Monthly Archives: July 2013

“Greek-Style” Tabbouleh Salad

This weekend I had some cucumbers and other veggie odds and ends to use up in my fridge so I decided to make a tabbouleh salad. Based on some of the items I needed to use up, I decided to make a Greek version. Plus, making tabbouleh salad means I have a great excuse to buy naan bread (yum!) and make my favorite – tandoori chicken! I also whipped up a batch of my classic hummus because I feel like all these foods go together in my mind. I love spreading a little hummus on some warm naan bread, adding some tabbouleh and chicken and eating it all together.

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This version was 100% based on the items I had available to use up in my fridge – but it turned out great!

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”Greek-style” Tabbouleh Salad
Serves six to eight.

    – 1 cup bulgur wheat
    – 2 cucumbers, chopped
    – 1 lemon
    – 1 tablespoon grated shallot or onion (or you can substitute a tablespoon of granulated onion)
    – 1 clove garlic, minced or pasted
    – 2 cups chopped tomatoes (I used about 5 Roma tomatoes)
    – 3 green onions, chopped
    – ½ red bell pepper, chopped
    – 1, 6 ounce container feta cheese
    – ½ cup olive oil (or less, just enough to coat the salad)

First, start by preparing your bulgur wheat. Combine a cup of bulgur wheat with one cup boiling water in a heat-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit until the bulgur wheat has absorbed the water.

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While the wheat is working, chop the ingredients for the salad. Peel and seed the cucumbers. The way I do this is to peel the cucumbers, then slice them in half and scoop the seeds out with a spoon. They will look like this:

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Then chop them into bite-sized pieces and mix into the wheat.

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Next, add the grated garlic, grated shallot or onion, lemon zest, and lemon juice.

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Core, seed, and chop the tomatoes and add to the bowl. Do the same with the red bell pepper. Finally slice the green onion (greens and whites) and add to the bowl. Add the feta cheese and olive oil and stir to combine. At this point I was almost overflowing the bowl so I had to stir carefully! 🙂

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Delicious! I love the addition of the salty feta! Cheese isn’t usually an ingredient in tabbouleh but I had some in my fridge that I wanted to use up, and I’m glad I did. 🙂

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As I mentioned at the beginning on this post, this salad is great as an accompaniment to tandoori chicken – but it’s also great served on top of some lettuce leaves as a salad (that was my Meatless Monday lunch this week! :-)) I’m sure it would also be delicious stuffed into a pita with some hummus and chickpeas. Yum 🙂 I might have to make that next!

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If you like this recipe, you might also like my recipes for:
~ Classic Hummus
~ Tabbouleh Salad
~ Tabbouleh Salad, Remix

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Quick & Easy Shrimp Scampi

Saturday night around 5 pm (when the first storm hit), I decided to make myself a nice pasta dinner as fuel for the 5k I was running later that evening. After all, what better excuse to carb-load than an upcoming race?

Note: strictly speaking, a 5k isn’t a long enough race to worry about carb-loading. I just wanted to eat pasta.

My all-time favorite kind of pasta is Shrimp Scampi. In my mind, there’s nothing more delicious than seafood, pasta, garlic, and butter. It’s a little decadent, sure, but every delicious bite is totally worth it.

Shrimp Scampi is a meal that usually requires a trip to the grocery store for fresh seafood, tomatoes, etc. But on Saturday I wanted to create a quick and easy version that you can make with food you probably already have on hand in your kitchen. First off, I always keep a bag of frozen shrimp in my freezer as a go-to dinner option. Think the “fresh” shrimp at the seafood counter is better? It’s not likely. Most shrimp are “individually quick frozen” (IQF) at the dock when they are caught so really the ”fresh” shrimp at the counter are just shrimp the store has defrosted for you. I prefer to keep frozen shrimp on hand instead. By all means, if you have access to some fresh, local shrimp that would be the best way to go! 🙂

So, since I already have shrimp on hand all I needed was butter (check), garlic (double check, I always have an unnecessary amount of garlic in my house), tomatoes, and pasta. Fresh tomatoes would be delicious in this dish, but I didn’t happen to have any on hand and I think using canned (or jarred) tomatoes is a great option to help make this a go-to dinner that doesn’t require a trip to the store.

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I was very happy with the way this turned out! It was absolutely delicious and full of that buttery-scampi flavor that I love.

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Quick & Easy Shrimp Scampi with Linguine
Serves four.

    – 1 stick of butter, unsalted
    – 3 cloves garlic, minced or pasted
    – 1 pound frozen or fresh shrimp, raw
    – 1 shallot, chopped (you can substitute about half an onion – I just love the shallot flavor!)
    – 1 lemon
    – ¼ cup white wine (you can substitute chicken broth or water)
    – 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
    – 1 pound linguine pasta (or you can substitute pasta of your choice)

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Melt the butter over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the shallot and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, until garlic is fragrant. Deglaze the pan with the white wine (or stock or water, if using). Add the shrimp and cook for 6-7 minutes or until the shrimp turns pink. Add the zest and juice of one lemon.

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Drain the canned tomatoes in a fine mesh sieve. Add the tomatoes to the pan and heat through (just a few minutes).

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Boil water and cook the pasta according to package directions. I always cook my pasta one minute less than the package directions say so that it is ‘al dente’ (i.e. still has a bite to it) and so it doesn’t over-cook when you add it to the hot sauce.

Add pasta to the shrimp and sauce and stir thoroughly to combine. Serve with bread to soak up the buttery sauce, and a side salad.

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If you enjoyed this post, you may also like these recipes:
~ Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Sauce
~ Fresh Tomato Bruschetta
~ Balsamic Glazed Asparagus Pasta

Crystal City Twilighter 5k Race Recap

On Saturday night I ran the Crystal City Twilighter 5k in Arlington, VA. It was my first “real” 5k, meaning it was a timed event. It was also the first time I ran a race where there weren’t packets of color being thrown at me! 🙂

I left my apartment just before 7 to meet my friend Meggan and her boyfriend at her apartment. Meggan lives close enough to a metro station to walk and we knew that taking the metro to Crystal City would definitely be the most convenient and stress-free way of getting to the race! 🙂

After meeting up with Meggan and her boyfriend, and petting Meggan’s adorable dog, Carrie – we headed out to the metro. Around 5 o’clock that evening it had absolutely poured rain outside, so it was a nice cool temperature. I was thinking that it was perfect weather for running, as long as the predicted showers held off long enough for us to race. Spoiler alert: that didn’t happen.

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Me at the start of the race, before the rain. No pictures were taken after this point due to fear of iPhone-destruction

It was nice to have the opportunity to walk to the metro to stretch out our legs, and it was a short ride to Crystal City. When we arrived, we had just enough time to hit the porta potties, and chat for a while in the starting corral before the race started. Earlier in the evening, I had sent out a tweet hoping that the rain would hold off long enough for us to run our race – but alas, it was not to be.

Just as the starting clock clicked over to 8:30 the first light drops began to fall. Within a few minutes of leaving the starting gate, those light drops had turned into a torrential downpour. As Meggan put it: “at least I feel more badass running it like this!” Fortunately, the weather was relatively warm so the rain wasn’t freezing – but it did soak me through and through within a few short minutes. At this point, I was just hoping my waterproof iPhone arm band was as waterproof as it claimed.

The rain stopped around 3/4s of a mile into the race but it had already done the damage of soaking my clothes. I’m so glad I have such short hair so at least that wasn’t a problem! Thanks to my friend Meggan, I kept up a pretty solid pace for the first mile and a quarter (ish) of the race but then a painful stitch in my side did me in and I had to walk for a bit. I rarely get stitches in my side when I run, so I was surprised when I got this one – and it persisted for the remainder of the race. I ended up running/walking in intervals for the last 2ish miles and finished with a time of 37:35 (15 seconds slower than my goal pace – sort of depressing). This further confirms my suspicion that in order to improve my runs I need to focus on increasing my cardio stamina. I’ve started to do this by incorporated more non-running cardio in my weekly workouts and I’m definitely going to continue focusing on that. Also, I’m still working on getting over my mysterious summer cold so I don’t think my lung capacity is quite back to normal. All things considered, I think I should be happy that I came very close to achieving my goal.

Since this was my first official race, I also have to say that I am so in love with the race atmosphere and culture. The feeling you get from people cheering you on from the sidelines is amazing. The atmosphere is so positive and supportive – you hear echoes of “you can do this” everywhere you go. There really is nothing like it. The positivity of the crowds at the finish line lifted me up and helped me to sprint the last .2 miles of the race with a big smile on my face. My first “real” race is officially in the books and it definitely won’t be my last.

I hope everyone’s week is off to a good start! I’m looking forward to cycling class tonight, and Body Pump tomorrow night with my favorite instructor who’s been on vacation for the past two weeks! Below are some health-related articles that I thought you all would find interesting.

Articles That May Interest You:

1. Do You Think You Run Slow? Why Being “Slow” Doesn’t Matter (Runners Connect)
2. Is Food Addiction Real? (Women’s Health Blog)
3. 25 Things That Are Keeping You From Losing Weight (Popsugar Fitness)
4. Surprising Reasons to Give Up Sugar (Rodale News)

Green Smoothies and Race Readiness!

Last night I tried out the Aqua Fitness class at my gym with my friend Heather. It was actually on the schedule as Aqua Zumba, but they had a last minute substitution to Aqua Fitness. I was kind of thankful for this because the idea of Zumba doesn’t really appeal to me. It was a blast! We did some cardio running around the pool and holding on to the side and kicking – and did some exercises with foam weights that really provide some resistance once you’re in the water! It was a neat way to change it up and get a work-out in. At one point, we did an exercise where we ran across the pool with a partner holding on to a noodle around our waist, to add resistence. (Hopefully that painted a decent mental image) It was a ton of fun – a lot harder than I thought – and Heather was such a great cheerleader!

During my research on training for races, I read time and time again that you need to incorporate non-running cardio into your training. Non-running cardio? That was definitely not a part of my life before and sounded sort of, well, terrible. My solution? Just start taking every fitness class I could fit into my schedule to find something that I love – or even if I hated all of it then I would at least get myself through several weeks of cardio in the “taking classes” process.

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So far the experiment has been a big success. I’m in love with the cycling classes – especially now that I have my new gel bike seat cover! And I’m going to invest in a pair of cycling shoes in the next couple of weeks. Because I enjoy cycling so much, I don’t know if I’ll get around to all the classes. Zumba and step have never really appealed to me, but who knows? Maybe I’ll take them and they’ll end up being favorites too! 🙂

This morning, I whipped up my usual green smoothie for breakfast – but I’ve made some big changes to the recipe this week because of my cold. I’ve been leaving out the yogurt/milk since that always seems to make my throat feel worse. I’m losing a lot of protein due to this, but I figure it’s ok for just this week – and look at the awesome green color!

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Tropical Mango Green Smoothie
Serves one

    – 4 cups spinach, loosely packed (I use the cup measurement on the side of my blender)
    – 1 cup apple juice (or juice of your choice)
    – 1 frozen banana
    – ½ cup frozen mango

Blend together and enjoy!

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This afternoon I drove to Pacers in Arlington to pick up my race packet for the Crystal City Twilighter 5k race tomorrow night in Crystal City. I can’t wait! It’s my first “real” race – meaning it’s timed and there’s not going to be anyone throwing anything at me – at least not officially! 😉

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Included in my packet is a glow stick – which I’m pretty excited about wearing and then fully intend on bringing home to put in my freezer to try to keep some glow in it until the next day. Did anyone else do that as a kid? 🙂 I’ve also heard a rumor that there might be some dogs from a local animal shelter at the finish line to greet the runners. I hope this rumor is true! I can’t pass up petting a dog anywhere I see one, and I’d love to soak up some puppie-lovin’ post race! It’s so sad I can’t have a dog in my apartment.

Keep up with all the happenings as they go down by following me on Twitter and Instagram!

Half Marathon Training Plan

Last night I went to cycling class again – albeit with a new instructor. I wasn’t as big a fan of this instructor’s style, although her microphone was out so I’ll cut her a little slack for that. She put off a really negative energy during the class – making comments about how her music wasn’t loud enough, she was tired of yelling, she couldn’t read her notes, etc. etc. But I guess there’s a different instructor for everyone! 🙂 I’m very grateful that I’ve found instructors in Cycling, Yoga, and Body Pump that I do love and look forward to seeing every week.

After class I made myself a burrito with my homemade refried beans, my lentil taco filling that I had defrosted, cheese, a scoop of Greek yogurt and half an avocado. Yum!

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It wasn’t the prettiest – but it was tasty and exactly what I needed after a hard workout. I’m always starving immediately after I work out – are you?

In other news, I officially finished putting together my half marathon training plan. It’s a rather long plan – 25 weeks. I did that because I also have a 10k that I’m running in November, so that plan starts in September – works up to the November race and then works up again to the Half in February. I loosely based the plan on the beginners 23 week plan by Run Disney. I also Googled beginner half marathon plans and incorporated some of the aspects from those. Basically, I knew I wanted to stick to only three days of running to make room for one day of yoga, one day of Body Pump, and one cross-training day (cycling, swimming, etc). Unfortunately, no matter how hard I tried to make it work, I can’t keep up my twice-a-week Body Pump classes during training. There just aren’t enough days in a week! However, I did decide that Body Pump “sort of” counts as cardio because my heart rate definitely gets up there – so every four weeks or so I’m letting myself use a second Body Pump class as my non-running cardio for the week.

Here’s my training plan, if you’re interested. Please note that I am not certified to make training plans, or even remotely a professional when it comes to fitness. This is just what I put together for myself based on other plans I reviewed. Following this training plan is not guaranteed to help you (or me! Eek!) accomplish anything.

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Phew! That was a lot of detail! Hopefully you found it interesting. 🙂 It’s going to be a long training season but at the end of it I’m going to be able to cross off one of my bucket list items – finishing a half marathon!

Questions of the Day:
Do you find that you get attached to a certain instructor in fitness classes?
Are you training for any races? Did you make up your own training plan or use a pre-made one?

Garlic Scape Pesto

While I continue my journey back to health, my eating habits haven’t been particularly exciting. In fact, my life in general hasn’t been very exciting. As I said yesterday, I’ve been living off of soup and Netflix. I did make it to Body Pump last night (my first workout in a week) and it felt great! That hour and a half in thy gym was the only time I didn’t feel all stuffy and terrible, probably because I was too busy focusing on my burning muscles. Have I mentioned I’m ready for this cold to be over and done with already?

In the meantime, I’ve found a few recipes I made over the past few weeks that hadn’t quite made it to the blog yet. Up first, garlic scape pesto!

Up until a few weeks ago, I didn’t know what garlic scapes were. But Washington’s Green Grocer has some in the box for the week so I decided to give them a try. After all, anything with the word “garlic” in it is bound to be delicious. I have garlic consumption problems.

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I found out that garlic scapes are the green shoots that grow out of the garlic in the spring, and are trimmed so that the garlic bulbs have a chance to grow fatter. Fat garlic bulbs are always a good thing! However, the green scapes that are trimmed are equally edible and delicious! They sort of remind me of green onions (in appearance only) with a light garlic flavor. Yum! 🙂 I also found out that the most common use of these little beauties is to make garlic scape pesto.

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It turns out this pesto is ridiculously easy to pull together. Just take the garlic scapes (I had about a cup) and cut them into pieces small enough to fit in the food processor.

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Add nuts (I went with walnuts because I thought the flavor would mesh well with the garlic – and it does!)

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Then process together with lemon juice, salt, pepper and enough olive oil to form a good pesto-consistency. Yum!

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At this point, you can also add about a 1/2 cup of cheese and process together, but I was considering freezing mine so I wanted to wait until I was about to use it before adding cheese.

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Garlic Scape Pesto
Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups.

    – approximately 1 cup garlic scapes
    – 1/2 cup walnuts (or other nuts)
    – salt and pepper
    – 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    – up to 1/2 cup olive oil (stream in until a good consistency is reached)
    – 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

    Place all ingredients except olive oil (and cheese if freezing) in the food processor and process until combined. Stream in olive oil until an appropriate pesto-like consistency is reached.

    You can enjoy on this pesto as you would any other pesto – on pasta, or chicken, or in soup. The possibilities are endless!

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“Clean Eating” Banana Bread

For the past six days I have been pretty absent from the world (both real world and online world) as I recover from this nasty cold. I haven’t done much more than camp out on my couch, drink juice, eat soup, and watch endless marathons of TV shows on Netflix, between boughts of sleeping.

As of today, I’m back at work and feeling about half-way back to normal. This has been one heck of a cold! And having a cold in the middle of the summer feels downright unnatural. I guess I just associate a stuffy nose and sneezing with winter weather – do you?

On Saturday I thought I was starting to recover so I mustered up the strength to bake some banana bread. I was going completely stir-crazy from being stuck on the couch and needed some activity to take my mind off things. Also, I tend to eat a lot when I’m not feeling well – is that just me? I feel like my stomach is a black hole and I can just eat and eat. It’s terrible. And I crave the junkiest food when I’m sick – does that happen to anyone else?

So I decided on a better option – this banana bread that is so quick and easy to pull together! 🙂

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My go-to banana bread recipe is one that was given to me by my mom. Banana bread was a staple in our house growing up and when I moved out on my own I got the recipe from her to bake for myself. The recipe is labeled “Kona Inn Banana Bread” and I suspect she got it or learned it while we were living in Hawaii when I was younger. While I love the original version, it involves a good bit of butter and sugar and I wanted to see if I could “clean it up” using a few healthier ingredients. It was a big success! The bread was slightly denser and moister than the original, but I really loved the final product! (I didn’t take any pictures of the process of making the bread because I was pretty much the walking dead from my cold)

I converted the recipe by changing the white flour to whole wheat (reducing it by 1/4 cup), using honey instead of sugar (raw, local honey), and applesauce instead of butter. I was really impressed how well it turned out!

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“Clean Eating” Banana Bread
Makes one loaf.

    – 1/2 cup applesauce (unsweetened)
    – 1/2 cup honey (local, if possible)
    – 4 ripe bananas, mashed
    – 2 eggs
    – 1 cup whole wheat flour
    – 1/2 teaspoon salt
    – 1 teaspoon baking soda

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mashing the bananas into the mixture thoroughly (I use a fork). Do not over-mix. Grease a loaf pan with coconut oil or other oil and pour the batter into the pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Note: you can easily convert this to a vegan recipe by substituting “flax eggs” for the eggs.

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I hope you enjoy this recipe! It comes together really quickly and is definitely a perfect example of comfort food (that you can feel good about) to get your through a not-so-great day. 🙂