Megan Monday: A versatile meal

Monday, February 28, 2011

Here's another meatless post. I've made this for dinner a couple of times and it's delish. I adore this casserole because it's like a quiche, but not as much work. You could also serve it for bfast or brunch- you can even take it as leftovers to make a work day taste a little better.

I promise these hearty little guys will make you a fab meal.

I like to serve this with a fruit salad, since you already have plenty of veggies in the actual casserole.

This recipe qualifies as a Megan Monday post for these very important reasons:
1. I like the recipe.
2. I thought Megan would like it.
3. It's extremely low cal but actually tastes like real food.
4. It's easy to make- there isn't even any butter certain people can accidentally forget to put in ;)

Tip: If you wanna go meatless, but still get hearty protein, eat some eggs/egg whites. They are versatile and you can get away with eating them for bfast, lunch or dinner. In fact, check out this article. What's more, egg whites have like 20 calories each- hello there, friendly little egg white.

Zucchini Casserole
Adapted from Gina's Weight Watcher Recipes
3 cups grated zucchini
2 cups raw baby spinach
1 1/2 cup bisquick (heart smart)
1 small onion, grated
4 egg whites
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp dill weed
THIS ONE IS A MUST: 1 tsp red pepper flakes
If you find the mixture to be a little dry, add a tablespoon or 2 of milk.

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix everything together in a bowl. Spray a pie dish or a 8x8 casserole with Pam and pour mixture.

Bake approximately an hour minutes, until golden brown. Put a toothpick in the center to test if it is done. If it comes out clean, it is ready.Divide into 9 equal parts.

Looks tasty, right?
Serve with tabasco sauce, ketchup and/or salsa.

Cassie Hepburn's Oscar Brownies

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hello, my little red carpet lovers.

There is no one I know who loves Oscars night more than my fashionista sister, Cassie.

A few days ago, I browsed through one of my millions of food blogs and found a recipe for Katherine Hepburn brownies (!) Yes, these are Katherine's recipe from an interview she did many moons cool is that?

Weirdly enough, my other sister was named partly because of Katherine Hepburn (that is another story for another post). The original recipe calls for nuts, which Cassie despises more than a horribly dressed star on the red carpet.
To tempt her love of chocolate, I decide to make Katherine's brownies, with a couple of modifications.

Last year, for one of Cassie's senior portraits, my talented mother decided to photograph her Audrey Hepburn style, with a couple modern changes, of course.

Now, I realize Audrey and Katherine have nothing in common besides a last name, but when I modifed the brownies made by one Hepburn, I thought I could rename them to fit another Hepburn (at least someone who was a Hepburn for about 20 minutes)...I hope you're enjoying all the pizazz and regality Oscar night has to offer. And if you're my favorite Hepurn- Cassie Hepburn, I hope you're enjoying one of these.

Cassie Hepburn Brownies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
2 ounces seriously delish semi sweet chocolate (go with a bar chocolate)
1/3-1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt

In a 2-quart saucepan over low-heat, melt butter with unsweetened chocolate, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in sugar. Stir in eggs and vanilla extract to make into a smooth batter. Poor into a bowl and let cool for 10 minutes. Add white chocolate chips, flour and salt; stir until incorporated.

Prepare a small loaf pan by greasing it with butter. Then line the pan with parchment paper and grease it as well. Pour the batter into the lined dish and spread evenly.

Bake in a 325 degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Since you have lined your pan with parchment you can immediately remove the brownies from the dish, leaving them to cool.

When cooled, cut into squares and serve.

Meatless Megan Monday

Monday, February 21, 2011

Dear Megan,
School took over my life. I had no time to make delicious food, shoot some pics and post you a lovely story to the blog.

Instead, I will mention a new trend floating around the US. The idea of taking one day a week to go completely meatless-no bacon for breakfast, no turkey sandwich for lunch, and no steak for dinner.

The environmental, financial and health benefits of this are starting to make themselves known, and if you're up for the challenge, it's a fun way to easily cut calories, try new recipes and let your taste buds embark on a new adventure.

For today, I'm linking you to a meatless cooking light recipe. You can even sign up to get a recipe from them, every day.

Next week, I will have my head above water and more interesting things to post.


TIP: When you go vegetarian for a meal, don't assume no meat=calorie free. Lots of vegetarian options are loaded with oil and cheese. Keep your eyes peeled.

Knowing What's on Your Plate

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I promised you some Valentine's Day post, but I took the picture on my dinosaur of a phone and I am killing myself trying to extract it and get it on here...I'm hoping to have it up soon.

In the meantime, I'm giving you one of my favorite lectures I've ever heard.
I know, nerd alert.
A few weeks ago, Oprah had Michael Pollan on her Vegan/eating better episode. Pollan is pretty much an expert in organic food and sustainability (a subject I care about deeply) I watched the episode intently because I already knew I loved him: I've read his books and heard an onlien lecture of his in an Ag class I once took for fun. (I know, me=nerd) A little note: He is NOT a vegan, and does not promote any specific diet...just better knowledge of what we eat and above all, balance.

The issue of where our food comes from and how it gets to be food, is ever growing in popularity. I'm pleased that more people are thinking about things like, what cows eat before they are slaughtered, how many pounds of pesticides are blanketing their fruits and veggies and just how big our carbon footprint is when we are willing to let our foods come from thousands of miles away.

If you have any interest in this at all, and even if you don't, check out the talk he did at Google (can you imagine your job bringing you cool speakers like this?!) You can listen to this while you're working out, messing around on the computer, or take a break and listen while you're eating your lunch.

As a last little excitement, Pollan is coming to my alma mater to speak. I am so jealous (when am I not?) that I can't be in Portland to enjoy this experience. But, praise to my little school for being the first to ban plastic non-reusable bottles on campus, and for getting this speaker to campus.

Megan Monday: A sweet treat

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day/Singles Awareness Day/Skull and Crossbones Day/insert what you would like to call it, here.

I know Megan has a hot date tonight- with her grad school test studying that is (talk about love)...
Today's post is a little valentine-y, but not overly so.
It is more about remembering that you CAN have treats, even when you eat healthy.

If you have any interest in cooking, I recommend reading food blogs, articles, cookbooks and watching the food network. It will teach you lots of tricks and keep your creative juices flowing. It's how I was able to come up with this recipe on my own.


P.S. I will have a not very healthy Valentine's recipe tomorrow...stay tuned.

TIP: When a recipe calls for butter or oil, replace all or part of it with a mashed banana. In addition, you can also cut the needed amount of sugar by about 1/4 of a cup- bananas lend a lot of sweetness to any recipe. But, be careful- they also lend a lot of flavor and you may not want all your recipes to scream, banana.

Lemon-Pomegranate Muffins

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup dried pomegranate seeds
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup applesauce, unsweetened

1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 lemons, squeezed
1/2 tablespoon of butter

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine all dry ingredients (except seeds and zest). In a separate bowl, whisk applesauce and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Then add milk, vanilla and zest. Add dry ingredients. Then fold in seeds, do not over mix.

Spray muffin tins, fill about 3/4 full.

Bake for about 20-35 minutes.

Let cool. Mix all icing ingredients together. Add more lemon juice if it is too thick.

Drizzle over muffins, serve.

Valentine's Day

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Pomegranates are red
That is a combo you can't hate
Write me a poem and I'll send you something I create

As always, I'll be making some treats for vday (I cannot pass up an excuse to bake). I'm making something a little out of the ordinary this year- no red velvet or chocolate dipped strawberries.
Leave a self created funny little vday poem in a comment, and I'll be happy to send you some sweet treats.

Note: You do not have to be a blogger member to leave comments. You can leave them through a google account, livejournal, etc. You can also leave them anonymous- without some sort of special cyber account. Just make sure to leave your name.

Chocolate Chip-Banana Pancakes

Monday, February 7, 2011

Before I moved home and I was assigned the task to grocery shop and cooking for my fam, in lieu of rent, I grocery shopped, paid rent, and used my love for cooking on Megan. I will remind you that I had just graduated college, could not find a teaching job and was absolutely broke. The kind of broke I remember “grown-ups” talking about when I was a teen. The kind that made me think “that sucks, I’m never gonna be that poor when I graduate.” Oh, little Ali, if you only knew. How much easier my life would have been if I had not been on a mission to lose weight, eat healthy, and shop at New Seasons, in order to save the planet, while on a sub/part time nanny salary.
The two things I remember making because 1. they stifled my cooking cravings 2. were cheap 3. could be made in big batches, were soup and pancakes...chocolate chip pancakes.
Megan, in her senior year, would be up til ungodly hours writing lesson plans, doing homework, and mostly, talking with me about everything going on in her senior year- I had that identical experience one year before. I’m sure Megan would have had a lot more sleep if we hadn’t spent so much time talking. Procrastination was/is our bff. Nevertheless, on some of the late nights, I would get a hankering to cook, and would make Megan and I a batch of chocolate chip pancakes.
There is something so comforting about breakfast food at any time, especially midnight. I’d argue that I enjoy breakfast more when it’s served at the times you’re not supposed to enjoy it- I’m such a rebel.
Breakfast is one of those “I know I should” things that people rarely ever do. In reality, starting your day with bfast really is crucial when trying to lose weight. I know there are so many reasons not to do it- you’re not hungry when you wake up, you ran out of time, you’re trying to save the calories for sushi date night...I get it. I’m not advocating starting your Monday with chocolate chip pancakes, but how about keeping an orange in your desk? Cutting up fruit after you hit the store and dividing it into small tupperwares you can grab out the door? Maybe there is a fridge in the break room where you can store some lowfat yogurts. If you don’t eat bfast, try to eat it every day for a week and document how you feel throughout the day. You might not notice any differences, but you might be surprised about the extra weight you lose, or energy you gain.
And try these chocolate chip pancakes on a lazy Sunday morning. I find breakfast tricky on the weeknds, especially when people want to go out. Since I don’t eat eggs, potatoes, french toast and bacon on a regular basis, when I do have them as options, my mind goes haywire and I want everything. These are a great alternative to that crisis. You can also add blueberries instead of chocolate chips, but why would you do that? Serve them with egg whites, chicken sausage, or by themselves with a glass of milk.
You can choose to serve them without without syrup, but a little syrup is recommended (if you ask me). I’m gonna step on my soap box for just a second. I know you’ll be tempted to buy sugar free syrup, if you’re counting calories, and I’ll caution you. That stuff is loaded with a lot of chemicals and the first ingredient is usually high fructose corn syrup. We all know how I feel about that little friend, so I’ll avoid getting into it, but I’ll say this- have you ever been able to buy HFCS in the sugar aisle? There is a reason the answer is no. Just because something is low in calories doesn’t mean it’s good for you. That’s the disconnect in the American diet. Try to eat real foods, just less of them. That includes a drizzle of actual maple syrup and the small amount of melted butter that goes into these whole wheat pancakes that makes them wholeful, delicious and keeps you from feeling deprives.
These are for you, Megs. Wish I could be standing in our kitchen flipping some for ya while you work tirelessly on your thesis. Actually, forget that part about you having to work.

Tip: When going out for breakfast, make some small choices that make a big difference Rarely do you want to be the person eating oatmeal while everyone else is eating the french toast platter. Try these ideas- order egg beaters or egg whites, or try an omelet without cheese. Also, always ask for your foods to be cooked without oils. Most places are extremely happy to do this. Finally, learn to make some choices. When a place offers you toast and potatoes with your delicious egg white, turkey sausage veggie omelet, choose your favorite and ask them to sub fruit for the less preferred option.
Also, I add the mashed banana to the batter because bananas (and applesauce) are a great oil/butter substitute. Meaning, I was able to cut the needed butter way down because the banana provides the same desired texture an oil or butter would, plus it lends a lot of flavor. Try doing this in all of your baked goods.

Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Makes 10-14 pancakes

2 cups whole wheat flour
4 tso baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 cup nonfat/lowfat milk
1 tblspoon cider or regular vinegar
3 egg whites
1/2 tablespoon melted butter
1 whole banana, mashed
1 tsp vanilla
cooking spray
Semi-sweet chocolate chips, or blueberries

Set oven to 200.
Pour vinegar into milk- whisk and set aside.
Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
In a smaller bowl, mix eggs, butter, banana. Add milk mixture.
Pour wet ingredients slowly into dry and mix until nearly lumpless, but don't over mix.

Heat a skillet, hit with cooking spray.
Pour batter onto skillet using a 1/4 cup measuring cup
When batter starts to bubble, add several semi sweet chocolate chips, or blueberries.

Flip pancake. Remove when firm and golden.
Place in oven on a cookie sheet.
Repeat process until all pancakes are done. Keep warm in oven, remove when finished and top with maple syrup.

Thoughts of a fake runner

Saturday, February 5, 2011

There is a lot of debate amongst runners about running with music or without. Okay, maybe not a lot of debate. I highly doubt this dilemma gets as much attention as nuclear weapons, health care, or the world's most important question- which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Still, I've discussed the topic on several occasions, seen people blog, gripe, criticize and promote the idea many times.
When I first started diving into running, I was 100% in the music while running camp. I honestly don't think I could have even survived without music while I ran those gruesome 2 minutes. Yeah, I was really hardcore at first.
When I trained for my first race back in November 2009, I ran with music. Even when I ran that 10k, I ran with music, until I made a new friend at about mile 3. For me, there has always been something so magical about what a song can do for me emotionally. It seems to be able to transport me into another dimension- the one where happiness seems endless. Combine that with adrenaline one gets from running, and I had a winning combination- as long as I put the right songs on my ipod. It seriously almost feels like cheating when I run with music. That's how much better I feel, like I've taken a magic "I can run forever" pill.
Fast forward to the beginning of last year. I began to really get into running and I had friends that wanted to run with me. At first, this idea threw me- freaked me out, actually. Compare it how you would feel if a friend said, "Hey, I'd really love to run with you this weekend, completely naked." Yeah, that's how I felt about running, with anyone, clothed. Nevertheless, I have a terrible time of saying no to people, which means I will do just about anything if it means a lot to someone- that probably includes running naked.
As I began to run with people, only occasionally, I knew I could not be that rude person who ran with music, while my running partner chatted about the date she had last night, the meaning of life and asked me thought provoking questions such as, which came first, the chicken or the egg. Granted, running without music didn't mean I could actually talk- I had absolutely no lung capacity for that; it was more about the listening. So, those were the only times I dared to run without tunes, but I began not to mind. In fact, I have turned into the person who asks friends to go running- who am I?!
As the year went on, and I ran more, there were times I actually ran without music. By myself. Of course, this was usually because 1. my ipod needed to be charged 2. my ipod was at work 3. I temporarily lost my ipod 4. my ipod needed to be charged. Are we sensing a pattern here?
At this point in my "running career" I generally skip the music on a short 25-30 minute run (can we pause for a sec and remember how cool it is to get to the point where one can say 25 minutes is a short run? Thank you for your cooperation.)
I bet you've been waiting for me to say I am now in the no music while running camp.
I still enjoy my music. I always will. Especially when I've just downloaded new music. I get obsessed. I constantly want to listen to the song, let it give me that adrenaline boost, and play it over and over. I have an obsessive personality, don't worry, I'm quite aware of this cumbersome, sometimes annoying, persoanlity trait.
I say all this to make the point that it doesn't matter what camp you're in. Run with music, great. Run without music, great too. I do think there is something awesome about the mental challenge you face on a long run, sans music. I also think it forces you to listen to your body and pay attention to the way the run makes you feel. But, if music pumps you up and gives you the will power to get out and run, in the words of Nike, do it.
This morning, I had the best run I've had in awhile. It incorporated all the bits and pieces I require to make a run noteworthy:
-The sun was out
-A breeze was blowing
-There were friendly people to smile at along the way
-The run was over 5 miles, 7 to be exact
-I felt strong
-I was challenged
-My legs feel like a bowl of jello
I have plenty of short, decent runs. But, on a great run, I'm left with a feeling of peace, accomplishment and true physical ability, for hours after the run is over.
Also, I listened to music the WHOLE time. I just made a new running mix and it seriously kicked ass. Below you'll find a few of the VIP tracks that made the playlist.
Someone once told me that real runners don't run to music. Yes, they actually said that, to my face, while I talked about how I like to run with music.
At the time, I was a very new runner and worried slightly about how my earphones, and ipod attached to my arm, would make me look to the running community. Then, I thought about how much music and running, together, made me feel, and I said F-U. (Like that great song, which is currently on my playlist.)
If running with music makes me a fake runner, then okay. I love being a fake runner. I've never had goals to run the Boston marathon, to be the fastest woman in a 5k; I actually never thought I'd be a person who ran 12 races in a year, so I will take the title of fake runner as I lace up my shoes, plug in my headphones, and press play on my mp3 player.
Word of caution- if you do run with music, please be smart. Turn the music down so you can hear traffic, bicyclists screaming at you, etc. If you can handle it, try to run with only one earbud in. "Real" runners may already hate us for daring to run with music, so let's be a respectful bunch of fakes.

VIP (Very Important Playlist)
There are currently 31 songs on my running mix. Here are a few that really keep me going when I'm crossing the one hill in Lincoln, dying for some water, or cramping up on mile 8.
"Uncharted", Sara Bareilles (from her new cd, which you should all own!)
"Marry Me", Glee Cast (I love Glee music. That may make me a fake lover of music. I can live with that.)
"Love Like Woe", The Ready Set (seriously my fav song right now)
"Piece of Me", Britney Spears (I grew up in the 90's, what can I say?)
"Sparks Fly", Taylor Swift (from her new cd- buy it!)
"This", Darius Rucker (makes me emo. Not that it's saying much. A lot of things make me emo)

Zumba and Mexican Pizza

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Those two things in no way go together. In fact, they didn't even happen in the same night. But Zumba is fun and exciting, as are homemade mexican pizzas (I should know, I talked about them for a week before I made them- this is how exciting my life is). But we'll get to those in a bit.
Yesterday I got off work a little early- is there anything better than your boss telling you to go home early?!- and since I left my gym card at home and the staff over there is less than thrilled when you dare to forget it, I decided I would go home, run 2.5 miles to the fitness center in "downtown" Lincoln (yes, we have a downtown) and take a free Zumba class.
I'm going to digress for one minute and say that a few months ago I did a few "month trials" at a lot of different exercise places- yoga studios, fitness centers, etc. and apparently when you only sign up for a one month discounted offer and never come back, they want you as badly as 12 year olds want Justin Bieber. I have received so many "come back for 7 free classes because we miss you" offers that I have no excuse to not work out.
Anyway, I love this little fitness place, Guiding Fitness. It's small, homey, but they actually offer a unique array of classes and I love, love, love that it's in Lincoln.
I also love, love, love, Zumba. It's getting the chance to dance without some skanky girl spilling her margarita while some skeezy guy tries to dance with you amidst 200 sweaty drunk people. PLUS, you get to say you worked out. Needless to say my run was not so successful, as I lost my driver's license along the way, but there is something about music and dancing that makes me forget my stress.
I'd like to say now that I am TERRIBLE at Zumba. I need to see a move about 100 times before I get it and even then I in no way look like Shakira, shaking my thang. I imagine I look like my granny while she tries desperately to keep rhythm and dance to whatever crap my sisters and cousins make her listen to on the car radio. As much as I suck, I honestly don't care. Zumba is freeing and I didn't realize it until last night.
Running is my thing. This is not to say I'm good at it, but it's like flossing. Sometimes it's a pain and I have no desire to take the extra time to do it, but I know it's good for me and when I'm done, I'm so glad I did it. Running is my opportunity to confront something I never thought I could do, tackle it, and continue to challenge myself with it on a daily basis. It feeds my competitive streak, but also gives me a sense of peace I rarely get any other hour of the day.
Zumba is definitely not that. I have no desire to buy special Zumba shoes or join a Zumba only studio. It's fun, freeing and I somehow lose my competitive streak while I'm there (mostly). While trying to shake my booty last night, I marveled at how little I paid attention to the other women in the class- if they were shaking it more than me, how on beat they were, if they looked good enough to teach the class. Never in my life does the judge in me stop thinking. When I'm in the gym, I'm non-stop thinking about the size 2 on the treadmill and whether I can out run her, I'm counting calories, drops of sweat and the minutes until I'm done.
I challenge you to try something you're not good at and even more importantly, I challenge you to be OKAY with it. Give yourself the freedom to mess up, look like an idiot and smile. Because honestly, what's better than that?

Mexican Pizzas
I came up with this recipe one day while I was on a walk. I'm telling you exercise and cooking really do go hand in hand.
These are super versatile. Use any type of meat, or no meat at all, black, pinto or refried beans, pico de gallo, spicy salsa, whatever you're feeling. I suppose you could add cheese. They're a little throw back to the Taco Bell mexican pizza idea without having to go to Taco Bell.

Serves 6
4-8 small corn or flour tortillas
1 can beans (non lard refried, like Amy's brand, pinto or black beans)
1 cup salsa
1 package soyrizo (or another kind of meat)
sour cream
guacamole (mix 2 avocados with 1 squeezed lime, a dash of salt and hot sauce)
chopped lettuce, tomato and onion (optional)

Turn oven to 400. Place tortillas on a cookie sheet and place in oven. After 5 minutes, check and flip the tortillas. when brown on both sides, remove from oven.
While tortillas are baking, cook meat, beans, and any other toppings. Place all toppings on a counter, table, etc. "buffet style".
When tortillas are done, allow each person to create their own mexican pizza.
Recommended: spread beans on tortilla first, add toppings from there, ending with sour cream, guacamole and salsa.