Thursday, March 31, 2011

And Off We Go

The toddler and I are off today to visit my dad and my family.

The only suitcase I had was about 10 years old and was about to fall apart. I decided to buy a suitcase that would stand out. Unfortunately, all the suitcases were black or blue. Except for the one I picked. Yes, I know that it’s a bit “loud,” but I wanted to be able to find it easily…

I don’t know if/how often I will be able to post while I’m gone. A few weeks ago, I started a blog on tumblr, and I will try to update it with short photo posts, which are easier to do than posts for this blog. So check out my tumblr blog if you are interested in what we are up to.  I also hope to post on this blog a few times. Plus, hubby has agreed to do some guest posts for me. It’s really my way to keep tabs on his eats. I’m a bit worried that he may resort to less than healthy foods, and showing some of his eats on the blog will hopefully motivate him to make healthy choices! Won’t it, Hubby?!!!?!! Winking smile

Be well,

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Easy, No-Plan Dinners

I’m a meal planner, but lately, I haven’t been planning much. Yet, we’ve been eating healthy foods. I have found that the key to healthy meals without planning is a well stocked pantry and freezer and plenty of fresh veggies.

Here is what I always keep in my pantry:
  • Grains (quinoa, brown rice, “mixed ancient grains,” oatmeal)
  • Legumes (black beans, chickpeas, lentils)
  • Pasta (brown rice)
  • Canned wild salmon and tuna
  • Plenty of spices, different vinegars, and olive oils
And here is what’s always in my freezer:
  • Wild salmon
  • Veggies
  • Fruit (including plenty of frozen bananas, cut into small pieces, to make banana soft serve for dessert)
  • Alvarado St. Bread (I buy two loaves at Costco, and I always freeze one)
And here is what’s always in my fridge:
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Condiments and sauces (organic ketchup, different mustards, soy sauce, gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)…)
  • Plenty of veggies and tofu (from our CSA box as well as from Farmers’ Market trips)
What have we been eating, you ask? I haven’t been taking a lot of pics of our food, but here are some recent meals, making use of what was in our pantry, freezer and fridge. No planning necessary! Smile

Brown rice with stir fried veggies (onions, carrots, kale, and celery) and tofu

Grilled salmon with lemon juice and dill with asparagus with lemon juice

Brown rice pasta with spinach, tomatoes, and leftover grassfed beef sausages

Questions: Are you a meal planner? I usually am, but I actually like that my non planning has been working out! What are some of your pantry/freezer/fridge staples? 

Be well,

Monday, March 28, 2011

Weekend Adventures

We had a certificate for a free two-night stay in San Luis Obispo, and to celebrate the end of the quarter, we used it this past weekend. It was nice to get away and spend some quality, wireless time together. On the way, we stopped in Paso Robles; we (well, mainly hubby as I was the designated driver most of the time) really enjoyed the wine and beer tasting that we did. And the toddler loved hanging out with some goats and farm animals! Both cities have a quiet, low key feel, and it really felt like we were getting away. Just what we needed!

Question: What was the highlight of your weekend? What was the best thing you ate? I had some awesome salads (greens and roasted veggies with grilled salmon, a mixed salad with feta cheese, and a salad with a citrus dressing and grilled tuna). I make lots of salads at home, but it’s not that easy to find great salads in restaurants. I felt very lucky that all the salads were great. Two of the salads were at Odyssey World Café in Paso Robles and the other one at Firestone Grill in San Luis Obispo. We definitely hope to go back to both places in the future.

Be well,

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What to Do With Too Many Ripe Bananas?

Well, you could of course always cut them into small pieces, freeze them, and then make a delicious frozen banana treat. That’s what I usually do. Or you could make banana bread. And that’s what I decided to make over the weekend.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I’m not a baker. I love to cook because my experiments usually work out. However, when it comes to baking, it’s usually a good idea to follow a recipe exactly, and that’s were I have trouble…

Lately, I have actually been experimenting more when it comes to baking, and surprisingly most of my experiments have been working out. One thing I have been doing is replacing the oil or butter in recipes with applesauce. I know that’s nothing new, and I have been reading about the apple sauce-for-oil-or-butter substitution for a long time.

One of the reasons I am trying to eliminate the oil or butter in recipes is that I can’t eat a lot of fat because of my gallstones, and the applesauce actually makes many baked goods nice and moist. It does change the texture and taste somewhat, so I think everyone has to experiment with what they like… Also, it’s always an option to replace only part of the oil or butter with applesauce and not the entire amount called for. In the banana bread I made, I replaced all the butter with apple sauce, but there is still fat in the recipe because it contains two whole eggs.

The banana bread I ended up making was a mixture (and substitution of several ingredients) of several recipes I have made over the years, and it turned out really well. It really tasted like bananas and was very moist, not too sweet, and had some “substance” due to the whole wheat flour. We loved it. Plus, it tasted even better on Day 2, 3, and 4!

Low-Fat Banana Bread

  • 3/4 cup sugar (use up to 1 cup if you like your banana bread quite sweet)
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • 4 very ripe bananas, smashed, but still chunky
  • 3 Tsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Pour the sugar and apple sauce in a bowl and mix well.
  3. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix.
  4. Add the smashed bananas.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the baking powder and flour and mix well.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix.
  7. Pour the batter in a greased 9x5 baking pan.
  8. Bake for about 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Prep Time: 65 minutes
Servings: 12

What makes banana bread even better? How about some Justin’s Chocolate Almond Butter?!? It was delicious! The picture I took of my slice of banana bread with the chocolate almond butter looked less than pretty however, so I’m not going to spoil your appetite! Smile  

Questions: Do you like to bake? “Can” you follow a recipe? Do you ever make healthy substitutions to recipes? If so, what are they? 

Be well,

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How to Stay Focused on Being Healthy When Life Gets Tough

[Note: I wrote this post yesterday, exactly four weeks after my dad was diagnosed with cancer. My sister called me yesterday, and we talked about how difficult this has been for all of us, but we also made a conscious decision to live life and focus on the positive. At first I wasn’t sure if I would ever publish this post as I want my blog to be a “happy place,” but this experience is part of my life, and I think focusing on the positive when life gets tough is an important part of life. So I hope you see this post not as depressing but as a reminder to live life at all times.]

The last four weeks since my dad was diagnosed with cancer in his eye have been some of the toughest days of my life. I feel so helpless and completely out of control. Many days I don’t want to get out of bed, but I know I have to. Work has been a welcomed distraction, but once I’m done teaching a class, the distraction is gone, and focusing on anything is difficult. The time change makes calling difficult. I usually get up around 4:00 a.m. and call and then again around noon. The days before surgery (we have had two so far), I stayed up until midnight so I could talk to him before he went into the operating room.

While I can’t do much from here, I do what I can. Besides phone calls, I send letters every few days, and I have also sent numerous books on CDs. I also call my sister and my mom every day. That’s pretty much all I can do from here.

As I said above, it would be really easy to give up on living a healthy life right now. A few years ago, when life threw me a serious curveball that’s what I did. I let go of my healthy habits, and the results weren’t good. This time around, I’m determined to take care of myself and my family. I owe it to my dad - a man who has focused on being healthy and active his entire life. So here is what I’ve been doing:
  • Schedule (and do) a workout every day. I’m very flexible with my definition of “workout” here, and any physical activity that lasts at least 20 minutes counts. I make a plan at the beginning of the week to make sure I lift weights at least twice, do some cardio, and do plenty of stretching and “mind calming” activities.
  • Eat healthy foods every day. Our meals have been simple, and I have thrown in some comfort foods, but overall, we have been eating lots of healthy foods. Making dinner every day is an accomplishment, and it makes me feel better.
  • Reach out to friends. I’ve met with some close friends for breakfast, lunch or tea, and talking to someone who cares has been extremely helpful.
  • Find ways to distract yourself. Blogging and reading blogs has been a great way for me to take my mind off things. I love finding out what you’ve been all up to. By updating my own blog, I focus on some of the positive things in my life. Which brings me to my last point.
  • Be grateful for all the good in your life. In a time like this, it’s easy to only focus on the negative, but there is so much good in my life, and I’m very, very grateful. Giving thanks every evening makes me mindful of all the good in my life.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my support system! What’s something positive in your life today?

Be well,

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

There Are Some Bread Monsters in the House

Remember the Nature’s Pride Hearty Wheat with Flax bread that I got via the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program?

Well, my plan was to use it in grilled cheese sandwiches. However, the teenager came home over the weekend and ate a few slices with his eggs in the morning. And once the toddler saw his brother eating the bread, he wanted some, too. For breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So now the bread is gone. The toddler said it’s the best bread he has ever eaten. I guess I’ll make grilled cheese sandwiches another day…

Be well,

Monday, March 21, 2011

Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice Courtesy of the Sous Chef

My in-laws have an orange tree, and we are provided with many bags full of organic oranges during orange season. We also receive oranges in our CSA boxes, so there are always plenty of oranges in our house. Unfortunately, oranges are not my favorite fruit, but I know I shouldn't complain about too many oranges...

Hubby loves oranges and eats quite a few of them throughout the week. Yesterday, after we had all eaten oranges for a few days, our kitchen was still overflowing with oranges, so I decided to make some orange juice. As soon as my sous chef spotted the juicer, he decided to take over. And he did a fantastic job juicing orange after orange all by himself.

Of course he had to taste it! He said it was a bit sour but yummy.

Hubby liked it, too.

Questions: Do you like orange juice? Do you every squeeze your own? What’s your favorite juice? I actually prefer a nice green juice over any fruit juice.

Be well,

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Veggies, Cheese, and Bread

Yesterday, we got our CSA box, and I’m looking forward to a “green weekend!”

Here is what we got:
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Leaf lettuce
  • Green onions
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Potatoes
  • Asparagus
We also received a loaf of Nature’s Pride Hearty Wheat with Flax bread via the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program. Thank you Foodbuzz and Nature’s Pride.

I plan on using the bread in some grilled cheese sandwiches, and I’m thinking about “interesting” fillings, like olives, tomatoes, mushrooms, apples, walnuts, almonds, strawberries… We’ll see how creative I can get!

I guess I have been in a “cheesy” mood lately because I made a cheesy pasta bake yesterday. I boiled some pasta and in the meantime made a simple sauce by browning two slices of bacon and draining the extra fat. Then I added some mushrooms and three wedges of laughing cow cheese to make a sauce. I also added some pasta water to make the sauce a bit thinner. I mixed the sauce with the pasta, transferred it to a casserole dish, sprinkled it with cheese, and baked it for about 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven, until the cheese was melted. We ate the pasta with a salad. Easy comfort food! Smile

It rained all day yesterday, and there is lots more rain coming our way. Luckily, we took advantage of the dry weather on Thursday and headed to the park. I love daylight savings time!

Questions: What do you add to grilled cheese sandwiches? I’m looking for ideas. Any exciting weekend plans? 

Be well,

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Easy Dinner and a New Hobby

Dinners have been really easy, and a bit strange, lately. We got a head of cauliflower in our CSA box, and I decided to smash it up. I also pulled some wild frozen salmon from the freezer and defrosted it. Then I simply grilled it and seasoned it with lemon juice, dried dill, salt, and pepper. For a splash of color, I served the fish and cauliflower with some red beets. I had bought the beets already cooked at Trader Joe’s. I simply cut the whole beets into slices and marinated them for about 15 minutes in vinegar, salt, and pepper. A quick and tasty dinner.

Hubby started taking guitar lessons several weeks ago, and the toddler has been fascinated by hubby’s guitar. To “save” hubby’s guitar, we decided to get the toddler his own small guitar. He loves playing it. And hubby loves teaching him!

Questions: What are some of your recent easy dinners? What are your hobbies? Have you recently taken up any new hobbies?

Be well,

Monday, March 14, 2011

Two Years Later

I had almost forgotten that I started this blog two years ago today. Initially, it was meant to be an online diary, a place for me to focus more on me and to make the healthiest choices for me and my family. And then I discovered the blogging community – a wonderful, supportive group of people. Thank you for being part of my life!

While I have struggled at times with finding the right blog/life balance, I am so glad that I started this blog and wish I had started sooner. When it comes to this blog, I now do what fits into my life at the moment, which often means less time plugged in and more time living. I don’t worry about documenting everything anymore or blogging a certain number of times per week. I do what works. Sounds easy enough, but it took me some time to get to this point…  I guess I had to learn that, like with pretty much everything in life, more is not necessarily better… Smile

Here are some of the reasons why I love this blog so much:
  • By starting this blog, I found many wonderful blogs which have inspired me, challenged me, made me laugh, think and take action. Thank you!
  • It helped me organize and keep track of my recipes (at least some of them…).
  • I love seeing the toddler grow up on my blog!
Here is one of the first photos of the toddler on the blog:

Toddler 001
  • My cooking and video projects really get the toddler involved in the kitchen. And I plan on involving him more and more…
  • My blog even inspired hubby to start his own blog, and he has cooked a few meals on his own and is also getting more and more involved in the kitchen! I love it!
  • And you, of course, whom I love interacting with via comments and e-mails. Thank you for being part of my life!
Questions: When did you start reading blogs? If you have a blog, when did you start your blog? What do you like most about blogging/reading blogs?
Be well,

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Weekend Fun and an Award

The weather has been nice, and we enjoyed some outdoor fun.

We headed to the park where the toddler “discovered” picking flowers.

We also checked out a new to us Farmers’ Market in Sunnyvale. We liked the selection but it was quite crowded by the time we got there, especially the prepared food vendors (which looked and smelled amazing!) so we opted to eat something at home.

We sampled and bought the best apples ever. I have honestly never eaten better apples. They are crisp and incredibly sweet. Soooo good!

Here is everything we got.

Lunch was inspired by the German restaurant we passed on the way to the Farmers’ market; it turned out quite “Bavarian.” Smile

Last week,  Hyosun from eating and living passed on the Stylish Blogger Award to me.

Stylish Blogger Award
Thank you, Hyosun! Hyosun writes a wonderful Korean food blog. If you’ve read my blog for a while, you’ll know that I love Korean food and sometimes make “Korean fusion dishes.” If you are looking for “real” Korean food as well as interesting background information of many dishes, you’ll have to check out eating and living

I’m supposed to share seven things about myself with you.
  1. I’m an early, early morning person. I’m often up before 4:00 a.m., doing work, catching up on e-mails, and blogging. Smile It’s amazing how much you can accomplish before 7!
  2. I sometimes go to bed when the toddler goes to bed… I guess this comes with #1!
  3. I’ve enjoyed being physically active my entire life, but I used to seriously dislike P.E. in school. I was always taller than everyone and often felt terribly uncoordinated and klutzy.
  4. I grew up skiing every winter and loved it. It was my bonding time with my dad. The teenager has been skiing since he was little and skied with my dad over the past winter break. I’m so grateful that they got to spend time skiing together. Sadly, we have yet to take the toddler to see snow. But it’s on our “list!”
  5. I don’t like scary movies and make myself fall asleep when I see one. I even did this in a movie theater once…
  6. I eat the same breakfast almost every morning: oatmeal, nonfat Greek yogurt, and walnuts.
  7. San Diego is one of my favorite cities, and we are even considering moving there one day.
I’m supposed to pass the award on to 10 bloggers, but I just can’t choose. Instead I ask all of you to share at least one thing we may not know about you in the comments. I’m looking forward to getting to know all of you a bit better!

Questions: What was the highlight of your weekend? What is one thing we may not know about you? 

Be well,