Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Exercise Thoughts

When it comes to exercise, I think the key is to be consistent. But there are so many things that can derail your exercise routine (time, energy level, boredom…). I find it helpful to reflect on my exercise routine once in a while, and here are my current thoughts:

  • Do what you love (most of the time).I truly believe you’ll only stick with something if you truly enjoy it. I love to hike, and I really look forward to my hikes. However, I probably wouldn’t lift enough weights or do any HIIT if it were all up to me. That’s where the “most of the time” part comes into play.
  • Plan your weekly workouts.This is key for me. My workouts are much better when I plan them at the beginning of the week. Right now, I plan them on my Facebook page. Do I always stick to the plan? No. But I more or less accomplish everything on the list (just not always on the planned day, and I sometimes substitute different workouts.)
  • Lift weights.The older I get, the more important this gets. I can really see and feel the difference when I don’t lift as much for a while. However, I tend to get really bored with weight workouts really easily. The key is to mix things up. I put together different weight workouts that I alternate at the gym and also like to do circuit-type workout DVDs at home (Right now, I really like Jackie Warner’s Circuit Training and Timesaver Workouts). But sometimes I feel I just can’t lift one more weight. Then I take a week or two off from lifting weights. That always does the trick, and I enjoy my weight workouts again after a little break. Right now, I think I am a bit sick of the gym and will do Jackie’s DVDs again.
  • Pay attention to balance and flexibility. – This is another area that is becoming more and more important the older I get. Yoga and barre workouts are really helping with balance and flexibility.
  • Get outside your comfort zone. - I do this by trying new classes. A great way to try new forms of exercise are Groupons and similar sites. But honestly, it’s been a while since I tried something truly new. It’s about time to get adventurous again!
  • Move more throughout the day. – By being mindful of moving as much as possible throughout the day, you can really increase your overall activity level. This can mean parking further away, taking the stairs, getting up to talk to a coworker instead of sending an email, etc. I also really like “mini exercise bursts” (especially when I’m grading a big stack of papers). For example, I’ll do 50 jumping jacks, 10 push ups, 25 squats, and 50 crunches. If time permits, I’ll repeat the exercises once or twice more.
  • Rest enough. – I used to not be very good about this point. About a year ago, I hardly ever took a day off from exercising, and it wasn’t healthy (and I wasn’t healthy). While I truly believe in taking rest days, I also know that I need to move a fair amount every day, or I just don’t feel right. So I’ll still go for a walk and/or do a short yoga routine on my rest days. 
Questions: What are your exercise thoughts? Do you plan your workouts at the beginning of the week? If not, do you think planning them might be helpful? What was your last workout?
Be well,

Monday, August 29, 2011

Zucchini Carpaccio with Olive Oil, Lemon, Garlic, and Capers

I know that carpaccio traditionally refers to thinly sliced, raw meat or fish, but, lately, I have seen the term on menus referring to raw vegetables. So I borrowed the idea and decided to make a zucchini carpaccio as we had many zucchini in our CSA box. I also added garlic and omitted Parmesan cheese slices, which are traditionally used in carpaccio.

I recently received three bottles of Crisco Olive Oil through the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program.

The three oils serve different purposes, and the Extra Virgin Olive Oil was perfect for the carpaccio, and we really enjoyed the taste of the olive oil in the dish. I look forward to trying the other oils for baking, sautéing, and in marinades.

Zucchini Carpaccio
  • 2 small zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • Capers, to taste
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste

  1. Arrange the zucchini slices on a plate.
  2. Evenly distribute the garlic slices on top of the zucchini slices.
  3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil.
  5. Top with capers to taste.
  6. Let the dish marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Prep Time: 10 minutes (plus at least 1 hour to marinate)
Servings: 2

This is quite a “garlicy” dish, but I loved it. It was definitely too strong for the toddler however…

I have enjoyed updating my Facebook page and have posted my weekly meals and workouts there. I will still post my weekly meals on the blog when time allows, but posting them on Facebook is a lot quicker.  If you like, join the conversation! Click here to head over there.

Questions: Have you ever made a vegetable carpaccio dish? If so, did you like it? Do you like capers? I used to not like capers at all when I was younger, but now I enjoy them a lot.

Be well,

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Another Year, Gratitude, and Focus on Wellness

A few days ago, it was my birthday. I don’t really like to celebrate my birthday. It goes back to my childhood and the fact that my birthday was never a big deal. No wrapped gifts. No big party. No cake. Okay. I didn’t really like cake back then. Anyway, my birthday was always disappointing, and I’ve carried the dislike for celebrating my birthday with me for a long time. And for many years, I didn’t celebrate. I figured it was better to not do anything because I wouldn’t be disappointed.

Today I realize how childish I have been for way too long. Life is a precious gift, and on my birthday it is my duty to celebrate this gift and to be thankful for it. It’s not about gifts or a fancy dinner. It’s about gratitude and appreciation for all that I have. It’s also about taking care of myself so that I am able to take care of those I love and live my best possible life. I realize that “taking care of yourself” only goes so far, and so many are less fortunate than I am at this moment and don’t have the gift of health that I enjoy right now. Yet another reason to be so very thankful…

So this year for my birthday there were flowers, cupcakes, a pie, and best of all lots of hugs and kisses! Smile

Hubby surprised me with a fantastic outing, and we went to the DISHCRAWL at the Fairmont in San Jose. We got to sample little bites from three restaurants at the Fairmont, and we got to explore the suites, which had the most amazing array of desserts. Hubby and I used to do date night quite regularly but for various reasons haven’t been out by ourselves in almost a year.  It was great to get out, and I appreciated every second. Thanks hubby for a great evening, and thanks Uncle Roy for babysitting!!!

Having another birthday also reminded me of the importance of focusing on my well being every day. For the next year (and beyond!), I want to focus on various parts of wellness (food, health, financial, relationship, work…) a little bit every day. I also want to continue to plan my meals and workouts. I have gotten several emails asking me where my meal and workout planning posts have gone… I always plan our meals and workouts on my whiteboard, but they don’t always make it on the blog. I thought that maybe a Facebook page would be a quicker and more convenient way to plan meals, workouts, and post various wellness reminders (for myself and anyone else who is interested). It’s also an easy way to start a conversation… I will still continue to post meals and workouts on this blog when time allows.

If you’d like to join the conversation on my Facebook page, head over there and “like” my page.

Questions: Do you like to celebrate your birthday? Why or why not? What is one thing you’ll do for yourself today? Let’s inspire each other! 

Be well,

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Eggplant Casserole with Tomatoes, Mozzarella, and Basil

We got a beautiful eggplant in our CSA box. Hubby almost argued with me by saying it wasn’t an eggplant, but I was able to convince him otherwise. When I saw the eggplant, I first wanted to make a familiar dish: Spicy Baked Eggplant with Wasabi Mayonnaise and Basil. It’s delicious, and I haven’t made it in a long time, but  then I saw all the tomatoes in the CSA box (as well as the ones on our plants and my mother-in-law’s plants) and the mozzarella in the fridge, and I decided to get a bit creative.

Eggplant Casserole with Tomatoes, Mozzarella, and Basil

  • 1 eggplant, sliced
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 8 Mozzarella cheese slices, thinly sliced (I could have sliced my mozzarella quite a bit thinner, but I was in a cheesy mood, and it was delicious!)
  • Tomato sauce or marinara sauce, about 3/4 cup
  • Basil, chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil (I used my Misto spray bottle)
  1. Sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt and put in a colander and let them drain. After 30 minutes, rinse the eggplant slices and pat them dry with a paper towel. Make sure you rinse the eggplant slices well so that your dish doesn’t end up too salty!
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Spray a casserole dish with olive oil.
  4. Put one layer of eggplant slices into the casserole dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Top the eggplant layer with tomato sauce, tomato slices, and mozzarella cheese slices.
  6. Add another eggplant layer.
  7. Repeat #5 (but I omitted the tomato slices this time)
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 - 55 minutes, until the mozzarella cheese is slightly brown.
  9. Serve and top with chopped basil.

Prep and Cook Time: 1.5 hours (including the “watering” of the eggplant slices)
Servings: About 4

The dish was a bit “soupy” but very tasty. Well, almost anything with melted cheese is yummy, no? I didn’t mind the “soupy” part as I poured it into a cup and ate it like a soup. You could also discard it, but I really don’t know why you would do that! Hubby kept on raving about this dish. He is usually very good about complimenting my food, but the praise was unusual, even for him. Maybe the fact that I haven’t cooked anything in a while had something to do with all his praise…

Questions: Do you like eggplant? If so, what’s your favorite way to eat it? Have you seen any of the “unusual” eggplant varieties?
Be well,

Monday, August 22, 2011

Another Reason for Our L.A. Trip

Last week, we drove down to L.A. and visited Disneyland. If you ask the toddler, the whole purpose of the visit was to go to Disneyland. And we’ll let him think so. Well, at least until his reading skills improve, and he can read this post…

Our L.A. trip had been planned for a VERY long time, since the Foodbuzz Festival last November in fact. At the dinner gala, hubby and I sat at a table with Sophia and Mimi.

I started reading Sophia’s blog when I first started my own blog in 2009, and hubby had also been reading her blog for a while. She was one of the bloggers I really wanted to meet in person. I feel I know some of her struggles and successes, and I enjoy reading her thought-provoking posts that seem to always magically end up featuring a recipe or food item. Her meal creations are unusual and fabulous! And she loves gochujang almost as much as I do! Smile Also, I remember back in 2009 I made one of her pasta dishes, and the toddler couldn’t get enough of it. Have to find that recipe again!

Even though it was very, very noisy that evening during the Foodbuzz dinner and hard to talk, we managed to make plans to visit L.A. and, especially, Koreatown. Sophia isn’t a big fan of “regular” Korean food, but she agreed to take us to some “interesting” places. Unfortunately, many things didn’t go as planned, and so we didn’t make it down to L.A. for ten months.

But last week, we finally went! We left bright and early at 6:00 a.m., and, including several stops, made it to L.A. before noon! We had plans to meet Mimi and Sophia at Yellow House Café at 2:00. While driving around Koreatown, hubby noticed this:

He just had to go there for lunch! A “real” German “Biergarten” is an outdoor restaurant with long tables and wooden benches. Ideally, there are also some big, picturesque trees providing shade. The Biergarten, on the other hand, is an interesting take on a German beer pub (the décor is definitely German) with some Korean twists. I think it’s more of a night spot, but we enjoyed our lunch there. We got tofu with kimchi and small pieces of German sausage (by far my favorite dish), grilled German sausages with peppers and onions, and sliders. The sausages came with a side of mustard and Sauerkraut with some kimchi seasoning. The kimchi seasoning in the Sauerkraut was an interesting but strange twist. I am all for fusion food, but I definitely prefer regular Sauerkraut and regular kimchi! Overall, an interesting lunch experience, but I could have done without so much meat… Hubby was really impressed by the extensive beer list, but I’ll let him write about the beer in his own post! Smile 

While visiting L.A., we had also hoped to meet up with Lynn. Hubby and I are big fans of hers, and we very much enjoyed talking with her and her husband for quite a while at last year’s Foodbuzz Festival. We also have really enjoyed watching her movies White on Rice and Surrogate Valentine. (We can’t wait for the sequel to Surrogate Valentine!). Unfortunately, our schedules did not match up, but Lynn let us know that there was a free Children’s Art Festival going on at Paramount, which is 5 minutes from Yellow House Café, and we hung out there for about 45 minutes. The toddler had a great time drawing and running around. Thanks for the great tip, Lynn!

Yellow House Café is exactly what the name says: a café in a yellow house, including a very cute courtyard. It’s a great place, and their banana latte is REALLY good! I’m going to pick up some Korean banana milk soon and will attempt to recreate it at home! I guess their shaved ice is good too, but hubby and the toddler didn’t share with me, so I don’t know for sure… Winking smile

It was really fun to catch up with Mimi and Sophia and to meet Mimi’s mom. Before we left, we made plans to meet up in a couple days for dinner in Koreatown. Unfortunately, we had to change those plans as the toddler’s schedule was all thrown off. Mimi and Sophia were very flexible and agreed to meet us for lunch instead.

We had some time before lunch and explored the nearby mall a bit. It was a nice and peaceful mall trip as the toddler, thankfully, caught up on his sleep the entire time we were there! Oh, and I got a little bit of shopping done! Smile

For lunch we met at Harajuku Crepe. We all enjoyed the beautiful bouquets of crepes!

We caught up more on life, culture, language, musicals (hubby and Mimi are both huge musical, and especially, Les Mis, fans and have even discussed different Les Mis performers via Mimi’s blog and email), blogging… Hopefully, one day we’ll get to visit Koreatown for lunch or dinner with Sophia, Mimi, and Lynn. I’d love to see them again and also compare L.A.’s Koreatown food to the Korean food scene where we live in San Jose. But it’ll probably have to wait until the toddler is a bit older…

Questions:  Is there a particular food you want to eat in a certain city or region? If so, what it is? Besides going back to Koreatown in L.A. for some Korean food, I would love to visit Baltimore during crab season one day.

Be well,