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DIY: How To {Dry Cranberries}

Its fall!  I love it for a few reasons, one the weathers cooling down, two my favorite seasonal fruits and veggies are lining the shelves and three CRANBERRIES are making their appearance! 

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Plus I love the fact that they are from Jersey so I know they are a local buy!  That makes me double happy.

Cranberries are a rich source of antioxidants and also a high fiber source.  Its a win-win with these beauties! 

I love cranberry everything. Cranberry Kombucha, Cranberry Scones, Cranberry Bread, Cranberry Sauce  so I figured this year I would try and dry my own cranberries.  I also make an awesome Cranberry & Orange Shortbread cookie (Shhh!)  🙂

Here’s what I did:

Cranberries were on sale at the farmers market the other day 3 bags for $5.  That’s about as cheap as I am going to get them around these parts. 

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I brought a pot of water to a rapid boil. 

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Dumped in the bag of cranberries.

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Waited a minute or two.  Its funny because you can hear the skins popping!  Its similar to corn popping ~ but better because it’s cranberries.

Scooped them out of the water after a minute or two, dried them on a sheet lined with paper towels.

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Popped them in the dehydrater.  Now we wait! Easy Peazy Right?!

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From what I’ve read it could take up to a day to dry completely, and it you do not follow the water step it will take even longer.  So don’t skip the boil step.

I can’t wait to to see if they come out as amazing as I am hoping they do!  I hope they do they will make a great addition to my overnight oats, trail mixes, and cereal toppers.  Really the list is endless!  Apple slices are next on my list….now to find a mandoline?

What other kinds of fruits or veggies do you like to dry and keep for a rainy day?

Do you use a mandoline?  Any types you suggest? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seasonal Eating: Why I love it!

Summer has come to and end, back-to-school is now the new norm and the beginning of shorter nights and cooler weather is creeping up on me faster each day.  Many are cussing that they didn’t get to do everything they wanted during the summer months and some are dreading the cold wet weather.

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For me, this week marks the start of Fall Harvest!  This will be the fourth year my son is working at a local family owned farm/orchard.  We both have come to appreciate his employer ~ but for different reasons.

He appreciates his employer because they give him a paycheck each week and that he has made many, many good friends.

On the other hand I appreciate his employer for a whole slew of other reasons.

  1. My son can tell you about 20 different varieties of apples just by looking at them.  (I think that is quite impressive for an 18-year-old boy ~ and I brag on him all the time that he can do this)  He can also crack an apple in half and then in half again with his bare hands.  The kids love that ~ so do I.
  2. We both know what vegetables are in season and how we like to eat them and whats the best way to cook them.  He is often asked my many of his customers “What is this?” and “How do I eat it?” (again pretty impressive for a teenage boy to be so well versed in his fruits and veggies.) Proud mama moment.
  3. Buying local fruits and vegetables from farmers ensures that I am getting the most nutritious ‘in season’ produce around.
  4. That I have an opportunity to support my local economic community.

Yes it might be a little more expensive sometimes, but if you start to eat seasonally (when certain fruits and vegetables are at their peak picking times) then the cost is substantially less than buying out of season produce.

Ten or twenty years ago, you were not always given the luxury of buying some fruits and vegetables during certain times.  It wasn’t really a bad thing.  Now a days you can get almost any type of fruit or vegetable all-year long.

But how many of you like the taste of winter tomatoes????????  They are picked green and grown in hot houses and then are ripen when in transit by dousing them with chemicals so that they are red when they get to the store.  I don’t want to eat a tomato that wasn’t ripe and then doused in chemicals!  Kinda gross if you really think about it.

That’s why my family Eats Seasonally.   I look forward to this day because I know that soon the fall fruits and vegetables will be lining the farmers market bins.

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We will make a switch from eating eggplants, tomatoes, sweet corn and zucchini to beets, broccoli, acorn and butternut squash, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, turnips and cauliflower.

By this time I’m ready for pumpkin, cabbage, apples and pears.

By eating seasonally, I tend to enjoy my food more, I eat the butt load out of whats ripe and available so by the end of that season I am ready for the next seasons harvest.

Eating this way lets me be creative and adds variety to my meal plans, saves me money on my grocery budget by buying whats “in season” and makes my food tastes better because it was picked at its peak. Plus my menus never gets boring because we are always adding new dishes according to whats ripe.  I often hear from my family, “wow you haven’t made that in a long time”, but that’s due to seasonal eating and cooking.

Here is a list of my favorite fall fruits and veggies:

Apples, Beets, Broccoli, Broccoli Rabe, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Escarole, Fennel, Parsnips, Pumpkin, Radicchio, Rutabagas, Sweet Potatoes, Turnips, Winter Squash

Other fruits/veggies that are available during the cooler fall months are:

Arugula, Cranberries, Horseradish, Kale, Pears, Persimmons, Pomegranates & Quince & Spinach

What is your favorite fall fruit or vegetable?

Fitness Friday: Running Update

Its Friday ALREADY! This week just flew by, not sure where the days went, but when I woke up this morning and realized it was already Friday again, I was like what the heck!

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I have recently started concentrating on building up my running skills. I’ve been running at the gym on the treadmill for a few years, but only as a last resort to get some added cardio into my schedule. About two months ago, I decided that I wanted to really amp up my running and see if I could actually finish a 5K race.

I downloaded a running app on my phone to track progress and back on August 31st wrote a post about my progress. A few days after that I was signed up to do a 5K at the Wilmington Waterfront in Delaware. It’s a perfect course for beginners as it is mainly flat and on the water so the sights are great which makes running more pleasurable (for me anyway).

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I committed early that week to running the race (not walking) and geared up both mentally and physically. My goal was to finish the race in 40 minutes. Up to this point I hadn’t run a complete 3 miles on the road yet and was a little nervous, but knew I could walk when I needed a break.

I arrived 30 minutes early picked up my registration packet, pinned on my bib, and did a little stretching. Prepped my mappy thing so I could time each mile as I went so that I could look back afterwards to gauge my progress. The BF also came down to watch and support me, which meant the world to me. He encourages me in everything I do, and always says he knows I will do whatever I put my mind to. It was important to me that he be there at the finish line when I crossed. He was. And it made my night.

The gun went off and we headed through the gate and over the timer mat. I took off quickly passing people right out of the gate. I don’t know if it was the adrenaline or what, but I completed my first mile in 10:49. That was the fastest pace I had ever done. Dont’ really know how that happened but it was a cool feeling when the voice in my headphones said “split pace 10:49.” I was like yeah girl you go (in my head of course).

The second mile was not as good as the first, my breathing was crazy out of whack and I started walking/running/walking/running. I finally got my breathing in check and found a good pace after the second mile and found myself next to a younger girl and we were in synch the rest of the way to the finish line. Thinking back that helped me out tremendously getting through the third and last mile.

When I realized the end was coming up and I rounded the corner, I took off for the finish line. There were two older women in front of me the entire time, and I was like “no way I’m coming in behind these two” so I picked up my pace, passed them on the right, rounded the corner to the finish line and crossed with a time of 37:44. Whew!

I beat my 40 minute goal by 2 1/2 minutes. I was exhausted, proud, and really really sweaty.

That was Sept 4th.

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Last night my co-worker and I competed in a second 5K on the same course. This time I ran the entire time only walking to grab water at the water station. My goal for this week was to run from beginning to end without walking and hopefully dropping my time a bit.

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I was late getting there, quickly grabbed my bib and lined up just in time. They decided to start the race 10 minutes earlier because a severe thunderstorm was in our near future. We lined up, listened to the National Anthem, the gun went off and out we went. I felt good even though I hadn’t had a run in a few days.

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First mile pace was 10:17. Slightly better than last weeks race even though the sky opened up and it downpoured on us for the entire first mile and a half. I was concentrating so hard last night to keep my breathing under control because I knew if I was going to run the way, I needed to keep that in check.

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Second mile pace ended up being 12:21 not sure why except maybe that I was just over thinking everything at this point and just kept telling myself “don’t stop running”. I crossed the half way point and grabbed a water took a few walking steps and finished the cup of water and got right back to running. By this time i felt good, my feet were moving at an even pace, my breathing was no erratic (like last week) and I found a good pace that carried me all the way to the end.

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I finished this weeks race (without walking) in 36:36 with an average pace of 11:48. My best time yet!

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I am loving this process. I am thankful that my body can handle what my mind wants it to do. I can’t wait to get better, faster and more efficient in my running. I find it very impressive when they announce at the end of the race the top 70-75 age bracket winners. I want to be one of those women at age 75 still running races. I love that! So encouraging.

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Recipe: Sprouted Lentil Pancakes

 

Sprouted Lentil Pancakes

I am fortunate enough to be learning the art of Indian cuisine from my dear friend and neighbor.  Nothing is better than learning to cook ethic cuisine from someone native to the country.  She has fed me some truly amazing and flavorful dishes out of our neighboring kitchens.  And to boot I get all the inside scoop on the healing properties of each ingredient that goes into each dish.

If you have never tried to sprout beans or legumes of any variety give my post Do you Sprout? a run through and you’ll be amazed at how simple it really is to start sprouting on your own.  It requires as little as a cup of beans an empty jar, rubber band and a piece of linen or cheesecloth. 

In my meal prepping mode last Sunday I soaked two types of beans.

One was the brown lentil and the other a moong bean.

Sprouts

After two days they looked like this:

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And then I made a zippy crunchy salad with the moong beans (top) that turned into something like this Sprouted Bean Salad.

Sprouted Bean Salad

Sprouted Bean Salad

However with the brown lentils my intentions were much different from just adding them to a salad.

Sprouted Lentil Pancakes

(Chilla) : a pancake made with gram flour batter, is a popular street and fast food in India.

  • 1 1/2 cups of lentils, sprouted
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 2 TBSP Besan Flour
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp crushed/ground red chili
  • 1 tsp salt
  • coconut/olive oil for frying
  1. Put all ingredients in a blender and process until very smooth paste.  If the batter seems to be to thin add a little bit more besan flour until the batter comes together. But you don’t want it to thick.
  2. Heat a small non-stick fry pan over medium heat.
  3. Add a small amount (1tsp) of oil to the pan and swirl.
  4. Add 1/4 of batter the pan and shake the pan in swirling motion until the batter is evenly distributed.
  5. Cook for approximately 1-2 minutes until the edges start to brown and the batter becomes dull.
  6. Start at one edge of the pancake and carefully lift up the edges all the way around the pancake being careful not to break it into pieces.
  7. After you loosen the pancake, flip it to the other side and cook for another 1-3 minutes until lightly golden brown.
  8. Set aside and repeat until all the batter is used up.

These little pancakes can be served with any type of chutney or curry.  My neighbor served them up with a carrot and pea curry, but I chose to eat mine simply with a Tamarind Chutney and a sprinkle of cilantro.

Sprouted Lentil Pancakes

This dish literally took me all of 10 minutes to prepare (except the sprouting process) and is a perfect dish for a hot summer night.  I was so impressed with how they turned out they will be sure to make an appearance quite often now on my dinner table.  Above was served with a little cilantro and a side of tamarind Chutney. 

What types of beans do you like to sprout? Did you know that the sprouting process changes the macro content of the beans by increasing protein and lowering carb counts?

Recipe: Eggplant Stacks

Eggplant Stacks

Last week on Tuesday I wrote about getting back in the swing of things and doing a bunch of weekly food prep over the weekends.  When I’m in full P90X training I ALWAYS do food prep over the weekend.  I don’t have time during the week to figure out what a healthy meal will consist of unless it is already pre-planned.

I’m not actively doing a regimented P90X schedule right now, but I am trying to get back into prepping at least 4 meals for the up coming week.  It just gives me the extra time I need after a long day at work to focus on something else, like school work, exercise or extra-curricular kid activities.  This is my sons senior year of high school and I already know that it is going to be crazy busy and fly by.  Ugggghhh!  So I’m going to need all the extra minutes I can get my hands on.

Last week I prepped a bunch of veggies including these grilled eggplants.

Grilled Eggplants

I had intentions of making this dish.

It was enough to feed my family a dinner and have leftovers for two (2) of my lunches.

Eggplant Stacks

  • 3 lbs of mixed variety eggplants, sliced 1″ thick
  • 1 Tablespoon of Olive oil for grilling
  • 3 medium sized tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • handful of fresh basil leaves
  • Salt/Pepper to taste

I previously grilled the eggplant up and stored them flat in a container in the refrigerator until I was ready to use them in this dish.

Take (2) two slices of eggplant and place on a microwave save dish.  Next add a slice of tomato, then a slice of cheese and continue to alternate eggplant, tomato, cheese.  I used 4 slices of eggplant, two slices each of tomato and mozzarella ending with eggplant on top.

Continue making stacks until you use up all the slices of everything.

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It took me about 3 minutes (2 minutes, then 1 additional minute) to get them heated all the way through in my microwave.  Yours could vary, but I would start with about 2 minutes and work from there.

Add basil leaves under the top layer of eggplant after they are already hot.  This keeps the basil green.  (it will turn brown if you heat it in the microwave ~ but won’t alter the flavor ~ just the look).

Drizzle with Balsamic Vinegar Glaze if desired and season with salt/pepper.

So good ~ and a perfect meal for a hot night when you don’t feel like turning on the stove or grill!  Plus since it’s the end of the summer it is a great way to use up abundant eggplant that the farmers are practically throwing at you!

What meals do you make that use up a ton of end of summer veggies?

 

What I Ate Wednesday #15

Well I skipped last Wednesday, not sure why, I was having writers block I guess.  Or maybe I was just super excited to go away for the weekend; I was busy planning and packing.  Life gets in the way of blogging sometimes.

But I come Thursday morning I was feeling left out and really uninspired for the upcoming week of ‘weekly eats’.  I really do draw inspiration from all the fabulous peeps that party it up over at Peas & Crayons every week for WIAW.

But  like everything else, inspiration comes and goes just like the tide, and I’m back at it and roaring to go this week.

Just a quick “Hey Jenn ~ thanks for hosting this shin-dig” she’s got a lot going on over there with a bump on the way.  Head on over and give her a hey too!

My eats of late include:

Breakfast:IMG_3569

I made a Peanut Butter, Banana & Almond Milk protein shake using APS French Vanilla Grass-Fed Whey Protein with 2 scoops of Maca Powder.  It was filling and the Maca gave me an extra energy boost.  I was actually good to go until lunch.

Mid-Morning Snack:  Wheatgrass Shot

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Lunch:  I received this Lean Cuisine Honestly Good Frozen Meal as part of a perk from Klout, Inc.  I do not typically buy frozen meals ever ~ but when you get to try one for FREEEEEEE and the ingredients list passes your test, you say hell with it ~ am I right?

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Lean Cuisine states that the ingredients are 100% all-natural, no artificial ingredients, minimally processed and no preservatives.  One of the things I look at first when shopping for frozen meals is the sodium content and then the calories per serving.

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The sodium content for this meal is still a bit high at 590 mg but the calories clock in at 320 per serving and it also boosts 23g of protein.  So between the lower calorie count and the amount of protein, I can overlook the sodium for one meal.

The meal is presented well, I’m a stickler for a good presentation.   The yellow wax beans, green beans and orange carrots made it definitely pleasing to the eye.  Portions are right on target but I could have done with a little less of the Pineapple Black Pepper Sauce that came in a separate packet.

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If I was to buy this again, I would only use half of the sauce.  But I liked that it was separate and more than likely all the sodium was in the sauce so you could opt out of it if need be.  All in all, for a frozen meal it’s a good choice for a quick on the go meal.

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Afternoon Snack: 

I had lunch with the girls on Saturday and afterwards, we hit up the local Whole Foods.  WF’s and I have a love hate relationship ~ I love going in that store, but hate swipping my credit card after finding out the damage.

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I am a true cheese lover!  I treated myself to this goats milk cheese rolled in fine herbs and sliced some up for this afternoon snack.

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A few Triscuits, handful of fresh blueberries and Capricho De Cabra Cheese topped  with Mango Chutney.  It was sinful, just sayin’.

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Dinner: Soft Shell Crabs w/Zucchini Fritters

And I’m not stingy when it comes to foodie treats and I eye-balled these guys from almost across the produce section.

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I live in an area that is known for their crabs.  Soft-shell crabs are no exception.  My son & I both adore a good soft-shell crab sandwich so they went on the dinner menu too! Since I fried them I opted to skip the roll!  (choices, choices).  I served it with a home-made caper tarter sauce.

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Lastly~ Today is the final day to enter my Food Should Taste Good {Giveaway}!    One (1) US winner will receive their very own 4 Pack – 5.5 ounce case of FSTG chips! You can enter by clicking here.  Since the kind folks over at FSTG were kind enough to sponsor this giveaway, thank them by giving them a follow if you enter the raffle.  Good Luck!   Facebook:  Food Should Taste Good       Twitter:  @FSTG_Chips!!!

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What is your favorite FSTG flavor? 

Looking for more WIAW inspiration:  WIAW #12, WIAW #13, WIAW #14

Sunday Food Prep & Chipotle Roasted Corn Soup Recipe

I woke up with a boat load of energy and decided I hadn’t done Sunday Food Prep in quite a while.  While I had a ton a fresh veggies that needed to be put to good use, I took advantage of the sun and got to grilling’ quite early in the day.

Since I start back to class again tonight and I plan on canning  two cases of tomatoes this week, I needed to be prepared with some type of meals that can be quickly put together.

This is what I prepped for the up coming week for our meals.  I had a ears of corn, zucchini and eggplants that were all screaming for a home  so I decided to make a Chipotle Roasted Corn Soup & Zucchini FrittersI prepped all my veggies first.

Grilled up the corn (husk on for flavor), grilled the eggplant slices after salting and rinsing, and shredded up the zucchini and then squeezed all the extra liquid out.

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I also started two batches of beans for sprouting.  I did one jar of Brown Lentils and one jar of Moong Beans.  I plan on using the lentils to try and replicate some dal pancakes my neighbor made for me the other day and I will use the Moong Beans for a fresh crunchy Sprouted Bean Salad.  I already have some left over roasted chicken to use up and I’m planning on making a batch of Chicken Enchiladas for one night this week.  By doing this small amount of prep each week, it makes throwing together meals a snap.  Almost everything is ready to put together to make beautiful, tasty and healthful meals.  No need to run to a fast food joint with a fridge full of this goodness waiting for us all week.

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Chipotle Roasted Corn Soup

  • 6 ears corn, cooked
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 1TBSP Chipotle in adoba sauce
  • 16 oz Half/Half
  • 1/2 cup fat free milk
  • salt pepper and basil to taste
  1. Grill all corn on a hot grill for 30 minutes. IMG_3529 IMG_3534
  2. Take 2 ears of corn and remove from the husks.
  3. Add the corn, onion and the butter to a medium-sized sauce pan.IMG_3543
  4. Cook for about 5 minutes until the onion is tender.IMG_3545
  5. Add the 1/2 cup of fat free milk cook and stirring until incorporated.  Take an immersion blender and purée.
  6. Add the chipotle and sauce and the half and half and heat through.
  7. Season with salt/pepper and chopped fresh basil to taste.IMG_3546
  8. Garnish with fresh avocado and more fresh corn if desired.

The rest of the week now I have a nice soup to take to lunch along with either a salad or a sandwich or I could use it as my 3pm pick me up snack.  The eggplants I will be using later in the week to make Eggplant Caprese Stacks (recipe to follow) and well I could eat those Zucchini Fritters for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  They won’t last long for sure.

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2013 Bucket List Update

I cannot believe it is August already.  It seems like it was just January and I was working on getting this blog up and running.  Now 6 full months have gone by so I wanted to do an update on my bucket list items for this year, make some changes and add some new items.  Here is my original 2013 Bucket List.

I had an extensive list started at the beginning of the year but feel very good about myself for completing almost everything on my list up to July except for signing up for Crossfit. 

January:  Getting my blog up and running and posting regularly!  ~ COMPLETE

This goal for January has been the one that I am most proud of myself for completing.  My blog has opened up so many opportunities for me and I have met some really inspiring, motivating and fun-loving people through the blogging community. I was worried that I might run out of things to say, or write about, but that is just not the case.  Maybe its the Italian in me…..  who knows.  🙂

February:  Signed up for my first 5KThe Philadelphia Color Run slotted for July 14th & took my annual weekend ski trip the BF-COMPLETE

Team Lean Mean & Eat Clean

We took our annual ski trip this year and it was a blast.  Every year we continue to hone our downhill skills moving to bigger and better mountains.  I am hoping that this upcoming ski season leads us to new mountain terrain.  I would love to start checking out some of the other ski resorts that PA has to offer!

The Philadelphia Color Run was soooooo much fun.  You can read my re-cap about it here.  Although planning the arrival was very underestimated on my part the day ended up being so much fun.  I was able to meet up with some new friends that I met through my Facebook Group as well as complete my goal of signing up for my first 5K! 

Tomorrow I will partake in my second 5K this year “The Don’t Just Stand There 5K” hosted by Races2Run which will benefit Stand Up 2 Cancer, Cancer Care Connection and the Gift of Life Organ and Tissue Donor program. 

I’m excited to meet up again with Karen and her daughter (which I met for the first time during The Color Run) and my dear friend Cathy who has recently taken on a new healthy lifestyle by adding regular fitness and changing some eating habits for the better.  I’m so proud of her for taking a step out of her comfort zone.

I am also planning on participating (if I can pull off enough training prep) the Spartan Sprint that is being held here in Philadelphia on Sept 28th!  You can take part in it too (or any open Spartan Race across the US) by entering my giveaway for a FREE race entry by this Friday at midnight! 

Go here to enter my Rafflecopter Giveaway

March:  Start round two of P90X to prepare for Crossfit –STARTED

Kenpo-X

I did start round two of P90X, but haven;t stuck to the 6 day a week program faithfully.  I’ve been mixing up my workouts between P90X, insanity, Turbo Fire and running.  Although I have been pretty  consistent with my training I am just not where I want to be in order to sign up for Crossfit.  So this goal has been side-lined for the time being.  Maybe once school is back in session, I can make a little more progress with strength training. 

April:  Learn to Ride – Complete

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What a freeing experience this was.  I signed up for the PA Learn to Ride class that is offered free to PA residents that want to learn to ride a motorcycle.  It consisted of two in class sessions and two on course sessions.  Within an hour n half I was literally riding a motorcycle.  The instructors did a wonderful job explaining every detail and every skill needed to be successful in this course.  I’m still looking for the perfect bike for me, but I know its out there and will find it soon enough. 

May:  Attend Blend Retreat in Utah (this will contribute to checking of one more of the 50 states on my Ultimate Bucket List)- Complete!

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This was by far the best experience of my life.  I was nervous to go, didn’t know a soul there but pushed myself completely out of my comfort zone and jumped in with two feet.  WOW!  Not only did I have the time of my life, get to visit Utah and attend a wonderful blogging conference, but I’ve made some truly life changing connections.  I’ve continued to stay in touch with many of the gals I met at Blend.  They inspire me everyday to be a better athlete and they MOST definitely push me to try new and interesting food stuffs!  Like Kombucha!  I watched plenty of Blend chicks suck down this drink like it was life-sustaining tonic water.  Not until I returned from Blend did I attempt to taste Kombucha.  Now not only am I drinking Kombucha regularly ~ I am home brewing my own!  Sweet! 

June:  Sign up for Crossfit ~ Sidelined

(see goal for March)

July: Complete my first 5K run  – COMPLETE!

(see February goal The Color Run)

August: All you can eat crab fest w/family and friends – COMPLETE!

Hilltop Crab House

This brings us to the current month of August.  Although my only goal for August was to go for an All U Can Eat Crabfest to round out the summer months (which I already indulged in during the 4th of July holiday weekend) I have actually added some new more inspiring fitness goals. 

I will be running my second 5K and working on increasing my running speed and HOPEFULLY making a commitment to do the Spartan Sprint!  (I’m a little nervous about this one too )~ but heck! YOLO right?  Whats the worst that can happen I end up at the end of the day doing somewhere close to 350 burpees! 


 That’s not so bad 🙂

I am also looking to add a few more 5K’s to my fall schedule just to keep the flame alive! 

I feel good about my training schedule and that it has rounded out with more balance workouts that hit on endurance as well as strength.  I feel good about the goals I have accomplished so far this year and I feel good about the upcoming months and the short-term goals that I have set for myself. 

What yearly goals have you set for yourself and have you checked-in with them lately to see if you are on target?

Vegan Spring Rolls w/Ponzu Dipping Sauce

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I mentioned a few weeks ago that I went to a new farmers market that seemed like I had died and gone to heaven.  It was not a fancy place or even a photographic place, but the market was jam-packed from wall – wall with exotic fruits, hard to find items, and things I’ve only seen in magazines.  It had the ingredients that normally I would have to order online if I wanted to try out a new recipe.

The Newark Farmers Market had everything.  One of the things I picked up were these rice paper wrappers.  They had as many sizes and shapes to pick from as letters in the alphabet!  I decided on choosing the large square size because of my skill level in wrapping, and I figured the bigger the better.

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These little spring rolls are a show stopper for sure.  They present well on the plate, they are super easy to put together and rolling was nothing to be intimated by……It is almost guaranteed I will be serving these gems at my next shin-dig.  Let me show you how I did it:

Vegan Spring Rolls w/Ponzu Dipping Sauce

  • 6 –  8″ squares (22cm) of rice paper (Bahn Trang is the brand I used)
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 1 cucumber, julienned
  • 1 avocado
  • 3 large romaine leaves, torn in pieces the size of your palm
  • handful of rice noodles, cooked

Cook the rice noodles or cellophane noodles according to package directions.  Mine were a little larger than what is normally used, but it is what I had on hand and worked perfectly fine.  I think they cooked about 5-7 minutes but I’m not completely sure because I wasn’t timing. 

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I also used a nifty peeler that juliennes the veggies for you with a quick shaving motion down the side of each vegetable.  If you don’t have one of these tools, I highly recommend investing in one, especially for this project.

It was a snap to do both the carrot and the cucumber.  I only did the four sides of the cucumber and discarded the middle with the seeds.  I also didn’t peel the cucumber so the beautiful green skin was intact.

Slice the avocado in 8 sections.

Using a 9×12 baking dish filled with approximately and 1″ of tepid water, start but dipping one side of the rice paper into the water and flipping it over and repeating on the second side.  Let excess water drain for just a moment and place the rice paper wrapper on a plastic cutting board (they might stick to some wooden cutting boards).  Lay it down on the cutting board diagonally (one point facing you).

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Starting 2″ from the corner place the lettuce leaf, a few strips of carrot, a few strips of cucumber, a few strands of rice noodle, and the top with the avocado.

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Pick up the corner of the rice paper sheet that is closest to you and fold it over the filling and using your two index fingers tuck the corner under the veggies and tightly roll two rotations.  This should bring your roll up to the center of the two side corners. 

Carefully fold into the center the two side corners and continue to “tuck and roll” tightly to finish your spring roll.

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Set aside your spring roll under a damp linen tea towel or paper towel and repeat for the remaining rolls.

At this point, you can slice and enjoy or to store for a few hours, place the rolls on a plate with a little room between each one so they do not stick together and tear and cover with both a damp wet towel and cover with plastic wrap.  I’ve read that they can last in the refrigerator like this for up to 5 hours.  I used this technique and mine were still perfect after about 2.5 hours. 

Prepare the dipping sauce:

Ponzu Dipping Sauce

  • 4 Tbsp Ponzu Sauce or soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sesame Oil
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 Tbsp scallion, minced

Mix all ingredients in a small container and set aside until ready to use.

This particular recipe is vegan , but you can customize your spring rolls with whatever veggies and protein sources you enjoy!

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Filling Suggestions:

  • Steamed shrimp
  • Tofu
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Ground Meat (pork or chicken)
  • Carrots
  • Jicama
  • Cucumber
  • Baby Spinach
  • Lettuce, Romaine or Mixed Baby
  • Cabbage
  • Sprouts
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Mint
  • Rice Noodles
  • Avocado

The combinations are completely endless! 

What do you consider hard to find ingredients?  What do you like to make with them?

Pickled Baby Eggplants

Pickled Baby Eggplants

I am becoming obsessed with canning fresh fruits and veggies. Tomatoes and Peaches started this obsession at the end of summer last year in the attempt to have vine ripened fruit and vegetables without all the chemicals, preservatives and added sugar. We have just about depleted our stock so this year I am determined to put up more fruits and veggies for the up coming winter months.

This recipe is adapted from the Fairytale Pickled Eggplant recipe I found on the blog Food In Jars by Marisaa McClellan. I am absolutely crushing on her blog right now, everything she cans is in small batches and perfect for my family of 2. For me, it’s a perfect balance because sometimes I’m not quite sure I am going to like it or even use it throughout the year. Two jars let me test out the goods and if I decide it’s a keeper, I can make a few more batches to get me through the winter months. Plus she is a fellow Philadelphian; plus plus ++ in my book! Spreading local love!

Pickled Baby Eggplant

Pickled Baby Eggplants

1 lb purple baby eggplants
2 Tbsp kosher salt
1 lemon, juiced
2 cups of red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
Fresh cracked black pepper

  • Wash your eggplants in a bath of cool water to remove any dirt
  • Remove the tops of the stems and any leaves.
  • Cut eggplants in half, quarter for larger ones
  • Place eggplant halves into a colander and sprinkle with salt and lemon juice
  • Let sit in colander for 60 minutes. Rinse.
  • Gently squeeze the eggplant pieces so that any remaining water is discarded but not so hard that your crush the pieces.
  • Bring the red wine vinegar to a boil. Add the eggplant pieces to the vinegar and when the vinegar returns to a boil, set the timer for 2 minutes.
  • Remove the eggplant pieces to a large bowl and add the garlic, torn basil and fresh cracked black pepper. Toss to coat evenly.
  • Ladel the dressed eggplants into to hot sterilized jars and top with hot red wine vinegar leaving 1/2″ head space.
  • Run the air bubble tool along the inside of the jars to remove any trapped air.
  • Wipe the rims with a clean towel, place the seals onto the cleaned rims and screw on the rings just to hand tight.
  • Process in a hot water canning bath for 10 minutes. Let stand in the water for 5 minutes then remove to a cutting board lined with a towel. Cool overnight.
  • Let stand for at least two (2) weeks so that the flavor fully develops.
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