The Nutella-Peanut-Butter Death Spiral (Or, Two Weeks of Being at Home)

It’s been a while, people. I’ll try not to make a million excuses for my lack of posting, but know that things will get back on track shortly! Things that have happened since my last posts:

– summer classes ended
– a spontaneous, hilarious, soul-restoring 24 hours in NYC (more on that later!)
– flying home to Georgia
– catching up with high school friends I haven’t seen in two years
– and….most relevant to that whole blog-posting thing….getting a NEW LAPTOP!

Yes, blogging has been really difficult without a laptop. Even the word “blogging” invokes the image of a lost, soul-searching twentysomething with a coffee mug pulled tightly to her chest and a laptop propped on her knee. Something about sitting at the college library computers to share my witticisms and favorite recipes seemed a little…off. In any case, I’ll be blogging in the more conventional way from now on. Get at me, interwebz.

So far, I’ve spent the last two weeks home in my Georgia town, swiftly inhaling all and any edibles in the kitchen. Is it possible that being home can make one grateful for a mother’s wonderful cooking and wistful for solitary college apartment cooking at the same time? Let me explain.

It is so much easier to eat well and eat in proper portions when you buy and make your own food. I never have to worry about digging away to the bottom of the Nutella jar in college because (in full cognition of my eating habits) I don’t buy Nutella! At home, however, a plethora of wonderful delights await in every nook and cranny of the kitchen. Have you guys ever tried Nutella and peanut butter together? It’s like…the best.
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Recently, I came across this article from LifeHack about what junk food cravings really mean. Apparently chocolate cravings mean I should eat almonds?! Weird, but I’ll give it a go, LifeHack.

Steals and Deals at a July Farmer’s Market

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July is my favorite season to go  to the Farmer’s Market. It’s like stepping into a wonderland of brightly colored apples  and berries – that is also adjacent to Zeke’s Coffee and Ethiopian Cuisine. There’s something for everyone – and I mean, everyone – at the Farmer’s Market.

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The  farmer’s market is the best place to go for a flavorful soil-grown food fix. Vegetables and fruits often taste particularly flat directly from chain grocery stores, and nothing ruins a good tabbouleh dish like a tomato that doesn’t taste quite like a tomato but a red rubbery reminder  of what a tomato might have been.  It’s moments like those that  I become wistful for the summer Farmer’s Market season.

And if you’re a smart enough shopper, going to the Farmer’s Market can be very cheap. To  scoop out the best deals, make sure you walk through  the entire market at least once before making a purchase and keep a mental inventory of the different prices different vendors offer. It seems self-defeating for one  vendor to offer a quart of vegetables for two dollars more than another down  the street – but most vendors actually do differ in prices for roughly the  same quality product.

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And you certainly don’t have to be a haggling master to get good deals (thank god, because I couldn’t talk a price down in my life). Many vendors keep  a few fruits and vegetables  with a few brown patches sold in  separate quarts for considerably cheaper prices. Thanks  to these deals, my grocery bill is drastically reduced every week. Today, I bought a total of 15  flavor-packed peaches for $1 thanks to just a few brown spots. And then a similarly large quantity of apricots for another dollar. I may have just found  my favorite fruit vendor of all time.

On an unrelated note, nothing invites questions and conversation more than bringing an over-sized  camera to the Farmer’s Market. One Morrocan vendor caught me snapping pictures of his wide array of vegetables and asked me about my ethnic background. When he  found out I was also Middle Eastern, he sweetly asked if I needed onions in addition to the zucchini and spinach I was purchasing, and grabbed a few to put in my bag before I even responded. It made my morning!

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the nice man who gave me free onions!

On the Importance of Dessert

I have a deep mistrust  of people who claim they’re not “dessert people.” First of all, everyone is a dessert person. Your body is literally programmed to respond like a rabid monkey to anything that is loaded with sugar and smells like heaven. Second, walking away from  a delectable pastry without any remorse clearly reveals a few psychological problems). You just can’t go  to a coffeeshop and not have your soul quiver for at least one cookie on display. More importantly, “desserts” encompasses a wide breadth of foods from scones to parfaits to ice cream. There’s a dessert for everyone, whether you like it or not. So I’m sorry, sir, but I will not entertain your notion that you are not a “dessert person” because  I don’t even know what that means.

This also brings me to another dessert-related rant. You don’t have to eliminate sweets for dietary purposes. It is a noble and difficult choice to cut our sugar, but if you’re responsible in how you do it and maintain the right exercise plan, it’s not necessary. Of course, sweets are easy to overindulge on, due to their ability to hit every neurological pathway in our system ( or something like  that). It takes vast fortitude to withstand the temptation of sugar-loaded goodies, so for those making this arduous battle, remember that a little indulgence every once  in a while is not only healthy, it can also save you from more extreme dietary break later. Just something to think about in this world of delectable treats! If you need me, I’ll be over here, where the cake is…

Workout Goals and Unbearable Plateaus

If you read health oriented magazines or keep up to date on fitness-related material at all, you’ve probably read your fair  number of articles about plateaus. I’m of course not talking about mountain scenery, but the frustrating lack of progress in personal workouts. Anytime I experienced plateaus in the past, I sneakily attributed them to this or that particular midterm that I had coming up – time constraints that prevented me from going further than I  did. However, with summer in full swing and a lighter workload, I have run out of excuses for my most recent plateau.

I thought I had overcome it by starting to run outside in the lovely Baltimore neighborhoods, but then that got boring. Then I started to run on the treadmill, excited to keep tabs on my pace and time. But then that got boring. Finally, I realized what the problem was: I didn’t have a goal. My goal was to workout. That’s it. Period. No wonder I was getting bored!

Soooooooo….introducing, my goal:

Every week, I will up my running duration by an extra ten minutes. Therefore, if I run 25 minutes max on a day one week, that maximum duration has to be upped by ten minutes one day the following week. The best part of this goal is that it doesn’t mandate that I run every day, or perform at my maximum every day. It simply means that on one day, I completely beast my best.

And it worked! Two weeks ago, I ran a maximum of 30 minutes on the treadmill. A few days afterwards, I upped that by running for 45 minutes on the track! Not only did setting a casual and open-ended goal like this help, it motivated me to do more than my goal. #winning? #winning.image

Here are some great tips from another fitness blogger about breaking through a plateau. I’m curious to see how  this new plateau-buster works out in the long run. If you have any tips and tricks for pushing further in your workouts – shoot me an email or write a comment below and if I use it, I’ll write about it in my next blog!

Catch ya later!

That pernicious summer cold (and a quinoa recipe!)

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Is there anything worse than being sick over the summer? More importantly, is there anything worse than being sick over July 4th weekend?

I have had the misfortune of contracting a summer cold, leaving me enfeebled, sleepy, and coughing throughout the day. Alright, so it’s not that bad. Mostly I’ve been napping a lot and drinking aggressive amounts of tea.

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The worst part of all is having to put all  athletic endeavors on hold while my immune-ravaged body steadily recovers. This means that I’ve been doing a lot less working out and a lot more eating. I know that a cold is supposed to suppress the appetite, but let’s face it, I’m not hungry in any way but miserably bored. Worst of all is that I made a batch of incredibleeeeee chocolate chip, peanut butter chip and snickers blondies right before I got sick  which have all promptly disappeared during my sick bout. (I know what you’re thinking and I love where your head is at – recipe comin’ atcha later!)

Anyway, last night I did manage to whip up something healthy and delicious. Let me preface this by saying, I don’t know what do with quinoa. I’ve had a package of quinoa in my pantry for a year that I’ve left untouched. This is not a joke. I’ve probably seen a million recipes that call for quinoa for breakfast or in desserts or as simple staple grains in meals….but they  seem weird and are often tasteless when I actually make them. Until this guy….let me introduce: Spiced Quinoa with Black and Red Kidney Beans.

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It’s tasty, easy to make, and chock-full of protein! More importantly, it’s also super easy to morph into whatever you want. If you want to use different spices or don’t like some of the ones that I’ve added, just substitute whatever works better for you!

Serving size: 2

Ingredients:

• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 1/4 cup onion
• 1/2 cup red peppers
• 1/2 cup diced fresh tomato
• 2 clove garlic, minced
• 2 cup chicken broth
• 1 cup black beans
• 1 cup red kidney beans
• 1 cup quinoa
• 1/2 tsp cayenne
• 1/2 tsp paprika
• 1/2 tsp black pepper
• 1/2 tsp oregano
• 1/2 tsp cumin
• 1/2 tsp chili powder
• 2 tbsp Pace salsa (optional)

Directions:

1. In a sauce pan over medium heat, add the olive oil. Then saute the garlic and onion for 3-4 min before also adding red peppers and tomatoes.
2. Add chicken broth and let it reach boiling before adding in quinoa. Add spices.
3. After 15 minutes, add in beans.

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Voila! There you have it: Spiced Quinoa with Red and Black Beans. Just make sure you grab a piece of fruit beforehand to fight off any summer colds! 🙂