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Archive for July, 2010

The fiancee and I went all the way across town today to BJ’s, a wholesale store (like Costco or Sam’s Club) to see what the fuss is about… As soon as we got into the parking lot, I was thinking it was a bad idea since everyone walking out of the store looked supersized… I’ve noticed this same thing at Costco too, and there are a few reasons why this could be correlated, but I won’t go into it today.

Anyways, once we got in, we scoured the aisles looking for deals that jumped out at us as “ooh I have to buy this!” – and didn’t find any. The toiletries were all basically the same price as Walmart, but we can get cheaper generics there… so we were starting to be disappointed. Then I managed to find an at-home pull-up bar for $10 (I know this is cheaper than Walmart because I’ve looked for one there too!) and I got it 🙂 Our gym doesn’t have a pull-up machine or a high-chair-thing-that-you-hang-from-and-lift-legs-to-work-your-abs, so we can use this for both – it even has a mail-in offer for free ab straps for hanging 🙂 Sweet!

We rounded the corner to the grocery section, and then it hit us why people shop there… the groceries actually were (for the most part) cheaper than we could get elsewhere. Some of the highlights from today’s trip include:

  • Family size tub of Organic Girl salad greens
  • Multi-pack of Polanar spreadable fruit
  • Jumbo jars of sundried tomatoes, olives, and marinated artichoke hearts
  • Soymilk by the case
  • Gardein chik’n tenders (never seen these before…)
  • TUBS O’ HUMMUS (3x the size of what we get at Publix for 2x the price, plus a new salsa flavor!)
  • Bulk bags of almonds & frozen veggies

Yeah, we came home with a full car…

I really like how BJ’s doesn’t give you bags too (probably b/c most of the stuff you get there wouldn’t fit!) This is one of my favorite things about Aldi, so it’s nice to find another place that does it too.

We had to pay a 5% non-member fee, and the membership would pay for itself if we go there about 4 more times in a year… we’re still on the fence. Schlepping across town to get this stuff and save a few bucks is exhausting, but I do have to admit the selection of stuff they have that we actually eat was surprising!

Pros:

  • Surprisingly good selection of rBST-free cheeses
  • New vegetarian dinner options we hadn’t seen before (Gardein)
  • Sundried tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, olives…
  • JUMBO TUBS O’ HUMMUS
  • Naan wraps on the cheap!

Cons about BJ’s Groceries:

  • They had huge pillowcases of rice, but no brown rice…
  • Their whole wheat pasta selection is pitiful (“51% whole grain pasta!” – why not 100???)
  • Yogurt seemed to be missing from the store altogether
  • Whole wheat wraps had hydrogenated oils in them

We don’t know yet if we’ll become members or not. After we left the store, we had to stop by Publix anyway to pick up decent whole wheat wraps, toilet paper & paper towels.

Publix is the only place I buy TP & paper towels now since they’re the only place I can find the 100% recycled paper products! HINT HINT other major retailers – I am willing to pay a premium so that I don’t have to flush virgin trees down the toilet! If you offer the product at your store, I will buy it.

When I got home I was super happy to find that we got our Groupon for Aashirwad (our favorite Indian restaurant in Orlando):

I think we’ll go here for an upcoming birthday dinner soon 🙂 It’s sooooo sooooo good!!!!!

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Last night my friend Kellie hosted a dinner party at her house, Buca di Beppo style 🙂 That’s one of our favorite restaurants, but it’s always so indulgent going there (think birthdays only), so Kellie made a fresh home-style menu with a lot of the same foods.

The night started out with some Lambrusco wine (mmm) to chill out after a long week, and then came the bruschetta appetizer:

Soooo good! I probably ate about 10 of these! 🙂 Next was the eggplant parmesan (because Kellie is my BFF and accommodates vegetarians, I love her so much:)) – it was awesome and crispy!

Then came the *blurry* salad (food photography is even harder after a few glasses of vino…), with green apples & craisins – awesome combination!

And last but not least, the epic pasta with sundried tomatoes, basil, zucchini & pine nuts… drool.

Closeup because it was soooooooo good…

We stayed up watching Hot Tub Time Machine – hilarious! Now it’s my turn to host Kellie for dinner 🙂 Sometimes after we go on group runs we’ll make something casual like chili, but I want to do something fancy!

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Why I Eat Organic

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Obviously I’d ideally eat everything organic, but we all know that sometimes paying $4 for a handful of tomatoes just isn’t realistic, especially when you’re trying to save some money for a house/wedding/baby in this economy. Keeping that in mind, I’ll share with you my strategy of what I buy organic and what I buy conventional.

Some foods are more important to be eaten organic than others – there’s a great list posted by the Environmental Working Group, and they explain it a lot better than I can why certain foods are more susceptible to pesticides (i.e. spinach soaks stuff up like a sponge), and why other foods don’t really get affected by pesticide spray (since you don’t eat the skin of a pineapple).

The way I keep it straight is by posting a list on my fridge, so when I make my grocery list for the week, I put a * by foods that should be organic.

I forget where I got my full list from, but note that the top most important should-be organic food is MEAT! That’s because when you’re eating conventional meat, you’re also eating the pesticides sprayed on the grass that the cow/chicken/pig ate, along with the antibiotics given to the animal to keep them alive long enough to make it to the slaughter house… I’ll post later about the many reasons why I’m a vegetarian.

The second most important is milk, because dairy contains about five times the amount of pesticides as fruits & vegetables. It’s an easy switch to organic dairy since most places that you buy yogurt offer Stonyfield Farms (normal and Oikos greek yogurt). The harder part is where to find organic parmesan, mozzarella, and other cheeses – I haven’t digged around the Whole Foods cheese section but I bet I can find some treasures there 🙂 Also, we don’t drink cow’s milk straight up in our house anymore (big change for me since I always had a gallon of skim on hand) – I also don’t like the taste of soymilk plain, so I usually go with Rice Dream or Almond Breeze, mmm 🙂

Another important organic food to note is COFFEE. I had a discussion with the fiancee about this, because I told him that coffee is heavily sprayed with pesticides and he drinks at least 2-3 cups a day. He thinks that when the beans are roasted, the chemicals “burn off” of the coffee so it’s not in what you drink.

Then I reminded him that buying organic is not just about YOUR HEALTH, it’s also about THE PLANET’S HEALTH… most pesticides are petroleum-based (read: OIL), and end up in the water. So even if you don’t ingest the pesticides yourself (like if you’re eating conventional bananas…), that doesn’t negate the fact that the oil still had to come out of the ground to bind to the toxic chemicals which were sprayed on the plants and absorbed into the soil and water. Also keep in mind that coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world (next to petroleum), and a lot of coffee comes from sketchy places with questionable farming practices that don’t treat their workers fairly.

You’ll hear me say this a lot, but every time you buy something, you are voting with your dollar. Even if you don’t eat the pesticide-covered skin of the banana, by buying conventional bananas, you’re sending the message that you don’t mind living in a pesticide-filled world. And you’re sending a check to the bad guys who get paid a lot of money to pump oil from the ground/under the ocean.

Remember, I live in Florida:

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In case you missed something, we have a big mess on our hands not too far from where I live as a result of this irresponsible drilling (to spray the peels of bananas that we don’t eat…)

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So please, try to think beyond the banana peel when you’re shopping. I know not everyone can afford to buy every single thing organic, nor do many stores offer a good selection (hello, I still shop at Walmart). However, as it becomes more common (I read recently that 3/4 of shoppers purchase at least 1 organic food item each time they get groceries), simple economics shows us that the price will go down and it will be easier for us all to eat healthy with the planet in mind.

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Today was a good example of how to pack an epic lunch for work, while still half asleep and trying to make something healthy. Breakfast started out with what I thought was going to be breakfast cookie dough, until I realized we were out of any type of milk, so I ended up with this:

Blueberries, oats, flax seed, wheat germ, and chocolate protein powder. I just put some tap water into the mixture and stirred it up, took a bite, and almost gagged. I forgot how nasty the protein powder + water mixture is… 😦 So to salvage it, I threw in a blob of gooey peanut butter:

Voila – edible breakfast. Note: this breakfast would have tasted completely fine with a milk (almond/rice/soy) to mix the protein powder with, but the water is just gross.

I also packed a snack – I knew we’d have ice cream at work today, so I wanted something healthy but still indulgent to help me avoid the break room. I ended up with french vanilla Stonyfield yogurt with fresh strawberries, wheat germ & chocolate chips 🙂 I usually go for the plain yogurt, but Walmart was out of the plain flavor (surprise surprise Wally World…), so I got the french vanilla. It’s a disappointment and hopefully I can convince the fiancee that we need to be going to Publix for most of our groceries since they have a better selection of the healthy stuff that we eat all the time! (“But Kim, how can you turn down this 79 cent bag of lentils? And the hummus is cheaper here…”) We’ll see.

I also made a peanut butter + Nutella + banana whole grain wrap crepe, mmm! 🙂

And this is the funny part… I accidentally packed 2 lunches :-/ Here’s leftovers from last night’s spaghetti squash:

I didn’t even realize that I double-packed lunch, but that’s fine. I also brought a nectarine which stayed in my cubicle, so for my snack I split the crepe with my friend – gotta be flexible 🙂 And I managed to avoid the ice cream for the second day in a row – score!

Speaking of running (huh?) – I had an awesome fun mini-race yesterday with the fiancee around the golf course. We did 1.5 miles and instead of running together, ran in opposite directions – last one home does the dishes! I smoked him by a whole 2 minutes! Finished in about 17 minutes (not exact because my watch battery is still dead), awesome! 🙂 I think we’ll repeat this strategy again because we both run faster alone, but it’s nice to see each other & high five in the middle of the race.

I was nose-breathing for most of the time, but lately my nose gets really stuffed up and it’s hard to breathe, so I just went with it and mouth-breathed for a while to catch my breath, and it helped me to keep running! I ran for about 85% of the time, which is really good for me! 🙂

Do you nose breathe or mouth breathe when you run?

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Easy Crepes

Look what I made for lunch:

Picture’s kinda blurry, but it’s a whole wheat wrap with a generous smear of natural peanut butter, Nutella, and a banana laid on top. It reminds me of a crepe, and is super easy & fast to make for breakfast, lunch or a snack. I used to make these all the time in grad school & scarf them down with one hand while riding my bike to class… what?

Close-up:

Something about the peanut butter + banana combo makes me feel like a kid again 🙂 Yes, this just became my go-to water park food 🙂

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Spaghetti Squash

Allow me to introduce you to one of my favorite healthy recipes that will trick you into thinking you’re carb-loading… spaghetti squash 🙂

This large football-sized veggie can magically be transformed into a pasta replacement for those nights when you want Italian but don’t want the belly ache afterwards.

First, chop it in half – the skin is really thick so you’ll need a sharp knife. When you cut it open, the inside looks sorta like a pumpkin:

Use a knife/spoon and scrape out the seeds & loose stringy parts, you don’t need to remove all the stringy parts because they will just blend with the squash after you bake it.

Then put on a baking pan and rub some olive oil on them.

Flip them over (face down) and bake in the oven at 400*F for 40 minutes – after many attempts, this is the ideal temperature & time combo.

See that golden yellow? That means it’s done 🙂 Take a fork (wear an oven mitt on the hand you’re holding the hot squash with!) and stir/scrape out the spaghetti part – it should basically fall off the skin at the edges since you baked it for so long.

I’m drooling 😛 Once you put it in a bowl, a whole squash makes about 4 servings.

Now top it with your pasta sauce! Note that it will be a little watery since it’s a vegetable, so if you want to make a chunky sauce, that’s a good idea. Tonight I used veggie crumbles and a traditional spaghetti sauce. I haven’t made this with alfredo sauce yet but I bet that’s even better 🙂

Top with cheeeeeeese and enjoy!

Note: the next day, your mixed up leftovers will look like kimchi, but that’s OK – they taste just fine and the texture holds up really well overnight in the fridge 🙂

YUM!

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This week I got to take a road trip for work, which gave me a good idea for a post – eating healthy on the road!

Let me say that this trip was an example of how not to eat healthy on the road… it was a short notice trip & I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, so this is probably what many of you do on a typical business trip.

I woke up late-ish (had to be at the rental car place across town by 8am) so I threw together a breakfast cookie dough mixture. This was actually pretty good considering the short amount of time I had to prep.

Includes a banana, raisins, chocolate protein powder, soymilk, peanut butter, and oatmeal. If I’m thinking ahead, I’ll make a real breakfast cookie from one of my favorite blogs

I got the rental car, and all I can say is vvvvvrrrrroooooooooom!

This baby was a blast to drive on the interstate blaring rock music loud, throwing fuel economy to the wind, while all hyped up on this nutrition disaster:

Large McDonalds iced coffee… so good, but after the first sip I remember why I only drink these when I need a quick caffeine boost (i.e. on road trips). A few hours later I was getting sleepy again, so what do I do? I pull over and grab another…

I joined my coworker for lunch at a delicious Mexican restaurant (I missed these since leaving California!) and had some cheese enchiladas with mole, rice + refried beans, with chips + salsa. Note that I did pack a container of almonds, a peach & a nectarine to snack on in the car, but the iced coffee took away my appetite so I didn’t eat any of it 😦

It was a long day in meetings and a site visit (which is a rare treat for me since most of my projects are outside of Florida these days), during which I went to Dunkin and got iced coffee #3… let me just say I’ve never had this much in one day. I used to treat myself to an iced caramel macchiato in the library during my undergrad for midterms & finals, and I find that I like these drinks better when it’s a celebration, not a tool to keep myself from falling asleep.

I stopped for dinner and found a random crepe place, and had my very first savory crepe, with mozzarella cheese + tomatoes + spring mix lettuce + alfredo sauce… and it was good! 🙂

What would I do differently next time? Well, I’d get a different car – although the ‘stang was fun, it would be cool to drive a hybrid for a change 🙂 Also, I would have gone with a salad for lunch instead of the heavy rice/beans/enchilada combo, and obviously would have eliminated the iced coffee (replace it with fruit juice or a smoothie!).

What do you do to stay healthy on business travel?

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