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my favorite things – part two

Welcome to Part Two of my favorite things!  I hope you enjoy.

Coconut

Mmmm…coconut!  Coconuts provide a nutritious source of meat, juice, milk, and oil that has fed and nourished populations around the world for generations.  Each part of the coconut can be used!  Coconut is rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals.  The meat, milk and oil do have fat, but once again, they are the good fat.  The type that your body uses to survive.

I love coconut!  I use unsweetened shredded coconut in my baking and sprinked on meals.  The oil is wonderful for baking as well!

Honey

Raw, unprocessed honey has been shown to be an antiseptic, antioxidant and cleansing property for our bodies.  It has powerful healing attributes that promote healing for cuts and scrapes.  It also works wonders on dry skin!

My favorite way to use honey is as an energy booster while on my long distance runs.  It has just the right amount of sugar to give you that extra push for the last few miles.  Plus, it is much more natural and healthier for you than all the energy gels out there.

Honey is also wonderful mixed in tea, used in place of sugar in baking, drizzled in stirfry’s and so much more!

Almond Butter

When choosing a nut butter, make sure to look at the ingredient list!  Many on store shelves contain high fructose corn syrup and a lot of sugar.  Choose all natural nut butters.  My favorite is almond butter – made up purely of almonds!

I enjoy almond butter the most, but any natural nut butters are delicious.  They provide you with healthy fats that will keep you satisfied for a long time.  It has been shown that people who eat nuts or nut butter often consume fewer calories throughout the day because they keep you satisfied.

Check out my info on almonds in Part One!

Hemp Seeds

Hemp is everywhere these days!  Hemp seeds, hemp milk, hemp protein powder…I love it all.  Hemp seeds are very high in soluable protein which makes them easy to digest.  They also contain all of the 9 essential amino acids that your body needs.  Essential amino acids are ones that the body cannot produce on its own.

Hemp protein powder is just ground hemp seeds.  I prefer hemp protein powder over others because of the way it makes me feel.  It does not cause bloating or gas as others do.

Add a tablespoon or two of hemp powder to your smoothie in the morning, or sprinkle some hemp seeds on your salads for a nutty crunch!

Quinoa

Quinoa is the seed of a plant, but many people think of it and use it as a grain in place of rice, pasta, etc.  Like hemp, quinoa is a complete protein containing all 9 essential amino acids that your body needs.  It also contains high levels of iron and magnesium, which will help your body feel more alert and will decrease your changes of developing hypertension or heart disease.

I absolutely love quinoa!  We cook with it a lot by adding it to stirfry’s, making quinoa burgers, adding it to salads and using it as a breakfast cereal.   You cannot go wrong.  Cook a big pot on Sunday night and eat it throughout the week!

Sea Salt

Too much salt is not good for anyone, but a little salt added to your baking and cooking will not cause you much harm.  Adding salt to your food can immensly add to the flavor, but season properly.  Only use what you need!  By cooking your own meals, you can control how much salt you are adding to a dish.  Restaurants and frozen meals use way to much salt!

The grayer the salt the better…and sea salt is much better for you than table salt.  Gray salt is minimally processed, while table salt is highly processed!

Bananas

Bananas could easily be my favorite food.  I love them in smoothies, oatmeal, spread with nut butter, eaten plain and on-the-go!  I love them for breakfast, with lunch, as a snack and sauteed with a little brown sugar for dessert.  I eat at least one banana almost everyday.

Luckily, bananas are good for you!  They contain tons of potassium, which helps to prevent high blood pressure, cramping (side-stitches) and restore your electrolyte balance.  They also help your body to absorb calcium.

I buy bananas in bulk.  I keep some on the counter to grab and go, but also keep a container in my freezer with frozen bananas for smoothies!

Pepitas

One of my favorite parts of the fall is carving pumpkins and roasting the seeds!  I sprinkle a little salt on top and pop them in the oven until slightly crispy – yum!  Well, you don’t have to wait until halloween rolls around to enjoy pumpkin seeds, just buy some pepitas.

Pepitas, or pumpkin seeds, are a nutritional powerhouse.  They contain high levels of magnesium, iron, protein and zinc amongst other things.  They also contain anti-inflamatory properties and can help to lower your cholesterol.

Try adding a tablespoon to your smoothies, salads, trail mix or sauteed veggies!

Dark Chocolate

Chocolate is made from cacao beans, which are the seeds of the cacao fruit.  Once removed from their pods, the beans taste like a bitter rich dark chocolate.  To get to the chocolate bars we eat today, those cacao beans are highly processed and mixed with a lot of sugar (and milk to make milk chocolate).  Check out more here.

Dark chocolate is the least processed, but make sure that you are buying chocolate that does not have many other ingredients added to it.  Most good, high quality dark chocolate is minimally processed, but you might need to pay a little more for it.  The darker the chocolate, the better.  Many bars only contain 50% cocoa or less!  Look for bars with a higher cocoa content.

Dark chocolate is my downfall.  I just love it!  The darker the better!  I read all of the ingredients before purchasing a bar, and try to buy organic when I can.  However, a little added sugar isn’t going to kill you!  (P.s…the Trader Joes dark chocolate bar pictured above is one of my favorites!)

Almond Milk

We all know by now that I love almonds…and almond milk is no different.  Almond milk is a healthy milk alternative.  It does not contain nearly as much protein as cow’s or soy milk, but I prefer the taste…and get my protein in other ways.  I prefer the Pacific Natural Foods brand because it does not contain any soy products.

There are hundreds of articles out there talking about why some milk substitutes are better than others, but I won’t bore you.  I just prefer the taste of almond milk over others!  I am planning to try to make my own one of these days.

Use almond milk as you would use any milk product – in cereal, oatmeal, smoothies or with cookies!

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That wraps up my favorite things.  I hope you enjoyed the small sampling of some of my favorites!

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how to open a coconut

We should all know by now that I love coconut.  It is great in stirfry’s, smoothies, oatmeal, trail mix, mixed with chocolate or anything else you can imagine.  I love it!

I buy unsweetened shredded and dried coconut in bulk, along with coconut water, coconut milk and coconut ‘ice cream’.

So, I thought it was about time that I try to open my own coconut.  I decided to go with a regular coconut over a young (baby) coconut that are so widely available nowadays.  Below is a step by step tutorial on how to open a coconut.

How to Open a Coconut

* you will need a coconut, hammer, nail and dish towel!

1.  Find the 3 ‘eyes’ on one end of your coconut.

2.  Take your hammer and nail, and make a hole in each of those ‘eyes’.

3.  Before smashing open the coconut, you’ll want to drain our all of the juice inside.  Tip your coconut over and place onto a cup, bowl, etc in order to drain.  (I ended up needing to shake the coconut a little bit in order to get the juice flowing.)

4.  You will end up with a cup of juice/water and your empty coconut.

**Unfortunately, at this point I realized that my coconut was bad!  I was so bummed considering that I just bought it a few days ago.  This goes to show what happens when produce needs to travel from Mexico!  But, I kept going with the process to show you guys what to do.

5.  Now, take your coconut and wrap it in a dish towel, or another towel you won’t mind washing!  At this point, I moved to my floor because I did not want to end up smashing my counter. 🙂

6.  Take your hammer and SMASH the coconut!  It took me a few good wacks until I ended up with this.

There you have it!  Delicious coconut meat!

See how it is a little brown in there?  Definitely a sign of a rotten coconut. 😦  I’ll try again sometime soon, though!

Do what you wish with the coconut meat – pop it in a smoothie, cut it up and eat it as is, dry it for trail mix – the possibilities are endless!

Enjoy.

off to the big apple

Today is the day!  We are headed down to NYC for my half marathon weekend of fun!  The plan for tomorrow is to take it easy, but to spend the entire day outside because it is going to be 70°F.  70 degrees on the first day of spring – I hope this means that we will have an awesome spring.

This morning, I started my day with some homemade coconut butter!  I toasted up 2 pieces of my Cherry, Peach toast and spread a thin layer of the coconut butter and raspberry jam.  This is easily my favorite combination.  So good.

Along with my toast, I had a white grapefruit.  It was great.

And some tea – I was so sleepy this morning!

Lunch time came around quickly today, but I was starving.  We are out of veggies in the house, so I made do with what we had.  A whole wheat mini pita slathered with spinach & artichoke hummus and a large helping of spouts.

On the side, Fage 2% greek yogurt with granola and banana.  And, a POM spritzer – 1/2 pomegranate juice, 1/2 seltzer water.  This bottle was about 1/3 full, so I just filled it up with seltzer.

The afternoon also flew by!  I didn’t even have time for an afternoon snack!  I guess that’s what happens when you take a day off in the middle of the week.  For dinner, we needed something quick since we were heading out.  So, I stopped at Chipotle!

I know, not the best food, but by far one of the best ‘fast food’ places around here.  I did hear a T.V. segment about Chipotle a few weeks ago and found out that the owner really cares about what type of food he is giving his customers!  They use organic foods and try to buy as much as they can from local farmers – I love that!  Plus, they have a decent vegetarian option, which does not happen all that often with fast food.  I wish we had a great veggie place around here!  They also have a great website with all of the nutritional information for their products, and how they cook the products (steamed, in oil, etc.).

Anyways, I got the Vegetarian Salad/Burrito Bowl.  In the bowl, I had them put romaine lettuce, a small scoop of chipotle-lime rice, fajita veggies (peppers & onions), black beans, fresh tomato salsa, corn salsa and guacamole.  They seriously have the best guac!

This was delicious!  I was in need of some colorful veggies for the day!  Check out all the guac they threw on here.

Super delicious, full of good nutrients, veggies and greens.  Just because it’s fast food doesn’t mean it is necessarily bad for you.  You just need to pick and choose the places that you go to, and pick and choose from the products they serve.

I knew that I would eventually want something sweet on our ride tonight and I could picture myself digging into the snack bag I packed for the weekend, so instead I whipped up some Banana Softserve for the road.  Same as the other night, which melty chocolate PB drizzled on top.

See you from NYC!

homemade coconut butter

How gorgeous was it out today in Boston?!  I had the day off from work, and loved every second I could be outside.  It was a busy day, but I made the most of it.

I started the day with a big bowl of oats that I was craving when I woke up.

Yup!  That’s right – time for another round of oats-in-an-almost-empty-jar!  In my favorite chocolate peanut butter jar!

I used to eat this everyday, and got really really sick of it.  It tasted better than it has ever tasted today – so glad I took some time off. 🙂

In the mix today:

  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup oatbran
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 mashed banana
  • 1 tbsp ground flax

On the top:

So sad that these 2 favorite nut butters are gone!!  But, they made for a delicious bowl of oats in a jar.

Mid-morning, I did an easy 4 mile run.  I’m gearing up for my half marathon on Sunday and trying not too push it too hard.  My legs are itching to run – hopefully they can wait until Sunday!

After my run, I stopped at Tealuxe for study time.  I snacked on a raw granola bar and a guava kombucha, along with some Lady Londonderry tea from Tealuxe.

This bar was great!  Loved the chocolate coconut flavor, and loved the chewiness of it.

Paired perfectly with my kombucha.

Kombucha is a handmade Chinese tea that is delicately cultured for 30 days.  During this time, essential nutrients form like: active enzymes, viable probiotics, amino acids, antioxidants and polyphenols.  All of these combine to create an elixer that immediately works with the body to restore balance and vitality.  Probiotics are great for digestive health and the antioxidants are great for boosting your immune system.

It has a fizzy taste which I love, but don’t love the strands of the cultures!  I just close my eyes when I drink it. 🙂  This is the only brand I have tried and I love it.  You can by them at Whole Foods.

Once home, I snacked on a pretzel while I made a smoothie for lunch.

In my smoothie, I put the following:

  • 1.5 bananas
  • 1 cup frozen cherries
  • 2 tbsp hemp protein powder
  • 2 tbsp hemp seeds
  • 1 scoop Chocolate Amazing Grass (I needed more greens today!)
  • 2 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 1 tsp maca
  • handful spinach
  • 1 cup almond milk

Served with my new glass straw!  It was lovely.

The pretzel that I snacked on was from Uncle Jerry’s.  I received a few bags to test out a few weeks ago, and I just got around to trying one!  I still have the Whole Wheat to sample at a later date.  I loved this sourdough pretzel!  All of Uncle Jerry’s pretzels are fat free, made without oil, shortening, or sweeteners of any kind.  And, no preservatives.

The only ingredients in these guys are the following: unbleached wheat flour, water, sourdough, yeast, salt and soda.  Perfect.  Very salty, though.

Then, I got to work making some Coconut Butter that HEAB suggested!

Into the food processor went 1 quart of unsweetened, unsulphered shredded coconut.

Then, I just hit ‘ON’ and watched…

and watched…

and was amazed when it worked!

It is definitely a little grittier and not as sweet as Artisana’s coconut butter, but like HEAB said, for $2 for my shredded coconut (and $11 for a jar of Artisana), I can deal with it.  Plus, I poured it right into my empty Artisana jar. 🙂

Time for dinner and packing – half marathon, here I come!

fun brews and eats

What an awesome day today!  It was so gorgeous and sunny out, that we knew we needed to spend some time outside.  I skipped a workout so that we could head up to Portsmouth, NH for the day!  It was so much fun to just spend the day exploring with no schedule – I loved it.

Our first stop was the Red Hook Brewery, so I knew I needed a snack on the way to soak up the beer. 🙂

After about an hour drive from Boston, we arrived at the brewery!

It was pretty crowded inside for it being such a nice day out!

We started with a tasting, while we waited for our tour to start.  Their tasting menu consisted of 5 different beers -Long Hammer IPA, Slim Chance Light Beer, ESB Original Ale, Copperhead Ale and Oatmeal Stout.

Long Hammer IPA

This was good.  Normally, I don’t care for IPA’s, but this one was not nearly as hoppy as many others I have tried.  Brant loves IPA’s, so he was in heaven. 🙂

Slim Chance Light Beer

Neither of us really cared for this beer.  It was okay, and definitely better than other light beers I have tried, but if I am going to drink beer I want something better and more flavorful!

ESB Original Brew

Apparently, this is the beer that made Red Hook famous!  I did not love it because of it’s slightly bitter taste.  Brant liked it though…

Copperhead Ale – Spring Seasonal Brew

Loved this one!  We both did.  It was flavorful and not too hoppy.

Oatmeal Stout

Surprisingly, this was my absolute favorite!  I always stay away from heavier, darker beers for no good reason except that I assume I won’t like them.  But, this was awesome!

We definitely did not have a problem drinking everything, even the beer we didn’t like!

Time for the brewery tour!

This was a pretty short tour that walked us through the different stages of the brewing and bottling process, then brought us into a tasting room to try some beer.

First up were the brew tanks, where the hops and malts pass through several different stages.

Once the beer is made, it sits in these enormous tanks for at least 2 weeks to ferment.

The bottom of the tanks.

The beer is then bottled in this huge room.  It takes about 4 minutes for a bottle to go through the whole process (add the beer, label, cap, etc.) and only 2-3 people run the whole process because the machines do everything!

On to the tasting room, where we tried the IPA, Copperhead, ESB and Oatmeal Stout again – yum!

Our tour guide.

And us!

We mailed some postcards to our family’s from the brewery.  They encourage this and actually give out postcards and stamps!

After the tour we headed to downtown Portsmouth for a super late lunch and to walk around in the gorgeous weather!  We decided on The Works Bakery Cafe for some quick and healthy sandwiches.

It was cute inside, and surprisingly pretty busy for 3:30pm!

I decided on the special panini of the day – Provolone Artichoke Panini.

It was delicious!  Not oily, like many panini’s are.  They use homemade pesto and all fresh ingredients.

After lunch, we took a stroll around town and stopped at a chocolate shop for a coffee and some treats!

I decided on a Chocolate Coconut Haystack, and Brant got a turtle!

As expected, I dug right in and they were both awesome!

It was an awesome day!  We made it home and I will be having a super light dinner, if anything at all, due to our very late lunch and my tummy full of beer!

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Thank goodness it’s Friday! I’m ready for the weekend to begin.

I started my friday with some oats.  Due to the special occasion (it being friday and all), I added some fun toppings.

I used Steel Cut Oats today, since I am out of my favorite rolled oats.  I loved the steel cut oats.  They have a different texture, more like oatbran and I like it.

Steel cut oats are minimally processed.  They do not have to go through steaming or rolling, like rolled oats due.  For this reason, they also take longer to cook, but it’s worth the wait.  A normal pot of steel cut oats can take about 20-30 minutes to cook, but I bought these quick & easy steel cut oats to make on weekdays before work.  They only cook for 5-7 minutes and come out great.

One serving is 1/4 cup, which contains 150 calories.

I added a super ripe banana and 1/2 tbsp of chia seeds to my oats while they were cooking.  I like whipping in the banana to create banana oats without any chunks.

On top of my oatmeal I put 3 special ingredients:

The Nuttzo is so crunchy!

With some Birthday Tea, for fun.

Check out the sprinkles!

Lunch

I’ve been working like crazy today, so I didn’t break out my lunch until almost 3!  So late for me!!

Luckily, I brought a homemade salad with arugula, peppers, Valdosta pecans and goldenberries.

My second course was Honey Chobani with homemade granola!

Good thing I took pictures this morning, because lunch was gone in no time!

Dinner

Brant made me a pre-Valentine’s day dinner tonight.  It was delicious!

Lemon Gnocchi with Spinach and Peas

from Epicurious.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup frozen baby peas (not thawed)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (he used 1% milk)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 3 cups packed baby spinach
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 pound dried gnocchi
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan

Directions:

  • Simmer peas with cream, red-pepper flakes, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 12-inch heavy skillet, covered, until tender, about 5 minutes.

  • Add spinach and cook over medium-low heat, uncovered, stirring, until wilted. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest and juice.

  • Meanwhile, cook gnocchi in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (3 tablespoons salt for 6 quarts water) until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta-cooking water, then drain gnocchi.
  • Add gnocchi to sauce with cheese and some of reserved cooking water and stir to coat. Thin with additional cooking water if necessary.

Served with some delicious wine given to us by my parents for Christmas 2008!  Oopss!

Dinner was delicious.  I forget how good gnocchi is.  I loved that this wasn’t super creamy (because he didn’t use the cream) and I could taste the lemon zest.

And, Brant brought me a rose and chocolate!  Yahoo!  What a great guy. 🙂

More of my new favorite chocolate to try!

Happy Friday!!

crazy day

Wow!  It has been a crazy day!

Breakfast was delicious.  I tried some new Food for Life bread toasted with 1/2 nut butter and 1/2 jam while I was running out of the house this morning to catch the T.

It was a Raisin Pecan bread.  Not my favorite, but definitely not bad.  It is gluten free, so is a bit denser and I could not taste raisins or pecans, but maybe it was due to my toppings?  I’ll give it another shot sometime. 🙂  I like their ezekiel and millet breads much better.

The toppings on my toast were the best part!  1/2 was my homemade Chocolate Cinnamon Pecan Hazelnut Butter.

The other half was awesome!  I spread a thin layer of Artisana Coconut Butter and topped it with Raspberry Jam (Crofter’s Asia Superfruit Spread)!  A delicious combination!

How good does that look?!  It’s basically dessert, but next time I will try it on my favorite Millet toast!

I grabbed some tea while running out the door as well – Tea Gschwendner’s Oriental Moon.  It’s great.  I love the faint taste and smell of anise.

My T ride to work was pretty painless.  I loved being able to read my book and not worry about traffic.

It was such a crazy day, that I didn’t get to snap pictures of lunch.  I just scarfed it down!  That is one reason why I always bring lunch and snacks with me.  Sometimes when you get to busy, it is easy to skip a meal.  But, then you are starving by your next meal time and normally end up eating way to much!  I always have some type of snack with me, just in case!!  Plus, by bringing my own healthy snacks, it keeps me away from the vending machine during those 3pm snack cravings.

I went for a quick 45 minute / 5 mile run tonight while my hubby cooked us dinner!

After my run, I chugged some Emergen-C to keep that cold away!

Emergen-C is great, especially the Cranberry Pomegranate.  Lots of vitamin C and B vitamins to give your immune system a boost.  Perfect when you feel a cold coming on, or after a late night out. 🙂

Then it was dinner time!  The menu for the night was Double Broccoli Quinoa.  We just happened to have a huge bag of broccoli in our fridge to use up and we love this simple and delicious recipe.

Broccoli pesto.

With pasta tonight, since the grain supply is low…

With some wine.

I was still hungry after this pasta.  Me and pasta don’t always work because I rarely feel full!  So, I made dessert a little more nutritious – Chocolate Greek Yogurt topped with a Super Charge Me cookie.  YUM!

Love this yogurt!  I cannot wait to try the caramel flavor (Whole Foods has a $1 off coupon for Oikos in their Whole Deal Flyer until March 31st)!  I will be stocking up.  They are the perfect dessert size – 110 calories, 10 grams of protein, 17 grams of carbs and 16 grams of sugar.  Not bad for dessert or a post workout snack!