Monday, February 27, 2012

sunday yumday!

have i got a treat for you today!  not one, but two (!), recipes!!!

in the last few days of the whole living challenge, i found i loved everything i made...and this is absolutely included! 

confession:  this recipe has cheese and i didn't omit it for the challenge.  but, as yummy as it would've been without it, the cheese just makes the dish!

quinoa stuffed peppers

(recipe found here and adapted to feed two)

here's the picture i saw that convinced me i had to make this:

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calories 233, protein 16, carbs 25, fat 7

  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1-2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 Tbs. ground cumin
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
  • 1/2 (ish) 10-oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
  • 1 8 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 large carrot, grated (1/2 cup)
  • 1 cup grated reduced-fat pepper Jack cheese, divided (not challenge friendly!)
  • 2 large red bell peppers, halved lengthwise, ribs removed

1. heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. add onion and celery, and cook 5 minutes, or until soft. add cumin and garlic, and sauté 1 minute. stir in spinach and drained tomatoes. cook 5 minutes, or until most of liquid has evaporated.

2. stir in black beans, quinoa, carrots, and 1 cup water. cover, and bring to a boil. reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. stir in 1 cup cheese. season with salt and pepper, if desired.

3. preheat oven to 350°F. pour liquid from tomatoes in bottom of baking dish.

4. fill each bell pepper half with heaping 3/4-cup quinoa mixture, and place in baking dish. cover with foil, and bake 45 minutes to 1 hour. uncover, and sprinkle each pepper with 1 tbs. remaining cheese. bake 15 minutes more, or until tops of stuffed peppers are browned. let stand 5 minutes. transfer stuffed peppers to serving plates, and drizzle each with pan juices before serving.

and then enjoy!

i had mine with some tilapia and it was all delicious!

and you know what?  i had leftover quinoa stuffing!

so, you wanna know what i made?  soup!

i took the leftover quinoa and veggie mixture, the leftover ranchero sauce i made last weekend, and a can of tomato soup and made magic!

i just plopped it all in a large saucepan, mixed it together and let it heat through...

and i had some delicious soup!  i'll call it mexican soup with quinoa.  the ranchero sauce was a great base of flavors, while the quinoa mixture added texture and flavor...the tomato soup was just to make it soup-ier!

and boy, was it delicous!  it's what's for lunch on monday too!

what did you make for sunday yumday?  any south-of-the-border favorites?  

=) andrea

whole living challenge: complete!

i committed to a three week eating program and i stuck to it!  woohooooo!!!!!

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and you know what?  i feel great!  i have a ton of energy, my skin is clear, and i've dropped weight.  sounds like a win-win all around.  (plus, i've lost twenty pounds so far this year!)

but it wasn't always easy.

i missed cheese.  a lot.  but, i made it through without it.  which makes me know i can have a morsel and it can be satisfying.  especially when the other option is having none. 

during this challenge i had to get creative and really think ahead about eating and preparing and grocery shopping.  but it actually made it fun to scour tons of recipes and come up with something different and delicious.

so, even though it wasn't easy, it wasn't that hard either.  once i convinced myself to do it, that was it.  i was committed and ready...i just had to prepare.  and preparing wasn't hard, i just had to think about what i wanted, check out the flyer for what's on sale, make a list, and stick to it.

like i've said before, i'm so proud of myself for doing this challenge (or even considering it), but mostly because of the 'getting creative' part and trying new things or cooking things i know i like i've just never gotten the hang of (like fish).

but, i know why this creativity has been refreshing...because sometimes food can be boring.  you know the scenario:  i get home from work and ask mike what he wants.  he doesn't know.  i'm indecisive and can't think of a chicken/pork/beef dish to possibly put together (not that i had any of those in the house).  so we order a pizza.

that's happened only about three hundred times in our four (plus) year relationship.  but there is so much yumminess out there and i want to experience more than what we settle on when we haven't planned much out.  my days and weeks go along a lot easier when i have a plan for meals.

so, in short, my recap of the whole living challenge is that it was great and i highly recommend you to try it.  it's definitely not for everyone (mike wouldn't ever be able to make it through week one!), but if you like the food options and can put your mind to it, you'll breeze through three weeks and feel like a million bucks.  and probably have a few more recipes in your repertoire.

a few of my favorite things that i was introduced to because of the challenge that i will definitely continue are:

smoothies for breakfast (or snack) -- easy, filling, healthy.  i love having a smoothie in the morning because it's something yummy that i don't have to think too hard about.

fish -- i love it and now i'm not scared to cook it.  one of my favorite meals from the challenge was blackened salmon with black bean and corn salad.  i'm also loving the tilapia from's fresh, inexpensive, delicious, and versatile.  and you know what?  fish cooks so fast, it's a great last-minute meal!

fruits and veggies -- i've always been pretty good about eating fruits and veggies, but it's easy to fall off the wagon when chips are in a bowl in front of you.  but i'll continue eating salads for lunch a lot and fruits for dessert (maybe with a little ice cream or fro-yo).

meatless meals -- after three weeks of this challenge, you'd think i'd be going nuts for some meat (that isn't fish).  while i am craving a burger (that's on the plan for saturday) i actually enjoyed my meatless meals and would always be full.  so, i'm gonna continue to eat less meat (i won't actually give it up) and enjoy the vitamins and minerals that come from the earth.  plus, now that i know what to do with quinoa (rich in protein) i can still get the goodness without the meat intake!

so, what's next on the agenda?   

c25k.  what?  couch-to-5-k.

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am i slightly crazy?  probably.  mostly because:  

i'm not a runner.

i've never been a runner.  

i remember in fourth grade having to run (or walk) a mile for the first time.  i was a fit and trim little ballerina.  i danced at least a few times a week.  i played and ran outside with my friends.  i even played basketball and softball (when i wasn't too busy because of ballet).

but i couldn't run a mile.

heck, i couldn't run around the track one time.

what's up with that?

well, i like walking and i like working my way up to bigger things.  that's what c25k does.  it's a gentle program to get couch dwellers able to run a 5k in nine weeks.

sounds like a good plan, right?  so...who's comin' with me?!

in challenges and successes...

=) andrea

p.s.  have you gone over and 'liked' my facebook page?  go over...right's the link!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

must have this

one thing that my friends will tell you about me is that i'm crazy about having a planner.  i'm crazy enough that i even made my own out of notebooks for a few years.  i've tried several brands and i've now been forever changed.

erin condren's life planner.

here's mine:

and you wanna know how much i love it?  it's like a fat kid loves cake; i'm obsessed.  i found out about erin condren's lovely and practical items from jen over at iheart organizing.  i mean, if someone who has a blog dedicated to organization, i had to trust her judgment when it came to this planner.

and she was absolutely right.  it's colorful, there's plenty of space to write notes, there are stickers to code different events...and it has my name on it.  =)

erin's got other great products that i have yet to buy, but the planner is my cat's meow.  because i'm in love with's more:

a look at the whole year:

here's what a week looks like...there's a full column for each day, plus places to write goals and notes:

 event stickers! my favorite is *vacation!

more event stickers!

plain color stickers:

and more!

in the back there's a folder (on both sides) to keep your extra stuff together.  (me?  extra stuff...never.  haha...of course i cleared it out to take the picture!)

and there's this clever little pocket and some bonus stickers that match my planner and have my name on them!  i keep my postage stamps in that pocket too.

so, what do you think?  i'm totally convinced this is the best planner in the world.  if you're into planners that is.  which i am, so i love it.

the cover can come in many different designs and colors, and could even be a photo!  check out some other options:

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 okay, enough with the planners already, right?  well, not exactly.  right now, while supplies last, is offering 40% off 2012 planners when you buy a combo of a life planner and personalized gift labels!  just use the code:  ILOVEACOMBO  at checkout and you'll get 40% off!  wanna see some of the labels?

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aren't those adorable?  they've got soooo many little display is just a fraction of what they offer.

and, guess what?  there's more!  this morning some erin condren items were featured on good morning america!  if you head on over to the gma website there's a code to get 50% savings on personalized acrylic photo blocks and lucite trays!  wanna see those?  here's a few!

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and guess what else they have?  iphone cases!  i don't have an iphone (yet), but when i do, i'm gonna get one that matches my planner!  like this one, but dark orange!

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so, my point is, go on over to and check out all the awesome stuff she has to offer!

there's great items for gifts or for yourself.  just go already!

=) andrea 

p.s.  i wasn't paid or perked to write this post, i'm just nuts about the products and wanted to share my feelings with you!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

whole living challenge: week three

i'm on day three of week three...almost to the end of the whole living challenge!  (there is an optional bonus week four that i'm opting out of, but i plan to use my lessons from the challenge to continue to eat this way at least 50% of the time.)

week three is going well.  i get to add eggs and gluten-free grains (like quinoa and millet) back into my diet...not that quinoa and millet were part of my diet before.  because i'm not fooling anyone, these gluten-free grains are very new to me.  but, i'm an adventurous eater, and i'm game to try anything! (even tofu.)

the biggest impact this challenge has had on me is the way i think about eating.  i've always been a relatively healthy eater, but i love to snack on chips and crap with the best of 'em.  the other night mike said something to me about wanting something sweet, like cookies.  

i said, "i'd love a cookie."

mike looked at me with that look, he told me i was doing so well at my challenge and i could have as many cookies as i want when it's over.

"but really honey, i'd love a cookie," i said.  "just one.  even when it's over, i don't want a thousand cookies, just one is enough.  i know now that if i can go without something for three weeks, i can handle having only one of something."

that's the thing...i'm not always good at willpower, but this challenge has proven that i can be good at it, i just have to be in the right mindset.  now i know:  one cookie is good.  eleven cookies is bad.  very, very bad.

and, as much as i wanna be bad...i've got bigger goals going on over here.  and i know i'm not the only one.

one of my friends from high school recently had her second child and is on a new workout regimen and diet plan.  i know she'll do great because she's got the drive...but (especially at the beginning of a plan like hers or mine) it's easy to want to cave, especially when her girl scout cookies just arrived.  (of course they did!)

i can totally feel her pain.  seeing those scrumptious morsels of deliciousness would make me wanna cave too (trust me, there was a plate of thinmints within reach at my desk today)...but...

i remind myself:   these are not the last cookies on the planet.

i mean, really...if cookies were going to be banned forever tomorrow, you betcha i'd have a cookie (or three) today, but that's not happenin'.  and i can survive today without a cookie.

and tomorrow.

and the tomorrow after that.

but when i want that cookie so damn bad...

i'm gonna have it because denying myself something i want won't get me anywhere...but allowing myself to enjoy things i like (that aren't the best for me) in moderation will keep me sane and happy.

so this last week of the challenge has proven to be a true lifestyle-altering experience.  for one, i am not afraid to cook fish anymore.  (thank god because i love fish and i don't want to only eat it in restaurants.)  for two, i'm thinking about everything differently.  i want to be more creative with the food i make, partially because it's fun and partially because it's good to change up what you eat and try new things.

am i dying to have a piece of cheese?  hell yes i am.  i even joked with my co-workers to not be surprised if i bring a block of cabot for lunch on monday.  but, we all know i won't do that.  i'll probably have a salad...with cheese on it.  =)

would i love to end my dinner some nights with some ice cream or frozen yogurt?  sure would!  but after eating all the fruits and veggies that i've been having lately, it has really made me think...why would i want a bowl full of ice cream (and a boatload of calories), when i could have a bowl full of fruit (good for me) with a scoop of ice cream (just a few extra calories)?  

see what i'm saying?  there are a lot of choices that are actually easy to make.  i love fruit and fro-yo or ice cream...but if there isn't any fruit in the fridge, i fill the bowl with the fattening stuff and call it dessert.

do i love pizza?  yup.  do i love salad?  sure do.  so instead of gorging on three pieces of pizza and two bites of salad, why not have one slice to accompany a big ole healthy salad?  sounds yummy to me!

mashed potatoes?  my absolute favorite thing in the world.  you know, all buttery and creamy and delicious?  yeah, those mashed potatoes usually fill half of my plate.  but now, after my three week withdrawal, i know just a small scoop would serve my taste buds well.

i could go on and on with all the things i love that are easy to over-indulge on, but i won't.  you get the point.  exercising just a little bit of willpower (and being well-informed on what you put in your body) can go a long way.

guess who's got two thumbs and lost nineteen pounds so far this year?

this girl!!!

=) andrea

Sunday, February 19, 2012

sunday yumday!

boy it feels good to be back!

because i've been doing the whole living challenge, along with my blog friend dusty, and because of the challenge's own extremely limited 'allowed' foods, especially on week one (more on that here), i wasn't confident enough in what i'd come up with to eat that it would be good enough to share on sunday yumday.  well, let me tell you - i've had several things these last couple weeks that i can't wait to have again!  and you'll definitely be hearing about them!

in preparation for week three of the challenge (i get to bring back eggs and gluten free grains!), i decided to make a potato crust quiche, cheese-free of course.  one of my favorite things to have with eggs is salsa and i had just read a terrific recipe for ranchero sauce that made my mouth water, so i decided to throw together a batch of the sauce to go with my quiche!

so, without further is my sunday yumday potato crust quiche!

(adapted from a paula deen recipe found here)

  • 3 cups, shredded frozen hash browns, thawed and drained (i used one fresh potato, grated, dried)
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted (i used a couple swirls around the pan of vegetable oil)
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup half-and-half  (i used almond milk)
  • 3/4 cup diced cooked ham  (i omitted meat)
  • 1/2 cup diced green onions  (i used 1 cup of bell pepper, 1/2 cup of mushrooms, 1/4 cup of scallions and 1/4 cup of red onion)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar (i omitted cheese)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • preheat oven to 450 degrees.

    gently press the grated potato between paper towels to dry them as best as possible. grease a 9-inch pie plate with vegetable oil, press the grated potato into the bottom and up the sides of the pan to form a crust. 

    bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown and starting to crisp.

    while the crust is baking, chop any veggies you're using. i used mushrooms, green and red bell peppers, red onion and scallions. because i omitted cheese, i wanted there to be plenty of flavor. once i got my veggies chopped, i cooked them on the stovetop for a few minutes, then put them in a bowl til i was ready to put them in the crust.

    meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, combine the eggs and almond milk. when the hash brown crust is ready, the edges will get nice and crispy.

    then you can put the veggie mixture in the pan.

    then pour the egg mixture over it and return to the oven

    lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for about 30 minutes until the quiche is light golden brown on top and puffed.

    how delicious does that look?!  and with some ranchero sauce, i won't even miss my cheese!  (okay, maybe i will.)

    wanna see how the ranchero sauce is made?  check it out...

    (recipe found here)

  • 1 can whole tomatoes in juice, juices reserved
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped (i used one whole small onion)
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 tablespoons minced jalapeno pepper
  • salt
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  add onions, garlic, and jalapenos.  season with a little salt.

    when the onions have become translucent and begin to brown, deglaze the pan with reserved tomato juice.

    cook for 5 more minutes, then add tomatoes.

    crush tomatoes with a wooden spoon until well integrated into the sauce.  add cumin, cayenne, and season with salt (to taste).

    cook for 10 more minutes.  add cilantro and stir to combine.

    at this point my mouth was watering and i was hungry.  i decided to take a few minutes to thaw out some shrimp that were in the freezer, and cool off some ranchero sauce to use as a cocktail sauce.

    yum.  yummy.  delicious.  scrumptious.  i'm so excited to have some quiche for lunch tomorrow with this ranchero sauce.  total yumminess!

    what do you think?  maybe eggs and this sauce isn't your cup of tea...but the sauce would be great on tacos, fish, chicken, or whatever!  i think it's a must-try!  delish!

    it's good to be back...sunday yumday, i missed you!

    =) andrea
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