Thursday Treats: vegan maple granola

Today I have a treat for all of you! I made homemade maple granola and it was way better than the granola I made a few weeks ago. It’s sweet, but not over powering and this recipe forms those wonderful granola clusters. I don’t know about you, but my favorite granolas have clusters rather than small little oat pieces, but maybe I’m just picky. 😛 Did I mention that it’s super duper easy to make too?  My boyfriend agrees that this granola is really good (but maybe my taste tester has to say that)! I hope all of you agree, though. 🙂

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vegan maple granola

This recipe was adapted from the Easy Homemade Granola recipe on page 13 of The Teen’s Vegetarian Cookbook by Judy Krizmanic. It’s easy to make, portable, tasty, and vegan. Try it on a peanut butter sandwich, with some almond milk, or even by the handful!

yield: approx. 12 servings

ingredients:

1 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 cup cashews

3 cups oatmeal

1/4 cup flour

1/2 cup brown sugar plus 1/2 cup water

1/4 cup vegetable oil

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup  raisins or other dried fruit if desired (added after baking)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×13 in glass baking pan or 2 cookie sheets.

2. In a large mixing bowl combine all the ingredients except for the raisins.

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3. Spread the mixture into the glass baking pan or on the 2 cookie sheets.

4, Bake for about 25 minutes or until the granola turns golden brown (It took me a little over 30 minutes when I used a 9×13 baking dish). Make sure to stir the granola as it is cooking.

5. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Add raisins to the granola if desired and store in a Tupperware or other airtight container.

Running update

On a completely different note, I am back to pain free running! My darn IT band seems to be fine after a few runs in a row. FINALLY! Also, the strength/rehabilitation exercises I have been doing for the last month and a half are paying off as the right side of my body is feeling stronger. And maybe, just maybe I am starting to feel a little bit more flexible because I have been doing yoga a few times per week.  I still wouldn’t call myself flexible, but I am better than I used to be. 😉 Yesterday I went on a lovely, pain free run with my boyfriend and it was the furthest I have run since my half marathon in the beginning of June!

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Yes, 3.63 blissful miles was “far” for me, but not one twinge in the IT band so I’ll take it.This girl is happy to be running in general! I cannot wait to go back to running higher mileage and training for a race, but I know that I must go slow and be patient. I hoping to run a 10k or half in October or November, but for the time being my next mission is to try a 4 miler and a 4.5 miler.

Lollapalooza

The time is finally here! Tomorrow through Sunday I will be at Lollapalooza and I’m super pumped.  I cannot wait to see several of my favorite artists live as well as my sister and a friend from college I haven’t seen in a while. 🙂  This means I may not update this blog for a few days, but I’ll see what I can do.

The weekend is ALMOST here! Anyone have any exciting plans this weekend? 🙂

Vegan banana nut energy bars & Monday running motivation

Good morning everyone! Today I wanted to share a recipe for my favorite homemade energy bars, but first here’s a little Monday running motivation for all of you (myself included) who still need to get a run in today. 😉

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Now after that wonderful picture, back to the recipe. I make a batch of the vegan banana nut energy bars nearly once a week for my boyfriend and I. I’m not going to lie there’s rarely even a crumb left by the end of the week. I woke up and made a quick batch this morning because I wanted to make sure they were ready in time for my boyfriend to bring to his class later today as a snack. They are relatively cheap to make, tasty, vegan, full of pronounceable ingredients, filling, and semi-healthy (as long as you only eat one or two at a time 😉 ). I adapted the recipe from the banana oat energy bars in The Runner’s World Cookbook on page 47. Here’s a link to the original if you do not own that cookbook (http://www.runnersworld.com/recipes/make-your-own-energy-bars?page=single). Without further ado, here’s the recipe!

Vegan banana nut energy bars

yield: 16 bars

ingredients:

2 ripe bananas

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.5 cups of oats

3/4 cup all purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

3/4 cup raisins

1/2 cup cashews (or any nut/seed)

1/4 cup sunflower seeds (or any nut/seed)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8×8 inch glass baking dish.

2. Mash the banana in a mixing bowl. Then add the oil, sugar, and vanilla extract. Mix together.

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3. In another larger mixing bowl combine the oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

4. Add the raisins, cashews, and sunflower seeds to the flour mixture.

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5. Add the banana/sugar/oil mixture to the flour/nut mixture and mix until combined.

6. Pour the mixture into the greased glass baking dish and spread until even.

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7. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top starts to brown. Allow them to cool completely before cutting into bars.

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I hope all of you enjoy this recipe and have a great day today! As soon as I publish this post I’m going to do my IT band exercises and go for a short run, fingers crossed that my IT band stays pain free!

What are your favorite energy bars, homemade or store bought?

Sleepy Sunday

Good evening friends! I hope all of you have had awesome weekends so far. I personally can’t believe how fast this weekend has gone. :/ Today has been one of those days where I am super tired despite sleeping in. Even an afternoon iced coffee didn’t help! It must have been those late nights when my boyfriends roommate from college came to visit or the early morning yesterday to watch my boyfriend’s sister run in the Big Ten 10k. 😉 Oh well, I wouldn’t trade these past few days for more sleep, they were fun!

In terms of working out, I’ve been getting in a lot of cross training since my IT band hurt a bit after Wednesday’s run. Sometimes it feels like I take one step forward and ten back. 😦 I am trying to be positive, though, as it hasn’t hurt since Thursday so I’m excited to try a run again tomorrow!

Thursday

My boyfriend, his old roommate from college, and I went to the Cubs vs. Padre’s game on Thursday and I love the Cubs, but it was not pretty. We lost 13-3 and the atmosphere became considerably negative after that nine run 6th inning. Despite all of that it was still fun to go to my first Cub’s game this year. At least I knew going into the game Thursday that I would have another chance to see them play Sunday.

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We all also get a free T-shirts for being among the first 10,000 guests at Wrigley Field. Unfortunately, the shirt is an XL so not quite a good fit for someone short and small like me. :/ Regardless, it’s still a cool souvenir celebrating 100 years of Wrigley Field!

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After the game, my boyfriend and his old roommate went out for some drinks and “dude” time and I stayed behind to let them catch up and enjoy having the apartment to myself for a little bit. 😉

Friday

Thursday was a late night for all of us, especially the guys so I’m not going to lie, we spent the most of the afternoon watching Parks and Recreation on Netflix.  I did get in a cross training workout, went to the grocery store, read for a while, and went to another job interview so I wasn’t completely lazy all afternoon. 😛 After the job interview and some dinner we all met friend from our college who also lives in the city for drinks. We didn’t stay out too late though because my boyfriend and I knew were had to get up before six am to go to Soldier Field to watch his sister run the Big Ten 10k.

Saturday

It was rough to get up before six am on Saturday after a late Thursday night and semi late Friday night, but I am glad we did. It was nice to see my boyfriend’s mom, aunt, cousin, and sister. His sister ran really well and has a bright future ahead of her as a college runner! I couldn’t help but be a little envious of all the runners, but I know I need to be patient because soon enough I will be back to racing too. After the race my boyfriend and I made breakfast and said good bye to his old college roommate who had to drive back him. We were both pretty tired and spent most of the day reading, resting, and watching Netflix. Then had my favorite dinner-homemade black bean burgers (I posted the recipe a few weeks ago if anyone wants it: https://blackbeanqueen.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/all-moved-in-finally-tasty-tuesday-black-bean-burger-edition/). Then, I felt kind of lame on a Saturday night, but I fell asleep before midnight and slept until nearly ten today…It doesn’t happen often, but I still felt like a bum! I think those late nights earlier this week got to me. 😛

Sunday

Despite getting about ten hours of sleep I’ve been pretty sleepy all day. After sleeping in much later than intended, my boyfriend and I did not have enough time to get a workout in before the Cub’s game. :/ We had to eat breakfast, get ready, and catch a bus to Wrigley Field by noon so we could meet our friend from high school who invited us.

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This Cubs vs. Cardinals was closer than Thursday’s Cubs vs. Padres- the Cubs only lost 0-1. It was a fun game because the score was close the entire game and the weather was perfect! Now, we just have a low key evening filled with studying and maybe some Netflix, exciting stuff, right?! 😛 It really has been a sleepy Sunday.

This week I’m hoping to share some more vegetarian recipes with all of you and  get some pain free running in. 🙂

I’m also really excited because it’s my second to last week of summer class (almost done!) and I’m going to Lollapalooza with my sister, my boyfriend, a friend from college, and my boyfriend’s sister. 🙂

lolla pass

What are you looking forward to the most this week?

The biggest waves I have ever seen and a breakfast quinoa recipe

Good afternoon friends! Sorry I haven’t posted in a few days- I had class on Tuesday and yesterday was a bit crazy. We had to do some homework, grocery shop, clean up the apartment before my boyfriends roommate from college got here, and deal with the  several hour long water outage in our entire building. I did manage to get a run in yesterday, though, and it was my longest run post injury!

yesterday

Yesterday, before cleaning up the apartment we made some breakfast quinoa. Lately, my boyfriend or I cannot get enough of the stuff so I’ll share the recipe with all of you below. After breakfast, we went to get some groceries. Then we both did some homework. I went for a run on the Lakeshore path while my boyfriend continued to do more homework since he had some readings due later in the day. My IT band felt a little tight during the run and after, unfortunately, but that did not stop me from enjoying the amazing views. I ran a nice loop of just over 3.5 miles, which had me running close to the beach and I have to say that have never seen such large waves before!  Lake Michigan was crazy yesterday! The waves were so large a beach hazard warning was given and people were advised not to swim. I willingly ran close to the waves and I honestly felt like a kid when I ran through them with a goofy grin on my face. I saw some other runners smile when I ran and jumped through the waves that reached the path, but I also saw others jump up on the rocks to avoid the waves altogether (those were the wimps! Jk! :P). I’m pretty sure I inspired a few runners to run through the waves/puddles, though, so I’d say it was a successful run! The pictures below don’t even do the waves justice. They were tall, powerful, and beautiful. I think my boyfriend regrets taking a day off of running yesterday (even though he needed it) because he missed out on some great views! 😛

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After the run, my boyfriend and I finished cleaning up the apartment and then he went to his class. His old roommate from college arrived here while he was in class so I took him around our neighborhood to kill some time. Once my boyfriend’s class was over we had dinner and then checked out a bar in our neighborhood. It was a lot of fun to go somewhere new and catch up with my boyfriend’s old roommate. It had a nice relaxed atmosphere, some very strange, but cool artwork, and was reasonably priced (for Chicago ;)) so we will definitely be back there!

today

My IT band is feeling sore/tight again  today, so I’m adjusting my training plan for the week. I am sticking with one day of running, one day of rest or cross training instead of the initial plan of two days of running in a row, one day of rest or cross training. I’ am incredibly frustrated with my IT band because it hasn’t hurt for a few runs, but I am hoping another day of rest from running is all it needs and then I can run tomorrow. :/ On a brighter note, tonight we taking his roommate to the Cubs game and I’m really excited- it should be a good game and a fun night! My boyfriend and I are also going to the Cubs game on Sunday with our friend from high school who had extra tickets so we get a lot of baseball action this week! 🙂

breakfast quinoa

As promised, I am sharing the recipe for breakfast quinoa.  Not only is quinoa tasty for breakfast, it is very nutritious. It is a good source of iron, fiber. gluten-free, and actually is a complete protein. Lately I can’t get enough of it and have had this for breakfast nearly everyday this week! 😛 It is especially good for vegetarians, such as myself, due to the iron content and the fact that it is a complete protein.  I have adapted this recipe from the Spiced breakfast quinoa  recipe on pg. 23 of the Runner’s World Cookbook by Melissa Lasher and it is completely vegetarian (vegan if you don’t use honey).

yield: 2 servings

ingredients:

1.5 cups water

2/3 cup of quinoa

1/4-1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 chopped apple

handful of raisins

optional: seeds, nuts, and/or honey

1. Rinse the quinoa with water.

2. On the stovetop combine the quinoa and water in a saucepan. Turn the heat on medium.

3. Bring the quinoa to a simmer on medium heat and then cover the saucepan, reduce the heat to low, and cook for fifteen minutes.

4. In the meantime, chop the apple.

5. After fifteen min add the chopped apple and cinnamon and cook for an additional five minutes.

6. After five minutes, add the raisins and cook for one more minute.

7. Turn off the stovetop and serve. Top with honey and sunflower seeds, cashews, or any other nut if desired. ( I also think it tastes awesome with a little almond milk mixed in and highly recommend it!).

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What is your favorite way to eat quinoa?

Motivational Monday: running is a gift

Good evening friends! I hope all of you have had amazing days and were able to get a run or workout in. 🙂 Today was a day off of running for me. I’m still slowly building my mileage back up and being extra cautious so I do not reinjure my IT band. For the last week this has meant only running 3-3.5 miles every other day. :/ It is better than nothing, though! Here’s a really cool pin I found on Pinterest to motivate and remind all of us to never take being able to workout or run for granted.

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This really hit home for me because returning to running after an injury is tough- you feel out of shape, overly cautious, and slow. You curse any minor ache or pain and even question why you are returning to running. Then you REMEMBER. You longed to run when you were hurt, you were envious of your friends who were able to run, and you were antsy and sort of cranky. You NEEDED to run. So now today, tomorrow, and anytime you run, dedicate your run to your past injured self, to all of those currently injured, to those who can’t run, and never take running for granted again! Running is a gift. 🙂

my running plan this week and my last run

I know I will be thinking of that quote anytime I run this week. This week I’m going to try two days in a row of running and one day of rest or cross training in between. I’m going to stay in the 3-4 mile range though. I’m getting antsy because I long to train for a race and to go on long runs again, but at least I am back to running! I am so grateful to be back and that my third case of IT band problems was my shortest (knock on wood that I stay injury free).  I will continue to stretch and/or do a yoga routine before AND after my run as well as IT band rehabilitation exercises, pushups and core every other day.

I am looking forward to my next run and I hope it is as wonderful as my last run with my boyfriend on Sunday! Nothing (so far) beats those views below on a run.  I am so happy to live in such a runner and fitness friendly city with my boyfriend who loves to run as much as I do. 🙂

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Well, I hope you all have wonderful nights! I have to study a little more for my exam tomorrow and then I hope to have some time to read or watch Netflix. This probably means I need to stop writing this post and watching the Extreme Couponing marathon on TLC… I’m a dork, I know! 😛

What has been motivating your runs and/or workouts this week?

Hormones and antibiotics in US meat: what you can do about it

DISCLAIMER: I am not a registered dietitian. I am a student who is studying nutrition and preparing to become a registered dietitian, though. I still do want to share with you nutrition and healthy living topics that I find interesting and am learning about in my classes or through my own research.

While this particular topic is something that played into my personal decision to become a vegetarian about a year ago, I did not write this post to convince others. I simply wanted to share what I learned in my summer class two weeks ago because I think it’s important to know about the current US meat industry and what your options are.

antibiotics in meat

Why are antibiotics given to animals raised for meat in the first place? Well the answer is two fold, one reason is to prevent disease and the other is to promote growth (1). Disease prevention in meat producing animals is a legitimate concern though- animals living in close quarters have increased odds of contracting a disease. Also, antibiotics can increase the growth of animals without the animal having to necessarily consume extra food. Furthermore, it is worth noting that nearly 30 million pounds of antibiotics are administered to animals each year in the world (typically in their feed) compared to about 7 million pounds administered to humans (1). Now why should you care? Well the World Health Organization (WHO) believes that administering antibiotics to animals is contributing to decreased effectiveness of our current antibiotics as well as antibiotic resistance (1). Antibiotic resistance is scary because we may reach a point where certain diseases or infections are unable to respond to our current antibiotics and these so called “superbugs” can causes major problems for the entire world (2).

As of 2012 the FDA recommended that animals raised for meat are to only be administered antibiotics if they are sick and to have a veterinarian’s approval. Unfortunately, some of the meat industry is not listening to this recommendation-they do not want to give up their “magic” growth promoter. So what does this mean for US meat consumers? Meat producing animals have to be under a certain regulated antibiotic level before they are slaughtered, but this does not mean they are not being fed antibiotics up to this point regardless of the FDA’s recommendation to only fed them to animals who are sick. Due to the concern of antibiotic resistance, some places, such as the European Union, even have outright bans on the use of antibiotics in animal feed as a way to promote growth, but the USA is not among them (1).

hormones in meat

Now, if you guessed that hormones are given to animals to promote growth, then you are correct. Animals administered hormones will rapidly gain weight and this will occur without having to fed the animal more food (1). The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) only allows cattle and sheep to undergo hormone treatments, but not pigs or poultry. In fact, over 3/4 of the cattle produced in the USA are treated with hormones (1). This practice of allowing hormones in some meat animals is criticized around the world and many countries object to this practice. Just like antibiotics, hormones treatments are outright banned in the European Union and they won’t even import meat that has been treated with hormones (1). Some concerns of hormone treated animals include the possibility that the hormones in animals may be influencing/messing with human hormone levels, that hormone use may carcinogenic, and that they may have environmental consequences such as affecting our water supply and changing fish reproductive cycles (1 &3).

options and considerations

1. Eat meat less frequently. Replace a few meals a week that contain meat to vegetarian or fish options. Although, fish may also be affected by hormones and antibiotics fed to meat producing animals- we are not really sure yet.

2. Buy organic meat. For meat to be organic it must be raised without hormones and/or antibiotics. This is a costly practice to the farmer and thus they charge more money for organic meat so that is something to keep in mind if you are on a budget. Maybe replace one or two meat centered meals a week with organic meat and make the rest of your meals vegetarian.

3.Become a vegetarian or semi-vegetarian. Now I did say I won’t push my practices on others, I just thought it was worth mentioning because vegetarians, even lacto-ovo ones, are consuming no animal products or at least less of them. Thus, vegetarians of all kinds are likely consuming less hormone and antibiotic containing products in their diet. This is personally one of the reasons I am a lacto-ovo vegetarian! Although, hormones can be present in dairy products, since cattle are allowed to be treated with hormones. So if this is a concern then organic dairy products would be another option.

Overall, if you want to lessen the amount of hormones and antibiotics you may be consuming through meat ,consider buying organic meat, going vegetarian, or combing the two practices-replace a few non organic meat meals a week with organic meat meals and make the rest of your meals vegetarian.

references

1. Understanding Food Principles and Preparation, fifth edition, pg. 145, Amy Brown

2. Antibiotics and the Meat We Eat. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/28/opinion/antibiotics-and-the-meat-we-eat.html?_r=0

3. American Beef: Why is it Banned in Europe? http://preventcancer.com/consumers/general/hormones_meat.htm

Does hormone and/or antibiotic use in US meat concern you, why or why not? If so have you made any dietary alterations because of your concern?

Soulful Saturday: What songs I have on repeat

Don’t you just hate it when you have a song in your head and you can’t get it out of there? No matter how much you love that song it is also slowly driving you nuts…Well that’s what this post is about. I don’t just have one song in my head currently, I have at least five! I’m talking about those songs that you find yourself singing even when they are not playing live. The ones that pop into your head at random times such as when you are studying for a test or walking to the store. The songs you aren’t even sure you truly know all the lyrics to, but they are in your head nonetheless. Even during a run I can’t escape. I don’t even run with music, but lately I have a song or several on repeat in my head as I run. I think even my boyfriend knows what songs are in my head because I play them on my computer, ask him to play them, or I start singing them when we cook dinner or run together. I’m probably driving my boyfriend nuts with these songs too and we like most of the same music! 😛

Don’t get me wrong, I love the songs I am going to share with all of you-in fact I recommend them! Just beware or you might find yourself singing them in your head or out loud nonstop. 😉 I’m going to Lollapalooza in a few weeks and I made a playlist that has all of these songs (and many, many more). I’ve listened to that playlist a lot so it’s my own fault I have so many songs in my head. I hope you enjoy them nonetheless! Here’s the top five ones I can’t get out of my head right now.

1. Acceptable in the 80’s by Calvin Harris

2. Come Save me Jagwar Ma

3. Luna by Bombay Bicycle Club

4. Summetime by the Head and the Heart

5. Hypocrite by Cage the Elephant

What songs are currently in your head?

Thursday treats: triple vanilla french toast and double chocolate zucchini bread

Good morning friends and happy Thursday!

Wednesday recap

Yesterday was both a busy and relaxing day for me. My boyfriend and I woke up bright and early to check out another farmer’s market. Then after a light breakfast we went running on the Lakeshore path. It was another pain free three mile run for me so that was super exciting! Since I’m still being cautious, though, today I have to cross train. :/  After running and lunch I had an interview for a part time job, so hopefully that went well. Then after the interview, I baked a double chocolate zucchini bread, made more energy bites, cleaned the apartment, and cooked dinner with my boyfriend. Housewife status, am I right?! 😉 We ended the day with some Kitchen Nightmares and a documentary called Place at the Table on Netflix. Exciting stuff, right? 😛 Sometimes you just have to have chill days like that though.

Thursday treats

Now, I’m currently starting the day off right with a big ol’ cup of coffee after an awesome breakfast of homemade triple vanilla french toast. I guess I’m biased, but french toast made with almond milk is the best breakfast, with pancakes and oatmeal in a close second and third. Today, I wanted to share the french toast recipe with all of you as well as the double chocolate zucchini bread I made last night for some Thursday treats! With fun names like triple vanilla french toast and double chocolate zucchini bread who wouldn’t want to make them?! Furthermore, both recipes are vegetarian (as long as you are a vegetarian that still eats eggs and/or uses milk products).

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First, I will share the triple vanilla french toast which I made from the Runner’s World Cookbook. It is a perfect post workout recovery meal because it has a calcium, vitamin c, fiber, and protein. I made the double vanilla french toast by Liz Applegate, PhD on pg, 32, but made some modifications. I used vanilla almond milk instead of regular cow’s milk, whole wheat bread instead of whole grain sourdough bread, and topped it with just yogurt and berries not the maple vanilla mixture and berries. It’s called triple vanilla because I made it with vanilla almond milk, vanilla extract, and vanilla greek yogurt! Here’s a link to the original recipe found in the cookbook: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/food/index.ssf/2013/10/runners_world_race_breakfast_a.html

triple vanilla french toast

Yield: 2 servings

ingredients:

3 eggs

1/4 cup Silk vanilla almond milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 pieces of whole wheat bread

1 cup mixed fresh or frozen berries

1/2 cup vanilla greek yogurt

1. Spray a large skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat.

2.  Mix the 3 eggs, almond milk, vanilla extract, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl.

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3. Dip each piece of bread into the mixture and allow them to soak up a lot of the mixture.

4. Place the soaked bread slices on the skillet one or two at a time and cook until browned  on one side (approx. 3-5 minutes) and then flip the bread and cook the other side until browned (approx. 2-3 minutes).

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5. Serve the french toast topped with vanilla greek yogurt and berries (or maple syrup and berries like my boyfriend did)

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For the second recipe, I used the zucchini I bought from the farmer’s market to make this delicious double chocolate zucchini bread. It’s called double chocolate because it uses both unsweetened cocoa powder and chocolate chips. The only modification from the original recipe I made was using dark chocolate chips instead of semisweet chocolate chips. Here’s a link to the original recipe: http://www.joyofbaking.com/breakfast/ChocolateZucchiniBread.html

double chocolate zucchini bread

yield: varies

ingredients:

1.5 cups shredded zucchini

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 cup all purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

3/4 cup dark chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease and 9x5x3 inch bread loaf baking dish.

2. Clean, peel, and grate the 1.5 cups of zucchini and set aside.

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3. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon.

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4. In a small mixing bowl whisk the eggs, then mix in the oil, cocoa powder, and vanilla extract. Once all mixed add in the shredded zucchini.

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5. Add the contents of the small mixing bowl to the large mixing bowl of dry ingredients and mix well until combined.

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6.  Fold in the dark chocolate chips and then scrape the mixture into the greased baking dish.

7. Bake for approx. 55-65 minutes at 350 degrees  until the bread rises and a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.

8. Once removed from the oven cool for at least ten minutes before cutting and enjoying. Once completely cooled wrap in aluminum foil and can be stored at room temperature for several days.

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I hope all of you have great Thursdays and enjoy these tasty treats! 🙂

What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?

Tasty Tuesday #3 stir fry edition & exciting news

Hi friends! I hope you all have had a wonderful Tuesday so far. Mine has been filled with a whole lot of nothing…in a good way though! I wasn’t feeling very well so I spent most of the day resting, reading, and watching Netflix. My boyfriend was kind enough to have a Netflix marathon with me.

I highly recommend “Spinning Plates”, one of the documentaries we watched today. It profiles three very different restaurants and gives you an inside look at their ideas, how the restaurants are run, and what inspired their restaurants. One of the restaurants featured in the documentary is Alinea, right here in Chicago. They are rated three stars. the highest Michelin rating given to a restaurant and thus an expensive place to eat. I think it costs over $200 to eat there! Regardless, it was cool to learn about a restaurant not too far from where I live, about the Michelin rating system,  and about what owning/running a restaurant is actually like. I will say Alinea is just a LITTLE bit out of my price range though ;).

Well… sorry for the random tangent about Netflix, now onto what I really wanted to share with you all: a simple stir fry recipe! This stir fry is super easy to make and can be modified in many ways, from the vegetables you use to the protein source you chose. I’ll admit the pictures and recipe are actually from our dinner Sunday, but it’s been a few days since I posted so I thought I’d still share the recipe today. It was my first time using the Wok my boyfriend’s parents got me for my birthday a few months ago and I have to say if you have a Wok, use it! It is much more fun and easier to stir fry in a Wok than a traditional frying pan. This recipe is super easy and takes under a half hour from start to finish, perfect for those busy nights. 🙂

Simple Vegetarian Stir Fry

yield: 3-4 servings

ingredients

1 cup of Jasmine rice plus 2 cups of water (or brown rice)

1/2-1 block of extra firm tofu

2 bell peppers

1 zucchini

1 can of water chestnuts

canola oil

seasoning ingredients

1 Sun-bird stir fry seasoning mix (doesn’t have MSG!)

2 teaspoons sugar

2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

1/3 cup water

dash of ginger

1. Clean the bell peppers and zucchini. Peel the zucchini. Chop the vegetables.

2. Prepare the rice as indicated on the package, If using Jasmine rice I recommend 2 parts water to one part rice for tasty “sticky” rice.

3. Put some canola oil in the Wok and turn the heat on high.

4. After a couple of minutes add the veggies to the Wok.

5. Press the water out of the block of tofu and then chop.

6. Add the tofu to the veggie mixture in the Wok and stir fry for a few minutes.

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7. Prepare the seasoning as indicated on the stir fry seasoning mix packet (mix the contents of the packet, the sugar, soy sauce, and water together).

8. Add the water chestnuts to the Wok as well as the seasoning mixture once the tofu and veggies have started to brown.

9. Stir fry the entire mixture until thickened (approx. one minute).

10. Serve the stir fry over the rice and add a dash of ginger if desired.

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I probably make tofu stir once a week because I like it so much and it’s easy! I think it would be extra tasty with some stir fried pineapple too.  My boyfriend commented that since we make stir fry so much we need to make up our own seasoning mixture and I agree with him 100%. We made a spicier one with jalapeños once, but other than that we usually just use that seasoning mixture. Expect more stir fry recipes in the future as we experiment/try other seasoning combinations/ stir fry recipes! 🙂

Now onto my exciting news!

running update

As some of you already know, I am recovering from a case of IT band syndrome and have not been able to run much for the last month. Well, on Monday, my boyfriend and I went to a local running store to join in on their fun run night. It ended up being a pain free three miler for me! I did yoga before and after the run and rolled out my awful IT band with bruises to prove it, but a day later my IT band is still no tighter than before! Finger crossed, but it looks like after an entire month of no running I’m BACK at it! I’m am still going to take it very slow- running every other day (with cross training in between), but with continued yoga, rolling out, and my IT band rehabilitation exercises I am hoping to be back for good. I long to run further distances and to start training for another race, but I take a completely pain free run as a small victory and that definitely has made my week so far!

Well, friends I hope you all have an awesome night!

What Netflix documentary would you highly recommend? Also, what is your favorite way to season stir fry?

Young, hungry, and on a budget (in Chicago)

The old saying goes “you live and you learn” and that’s exactly what this blog post is about. I have only been in the city for a week, but I have have already learned some things and know fully well that I will keep learning more. This post is a work in progress. Expect more posts and tips on city living, (mostly) healthy eating, and having fun without breaking the bank. Expect to learn as I learn! My boyfriend and I are both recent college grads with more schooling ahead for both us so we will definitely need to stick to a budget! 😛

My tips (so far) for having fun and (mostly) healthy living on a budget in the city:

1. Stock up on essentials, especially if there are sales. Case in point: you will always need toilet paper and baking ingredients such as flour. We stocked up on those things. Now the rest of our shopping trips for the next month or so will be solely food!

2. Don’t buy groceries at convenience stores such as Walgreens. Convenience stores often sell grocery items, such as peanut butter, for more than the local grocery store. It is worth the slightly longer walk or bus trip in the city to go to an actual grocery store.

3. Buy groceries on a weekly basis. Only buy what you plan on eating for the week with the exception of sales on any essential items such as baking ingredients.  This tip is also in part because when you walk most places or rely on public transit you can’t carry ten bags of groceries home. Before moving to Chicago I would only grocery shop a few times a month and really stock up on each trip. Unfortunately every once in a while I would buy more produce than I could eat before it went bad. Wasting food makes me sad in general and on a budget I really don’t want to waste so hence weekly grocery shopping. Make a detailed list before shopping and try to stick to it…

4. …BUT also shop the sales/ be flexible. What I mean by this is say you planned on buying whole wheat bagels in a particular grocery trip, but only whole wheat English muffins are on sale. Buy the English Muffins instead. Make a detailed grocery list, but also go to the store with an open mind and be willing to make substitutions in order to save a few bucks.

5. Check out the Farmer’s Market.One way to buy produce on a weekly basis is to checkout your local Farmer’s market. While they can be pricey for some items they also have some great deals. Also, for me personally, I am willing to shell out a few extra bucks on occasion to support local farmers and eat food that hasn’t been grown in a different country and shipped thousands of miles to our local supermarket.

I went to one yesterday and they had a lot of great deals on vegetables and then my boyfriend and I each picked one “splurge item”. For me it was homemade fruit jam and for him it was a homemade salsa. We got a delicious loaf of bread and all the produce we need for the next week minus a bag of carrots and perhaps some fresh fruit!

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6. Check out free or reduced price events in your area. In Chicago there are a lot of free concerts and outdoor movies throughout the summer! At Taste of Chicago Thursday we saw a free Janelle Monae concert which was cool. She was talented and is relatively popular- she was an act at Bonaroo a month ago.  There are also several relatively cheap events such as Wicker Park Fest in a few weeks that we plan to check out. I hear Millennium Park has free concerts each week too so that will be worth checking out!

7. Look for deals at your local restaurants and bars. As a person who recently moved to Chicago I am not yet sure which places have to best deals, but know I will be searching! I will be on the lookout, especially, for deals on beers and pizza, but I’ll keep my eye on healthier deals too. 😛 When you know the deals maybe limit yourself to going out to eat or to grab drinks on the nights/days with deals (if this is a reasonable compromise).

8. Make your own snacks. Snack items such a protein bars, chips, snack mixes, etc. are considered convenience items so they often charge a lot for them. In the long run you can save your wallet and your health by making your own. All making snacks cost is a little time if you use ingredients you always have on hand (for example most of my snacks use oatmeal and nuts/seeds since I always buy those things in bulk). I tend to chose snacks that are simple to make, made with ingredients already in my kitchen, and are not very time consuming.In the last week I’ve made banana oat protein bars, granola, and peanut butter energy bites as snacks for my boyfriend and I to eat in  addition to fresh produce, hummus, and popcorn.

For anyone interested here’s the recipe for peanut butter energy bites which I adapted from the Oatmeal Nut Butter Balls recipe on www.pbfingers.com– a blog that I highly recommend to others who want some healthy recipe ideas (http://www.pbfingers.com/2013/08/15/no-bake-oatmeal-nut-butter-balls/). 🙂 They are super easy and only take about ten minutes to make.

Peanut Butter Energy Bites

yield: approximately 10-12 bites

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked oatmeal

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup milled flax seed

1/3 cup honey

dash of cinnamon

dark chocolate chips (if desired)

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1. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Once combined roll into balls.

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2. Stick the bites in the refrigerator and grab one whenever you want a quick snack!

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(9. One last money saving tip!) Instead of going out for pizza and beer on a Saturday night make a frozen Gino’s East pizza and buy your own beer. It’s PRACTICALLY the same thing, right?! 😛  I’m actually KIDDING, even on a budget you should go out sometimes, but that was definitely my boyfriend and I last night!

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We were too lazy to brave the pouring rain/crappy conditions and go to an actual bar last night.We plan on checking out some of the local watering holes later this week!

Well, I hope you all have a great rest of your Sunday. 🙂 It’s time for us to get a workout in, get the rest of our groceries for the week, and who knows what else. 😛

What are your favorite ways to have fun on a budget?