Sunday, March 30, 2014

Weekend Highlights + Edamame Hummus

It was a pretty low-key weekend around here.  A few fun activities along with plenty of chores and errands. 
The 10k I signed up for is only a week away, so I was sure to get in one last long run this weekend.  I was scheduled to run 5.5 miles, but the weather was so amazingly beautiful yesterday that I went ahead and did a full six.  It's the farthest I've run in a while, and it actually felt really good.  
Although I haven't stuck to my 10k training plan perfectly over the last 8 weeks, I've made an effort to get in at least one longer run each week and to continually increase my mileage.  I definitely feel like I will be well-prepared for the run next weekend, even if I'm not the speediest one out there.

Last night, Jay and I attended a BBQ at my friend Zenie's house in honor of some other friends who were visiting from out of town.  Kari and Nick moved away to Chicago last summer, so it was great to catch up with them!

I brought along some hummus that I made using edamame beans instead of garbanzos.  I eat sooo much regular hummus, I thought it'd be nice to mix things up a bit.  It turned out great and was a big hit at the party.  Everyone was intrigued by the fun green color, St. Patrick's day this will definitely be on my menu!
Here is the recipe:

Edamame Hummus
1.5 cups shelled and cooked edamame
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup tahini
Juice of one lemon (about 1/4 cup)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons water (as needed)
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine edamame, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic in food processor. Process until smooth. Drizzle olive oil through feed tube and continue to process.  If the hummus is still really think, add in a couple tablespoons of water until you reach desired consistency.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.

There was an amazing spread of food at the party, including eggplant paninis with pesto mayo and homemade bread, several healthy pasta salads, and a brisket that the guys stayed up ALL NIGHT smoking.  They even had their own homemade Sriracha Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce.  It was quite impressive!
Today has consisted of cleaning and laundry, plus a lot of time working outside and in the garden.  Jay built us a little mini greenhouse so that we can start growing veggies early, and he also worked on an irrigation system for all the flower beds in the back yard.  More on this to come!
I planted a couple flowers myself, but am trying to hold off on doing too much until I know the warmer weather is here to stay.
I'm getting so excited for spring!

We finished off our night with some Indian chana masala made with extra yams and chopped peanuts on top.  This meal is always a good one!  
I'm off to watch "House of Cards."  We are almost done with season's so addicting!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Healthy Sooner Makeover

A big thank you to the talented and creative Tiffany Kuehl for giving my blog a much-needed makeover!

Tiffany was so awesome to work with.  We probably sent a hundred e-mails back and forth this week, discussing colors, fonts, and everything in between.  She really listened to all of my ideas and did an amazing job turning them into reality.  I am so happy with how it all turned out!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How To Prepare and Eat a Whole Artichoke

Artichokes were on super sale at Sprouts this past weekend, so I threw one into my cart without having any idea as to how I would prepare it.  
I decided to cook it up on Sunday evening to enjoy with some wine as a nice appetizer before dinner - one last relaxing evening before going back to the real world on Monday!

With a little help from the internet and Pinterest, I settled on a method that seemed doable and tasty.  The process was really simple, and the fresh artichoke tasted delicious.  I will definitely be buying more of them in the future!

I started prepping my artichoke by cutting off the whole stem so that the bottom was flat and I could stand it up.  I then sliced off a good 1-2 inches at the top.  Apparently some people also trim off the little thorns with kitchen scissors so that they don't get poked, but I skipped that step and just decided to be careful.  Once cooked, the thorns soften and don't really pose a threat, anyway.  

I rinsed off the artichoke, rubbed down the top with a slice of lemon, and squeezed a little extra juice in between the leaves.  I heard that this helps to preserve the green color (plus I just love lemon juice).  
Next, I filled a pot with about 2-3 inches of water and added in 2 cloves of garlic, 1 bay leaf, and the juice of half a lemon. I stood the artichoke up in the pot and put on the lid.  Then, I brought the water to a boil and simmered gently for 30 to 40 minutes, until the leaves pulled off easily.  
To eat the artichoke, just pull off the leaves one at a time and use your teeth to scrape off the soft part of the petal.  I made a dipping sauce out of some mayo, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, and fresh ground pepper.  I didn't really measure but used roughly equal parts of the first three ingredients.  It was so good!  I've also heard of people dipping the leaves in butter, or an olive oil/vinegar combo would probably work well.  
Once all the petals have been removed, use a knife or spoon to scrape out and discard the inedible fuzzy part (called the "choke").
The remaining bottom of the artichoke is the best part - the heart. You can cut it up like a little baby steak, dip it in your sauce, and eat.

I can't wait to make this again!  It was the perfect healthy appetizer.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Our Mexico Vacation

We just returned yesterday from another wonderful trip to Mexico.  We spent four nights in Mazatlan plus two in Dallas (flying out of DFW saved quite a bit of money).  We did a lot of relaxing plus a couple of adventurous excursions.  I was able to practice my Spanish and felt like my language skills really got a boost, even in that short amount of time.

Some of the highlights of the trip included:

My first visit to Ikea!  We went down to Dallas a little early last Saturday and took the time to stop at the store.  And by "stop in" I mean spend at least two hours there.  My mind was totally blown when I walked in, and I wanted to buy everything!!  Sadly (or maybe luckily), most of the bigger furniture items wouldn't fit in my little car, but we still managed to take home quite a haul including a lamp, end table (for $8!!!), kitchen gadgets, a cute vase, closet organizer, and more.

The Riu Emerald Bay resort. The weather in Mazatlan was amazing (85 and sunny every single day), and our resort was gorgeous.  We stayed at the all-inclusive Riu Emerald Bay.  The facilities were very well-kept, and all of the workers were extremely nice.  Every single room at this resort has a full ocean-front view, and the restaurants, bars, five pools, and beach are just steps away.  And, for the times you didn't want to leave your room, there was a fully stocked mini-fridge and a liquor dispenser!

 Exploring the city of Mazatlan.  We went into the city on a tour one day, and we got to see things like the town center and cathedral, local market, boardwalk, cliff divers, and more.  I loved getting to experience some real Mexican culture, and I only wish the tour had given us a little more freedom to walk around on our own.  Jay and I both agreed that next time we will skip the tour and just get in a cab and start exploring.  We still got a good taste of the city, and I will have lots of fun pictures and stories to share with my Spanish class when I go back on Monday!

Whale-watching tour.  This was one of the best excursions I have ever done in Mexico.  We signed up with a company called Onca Explorations, which does a lot of research and monitoring of the marine life in Mazatlan.  We went out on small boat with just a few other tourists in search of whales and other wild animals.  The tour guides are also researchers, so they were very knowledgeable and explained everything that they were doing in detail.  We used a hydrophone to help us search for the whales, and luckily we were able to find a group of three humpbacks that were in transit together.  We followed them for a while and got up really close!  We also saw wild dolphins and sea lions.  It was so cool!

Shopping.  There were tons of vendors that set up on the beach near our hotel, and I loved shopping and practicing my bartering skills in Spanish.  Jay and I both got some fun knock-off sunglasses that we wouldn't have to worry about losing on the trip, and I got this cute swimsuit cover-up.
The beach!  The beach in Mazatlan was really nice and clean.  The waves were fairly calm, and we got in the ocean on several occasions.  Our resort was on the end of a long stretch of beach, so we went on a long run one morning and several walks throughout the week.

Some downsides of the trip...

The food.  The food wasn't bad, but almost all of the restaurants were buffet-style.  Although they had a really wide variety, I still got pretty tired of it by the end.  It seemed like every night was the same foods prepared in slightly different ways.  Even the "specialty" restaurants felt like more of the same.  I did a decent job of eating healthy, but it was still nothing like my diet at home.  It is impossible when you have no control over the food quality or how it is prepared.  And something Jay ate didn't agree with his stomach so well, and he was a little sick on our last night.

The entertainment.  The Riu didn't have as many organized activities as at other resorts we've stayed in.  I played bingo a couple times and one night Jay and I participated in a beach volleyball game, but for the most part the entertainment activities weren't very well planned.  We wished we had brought our own frisbee or more books to read for the times we spent at the pool or beach.  The shows at night, however, weren't half-bad!

The travel.  After the three hour drive to Dallas, we still had a really long flight to Mazatlan.  We had to change planes in Mexico City, both times with a long layover.  It was just too much travel for a four-night trip.  Next time, we will either be sure to fly out of OKC, or at least get a direct flight if we do fly out of Dallas.

Overall, it was a really good trip.  I am already starting to think about when we can go back again!  We'd love to go with a group of friends or family next time.
As fun as it is to travel, there is no place like home.  I will be glad to get back to my normal routine again!  Adios!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Vegan Kale, White Bean, & Potato Soup

My mom and I must think alike, because the same night that I made my kale and white bean pasta that I shared on the blog last week, she was making a kale and white bean soup. Since I can never have too much kale or too many beans in my life, I asked her to send me the recipe.

She found the original on but made a few modifications. I made the soup for myself earlier this week, and it was great! Quick, easy, and nutritious - just the way I like it!

Kale, White Bean, and Potato Soup
Makes approximately 6 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves chopped
4 cups vegetable broth
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted)
3-4 red potatoes, cubed (or 2-3 regular potatoes)
1 (15 ounce) cans Great Northern beans (drained and rinsed)
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot; cook the onion and garlic until soft. Stir in the kale and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the vegetable broth, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, Italian seasoning, and parsley. Simmer soup on medium heat for 25 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you don't care about keeping it vegan, you can also top with some fresh Parmesan cheese. Yum!
I don't know about you guys, but I cannot wait for this week to be over! Next week is spring break, and Jay and I will be spending the majority of it in sunny Mazatlan, Mexico. I haven't ever been to this particular city, but I've heard good things. As long as I can sit on the beach and practice my Spanish I'm a happy camper. I also read that whales should be passing through around this time - I would love to see that! I'll be sure to post some pictures when we get back! Adios!!