Monthly Archives: June 2010

What $100 will getcha

Grocery shopping is one of my very favorite things to do.  I have no idea why.  In fact, when I was a little girl, I absolutely HATED going to the local Food Lion with my mom.  Maybe it was because we were always in there for > 1 hour, or maybe it’s because Food Dawg (local slang) is not the mecca of beautiful produce and specialty food items.  It’s not half as exciting as Earth Fare or Trader Joe’s or maybe I’m just a food snob nerd.

Grocery shopping for the upcoming week usually takes place on Saturday or Sunday.  But because I had worked a couple of extra hours this past week and was working from home on Friday, I used my “lunch break” to engage in some serious food buying.

First up was Earth Fare.   It’s a little pricey but has things that are kind of difficult to find at your conventional grocery store chain.  I mean, where else can you find a 25 lb. of carrots?

And I’m not posing to show you my engagement ring here, I wanted you to see the size of this bag compared to my hand.  Crazy, right?

My second and last stop was Trader Joe’s where I often buy organic fruit and vegetables (unless I found them for a good price at Earth Fare) and other staples of my diet.

Here’s what the contents of all my bags looked like when I spread them out on our dining room table (built for two).

The combined two bills came out to almost exactly $100, give or take a few cents.  I don’t usually spend this much on groceries, but a lot of this stuff was either things I really wanted to try, will last for several weeks, were splurges I could have lived with out but I don’t get to go to Earth Fare every week so I felt like splurging a little.

Plus, now that Brad is at home more due to a promotion with his job and some changes to his traveling schedule, I’m really feeding two mouths now.

The right side of the table (left to right, top to bottom)

  • Almond milk (Big carton – was on sale and used a coupon)
  • 2 bags organic spinach
  • Basil
  • Avocado
  • 2% TJ’s Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 2% Chobani Plain Greek Yogurt (on sale)
  • Bragg’s Liquid Amino
  • Corn (5 ears)
  • Parsnips
  • Mangoes (unsweetend)
  • Banana chips
  • Organic ketchup
  • Hearts of palm
  • Tempeh

The left side of the table:

  • Italian salad mix (on sale b/c its expiration was two days later)
  • Almond milk (a big carton – it was on sale and also had a coupon at the display)
  • Red pepper
  • Pickles (under the pepper)
  • Watermelon
  • Baby spring mix
  • Frozen fruit (difficult to see, in a stack – mangoes, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries)
  • 2 Kind bars (I’ve never tried these flavors)
  • Laughing cow blue cheese (it’s new!)
  • Organic cherry tomatoes
  • 70% Dark chocolate bar
  • Flax plus waffles (haven’t had frozen waffles in forever!)
  • Organic strawberries
  • Organic ketchup
  • Salmon (in brown paper – totally upped my $$$)
  • 4 organic kiwis
  • 4 packs of Justin’s nut butters – 2 PB and 2 AB (I always think of Kath using these when I’m traveling; after our less-than-stellar continental breakfast experience, I knew I had to grab some)
  • 3 Luna bars (again, flavors I’ve never tried – bars will be the death of me!)

I think I got quite a lot of good quality food for the cost.  The salmon was pricey but I usually buy frozen fish from TJ’s so I thought a splurge on fresh fish was in order.  Plus, I had a $2 off per pound coupon.  Even still, I won’t be buying protein this expensive regularly.  I usually don’t buy this many bars, but since I was at Earth Fare, which has way more variety than TJ’s, I just couldn’t help myself.

Even though, this purchase was made four days ago, Brad and I have almost completely gone through these veggies (except he parsnips), plus some that were left over from the week prior.  It looks like I’m going to have to up the produce when I go to the store.  This actually makes me quite happy that we eat so much produce, that I’m going to have to buy more.  I believe that good food is an investment in my health and although obviously everything I eat isn’t the “picture of health” (bars!), this isn’t also what a typical week looks like in most cases.

When I think back to how Brad and I used to eat when we first started dating, it was a bad picture, but it is interesting to think about how far we have come; what we have changed and what has stayed the same.  I’ve been very impressed with his willingness to try new things and accept the way I eat.  Likewise, I try to indulge him sometimes with his favorite that I don’t consider so health, although probably not often enough, if you ask him.

Do you and your significant other eat similarly or differently?  Is it a struggle to find a middle ground or have you found a nice balance that works for both of you?

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Summer grillin’

Sunday night I tossed and turned (probably due to the half of an iced coffee from Starbucks I couldn’t turn down at 5 pm).  So, I did not get up for my early Monday morning workout.  I was set on getting my workout in as soon as I got home from work.  I did 40 minutes on the elliptical (random mode, level 10) while Brad ran on the treadmill at our condo’s gym.  While I did the 30 Day Shred, Brad was sweet enough to fix our dinner, which required beating off several neighbors who were hogging the grill we all share on the common pool deck.

It was so nice to be done with my workout and not have anything to cook, just wait for my dinner.  I’m relaxed-challenged so I ended up folding laundry after my shower.  When Brad returned, he had a bounty of grilled goodness.

Grilled Albacore tuna, broccoli, and corn:

Brush corn, tuna, and corn with a bit of olive oil.

On tuna, sprinkle generously with…

Onion powder

Garlic powder

Kosher salt

White Pepper

Black Pepper

A few splashes of lemon

On Broccoli, sprinkle:

Salt to taste

Red pepper (as much as you like if you like it spicy)

The corn just needed a bit of Kosher salt.  It was delicious as is.

Brad grilled them until they were cooked to perfection.  Because the tuna was frozen prior to us cooking it, we cooked it through.  When tuna hasn’t been frozen, I like it medium rare.  The broccoli was grilled just slightly so it still had plenty of bite, which is just the way I like it.  The corn was perfection, sweet and salty. 🙂

The sun had almost gone down, so we could stand the heat enough to eat out on the balcony.  It was a beautiful summer night and Brad made a beautiful, simple meal.

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What’s up with Greek yogurt?

A friend recently posed this question to me.  I just love questions like that.  Not because I always know the answer, because I usually don’t know, or I just don’t think I know enough.  It turns out I like doing research on things I’m curious about and I like being helpful. 🙂

I know why I like Greek yogurt.  It’s creamier, thicker, and richer.  But it does have some health benefits too.

Here is a break down of what I think are the most important stats when it comes to yogurt.  The first two are your standard plain fat-free yogurt.  The following four numbers (3-6) are fat-free Greek yogurt.  All stats are for 6 oz. servings, even if they aren’t sold in that serving size.  I converted them for comparative purposes.  How nerdy of me. 🙂

Calories Fat Sugars Protein % of daily Calcium
1. Dannon (All Natural) 80 0 12g 9g 30%
2. Yoplait* 98 0 13g 11g 30%
3. Greek Gods 60 0 7g 6g 25%
4. Fage* 90 0 6.75 15g 18%
5. Chobani 100 0 7g 18g 20%
6. Oikos** 105 0 7.5g 18g 23%

*Individually packaged in 8 oz containers.

**Individually packaged in 4 oz. containers

The most notable difference is the amount of sugar in plain non-fat versus plain Greek yogurt.  In most cases, the amount of protein is greater in Greek  yogurt, except in the case of Greek God’s Greek yogurt, which puzzled me a bit.  The only reason I can think of is that because their calorie content is lower than the other Greek yogurt, some of the protein (almost 2/3) is removed during the process of reducing the calories.  On the other hand, this yogurt has the most calcium, although the difference is pretty negligible when compared to the Oikos.

That being said, it seems that there are obvious health benefits of the Greek yogurt, mainly with the lesser sugar content.  However, if you’re a fan of sweetened and flavored yogurt the Greek yogurt can pack in almost as much sugar as the traditional yogurt.  Flavored Greek yogurt ranges anywhere from 16-23 grams of sugar in their flavored varieties, based on my observations.  Traditional flavored yogurt fall in the 25-30 range.

But like all things in life, there is a trade-off.  Greek yogurt is typically more expensive than plain yogurt; sometimes even twice or more than twice as expensive per individual serving.  I try to be as thrifty as possible, within reason.  I believe in buying quality foods because it’s a good investment in my health, which is worth more than saving money only to fill it with questionable chemicals.  I typically buy Greek yogurt, but not always.  If I do not buy Greek, it’s Organic and plain. Mostly I buy the larger containers of yogurt because you save money with less packaging than when you buy individual serving sizes.  I figure I can be inconvenienced a little if it helps me save some money over time.  I also am willing to try different brands, so if I see a brand on sale, I grab it.

This is how I recently came to try Greek God’s Greek Yogurt and full-fat Greek yogurt for the first time.   I also had the good luck of being sent coupons to try the Greek God’s yogurt line, which I happily obliged.  Stay tuned for a full review.

Question: Do you prefer Greek over plain yogurt?  Is the cost differential worth nutrition/taste difference?

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Filling up at Fran’s

Last week, I met my friend Katie for dinner at Fran’s Filling Station in Dilworth, but just got a chance to blog about it now.  Fran’s is a little inconspicuous.  It’s in a little strip-mall area that is also home to Ru San’s, which just might have the cheapest and widest variety of sushi in Charlotte.

The exterior gives a great impression of what the inside will be like as well: cozy and eclectic.  It was the perfect setting for catching up with a good friend.  She’s a teacher and we often do not get to hang out during the school year because of both our crazy schedules.

The inside is fairly small, hence the “coziness”, but on our way to the bathroom, we noticed that there is a much more expansive area in the back (possibly for larger parties?), which is decorated with these comical quotes. I concur…wine is a beautiful thing and sometimes it does cause anxiety.

Fran’s has a devilled egg special each day which you can order in addition to their regular devilled egg.  You guys know that I am crazy about eggs, but what you don’t know is that I’m a devilled egg snob.  I grew up eating my grandmother’s devilled eggs and would promptly turn my nose up at any others.  She doesn’t use pickle cubes and there is absolutely no paprika.  Her devilled eggs are a mixture of mayo, mustard, a bit of vinegar, salt and pepper, and that’s how I like it.

But I went out on a limb here and gave the special a try: Jalapeno devilled eggs.  And I have to say that I really liked them a lot.  They were an excellent addition to my Latin Wedge Salad.

I know, I know, the only thing of real nutritional value in this salad are the tomatoes, red peppers,and maybe the avocado (hey, fat is important too!)  I guess I could have asked for some “real” lettuce.  They do have salads with green lettuce, instead of iceberg, but I didn’t think about it.  I saw corn and avocado and I was all over this.  It was really delicious.  Corn and avocado together just makes me happy.  I love the sweetness and the creaminess paired together.

Katie ordered the same, but if you look closely, you’ll see she got hers with roasted chicken.

While looking up a link to Fran’s (sorry, urbanspoon.com was the best I could do), I found some bad reviews for Fran’s customer service on City Search.  I have to say that although this is the only time I’ve been to Fran’s, we had absolutely excellent customer service.  Our waitress was extremely attentive.  I didn’t want for anything the entire meal and she promptly brought us our bill without us having to request it.  We did eat there on a week night, but this is my impression and that’s what you pay me, read my blog for right?

I love Fran’s Filling Station.  I will be going back. 🙂

My last Attune bar:

It’s probably because this was the Raspberry dark chocolate (one of my favorite combinations) but I think this is the best Attune bar flavor.  It had a nice light raspberry flavor which really complimented the richness of the dark chocolate.

If you want to know more about the other two flavors, see here and here.

Question: Do you ask for substitutions at restaurants to up the nutritional factor or to minimize the calories?  What kind of substitutions do you usually make?

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A Soulful night

Last night we went to one of my favorite Charlotte restaurants and what I think is the best tapas restaurant in the area.  Soul Gastrolounge is a pretty new addition to the Plaza Midwood area and because the restaurant is small and doesn’t take reservations, we had to wait a little over an hour for our party of nine to be seated.  It probably didn’t help us that we were such a large party also.

The first thing we always order is the sashimi tuna taco.  Three come to a plate, but these went to fast.  I had one and a half of them.

If you remember, I attempted to make my own version here.  My version was good, but I used wasabi mayo instead of Sriracha mayo and I didn’t use fried shells, just toasted corn tortillas.

The white mean dip and missing pita points – this got eaten up pretty quickly before I was able to get a proper photo.  I had one pita point with the dip.

The babaganoush is my favorite of all of their dips, and there are many to choose from.  I had two scoops of this.

The sliders were very delicious and peppery.  I had half of one.

I order oysters a lot at good seafood restaurants, but rarely order them fried.  One of these was quite a treat.  Sorry for the blurry photo.

My handsome husband-to-be enjoying a fried oyster.

This fried cheese was my least favorite thing of the night.  I had a tiny sliver just to taste it.  It was extremely salty and just not my thing.

This grilled cheese panini didn’t arrive looking like this.  Brad started hacking at it with his knife before I could stop him.  When sharing food, you can’t really ask people to stop and let you photograph, especially when they’re hungry.

The whole group was snuggly tucked in around a large coffee table which made for very “intimate”dining.  Josie and I share the couch.  I didn’t take any photos of the other people because I’m not sure how they feel about being on my blog and I didn’t really want to ask.

The last thing to come out was Josie’s sushi.  I had half of a white fish Nigiri (unpictured) and one and half of these beauties: the crunchy roll.

There was also wine and beer here as well as our next stop.  Thomas Street Tavern, which is only a block away from Soul is a favorite hang out in our circle of friends.  I had a Tuscan blend and then later a Cabernet Sauvignon when our waiter told us they were out of my original order.

Somehow we ended back at home at 11 pm and I gratefully got in a whole eight hours of sleep.  It was wonderful!

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Bootcamp in the park

My alarm went off at 7 am this morning because I had a boot camp class to attend at 8:30  and wanted to make sure I was properly fueled.

I knew that a carb heavy breakfast was in order, but the heat has gotten me out of the mood for oatmeal.  I slathered about an ounce of brie on a piece of Ezekiel, the other piece I slathered with Crofter’s Superfruit Asia jam.  I always put the brie on one piece of bread, then stick it in the microwave for 10 seconds so the brie softens and then I can spread it with a knife.  I also had a kiwi that had just begun to soften and a side of Women’s Health.  I like to eat the outside (full of fiber), but it’s easier if you slice the kiwi rather than trying to eat it like an apple.  Then you don’t get a big bite of skin and it’s less messy.

After fueling and drinking water and coffee, I was off to Freedom Park where bootcamp is held.  Jen met me there.  This was her first time attending this particular bootcamp.  We had a great time!

The bootcamp is led by Anna Kooiman, who is a morning show host here in Charlotte for the local Fox affiliate station.   She bubbly and very fit – exactly the type of person you want leading group exercise.  Has anyone ever been to a workout class where the instructor a. was in a glum mood most of the time, b. taunted you while you were working out, or c. was in way worse shape than you?  My answer is yes to all three, but it was three different instructors.

Here’s a photo of the whole gang.  I’m dead center in the fuchsia top.  Jen is two heads over to the right with the white visor.  Anna is directly below me (on the ground).

My favorite part is definitely the turbo kick, which is kind of like kickboxing with some hip hop.  My brain was a little cloudy today and I had some trouble doing moves the right way consistently.

After bootcamp, I set off to Michael’s to pick up something for the wedding.  After going to Michael’s for this item two times only to find that they didn’t have it but assured that they carry it, they offered to call me when it came in.  And they did!  I am so impressed with their customer service, which really goes a long way with me (for you Charlotteans: it’s the one on Park Road).  I picked up some other goodies at Michael’s, then headed home for lunch.

At this point, I was about to gnaw my arm off.

I hastily threw together a beast of salad with mixed green whose expiration is tomorrow (so I thought I better get on them), topped with about a cup of the quinoa I made last night.  I added about an ounce of avocado then my favorite “salad dressing”, which is a few splashes of lemon juice and just a trickle of honey (like 1/2 a tsp. – it’s just enough).

I enjoyed this with a little more Women’s Health and a Kombucha.  I’ve really been digging the Kombucha tea lately and since the company that makes this brand recently sent me samples, a review is definitely in order.  More on that soon.

Now, I’m munching on an organic Pink Lady (my favorite) and am about to leave to go do top-secret bridesmaid gift things.  I’ve been concocting this for quite a while, so I really really really hope they like it.  🙂

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My day in eats

I haven’t blogged a full day of food in quite some time.  Originally I began this blog logging everything from the mundane to the creative.  However, after realizing that doesn’t work with my busy work schedule, I decided to be a little more sporadic.

I just began working from home on Fridays so cooking, eating, and photo-taking is much easier.  I used this golden opportunity to log all of my eats today.

Breakfast was my most very favorite breakfast, except instead of egg whites, I used one organic egg.  I  meant it to be over easy, but it was only slightly runny. I paired it with blackberries.

I’m wondering if this still is my very favorite breakfast.  I’ve been eating this same breakfast a lot lately sans smoked salmon with avocado shmeared on top (I know smeared is proper, but schmeared is just more fun).

After breakfast, Brad and I “styled” Rascals ears in different ways.  His ears are my favorite part so besides kissing them, we like to play with them too.

This is “over the eyes”.  This would be very useful when napping on a plane.  You wouldn’t even need a sleep mask.

Look at all the extra skin on his head!  This is a “forward comb”.

After working all morning, I wanted to do a bit of grocery shopping, which is one of my most very favorite things to do.  Lucky for me, Earthfare sent me one of their fabulous coupons like they do every week (sign up for them and you’ll see what I mean).  This week’s coupon was 50% off their hot bar or salad bar.  Score!  I absolutely love a good salad bar, and this coupon was not going to waste.

I started off with a bed of mesculin mix and spinach, topped with red onion, carrots, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, celery, and sprouts.  Then I went to the “fun” side of the salad bar to get little bites of their more interesting salads.  Clockwise from top: big dollop of chipotle humus, shrimp salad, stuffed grape leaf (my favorite!), herbed sweet potato cube, marinated shrooms, Mediterranean salad.  I finished with a small sprinkling of blue cheese.

This was what I left.  I barely touched my balsamic vinaigrette dressing because I like to use the humus as a dressing of sorts.

I did some grocery shopping afterwards, dropped by Trader Joe’s, and Target, had a conference call, then decided I needed a snack.  This is a peach, chopped and nuked for 40 seconds, topped with about 1/3 cup 2% plain Chobani Greek yogurt and about 1/2 Tbsp. almond butter.

After some more work and a 40 minute workout (20 minutes running on the treadmill and 20 minutes on the elliptical), and a shower, I was more than ready for dinner.

The new Blue Cheese Laughing Cow was at my local Trader Joe’s so you know I grabbed it and wanted to try it right away.

I decided to use it in some BST Quinoa.  It’s BST Quinoa instead of BLT, because I used spinach.

Cook 1 cup of organic quinoa in 2 cups salted vegetable stock.  Saute 2 cloves of garlic, spinach, and cherry tomatoes (cut in fourths).  Once quinoa is cooked completely, add vegetables and 2 Blue Cheese Laughing Cow wedges.  Cook 2 pieces of turkey bacon (I nuked in microwave for 1 min. 20 sec.)  Chop well and add to quinoa.

My other awesome coupon from Earthfare from last week was $2 off per pound for fresh wild salmon.  I’m not a big meat eat, but I love me some fish.  I sprinkled these with salt, ground pepper, garlic powder, and dried rosemary and cooked on both sides until just cooked through.

This is not a good photo, but it was a delicious dish.  I bought a patty pan squash a week ago at a farmer’s market and was waiting for an opportunity to use it.  For those of you unfamiliar with a patty pan squash, they are shaped like an orb (like a UFO), they’re yellow, and they have a dark green ring where they were separated from their stem.  I sliced them about 1/2 of a centimeter thick.  Then, I dipped them in egg whites, then in plain bread crumbs.  I placed them on a cookie sheet, and sprinkled them generously with salt and ground black pepper, then lightly with cayenne.  I cooked them for about 20 minutes on 400 degrees Farenheit, then broiled for 5 minutes on 500 degrees.

This was such a wonderful summer meal, and I know so because Brad told me so.  I squeezed a fresh-cut lemon wedge over the salmon before serving.  This was my plate, although I had at least 3-4 more bites of quinoa as I was cleaning the kitchen.

Currently I’m drinking a glass of wine and half watching House Hunters.  Wild Friday night huh?

I have to thank Britt for the wine.  The last time we had her and the pilot over for dinner, she brought us this bottle of TJ’s Reserve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.  You know how some wines are good and some you’re like “wow, this is really good!”.  Well this one is the “wow” one.  It is really good.  Thanks Brittney!

The no photos are courtesy of my camera or maybe my computer, which won’t copy the photo of my glass of wine and the wine label onto my computer for uploading.  Hmph.

Wedding Shape-up Update:

So far I’m getting in 5-6 x a week of Jillian.  In a perfect world I would get in all 7 days, but I am not perfect, and this is not a perfect world.  I didn’t do it today because I just felt a little off.  Maybe my salad and yogurt filled afternoon didn’t contain enough carbs?  I’m so sensitive sometimes to my eating habits.  Even when I’m super healthy and clean in my eating, a lack of carbs makes me feel a little “off”.  The only real carb I had today until dinner was the slice of Ezekiel.  Noted, well noted.

I’m also not exactly spreading my calories equally around.  I have found that when I work out in the morning, I’m ravenous and end up eating all the food I packed for the day by 1 pm.  But, I’m not hungry until dinner so I’m not really over-eating.  I’m trying to not be so anal and listen to what I want at that moment (i.e. how hungry I truly am).  This is my ultimate goal anyway, to be an intuitive eater, so why should I strive for something different to prep for my wedding?

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