Greek Veggie Quinoa Salad

Happy Monday! I spent a few hours yesterday prepping meals for the week and wanted to share a recipe with you. In preparations for the #bestfriendscleanse I’m starting in a few weeks, I’ve been collecting recipe ideas that fit in with the meal plan, and this Greek Veggie Quinoa Salad sounded so good, I just had to give it a try.

This is my spin on the Greek Chickpea Salad recipe in the Skinnytaste cookbook — I don’t love chickpeas in make-ahead salad because I think they get sort of gross by the end of the week, and I’m also not a huge fan of raw red onion in salads, because I find the flavor really overpowering.

greek veggie quinoa salad imageGreek Veggie Quinoa Salad (view & log on MyFitnessPal)greek veggie salad
Makes 5 servings, 16 ounces each

  • 1 cup quinoa, prepared*
  • 2 bell peppers (I used one red and one green – go with whatever looks good in the produce section!)
  • 4-5 persian cucumbers, or 2 cups chopped cucumber
  • 16 oz cherry tomatoes
  • 3 oz feta cheese
  • 4 oz pitted kalamata olives
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar

Chop all vegetables so they are roughly the same size. I like to cut my cherry tomatoes in half if they’re on the larger size; if they’re smaller, fine to leave them whole. Chop the olives as small as possible. Combine vegetables with feta and olives; mix so that all ingredients are well distributed. Add the olive oil and vinegar, as well as the salt and pepper, and mix well. Finally, add the quinoa 1/4 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition to ensure that the quinoa is well distributed through the salad. Portion out the servings; I used the 16-oz deli containers I mentioned in last Friday’s post and this recipe was the perfect amount to fill them.

*Ingredient tip: I love Trader Joe’s frozen grain options. Their frozen quinoa comes in 1-cup portions; heat them up for 3-4 minutes and you’re good to go! I always keep quinoa and brown rice on hands for recipes like this, when I don’t want to have to go through the hassle of making quinoa on the stove top. 

This recipe would be a great side dish with some grilled chicken or fish for lunch or dinner, or can stand alone as a snack. I packed it to have as my afternoon snack this week, along with a serving of Spark. I’m doing double workouts every afternoon this week to make up for the fact that I’ll be away all weekend indulging in one last summer vacation, so a heartier snack is in order to help get me through those workouts!

24-Day Challenge Prep

Time to face facts: This summer has been an absolute disaster when it comes to my fitness levels. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been an awesome summer, but the very things that have made it such a blast are also the cause of my fitness failures. Vacations, BBQs and nights out with friends have done a number on me, and it’s time to get back on track.

On a friend’s recommendation, I’ve been using Advocare Spark and Joint ProMotion for a few months now. The joint health supplement has really made a big difference in how my knees have been feeling during half marathon training, and Spark is just plain awesome. I feel about nine thousand times better after hot yoga or an intense spin class if I remember to sip a serving of Spark beforehand. So, based on my success with these products, I decided to give their 24-Day Challenge a try.24DayChallenge-Logo

I didn’t just blindly stumble into this. My friend Katrina adores Advocare and convinced me to do this challenge with her. She plans to use the challenge structure to help her get ready for her wedding next year, but swears that it’s also the perfect solution to help me get back on track with my goals. Since I like what I’ve tried so far, I’m going to give it a shot. I like that I can pick and choose what to order for this challenge; since I already have Spark on hand, I omitted that, and I also didn’t bother with the Meal Replacement Shakes, because I have my own protein shake mix that I prefer if and when I decide to swap a smoothie in for a meal. We’re also dragging a few of our other friends along with us for this process, because complaining about meal prepping is easier when your best friends are along for the ride (and yes, this means that you’ll be seeing the #bestfriendscleanse hashtag popping up all over our social media accounts).

We’re planning to get the challenge started on Monday, September 14, so I’m in full prep mode.  (This also means that if you’re interested in joining us, you can – click here for more information on the challenge!) I wanted to share some of the prep tools I’ve purchased recently that will make it easier to succeed in the challenge.

small lidded containers

Small lidded plastic containers: Yes, these are usually used for jello shots. Yes, I purchased a 500-pack earlier this summer. Yes, this is a big contributing factor in needing to do the 24-day Challenge. HOWEVER, these little guys are also a great tool to help prep supplements throughout the day! The Challenge includes detailed instructions for when to take the various supplements – morning, afternoon, evening, bedtime, etc. These little cups are a great way to prep your supplements for the whole week, and they’re the perfect size to toss in your gym bag or purse.

Plastic deli containers: Amazon Prime, you are a god send. I ordered these in the 8oz and 16oz sizes. At $15 for 36 to 40 containers, it was a great deal. These containers make meal prepping so much easier! The containers are dishwasher and microwave safe, although I personally prefer to transfer my food out of the plastic before microwaving it.

3 partitionPartitioned meal containers: The round containers I mentioned are awesome for snacks, but for lunch or dinner, it’s nice to be able to portion everything in a single container. These reusable containers are awesome. The largest partition is a good size for veggies, and the two smaller partitions can hold grains and protein.

Passion Planner: I swear by my Passion Planner for staying on track. I use it for my job, for planning workouts, and for setting weekly goals. You can buy a manufactured planner, but the creator of this amazing tool has also made the PDF template available FOR FREE. I love me some free stuff, y’all! For the duration of the challenge I’m going to be adding meal prepping to the roster of duties that my Passion Planner helps me with, and if all goes well, hopefully this will be a habit that sticks with me after the challenge ends.

I am really excited to get started with this challenge, and can’t wait to report back on how it’s going!

Full disclosure: I signed up as an Advocare Distributor in order to get the 20% product discount. The Advocare product links included in this post are affiliate links. If you’re interested in becoming a Distributor, contact me and I’ll be happy to answer any questions – the discount is pretty sweet, and if you think you’ll be ordering products regularly, it’s definitely worth it!

What I Ate Wednesday, Post-Vacation Edition

Happy hump day! I got back from San Francisco on Monday night, and am still trying to catch up on real life. I worked from home yesterday to catch up on email, and I devoted a good chunk of time last night to grocery shopping and meal prepping for the rest of the week. I’ve got ten days between my SF trip and my next vacation, so I’m focusing on maintaining a regular exercise routine and keeping my meals healthy and clean. In that light, it seemed like today was a good time for another What I Ate Wednesday post!WIAW banner

Breakfast:choco-coco-nana oatsI decided to make a few jars of overnight oats for the rest of the week. This is my FAVORITE oats recipe – it tastes like such a treat but has a good mix of protein and carbs. I didn’t take a picture, partially because I was in a rush this morning and partially because this recipe just doesn’t photograph that well, but trust me, it’s delicious. This recipe is for one jar, but can easily be adapted if you want to make multiple jars in advance, like I did for the three remaining work days this week.

I also had cold brew coffee to jump start my day. I began making cold brew at home a few months ago and trust me when I tell you, it is a game changer. I would happily provide instructions for my process, but my friend K has already done the honors. She was super skeptical when I first described how I make my cold brew (… it involves a nylon sock, DON’T JUDGE IT TIL YOU TRY IT) but once she tasted the results she was sold. Check out her post on the process! I also buy sugar free vanilla syrup to add to it at home and with a splash of milk added as well, it tastes just as good as any Starbucks offering at a fraction of the price!

Lunch: IMG_4482This is not the most attractive lunch to look at, but it sure does taste good! I love how great the fresh produce is right now, so I  loaded my salad up with lots of veggies for crunch and flavor – multi colored peppers, LOTS of cucumbers (my fave!), some gorgeous tomatoes (there’s nothing better than August tomatoes, you’ll never convince me otherwise), all topped with a light dressing. I grilled up some chicken to go with it. Normally I prefer to marinate my chicken myself, but I was crunched for time this week, so I kept it simple with Purdue’s Perfect Portions Italian Chicken Breast. The convenience of the pre-portioned packages can’t be beat, and this marinade is pretty tasty. Again, not my preferred meat option, but sometimes I have to go the convenient route in order to keep my food choices on point.

Afternoon snack:FullSizeRender (1) I bought a juicer a few months ago, and it has seriously changed my life. I was spending up to $10 at a time for green juices, either prepackaged at the store or at a local juice bar, and the expenses were really adding up. I received a gift card to Bloomingdale’s for my birthday, and when I saw that they had the Breville Multi-Speed Juice Fountain on sale, I decided to treat myself. Have you seen the documentary “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead”? It’s available on Netflix, and this is the juicer used by the subject of the documentary, so I figured it was a pretty safe bet. It’s been great for me so far and I’m pleasantly surprised at how quickly I can juice enough produce for a few days’ worth of juices. Clean up isn’t ideal, but the whole process (prepping produce, juicing, and cleanup) takes less than 20 minutes, and I’m saving money in the long run while also doing a good deed for my body. Today’s juice includes cucumber, celery, green apple, kale, ginger, and lemon juice – yum!

Dinner: My evening is pretty jammed today! I’m taking a double at Studio Poise tonight – first, Poise Xpress, followed by Hip Hop Flow yoga to unwind. After getting my sweat on, I’ve got book club to look forward to with some of my favorite ladies. This is a great way to spend an evening, but it’s not exactly conducive to having a well-balanced meal! I don’t like to eat anything too heavy before working out, and I won’t feel like a big dinner after yoga, so I packed some snacks to nosh on throughout the evening.FullSizeRender (2) I’ve got some fresh pineapple & berries, a container of Dannon’s Oikos Zero yogurt (my new favorite yogurt – the texture is awesome!), and the tasty treat pictured here. Cottage cheese is a personal favorite snack, and today I stirred some homemade pesto in for extra flavor. Served alongside some cherry tomatoes and a serving of Triscuit Minis, and I know this will be the perfect snack to munch on while chatting about this month’s book selection! Pro tip: the nutrition for a serving of these mini Triscuits is almost exactly the same as a serving of the regular version, but the mini serving is 28 crackers, while the regulars only allow 6. For a snack like this, I like tricking my brain into thinking I’m eating more by having the crackers in a smaller size.

What are some of the healthy meals you’re cooking up this week? How do you help yourself recover physically and mentally after a vacation?

Note: Any brands mentioned in this post are there simply because I’m a fan! I was not paid to mention any of these brands, and my opinions are 100% my own. 

August Goals

Happy Monday! I have to be honest… I really can’t believe it’s already August. This summer is flying by and I feel like I haven’t really taken advantage of all of my favorite parts of this season just yet! The good news is, I have some great vacations coming up this month.

Excited for excellent music jams with bae

Excited for excellent music jams with bae

On Thursday, I fly out to San Francisco for a few days. I’m going to Outside Lands and I’m super pumped to see some of the musicians appearing at the festival. I’ve seen a couple of the acts before, but for the most part I’ll be seeing these acts live for the first time, and I’m really excited about it. The other perk to this trip? The friend I’m visiting is totally supportive of my efforts to live a more balanced lifestyle, so we’re scheduling workouts throughout the vacation. This includes a Madonna-themed SoulCycle ride the night I arrive, complete with neon accessories. I’ve never met a theme I didn’t like, so I’m pumped for this!

I embrace any opportunity to wear fabulous hats.

I embrace any opportunity to wear fabulous hats.

Later in August, I’m heading to upstate New York with my parents to spend a long weekend at Saratoga Racetrack. This is one of the oldest race tracks in America and it’s one of my favorite vacation destinations! Saratoga Springs during racing season is a ton of fun. I grew up watching horse racing with my dad and I’ve only grown to appreciate it more as I got older. There’s so much history around the sport and I love getting caught up in the spectacle of it all – there’s really nothing like the energy of a live horse race. Best of all, it’s easy to keep gambling expenses low – I usually only bet a few dollars per race, but it’s enough to make me feel invested in the outcome. In addition to spending the days at the track, we have reservations at some amazing restaurants, so this will definitely be a vacation with lots of splurges. The good news: Saratoga is a very walkable city! We can walk from our hotel to most of our dinner destinations, and also from the hotel to the track. Additionally, the downtown area also has some lovely parks for running, so I should be able to fit in race training while I’m away.

Finally, I’m working on nailing down some plans for Labor Day weekend, hopefully involving a lake and a boat and some awesome friends. It’s nice to have something fun to cap off the summer, so I’m hoping things work out.

Given all of these plans, it’s important to set out my August goals in writing – so here we go!

august goals

  • Build my mileage back up. I definitely had a setback in my running due to my injury, so this month is all about getting those miles back under my belt!
  • Stick to a cross- and strength-training regimen. Regular pilates, yoga, and Studio Poise classes will help to keep me healthy and will make my running training go better, so I’m refocusing on this. Additionally, I need to get back into the habit of lunchtime gym visits at work to do some strength training to help prevent further injuries.
  • Eat clean as much as possible. I’m a realist and I know that I will want to splurge when I’m on vacation, so this month I need to focus on saving my “cheat days” for my trips. That means being smart about grocery shopping and meal planning. If I’m focused and disciplined throughout the month, I won’t have to worry as much when I’m on vacation – it’s all about balance.

What are your goals for August? Any fun plans to maximize the last few weeks of summer?