Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Lunch Recipes

Friends, a very happy Easter to all!

Today was a great day.  I felt like I finally was able to just relax... and not feel guilty about it.  Nick and I spent our day cooking our Easter lunch, eating our Easter lunch, cleaning up from our Easter lunch, then watching the Michigan boys dominate their basketball game to make it into the Final Four (Go Blue!!!), baking our Easter dessert, watching the Duke-Louisville game (my brackets are so over, and who else is still cringing at that broken shin bone sticking through the player's skin?) while painting my nails, and finally just chilling here enjoying the evening.

I wanted to share today's menu (served with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc):

Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad (Food and Wine Magazine, click link for recipe)
Review: I was curious as we began making this recipe-- such a unique combination of ingredients that I would never think could work together (cumin, carrots, avocados, sour cream, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, citrus vinaigrette, etc.).  I was so pleasantly surprised!  We left out the chile because we couldn't find it in the grocery store, and I can't really handle spicy foods; we also left out the sesame seeds because I thought we had some but apparently we don't.  This salad was selected as Food and Wine's best first course salad recipe.  The carrots are definitely the hit and I think could stand alone as a side vegetable for a dinner.  Next time, I'll probably skip the sour cream; I think without the chile it doesn't add much to the salad.  Overall, a healthy, delicious salad, worthy of serving to guests.

Mascarpone Mashed Potatoes (Cooking Light, click link for recipe)
Review: Eh, not bad, but I've had better.  Decent, but I don't think the mascarpone added anything special. Sour cream or cream cheese would have been just as good or better.

Julia Child's Favorite Roast Chicken (Food and Wine Magazine, click link for recipe)

Review: This was our first time roasting a whole chicken (and we could actually do it thanks to our new roasting pan), and I was nervous.  But it turned out pretty good!  Definitely the gem of this recipe is the onions and carrots at the bottom of the pan-- you must eat your chicken with a drizzle of the sauce and with these roasted veggies.  It wasn't a very difficult recipe.  The chicken itself didn't seem to have too much flavor plain, but as I said, the veggies at the bottom are delicious.  Another dish worthy of serving to guests.

Upside-Down Fudge-Almond Tart (Cooking Light, click link for recipe)  
Review: Pretty much just tasted like a brownie with toasted almonds on top.  It's not bad, and Nick liked it, but it's not really worth the work.  You could get the same effect buying brownie mix at the store and adding almonds. 

Excited for the leftovers I'll get to eat for lunch tomorrow!

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Birthday Lesson

I wish every day were my birthday.

Yesterday was a pretty normal day, and yet, it was made a great day by my birthday.  I wore my normal clothes, worked normal hours, had a normal lunch (Au Bon Pain wouldn't even give me a birthday discount because I'm not on their birthday email list)...

And yet, the weather seemed sunnier, the birds chirped louder, more random people flashed a friendly smile as I walked by, my research seemed to go smoothly...

(not to mention all of the happy birthdays and well wishes from friends and family, a delicious dinner and Oreo ice cream cake, a fiance who went overboard on birthday presents and worked hard to make me feel special).

All of this because it was my birthday.  

Or was it?
Would the sun have shined as bright, would the birds have chirped as pleasantly, would I have received as many smiles, and would my lab work have gone as smoothly if it hadn't been my birthday? 

Yes, but I wouldn't have noticed.

Because it was my birthday, right when my alarm charmed in the morning, I had a positive attitude that was going to be hard to shake.  What if I had that kind of attitude every day?  That feeling when I wake up of "Today is going to be a great day."

Sure, some may argue that I would be setting myself up for failure-- I would have too high of expectations if I expected every day to be a great day.  Maybe they're right.  After all, bad things do happen.  On the other hand, I thought we already decided some things have nothing to do with you or me... some things are just the way they are, and you can only appreciate these elegant subtleties if you let yourself, if you open your eyes and radiate your positive energy.

My birthday gave me a reason to look for and enjoy these little things.  What if, instead of waiting for a birthday, I chose to appreciate these things every day... simply because I can.  The world's daily gift to me is its goodness and beauty.  Why wouldn't someone want to embrace that with an open heart, mind, and soul?

Birthdays are also unique because you spend a much greater proportion of your day saying "Thank you" and showing your appreciation for the kindness of others.  This state of being thankful is in a positive feedback loop with experiencing the goodness in your day.

And so, on my 25th birthday, another year wiser, life gave me a birthday lesson:

You, and only you, can choose to appreciate the goodness life has to offer.  The beauty is always there, but it is your duty to open your eyes to let in the light.

Happy (birth)day to all!

Friday, March 1, 2013

30 Minute Workout for Those Who Get Bored Easily

It is Day 1 of the 30 Day Challenge!  Have you gotten your 30 minutes of exercise?  

Today I was feeling particularly tired and unfocused (slept really poorly last night because of the crazy shooting and police chase not far from where I live, Nick is off celebrating the last of his bachelorhood in Vegas right now leaving my mind wandering, today is exactly 3 months until the wedding and there is still plenty left to do, and I'm starting to get a little drained from the last 2 weeks of hunkering down in lab).  Regardless, the 30 Day Challenge says no excuses, so off to the gym it was.

As a part of my 10k race training, today was a cross-training day.  I needed something that wouldn't fight my unfocused mood, so I designed this 30 minute combination of cardio and strength training, perfect for those who get bored easily:    

This workout works in bursts of cardio to rev your metabolism and keep your heart rate elevated for maximal benefits.  I chose to do 3 different cardio exercises, but you could choose to do the same cardio activity for each round if you like.  Although I label the strength segments as upper body, lower body, and core, these exercises are all compound exercises that work multiple muscles at once, again maximizing your benefits.  For example, not only do push-ups work your chest and triceps, but they also work your core, and deadlifts exercise your hamstrings in addition to your back.  Aim to complete as many sets as you can using proper form for each strength session.      

You can find explanations of gymnastics mountain climbers and plank hip taps on my previous posts. 

Both our minds and our bodies get bored when we repeat the same exercise routine each day.  Once our body adapts to a routine, we begin to plateau, so it's important to incorporate variety into your workouts.  

How do you avoid boredom in your workout routines?