Not Your Typical College Kitchen

Tomorrow is my 22nd birthday; the last time my age was a palindrome (spelled the same way front and backwards, like MOM and WOW) was 11...next 33!..AH! Where does the time go. I swear, after this tomorrow my age will reverse with each coming birthday (like Benjamin Button). Woo, can't wait to be 21 again next year!

Anyways. It's always an adjustment when I go back to school. I like my summer routine and am always anxious to get back into one once I start classes. Since this is syllabus week, I have a lot of time on my hand = a lot of blog posts.

While at college, I try my best to maintain a well-rounded, healthy diet. Our landlord (god bless him) has a garden which we're welcome to; so though I've been torn away from my backyard supermarket (tear), I still have access to fresh veggies! Hooray! And I must say that his garden makes mine look minuscule; his garden means business and I'm so thankful to benefit from it. 

Below is our refrigerator. Being the beginning of the year, it's a tad sparse; but, I have to say it's a pretty healthy college fridge. All of the green beans, zucchini, and squash are from our land lord's garden. And I've recently have had an obsession with Greek yogurt (hence the overstock over Oikos in the fridge) and agave nectar. It's like dessert for breakfast and who doesn't want dessert.


My other obsession? Salad. Doesn't sound too exciting, but I've been adding garden tomatoes, zucchini and green beans (ah so fresh) and mixing those with my organic spinach. Then topping it off with some fat-free Italian, S&P, oregano, and basil.  Heaven.

A masterpiece good enough to eat, and I think I will.

The rest of my cooking will be simplified and more easy-peasy since my resources are limited being at school and all, but...they all shall be delicious. Pinky promise.


Monday Yumday: Marinated Veggies

In attempts to mimic our role models on Food Network, my roommate and I are starting to get crafty in the kitchen. We're attempting to plan our meals ahead of time in hopes to eat healthier when we come back from class ravenous. 

One easy food tip I learned in college: dressing makes a great and cheap marinade. I also learned that you can basically marinade anything. Hence, our craftiness. Italian dressing + Vegetables = Greatness

We marinated onions, squash, and a giant zucchini in Italian dressing overnight. Simple. I sauteed mine along with a few green beans and batta bing batta boom, dinner. It's not rocket science, but it's simple which makes its a quick and delicious meal. Pair it with chicken, whole wheat pasta or savory by itself. Yum. Gosh, I love vegetables. 

Our next planned meal is yellow squash spaghetti from scratch. Stay tuned, y'all.



My Top 5 Summer Achievements

It's that bittersweet time of the year: the end of summer. School is starting back up (sweet), but it'll probably snow in about a month (bitter). Regardless, my summer was filled with a ton of rewarding experiences; I couldn't of asked for a more fulfilling season-- personally and externally.

Like the midnight news, here's a recap of the Top 5 headline-worthy achievements of my summer (in no particular order):

1) Overcoming a fear: Running in my first 5k

I overcame my fear of running, and participated in something that would have sounded absurd two years ago. Like phonics, I'm hooked and hoping to participate in a half marathon in the near future!

2) Started a new hobby: Cycling

I finally gave in and bought a Trek road bike (aka Colbalt aka Colbie) which became the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

We starred as the dynamic duo in my first big LiveStrong 45 mile bike race which led to...

....kinda-sorta meeting Lance Armstrong! That alone experience could have defined my summer.

3) New family addition: Sophie

Sophie's spunky and loving personality became a perfect family fit, and she finally grew on Heidi after she stopped trying to nurse from her. Though my dad refers to her as the "Hellien", we are all completely in love.

4) Improved a skill: Cooking

Having a garden has encouraged me to try new recipes and practice my cooking. Plus, I'm the epitome of a food-a-holic so anything that has to with food is motivation enough. My mom always said that cooking just takes practice, and I have to say she was right. A couple years ago, I thought I was doomed to a lifestyle of cereal and frozen meals...but there's hope for me yet. I love to cook, especially when I am able cook for others. What's that famous biblical manta?...Give a woman a fish, and she can eat for a day; but, teach a woman to cook and she can eat for a lifetime? Something like that ;)

5) Received "Bucket List Worthy" Recognition: Stonyfield 

This was unexpected, but nevertheless made me jump with joy. I didn't know when I wrote my post about Stonyfield that it would actually be read by the company. I was just expressing my love affair with the company's products, and was thrilled to know that they thought I was "moo-rific" in return.

School has started aka time to set a few more goals to make the Fall just a rewarding and successful as the Summer. Half-marathon, possibly? Hey, why not shoot for the stars.



Don't Fear the Tofu

A year ago if you'd say tofu, I'd say no thanks. It's white, jiggly, and kinda mysterious (I mean how do they make that stuff anyways?). Well, I decided to get over my judgmental attitude and give it a try. Tofu is a great low-fat meatless alternative. It's made from soybeans, so it's packed with protein, iron, calcium and other health benefits. Yay for tofu!

I don't have any fancy tofu recipes, so I thought I'd keep it simple and saute it with some fresh vegetables. Below is the brand of tofu I used; I like that it's a lighter version so it cuts some calories while still keeping all the flavor (well, as much flavor as tofu can have). I'm going to jack-up the tofu with spices to revamp its plain reputation. 

I picked a zucchini, some tomatoes and onions from my garden and sauteed them in a separate pan. Note: Instead of slicing the zucchini, I used a potato cutter to make zucchini ribbons; I cut until I reached the seeded and then threw the core away. It give the zucchini a linguine/noodle look. Its a fun way to change up textures especially at the end of the summer when I have sliced up more zucchinis than I can count. I cut the tofu in cubes and sprinkled it with oregano, basil, and black pepper. I cooked the tofu on high so it would acquire a nice crisp.

I kept flipping the tofu until it turned a nice brown and sauteed the veggies until cooked. My dad said the kitchen smelled pretty darn good,...especially since it was, gasp, tofu (he isn't ready yet to trade in his juicy steak for jiggly tofu but, he did try it!...there's still time to convert him).

Once cooked, plate and eat! So simple and, yet, so good. Congrats tofu, you've overcome your plain stereotype and proved yourself a tasty, meat substitute. I say don't judge a book by its cover, or in this case...a tofu by its tofu-ness. Give it a try and it may surprise you. Team Tofu!



Easy Peasy Gazpacho Soup

So, I was in my kitchen this morning...making myself some coffee...minding my own business when I get the sudden feeling that I'm being watched. I feel dozens of burning eyes staring right at me. I turn around to face the culprits...they were red, round, and feeling a little neglected: the tomatoes I picked from my garden on Sunday. They have been sitting in their bowl for a couple days now barely touched. I feel so ashamed. But what is one to do with a ton of tomatoes? One word: gazpacho (and a fun word, too, gazzzz-pacho).

Gazpacho is a cold tomato and veggie soup; perfect for a bumper crop of tomatoes and garden veggies. You can add as many or few veggies that you'd like and it'll always taste fantastic. It's almost completely fool proof (I say almost in hopes not to jinx anyone). Plus it's really simple to make which means I'm game.

What you'll need
 Tomato Juice (at least 2-3 cups depending on the batch size)
 Several Tomatoes
 Bell Peppers (I used a red and yellow)
 A Large Cucumber
 Several Small Onions
    - and any other preferred veggies (avocado works really well!)
 3 teaspoons of White Vinegar
 Herbs (I used fresh basil and oregano); and a
 A Blender 

The veggie line-up

I used a low-sodium V8...heavenly

Pour the tomato juice, white vinegar, tomatoes, and herbs into the blender; blend until coarsely pureed.

Pour the yummy contents into a large bowl. Finely chop the rest of the veggies (cucumbers, peppers, and onions) and pour into the soup. Add cooked brown rice if you're craving a heartier soup! 

The baby eggplant was a last minute addition.
He was the lone ranger in my garden so I threw him in, too!
I say, the more the merrier!

Pretty like a rainbow

Mix together and add a dash of salt and pepper to taste. Cover the soup and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour to let the flavors blend together. 

Serve chilled and taste the rainbow! Enjoy!



LIVESTRONG Challenge Day 2: Race Day and Lance Armstrong!

Race day started bright and early at 5 am. When I woke up, I wanted to open the hotel drapes and let the sun in until I realized I was up before the sun; needless to say, this was a first. I was a little anxious but excited. When we arrived to the parking lot, it was packed with cyclists. Some of these bikers were peddling bikes that cost more than my car; I was intimidated. 

Before the race
When we finally got to the starting station, the reality of the day set in. It was a mix of excitement, nerves, and being overwhelmed with the greatness of the event. It was empowering to be around other individuals who were all there for the same reason. Before we started, a man next to me said "I'm so pumped that Lance is here." WHAT. I asked him if I just heard correctly, and he said casually "yeah, that was just him on the intercom". I am at an event with Lance Armstrong and he's riding with us, this day automatically reached a new level of awesomeness. Luckily, my mom was able to take a few photos with her camera phone.


The first 10 miles were great; and for a split second, I was debating on riding the 70 mile ride. A few large hills quickly diminished that idea. We rode down a hill that tested the ability of my breaks, a near by rider said "Woah, thank god we don't have to ride up that hill. That would be a cruel trick." Little did we know that the second half of the ride is re-riding the original route. Hills were tough but people would stand outside their houses and cheer us on which made every second worth it.

We had had 4 power stops that were equipped with snacks, bike mechanics, music, massages, Potty Queens, and lots and lots of water stations. These became break meccas after the 30 mile mark. All the volunteers were really accommodating and so nice.

With 5 miles left, I was starting to feel the past 40 miles. When going up a hill, 2 policemen on motercycles past me and a cyclist say "on your left" and passed me within a couple feet. I didn't think anything of it until the rider next to me told me that rider was Lance Armstrong. OMG...my motivation for the rest of the race: find Lance. I finally saw him riding opposite the road of me, ahh! what do I say to the god of biking? I love you? You are the best cyclist in the whole wide world? Hi? All I squeaked out was a wimpy heyyy! But he waved to me and time stopped. My life is complete.

Crossing the finish line was an out of body experience. Everyone was cheering and expressing how appreciative they were t; they even announced my name on the intercom. It was a really rewarding end to my ride.

I plan on doing the LiveStrong Challenge again next summer, and hope to possibly take on the 70 mile ride. Plus, I'll be able to raise more money if I start fundraising at the beginning of the summer. This experience was life changing. It gave me the opportunity to participate in something bigger than myself. I started the summer with the achievement of my first 5k and ended the season with my first bike race. From start to finish, it was a summer of personal victories. Plus I kinda-sorta-in-a-way met Lance Armstrong, which (of course) was the cherry on top of a perfect summer.

Giving the bike a break, good job Colbie


LiveStrong Challenge Day 1: Check-In

We finally arrived to the LiveStrong Expo! The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and the Potty Queen Latrines were ripe. Success was in the air. The environment was filled with cyclists of all levels which helped ease my nerves and jolt my excitement. Some were cancer survivors, some had some type of cancer, some knew or lost someone to it and others just wanted to kick the awful disease in the balls. Everyone was connected with one common thread: cancer has impacted every life in one way or another.

I got an awesome little goodie bag filled with a bright yellow shirt, water bottle, Lance Armstrong Collector's book, and other fun knick knacks. I'm number 5556; I feel so professional. My inner Lance is starting to roar.

 The expo was also filled with sponsors aka lots and lots of freebies! I'm a sucker for free things. Though I filled my bag to the brim with souvenirs, my favorite part of the expo was the Mission Tent.

In the booth, people were able to honor the names of loved ones who've died from cancer or celebrate those who have survived. My favorite mention was from a cancer survivor, he wrote: cancer may have taken my testicles but it gave me balls. 

Before we left, I had to admire the cars....


And!...I helped save a life. Meet Baby Monty, the not-so-snapping snapping turtle (he's seen better days). We found this little guy trying to make his way across the million degree hot pavement. I acted fast and shoved him in my shoe; I whisked him off to the safety of a shaded creek. Operation Save Monty: accomplished.


I have a 5 am wake-up call tomorrow, yikes! All riders need to be at the starting position at 7:15! It's suppose to rain, but I'm currently doing a reverse rain dance and trying not to psyche myself out. Rain could be refreshing. I'm a little nervous because I don't know what to expect during my 45 miles, but if I  (wise words from my wise mother) take my time and just enjoy the ride, then I'll be fine. It should take me about 3 hours to complete. In times like these, I must channel Monty and remember slow and steady wins the race....as long as I don't get fried on the black top.



My Adirondack Adventures: Red-Faced at Whiteface

I'm back from the wilderness! It was a whirlwind week, and it's still not over since I travel to the LiveStrong Challenge tomorrow morning. Thank you to everyone who donated and offered their support towards this amazing cause! Words can't express how appreciative I am. xoxo

My vacation was awesome! My family and I traveled to Lake Placid which was beyond gorgeous. We lucked out with weather and thoroughly enjoyed the sites (and food!). We crammed a whole weeks worth of activities into two days. 

Because my 45 mile bike race is on Sunday, I figured I should start building my endurance. My boyfriend and I decided to ride a 40-ish mile loop around Lake Saranac. No one told me the first 7 miles were uphill; and I don't mean happy, little, bunny slopes, no...I'm talking, big, scary, black diamond hills. At one point I thought we took a wrong turn and were climbing Whiteface Mountain. My aunt taught me a trick when peddling up monstrous hills: say Hail Marys until you reach the top. As cliche as it sounds, it worked and distracted me enough to power through each hill. I probably recited a whole rosary by the end of the ride and finished the ride a whole lot holier. For my LiveStrong race, I'm going to dedicate each hill to a different person. This will amp up my motivation and make each hill even more meaningful.

Before the ride, so chic

After the first 10ish miles, the road started flattening out and my tunnel vision finally broadened so I was able to finally take in the beautiful scenery. God bless my boyfriend who endured my colorful language as I trekked up each peak, but he was great and kept me sane (for the most part) through the whole ride.

20 miles in, half way there!

As tough as it was at the time, I finished and I'm happy I stuck through it; I didn't give up or get off my bike (though tempting at times). I'm proud of myself. It was a good experience and definitely prepared me for the LiveStrong Challenge on Sunday. Bring it on.

My bike ride wasn't my only hill-y experience. 30 minutes after we returned to the hotel (still stinky and sore), we left to see Whiteface Mountain (the 5th highest Adirondack peak). Talk about whirlwind! We drove 5 miles uphill to the parking lot where we had 2 options on how to reach the summit: stairs or elevator (!). We were feeling adventurous and climbed the stairs that resembled something more like the Great Wall of China. 

I almost climbed in flip flops before I made the quick decision to put on my hiking boots. Thank God I did because parts of the climb I was contemplating if I should break out my harness and climbing ropes; but I would have climbed that route numerous times to reach the view we were welcomed by. If I had to pair an image with what I thought Heaven looked like, it would be the view from Whiteface's peak. We had a beautiful, clear, 80 mile view from the summit.

The observatory tower which reminded me of something from Harry Potter

My beautiful family, I already nominated this as our Christmas card picture

My boyfriend and I scouring the land

The official peak marker

This just made me laugh

Breath-taking. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Whiteface, do it. I promise you, you won't be dissapointed. The experience is like no other. You feel on top of the world while at the same time feeling so small compared to the grandeur of nature. My boyfriend and I want to climb it sometime (about a 10 hour hike) along with the other 45 peaks. Add it to the bucket list!

It was such an eventful week but I'm happy to be home (at least for the night). Plus, I got a bountiful surprise when I returned:

Tomatoes, anyone?

Off to the race tomorrow! Wish me luck :)


The 5 Minute Ice Cream-less Cinnamon Banana Milkshake

I am going to the Adirondacks for a fun-filled vacation of reading, relaxation and everything outdoors. Yay! Many wouldn't define a vacation by hiking, biking, running and camping or really anything that requires exerted engery; but, these activities are the cherries on top of a perfect week. So, being vacation and all, I will have little to no contact with the social world (and that is A-OK with me). So I leave you with an incredibly simple and delcious recipe before I bid farwell to civilization and say hello to the wilderness; I have been obsessed with this healthy and yummy treat for the past week!

This ice cream-free shake is perfect for an after workout snack because it contains essential ingredients to rebuild and refuel the body (bananas and milk are post-workout superfoods). I often can't wait for a work out to have one, so I'll make it for breakfast! It's the easiest milkshake/smoothie you'll ever make.

What you'll need
2 (or more) Bananas
Milk of any kind (or soy/almond)
A Blender

Optional Add-Ins
Protien Power (check)
Flaxseed (check)
Cocoa Powder

First off, the key to this shake is to freeze the bananas prior (this may require a little planning ahead); the frozen bananas makes the consistency super thick and creamy without the ice cream, delicious! Once frozen, break them into pieces and place in blender (you may need to throw 'em in the microwave for a few seconds depending on how rock solid they are). Add about a cup of milk and a couple dashes of cinnamon to taste. I also add a scoop of soy protien for a boost, some flaxseed, and a tablespoon or two of cocoa powder if I'm craving a chocolate fix.

Blend together, pour, and enjoy!

So good!, let me know if you try this recipe out :)

Adios! See you soon!




Menu Decoder

I love going out to eat especially somewhere new. My favorite moment is when I first get the menu; I get way too excited while the wheels in my head start turning as I contemplate my foodie attack plan. And, if the menu is online, I'll check it out the night before. Yes, I have an extreme love affair with food. Sick, isn't it?

It's hard to not pack on additional calories at any restaurant. Between pre-dinner bread (ah!, especially with the yummy dipping oils) and portion sizes, a huge amount of your daily calorie intake can be disguised as a supposedly "healthy" and innocent dish.

Well, fear not! There is a way to dismantle menu calorie bombs! I found this Menu Decoder (<---- link!), provided by Eat This Not That, that offers a ton of tips on how to select healthier options on all genres of menus. I love dessert, so this decoder helped me eat more strategically so I could have my cake and eat it, too!...and who doesn't want cake?

My motto to live by: Eat Responsibly. Save Room for Dessert.

You're welcome.


Healthy Vegetarian Stuffed Eggplant Recipe

I have never stuffed an eggplant or really anything besides a stocking or my stomach; but the opportunity arose this weekend at my local farmer's market. I was magnetically drawn to this beautiful, plump eggplant that was begging stuff meee and eat meeee; so, of course, I must honor its last wishes.

I found this awesome stuffed eggplant recipe from my BFF, Betty Crocker (she's always clutch in these situations).  The recipe calls for ground meat, but I'm going to negate this ingredient to make a delicious vegetarian dish a la moi; plus I can find most of the ingredients in my garden! Eureka. My parents are pumped that I'm making dinner tonight, so in the famous words of Paula Dean: here we go y'all.

What you'll need:
1 large eggplant
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 onion, diced small (about 1 cup)
1 red bell pepper, diced small (about 1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 1/4 cups grated Romano cheese
1/2 cup panko crispy bread crumbs
1 whole egg
2 small tomatoes, chopped
1  medium zucchini
1 medium yellow squash

Firstly, heat the oven to 350.

Freshly picked veggies from the garden with our main star (far right)

Next, slice open and scoop out your lovely eggplant. I felt like I was preparing my pumpkin for carving, and in a way it's the same idea except you don't carve your eggplant (but I mean, I guess you could...if you do, send me pictures). Leave enough of the eggplant meat intact, so the halves keep their shape. Put the eggplant "guts" in a separate bowl.

I don't know if there is a way around the seeds, but I kept 'em. I think it gives the dish a little more panache, don't you think? Next, take the eggplant "guts" and warm over the stove with water until soft.

While that cooks nicely, chop up your veggies. I added a zucchini and yellow squash in lieu of the meat, but you can add any veggies you want, be creative...this is your time to shine, y'all!

Cook the veggies until sauteed and the eggplant is soft. How pretty. Next, mix the above with the picture below (1 egg, 1/4 bread crumbs, 1/2 cheese and herbs).


Mix everything together in a gigantic bowl and you're almost there. I think this was the most involved recipe I have ever taken on from the picking to the chopping to the mixing to the packing; but my dad just walked in and asked "what smells so good", so I know I'm on the right track.

Lastly, scoop the mixture into your hallowed eggplant halves. Stuff as much as you can; you're really going to have to put your snowball packing skills to use.



YUM. Sprinkle the rest of the bread crumbs and cheese on top along with some chopped up tomatoes. Stick those suckers in the oven for about 50 minutes and watch carefully. The 50 minutes gave me enough time to clean (ew) and write this post (yay).

She's beautiful!; I feel like a proud mother. It's so funny how a meal can take over an hour to prepare but only minutes to eat; this was definitely worth the preparation though. It was really fresh, organically flavorful and super dooper healthy. Even my dad, whose a "meat & potatoes-kinda-guy," liked it...now that's saying something.

Bon Appetit, y'all.


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