Archive for March, 2011

Lesson learned

This looks tasty, right?

Reduced-Fat Turkey Bacon with Egg Whites on English Muffin

This is what I had for breakfast #2 this morning. It seems simple enough — multigrain english muffin, egg white, cheddar cheese and turkey bacon.

Think again. While the calorie count and protein/fiber combo is great, the ingredient list isn’t any better than McDonald’s:

Ingredients

multigrain english muffin (unbleached enriched wheat flour [flour, malted barley flour, reduced iron, niacin, thiamin mononitrate (vitamin b1), riboflavin (vitamin b2), folic acid], water, whole wheat flour, farina, yeast, sugar, molasses, flaxseed, honey, wheat gluten, preservatives [calcium propionate, sorbic acid], salt, soybean oil, rye, corn cereal, dextrose, ground corn, monoglycerides, brown rice, oats, soybeans, triticale, barley, millet, caramel color, whey, soy flour, nonfat milk), egg white patty (egg whites, whey powder, unmodified corn starch, salt, nonfat dry milk, butter flavor [sunflower oil, natural flavors, medium chain triglycerides, palm kernal oil], xanthan gum, guar gum, liquid pepper extract), reduced fat cheddar cheese (pasteurized part-skim milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes, vitamin a palmitate), turkey bacon (turkey, water, sugar, salt, natural smoke flavoring, natural flavoring, cottonseed oil). contains: wheat, soy, egg, milk

Source: Reduced-Fat Turkey Bacon with Egg Whites on English Muffin | Starbucks Coffee Company.

Gross. Seriously, Starbucks — GROSS. You should be ashamed of yourselves for selling crap like this. It tasted good, but it would taste even better if I could pronounce half of the shit in here! Why does a “healthy” breakfast sandwich need caramel color, corn starch and “natural flavors,” which I feel I can safely assume means MSG.

Never buying this again. Lesson learned.

March 31, 2011 at 10:49 pm 1 comment

Oh sod it all

I’ve stopped counting today.

Instead, I choose pie.

March 31, 2011 at 4:58 pm Leave a comment

(She hasn’t fallen off the face of the earth…yet)

Hi friends!

I am so so sorry for neglecting PLW recently! My life has been in a bit of a shambles, and I just haven’t had it in me to post much. I highly doubt you’d want to listen to me moaning and groaning. Life is stressful, and while it really (really) sucks when it is, you just have to take a deep breath, look yourself in the eye and keep movin’ forward.

I decided to do a little self-therapy last night and watch “How Do You Know?” (with Reese Witherspoon) in bed curled up with a kitty or two ;) It didn’t make things suck less, but it sure made me feel better — the movie was surprisingly good! It was also much less of a chick flick than I thought it would be. I loooove Reese Witherspoon (did you know her first name is Laura?) and I think I love Paul Rudd even more.

He is just so damn cute.

swoon

My eats and workouts have been a bit all over the place lately, as tends to happen when stress comes into the picture. Regardless, I’ve been making a strong and conscious effort to do my best and stay on track because I know that when I eat well and exercise regularly, I feel 1000x better, and it keeps the stress from getting out of control.

A funny side effect of having a roommate that you don’t get along with at all is that I go to the gym more often…since it’s just 2.5 blocks from my house, I can head over there whenever I don’t want to be home! Great solution :)

I’ve been continuing to do my Women’s Health workouts and they have been fantasic! They are so comprehensive and well-put together, I never feel like I’ve missed something. I am also feeling seriously strong. Yesterday I did:

  • 3×8 dumbbell step lunges
  • 3×8 underhand grip reverse flys
  • 2×10 Swiss ball Russian twists
  • 3×10 alternating shoulder presses
  • 2×60 sec hold planks (split into segments bc I am still not very good at these!)
  • 2×8 Swiss ball hip raise and leg curls (these are KILLER)
  • 2×10 back extensions (in place of 90 sec prone cobra hold because I really really hate that move for some reason!)

If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend going out and getting your hands on the Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises! It is the cheapest personal trainer you can buy!

Speaking of the gym, I had a verrrrry interesting run-in yesterday. Remember my two-timing ways? Well thankfully things sort of resolved themselves on their own…While one guy seemed to be making more effort in showing that he was interested, I happened to be more interested in the other — you know, the spark. I was unsure of what to do about the situation when one day, Mr. Interested suddenly became Mr. dis-interested — we had plans, he canceled at the last minute, and I never heard from him after that! I was angry and thought it was very immature of him, but also relieved because it left me to focus on the person I really wanted to get to know.

Well isn’t the Universe a jokester, because guess who I ran into while stretching on the mat! After our first date, I knew that Mr. Dis-Interested and I worked out at the same gym because he lives very close to me. I also thought I had seen him there once before we had gone out. After he fell out of touch, I often wondered if I would ever run into him at the gym and how awkward it would be…Sure enough, yesterday I saw him saunter up to the treadmill line a few feet away from me! Naturally, I speeded up the ‘mill (to look super badass, obviously) and kept my head down, hoping to avoid eye contact.

I thought I had escaped the situation when I saw him walk past me again, this time over by the free weights. I was pretty sure at this point he had noticed me, but I didn’t want to let him know that I had seen him. I kept my eyes on the prize and completed the killer workout you see above. Just when I thought I was in the clear and stretching out on the mats, I noticed him walking toward me.

Cue mental panic.

Was this jerk really approaching me after blowing me off?

“Hi Laura…how’s it going?”

Cue awkward 30-second small talk conversation.

Him: “I’m sorry I haven’t called you…I’ve been really busy and just working like crazy.”

Me: “Uh huh.”

Cue more awkward small talk.

I wasn’t nice, but I wasn’t rude. I didn’t feel I needed to be nice. After he seemed to get the hint that I didn’t want to talk, he told me he was going to go finish his workout and I said I would “see him around.” Right.

Men are such stinkers! I hope he realizes that he messed up a chance with a truly incredible chick.

——————————-

Anyway….so I am still using the Livestrong calorie counter and I feel like it’s been extremely useful in helping me keep my calorie intake in check. This morning, for example, I made an oopsie:

It wasn’t from Sprinkles, but that was the closest thing I could find :)

I had a doctor’s appointment early this morning and didn’t leave myself time to make my normal steel cut oats for breakfast, so I grabbed a cinnamon roll Larabar. Well, I should have known better that those are only good for post-workout snacks because I was starving by the time I finished at 9:30! I stopped in Starbucks to get something a little more substantial and walked away with a (decently tasty) egg white, turkey bacon + cheese sammie on a whole wheat English muffin and a grande soy latte with a Splenda. It hit the spot, but I immediately realized my breakfast had way too many calories!

Of course when I got to work, there were 96 cupcakes waiting for everyone in the office. One of our main clients is a very large food brand, so we are constantly in communication with everything from cupcake trucks to daily enchilada recipes. One of our coworkers won some sort of prize on Twitter, and they came and covered her entire workspace with aluminum foil! To soften the blow, they left more cupcakes than I have ever seen in my entire life. I had to try one of the red velvets because it looked so darn cute, but I only wanted half of it — it was far too sweet and just not worth the rest of the calories. I was still accountable for it though, and I’m glad I was! Looks like my lunch will need to be a light one today…

image

I’ll try to post some more pictures today or tomorrow, but a few recent eats have been: Annie’s aged cheddar mac w/fresh green onions & shredded chicken, chicken avocado salad (AMAZING — see picture below, I’ll post the recipe this week) and leftover flank steak & roasted potatoes from a date night I had last week :)

image

Unfortunately, I was supposed to have a follow-up date tonight and just got word that he had to cancel. I am seriously bummed, and was really looking forward to it after a week from hell.

Oh well. Keep calm and carry on, right?

March 31, 2011 at 1:28 pm Leave a comment

Taste-tea caffeine boost

giant mug of black tea + quick pour of organic half & half + 2 packets sugar = creamy delicious afternoon treat, London style!

March 23, 2011 at 4:03 pm Leave a comment

Never enough hours in the day [+ pasta rosa verde]

Why, hello there.. *bats eyelashes*

I hope your Tuesday was a lovely one! Mine sure wasn’t, but I’m trying to get myself into bed and move past it…

Remember how I wanted to get plenty of sleep last night? Yeah, that didn’t happen =/ I got caught up making my lunch for today and the stinkin’ pearled barley took for-EVER to cook — even in the rice cooker! After waiting for that to finish, I still hadn’t wound down for bed and couldn’t get myself to go to sleep. I didn’t end up passing out around 2am.

Needless to say, I was tired and a big cranky pants all day.

But I still didn’t work out. What is going on with me? I feel like I’m in a funk :(

At least my lunch was delicious — with the pain-in-the-ass barley (not really, it was super easy) I mixed in some chicken thighs that I popped in the slow cooker with onions, veggie broth and poultry spice on high for about 3 hours. When I reheated it this afternoon, the chicken just fell apart and mixed in with the barley. Super tasty! (Make sure to sneak some of the chicken slow cooker juice though, or else it will be too dry). I also had a side salad. I would have taken a picture, but to be honest, it was pretty boring looking. How about a picture of a puppy instead? ;)

this is what I feel like right now

After work, I had another appointment with my chiropractor’s assistant (or colleague? I’m not really sure of her title) but she does more massage work than the crackin’ stuff. I saw her because I’ve been having issues with my sinuses, and boy did she help. I’m still feeling a little skeptical because I can’t figure out why my health insurance would pay for weekly 30 minute massages…because that’s what these are! Okay…maybe not JUST like a massage, but I always walk away feeling incredible, loose and refreshed. She spent a good amount of time massaging my face [that sounds super weird, doesn’t it?], concentrating specifically on my sinuses and temples — it felt amazing. I was honestly trying not to melt into the table…

As I was leaving, she told me that I need to be wearing a hat when it’s cold out to prevent headaches [I’m not really sure I understand this part.] I laughed and told her my mom would agree with her, to which she responded that I must be the same age as her grandson. The natural jokester that I am (hah), I laughed and asked if he was cute. Apparently that was the magic line, because within seconds she had me writing down my Facebook information and told me she would have him contact me…and she was dead serious! Bahahah! I tried to hold the laughter in and finally burst through the door outside to laugh my ass off….oh my.

Unfortunately when I left to run a few errands afterward, my hair and face were a big greasy mess from the lotion she used. I was a sight to behold, let me tell you…

On the trek back home, the weather dipped a few degrees cooler [and it was already cold, crummy and windy] and started drizzling a bit — just as my tummy was starting to grumble. The icky weather [and relative lack of all things carb/cheese loaded] had me craving something gooey and comforting, but I didn’t want to bust my calorie goals (more on this in a minute), so I decided to play around with a few things hiding in my freezer.

image

frozen shrimp + frozen broccoli

See my Misto hiding in the background? ;) I sauteed about 3 oz. [this is a complete estimate] of frozen cooked shrimp in some olive oil, garlic powder and sea salt. I know you are supposed to thaw shrimp before heating it, but I always just toss it in the pan — is this bad? I don’t see the point in taking 2 separate steps!

image

cheese and pasta -- now we're talkin!

After cooking about 3/4 cup of whole wheat rigatoni (my favorite pasta shape, next to orrechiette), I poured 1/2 cup Whole Foods marinara on top and mixed in about an ounce of WF goat cheese, then popped it in the microwave for 30 seconds to melt. I then mixed in about a cup of broccoli florets, mixed it all together and sprinkled some parmesan on top. Oh goody!

cheesy

I love the combination of colors in this dish — the red and green look so tasty together!

image

shrimp time

This may not be quite restaurant quality, but it’s close enough, easy as pie to put together, and pretty healthy to boot. Win!

For dessert, I had a few small squares of Green & Black’s 85% cacao dark chocolate and a bit of Malbec rose. I had thought about hitting the gym, but by the time my food had digested, it would have been at least 9pm — and that just sucks.

I talked a bit yesterday about how crummy I am feeling lately about my self image…One of the great things about living in Chicago is all the incredible restaurants + bars that are a hop, skip and a jump away. But that is also one of the worst things about living in Chicago as well — if you go out to eat/drink regularly, you are taking in a lot of extra calories!

I thought I was doing a good enough job keeping my intake in check, but apparently I have not, as I am feeling very uncomfortable in my skin lately. Add to that the jitters of dating someone new, and, well..you have a recipe for anxiety. So, dear friends…I have begun counting calories again.

BLEGH. I despise counting calories. It is so tedious, so time-consuming and so….sucky! I don’t want to know that my favorite foods are veritable calorie bombs because that means I can no longer eat them! But as any “dieter” will tell you, it keeps you accountable for everything you put in your mouth, and therefore it works. I don’t plan on doing it for long, but I feel that right now I need to get my food priorities back in check and re-learn calorie estimation and budgeting so I can still splurge on dates or weekends [or simply when I want to!]

I’ve been using Livestrong.com because they seem to have the most comprehensive list of foods. Here is a snapshot from my tally today:

This isn’t my usual intake of calories, but since I am trying to slim down, I’ve set it so I can drop a certain amount of weight per week [whether that actually happens or not remains to be seen]. The thing that I don’t understand is their goals for protein and fiber — why on earth would they imply that it’s bad to get more of those things, especially if you’re trying to lose weight?! I mean, they keep you full + satisfied — how the hell would someone eat a low calorie diet without adequate protein and fiber and still stay full? Kinda makes me laugh…silly Livestrong app, I know more about nutrition than you! ;)

The only reason I’m over on cholesterol is because of the shimpies I had for dinner, and I’m okay with that :)

They just released the Android app for Livestrong’s calorie tracker, but since it is so new it has horrible reviews and costs a whopping $2.99! I think I will wait until they drop the price and fix the bugs, thank you very much!

If all goes according to plan, my original goal of hitting the gym 3x a week (minimum) should do just fine in combination with calorie reduction for weight loss. The real trick now is going to be sticking to the numbers and getting enough sleep.

Speaking of which, lately I am really feeling like there aren’t enough hours in the day. How do you gals do it, between working full time, errands, gym time, showers/prettying up, dating, friends, cooking dinner, prepping lunch….my head is spinning just writing this. It’s only Tuesday and I feel like the rest of my week is completely planned out, with nary a second to spare =/

More details to come, but some of said plans involve butterflies and pencil skirts.

I’m hitting the sack early for real this time. Night kiddos!

March 22, 2011 at 9:01 pm Leave a comment

The higher you fly… [+ mustard-maple chicken]

…the farther you fall.

I spoke too soon, blog friends — I’ve had a rough night.

After work, I stopped at Banana Republic to return a dress I decided I didn’t want (I am a serial returner — I seriously can’t decide on anything until I have it home). I purposely didn’t bring my Banana Card so I wouldn’t buy anything in exchange for the dress since I can’t really afford it right now, but I still wanted to shop around since I am feeling those spring-y urges to wear bright and colorful things (of which I have none).

Enter the dreaded dressing room mirror.

I don’t know if it was because it was nearing the end of the day and I was tired, the particular cut of the clothes I was trying or simply just all in my head, but it was one of those days when every single thing I tried on looked..awful. It’s disheartening because I’ve felt fantastic lately since I’ve kicked up my workout routine. The scale hasn’t budged much, but I can see and feel myself getting stronger, and a pair of jeans that had been too tight all winter is fitting again.

Not today, though. Everything was too tight, or pulled in the wrong direction, or just looked…bad. One failed clothing item after another piled up higher and higher in the dressing room when I finally had just had enough. I’m starting to realize that this is why I seem to wear some variation of the exact same thing — it’s because I don’t feel comfortable in much else.

I’m sorry to be such a downer, guys; I’m just really feeling down tonight. How do you cope with those awful dressing room days?

Instead of going to the gym, I wanted to get home and cook a wholesome dinner and get myself to bed early — there is no situation or mood that is made better by being exhausted. A good night’s sleep works wonders.

So does a good meal.

I really can’t believe I went so long without eating Brussels sprouts. Mmmmmmmmm. To accompany my massive batch of sauteed sprouts I made some chicken. What’s so shocking about chicken, you may ask? Well…it had mustard.

crispity crunchy

Please excuse the crazy burned sauce..I don’t know another way to do it! But at least I didn’t set off the smoke alarm this time :)

If you know me at all (or would like to know now), I despise all things mustard. I don’t know why, but I have never ever liked the smell, taste or even look of mustard — it seriously grossed me out.

Recently though, I’ve been trying to be (even more) open minded about food and tried something with stone grond mustard in it. The real shocker was that I actually liked it! I think stone ground mustard has a much more savory, complex flavor than your acidic, stinky yellow mustard or even dijon. This makes me happy, because mustard is used in so, so many recipes — in everything from salad dressing to sauces to marinades — for a lot of flavor bang for your calorie buck, and I had been missing out on it. Call me crazy, but I think I kinda like stone ground mustard!

Let’s not get all crazy now, though — I still need to do this in moderation! ;)

My dinner turned out wonderful. I wanted something that wasn’t too carb-y or had cheese (okay, that’s a lie, but after feeling the way I did today, I wanted something that wouldn’t make me feel like a piece of lard) so I went with my own take on maple-mustard baked chicken.

Laura’s Maple-Mustard Chicken

Ingredients (serves one)

  • Two boneless, skinless chicken thighs (organic, if possible)
  • Heaping tablespoon of stone ground mustard
  • Heaping tablespoon (or eyeball a pour) of maple syrup
  • Tablespoon red wine vinegar or cooking sherry
  • Liberal shake of garlic powder
  • Liberal shake of poultry seasoning (or any combination of thyme, basil, marjoram and sage)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray baking dish or cookie sheet with cooking spray. In a small bowl, mix mustard, wine/sherry, maple syrup and spices. Whisk together and adjust ingredients as necessary so mixture has the consistency of ranch dressing (thick enough so that it won’t run all over the pan while cooking).

Place chicken thighs in dish and spoon mustard mixture over chicken, making sure to cover completely. Bake on center rack for 20-40 minutes until meat is cooked through (I did about 30 minutes).

It’s slightly sweet, savory, healthy and oh-so-tasty. Try it out! You won’t be disappointed :)

And now, because I want to smile, some puppy pictures from my weekend in Madison

Hi Shandy!

March 21, 2011 at 10:31 pm Leave a comment

I *don’t* have a case of the Mondays!

Hello friends!

How was your weekend? Lovely and fun-filled, I hope — whether fun for you means vegging on the couch or out and about all day.

I had an interesting morning today; get this — I didn’t wake up feeling crabby.

I know — where did the real Laura go, right?!

A good part of yesterday was spent cleaning and attempting to reign in the complete organizational chaos that is my bedroom. I have never been an organized or particularly clean person, and when I don’t have proper space and storage capabilities, that mess is increased TENFOLD. My room almost always has stuff all over the floor (which is a paltry 5×10 little spot next to my bed) and if something isn’t on my nightstand, windowsill or dresser, it’s probably lost and gone forever.

Do you ever feel like your head is a mess when your living space is a mess?

The problem is also compounded by these guys:

https://prettylittlewords.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/img_0643.jpg

Translation? Cat hair is everywhere. I feel like I am constantly picking and sweeping up little black tumbleweeds everywhere in my apartment, and especially in my room. Since it is so tiny, the fur has nowhere to go so most of it CLINGS desperately to my area rug and the rest clumps up together in corners. I kid you not, it is seriously gross.

Anyone have any suggestions for keeping pet hair/dander at bay, especially in small spaces? I brush them regularly, but with all the petting these little attention-seekers get, the hair is always coming off. (I vacuum and sweep frequently, of course).

Anyway, my long preamble was to explain why I felt so nice falling asleep and waking up after tidying up. I also have some squeaky clean sheets and a freshly made bed (you know, replacing the top sheet so it’s no longer bunched up on one side of the bed), which really makes for a deliciously luxurious night’s sleep, no? Maybe I should do that more often…

What I found made the biggest difference, however, was a surprisingly simple fix…

I opened my curtains!

I wish my view was this beautiful

source

Not only was I able to sneak in some fresh air since Chicago’s weather has been so nice, but the difference having a little sunlight in the morning really astounded me. It was easier to wake up on my own (although I still needed the alarm clock to actually get out of bed) and I just felt..well, happier! *facepalm* Duh, Laura…

My weekend was also full of good things. I got my first outdoor run in for the year, and was able to do so in a t-shirt and running capris. Talk about a mood booster! My mileage was average for indoors (for me, anyway) at 2.5 miles, but pretty darn good for outdoors! The pain in my knee is always an issue, so I have to be very careful when running outside, which is why I was so thrilled to make it all the way through my standard treadmill mileage! The sunshine didn’t hurt either ;)

I also spent most of Saturday with a certain someone and had the best time. I am almost afraid to talk about for fear of jinxing anything…as you may have noticed, I’m a total worry wort and overthink things way too much sometimes. But for now, I’m just trying to enjoy every second and try not to get too stuck in my head!

We went to dinner at a Japanese barbecue restaurant that I had never heard of before…it was so good! The best way I can describe it is a mix between Korean barbecue and fondue. There is a small grill in the middle of your table, then you order whatever combination of meats + veggies you want (they are served a la carte) and cook them yourself with a little set of tongs. It was so much fun, and I tried beef tongue for the first time…I was so nervous because, well, obviously it sounds nasty, but it was actually quite good.

There is a fun review of the restaurant here.

We went bowling afterward, then spent some time with his friends playing drinking games. My kind of night!

After some serious cleaning, I decided to hit up the gym yesterday with my Women’s Health book in tow. It had been a few days since I had really done any strength training (okay, five) so I really wanted to get back into it and feel the burn, baby.

And holy cow, am I sore!! I have slowly increasing my push up skills and can not only do many more than when I first started, but I can also do them better. Proper form really does make all the difference, and I have found that simply squeezing my glutes while doing push ups really improves the stabilization of my core (blegh, that was a mouthful). But you get the point — squeeze your buns and tighten your abs (whatever that means) while you’re pushin’, and your torso will stay straighter! Fun little tip from a newbie like me!

The rest of the workout included:

  • body weight squats with shoulder raise
  • single leg dead-lift with dumbbells
  • standing supported dumbbell row
  • hip raise with feet on a Swiss ball
  • Swiss ball roll-out
  • Swiss ball crunches

I think I’m missing one move in there after the squats but can’t remember what it was…Either way, I love these workouts. I really can’t endorse the WH Big Book enough — BUY IT!

My post-workout dinner last night was a delicious oven-fried chicken recipe I cobbled together from several online — I’ll post the recipe soon, because it was mighty tasty! I also picked up loads of veggies from WF, along with a few other things, so I’m excited to put together some fun meals this week…one of which will have an extra guest! :)

Adieu for now!

March 21, 2011 at 2:50 pm 1 comment

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