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!

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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. 

Web Roundup 2

It gets hard to blog about fitness when you’re buried under snow drifts and feel like the world is ending. Did you guys know that Boston is buried under unprecedented amounts of snow right now, with more in the forecast? Yeah, that’s a thing. My workouts lately have consisted of shoveling, shoveling, and more shoveling. Lifting and tossing shovels of snow onto snow piles that are taller than you is a killer abs and oblique workout, in case you were wondering. I’ve been taking lots of personal days to take advantage of the snow, and have to say that the skiing this year is fantastic, so as long as I focus on that I don’t get too cranky. I’m heading out to Stratton this weekend for a few more days, and I’ll be packing lots of technical base layers, because the projected high for Sunday is negative 24 degrees with wind chill. That’s… I don’t even know. I don’t think those are real numbers. I can’t process it.

Anyway, sorry again for the lack of blogging. On top of the weather nightmare, which has resulted in lots of fitness class cancellations, I had to have another series of biopsies this week after seeing my dermatologist. She took samples from two spots on my neck – one possible basal cell, another showing possible signs of melanoma – and the positioning of the spots meant that wearing any bra, let alone a sports bra, was pretty much impossible. Without a reliable way to rein in the girls, there wouldn’t be any cardio for me for a few days while the biopsies heal. Luckily, I got the results back (in record time – props to the dermatology lab at Brigham & Womens!) and both spots are benign, so I have that good news to carry me into the weekend.

Since I don’t have much original content to share, I want to instead point you to some of the awesome things floating around out there on the interwebs these past few weeks. Without further ado, here’s my latest installment of the best of the web!

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What’s the true cost of industrialized meat production? The New York Times published an investigation into research practices overseen by the Department of Agriculture. Warning: this article is definitely not for the faint of heart, but it does expose some truly repulsive practices in pursuit of maximizing profits. Just another argument in favor of seeking out humane sources for meat- investigate your local farms!

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I really, really can’t stand the term “diet.” I haven’t written much about it on this blog, but anytime I’ve tried to hold myself to a restrictive diet – the Jenny Craig program, Atkins, Paleo, whatever – it hasn’t ended well. Imposing too many rules ends up really messing with my head and I find that I set myself up for failure, and I’ve had much more success just seeking for balance and overall healthier choices in my eating and in my activities. Dr. Linda Shanti over at Eating Disorders Blogs tackled this subject last year; a friend of mine shared the link on Facebook and I wanted to pass it along. Dr. Shanti writes about how diets contribute to disordered eating, and I personally found her writing to be a helpful perspective that resonated strongly with my own experiences.

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I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I am still very much an aspiring runner. I’ve done a few races, and I’ve committed to running a half marathon in October 2015, but I’m still getting the hang of the right way to train. Amanda Brooks recently shared some tips for post-run stretching over at her blog, Run to the Finish, and I bookmarked it as a handy resource. I all to often feel tempted to skip the post-run aftercare, but as I start training for longer distances I know that it’s going to be more important than ever to take care of my body and take the necessary steps to keep everything in working order. This post focuses on IT bands and hips, which is where I’ve had tightness and soreness in the past after races, so it’s a good thing for me to understand!

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Breakfast is the most challenging meal of the day for me. I’m always in a rush to get out the door. Smoothies are a go-to in warmer months, but with the winter tundra greeting me every morning, the last thing I want is to be holding a frozen beverage as I’m heading to work. The MyFitnessPal blog recently shared a post with fifteen healthy breakfast options for on-the-go people, and it instantly became a Pinterest staple. There’s a great variety represented in this post – sweet and savory, eggs, oatmeals, yogurt options, you name it. I know that when I fall into a rut of having the same thing every day, I’m more likely to feel tempted to splurge on a bagel or muffin from the coffee shop when I start to feel bored. Make sure to switch up your meals often so that you keep a rotation of fresh, healthy foods in your diet!

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Did I mention that I live in Boston? Specifically in the band along the coast that keeps getting hit hardest in all of these storms? I’ve been working from home a lot, and my local fitness studios have been forced to cancel classes, so that has meant a lot of at-home workouts. Shoveling has provided the bulk of my cardio, but a girl needs some variety. I have a lot of DVDs to choose from but sometimes I like to add something new into the mix! This FitSugar video is a forty-minute follow along bodyweight workout that doesn’t require any equipment and doesn’t take up a ton of space. It’s definitely getting added to my rotation of hotel workouts for when I’m traveling, too!

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How do you stay active when you’re snowed in? Any tips for surviving the winter storm blues? 

My first Boston Organics delivery!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I recently signed up for Boston Organics home produce delivery. I got my first box on Saturday – delayed a day thanks to the totally ridiculous snow getting dumped on us here in Boston – and I wanted to share some of the awesome recipes I’ve been experimenting with.

I ordered the Dogma Box, which only sends locally sourced produce. Since it’s February and I live in New England, that meant a lot of root vegetables, which is fine by me! The box included beets, carrots, and potatoes – all awesome for winter roasting.

However, the box also included some ingredients that I haven’t worked with before – which was exciting for me, because I love a challenge in the kitchen. For instance, I had no idea what this particular vegetable was:

You're not a potato... I don't think you're a turnip... Google, help!

You’re not a potato… I don’t think you’re a turnip… Google, help!

Fortunately, the box comes with a list of ingredients, so with the list in hand and a few quick Google image searches, I was able to determine that it was a daikon radish. The wheels started turning… daikon radish and carrots – perfect for pickling! I am a huge fan of banh mi sandwiches but don’t live or work near any restaurants that make a good version. So – why not give it a try at home?

I've got big plans for you guys!

I’ve got big plans for you guys!

Banh mi is traditionally served on french bread, but I found a recipe for banh mi tacos that caught my eye. Corn tortillas have a longer shelf life than the rolls from my local bakery, so this was a better option to prep ahead for my lunches all week. I used the same blogger’s recipe for the pickled vegetables, and they came out great. I used rice wine vinegar for my pickles, and definitely recommend it over plain old white vinegar. If you haven’t used this ingredient before, give it a try!

For the pork, I stuck pretty close to the recipe. I omitted the lemongrass (because I forgot to grab some when I was at Whole Foods – not for any preferential reason!), and when I chopped the jalapeno, I removed half of the seeds to cut back on the spice. The finished product was still pretty spicy, so if you like things more mild, I’d be even more conservative with this particular ingredient. I put it all in my slow cooker on low Sunday morning… and promptly forgot about it because there were slightly more exciting things happening that day. I remembered it after the game, after about 12 hours on low, and it wasn’t any worse for wear. The pork was still perfectly tender, and the sauce was dark and full-flavored. Yum!

Banh mi is great because it’s packed with flavor and offers a great contrast of textures – the crispness of the pickled vegetables counters the tender, flavorful pork. There’s something so satisfying about sitting down to enjoy a meal when you’ve put the work into making it, and knowing that you chose good ingredients to fuel your body.

I love that this produce delivery is pushing my boundaries in the kitchen. I’m on my second work-from-home day this week, courtesy of the snow burying my car, and in addition to answering emails, I’ll also be devoting some time to making sunchoke and celeriac soup. These two ingredients also came in my delivery, and I’ve never used either of them before, so I’m excited to see how it goes! I’ll report back later this week on the results.

Do you like to experiment with new ingredients? Any recommendations for other ways to use these vegetables? Let me know in the comments!

If you’re interested in giving Boston Organics a try, use my referral code for 10% off your first delivery! Enter “8657bod11b” when signing up for your first delivery. Disclaimer: This is an affiliate link – I’ll also receive 10% off for any new customers that sign up. However, Boston Organics is not paying me to write about their service, and I pay for my own delivery boxes. 

Introducing: Web Roundups

I’m super excited to roll out this new biweekly feature on Being Your Change. I spend a lot of time on the internet, and I’m constantly saving things that I find interesting. The problem is, I save them all over the place! I retweet fitness and health related tweets, I pin interesting recipes and posts, and I use Bloglovin’ to save things that I don’t share elsewhere. I have the best intentions of eventually sharing them with you all, but without a dedicated post to do just that, they often end up getting lost!

So, every other week, I’ll share some of the posts that I found and enjoyed. I’ll try to keep them current, but I do often stumble on older articles or resources when I’m killing time on ye olde interwebs, so there may be a golden oldie in here from time to time.

So, without further ado, here they are – the links I’m digging this week!

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The Power of Dinner Templates, from The Kitchn: This post is from a relatively new series on The Kitchn, “Loving Food While Losing Weight,” authored by Joy Manning. I highly recommend reading through all of Joy’s posts, as the content is really wonderful. This particular post resonated with me because it’s such a realistic way to meal plan. Joy’s “dinner template” idea is just what it sounds like – a very basic guideline to use that keeps grocery shopping and cooking fairly simple. My favorite template? A rice bowl – brown rice with some sort of protein (chicken, tofu, beef), whatever veggies I have on hand (either a stir fry, or roasted veggies leftover from another meal, etc) and a healthy fat (sometimes I make a greek yogurt sauce; other times I add avocado).

24 nutrition-based infographics, shared by Pulptastic: Thanks to Buzzfeed, there’s a crazy proliferation of listicle-based sites floating around. I had never heard of Pulptastic until this week, when a friend on Facebook shared this list of infographics. Each image alone is worth saving, and the collection taken as a whole is super valuable. Definitely worth checking this out and pinning your favorites! Many of the images are reposted from health and fitness websites or magazines, so they’re from reliable sources.

30 minute total body circuit workout from Housewife Glamour: Heather’s blog is one of my favorites to follow, and this circuit workout has all the signs of a soon-to-be-favorite for me! It requires dumbbells or a resistance band, and it’s the perfect length for sneaking in a workout over my lunch hour. The building that houses my office opened a very basic gym that’s free for anyone who works here, and this is just the type of routine that will work well in that space. If I’m feeling ambitious, I might add some cardio to this to extend the workout a bit, but it’s also great as written. Best of all, Heather’s a personal trainer, and she provides great explanation on how to do each move, how to modify if need be, and demonstrates form. There’s nothing worse than finding a great workout printable only to realize you’re not sure how to do some of the steps!

Crock pot steel cut oatmeal, from Carrots ‘n Cake: Where has this recipe been all my life?! I love oatmeal but I hate the instant packets, and I don’t have time to make it on the stove in the morning. Since I started making steel cut oats in my crock pot, though, my breakfast has been on pointThis recipe, from Tina’s blog (another one of my fitness faves!), is a really basic starting point. I mix it up a little, using half almond milk and half water instead of all water, but the basic ratios and timing is about the same. These come out super thick and delicious! I also like adding some vanilla extract, cinnamon, and nutmeg while they’re cooking; not only does it taste great, but your house will smell amazing.

A Race to the Front Row, from the New York Times: I’ve never been to a Soul Cycle class, so this article came as a total surprise to me – and frankly, turned me off of the studio. This article, discussing the competition to get coveted front row spots at some fitness classes and what the position signifies, made me feel even more grateful for the awesome fitness communities I’m a part of. I will admit that I prefer to stand in the front row for my favorite Zumba classes, but it’s not out of some twisted sense of superiority – frankly I like that it’s close to a fan and it’s easier to dash across the front of the room to the bathroom if nature calls in the middle of a Pitbull song! Have any of you ever experienced this sort of front row madness?

What types of links would you like me to feature in future round ups? Any favorite blogs or websites that I should add to my list of regularly visited sites? Let me know in the comments!

Friday Favorites 12/12

Did anyone else notice the subject line of J. Crew’s promo email yesterday morning? “News Flash: You have 2 weeks to get gifts.” Great, thanks very much for that reminder, kind folks at J. Crew. I definitely wasn’t already stressed out about how quickly time is flying by or anything like that. Nope, no panic to be seen here.

I confess, I’m having a hard time really embracing the holiday vibe this year. I’m hoping that all changes this weekend, though. I’ve got plans to bake Christmas cookies tomorrow with some family, and on Sunday my mom and I are taking my grandmother to Wayside Inn to celebrate her 91st birthday. We spent a lot of holidays there when I was growing up, but it’s been well over ten years since I’ve been out there, so I’m looking forward to it.

To help me get into the spirit, I’m making today’s Friday Favorites holiday-themed and sharing all of my favorite ways to get into the Christmas spirit. Once again, I’m joining with Heather @ Housewife Glamour, Katie @ Running4Cupcakes, and Clare @Fitting It All In for today’s link up. Make sure to check out these awesome hosts and show some love to the other bloggers joining in this link up!

Favorite Christmas Song

It’s not Christmas until I hear this song for the first time… and then proceed to play it every day, sometimes multiple times a day, until the tree comes down and I concede that the season has past. Few things bring a smile to my face like this version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

Favorite Christmas Cookie

Pizzelles were the very first cookie I ever learned how to make. My grandmother had the iron pictured in this recipe, and we would make stacks and stacks of these cookies every Christmas. I don’t have the faintest idea why my grandmother, who came from 100% Irish stock, owned a pizzelle iron, or why she started making these cookies, but she passed the tradition along to me. When I was in high school, our heavy iron cookie press broke, and we bought one of the nonstick versions, but the cookies were never the same. The nonstick cookie iron couldn’t get the cookies thin and crunchy enough for my taste, so I stopped making them. Earlier this year, though, a mysterious package arrived without warning at our doorstep; my uncle had found a replacement for our original, amazing pizzelle iron. I scoured the internet to find the original recipe we followed and I cannot wait to make these this weekend!

Favorite Christmas Movie

This is a tough one – White Christmas came in a close second. But I have loved A Christmas Carol ever since I first read it as a child, and the Muppet version is second to none in my book when it comes to holiday movie entertainment. I knew I had found friends for life when my Mudderella teammates and dear friends confessed to sharing my deep, undying love for Gonzo as Charles Dickens, and last week we gathered together to kick off the season with wine, brie, and a laughter-filled showing of this holiday classic.

Favorite Homemade Christmas Treat

I can’t remember how I first stumbled across this recipe for bourbon spiced pecans, but they’ve become my go-to homemade holiday treat. I have been known to buy out the entire stock of pecans at my local Whole Foods in order to make these nuts, and I give them out to friends, coworkers, and as hostess gifts when attending holiday parties. I like to add more spices than what’s called for in the recipe – I particularly like ginger and nutmeg as well as cinnamon – and the easiest method is to make a huge batch of the spiced sugar at the outset, rather than measuring everything out for each batch. Pour a tasty bourbon cocktail to sip while you’re cooking and you’re good to go!

What are some of your favorite things at this time of year? How are you getting in the spirit? 

 

Festive Starbucks Swaps

Confession time: I am a sucker for the Starbucks red cups.

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I anxiously await the rollout of the holiday cups every year, because they signify the return of my favorite indulgences – gingerbread and eggnog lattes. I love these coffee options, but I also know that they are so unspeakably bad for me. This year, I set out to find a way to enjoy the flavors of the season without completely destroying my healthy eating habits.

I always order my gingerbread latte with nonfat milk and request no whipped cream, but the gingerbread syrup still packs a wallop. A grande nonfat, no-whip gingerbread latte clocks in at 200 calories and an insane 36 grams of sugar. WHAT?! My Fitness Pal recommends no more than 50g  of sugar on a daily basis, and I try to avoid anything with added sugar – usually my sugar macros come from natural sources, like fruit.

The good news? The gingerbread syrup is so strongly flavored that you don’t need the full amount to get the flavor of the drink. If you’re at Starbucks, you can request one or two pumps of syrup instead of the full amount, which will dramatically reduce the sugar content. OR, you can ask about buying a bottle of the syrup to take home! The bottles retail for $12.95 and will last you all season. Stores aren’t always able to sell the syrup to customers, as it depends on how much they have in stock, but you can also order the bottles through Starbucks’ online store. I own a Verismo, the Starbucks-branded at-home latte machine, and I make my latte using half a tablespoon of gingerbread syrup. Along with the milk and espresso pods, my latte comes in at only 9 grams of sugar – 75% less than the in-store version, and just as satisfying.

I’m also a huge sucker for the eggnog latte. Starbucks tried to remove these from the menu this year, and the backlash was so strong that they re-added this drink to the holiday options after only a few days. Starbucks makes this drink with a ratio of 2/3 eggnog and 1/3 skim milk; this recipe results in a drink that clocks in at 460 calories and 48 grams of sugar for a grande. Ouch. When I order the drink in the store, I ask them for 1/3 eggnog and 2/3 skim milk, which helps, but the reality is that eggnog is such an unhealthy treat that the drink is still a calorie and sugar bomb. I limit myself to one a season, and enjoy it for all it’s worth.

To enjoy eggnog options at home with less guilt, I turn to So Delicious Vegan Eggnog. I love So Delicious products; their unsweetened coconut milk is a staple in my pantry. This eggnog is coconut milk based. It’s still in the treat category, with 14 grams of sugar in a 1/2 cup serving, but at 90 calories per serving and 3 grams of fat, it’s a significantly better choice than the average dairy-based eggnog. I like to use a splash of this in my coffee and top with a grating of fresh nutmeg to get that holiday vibe without the full indulgence of the Starbucks version.

What are some of your favorite holiday treats? Any other tips for enjoying a holiday indulgence with less guilt? 

Disclaimer: I did not receive payment for any of the products mentioned here – they’re things I love, but no one asked me to write about them!