Ms. Marvel Project

Temptations at the office

I’ve been away from the blog for about a week, and I figured now would be a good time to post since I’ve got the apartment to myself for the night and I’ve missed it quite a bit. The past 2 weeks have been a challenge at work and have left me drained. But I wanted to post today about something that all office-dwellers have surely encountered: being faced with delicious, but diet-breaking treats at the office.

My coworkers like to eat and they like to celebrate, and this often results in lots of food around the office. Sometimes I’m strong enough to avoid the temptation, but other times, not so much. On Monday, it was one woman’s last day at the office and she baked cookies as a goodbye treat. These were not just any cookies however… they were homemade, vanilla cookie on the bottom, chocolate cookie on top with frosting sandwiched in between. When I first arrived at the office that day, I noticed the plate on the long table that sits immediately behind my desk. Being that it was first thing in the morning, I didn’t feel the need to want any and didn’t feel tempted at all.

Then, several hours went by. There were still cookies left and they were starting to smell awfully good. So I had one. Then a little later, another. And another! How could I resist that kind of temptation when it was literally sitting right behind me for the entirety of a work day? It seemed nearly impossible.

I suppose sometimes it’s not really possible to deny every food temptation that comes around, but I find that I do win the battle a lot. My office also has “bagel Fridays” every few weeks, and while I used to attend when I first started, now I’ve stopped. Also, I find it much easier these days to say no to the free pizza that sometimes shows up.

When I worked at my former job, one of the job “perks” was that we had access to a 25 cent vending machine. That’s right – every candy bar, bag of chips and can of soda was only a quarter. You can imagine how often I ended up taking advantage of that. It was practically free!

My new office has no such thing and if I want to visit the vending machine I have to pay full price, which is apparently a lot higher than I ever remembered it being before.

It can be difficult to resist all of the things that are bad for me on a day to day basis, but I try to pick my battles.

Are you ever faced with food temptations where you work?

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April 25, 2012 Posted by | Life, Project | , , | 2 Comments

Family food traditions

I don’t know about you, but in my family, any holiday is an excuse to cook up and eat as much food as is humanly possible. This Easter was certainly no exception to that rule.

In my family, Easter is generally a smaller holiday that only includes a small subsection of our relatively large Italian family. Last Sunday, Easter was confined to just the 4 of us: my parents, my brother and myself. I was planning to make a healthy side dish for the family (my roasted brussel sprouts) and aside from that, all I knew was that my mother would be cooking up a storm.

I was not wrong.

For 4 people, here was the list of food we had on the menu:

– A large lasagna
– Meatballs and sausages
– Stuffed artichokes
– Salad
– A full ham
– My brussel sprouts
– Homemade macaroni and cheese

And for dessert:
– Ricotta pie
– Miscellaneous pastries
– Easter candy

Needless to say, it was a LOT of food and while we made a decent dent in each dish, the leftovers were abundant. I took many of them home and they provided lunches and dinners for D and I for the majority of the week.

I definitely let myself eat whatever was looking good while I was there (the lasagna, mac and cheese, artichokes, salad and dessert), but at the same time, couldn’t help thinking about how whenever a holiday like this comes up, how difficult it can be to not let it sabotage my healthy eating progress. When all of my favorite foods are sitting right in front of me, it’s note easy to say no or even eat them in small portions. I know that holidays like this only come around once in a while so I try not to dwell and make myself feel bad about it.

It makes me wonder though, when the eventual time comes that I have my own house and am hosting holiday dinners, what kind of food will I serve? Will it be the heavy Italian food that my family knows and loves or will I try to sprinkle in some healthier food and more vegetarian options? I do think it will be the latter and I can only hope that my relatives will be a little adventurous when it comes to non-meat, slightly healthier food.

In the meantime, it’s time for me to get back into eating healthier now that all the leftovers are gone.

Happy weekend!

April 14, 2012 Posted by | Life, Project | , , | 1 Comment

Roasted brussel sprouts: a new favorite

This barely qualifies as a “recipe” because it’s so super simple, but it’s something I never tried doing until about 1 month ago and now I’m totally addicted. I love brussel sprouts anyway, but when you roast them in the oven… OMG, they become the best thing ever.

Here’s how I do them:

Ingredients:
– 1 package of frozen brussel sprouts
– 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
– salt and pepper

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 425
2. Either use a large ziplock bag or the bag the brussel sprouts came in for this step: Add oil, salt and pepper to the bag and massage the brussel sprouts through the bag until they’re all coated
3. Spread out evenly on a baking sheet
4. Cook at 425 for 35 minutes

After 35 minutes at this temp, using my oven, the brussel sprouts get decently charred and crispy on the outside and extremely soft on the inside. You may need to make adjustments on the cook time if you like slightly less char or due to variations in ovens.

It doesn’t get much more simple than that! Sometimes when I get home from work and I want an “appetizer” before we’re even thinking about getting dinner started, I’ll just throw some of these in the oven. Being brussel sprouts, they’re very healthy so I don’t even feel guilty about it!


Back to Friday blog hopping!

young and restless

Getting to Know You

April 6, 2012 Posted by | Blogging, Project, Recipes | , , | 3 Comments

Meal Planning

One of the best ways to make sure you don’t overindulge or order takeout everyday is to plan meals in advance. I’ve had varying degrees of success with this process in the past, but it’s something I always want to come back to. So many nights, D and I will have this ever popular conversation:

Me: What do you want for dinner tonight?
D: I don’t know, what do you want?
Me: There’s really nothing in particular you want?
D: Well, I didn’t take any of my food out of the freezer so I can’t have any of that
Me: (Sighing) Maybe we should just get takeout

Takeout always seems like the easy and “fun” solution to these nightly debates. We really only indulge maybe 1-2 times during the work week, but the lure of not having to cook and of eating something that we both really enjoy sometimes get the best of us. After all, when we’re done eating, I almost always regret it. It’s MUCH higher in calories/salt/fat than anything I would ever cook myself, not to mention the money we’re shelling out that could be put toward anything else in the world.

To make matters just a teensy bit more complicated, I’m a vegetarian and D is not; not to mention the fact that D can’t eat anything spicy (which is my bread and butter) and also just plain doesn’t like some of other things I do. We almost always make two different meals, or at least 2 variations on the same meal when we’re eating together.

All of these factors make it all the more important for us to plan our dinners ahead of time so we’re not scrambling at 6PM after a long day of work.

The first thing I want to talk about when it comes to meal planning is the logistics – HOW and WHERE to do it. Over the past few months, I’ve tried a bunch of different methods:

1.) Writing it out with a pen and paper – This was our first attempt to get organized with our meals. D and I would sit down every Sunday with a blank page and write down what we would have every day of the upcoming week. I would then put the list on the fridge and we would reference it every day.

2.)Tracking it through a spreadsheet – Excel is always a good option for this.

3.)Tracking through Google Calendar – I created a separate calendar called “Meal Planning” and whenever I feel like it, I can go in and ad in any information regarding meals that I want on any particular day.

Strangely, I kind of miss being able to just write it all out with pen and paper so I might try and go back to that sometime soon.

No matter which method I was using, I always had 3 categories for each meal:
– A main dish for me
– A main dish for D
– A side dish (if we were feeling ambitious that day)

And also, I would make a note on each day anything I would need to do as prep for the next day’s meal (for example: taking some meat out of the freezer to defrost for D).

Of course everything has to be flexible as things come up during the week. For example, if we suddenly make plans after work, we can move things around and put a quicker meal on that day. This is where the Google Calendar approach is especially useful since you can just drag and drop your items.

What do you think? Any methods you’ve used that work great for you?

April 5, 2012 Posted by | Project | , | Leave a comment

Soy sausage and peppers over penne vodka

After a quick run to Trader Joe’s yesterday afternoon, I got struck with some inspiration for dinner: soy sausage and peppers over penne vodka! I love the soy sausages they sell at TJs and I loved the look of the orange and yellow peppers they had available that day, so I picked up a few. The recipe below includes proportions for one person since I was making it just for me during my kitchen adventures yesterday:

Ingredients:
1 soy sausage
1 orange bell pepper (or whatever your favorite bell pepper color is)
2-3 cloves of garlic
1/2 onion
Penne pasta
Your favorite vodka sauce (I used Trader Joe’s organic variety)

Trader Joe's organic vodka sauce

Trader Joe's tofurkey sausages

Directions:

1. Begin cooking the penne pasta as normal. This is likely going to be the part that takes the longest, so start boiling the water before you move on to the next few steps.
2. Chop up the onion and pepper and saute in a pan with a little bit of olive oil. Cook for about 6-8 minutes until the peppers start to soften.

Peppers and onions

3. Around this time, the water in your other pan should be boiling. Throw the pasta in.
4. Mince garlic and add to onion and pepper mixture

Soy sausage and garlic

5. Chop the soy sausage into bite-sized pieces and add as well. Let cook for 2-3 minutes
6. Add vodka sauce to the pan. I don’t measure how much sauce I use – I just eyeball how much I think it will take to cover the amount of pasta I’m cooking.
7. Let simmer for another 10 minutes.
8. Around this time, your pasta should be done cooking. Drain and set aside until your sauce is done.
9. Combine pasta with sauce mixture and you’re ready to eat!

soy sausage and peppers over penne vodka

This recipe was simple and delicious. The peppers added great flavor to the sauce and the soy sausage really bumped up the protein content on the meal, as well as making it filling and satisfying. I’ll be making this again!

March 18, 2012 Posted by | Project, Recipes | , | 1 Comment

Tempeh Stuffed Peppers

The other night I had a craving for stuffed peppers, something I’ve rarely had and never made. But knowing that peppers are one of my favorite vegetables, I decided to get a little creative in the kitchen and the results were delicious!

Ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium/large green peppers
  • 1 package of tempeh
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • half of a large onion
  • 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 of a 15oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2-3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese

Optional Spices:

  • Dried basil
  • Paprika

Directions:

1. Cut the tops off of each of the green peppers and scoop out all seeds. Trim off a little bit of the bottom of the peppers so they’ll stand up without falling over.

Hollowed Out Peppers

2. Prepare the tempeh, either by chopping it up finely or running it through a cheese grater, depending on how large you want the pieces to be. I went the chopping route for simplicity.
3. Dice the onion and throw it into a skillet along with the tempeh, along with 1-2 teaspoons each of paprika and basil, if using, and some salt and pepper.
4. Mince the garlic and add to the saute pan
5. Let the mixture cook until the tempeh just slightly starts to brown and the onions get a little soft: 6-8 minutes

Sauteing the tempeh and onions

6. Transfer the tempeh mixture into a large bowl. Add the crushed tomatoes and breadcrumbs and combine. If it’s looking a little too dry, add some more of the crushed tomatoes.
7. Scoop the tempeh mixture into each of the 4 peppers and place on a foil-lined square pan. Top with as much parmesan cheese as you like

Tempeh Stuffed Peppers

8. Cook at 375 degrees for around 50 minutes, until the peppers are tender.

After being cooked

9. Serve and enjoy! Top with additional leftover crushed tomatoes and parmesan, if desired.

My dinner

March 11, 2012 Posted by | Project, Recipes | , | 3 Comments

Long term vs. Short term

One of the greatest battles we face with ourselves when it comes to getting healthier and in shape is the never-ending inner debate over which we want more: short term happiness or long term happiness. Logically, when we’re looking at it from a distance, long term happiness seems to be the obvious choice. It will last longer, for one thing, and more than likely it will be more fulfilling. This is why we create goals like losing 10 pounds or exercising more often – because we believe that it will help us achieve this happiness in the long term. If we didn’t think these things would make our lives better, we wouldn’t be trying so hard to achieve them.

However, the trouble comes when our short term happiness becomes more important. It’s so easy to fall into this trap:

I’m having a bad day, and if eat this chocolate, it’ll make me feel better

Or

I would much rather watch this TV show while lounging on the couch than going to work out today because it will make the evening a little more enjoyable

In situations like these, we’re sacrificing our long term goal for a little bit of short term happiness.

This is a constant issue for me. I always start the day with good intentions, but then as life unfolds during that day, I start looking for ways to make myself happy right now, and often that means doing something that isn’t in tune with my health goals.

This past weekend was a great example of this inner conflict. I went into the weekend having already worked out 4 times during the week, but with the intention of working out at least one more time on Saturday or Sunday. Instead, we got takeout for dinner two nights in a row, didn’t go to the gym, and yesterday in particular, I ate pretty much non-stop all day long.

I need to learn to tell myself that working on my long term goals WILL contribute to my happiness, and can even add to the short term happiness from time to time. There are many times when I feel much happier and more energized after a workout. It’s the food issue where the battle really takes place for me.

What do you think about long term vs. short term happiness?

February 20, 2012 Posted by | Project | , , , | 1 Comment

Soy chorizo tacos

It’s been a long, tough week – so much so that this was the post I wanted to publish on Friday, but I just didn’t have the time to finish writing. Even so, I did join up with some Friday blog hops this week and they’re listed at the end. Sorry it’s 2 days late!

The reason things have been so hectic and crazy can all be traced back to one thing: work. Work has been insane, and I even had to sign on yesterday and work for 5 hours on a Saturday! As a result, I’ve only gotten in 2 workouts this week, but I’m trying to psych myself up for a third right after I post this post.

Recently, I’ve discovered a new (to me) food at Trader Joe’s, and I’ve had some fun experimenting with it…


Picture courtesy of whatsgoodattraderjoes.com

It’s soy chorizo!

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but when I saw it in the store, I knew it was something I wanted to try. I love big flavors, and I love spice, so I picked it up and threw it in the freezer for a few weeks, trying to figure out what I could do with it. Having never even tasted “real” chorizo, I didn’t know what kind of flavors I was in for.

One night a few weeks ago, while D was out (he sometimes gets a little freaked out by some of my food experiments, so I tend to break out the new and crazy ingredients when I’m alone), I decided to go for it. I opened up the package and started heating it up in a skillet, the same way you would with a ground meat. I didn’t add any oil – just a little salt and pepper – and as it started to heat up, I thought it smelled remarkably like taco meat. After a small taste, it was confirmed: I would make tacos!

It was incredibly easy and quick to make these (just the kind of recipe I like). Once the soy chorizo was cooked, I spooned it into two taco shells, topped with some diced tomatoes, shredded cheese and ate it with a little bit of sour cream.


Sorry for the rough phone pic! I have since gotten a better camera.

The soy chorizo was very spicy and very tasty. Also, I wasn’t quite prepared for how filling it would be. I almost couldn’t finish two small tacos and the leftover chorizo that I had heated up lasted me through at least 3 or 4 additional meals.

This is one dinner that I’ve added to my regular rotation in the kitchen.


young and restless

January 29, 2012 Posted by | Blogging, Project | , , | 1 Comment

Smoothie fever

For Christmas this year, I asked my parents for a blender. I didn’t get one of the extremely fancy, $300 ones, just a simple blender from Target. I had been inspired by seeing all my favorite bloggers mixing up smoothies for themselves everyday, and I wanted to give it a try. They looked super delicious, easy and convenient, not to mention healthy, and I wanted ot add them to my diet.

This has been one of the best kitchen additions imaginable, since it’s entered my apartment. I’ve been mixing up smoothies almost every morning for breakfast, or sometimes in the afternoon for an after work snack.

The first thing I did was to buy a whole bunch of different frozen fruits: mixed berries, dark cherries, mango and peaches. I mixed up one or two of these with a banana and some milk and it was awesome, but still was lacking something – I wasn’t full enough afterward. For a long time, I had seen bloggers such as Fitnessista using protein powder to bump up the nutrition and fullness potential of their smoothies, and I had never taken the plunge to buy any because it was pretty pricy. However, now that I’d begun my foray into smoothie making, I figured now was a good chance to at least give it a try – if it was too much of an expense or didn’t do enough for me, I wouldn’t buy it again. So I bought some Sun Warrior

And let me tell you, it was EXACTLY what those smoothies needed. Not only does it keep me full almost until lunch, but it helps me meet my goal to increase my protein intake.

So, breakfasts are certainly taken care of in terms of being nutritiuos and healthy. I either have one of these smoothies (with whatever combo of fruits I’m feeling that day – and you don’t even need ice since they’re frozen), or I cook up a couple of eggs.

I really worked out hard this weekend, and I’m starting to see some muscle tone as a result of my work. Saturday, D and I went off to the office gym as we usually do, but this time it was in a snowstorm. We got about 6 inches and it was still coming down for our walk over. The walk was, needless to say, unpleasant. But the workout wasn’t. Before we even headed out of the house, I did 50 minutes on my stationary bike. Then at the gym, I did arm and leg weights, plus abs, and then a 15 minute cooldown on the elliptical. I burned almost 800 calories, everything combined.

Sunday, I didn’t want to repeat the snowy excursion outdoors, so instead, we went to the “dungeon” of a gym in our apartment complex. I never get a really great workout there, but I did 15 minutes on the bike there, plus 15 on the treadmill. It was a short workout, but I was SUPER sore from the day before.

Things are coming along, and even though the scale continues its strike toward cooperating with me, I know I’m doing good things for my body.


Happy Tuesday! Here’s a blog hop for the day:

January 24, 2012 Posted by | Project | , , , , | 1 Comment

Being a vegetarian on Thanksgiving

I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 16, which means for the past 12 years, I have been the only one in my family and immediate circle of friends who does not eat meat. I get by fine for the majority of situations I find myself in with food, asking for substitutions in restaurants when necessary and perusing menus to find things I can eat.

The Thanksgiving tradition my family has followed for the majority of my life has been to go to my aunt and uncle’s house for dinner and family time every year. I’m very lucky that my aunt and uncle have come to understand and accommodate the fact that I don’t eat meat and no longer treat it like a phase or something crazy. The past few Thanksgivings, they’ve gone out of their way to make vegetable dishes and even some special stuffing that isn’t cooked inside the turkey. I’m never hungry on this holiday, that’s for sure.

But it hasn’t always been this way, and there are still some occasions when being vegetarian feels like being an from another planet. A few Easters ago, my cousin hosted a brunch. Knowing ahead of time that it was brunch, I didn’t think there would be any issue finding something without meat to eat (aside from sausages and bacon, almost all breakfast-y food is good, right?). Well, I was wrong. Every single thing they had included meat. My mother suggested I try the quiche… and lo and behold, there was bacon inside. The only thing I could do was pick at some fruit. I wasn’t happy.

Now that I’m a little older and I’ve started reading blogs of other people who eat like I do (or even vegan or raw in some cases), I know that there are options when a situation like this presents itself. The Fitnessista has had some great tips on this scenario over the years, the number one being that if you’re going somewhere that isn’t necessarily veg-friendly, make a veggie dish to bring with you so you’ll know you’ll be guaranteed to have something.

I’ve often thought about what kind of menu I would plan if I were to host Thanksgiving one year. D is convinced I’d want to make a tofurkey, but I don’t think I’d go in that direction. We’d have to have a traditional turkey because there would be so many meat eaters present, but I would want to make a huge spread of interesting, healthy veggie dishes.

Thankfully, I know I won’t have to worry about what I’m eating this year during the holidays.

Are there any out of the ordinary dishes you’re making this year?

November 16, 2011 Posted by | Life, Project | , | Leave a comment