October Foodie Penpal

I’m so bad at keeping secrets. I was so excited to participate in my first Foodie Penpal exchange. This monthly event is organized by the fabulous Lindsay (it’s a good name… what can I say:) over at The Lean Green Bean.

I waited anxiously for my box to arrive and I did a little dance on my doorstep when I finally saw the package. It’s so fun to get wanted mail! A box of goodies beats junk mail and bills any day of the week.

This month I received my box from Alexis over at Fit-Possible. Alexis is a full-time teacher from Orlando who is into healthy cooking and working out. Definitely check out her blog for some delicious looking recipes and fun workout tips. I’ve bookmarked her pumpkin pancakes:)

Alexis outdid herself with a super fun assortment of foods.

20111030-111048.jpgI had only tried coconut water once or twice before. I was very intrigued by the Cranberry Grapefruit flavor. I downed this after my first Insanity workout… it was amazing! The flavor was perfect… not too sweet.

20111030-111028.jpgAlexis pretty much read my mind with this one. This is my favorite flavor of Lara Bar!

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Apple Pie was a new flavor for me. I normally stick to the peanut and chocolate flavors, but this one surprised me. It honestly tasted like apple pie. I love the cinnamon flavor.

20111030-111041.jpgI don’t normally consider myself a chip girl. I would pick pretzels of chips if given the choice. But that was before I had these Sweet Potato Tortilla chips. They are so addicting. I’m glad I didn’t have a big bag… I would have eaten them all!

20111030-111007.jpgRyan and I loved these crackers. They were so crispy and salty. We finished them in two days. First we had them with freestyle tuna and then with hummus. They were definitely good enough to just much on plain too.

I wanted to save my favorite item for last… best for last or so the saying goes!

20111030-111014.jpgI think this is my favorite “butter” I have ever tasted. I always was a big fan of apple butter but had never tried pumpkin butter. Literally the week before Alexis sent me this, I had been debating buying some pumpkin butter from the grocery store. I’m so glad I didn’t! I’m sure it wouldn’t’ hold a candle to this baby. I want to plan a trip to Florida to visit the Yellow Dog Eats, a favorite of Alexis, just to stock up on this holiday pumpkin butter. It tastes like concentrated pumpkin pie.

20111030-111020.jpgIt is perfect mixed into my morning oats.

So you want to participate next month? Here are the details.

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month. *US Residents only please at this time- hopefully we can expand soon!*

If you’re interested in participating for November, please send Lindsay an email at theleangreenbean@gmail.com and include the following information:
-Your full name
-Your email address
-Your blog name/address
-Your twitter handle (if applicable)

She will need to hear from you by November 4th as pairings will be emailed on November 5th!

I can’t wait to participate. And a shout out to Alexis for an awesome box! I will definitely be calling her when I run out of pumpkin butter!

Question: Have you ever participated in a food swap? This was my first… but not my last!

Snowy Saturday

What a weekend to visit my family in Pennsylvania. I go from 65 degrees in Houston yesterday to 30 degrees and snowing today in Philly. Talk about a series climate change!

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I am currently writing this post from my little brother’s bed on my phone under 3 blankets. Yes… We lost power which also means no heat or Internet. Kinda like camping… In the winter!

Our original plan was to take a nice fall bike ride to enjoy the changing leaves. But due to the weather we obviously had to change things up!

Most of my pictures are on my camera so I will share them once I can use my computer!

I started off the morning with yoga with my mom. It felt so nice just to stretch! My muscles have been quite tight lately.

After a French toast breakfast on high 5 Great harvest bread we headed out to do some errands. We hit up goodwill to look for a purple jacket for my brother’s Halloween costume. He is going as Professor Plum from Clue. We found 3 purple jackets… What are the odds of that happening?!

Then we hit up Great harvest! I picked up a loaf of high 5 and oatbran. We also snagged a delicious red velvet Halloween cupcake.

Lunch was at the farmers market. This is one of my favorite places to eat when I’m home. It’s an indoor market with all different food stalls. I hit up my favorite Greek place. I couldn’t decide so I got a combo platter with Greek salad, beet salad, marinated eggplant, and pita.

Dessert was pumpkin ice cream. In the snow! My brother and I agreed that sometimes we crave cold food even more in the winter… Maybe we are just weird:)

After lunch my brother headed back to college. He wanted to make the drive before the roads got too bad. By this time a lot of places had lost power. I headed over to a local restaurant to meet my friend Katie from high school.

It was so fun seeing her! Although we couldn’t dress up and go out as planned, we still got to chat. And hanging out in a bar with a generator for power with all the locals was pretty fun!

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For dinner we went to Golden China, a Chinese food restaurant that never seems to lose power! I remember going there growing up every time we lost power! They had expanded their menu to include sushi! I got a new to me roll with egg, crab, and roe. I also got miso soup and salad.

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It was delicious! I’m glad I tried something different and didn’t go with the eel or salmon roll per usual.

My parents and I tried to go to Barnes and Nobles to avoid going home to the heatless house… But it was closed.

I didn’t think a weekend home would turn into such an adventure!

Question: What do you do with your family when the power goes out?

Oatmeal Taste Test Round 2: Starbucks

This morning I wanted to try a new Insanity workout. Although I am not actually following the program, I have been incorporating one or two of the workouts into my weekly mix. This morning I opted to try the Cardio Power and Resistance for the first time. I definitely worked up a sweat. The power jumps were hard! The hardest part for me is that I try to keep up with the people on the screen, and then I sacrifice my form. I think that once I do each workout a couple of times, this will get easier. I finished up with some ab work.

After my workout, as I was rushing around like a mad woman getting showered and ready for work that it would be a good day to do round 2 of testing out “healthy” fast food breakfast choices. If you missed my first test of Burger King’s new oatmeal option, check it out!

Oatmeal Taste Test: Burger King

Some of you may argue that Starbucks is not fast food.

20111027-115449.jpgI would disagree. It has a drive thru, which is something I immediately associate with fast food. If someone can prep your food and drink while you wait in your car, it must be pretty fast right? Also, Starbucks are everywhere! Shopping malls, airports… basically anywhere you can find a McDonalds.

Even if you don’t want to classify Starbucks as fast food, it is readily accessible to most people, so I decided to include it in my oatmeal taste test. I had ordered the oatmeal a couple of years ago when it was first introduced to the menu and I remember really enjoying it.

The oats and all of the toppings came separately.

20111027-121829.jpg“Perfect” Oats

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Nut Medley: almonds, pecans, and walnuts.

20111027-115526.jpgDried fruit: currants, yellow raisins, and cherries.

20111027-115532.jpgBrown sugar.

20111027-115538.jpgHaving all of the topping separate was nice because you could control your level of sweetness.

Overall Grade: A-

Taste: I was a little worried when the cashier handed me my oats because they looked really watery. But the lid didn’t lie! After I waited a few minutes and opened up the container, the oats had thickened up nicely. I loved the toppings. I normally stick to one type of nut or dried fruit when I make my oats at home so it was nice to have a mixture. The dried fruit added plenty of sweetness for my taste so I didn’t even miss the brown sugar. I think that the oats would be even creamier with a splash of half and half from the coffee bar!

Nutrition: Since all of the toppings were separate, the nutrition stats could vary considerably. For the plain oats, nuts, and dried fruit (the combo I used) the stats were as follows:

Calories: 340

Fat: 12.5 grams

Dietary Fiber: 6 grams

Sugar: 20 grams (all from the dried fruit)

Protein: 7 grams

The addition of the brown sugar would add 50 calories and 13 grams of sugar.

Cost: $2.45

Other Factors: My biggest complaint was the excessive amount of packaging.

20111027-115513.jpgCarrying bag.

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Little bag to hold the toppings. And then each topping was in its own little plastic bag, the plastic spoon, and the oatmeal cup. Phew. What a waste! Next time I would ask for just the toppings and oatmeal without the extra bags.

I liked these oats much more than the Burger King oatmeal… but I still like homemade best… especially since I started taking the extra time to make them on the stove.

I’m publishing this post from my parents house in PA where I am spending the weekend. It will be a quick trip since I have to leave on Sunday at 1… but I’m excited about the potential snow storm!

Question: What is your go to Starbucks order? Mine is an iced grande cafe latte (iced or hot, depending on the season). I get 2 % milk. It is so much creamier than with skim! I always add chocolate powder or nutmeg from the hot bar area.

Beer + Sushi + Jack-O-Lanterns

This morning’s workout was a good one. The 5-4-3-2-1 Treadmill workout courtesy of Kristin at Iowa Girl Eats. I was a bit nervous about the 1 minute segments at 8 mph since I haven’t been running too frequently lately. But I actually still felt energized at the end of the workout! 5.65 (yes that is the precise distance) miles… check! I love getting my workout out-of-the-way. I feel like I have so much more time left in the day.

Rewind to last night…

I think Wednesdays are my new favorite day of the week… first its WIAW.  Ok technically I posted on Tuesday. But work with me ok? Last night Ryan and I continued the celebration with a little party of our own. It started with me new favorite beer.

20111027-094908.jpgWells Banana Bread Beer. I am definitely more of a wine than beer girl. I tend to be drawn to the fruity and girly beers. I admit it and am not ashamed! Give me a lambic and I’m a happy camper. I am always drawn to beers with fruits in the title but am then disappointed when it doesn’t taste like what the bottle says! But this beer… actually tastes like banana bread. It will blow your mind… promise.

Then it was time to break out the sushi making kit! Ryan’s roommate bought him a sushi making kit months ago as a thank you gift and we finally bit the bullet and decided it was time to give sushi making a whirl. Ryan had made sushi once before. We read a little bit of the book in the kit but quickly abandoned it after realizing it was overly complicated and all the measurements were in metric units. So it was time to wing it!

20111027-094846.jpgSticky sushi rice. After a quick search online, we decided to season the rice with a mixture of vinegar, honey, and salt.

20111027-094853.jpgShrimp sautéed in a bit of sesame oil.

20111027-094901.jpgThe infamous sushi rolling mat.

Ryan took on the role of head sushi chef.

20111027-094917.jpgNo question the rice was sticky! We followed the book’s instructions and cut the nori sheets in half.

20111027-094923.jpgFirst attempt… not too successful. The rolls just didn’t stay closed! So Ryan decided to use a whole nori sheet.

20111027-094929.jpgMuch better!

20111027-094946.jpgLook at how fast sushi chef Ryan cut up the roll! I told him he should consider a career shift:)

20111027-094940.jpgThe first plated roll.Inside: shrimp, carrot, and red bell pepper. It was delicious dunked in soy sauce but was a bit dry.

20111027-095007.jpgWe added cream cheese to the second roll…success! After making two rolls we were starving so we put down the camera and chowed down on the “broken” roll and leftover rice and shrimp. Now we understand why sushi is so expensive… it’s no easy task! Next time we will start before 7:30 pm:) And I will check out Jenn’s sushi making tutorial that I discovered one day too late!

After sushi… it was pumpkin time! I carved my pumpkin in record time and with minimal mess. I normally end up covered in stringy orange with seeds all over the floor. But this year I managed to stay relatively clean. Ryan was impressed.

And no I present… bat cat.

20111027-095013.jpgHe looks much better in black and white.

20111027-095018.jpgI think I could get used to these kind of Wednesday nights:)

Question: Have you ever tried making sushi? If not, what is the biggest cooking challenge you have ever tackled? My next challenge is making a pie, including crust, from scratch.

Halloween Pumpkins

Is there ever too much of a good thing? When it comes to food, I tend to think not. Well maybe sometimes, but I love to repeat favorite meals over and over again.

Exhibit A

20111026-112335.jpgSame breakfast as yesterday. Well similar. I used oatmeal instead of buckwheat. I can’t remember the last time I cooked oatmeal on the stove… I am NEVER going back to the microwave. It was so much thicker and creamier this way. Topped with pumpkin butter, peanut butter, and the last of the frozen blueberries.

Exhibit B

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Same lunch as yesterday. 3 days in a row… yea it was that tasty. But I am out of hummus now… so I guess my good friend turkey loaf salad and I will have to part ways.

But I am not all boring… I did try a new recipe! Pumpkin granola bars.

20111026-112345.jpgI followed Chelsea’s recipe except since I didn’t have any agave, I used molasses per Julie’s suggestion. I love recipe collaboration! It was nice and chewy, just the way a granola bar should be. I was never a big fan of crunchy granola bars. And everything tastes more festive on a spiderweb plate right?

Tonight Ryan and I are going to carve our pumpkin! In honor of this occasion, I thought I’d share some of my previous “masterpieces.”

The boy looking in the mirror one is mine:)

The one on the left that says Wicked (in honor of one of my favorite musical soundtracks) is mine. I still need to see the play!!

I was really creative this year and got a pattern online instead of using one from the buck 50 pattern book from CVS. I don’t know why I chose a tiger, but I think he turned out pretty well.

Argh matey… This was not one of my best. I was rushing which never turns out well.

My brother made this cat jack-o-lantern on a white pumpkin. I love it! I should have tried to pass it off as mine:)

Speaking of my brother Walter, I wanted to share another Halloween costume.

Walter (left) and his friend Zach went out as Waldo and Odlaw in 2007. My grandpa used to call my brother Waldo, so the costume was quite fitting. Walter and I were obsessed with the Where’s Waldo books when we were younger. We own every one and would have races to see who could find all of the characters first. Does anyone else remember Odlaw? He was Waldo’s “evil twin.” And his name is Waldo spelled backwards:)

Can’t wait to share this year’s pumpkin masterpiece.

Question: Did you read the Where’s Waldo? books growing up?

WIAW: Klutz in the Kitchen

A party sounds really good right about now don’t you think? Maybe a fruity drink or two? Is it just me, or is this week going a wee bit slow? So far this week I have broken dropped a glass peanut butter jar in my pantry and knocked a huge bottle of olive oil onto the kitchen floor. Broken glass + slick oil is not fun to clean up. At least my floors are shiny. I hope my glass breaking streak is over! I think its time to step out of the kitchen and share some eats… WIAW style. No glass involved:) Thanks Jenn for providing a virtual party. I think this is safer for me than a “live” party. Given my track record this week, I’d probably drop a beer bottle on the floor!

Peas and CrayonsBreakfast

20111025-095008.jpgOne perk of a 9 am doctors appointment… I get to eat breakfast at home, in a bowl instead of in front of the computer.

20111025-094953.jpgI think this is my favorite breakfast I have made in a long time! I made a buckwheat bowl, per Courtney’s fool-proof recipe. If you have never tried buckwheat, I urge you to head over and check out Sweet Tooth Sweet Life for the recipe. Since I made these yesterday, I ate them cold topped with frozen blueberries, pumpkin butter, and crunchy peanut butter. Yes, it was the peanut butter in the broken glass bottle. I salvaged it from the wreckage. It’s now being stored in a Tupperware. And yes I ate a cold breakfast in October. Houston is having a late heat wave… 90 degrees in October?!

Lunch

20111025-095026.jpgA new favorite salad beast combination: Spinach base topped with roasted potatoes, roasted carrots, a slice of cut up turkey loaf, and homemade red pepper hummus. Growing up I always ate turkey loaf with homemade cranberry sauce and a baked potato. Although this combination will always be dear to my heart, I love the turkey loaf on top of salad! And I do have the potato element too. Maybe I need to make a cranberry vinaigrette to round it out.

Dinner

20111025-095019.jpgCold leftover pizza from last night’s pizza party. Just as good the second time around. Especially the extra thick crusty part that I dunked in extra marinara.

Drink

20111025-095105.jpgMy new favorite after dinner drink: hot almond milk mixed with cocoa powder and a tad of honey. Tonight I added almond extract. Chocolate mint is such an awesome flavor combo. Even though I am sweating while drinking it… it’s so worth it.

Snacks

20111025-095050.jpgServed in my new candy dish. Except not really. My co-workers would be slightly scared if I started eating out of a giant pumpkin:)

20111025-095042.jpgAn apple (I swear my stash is neverending!) and a new to me Lara bar flavor.

20111025-095057.jpgBanana bread. I give it a B. Definitely can’t hold a candle to any of the flavors involving peanut butter or chocolate.

20111025-095036.jpgMy current yogurt obsession: Oikos Key Lime Pie. It may even beat out Chobani Pineapple. Maybe..

Question: Are you klutzy in the kitchen?

Monday Pizza Party

After spending so much time outside this weekend, it was difficult to sit indoors all day today. I found myself getting antsy, but at least my office has a big window! Not too much of a view though, unless you like looking at a refinery flare stack.

Breakfast this morning was a winner!

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Don’t judge it by its Tupperware:) I whipped up a buckwheat bowl with almond milk, chia seeds, and banana. After cooking I stirred in 1/3 cup of pumpkin and topped it with homemade cranberry sauce and Justin’s Honey Peanut Butter! It reminded me so much of Thanksgiving!

After work, I hurried home to throw some ingredients in the bread machine for pizza crusts. While the dough was churning away I cranked out an hour on my bike trainer and got caught up on Gossip Girl. The season is starting to get really good! I’m so excited that Dan finally wrote a book.

While Ryan finished up some homework I laid out some toppings.

20111024-084035.jpgShredded chicken,

20111024-084042.jpgTomato sauce. This sauce was on the bargain rack at the grocery store this week. Man was it tasty. It was made in Italy! This was definitely a steal. For those of you that don’t check out the bargain shelves at the store, I highly recommend it. Mine are located near the meats. One of the best things I ever found was Silk Chocolate Milk boxes for 30 cents. They are perfect for post workout snacks. Back to the pizza!

20111024-084050.jpgRoasted red peppers and garlic marinated olives,

20111024-084103.jpgFeta,

20111024-084124.jpgMozzarella, and some un-pictured spinach and pizza seasoning.

The dough turned out super sticky. I was getting really flustered but Ryan came to the rescue with the flour canister.

20111024-084133.jpgI don’t think I have a future working at a pizza parlor. I blame my lack of Italian genes. I can never get the dough in a circle! Ryan told me it looked like an amoeba:) After a trip to the oven…

20111024-084145.jpgFully cooked amoeba pie! I topped my pie with spinach, olives, roasted red pepper, feta, and pizza seasoning.

20111024-084139.jpgRyan’s round “professional” pizza with the works.

20111024-084155.jpgI enjoyed a couple of slices and the leftover spinach. Despite the stickiness of the dough, I loved the final product. It was slightly sweet from honey and was nice and airy. I think feta and spinach are my favorite pizza toppings.

Can anyone believe that Halloween is in one week?! I am going to visit my parents again and am excited to go out with two of my high school friends for Halloween. I still need a costume. I hope I can scrounge one up once I get there. In honor of the last week before Halloween, I am going to present some of my favorite costumes. Let’s start with my favorite costume from college.My friend from high school, Katie, visited me my freshman year of college for Halloween. She is the same one I am going out with this weekend! We wanted matching costumes. We snagged these at the Disney Store. The bottoms were slightly obscene, maybe because they were meant for 10-year-old boys? I distinctly remember my wings getting stolen and finding them a few hours later in the road.

Question: What was your favorite Halloween costume?