Wednesday, February 29, 2012

what i ate wednesday: issue 23

 Figure 1. Breakfast: a bowl of Kashi GoLean Original mixed with Post Great Grains Raisin, Date, and Pecan cereal, 1/2 sliced banana, and almond milk. (Before this I had an un-photographed 1/2 banana and coffee).

Figure 2. Lunch: a spinach and spring mix salad with grape tomatoes, raw green cabbage, yellow bell peppers, chopped dates, peanuts, hummus, and balsamic vinegar. For the record, the combination of a simple salad with dates, peanuts, plain hummus, and balsamic vinegar is absolutely fantastic. I crave it almost every day. Please try this!

Figure 3. Afternoon snack: a Golden Delicious apple and peanut butter.

Figure 4. Dinner: shredded Brussels sprouts (one of my very favorite veggies!) with balsamic, pine nuts, and golden raisins alongside a baked sweet potato topped with goat cheese.

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic, Pine Nuts, and Golden Raisins 

Recipe inspired and based closely on Jenna's delectable Caramelized Brussels Sprouts.

12-14 large Brussels sprouts
1 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch salt
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp toasted pine nuts
1 tbsp golden raisins

Slice Brussels sprouts until very thin. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the garlic for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the Brussels and saute for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take the skillet off the heat, add the salt and vinegar and cook 30 seconds more. Toss with pine nuts and raisins. Enjoy!

Figure 5. Dessert: two of the most beautiful cookies ever invented, Girl Scout Samoas.

And that concludes another What I Ate Wednesday (featuring what I ate Tuesday, February 28).

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

the cereal experiment: Quaker Oat Bran

When I reviewed Quaker Oatmeal Squares many months ago, I must admit I was a little hard on them. Since I wrote that review, I have had several cravings for this tasty cereal specifically. So, when I spotted Quaker Oat Bran sitting next to it on the shelf the other week while satisfying one of these urges, I was happy to plop it in my cart as the next subject in the cereal experiment.

Results. If Oatmeal Squares is Quaker's successful and beautiful sister, Oat Bran is the frazzled and homely sister still living with her parents at age 30...

Quaker Oat Bran is a soggy mess. Yes, you get a fairly large amount per serving (1.25 cups for 210 calories), but unless you are into consuming bowls of soggy gruel that masquerade as cereal, you will be disappointed. I hadn't even sat down to eat this bowl before it turned into a smushy catastrophe.

At the end of my eating, what was once cereal was now porridge (see above photo). I actually debated dumping it out mid-bowl and replacing it with the bland, but texturally competent Kashi GoLean Original.

On the bright side, the flavor of this cereal isn't horrible - it has a light brown sugar sweetness - but, this fact is far overshadowed by its texture.

Overall, Quaker Oat Bran's nutritional stats are a bit low compared with the other contenders. What stands out for me in the Table, however, is its low ranking for texture (I believe I have justified that above) and its price! This is by far the most expensive box of cereal I have purchased. All these variables considered, Quaker Oat Bran takes a last place finish.

Despite its lightly sweetened flavor and decent nutritional composition, Quaker Oat Bran cereal disappointed me in a big way. I have a feeling this box of cereal will remain uneaten in my pantry for quite some time...

Note: Remember that you can visit my Food Experiment Page anytime to access all the cereal experiment reviews and current standings table, in addition to other food-related experiments. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

weekend review: the shortening saga

 Figure 1. Saturday night's dinner: crispy herbed shrimp with chive aioli, roasted asparagus and tomatoes, and rice pilaf. Fried shrimp are one of my favorite things in life. This lightened-up version paired with a creamy Greek yogurt-based tarter sauce substitute was amazing.

For the roasted asparagus and tomatoes (Cooking Light): Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine 1 pound trimmed asparagus, 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, 1/3 cup sliced shallots, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, salt, and pepper on a baking sheet. Coat lightly with cooking spray. Bake for 6 minutes or until crisp-tender. 

Figure 2. Sunday morning baking: cinnamon raisin bran muffins.

 Figure 3. In preparation: quiche crust for Sunday night's dinner. I rarely use shortening (right!?), but it was an essential ingredient in tonight's homemade quiche crust. Well, friends, here's a tip. If you can't remember buying that mysterious tub of shortening in the back of your pantry, and it is yellow, and has a funny odor to it that makes you slightly nauseated, don't make dough out of it. Only after I made the first batch of dough did I realize that shortening expired in 2006. Yikes. One new tub of (white and odorless) shortening later, and I had a beautiful quiche crust ready for filling.

 Figure 4. Out of the oven: summer squash, bacon, and mozzarella quiche.

Figure 5. Sunday night's dinner: summer squash, bacon, and mozzarella quiche with Dijon, thyme, and pine nut broccoli. And, just in case there was any confusion, I always go back for seconds.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

commentary: quinoa

I was just minding my own business, cooking couscous and brown rice for dinner, when I became virtually bombarded with quinoa recipes. Pinterest recipes for quinoa, bloggers blogging about quinoa, even a Chopped episode featuring quinoa.

So, quinoa is 'in' right now, I get it. But, it is also 'in' for good reason. Quinoa is like the mother of all grains. The master grain. King grain. So, here is a bit of information (there is a lot of it out there) I have compiled on the topic for your consideration.

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa is not actually a grain (kindly disregard the King grain statement above), but rather a seed of a green leafy plant cultivated in South America. The quinoa plant is related to beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds. Quinoa is common and can be found in most grocery stores and certainly in the bulk sections of health food stores.

Nutritional Content*
  • Protein. The main reason quinoa tends to be a better choice than other grains is because its protein content is higher (Table 1). Quinoa is also a complete protein, which means that it contains a nutritionally-sufficient amount of all nine essential amino acids. 

  • Minerals. Quinoa contains calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc. The amount of these minerals contained in quinoa tends to be greater than found in other cultivated grains. Specifically, a 1/4 cup dry serving of quinoa contains about 15% iron in a highly soluble form, which is important for maintaining healthy muscles, among other benefits.
  • Vitamins. This seed also contains notable amounts of alpha-carotene, niacin, thiamin, folic acid, and Vitamin C. One study found that compared with many other cereals, quinoa also contains considerably more riboflavin, Vitamin E, and carotene (see reference 27). Vitamin E is especially important as it has antioxidant properties.
*As with chia seeds, the nutritional information I located is highly variable, so Table 2 presents my best summary and includes ranges of important nutritional components based on my internet 'research'.

How to Eat Quinoa

Quinoa is simple to cook and has a light, fluffy texture and a mild, nutty flavor. If your quinoa hasn't been pre-rinsed, the first step is to throughly rinse the grain. A great tutorial on cooking quinoa can be found here. Then simply cook quinoa as instructed with water or vegetable/chicken broth (a 1:1.5 cup ratio of quinoa to liquid is recommended). Bring to a boil and simmer for about 12-15 minutes. Fluff, add flavorings, and enjoy!

What you can add to quinoa is endless:
  • Add seasonings or cooked vegetables for a dinner side dish.
  • Add nuts, eggs, or other protein source for a healthy one dish meal.
  • Add nuts, dried fruit, berries, or honey and enjoy quinoa for breakfast.

And finally, here are some quinoa recipes that have caught my eye to give you some quinoa-spiration:

Now - be brave, buy a box, throw in some tasty toppings, and go get your quinoa on.

(image 1, 2, 3, 4)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

what i ate wednesday: issue 22

I ate some food. I took some pictures...

Figure 1. Breakfast: a bowl of Kashi GoLean Original mixed with Madison's homemade toasted coconut granola, 1/2 sliced banana, and almond milk. (Before this I had an un-photographed 1/2 banana and coffee).

Figure 2. Lunch: a yogurt bowl with plain Greek yogurt, homemade toasted coconut granola (and yes, I most definitely planned my lunch around eating more granola), peanut butter, sliced banana, and cinnamon.

Figure 3. Afternoon snack: raw red bell peppers, carrots, and hummus. (I also had un-photographed raw broccoli and cauliflower from the work fridge).

Figure 4. Inside dinner before it hit the heat: a Gruyere and basil quesadilla on an Ezekiel 4:9 sprouted grain tortilla (my inspiration).

Figure 5. Dinner: a Gruyere and basil quesadilla with roasted eggplant and red bell pepper. A simple cheese quesadilla is a perfect quick and healthy carb + protein combination.

Figure 6. Dessert: dark chocolate pudding (notice my tiny spoon?).

And that concludes another What I Ate Wednesday (featuring what I ate Tuesday, February 21).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

list your loves

Lovely Anna at The Guiltless Life recently tagged me to participate in a 'List Your Loves This Valentine's Day' post. The rules are simple, I have to answer each question, I can't say 'both' or 'none', and I have to answer instantly! So, here I go...

  • Sweet or salty? Sweet
  • Fruit or veg? Veg
  • Coffee or tea? Coffee
  • You have unlimited funds – Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods? Whole Foods
  • If you could afford a personal chef would you hire one or still do the cooking yourself? Hire one and cook with them!

  • Athlete crush: David Beckham, Rafael Nadal, Tom Brady? Rafa, baby
  • If you could be a professional athlete, would you choose: tennis player, soccer star, figure skater? Soccer star
  • Flexibility or strength? Toned abs or toned butt? Strength; toned abs
  • Morning, afternoon or night exerciser? Morning
  • Cardio, strength, flexibility? Strength (although I consider cardio strength too...)

  • You can shop in one store with unlimited budget for the rest of your life: Lululemon, Anthropologie or Gucci? Anthropologie
  • Celebrity whose wardrobe you would steal: Rachel Bilson, Gwen Stefani, Gwyneth Paltrow? Rachel Bilson
  • Bags, shoes or makeup? Shoes!
  • Home decor – minimalist, rustic or retro? Rustic
  • Colour – black, yellow or red? Red

  • Author – Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray Love etc), Candace Bushnell (Sex and the City etc), JK Rowling (Harry Potter etc)? Bushnell (but none really)
  • Books or movies? Books
  • Actress – Megan Fox, Kate Winslet or Kristen Stewart? Kate Winslet
  • Actor – Colin Firth, Brad Pitt or George Clooney? Colin Firth
  • Music – country, reggae or hard rock? Reggae

(images 1, 2, 3, 4)

Monday, February 20, 2012

weekend review: it rains, i bake

Figure 1. Saturday night's dinner: pork tenderloin with mushroom sauce, served over creamy polenta made with pecorino Romano cheese, and oven roasted green beans.

For the polenta (which I'm getting pretty good at), I combined 2 cups of water, 1 cup of almond milk, a bit of butter and salt. I brought this to a light simmer over medium heat (you don't want the milk to burn on the bottom). I then added 3/4 cup polenta stirring constantly with a whisk until thickened. Then switched to a  wooden spoon and stirred until desired thickness. Once the liquid simmers, this process takes about 5-7 minutes. Then, I took it off the heat and stirred in about 1 ounce of grated pecorino Romano cheese (you could use any cheese, I think, just make sure it is strong) and cracked black pepper. This amount should serve 4 (~3/4 cup cooked serving size).

Figure 2. In preparation: toasted coconut granola. A mix of oats, cinnamon, coconut, walnuts, almonds, molasses, and butter topped with dried cranberries.

Figure 3. Sunday morning baking: toasted coconut granola.

Figure 4. Sunday afternoon baking: peanut butter cup blondies.

Figure 5. Out of the oven: bacon and butternut pasta. This baked pasta dish was absolutely fantastic and included crumbly bacon, roasted butternut squash, steamed kale, onion, garlic, a creme fraiche-based sauce, and topped with Gruyere cheese

Figure 6. Sunday night's dinner: bacon and butternut pasta, a slice of Italian 5-grain bread, and a spinach salad with red bell pepper, cucumber, tomato, and kalamata olives.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

my less serious day: protein edition

Today, I tracked my protein intake and thought I'd share my findings. Protein for each food is indicated in parentheses below. Today, I consumed 70 grams of protein. This far exceeds my recommended amount of about 46 grams.

No wonder I'm so deezed...


Dress: Susana Monaco; cardigan: Gap; tights: Target; belt: Banana outlet; necklace: J Crew gifted via Mom; boots: Steve Madden


This morning's workout was a 1-hour and 14-minute run (easy pace) followed by a 10-minute walk with L. I also took L on a 10-minute walk on my lunch break. The day concluded with a 60-minute RIPPED class.


Pre-run I had 1/2 banana (1g), 1/2 mug of black coffee, and 1 pint of water. For breakfast I had a bowl of Kashi GoLean Original (16g) mixed with Post Great Grains Raisins, Dates, & Pecans (2g) cereals, pumpkin puree (2g), and almond milk (2g). Breakfast protein total: 23g.

Lunch was a sweet potato (2g) topped with goat cheese (5g) and walnuts (1g) with a side of steamed spinach (3g) topped with hot sauce. Lunch protein total: 11g.

My first afternoon snack was a Pink Lady apple and peanuts (4g).

My second afternoon snack was raw broccoli (3g) and hummus (2g). My third afternoon snack was a Nature's Valley Crunchy peanut butter granola bar (5g). Snack protein total: 14g.

Dinner was a roasted eggplant (6g) {coated in Pam, salt, pepper, and garlic powder} topped with tomato paste (1g) {mixed with veggie broth, oregano, salt, basil, garlic powder} and nooch (i.e., nutritional yeast) (4g). Served alongside Tomato Lentil couscous (7g) and slivered almonds (3g). Dinner protein total: 21g. Dessert was a few pieces of Godiva dark chocolate.

Note: this post represents what happened in my world on Thursday, February 16. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

what i ate wednesday: issue 21

Before you get too concerned that I only ate salad on Valentine's Day, please note that these 'eats' are from Monday. Tuesday? Well, let's just say chocolate and wine was involved...

  Figure 1. Pre-run fuel: 1/2 banana and coffee. Are you guys sick of seeing this yet?

Figure 2. Breakfast: a bowl of Kashi GoLean Original mixed with Post Great Grains Raisins, Dates, and Pecans cereal, 1/2 sliced banana, and almond milk.

Figure 3. Lunch: a mixed green salad beast with raw cabbage, leftover roasted zucchini and squash, grape tomatoes, Craisins, peanuts, hummus, and balsamic vinegar.

 Figure 4. Afternoon snack: plain Greek yogurt, pumpkin puree, and cinnamon.

Figure 5. Dinner: a salad beast so large that I don't even want to talk about it. Let's just say I couldn't finish it - and I may not eat salad the rest of the week. This beast contained mixed greens, spinach, raw cabbage, grape tomatoes, onions, cucumber, yellow bell pepper, a Morningstar chicken patty, peanuts, chopped dates, hummus, and balsamic vinegar.

 Figure 6. Dessert: a bowl of dry Quaker Oat Bran cereal (look for a cereal experiment review this week) with cinnamon.

And that concludes another What I Ate Wednesday (featuring what I ate Monday, February 13).