (plus only made it for one)

1 cup fresh spinach (you could also use frozen)
1/8 medium onion, diced
1 tsp. vegetable oil (Madhur uses a lot more! In the original recipe for 6, she uses 5 tbsp. It’s probably really good!)
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup dried lentils, washed and drained 
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
crushed red pepper flakes (my addition, Madhur Jaffrey just uses black pepper. She also uses salt, which I omitted because I had canned tomato in there, which has a lot of salt already)

the last 3 tbsp of my crushed tomatoes (my addition, optional but good)

splash of lemon juice (again, optional but good)

Wash spinach. If using frozen, follow thawing directions. Chop coarsely. Heat oil in casserole type pot on medium heat. When hot, add onion and garlic. Stir and saute for 2 minutes. Then add lentils, tomato, and 3/4 cup of water. Bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat, and simmer 25 minutes until tender. Add spinach, crushed red pepper, and cumin. Stir, and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add splash of lemon juice and serve.

I topped this with a microwave poached egg, which was an… experiment.


Especially given the sink situation, I didn’t want to dirty up another pot poaching an egg, so I tried a microwave method that said fill a mug halfway with water, break the egg in, and heat on high for one minute. My microwave is sluggish, but it was… not done.


This is the plate with the lentils and the egg on top. I needed to microwave this in 20 second increments like 3 or 4 times before the egg was done enough… I like runny, but not raw!

My accompaniments were Trader Joe’s spelt bread toasted with some cran-apple butter and half an apple. I also had another, smaller piece of bread while I was waiting for everything to cook, cause I was starving by the time I went to the gym, worked out, bought groceries, and walked back. In the rain. Oi oi oi.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

smoothie, stir fry, and some thoughts

This afternoon I had a smoooooooooooooooothie.


A cup of skim milk, half a banana, 1/3 of a cup or so frozen strawberries… *perfection*. You can see the sun coming in my window… we really did have a beautiful day. Smoothie weather for sure!


I know it’s a little ghetto looking all smeared on the cup, but why dirty up (and subsequently have to clean) a new cup when my genius blender converts into one?

The frozen strawberries are unremarkable on their own, and I probably won’t buy them again, but blended with the fresh banana and the milk made for a very nice smoothie.

I needed more post workout fuel, so I supplemented my afternoon snack with a wee spoonful of peanut butter (1/2 tsp or so?). This is serious progress for me, allowing myself to nosh like that. Obviously it’s a habit that can be taken too far, but I had gotten to be a bit much about measuring and mentally calculating the calories of every little bite.


My camera is having some emotional problems, so I only have one picture from dinner. It was a good one though! Baked tofu (pressed; marinated in 1/2 tsp sesame oil, 1/2 tsp honey, 1/2 tsp chili paste, 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce; baked at 400 for 40 minutes—but this may have been too long, see later note), brown basmati rice (so good! the deliciousness of basmati with the nutrition of brown!), and veggie stir fry. To make the stir fry, I sauteed some fresh ginger in 1/2 tsp vegetable oil, threw on a frozen veggie mix (sugar snap peas, carrots, shrooms, and onion) and sauteed, and then I added the leftover tofu marinade. It was GOOD.

I unfortunately overcooked a few of the tofu pieces and they did not taste good :( but 90% of them were lovely and crisp.

Then I went to my favorite coffee place to try and do some work (I spent last night on less academic pursuits… aka vegging out with my friends and watching Old School) and I literally sat down and typed two sentences and they said they were closing. BUT they were giving away free pastries, which they sometimes do at the end of the day. I got one of those puff pastry pinwheel things. WOW it was good. I ate like 3/4 of it (I wanted the cinnamony sugary parts and was less interested in the rest).

Honestly, I feel a little guilty, and I know I shouldn’t. Part of me, “comforting” myself, goes “You’re fine, Ileana! You worked out so hard today!” but that is not even the point. Even if I hadn’t worked out, I should not feel bad for feeding myself something delicious that I enjoyed!

My diet is ludicrously healthy, and I really have to let myself occasionally have a treat and not worry about every single meal including every single food group. The whole point of healthy eating is the long term effects—having a single pastry is not going to have any effect whatsoever on my lifespan or my energy level, and it can also make me happy. I think the past few months I’ve been wary of emotional eating, which can certainly be a bad habit, but I have to let food make me happy not just because it’s healthy but also because IT TASTES GOOD! Even (occasionally!) when it is not incredibly good for me!

apple three ways

Today began with peanut butter ‘n banana oatmeal. I have been all over that stuff! I went to sleep last night thinking excitedly about eating it this morning.


Then I had my first, proper, intense workout since this pesky bug began. It felt GREAT! I did the stairliptical for 48 minutes! It claimed I burned 550 calories, which I don’t remotely believe, but I figured I probably burnt at least 450.


So I needed to refuel! First I had the Kashi bar, which was meh. Dry. I just wanted something with a decent amount of protein, and it had 7 grams. I ate it sitting by the river, though, which was great! We’ve got a gorgeous day here in Boston, I need to figure out how to best utilize it.


Lunch featured another gorgeous salad. Today’s was lemon dressing, mixed greens, chopped celery, apples, and radishes, and slivered almonds on top. The apples were SO GOOD in this! They gave this burst of fresh sweetness with every bite.


My second apple application (apple-cation!) was in my dang quesadilla! (Napoleon Dynamite? Anyone?). I seared the apples in the hot pan before I put the tortilla in, so they got all caramelized and nice. The theory behind this quesadilla was that fruit and cheese are a lovely combination, and it definitely worked in this! I also tossed in a few green onions, which made it a little kickier. An excellent experiment!


The final product, pleasantly blistered. Quesadillas are some of my favorite junk food, but this one was very reasonable- it was my beloved Trader Joe’s whole grain tortilla, and reduced fat Mexican blend cheese (I got Sargento brand on sale and really like it!). But I still got the quesadilla satisfaction!


All together. A lovely lunch.

However, after that intense workout, I was still feeling a bit peckish, so I had my final apple-cation: the other half of the apple I used in the quesadilla and salad, simply sliced and sprinkled with cinnamon. Mmm.


I hope everyone is having a lovely weekend!

Friday, March 27, 2009

junk food

But not!


We begin with the chicken nuggets, which is actually Trader Joe’s meatless Chickenless nuggets! My dipping sauce is hot sauce. Loves me some spice.


They are accompanied by the “fries”, which are oven baked sweet potato fries.


I made them using the Cooking Light method which has done amazing things for potatoes but actually I need to tweak it next time. As you can see, they browned up a bit too much on the outside, and I still had to nuke ‘em to get the centers soft. Nonetheless, they were delicious! Sweet potatoes are hard to mess up too badly. They are… *sigh* wonderful


And finally, I had the “coleslaw”.


Lovely fresh cabbage, shredded vair thin, tossed with a good amount of dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, a bit of vegetable oil, and a bit of mayo for thickening (another 1/4 of my little packet!).


To conclude this lovely meal, the other half of my apple from lunch. I’m really liking these guys- I got a 3 pound bag of the organic Gala’s. I know apples are one of those fruits that are particularly susceptible to pesticides, so I’m happy to have the organic.

I also snacked on a blueberry Z bar after the gym this afternoon. God I love Z bars. I took it easy at the gym since I’m still not 100%, but it felt good to be active.

hungry woman!

My stomach was rumbling all through my last class today (que embarassing!) so I knew I should have a volume-riffic lunch.

Let’s back up to breakfast, though, which started up with an invigorating cup of this:


Mate, my fave! Apparently the compounds in it are related to caffeine, but are generally easier on your system. I love the taste of mate. Some consider it bitter, but number one I don’t think it is, I’d call it… smoky, almost? And second of all, I don’t mind bitter.

I also had peanut butter and banana oats.


Everyone else on the internet already put peanut butter on their oats. I only recently began doing it… man is it good! After I took this picture I smeared it around to get some in every bite. There’s also cinnamon in there, mm.


My great big lunch! A tasty salad, pina colada light ‘n fit, the last of my muffins topped with Trader Joe’s cranberry apple butter (SO GOOD!), and half an apple.


My veggies were mixed greens (I knew I wanted a salad for lunch because I worry about my greens going bad- it’s hard to be just one person and have to finish a whole bag!), radishes, the last of the broccoli, and cucs. I also tossed in about a tsp of lemon dressing.


This salad was vair proteiny, which will hopefully help fill me up. Hard boiled egg (beautiful, eh? I cover the eggs with cold water in a saucepan, bring it just to a boil, then turn off the heat and let the residual heat from my electric stove  cook it for one minute, then remove from heat, let cover, let sit for 11 minutes, and throw in an ice bath. Et voila!), plus hummus, plus I had the yogurt protein as well.