Berry Cheesecake Oatmeal

Some things in life are beyond explanation.

If Vitamin D supposedly gives you energy, why does spending several hours in the sun make you feel like you couldn’t move a muscle if you tried?

How does somebody (a certain blogger who shall remain nameless) get a sunburn in the middle of their armpit?

Why does Hungry Howies offer cajun-spiced pizza crusts? Is pizza not Italian?

Why is cheesecake not a breakfast item?

Maybe – just maybe – I have the perfect answer for the latter.

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Berry Cheesecake Oats

Vegetarian, serves one

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen blackberries
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup (dry) steel cut oats
  • 1-2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 1-2 tablespoons flax seed
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar

Directions:

  • In a small saucepan, bring water to a rapid boil.
  • Add in oats, allow to boil for two more minutes.
  • Add berries, remove from heat. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
  • Transfer to dish and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (surely an overnight oat version would also be awesome!)
  • Top with cream cheese and sprinkle the flax/brown sugar around the outer perimeter to serve as the “crust.”

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The berries pop in the boiling water and create a thoroughly gooey, evenly distributed fruitiness to the oatmeal, while chilling the oats makes the dish even more reminiscent of the chilly dessert!

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A sweet, almost dessert-like breakfast like cheesecake oats are the perfect segue from a weekend full of treats such as sangria, cake batter and pizza into a week of healthy, veggie-packed eats.

Are “Cheat Days” Really Only Cheating You?

During several of my many past “diets”, I adhered to a rigid plan during the week yet designated weekends to be “cheat days.” This often led to five days of broth-based soups followed by a fried free-for-all on the weekends.

These days, I enjoy plenty of little treats any day of the week. No foods are ever off-limits, so when the whim strikes to enjoy a certain flavor, I generally go for it. I have found that this reduces many urges to binge.

Even now, however, my weekend meals are a bit more “junky” than weekday meals. My social plans often wind up involving monster cookies or takeout. Although I order mindfully (such as a delicious zucchini and cauliflower enchilada platter for Saturday night’s dinner,) I still find that my weekend meals are richer and more indulgent than my weekday eats. The beauty of ditching the heavily restricted weekday meals means that these weekend indulgences aren’t met with guilt or followed by a shameful purge in the ladies’ room.

The thought behind “cheat weekends” is that during the week, the dieter should delay their craving until a designated “cheat day”, when they could give in to their cravings without guilt. Unfortunately, this programs the mind to view certain foods as “off-limits.” Naturally, the more forbidden a food seems, the more intense and unshakable the craving for it tends to be.

Even if the dieter is able to wait until the weekend to consume the dish they had been craving, the bliss that comes from a dish hitting the perfect spot is completely lost. The sheer delight that comes with the satisfaction of a sweet or salty craving is reduced and often eliminated. Worse yet, when the dieter has the freedom to stuff her face with whatever she desires, she can easily get carried away with the laundry list of “naughty” eats to be packed into a two-day span. Once Monday rolls back around, the bloated belly from a ridiculous influx of sodium, sugar, alcohol and grease is a sad reminder of the flavorful frenzy.

Personally, I do cut myself a bit more slack on the weekends as far as balanced meals go. If a particular lunch or dinner is void of vegetables or a spoonful of frosting happens to leap from the jar into my mouth…I won’t give it a second thought. As much as I enjoy every single sinful bite consumed on the weekend, Mondays often bring back a craving for fruits, vegetables and extra nutrients. As usual, the body knows just what it needs to regain its balance!

What is your favorite “indulgent” or “dessert-like” breakfast? What are your thoughts on indulgences and “cheat days?”

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Smorgasbord

Good afternoon!

Want to know something funny? Bosses don’t like calling their employees an hour after they’re supposed to arrive and finding out that they are still in bed because their alarms never told them to wake up. Lo ciento!

In my defense, I was up late working on my new header. If you’re in reader, click through and let me know what you think!

After a rough start to the day, I was more than ready for a good lunch. The only problem was that I had no idea what I wanted!

When in doubt, have a little of everything!

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Part-skim mozzerella, Nature’s Pride whole wheat toast, sugar free all natural apple sauce, baby carrots, and almonds.

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Down the hatch!

Cheese, please!

I know that in the past, I’ve talked about keeping a vegan kitchen. I chose to cook without animal products but allowed myself to enjoy the occasional ice cream or slice of pizza at a restaurant. My claim has been that I feel better without loading down my system with animal products, which I still stand by.

The other day, however, all I wanted was some smooth, gooey fresh mozzarella to melt onto my flatbread. A quick stop at Publix and voila – one of the most delicious things I’d eaten.

I then began to ask myself why I was depriving myself of dairy. I can honestly that I don’t enjoy meat, yet ice cream and cheese were foods I genuinely liked. While I fully support ethical eating, my decision to eat primarily vegan was not one driven by an animal rights standpoint. Instead, I realized that it was coming from a restrictionist mindset. After finally letting go of my deprivational habits from my eating disorder, denying myself of a group of foods became a condoned way to keep some control over my food intake. I was not eating vegan foods in the name of health, just in the name of taking on another label more acceptable than “anorexic”.

I’m not trying to say that those who eat a vegan diet are doing so in a disordered eating fashion. There are many who have a genuine conviction for animal rights and choose to eat as such. In my own personal case, though, that was not where I was coming from. I have a great deal of respect for those who have committed to a vegan diet and lifestyle, but my reasons for doing so are not ones that I can fully stand behind.

I’m still planning to create a number of vegan recipes. My diet isn’t going to change drastically, nor will the content of the blog. I feel my best fueling myself with clean and plant-based meals, but I don’t see the need to deprive myself of ethically sourced foods that I genuinely enjoy. And with that, I have a cheese cube to finish 🙂

How do you feel about food labels? Where do you personally fall on the spectrum? Have you ever made the choice to break out from a specific dietary label, and what prompted you to do so?


How to Eat like a Child

I may be a grown-up…but that doesn’t mean I always eat grown-up foods.

I flat out refuse to touch brussel sprouts or lima beans. In a box, with a fox, whatevah, they’re still yucky.

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This may look like a responsible, adult breakfast of cereal and dried fruit…

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Clever disguise, no?

Sometimes a girl just needs a break from granola.

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When I say “eat like a child”, this isn’t quite what I have in mind…

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(Is there any wonder this child’s nickname was Piggy?)

After watching the kidlets’ habits at lunch and snacktime, though, I really do think they might be onto something.

  • They eat what they want, when they want it. Even if it means climbing over a daggone desk to get their hands on it.
  • They don’t eat when they’re not hungry. Have you ever tried to get a kid to finish a plate of food when they have their minds set against it? You’re going to end up wearing more than ends up in their mouth. Guaranteed.
  • They eat slowly. Painstakingly slowly; I’m talking one *!?#$*ing cheerio at a time. Especially when you’re trying to get them somewhere in a hurry.
  • They eat what’s in front of them before they’re allowed to get dessert or a second helping.

Perhaps if we ate like children – sans bibs, of course – we’d have an advantage on the intuitive and mindful eating front?

On a similar note, I’ve got big plans to go act approximately a third of my age tonight at Disney – I’m heading straight off after work to Epcot for a few hours! I’ve only been once several years ago – is there anything I absolutely have to go see? I’ve gotta prioritize!


Patterns of Preference

So…the inside of an ambulance is not on my list of places I wanted to be…

Just kidding! I survived the full 5k, no paramedics necessary 🙂

Painful truth: I clocked in at 34:17 (yikes! That’s hard to admit!), but I’m setting a goal of 29 minutes for whatever race I choose to enter in December. Shaving five minutes off over the course of three months seems fairly realistic, especially when I’ve already got the distance down.

Setting a goal for myself has gotten my competitive edge to reappear – I’m hell bent on proving that I can, and I’ve got a renewed zest for my routine evening runs. I noticed that giving the runs a purpose is motivating me to give 100% effort instead of just a “get it done and get home for dinner” obligation.

Speaking of dinner…(oh yes, be ultra impressed by that segue.)

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The appearance of a random bottle of unlabeled seasoning in the back of my cabinet prompted a sniff, a tentative taste off the tip of my finger, and, upon realizing that it wasn’t Powder of Instant Death, a liberal sprinkling over some sliced baby bella mushrooms.

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Whoa. I’m just now realizing there was no carb consumption. Stop the world and let me hop off.

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I’ve noticed that a good, hard run in the evenings often kills my appetite for the rest of the night. I hate to not eat at all, but I don’t want to force myself to have a heavy meal just for the sake of it. It seems like the winning combo here is a hearty breakfast, a protein-rich lunch, a small influx of carbs for pre-workout energy, and a small, veggie-centric plate for dinner. This leaves me feeling full but not stuffed and satisfied but not lethargic.

It’s certainly hard to strike the right balance between an adequate intake but not too much; losing a few pounds without counting calories or eliminating a certain food group makes it even more of a challenge. The key seems to be finding the combos that work best for your body and working with your hunger cues – not fighting against them. Is there a certain meal pattern that you’ve noticed works best for your body?


How to Navigate a Buffet Like A Pro

I really could kiss the mastermind that developed the concept of a buffet. In terms of important inventions, this one may rival running water or air conditioning.

I mean seriously…massive quantities of food from multiple cuisines, already cooked and laid out to be dished up and and devoured consumed in a civilized and ladylike manner? Sheer genius.

It’s daunting – but definitely possible – to pull together a healthy meal at a buffet.

I’m the kind of girl who likes to arrive with a game plan. My offensive playbook maximizes food-samplage while carefully crafted defensive plays prevent against waddling to the car on injured reserve with a food baby.

In the locker room…

  • Some coaches subscribe to the “get your money’s worth” theory; I’d like to rename this “getting your tummy’s worth”. True, you’re paying for unlimited food, but that doesn’t mean you need to eat like it’s your last meal. (Unless, of course, it is, in which case, get your sorry self away from the computer and find something more last-day-on-earth-worthy!) Don’t skip meals leading up to the buffet!
  • If necessary, pop a quick snack a bit before so you’re not tempted to just bring a fork up to the buffet and eat straight out of the serving line.

At kickoff…

  • Take a quick survey of the offerings. This is doubly important if you follow a special diet. I’ve had times when I’m so thrilled to see a good vegan/vegetarian option that I snag several scoops of the first dish I see, not expecting there to be much else available for me to eat…until I get to the next table, packed with bigger and better things, and no room left on my plate. A pre-game go-round lets you prioritize!
  • Beeline for the salad bar. Even buffets I’m not usually impressed by tend to have a fairly hefty selection of leafy greens and toppings!

  • Keep portions small the first time around. Not only does is it reduce waste in the event that you don’t like something you chose, but this way you don’t have to deprive yourself of the more indulgent selections. The beauty of a buffet is that you can always go back for seconds of the good stuff!

For the win…

  • Seek out volume-eating heavyweights (or, more aptly, lightweights!) such as raw, steamed, or sauteed veggies, fresh fruit, and broth-based soups.

  • Watch your sauces. Creamy salad dressings, pasta sauces, and cream-based soups hide a great deal of fat and calories. Meanwhile, teriyaki and marinara varieties are often packed with added sugars.

  • Take advantage of the rotisserie for a smart lean protein option.
  • Splurge smart and maintain common sense. Sure, you can have your cake and eat it too, but make sure it doesn’t follow a slice of pizza, chicken tenders, spaghetti and mashed potatoes! When you make your rounds upon arrival, pick one treat and plan around it!

If there’s a dish that you wouldn’t feel good about ordering or making at home, don’t feel compelled to try it just because it’s available to you. Stick to your guns!

How do you stay healthy at the buffet?


Balance. It’s What’s For Dinner. (And Breakfast, and Lunch…)

Y’all, I’m dying here. This not having a camera business is killing me! (On the upside, I didn’t have to document my failure of a tofu-tenders dinner from a few days ago!) It doesn’t look my new one will get here until late next week…so in the meantime, I’m scraping the bottom of my mental barrel for posts that are made only marginally more sucktastic by the absence of photos.

Thus…My food philosophy is born.

Across the span of the last several years, I’ve dabbled in pretty much every “wrong” way to eat that you can think of: undereating, binging, all-processed-all-the-time, low-carb, low-fat, diet-by-color, diet-by-number…seriously, you get the picture. After I spent a good three years scheming up diets based on excluding some “evil” food, there are seriously no word to describe how freeing it is to give myself permission to eat what my body asks for – no berating myself for a carb craving, no guilt in for going out for drinks and dessert, no more making up an intricate string of lies to weasel out of a pasta dinner that I actually wanted in the first place.

Moving beyond that “NO” mentality gave me a much more mellow attitude towards food in general, and it all boils down to balance. Making health and nutrition a priority means that when the craving for rich chocolate cake strikes, you can truly enjoy the indulgence rather than freak out about the calories, the carbs, or the sugar.

Whether you maintain a vegetarian, vegan, or omnivorous diet, the focus shouldn’t be excluding foods or food groups. The bottom line is that carbs, fat, and protein are all essential operatives and denying yourself this, that, or the other is a major disservice to your body. Food certainly makes a better ally than it does an enemy. I spent so much time villifying certain foods, yet as I’ve re-incorporated them into my kitchen in recent months, I have yet to see a huge blob of fat appear on my thighs after a serving of pasta or a spoonful of peanut butter. There really is a place in my diet for nearly anything. My recent decision to go vegetarian had less to do with cutting out a food group and more about trying to focus on an ethical, sustainable meal plan. That’s not to say, of course, that the only way to do so is to nix the meat, but for me personally, it was the right step to take.

That said…I believe that the food we eat on a day-to-day basis should be nutritionally powerful AND delicious. It doesn’t hurt if it doesn’t require the kitchen skillz of Julia Child to pull together. In all reality, that’s not that tall of an order.  There are endless ways to make powerhouse foods into creative and tasty dishes (but you already knew that…hence your interest in healthy living blogs like mine! 😉 Honor your hunger cues and your cravings – your body honestly knows what it needs.

Don’t be afraid to monkey around in the kitchen – almost ANY recipe can be “healthified” with a little innovation. And in times when no whole-wheat flour, apple-sauce and black bean brownie is going to replace a frosted molten lava cake...eat tha damn thang and enjoy it!


It’s All a Matter of Taste.

Q:What’s the best idea you can have if you’re a stressed, seriously sleep-deprived woman battling a cold?
A: Why, it’s agreeing to work double your hours for the next several weeks!

I’m not complaining about the chance to get some extra $ – or the chance to work more closely with my boss, who will be writing me a hopefully stellar job recommendation come fall.  I’d like the letter to read something like  “This lady is a determined and talented supermodel/ninja combo who could run Hussein Bolt-caliber circles around any other applicant for this position.” But I digress. I’m sleepy and sneezy, yet “Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Off to Work We Go”…I’m just the whole freakin Disney movie in one little package!

Don't be jealous, Ariel, I still want to be you.

From thecia.com

I just cleaned out my fridge since I move out in two days, thusly lunch was a Subway run, beefed up with some drained kidney beans from our work stash of “food we’re given to pass along to our students but there’s no way in hell they’d ever eat”.  I scarfed half at noon and the other half at 6 just before the hellions little darlings went home.

Some serious sandwichage went down today.

At the Subway, the green peppers looked sooo crispy and crunchy and delish, so I ignored the fact that I. Don’t. Like. Peppers. and ordered them anyways. My tastes have been changing a lot lately, so I thought it couldn’t hurt to give ’em a shot. Yeah, nope. Still gross. Paging Peter Piper, you can have your nasty peck of peppers back.

Persistent dislike of peppers aside, very recently I’ve started craving foods that I have spent the past years vehemently hating and avoiding at all costs. As it turns out, bananas, raw spinach, peanut butter, cooked mushrooms, tea, pudding, and peas aren’t acky after all. On the other hand, I’ve completely lost any appreciation for meat, yogurt, eggs, and popcorn.

Have your tastes ever randomly switched up on you? Please tell me I’m not the only one who gets randomized cravings for things I don’t like! I’m wondering now what I’ll crave if I ever get pregnant! NOT that I have any plans to do so in the near or indeterminate future!

Also, if your tastes are craving something against your dietary decisions – i.e. a vegan craving ice cream or a raw foodie craving a casserole – do you give the food a go? That’s part of the reason I don’t identify as one specific dietary subtype. I practically never eat meat but I love me some sushi, and I know the minute I call myself a vegan I’m going to get world’s biggest hankering for a sundae. Thoughts?