Thursday, September 29, 2011

my less serious day: pbj perfection

Dear Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich, 

I love you.



Skirt: Hype via Ideeli; tank: Banana outlet; necklace and cardigan: LOFT outlet; shoes: Tsubo


I began today with a 60-minute run at conversational pace with L. This afternoon's workout was a 60-minute R.I.P.P.E.D. class. If they have this at your gym and you haven't tried it yet - do it! I walked to and from (a 20 minute walk) a meeting across campus this afternoon and took L on a 10 minute walk after I returned home from the gym.


Breakfast was a big bowl of Kashi GoLean Original cereal, Trader Joe's Country Pumpkin Spice granola, sliced peach, and a mix of vanilla soy milk and original almond milk.

Lunch was sandwich perfection: a peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread. 

My afternoon snack was a banana. Here is a picture in case you weren't sure what a banana looks like.

For dinner I had a random, yet delicious, bowl of baked chicken, leftover herbed couscous, and leftover minestrone paired with steamed broccoli.

Dessert was Greek yogurt, Cascadian Farms Dark Chocolate Almond granola, and honey.

the skinny belt experiment: skirt + tucked-in top

This week, I am particularly busy, but I can't very well walk around naked now can I? So, I was happy to tackle the skinny belt experiment with an 'easy difficulty' outfit: a skinny belt with a skirt and tucked-in top.

Results. You don't have to be wearing pants with belt loops to add a skinny belt at your waist. In fact, you don't need belt loops at all. I usually opt to tuck in tops to skirts (especially when attempting to look professional and polished at work) and adding a belt at the waist is a simple way to add interest and waist accentuation.

This combination is easy - any skirt will work depending on the waist band. This particular skirt provides a bit of waist emphasis without the belt (because of its band), but adding a belt only creates more. Some skirts, like classic pencil skirts, provide no built-in waist emphasis and adding a skinny belt can do wonders for your look.

Figure. Outfit combination for the skinny belt experiment: skirt + tucked-in top + skinny belt at waist.

My only word of caution is to pay attention to where your skirt sits on your waist. Do you really want to emphasize that location? Make sure the skirt/belt combination is emphasizing your natural waist or higher.

I wear this type of combination all the time, so I was comfortable and confident despite no reaction from my co-workers (surprise, surprise). When I compared my overall experience to my previous experimental combination (i.e., long top + skinnies) I actually felt a bit less satisfied. There is something about stepping out of the box and taking a 'fashion risk' that feels quite rewarding. But, today's simple combination is one that I will wear again and again.

All in all this skinny belt combination was an easy way to take a simple outfit up a level. Two combinations down, two to go.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

nerds can tweet too...

...and this nerd just started tweeting.

please follow me @lesseriouslife.

what i ate wednesday: issue 3

Figure. Today's eats. A) Breakfast. A mix of Kashi GoLean Original cereal, Cascadian Farms Hearty Morning cereal, and Cascadian Farms Dark Chocolate Almond Granola with 1/2 sliced peach, agave nectar, and almond milk; B) Lunch & Afternoon Snack. A bowl of leftover copycat Olive Garden minestrone, banana, and a cinnamon raisin bran muffin; C) Dinner. Roasted eggplant, squash, and zucchini, Near East Wild Mushroom and Herb couscous, a Morningstar chicken patty, and a blob of ketchup; D) Dessert. A sliced Pink Lady apple with cinnamon and peanut butter.

Monday, September 26, 2011

the cereal experiment: Kashi Autumn Wheat

I love shredded wheat. For years I ate nothing but Kellogg's Frosted Mini Wheat cereal for breakfast and lunch (I was both obsessed and lazy). With this in mind I happily accepted my next evaluation for the cereal experiment, Kashi Autumn Wheat.

Results. Not since Kashi GoLean Original have I felt this unexcited about my morning bowl of cereal. I found that a few of these squares had a nice touch of sweetness, but most squares were horribly bland. Cardboard bland. Autumn Wheat may be nutritious and have only a few simple and healthy ingredients, but its flavor is a bit too mild to satisfy my demanding sweet tooth.

The box describes one serving as 29 biscuits. What in the world? Are we really supposed to count out 29 biscuits each morning? I think not. However, on my first morning with this cereal I faithfully counted out 29, which was approximately 1 cup. I considered this the serving size for the rest of the week and for the purposes of this experiment.

Initially, I enjoyed the hearty texture of Autumn Wheat and its ability to keep me relatively satiated. But, these wheat-y bites get soggy quickly (much more quickly than my old friend Frosted Mini-Wheats, but less so than Fiber One Frosted Shredded Wheats). I found myself building a mountain of cereal on the side of the bowl to avoid the milk, then brought squares down in spoonfuls right before eating to maintain maximum texture. You know there must be a serious risk of sogginess when this much time was spent perfecting the optimal eating strategy to maintain crunchiness.

 *Ranking system.

Kashi Autumn Wheat does well in terms of nutrition. For the 29 biscuit (1 cup) serving size you intake a solid 180 calories and a low 1 gram of fat. This comes with 6 grams of protein and fiber and an extremely low 16% of calories from sugar (i.e., bland). It is also worth noting that this cereal may be the one with the fewest number of ingredients: three (whole wheat, cane juice, natural flavor) - making it feel wholesome and clean.

Kashi Autumn Wheat takes 5th place in the current cereal line-up. Are you noticing a trend in my ranking system? Kashi and Cascadian Farm cereals have all taken the lead, with Autumn Wheat falling to the end of that pack - followed only by Fiber One Shredded Wheat and Quaker Oatmeal Squares. Poor, dejected mainstream cereals...

My final thoughts on Kashi Autumn Wheat? I am glad this bland box is empty.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

weekend review: secret recipe

 Figure 1. Saturday night's dinner: chicken kebabs with cumin-chili spice rub and red onion, herbed couscous, and roasted eggplant and zucchini.
For the herbed couscous (from Cooking Light): Combine 3/4 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan; boil. Stir in 1 cup uncooked couscous. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Stir in 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

For the roasted eggplant and zucchini: Toss sliced eggplant and zucchini lightly in olive oil and onion soup mix. Roast on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, turning once halfway through.

Figure 2.  Super-healthy fiber and protein packed treat for the week: Amanda's cinnamon raisin bran muffins.

Figure 3. In preparation: copycat Olive Garden minestrone.

Figure 4. Sunday night's dinner: copycat Olive Garden minestrone, cheesy bread, and steamed broccoli.

For the cheesy bread: Hope I invite you over for dinner one night and serve you this because I just can't bring myself to share this family specialty for all to see. I'm afraid this is one secret recipe that will have to remain secret for now...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Barcelona eats: bebidas, cena y postre

In Barcelona, locals don't eat until 8:00 in the evening. In fact, many restaurants don't even open until then and the crowd usually packs in at 9:30 or 10:00. Dinners are always accompanied by drinks and many courses served slowly. I love extended periods of eating and in Europe you can't help but spend a few hours eating in the evening. This was, by far, my favorite part of Spain.

Dinner 1: L'Amfora. Recommended by our hotel, we ate at this nearby street cafe, L'Amfora on our first night in Barcelona. We (my Dad was my wonderful traveling and eating companion) sat outside and feasted on what was perhaps my favorite meal during my trip.

Figure 1A. To drink: a pitcher of sangria (to be shared) and water (to hydrate).

Figure 1B. Pan con tomate. This simple starter was a common find in most restaurants. It is toasted bread with a thin layer of olive oil, garlic, and tomato. Love.

Figure 1C. A bowl of assorted olives. I was in heaven - as I am the olive queen.

Figure 1D. A first course to share. Escalavida, which quickly became my new favorite Spanish eat. It is a commonly found concoction of roasted red bell pepper, eggplant, onion, olives, and anchovies in olive oil and spices.

Figure 1E. My main course: baked cod with ratatouille (more eggplant, onion, red pepper, and olives in oil). Delightful and decadent.

Figure 1F. I'm not sure what happened, but the waiter started bringing us shots on the house. You can't turn down free drinks, can you? First, a digestif called Aromes del Montserrat. A licorice-y, herb-y concoction made by the monks at Montserrat. You better believe I bought a bottle to bring home.

Figure 1G. The European classic liqueur, Limoncello. Sweet and tangy.

Figure 1H. And finally, a green apple shot. Sweet and tart. I stumbled home.

Bebidas (Drinks). As you may have guessed, drinking is an essential part of any European lifestyle, including that of Barcelona. I may not have indulged in beer at breakfast like many locals, but I had something special with every dinner. Common choices include cerveza (beer), sangria, and vino (wine).

Dinner 2: L'Eucaliptus. The next night, we wandered to La Rambla, a central street in Barcelona filled with food, music, and entertainers. We found L'Eucaliptus on a side street and dined upstairs overlooking the nearby plaza.

Figure 2A. To drink: a glass of house red wine and water.

Figure 2B. A shared tapa to start: grilled prawns in a red pepper butter sauce.

Figure 2C. My first course: a house salad (i.e., ensalada de eucalyptus). Lettuce, tomato, carrots, cucumber, corn, heart of palm, avocado, olives, tuna, and anchovies. Tossed with oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Talk about an over-sized salad. I was in salad heaven.

Figure 2D. My main course: escalavida (roasted onion, eggplant, red bell pepper, and anchovies) on pan con tomate. My two Spanish loves combined into one. Must re-create.

Cena (Dinner). Ahh, dinner. Most meals include bread, olives, and tapas to start. Then you order a first course, which could be salads or other vegetables. Main entrees in Barcelona focus on seafood including cod, tuna, clams, and red meat including beef and lamb. 

Dinner 3: La Clara. When I travel for work, I usually choose one night to splurge on a fancy restaurant with all the fixin's. For that night in Barcelona, we went to La Clara. Here, we sat outside on the street and ate for hours on many courses. Eating should always be this way.

Figure 3A. To drink: a bottle of house red wine and water.

Figure 3B. Pan con tomate.

Figure 3C. A house green salad to start, shared. Mixed greens, a hard-boiled egg, prosciutto, and avocado. Prosciutto on a salad is pure genius.

Figure 3D. My entree: clams and artichokes in a creamy green sauce. On the side (un-pictured) was another order of pan con tomate which promptly soaked up all that gorgeous sauce.

Figure 3E. For dessert: home-made tiramisu. Decadent and delicious. Some of the best I've had - and I've had a lot.

Postre (Dessert). Much to my dismay, dessert is not the focus of Barcelona. Common choices include creme brulee and ice cream - no local specialties as far as I could tell. Good thing there was plenty of other things on which to indulge. 

Dinner 4: Pizza and Pasta cafe.  On our last night, we wanted something simple. What is simpler than pizza and beer? We wandered until we found a street cafe that offered just that. Yum.

Figure 4A. To drink: una cerveza. 

Figure 4B. A salad to start with lettuce, tomato, mozzarella, and olives with an oil and balsamic vinegar dressing.

Figure 4C. Three of us shared these two welcomed pizza's. Pizza one: four cheese. I only remember one of the four, which was Gorgonzola. A brilliant addition.

Figure 4D. Pizza two: cheese, mushroom, and ham. With all the ham in Spain, it seemed an appropriate (and was a delicious) thing to order.

And this brings to an end my special issue on Barcelona eats. So long anchovies, pan con tomate, and bocadillos de jamon. Welcome back cereal, peanut butter, and spinach salads.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

my less serious day: bananas are back

After 10 years of a banana-free existence I have finally welcomed them back into my life. Banana, I missed you so.


Cardigan, top, and skirt: LOFT; belt and necklace: J Crew; wedges: TJ Maxx.


I kept my usual Tuesday workout schedule, which began with a 30-minute run at working pace with L. I also took two 10-minutes walks during the day. My afternoon workout was a 60-minute cycling class (muscle group focus ride).


Breakfast was a bowl of Kashi Autumn Wheat cereal, raspberries, and almond milk. As usual, black coffee on the side.

I stopped in at Earth Fare before lunch to pick up a few things and happily munched on a few samples (un-pictured) including a square of smoked Gouda and a pita chip dipped in avocado hummus. Lunch was a Lean Cuisine. My afternoon snack was a banana and a handful of almonds.

Dinner started with a spinach salad with broccoli, onion, grape tomatoes, and pickled beets.

The highlight of dinner was Amanda's pumpkin hummus tortilla pizza topped with spinach, broccoli, grape tomatoes, red peppers, mushrooms, and mozzarella cheese.

Dessert was Greek yogurt, slivered almonds, and honey.

Barcelona eats: desayuno y almuerzo

Desayuno (Breakfast). In Barcelona, breakfast is not a meal on which much focus is placed. Common eats include croissants (plain and dipped in chocolate), other breakfast pastries, and bocadillos (sandwiches with ham and cheese on a crispy baguette). Cafe con leche (strong coffee with milk) or espresso seemed to be the most popular drinks.

Breakfast: Street Cafe. On the first morning we stopped at a street cafe for a traditional breakfast.

 Figure 1. Traditional Barcelona breakfast. An espresso and buttery croissant drizzled in honey.

Breakfast: Hotel Buffet. I'm afraid that for me, the traditional breakfast of refined white grains covered in sugar is delicious, but unsatisfying. I crave whole grain cereal, nuts, and fruit. After much searching, I found a 'dietetics' table at the hotel breakfast buffet, where I spent the rest of my mornings.

Figure 2A. Strong black coffee and a bowl of mixed cereal (raw oats, organic puffs, and fiber twigs), nuts (walnuts and pistachios), and dried fruit (raisins and figs).

Figure 2B. I loved this cereal so much it deserves a close up.

Figure 2C. Fresh fruit (pineapple, kiwi, melon, and prunes) and an organic sesame granola bar stashed away for an afternoon snack.

Almuerzo (Lunch). In Barcelona, a typical lunch is (another) ham sandwich (bocadillo de jamon). A girl cannot survive on ham alone. I ate most lunches at work and they went un-photographed, but we tracked down a tapas cafe for one non-work lunch for a little taste of this and a little taste of that.

Tapas lunch at Tapas Tapas Cafe.

Figure 3A. Lettue and goat cheese salad with vinagarette dressing.

 Figure 3B. Grilled vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, asparagus, tomato, onion, and mushroom) with aromoatic oil.

 Figure 3C. Grilled tuna and diced tomato and avocado brochette.

I saved most of my calories for late-night Barcelona dinners, which are eaten slowly and in many, many courses. Keep reading for the second 'Barcelona eats' post including the best part of my eating experience while traveling: dinner, drinks, and dessert. (To be posted later this week).