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Love for Leftovers

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Chicken Pesto Wrap and Beet Salad

I’ve recently come across a few people who don’t like leftovers.  I absolutely cannot understand it.  I practically survive on leftovers.  Not only do they save time and money, some leftovers taste better than they did the day before!

Crock-Pot Leftovers

Thai Peanut Chicken and Greens Bowl
Thai Peanut Chicken and Greens Bowl

Crock-Pot recipes are pretty much designed for leftovers.  You can make a huge pot on Sunday and have it all week.

Simple dishes like pulled chicken can be used in a variety of ways – on tortillas, on salads, on buns.  Even unique dishes, such as this Thai Peanut Chicken can be surprisingly versatile.  I ended up having it with noodles, on brown rice, in a taco, and on nachos!

And then there are Crock-Pot dishes such as chili and soups that straight up taste better a day or two later.  As the dish sits, the ingredients combine and create so much flavor.

If you can’t finish your Crock-Pot dish within a few days, you can even save the leftovers in the freezer for later!

Restaurant Leftovers

If you’ve ever tried dieting, I’m sure you’ve heard the trick about boxing half your meal before you start eating.  I don’t usually go as far as asking for the box up front, but I rarely end up eating my whole meal at restaurants.  I’m a small girl and the portions are just so big these days!  If you have a little self-control, the oversized portions can be a blessing though.  You can basically get two meals for the price of one!

Cheeky's Chicken Fajitas
Cheeky’s Chicken Fajitas

You don’t have to save exactly half of everything either.  Oftentimes, I’ll enjoy all the fresh vegetables in a dish while I’m at the restaurant and save half the protein for later.  I can then add the protein to some mixed greens and my salad is ready to go for lunch the next day.

While I love leftovers regardless, it is always nice to add

something fresh to them.  Mixing leftovers with greens into a salad is easy, but it’s not the only option.  The other day I had leftover fajitas from Cheeky’s and I added some fresh avocado to them when I got home.

Homemade Leftovers

Leftovers don’t have to come from a Crock-Pot or a restaurant.  Most nights, I’ll make four servings for dinner.  This gives my hungry SO an extra portion that night and me an extra portion for lunch the next day.

Kale and Shrimp Salad
Kale and Shrimp Salad

One of my recent favorite leftover salads was one I made on a day that I was trying to clean out my fridge before going out of town for a week.   I had made Skinnytaste’s Sheet Pan Shrimp with Broccolini and Tomatoes a few nights before and didn’t want to let that shrimp go to waste. I chopped up the shrimp and broccolini, placed it on top of my remaining baby kale, added in leftover cauliflower rice, sprinkled on a little feta cheese, drizzled on my last sliver of lemon, and tossed it all up.  It was surprisingly delicious and I was able to use up multiple leftovers!

Your leftovers may not always magically pair together like they did for my Kale and Shrimp Salad.  But that doesn’t mean your leftovers have to spoil.  Think about if there’s a side dish you could buy or make to enhance the leftovers you have.  The other night we had an awkward amount of chicken teriyaki stir fry leftover.  It wouldn’t have filled both of us, but we didn’t want it to go to waste.  We decided to order a sushi roll to complete our meal.

 

What are your favorite leftovers? Share in the comments!

A Week of SkinnyTaste

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I have been a little MIA lately. Work trips, family emergencies, and apartment searching has left little time for my blog.  But I guess that’s why it’s called theSTRETCHEDlife!

I am currently on my way home from a trip to Arizona and wanted to share with you all some lovely meals that I prepared while I WAS at home.

I knew I would be in town the week leading up to Memorial Day so that Sunday I picked three recipes from SkinnyTaste to try.  Of course I didn’t ended up making each dish the night I planned because life/work happens, but by the end of the week, I had tried them all and had leftovers to enjoy!  Each recipe was delicious and kept me full, but not too full.  Even better, these SkinnyTastae dishes were simple to make.

 

Naked Greek Feta-Zucchini Turkey Burger

Of the three recipes I picked out, this one was by far the most time consuming so I made it on Sunday night.  It was still pretty simple though – just a matter of shredding the zucchini, chopping a few vegetables, and measuring out the seasoning.

Shredding Zucchini

I ate the burger as recommended – no bun, Greek salad on top.  For my SO, I toasted up two slices of wheat bread to act as a bun.  He needs to eat a little more than I do!

Turkey Burger Prep

The burger must have been pretty good because my SO had a second that night and I enjoyed the leftovers for lunch the next two days.  I simply threw some mixed greens into Tupperware and topped it with the Greek salad mixture and the chopped-up turkey burger.  I then mixed it up with some Tzatziki as dressing.

Naked Greek Feta-Zucchini Turkey Burger

One Pan Parmesan-Crusted Chicken with Broccoli

This recipe couldn’t get much easier.  I had chopped the broccoli on Sunday so when I got home from work I just had to chop up the parsley and garlic.  Once that was done, I threw everything in a pan and did a Tone It Up video while it cooked.

Skinnytaste Parmesan Crusted Chicken Prep

My chicken breasts were on the larger side so they took closer to 45 minutes to cook.  This was perfect because my workout video was 30 minutes and I wanted to make cauliflower rice to go with the chicken.  I had shredded the cauliflower on Sunday and was able to rice it following Minimalist Baker’s instructions while the chicken finished.

Skinnytaste Parmesan Crusted Chicken with Broccoli

Sheet Pan Shrimp with Broccolini and Tomatoes

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any easier than the Parmesan-Crusted Chicken, I fell in love with this one pan shrimp and broccolini recipe.  I defrosted frozen shrimp in the fridge while I was at work and when I came home I pretty much just had to remove the tails from the shrimp, chop the ends off the broccolini, and halve the tomatoes.

Skinnytaste Shrimp and Broccolini in Sheet Pan

I served this one with quinoa and my SO liked it much more than I expected.  The fresh lemon added a lot so don’t forget that at the end!

Skinnytaste Shrimp and Broccolini Close Up

 

 

What’s your favorite SkinnyTaste recipe?  Share in the comments below!

Cashew Carob Chip Cookie Bars

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Cashew Carob Chip Bar Recipe Image

The Inspiration

Rachael's Good Eats Cashew Chocolate Chip Cookie Skillet

I had seen this decadent skillet cookie all over Instagram and was so excited to finally try it when Sugar Free Lent was over.  I ended up making a few tweaks to Rachael DeVaux’s recipe and decided that my creation would be more accurately called Cashew Carob Chip Cookie Bars.

Cashew Carob Chip Cookie Bars Recipe

Cashew Carob Chip Cookie Bars

Recipe Highlights

Carob Chips for Cashew Bars

  • Baking Dish: Part of the glory of Rachael’s original recipe is that it’s made in a skillet.  However, many of us, including myself, do not already have a good baking skillet.  Thus, I went with an 8×8-inch glass baking pan.
  • Baking Time: I originally thought that the height of my batter in the 8×8-inch glass baking pan would be similar to Rachael’s in her 8-inch skillet and that the baking time would be similar.  It turns out the glass pan needed some more time.  When I took it out after 21 minutes it was still very gooey.  I would recommend leaving it in for at least 25 minutes.  Once the inside is a little firmer, you can go ahead and turn the broiler on for a minute or two to give your bake a crisp top.  Just be sure to keep an eye on it in the broiler!

Cashew Carob Chip Cookie Bar in Glass Pan

I knew it was a good recipe when I came home from work just two days later and saw this:

Remains of Cashew Carob Chip Bars

My SO who claims he doesn’t like sweets, and has definitely never expressed interested in dairy-free, gluten-free, or grain-free desserts had devoured the dish.  There’s not much more rewarding than that : )

Tone It Up Bikini Series: Two Weeks In

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tone-it-up-bikini-series-2017-karena-katrina

Tone It Up

Karena, Katrina, and their massive Instagram following (#tiuteam) convinced me to try the Tone It Up Bikini Series.  If you haven’t heard of Tone It Up, here’s a clip from their website:

Karena and Katrina, the founders of the Tone It Up have brought a fresh approach to fitness with their fun, energetic, girlfriend-to-girlfriend method of getting fit.  Since founding Tone It Up, they have built a brand of fitness products, community, retreats, nutrition plans and have graced the pages of Shape, SELF, In Style, Women’s Health and featured in Forbes and People.

Their Tone It Up Nutrition Programs and beach workouts inspire millions of women to live the life of their dreams every day.

Happy So Far

The 8-week Tone It Up Bikini Series started 2 weeks ago and I’ve enjoyed it so far.  Karena and Katrina, two energetic Southern California beach babes, can be a little overwhelming at first.  But you quickly start to fall for them when you start to realize how positive they are, how much they motivate you, and how hard they kick your butt each day.

The first week, I was barely able to do any of the workouts because I was working until 8pm or later every night and was on the road for two days.  I typically try to work out on the road but when you stay up until 1am working on a presentation for the next morning, sleep becomes more important.

TIU Live 5-6-17
Live Workout on Saturday 5/6 with Karena and her hubby

This past week I really got into it.  I was in town all week and my schedule was manageable.  I was impressed by how challenging the Tone It Up workouts were.  When I woke up to work out Tuesday my legs were a little sore from the HIIT workout the morning before.  After finishing the 35-minute Coachella Booty & Abs Workout that morning (I’d subbed this for the live workout, unsure I’d still be motivated to work out at 7:30pm), I was nervous I wasn’t going to be able to walk.  I then still had to do 15 minutes of totally toned with Katrina.  And to be sure, Katrina’s workout included more glute and ab exercises!

While there are no rest days in the Bikini Series (I know, I’d never heard of this either!), Karena and Katrina did give me some breaks later in the week.  Thursday I was finally able to let my legs recover with some yoga, and on Saturday part of the workout was just a “walk with friends.”

The Downside

The biggest complaint I have so far is the Tone It Up website.  There is content everywhere and I find it difficult to navigate.  Sometimes I even find myself googling “Tone It Up + (whatever I’m looking for)” because that gets me their more quickly.

Also, I reached out to their customer service over a week ago and still have not heard anything back.  I accidentally created two accounts using different email addresses.  My downloads are on one and my profile is on the other.  I’d really like to merge the two but can’t seem to get in contact with anyone!*

*Update: Two days after originally posting this article, Tone It Up support reached out to me and fixed the issue with no questions asked!

Looking Ahead

TIU Workout Setup
My Simple Tone It Up Workout Setup

Despite the website challenges, I am excited for the next five weeks of the Bikini Series.  I am already thinking about how the Daily Workout will be a great resource for me even after the Bikini Series on days that I am just not sure what I want to do for exercise.  I love that most of the workouts only require a light set of hand weights.  I can squeeze them in at home or on the road.

Now, whether or not I can continue to fit in a Bikini Series workout everyday is the big question.  The fact that the workouts are only posted for 24-hours helps motivate me to get them done, but it also doesn’t leave me with much flexibility.  I’m not sure how I’ll fit all the workouts in during crazy work weeks.

While I continue the daily workouts, I am also planning to look into their Nutrition Programs.  I’m not sure I’ll sign up for the full nutrition plan just yet, but I’m sure I can find some good inspiration from their Recipes.

Stay tuned for more updates on my experience with the Bikini Series and Tone It Up!

What’s with the Chickpea Trend?

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Roasted Chickpeas

I was eating lunch with someone recently and they ask me, “What is with this chickpea trend? Why am I seeing them everywhere?”

I am not sure where this year’s chickpea trend started, but I am excited about it.  Chickpeas have traditionally been used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes.  I became hooked on them when I was studying abroad in Greece, and I have been eating them ever since.

Now, chickpeas are popping up everywhere.  I no longer have to make my own roasted chickpeas at home (although I still do quite often), I can buy them at the grocery store.

Homemade Roasted Chickpeas
Homemade Roasted Chickpeas
Saffron Road Crunchy Chickpeas
Saffron Road Crunchy Chickpeas

What’s more, they even have PUFFED varieties of chickpeas.  If you haven’t tried the Hippeas that have taken over the shelves at Starbucks, you are missing out.

Far Out Fajita Hippeas
Far Out Fajita Hippeas

So why should you hop on the chickpea bandwagon?

5 Reasons to Jump on the Chickpea Trend

5 Reasons to Jump on the Chickpea Trend

  1. Extremely Versatile – Chickpeas can be used in so many
    Office Salad with Roasted Chickpeas and Feta
    Office Salad with Roasted Chickpeas and Feta

    ways.  You can toss them on a salad, throw them in a stew, or grab a handful of crunchy ones as a snack.  That’s not to mention all the delicious things you can do with chickpeas once they’ve gone through your food processor (think: hummus).

  2. Low in Calories – Chickpeas only pack 269 calories per cup.  That’s 3x less than a cup of almonds.
  3. High in Fiber – Don’t want 269 calories with your chickpeas?  No worries, with 12 grams of fiber per cup (nearly half of the recommended daily amount for women), you will feel satisfied after just a handful.
  4. Low in Fat – Chickpeas only contain 4 grams of fat per cup, and none of those are saturated or trans fats!
  5. Plenty of Vitamins and Minerals – Containing 10 different vitamins (including B vitamins that help you convert food into energy) and a number of essential minerals (including calcium, iron, and potassium), chickpeas are a nutritious addition to any meal.

One Last Note

When possible, avoid canned chickpeas as they contain a significant amount of sodium (700mg per cup).  The canning process also reduces some of the nutrient levels.  However, I am a busy woman, and I certainly understand that sometimes it’s either canned or nothing.  Even if canned, chickpeas are still a much healthier option than a bag of chips!

 

We Did It! 40 Days of No Added Sugar

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Easter Basket

Well, technically it was 46 days of no added sugar.  The 40 days of Lent does not include Sundays, and I certainly suffered through many Sunday Fundays without sweets!

I would be exaggerating significantly if I told you giving up sugar for Lent was life changing.  However, it did open my eyes quite a bit.

In general, I live a pretty healthy lifestyle, so giving up sugar did not change my eating habits from one extreme to another.  Still, I did have to cut out some go-to foods since sugar is everywhere.  For example, the list of ingredients on the Nature’s Path Heritage Flakes that I had in my pantry a month ago included evaporated cane sugar and honey.  The total amount of sugar in one serving was only 4 grams, so not bad compared to other cereals, but still it was off limits.

Condiments were even trickier.  Ketchup, salad dressings, stir-fry sauces… sugar, sugar, sugar.  I am looking forward to being able to add some of these back into my diet.  At the same time, I will try to limit these sugary foods and stick to no added sugar alternatives where possible.

What I found over these past 40 days is that I really don’t need sugar.  Sure, I had some strong chocolate cravings here and there.  But those went away and I usually found myself satisfied after a piece of fruit instead.

The problem is that no added sugar products are expensive.  If nothing else, this challenge made me acutely aware of how much easier it is for the wealthy to eat healthy than it is for those not as fortunate.

Now that Lent is over, I will continue to limit heavy desserts as I have in the past.  It will be nice to be able to indulge on special occasions though.  The key will be making sure the treat is worth it.  Today, Easter Sunday, I will certainly let myself enjoy a dessert.  But I don’t even really like cheap candy and milk chocolate so binging on that wouldn’t even be that fun.  Instead I will probably opt for a homemade dessert or a little dark chocolate bunny.

Wanderlust 108: Finding My True North

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The Main Stage before Yoga
The Main Stage before Yoga

I just wrapped up an incredible day at Wanderlust 108 in Atlanta.  Wanderlust 108 is the world’s only “mindful triathlon.”  It includes a 5k run/walk, a 75-minute yoga flow, and a 30-minute guided meditation.  And that’s not to mention the marketplace and extra activities going on throughout the day.

Two years ago, my friend (also named Laura) and I went to Wanderlust 108 Atlanta in Piedmont Park.  However, it was a cold, rainy day, and we weren’t feeling yoga in the mud, so we left after the 5k.

We were both excited that today turned out to be beautiful and sunny so we could experience the full triathlon.  Wanderlust 108 also moved to Historic Fourth Ward Park (right next to Ponce City Market) this year, and we really enjoyed the new location.  Parking was easier than at Piedmont Park and the 5k route was a lot of fun.

While I wish I could have captured all the amazing moments from the day for you through my camera, it was impossible.  Mindfulness is at the core of Wanderlust 108, and a big part of mindfulness is being present.  Pulling out my camera phone in the middle of the spontaneous dance party that broke out mid yoga flow would have taken away from the special feeling that arose throughout the community in that moment.  Regardless, I’ve tried to capture some of the highlights below.

5K

After we checked our bags, we headed over the infamous Wanderlust wooden arch for the pre-run stretch led by Amanda Nurse.  Before I knew it, I was running out of the park and up a steep hill with hundreds of other health nuts.  While starting off on a hill was rough, I was happy to be coming down hill at the end!  I also loved that the route took us along the beltline and past some of Atlanta’s best street art.

5k Finish Line
5k Finish Line

I have no idea where I placed, and according to my watch I didn’t even run a full 5k.  But the great thing is that’s not what it’s about at Wanderlust 108!  At Wanderlust 108, no one is competing.  It’s about pushing yourself and enjoying the moment.

Yoga

Once everyone finished the 5k, we all gathered back together in front of the main stage.  Chelsea Korus guided us through a yoga flow which was enjoyable for experienced and beginner yogis alike.  The practice was filled with laughter and good music.

Getting Ready for Yoga

My favorite part of the day was when the DJ took over the yoga session and we all crowded the stage jumping around to a mash-up of songs including Shout!  The DJ didn’t just encourage us to let loose.  He also encouraged us to bond with those around us:

“Turn and face the person next to you.  This is the true Facebook.  Link up with the person next to you.  This is the true LinkedIn.”

Meditation

We retreated to our mats after the dance party to finish off the yoga session.  Next up on stage was Noah Levine, a Buddhist teacher who found mindfulness after being incarcerated and dealing with substance abuse for the majority of his childhood.

The sun was blaring hot by the time the meditation started, but I still found some peace of mind through the session.  Having practiced mindfulness myself for many years, I enjoyed hearing Noah’s story and was reminded of how important it is to bring attention to the present moment.

Everything Else

Historic Fourth Ward Park was filled with various vendor tents for Wanderlust 108.  During our break between the run and yoga, Laura and I checked out the free samples, merchandise for sale, and face painting.  Given how many times we went back to try different flavors, our favorite tent might have been the Perfect Bar.  The Blueberry Cashew was pretty delicious.

True North Cafe

Perfect Bar Samples
Perfect Bar Samples
Kombucha Samples
Kombucha Samples

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vegan Wanderbowl
Vegan Wanderbowl

The samples helped tide us over after the 5k, but by the end of the meditation we were pretty excited to pick up our picnic lunches. The picnic lunch included a Wanderbowl, a Siggi’s yogurt, a La Croix, and a chocolate treat.  I chose the vegan Wanderbowl – the vegetarian option included cheese and sour cream in addition to the brown rice, black beans, avocado, and mango salsa.  It was all quite tasty, and even better, it came with a Wanderlust tote!  (Can you tell I love free stuff?)

AIReal Yoga and Barre3 Classes
AIReal Yoga and Barre3 Classes
Hooping Class
Hooping Class

You could also sign up for afternoon activities such as AIReal yoga, AcroYoga, and Hooping.  While these all looked fun, we decided to make our way home after lunch.

All the early afternoon classes were booked and we didn’t feel like waiting around in the hot sun.  I used to try to stay at events through the end just because I felt like I should or that I might miss out on something.  I realized recently that this can taint the memory of a great event.  So today, instead of leaving Wanderlust 108 too hot and exhausted, I left feeling happy and accomplished!

Laura Kay in Dancers Pose at Wanderlust

No Sugar Lent: Halfway There

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Fruit Stand - Perfect for No Sugar Lent

“I’m not sure if I’m more excited for No Sugar Lent or GMAT studying to be over.” – Bri

Having gone through both the GMAT and No Sugar Lent, I’d probably choose the latter.  However, Bri’s comment aligns fairly well with my current sentiment – I did not know 40 days could feel this long.  Also, how Bri is studying for the GMAT knowing she can’t have a sugary reward at the end of the day blows my mind.  I’m not sure I would have survived that period of my life without chocolate.

With that said, over the past few weeks, I have found some good substitute treats – fresh fruit, dried fruit, and frozen fruit!  Ok, to be fair, I’ve also stumbled upon some good no sugar desserts such as Alyssa’s Healthy Oatmeal Bites.

Alyssa's Healthy Oatmeal Bites - No Sugar

Halfway There

This week marked the halfway point in our No Sugar Lent journey.  In just a few short weeks, we will get to eat as many Easter bunnies as our heart desires.  (Fortunately, I haven’t been a fan of milk chocolate for years and it is much harder to find dark chocolate bunnies.)

At dinner the other night, our friend Lisa asked Bri and me if we felt any different now that we were doing this “no sugar thing.”  For me, it’s complicated.  I honestly have had more energy over the past month, but that could be due to a number of different factors.

For one, I got engaged two weeks ago and have been on cloud nine ever since.  A few of my best friends flew into town as part of the surprise and the excitement still hasn’t worn off.  In full disclosure, I did have three small bites of dessert that weekend.  We celebrated at South City Kitchen and the waitress brought out their famous Bruléed Banana Pudding with a candle in it before we could say no.  Obviously, I had to have a bite – I had just got engaged!

South City Kitchen Banana Pudding - Cheating During No Sugar Letn

Another complicating factor is that I stopped drinking caffeine the same week that I started No Sugar Lent.  I didn’t mean to be that masochistic.  It just happened coincidently.  You can read the full story on that in my blog post, Breaking the Caffeine Addiction.

Cutting out both sugar and caffeine has led me to drinking a lot more water.  Rather than coffee, I chug down water each morning.  If I am craving a sweet snack, I drink water to get past it.  The extra hydration, along with fewer processed food (as most have sugar) could definitely explain why I have felt healthier, and more energized, since starting No Sugar Lent.

While I am looking forward to being able to indulge in sweets occasionally after Lent, I am also looking forward to seeing what the last few weeks of this experiment brings!

Breaking the Caffeine Addiction

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Coffee with Fading Heart

I spent the first few days of March stuck at home with bad stomach bug.  I didn’t have my normal morning coffee on these days because I knew it would irritate my stomach even more.  At the end of the third day, my stomach started to feel a little better.  However, I had a pounding headache.  My stomach wasn’t going to be able to handle Excedrin so I just had to tough it out.

Once I could finally think straight I realized that this must be the caffeine withdrawal kicking in.  By then it was the weekend, and I decided I’d try to go the weekend without coffee as well.  I figured it would be good for my stomach and my caffeine addiction.  Turns out, I was right!

By Sunday afternoon, my stomach bug was gone and my headaches were much less severe.  I resolved to go two weeks without coffee so I could really break the habit.  The plan wasn’t (and still isn’t) to never have coffee again.  I just didn’t want to be so dependent on it.  The withdrawal headache I got was intense and made me realize how unhealthy of a habit I had acquired.

Whenever I was feeling tired over the next two weeks, I just chugged down a bottle of water.  I was surprised by how much this energized me.  Better yet, I didn’t get any crashes!  I never realized how much those mid-morning and mid-afternoon slumps were tied to my caffeine habits.

Loving how it made me feel, and surprised by how little I missed coffee, I added on an extra week to my coffee hiatus.  I mean, I hadn’t even had a single headache since the withdrawal period.  This was saying a lot as I was accustomed to getting a headache at least once every few days.

Now, I am still not drinking coffee every day.  In fact, I think I’ve only had one cup of coffee and one cup of tea in total this past week.  Both those times were because I actually wanted the flavors or the warmth of the drink, not the caffeine buzz.  In fact, I could have gone with decaf (an order I used to scoff at)!

Rise and Shine Treadmill Workout

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sunrise

The other Friday, I woke up to my alarm at 5:32am with no desire to get out of bed. I honestly think that if I hadn’t had to pee I would have snoozed another hour.  However, once I was up I knew I had to get some sort of workout in. With a happy hour at work that afternoon and a community service event the next day, I knew it’d be Sunday before I could get another workout in.

Thus, I got on the treadmill and started walking.  Before I knew it I was running, and by the end I was in a full sprint.

If you can get past the hardest part (getting out of bed), this workout will be the start of a great day!

Rise and Shine Treadmill Workout

Now STRETCH so that you aren’t too sore when you wake up tomorrow to work out!

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