Happy WIAW!!! My apologies for the lack of food posts, I only had time to post my Insanity workouts (which are actually written 2 weeks in advance) and my husband’s parents are visiting from Germany! Our first official house guests in our new home, and it’s pretty fun and exciting. But in addition to receiving guests, we were also able to meet up with some newlywed friends from Hawaii, who moved to Germany, who were visiting family in Boston.

This month’s WIAW theme is making us Fall into Good Habits. Jenn at Peas and Crayons kicked it off with some incredibly delicious-looking photos of her healthy eating, and be sure to check out what other bloggers have to share as they take the fall, all in the name of habitual goodness!

I’m going to be sharing some stuff I did the past couple of weeks, and one good habit to have is to have FUN! We met up with friends at Catamount Adventure Park, located an hour’s drive south of Albany. We spent a good 4 hours testing our physical prowess and conquering our fear of heights (or should I say our fear of falling!) as we enjoyed traversing swinging bridges, pinky-thin cables and zooming across the forest on zippy zip lines!

View of the main platform where you start.

My friend balancing on the high wire!

My husband coming up the swing-like steps.

Zip lining!

We would definitely do this all over again so for any of our Hawaii friends that wanna visit Upstate NY during the summer, be prepared to be dragged to Catamount Adventure Park!

Later on we enjoyed some much anticipated and long awaited Vietnamese food at Vans in downtown Albany:

I had the Vietnamese pancake filled with veggies, my husband had beef pho (I couldn’t finish it.)

On Saturday we picked up my husband’s parents who are visiting from Germany. Since the airport was 3 hours away, we took advantage of this special trip to Newark and stopped at Ikea, The Wine Library, Costco (just to cash in on our reward$) and Sephora. We came home about 1am…and look at all the goodies they brought us!

Chocolates…..

28 bars of chocolate, 1 huge bar of Ritter Sport, two bags of daim chocolate clusters.

…and beer!

12 bottles of Augustiner…matches the glasses we brought back on our last visit.

Indulging in chocolates and beer may not be the best for this month’s theme of “Falling into Good Habits,” but gift-giving certainly can!

Another good habit you can fall into is to share a favorite recipe with friends and family. My in-laws cooked some dinner for us last week. This one is a rich, creamy, delicious avocado sauce with pieces of pork served with rice. My mother-in-law made this with chicken a couple of times, but the pork tastes much better:

Here is a dish I call “Quark Cakes” because I keep forgetting the German name, Quarkkäulchen. My father-in-law enjoyed it as a child and it’s one of those comfort foods that will sure to bring back cozy memories.

Some of us may be familiar with this kind of Quark:

Or even this kind:

But it’s actually made with this delicious creamy stuff:

Quark is a type of soft cheese, almost like cream cheese in texture as well as flavor. Here is the recipe for Quark Pancakes, or Quarkkäulchen. It’s rich and filling, and can be enjoyed with fruits for breakfast or with a green salad for brunch, lunch, or dinner. Quarkkäulchen have a soft, tender texture dotted with sweet raisins and a lightly sweetened batter, all contained within the crispness of the golden fried dough. Topped with a light sprinkling of sugar, Quarkkäulchen is an indulgent comfort food.

Quarkkäulchen, with and without sugar.

Quarkkäulchen
This recipe is courtesy of my father-in-law, who had the pleasure of enjoying his mother prepare it for him as a child…with lots of sugar and love. :)

Ingredients:
250 g yellow potatoes or red potatoes, boiled, peeled & cooled overnight
90 g flour, more if needed
1/2 tablespoon salt
50g sugar, plus extra for sprinkling on top
250 g quark
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup raisins
vegetable oil for frying

Directions (I have to make this up, since it wasn’t included in the hand-written recipe!)
In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, and sugar. With a potato ricer, process potatoes into bowl (alternatively you could probably use a pastry cutter to break apart potatoes into very small pieces.) Stir well. Add quark and eggs and stir to combine. Dough will be really sticky, like thick pancake batter. Add raisins and stir gently to combine.

Heat about 1/4″ vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. On a large cookie sheet, sprinkle flour and keep about 1/2 cup flour in a dish nearby. Flour hands and begin to form dough into small cakes (or patties) about the size of your palm and the thickness of your thumb. Place on floured cookie sheet.

When oil is hot, carefully add patties to the skillet using a large wooden or metal spatula. Cook on one side for about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, or until golden brown. Using two spatulas, carefully turn patties over, being careful not to splash oil (I actually splashed myself on the neck and arm!) Cook for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes more or until golden brown. Transfer to paper towel-lined rack or plate and repeat with remaining cakes. Change oil if it gets too dirty.

Sprinkle patties with more sugar and serve hot. Bon Appetit!

Soft, tender Quarkkäulchen dotted with raisins.

Most of us think of healthy eating and exercise when asked about having good habits. But what else can be a good habit? How about randomly picking up trash and disposing it properly? Spontaneously doing jumping jacks when you feel lethargic? Brushing your hairy cats so they don’t make tumbleweed-hairballs all over the living room? That sounds like a good habit to pick up. Will I stick to it? Only if it becomes a habit. ;)


Happy WIAW! Jenn at Peas and Crayons is over the moon now that her husband, Paul, is back form deployment (hooray!) But she still had time to serve up gorgeous food photos, and even one of her ferret! Check out her blog to see the happy couple, happy food, and a bunch of happy bloggers sharing their midweek treats!

Summer staples from last week included some zucchini that have been producing nicely in my garden, and this week I’d like to include yet another prolific producer–cucumber!

I love the taste and crunch of a fresh cucumber, and if you also like yogurt then yesterday’s Easy Tzatziki recipe is right up your alley. Vanilla Cucumber Smoothie might sound like some kind of body cream, but it’s a real, drinkable smoothie that has the clean, refreshing taste of cucumbers and the smooth sweetness of vanilla. I had one for breakfast, and it was a delicious and light post-workout snack:

Vanilla Cucumber Smoothie

Refreshing, packed with nutrients, and low in fat, carbs, and calories–just around 250 for 30 ounces of deliciousness (this glass is only 12 oz…refills!)

Lunch was another fruit & veggie yogurt bowl:

Cucumber, apple, pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, and fat-free Greek yogurt mixed with vanilla protein powder & cinnamon. Celestial Seasonings Imperial White Peach tea.

Dinner was leftovers from the previous night, chicken tikka with biriyani:

Another good source of low-fat protein: chicken, yogurt marinade, brown rice and split yellow peas.

Dessert was an assortment of sweets, including some Dutch cookies sent by my husband’s grandma from the Netherlands (thank you, Omi!) We couldn’t eat everything, but it’s just nice to look at a bunch of assorted cookies:

Clockwise, top, L-R: spekulaas (traditional Dutch cookie, tastes like Xmas,) stroopwafel (“syrup waffle”,) roomboter bitterkoekjespencee (thick cookies filled with buttery, pasty filling,) Riesen chocolates, vanilla oreos, roomboter Fondantsprits (butter shortbreads,) fudge coconut oreos, Amarettini koekjes (tastes like almond cookies,) and gezouten drop (salted licorice.) Served with rooibos thee!

This smoothie recipe can be adjusted to your taste, and is yet another great way to use up all those extra cucumbers and zucchini piling up in your fridge. The mild flavors of the veggies add freshness, plus they provide fiber for bulk. The banana also helps thicken it up and gives it some sweetness. The vanilla protein powder gives it the creamy, vanilla flavor.

Vanilla Cucumber Smoothie
A thick layer of foam forms at the top, just stir gently to incorporate all the yummy goodness!

Ingredients:

12 ounces cold water
4 ounces almond milk (or milk, soy moo, more water)
1 1/3 scoops vanilla protein powder, or your favorite flavor protein powder
2 handfuls baby spinach leaves, rinsed and squeezed out
4″ cucumber, sliced thin
4″ zucchini, sliced thin (more cucumber is okay, too)
1/3 ripe banana, sliced
ice cubes (optional)

Directions:

In a blender, add water, milk, protein powder. Blend on low until combined, about 10 seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients except ice. Blend on medium to medium-high until veggies are chopped up, 15-30 seconds. Add ice cubes and blend on high for 10 seconds until crushed. Makes about 30 ounces.

Vanilla Cucumber Smoothie-2

The bulk from the veggies makes this shake thick enough for a straw to stand up

Any favorite post-workout smoothies? What’s the greenest smoothie you ever tried? :D

Today’s WIAW will be quick and dirty, as it’s been a busy week and an even busier Wednesday (hence the evening post!)  thank you again to Jenn at Peas and Crayons for hosting this weekly round-up for us to share our recipes, a few laughs, and maybe some interesting stories to close out the summer.

In addition to my summer staples of fresh fruits and veggies, I came across an easy protein bar recipe that could be a great staple to take along on hikes, bike trips, road trips, or even as an on-the-go breakfast while running errands (like I did this morning) or a nighttime snack when you need a little something to satisfy your peanut butter and banana cravings (like I did five minutes ago!) I’ll share this recipe in a moment, but here’s a quick rundown of the day’s eats:

Breakfast: I wasn’t that hungry after this morning’s workout so I had peanut butter jelly toast and coffee (no picture, but it’s the same as last week’s recycled photo!) My stomach was ready for more after a couple hours, but coffee and tea was enough to keep me satisfied until lunchtime.

Lunch: fruit and veggie salad with protein powder-infused yogurt! Fruits: apple, pear, grapes, strawberries, blueberries. Veggies: celery, cucumber, shredded zucchini. This is a good way to add more veggies into your day, just slice them thin/small so you won’t be overwhelmed by a mouthful of zucchini…unless you like zucchini a lot!

Fruit and veggie yogurt bowl and a cup of Celestial Seasonings Blueberry Breeze green tea for lunch.

Snack: half a Peanut Butter Banana Protein Bar! It was so chewy and gooey, and half was just enough to satisfy my sweet tooth (picture and recipe below.)

Dinner: quick and easy chicken, broccoli and quinoa:

No dessert if I have wine…and I did have wine!

Protein bars are great, and I used to have them for lunch along with an apple on the days I had back-to-back classes in college. I haven’t bought one in a while and when I do feel like trying one out, it’s usually the price that convinces me not to buy one.  I got this super easy protein bar recipe from http://fatlossschool.com/how-to-make-your-own-whey-protein-bars/. You can make these bars whatever flavor you want with different protein powders and some of your favorite baking spices. I made this version using some powdered peanut butter to help cut down on the fat and it still has a great taste.

L-R: powdered peanut butter, oat flour, nut butter, protein powder & banana.

Thick and sticky, just like cookie dough.

I use tofu containers to mold them, but any small container will do.

Put the plastic wrapped protein mix in the freezer to firm up before slicing.

Peanut Butter Banana Protein Bars, also can be made into bite-sized nuggets (left).

Chewy Peanut Butter Banana Protein Bars (vegan)  recipe from http://www.fatlossschool.com
Give them a light coating of oats and chopped nuts. These protein snacks can also be baked.

1 cup oat flour
1 cup dairy-free vanilla protein powder (or protein powder of your choice)
1/4 cup powdered peanut butter (like PB2)
1 large ripe banana
1/4 cup nut butter
1/4 cup water (I used water that had soaked dates in it to make it a little more sweet)

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine oat flour, protein powder and powdered peanut butter (if using) with a whisk. With a fork or pastry cutter, mash in banana and peanut butter, adding a little water at a time until cookie dough consistency. Blend well.

Line a small loaf pan or container with plastic wrap, leaving half hanging over the side. Spray the inside with cooking spray. Add mixture to loaf pan, or if using a small plastic container, add half of mixture. Flatten with spatula, cover mixture with plastic wrap and press firmly. Repeat with remaining dough. Freeze for 30 minutes before slicing. Makes 10-12 servings.

Baking option: preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut bars into thirds, place on silpat, ungreased cookie sheet or pizza pan. Bake for 10 minutes, cool before storing in airtight container in fridge for a week or wrap in foil and freeze for up to two months.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the nutritional info (oat and nut coating nutrition info not included):

Total 1/12th serving 1/10th serving
Calories 1360 113.5g 136
Protein 101.5g 8.5g 10.2g
Fat 61.4g 43.4g 5.2g 3.6g 6.2g 4.4g
Carbs 158.6g 13.3g 16g

(NOTE: I made a mistake on the fat! I counted 20 grams instead of 2, yikes!!! Luckily my recalculations brought it down, sorry about the scare, folks!)

Options (extra calories apply!):

– omit PB2 and increase nut butter to 1/2 cup, use less water
– substitute Nutella for half of nut butter
– substitute 1/4 – 1/3 cup apple sauce, pureed sweet potato or canned pumpkin for banana
– add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

What’s your favorite protein bar flavor? Are there any protein bars that are worth shelling our a couple bucks for or do you enjoy making them yourself?

Happy What I Ate Wednesday! Jenn at Peas and Crayons is continuing our “Summer Staples” theme, and with the abundance some of you home gardeners may have, one summer staple is a vegetable that can be eaten raw, baked, fried, sauteed, and juiced: zucchini! As mentioned in yesterday’s Flavor of the Week post, zucchini is not my favorite veggie, so I am coming up with ways to make this extremely nutritious veggie more appetizing.

This morning’s breakfast was an experiment with zucchini muffins. The last time I tried making a chocolate zucchini cake it was horrible and actually had a fishy taste! I don’t know what happened but I never want to make another chocolate zucchini cake for a long, long time. So I decided to make breakfast muffins…with the chocolate sprinkled on top! The texture of the muffin is light and spongy, it’s moist, and has enough sweetness from both the brown sugar and chopped dates sprinkled throughout. Having chocolate chips on the top rather than stirred in the batter makes the muffins look like they’re bursting with chips, and you can easily make some plain ones by leaving them off:

Zucchini muffins, with and without chocolate chips

My lunches have still been the same fruit salads with yogurt:

Recycled picture, but all my fruit salads look pretty much like this!

This dinner was from a couple weeks ago. It’s steamed rice, venison burger, and a fried egg, all smothered with homemade giblet gravy. For those of you not familiar with Hawaii cuisine, this is what’s called a loco moco:

Venison Loco Moco with veggies

You can add steamed veggies, mushrooms, onions and it’ll still be a loco moco. Just start it off with rice, a burger patty (veggie is ok!,) a fried egg, and gravy. If you have homemade gravy, it’s even better (quick gravy: heat up 2  tablespoons oil in a frying pan on medium heat, add equal amount of flour, stir for a few minutes until light brown. Slowly add 1/2 – 3/4 cup chicken or beef broth and stir quickly with wooden spoon. Simmer for 5 minutes, add 1/4 cup white wine, simmer another couple minutes until desired thickness. Add salt to taste, serve.)

Here’s the recipe for Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins. Shredded zucchini adds moisture and bulk and helps to cut down on the amount of oil used. Spelt flour gives it a more grainy texture and is good for people who have a wheat intolerance (note: spelt does contain gluten, so make adjustments if you are on a gluten-free diet.) I picked the zucchini this morning and started making the muffins about ten minutes later, can’t get fresher zucchini than that! :)

Wheat-free zucchini muffins, with or without chocolate chips

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins
Reserve any leftover liquid or shredded zucchini, there’s lots of vitamins and minerals!

1 large zucchini
1/2 cup pitted and chopped dates (about 10)
1 1/2 cups spelt flour (wheat flour or gluten-free flour blend OK)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher salt (3/4 teaspoon table salt)
1 egg plus 1 egg white
1/2 cup oil (note: melt coconut oil, if using)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (note: Ghirardelli has gluten-free chocolate chips, Nestle does not)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pans with paper liners or grease with nonstick spray, set aside.

Peel outer skin off zucchini, discard. Using small holes of a box grater, shred zucchini. Place in basket strainer over measuring cup or bowl, pressing gently with spatula do squeeze out more liquid. You should get 4-5 ounces of zucchini juice. Soak dates in zucchini water, leaving strainer over the bowl/measuring cup, set aside.

Drink this later, it’s good for you!

In a bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in center, add egg and egg white. Beat with a fork or wire whisk, add oil and beat until combined, stirring in flour a little at a time. Add 3/4 cups shredded zucchini (you will have some leftover, save it for a smoothie!) and stir to combine. Drain soaked dates and add to batter, stirring well to combine (reserve liquid for your next protein shake or smoothie.)

Pour about 1/4 cup batter into prepared muffin tins. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top.  Bake for 15 minutes, cool for a few minutes before enjoying.

What’s your favorite home-grown veggie? How about your favorite farmer’s market find? I’d love to hear from you!


Is it August already?! Time flies when you’re having fun, especially for those of us who share yummy treats and awesome eats on What I Ate Wednesdays!

Last month was incredibly fun with Jenn’s theme of “Food, Fun and Fitness” and the momentum is carried over to August with “Summer Staples.” One summer staple I’ve been enjoying are big bowls of healthy fruit disguised as lunch salads. Combinations of fresh fruits, veggies, yogurt, and even some protein powder make a wonderful midday meal that is packed with vitamins, minerals, water, fiber, protein, and deliciousness! It’s a mish-mash of raw foods and gut-friendly yogurt, so it’s also great for digestion. Plus, it’s low in fat…reeealll low! ;)

On to breakfast!

Post-workout breakfast was peanut butter jelly toast, coffee and fruit (recycled picture here):

Lunch was a fruit & veggie salad bowl (It’s been my favorite for the past couple weeks now!) If you regularly have a good supply of fruits and veggies, you can come up with some crazy combinations that taste great!

A mish-mash of fruits, veggies, and marinated tofu & cucumber…delicious!

This has got to be the most delicious and healthy snack I’ve made in a long, long time: 6oz yogurt mixed with a spoonful of protein powder, dash of cinnamon (for sweetness and flavor,) and a heaping half cup of fresh fruits:

Make your own yogurt bowl with any combination of yogurt and fruits (no granola needed!)

Dinner was inspired by Paula Deen’s recipe for “Oven Fried Chicken.” I reduced the cheese and oil and added miso paste for flavor (and some salt.) Instead of water and additional oil, I used lemon juice. Serve it up with Lemony Basil Pesto and steamed brown rice (don’t forget the chopsticks!)

With brown rice and Lemony Pine Nut Pesto, this dinner is complete!

Basil Crusted Panko Chicken Strips – serves 2

Ingredients:

1 cup panko or crushed corn flakes
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2-3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil (or 1 1/2 tablespoons dried)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons white miso paste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 8-oz chicken breast, cut into 1/4″ think pieces
optional veggie sides: asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms, or any veggie you like roasted

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix panko, cheese and basil. Divide in half, set aside. Mix olive oil, miso, and lemon juice. Add chicken pieces and stir to coat. Dip chicken pieces in half of the panko mixture, adding more from the reserve mix as needed. Place on silpat or cookie sheet sprayed with nonstick spray, leaving some room for veggies, if using.

There was enough room to squeeze in the asparagus. Perfect dinner for two!

Using your hand, toss veggies in leftover miso paste, add 1-2 tablespoons panko mixture and tossing well to coat. Place on cookie sheet with chicken or on a new sheet if not enough room. (leftover panko mix can be used in your favorite burger, meat loaf or meat ball mixture. Store in fridge for up to 3 days.)

Bake for 10-12 minutes (3-5 minutes longer if your chicken is cut into thicker pieces.) Serve immediately with Lemony Pine Nut Pesto.

What are some of your favorite fruits of the summer? Got any great recipes for potlucks, picnics or family gatherings?