What is Steff-stainability?

Living sustainably, my way. It's thinking about what you are putting into your body and how it affects you. But it's also indulging in a brownie cheesecake every now and then. It's making your body look the way you want it to and being proud of it. But it's not spending half of the day working out. It's about making small changes in your life to benefit the great earth on which we live. But it's also running your A/C in the summer and driving your car. It's about setting goals and living up to them. It's trying to make the world a better place. And as I am ever-learning and ever-changing, so is this definition.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Homemade tomato sauce

For the past few weeks, I have been experimenting with homemade tomato sauce. I'm talking about the tomato sauce in a can from, say, Hunt's or X Grocery Store brand. I've been trying to buy as little as possible from the grocery store since we have such an abundance of food at the farmers markets here, and it's still tomato season out in California! So far I've made 3 dinners with tomato sauce as the base: my own spaghetti sauce recipe (which I'll share sometime in the future!), stuffed zucchini, and last night I made homemade chili. They have all come out amazing! Using the fresh tomatoes as opposed to the canned tomato sauce really adds that extra flavor. Here's the method I've found that best makes a substitute for canned tomato sauce.

Peeling and De-Seeding the Tomatoes
For every 15 oz can of tomato sauce + 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes, use 6 large fresh tomatoes. Boil a large pot of water and have a bowl of ice water standing by. Once the water is boiling, place the tomatoes in for a minute or two until you see the skin starting to peel off. Using a slotted spoon, remove the tomatoes and dump them in the ice water. Let them cool for about a minute, then peel the skins off with your fingers. Cut off the tops of the tomatoes so you can see the seed chambers inside. Over a garbage can, squeeze the tomato so the seeds drip out. You can also use your fingers to scoop out the seeds as best you can.

Crushing and flavoring the tomatoes
Cut each tomato in half and place in a large bowl. Using a potato masher, crush the tomatoes. I also use my fingers (they are all covered in tomato goop at this point anyway) to crush them and then go to the masher. Mash until you have a good ratio of sauce to tomato chunks. Add salt, I'd say about two tsp.
Side note: One really cool thing about homemade tomato sauce is that you get to control the salt content. It will still taste great no matter how much salt you put in!
Keep mashing the tomatoes so that the salt dissolves and the consistency is thick but not too chunky. And there you go! Homemade tomato sauce.

It is a little labor intensive. Set aside about 20 minutes to make the sauce. Or, you can make a whole bunch at once and can it or freeze it. I'm going to experiment with canning soon, so I can make sure to have plenty of sauce to last us through the winter!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Forgive me, Mother Earth, for I have sinned...

...it has been almost 2 months since my last entry.

BUT I'M BACK! Most (if not all) of you who read this are my Fb friends, so you know that I've been busy moving to Oceanside, touring Italy, visiting family, and settling into our new home! It has been a crazy two months and I'm so happy to finally be living in one spot for a long time.

So, where to start? Ah, yes.

Italy was AMAZING! I'll spare you the play-by-play and talk about the most important (and relevant) details - the FOOD. The food was to die for. Unlike in the US, all of the reputable restaurants use local and seasonal ingredients (very often from their own garden), making the simplest things taste so fresh. One night, in Rome, I ordered a pasta with sauce that was literally just crushed stewed tomatoes with a little salt and pepper. INCREDIBLE. We also visited Cinque Terre (pronounced chinkway terray, meaning five lands), which are five little beach towns painted on the side of a cliff, connected by hiking trails. This place has the best seafood I have ever had in my life. Think, resort town with the touch of grandma's cooking. So much care goes into every dish; fishing boats are going in and out of the harbor all day, and hiking around the towns you can see gardens growing fresh tomatoes, basil, squash, grapes, and many more. In fact, Cinque Terre is where pesto was invented, so of course I ordered pesto over homemade gnocchi, and I almost died it was so good. It made me wonder why people even bother with the crap that they serve in restaurants here.

Another cool, steffstainble thing about Italy was their toilets. Ok seriously, hear me out. On many of the toilets there are two flush buttons; one releases a small amount of water and the other releases more (comparable to a normal toilet in America). So, um, if you need a smaller flush, you push the little button. And, let's say, it might take a bigger flush, you push the big button. How cool is that?

Anyway, Italy was incredible, but I'm so happy to be back in America, which truly is the greatest country on earth. We are loving the San Diego area. In fact, there is a farmers market somewhere in the county EVERY DAY here! I'm loving it! We've been able to buy grass-fed beef from a local farm, locally-made snacks, and even homemade vegan cheesecake on top of the normal fruits and veggies you normally find at a farmers market. It's been amazing.

I have lots of new recipes to share with you, along with many other thoughts about sustainability and fitness. Welcome back to Steffstainability!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Drugs are Bad, Mmmkay?

Today my little brother turned 21 years old.

For over six months now, I've played today over and over in my mind. Around midnight, I give him a call and of course he is already drunk. I wish him a happy birthday but I know I'll have to call him in the morning/afternoon because he won't remember. My parents might drive out to visit him and take him to a nice dinner and buy him his first legal drink. He and his beautiful girlfriend, and all of his friends, share a great day together, probably ending in something so typically him, like watching the sun set over the beach or staring at the stars twinkling in the night sky. But we will never know.

My little brother passed away on January 28, 2010 from a heroin overdose.

This is not supposed to be my personal blog. This blog is supposed to be about sustainability, about keeping healthy. But this lifestyle is so intertwined with my life nowadays it is impossible to separate this blog from my life. So, as my life goes, so does my blog.

Illegal drugs are not sustainable. Most of our illegal drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, meth, and heroin come from Mexico. This means quite a few things. First, like many of our "fresh" produce, these drugs have traveled thousands of miles, placing carbon footprints in the air, just so people can "escape" for a while. But more devastatingly (depending on who you ask), these drugs fund the drug war going on in Mexico. The money that you pay for your illegal drugs indirectly goes into the hands of the drug gangs fighting against each other in Mexico, killing innocent (and sometimes not-so-innocent, but no more deserving) people. Buying illegal drugs is environmentally and socially bad.

Not only that, most of the drugs I have listed literally alter your state of being. It actually changes the chemical balance in your body, so you are no longer who you once were. Trust me, I have seen it firsthand. Doing these drugs are bad for you body and your mind. For someone who cares so much about what I put into my body (and what others I care about put into theirs), I truly don't understand the reasoning behind consuming these products.

It's just not worth it. These illegal drugs can, more than likely, literally destroy who you are and take your family down with you. Your body is not what it was, your mind is not what it was, and the risk of putting your family through the pain can pull it apart. Even before my brother overdosed, my family had been through so much pain and strife trying to help him break away from this lifestyle. And we truly thought he had done it. Until one day, he left home just to buy some schoolbooks and he never came back.

Trying to make sense out of all of this, I've concluded that the only thing that can come of this is if it convinces other people to stay away from these horrid substances. My brother was a loving, caring person and I know that if he had realized the pain he was putting us all through, he would have never touched the stuff again. Please, learn from him. Don't wait until it's too late. Because he really died of an accident; it was just "one more time" of something he had done numerous times. But he either took too much, or got a bad batch, or some combination of the two, and because of this screw up, I'm sitting here with my family trying to push on, trying to fill this hole in our lives.

It's trivial and low-brow, but South Park really says it best when they say "Drugs are bad, mmkay?" There is literally nothing good that can come from it, whether environmentally, socially, or emotionally. It's just not worth it.

Rest in Peace, Mike, and happy birthday.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sausageless Shrimp Gumbo

I love love LOVE Cajun food. The flavors are so rich and complex, but the dishes are generally very easy to make. One staple ingredient in many Cajun dishes is Andouille sausage, which can be very greasy, hard on the stomach, and not so great on the waistline. Which is why I love this next recipe. I got it from my dad, who absolutely loves to cook and from whom I probably got my dedication to cooking and flair for coming up with my own recipes. He loves spicy Cajun dishes, and he used to always make this one when I was growing up.

It's farmers market friendly and it's good for you, which makes a perfect recipe for Steffstainability! Enjoy!

Note: For more or less spiciness, play around with the amounts of red and white pepper. My dad had a half teaspoon of each in his recipes, but that's a little too spicy for me, so I decreased it to a quarter teaspoon.
Another note: This recipe requires a spice called "file", which is pronounced fee-lay (makes me think of my favorite TV show in my adolescent days, Boy Meets World... "Feenay! Fee-hee-hee-heenay!" Anyone??). It's sometimes hard to find, but it's almost absolutely necessary for gumbo. It compliments the taste of the seafood and acts as a thickener. If you can't find it, you can add okra to the gumbo instead; the juice from the okra will thicken the sauce. Hell, add okra anyway; it's not in this recipe but is often used in Cajun foods. It's super yummy and currently in season!

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 crumbled bay leaf
1 onion, diced
2 or 3 celery stalks, chopped
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 Tbl file
1 Tbl tabasco sauce
1 clove minced garlic
1 cup tomato sauce
5 cups vegetable stock
1/2 lb imitation crab
1 lb shrimp
1 cup rice

You can use any flavor stock/broth you want, really. I like the extra kick of flavor that beef stock adds to it; I've tried vegetable and chicken as well, and they all taste great.
You have a couple options with the shrimp. Get fresh if you can, but frozen raw peeled shrimp also works.

1. Combine cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, white pepper, black pepper, thyme, oregano, and bay leaf in a small bowl or container.
2. If your shrimp has the shells on them, deshell them, but save the shells in a saucepan. Add the vegetable/chicken/beef stock to the shells and bring to a boil, and simmer for about 10 minutes. If your shrimp do not have shells, skip this step.
3. In a medium or large soup pot over med-high heat, heat some vegetable oil. Cook onions, celery, bell pepper, file (or okra), tabasco sauce, and minced garlic for 6-8 minutes, stirring constantly. If you did use the file, you will have to start scraping the mixture off the bottom of the pot, especially if your pot is not nonstick. Don't worry though, just keep scraping.
4. Reduce heat to med-low and add tomato sauce and spice mixture. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring every now and then.
5. Strain the broth and shells over the soup pot, adding the broth to your mixture. If you skipped step 2, just add the broth to the soup pot.
6. Bring the gumbo to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 45 minutes.
7. Prepare white rice as per the instructions on the package.
8. After the 45 minutes, add the crab and shrimp to the gumbo and cook for about 10 minutes.

Spoon rice into soup bowls and cover with gumbo. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Because one bad choice leads to another

You know that Nutrigrain commercial? The one where the girl on one side of the screen has a Nutrigrain bar with breakfast and then during the day makes smart, healthy choices, and the girl on the other side of the screen has a donut (I think) and ends up making unhealthy choices all day long? That has basically been my life for the past 2 weeks.

I'm not perfect. I make mistakes, and I get lazy. I do things, like, say I don't update my blog for two weeks. Sorry. I also skip days at the gym, stop cleaning the house, don't go grocery shopping, and consequently eat out for dinner. Ugh. I'm upset with myself for letting it get this far. I don't mean to get too personal on here, but I'm just letting little things in my life get me down. I want to be settled, for goodness sake, and make a run to the grocery store without having to go to Walmart. This place is sucking the life out of me, and I'm letting the one thing I truly believe in, a healthy lifestyle, be taken away from me just because I'm frustrated.

It all started last Monday. It was August 2, and I just didn't want to go to the commissary (the grocery store on a military base, for you non-military folk). It's a madhouse at the beginning of the month, and although I do my grocery shopping on Mondays, I decided to skip and go on Tuesday instead, when it would be calmer. And that turned into Wednesday, and then Thursday, which then turned into this Wednesday and I STILL haven't been grocery shopping, except a few quick Walmart trips.

As a result, we started eating out more. I ate out more in the past week than I'd like to tell you. Because of that, my energy level is dropping and I haven't been to the gym in 3 days. I stopped caring enough to write on here, because I had nothing to say.

It's SO easy to slip out of a healthy lifestyle, especially when the town around you supplies you with unhealthy choices everywhere you turn. It's so easy to order a pizza instead of cook a good, healthy meal. Next thing you know, you're pounding down sodas and sitting on your butt all day.

You have to fight back! Losing your focus happens to the best of us, but it's up to you to realize it and pull yourself back into it. You owe it to yourself to take care of your body. Once you do that, your well-being improves; these past two weeks, I've literally felt it slipping away along with my dwindling energy level. You realize that the time you spent on your butt waiting on that pizza could have been spent making yourself a healthy meal that probably tastes better (especially if you live in Lawton, home of the crappiest pizza on the planet, I'm sure).

So remember, it's not just a sales pitch. One bad choice really DOES lead to another. So put that donut down and grab a banana instead. Now, I must head to sleep, because I'm going to the gym in the morning.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Big News and a Swim Workout

I have been in limbo for almost a year now. No place I've lived in since I've been married has been permanent, nowhere seems like home. And I haven't even thought about applying for jobs anywhere because no job I would enjoy would only employ me for 6 months.

Limbo is drawing to a close. I have exactly 49 days until we leave Lawton and head to the land of milk and honey (as they called California in Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath). I've been looking at houses online and suddenly I have the need to find a place that feels homey. But the daunting task that lies ahead of me of finding a job is looming. I can't be a housewife forever. I would go crazy, and if we live in the type of house I want, I would have to work to make ends meet. It's a little scary thinking about it. I mean, sure, I could be an "administrative assistant" with no problem, I did that all the way through college. But it's so BORING. I need to feel like I'm making a difference.

Teaching is out of the question for the next year. Even if there were social science teaching jobs in southern California, I would be getting there too late in the school year to teach. So what can I possibly do? An idea popped in my head when, ironically enough, I was on my way to the gym.

I should be a personal trainer! I love to exercise, I love to teach people, and I need to feel like I'm making a difference. It would be a great source for my blog and give me the chance to share more workouts with you! So I am currently on the hunt for a personal training certification course, and I think I've found one. I just need to buckle down and do it! I wanted to share it with all of you because I'm excited!

Now, I'm pretty sure I have shared with you my hatred of running. Let me reiterate. I. Hate. Running. Even after 20 minutes, I want more than anything to quit and even throw away my running shoes so I have an excuse to never do it again. But I push through it, because running is a great source of cardio.

I usually run about once or twice a week, because I find other ways to get cardio in without the dreaded run. After all, this blog is about getting fit WITHOUT torturing yourself. I want people to realize that working out can be fun, not torture. So I'm constantly seeking new ways to get people interested in working out. One of my favorites, particularly in the hot summer, is swimming. Swimming is great cardio work and it's great for toning too. It's low impact, so if you have shin splints or arthritis, you can still get a great workout in. I researched a few swim workouts so I'm not just running laps, and I came across a sprint workout I really fell in love with on active.com.

Warm-up: 500 Freestyle at your own pace
Get out of the pool and stretch your legs, arms, and shoulders

8 sets of 50 yards/meters at a slow/medium pace at 1 minute intervals. (Time yourself, when you finish your 50 yds, you have the remainder of the minute to rest)
8 sets of 50 yd/m at a medium/fast pace at 1 minute intervals
8 sets of 100 yd/m at a descending pace (Each set should be faster than the last, so start slow and speed up each set)
8 sets of 100 yd/m - 75 yd/m fast, 10 second rest, then 25 sprint
8 sets of 50 yd/m - 25 fast, 10 second rest, 25 sprint

Cool down: 300 yards

Now, I realize this is a lot. In fact, you have to work up to this workout. If you're not a really strong swimmer, it's nearly impossible to complete this workout full out the first time. I greatly modified this workout and added a bit more each time. My first time looked like this:

Warm-up: 300 yards
4 sets of 50 yards at a slow/med pace at 1:15 intervals
4 sets of 50 yards at a med/fast pace at 1:15 intervals
4 sets of 50 yards at a descending pace
4 sets of 100 yards - 75 fast, 10 second rest, 25 sprint
4 sets of 50 yards - 25 fast, 10 second rest, 25 sprint

Cool down - 150 yards

Each week I did the workout, I added one set to each drill. So in 4 weeks you can do the full workout!
If you haven't been formally trained to swim, seek a lifeguard or swim instructor to learn the correct method of freestyle. It makes a HUGE difference. Doing freestyle correctly will help you swim more efficiently and get more out of your workout.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Capitalist's Plea for Sustainable Food

I hate 24-hour network news. In fact, I hate most media outlets in general. I find them all so disgustingly dripping with partisanship it literally makes me sick to read/watch it. If this country comes crashing down, which I doubt but so many seem sure that we need to "take our country back" (from whom, I wonder?), I'm blaming it on the Glenn Becks and Keith Olbermanns.

I thought this was a blog about sustainability? I apologize for the digression, but I swear it ties into what I'm about to say. The one media outlet source I absolutely enjoy reading (but don't fully trust) is Fox News.

Just kidding. (that was for my father-in-law)

... is the Daily Beast. It's a conglomeration of bloggers and many of them are as fed up with partisanship in the media as I am. That is not to say that they aren't biased; one of the most important things I learned from my history education is that nothing is ever objective. But they are only moderately biased and I don't think they are pushing any political agenda on their readers. So today I was browsing the website and came across these two articles:

Think your kids are safe if you order from the kids menu? Feeling like being healthy so you'll "just have a salad" when you are out for dinner? Think again. One problem about the expansion of sustainability is that businesses try to exploit the idea without actually following through. Think: BP's "Gas Friendly to Gas Free" slogan... yeah right. Be on the lookout for calorie-filled meals that are disguised as healthy!

Now, on to what I planned on writing about today before I had to share those articles.

I, like most Americans, am a capitalist. Now, in case you aren't like me and don't get excited when someone starts a theoretical discussion about economics, let me refresh your memory. People have been throwing around terms like "capitalist" "communist" and "socialist" in order to scare people about our economic climate. Since most people nowadays haven't taken an American civics course since 12th grade when they were probably daydreaming in the back of the classroom, the vast majority of the public doesn't really know what these mean anymore.

Capitalism - The form of economy (NOT government) in which ownership of companies is in the hands of the people. Like, Joe's Movie Theater is actually owned by Joe, and he makes the decisions for his company. Supply is determined by the demand of the consumer; if there is no demand for a product, the company will go out of business.

Socialism - The form of economy in which ownership of companies is in the hands of the government. Joe's Movie Theater is actually owned by the government, who pays Joe to manage the facility. But everything, from what is being shown at the theater, to how much popcorn is being sold, (supply and demand) is determined by the government.

Communism - is actually not an economic theory but a social theory, in which no one owns property, but is controlled by the community. Therefore, there are no social classes and everyone is equal. In fact, in true communism, there is no government at all.

Now that we have that boring stuff out of the way (which actually really excites me), let me get to my point. I am a capitalist. Private corporations and businesses have the right to determine their means of production and their products, and if the public doesn't like it, then their products aren't purchased and they go out of business. In a perfect world, that's how capitalism works.

But this isn't a perfect world, because corporations with less-than-ethical business practices and less-than-acceptable products make millions of dollars by "duping" their fellow Americans, or simply selling faulty products without realizing it. That's why we have things like the Food and Drug Administration; they prevent us from buying tainted meat or cereal with bugs in it.

However, there are many business practices, especially ones that go into our food, that are simply beyond the reach of the FDA. Like I said, I'm a capitalist. I don't want the government controlling every single aspect of how our food is made. First of all, there are always loopholes, no matter how hard the government tries. Second, my husband works for the government. I know exactly how screwed up bureaucracy is and how government regulation can just add pages and pages of paperwork (and we all know that isn't good for the environment!!).

But the problem remains. The big food corporations are trying to produce as much food as cheaply as possible. This means using pesticides that are harmful to the environment. This means packing chickens into an undersized, crowded room where disease spreads like wildfire. This means injecting chickens with hormones to make their breasts bigger while the rest of their body doesn't grow, making it impossible for them to have the strength to support themselves to take more than a few steps at a time. This means feeding animals cheap, massed-produced food, making them actually unhealthy. Animals standing ankle-deep in their own feces. Packing chickens and pigs into cages where they don't even have enough room to stand up and turn around. Having cows, who instinctually are supposed to be eating and living in grass, living in dirt-covered, barren dairies eating mass-produced corn. (All of this information comes from the film Food, Inc.) Going off on a quick tangent, mass-produced corn itself goes against the laws of capitalism. Corn is subsidized by the government; farmers are paid by the government to cheaply produce corn. Therefore, the price of corn is not determined by the market, as it should in a capitalist economy. The price of corn is determined by how much the government is willing to pay for it. By buying meat that comes from an animal who was fed mass-produced corn, you are supporting government subsidies and going against the laws of capitalism.

And it's not just the animals who are getting screwed here. The slaughterhouses are dirty and unsafe. Employees are underpaid to work in unsatisfactory conditions. The farmers who care for the animals we eat are underpaid from the corporations. In fact, according to Food, Inc., the average chicken farmer gets paid $17,000 a year to raise the chickens, but the upkeep and equipment to do so costs much more than that, which the farmers must pay out of pocket. Of course, the corporations don't tell them this before they sign their contract with them. And they make millions of dollars off of this.

This trickles all the way down to us, the consumer. Because of the dirty conditions in the slaughterhouses, it's very easy for tainted meat to reach the general public. Even if the meat isn't tainted, it's packed with hormones and steroids that get into our bodies, and according to some studies, can give us cancer. (See here) The antibiotics given to the animals (because they live in such close quarters) are still present when we buy the meat. Over time, the animals become resistant to the antibiotics, and since only traces of it are left in the food we eat, we become resistant as well. So when we get sick, the antibiotics prescribed to us won't work anymore (See PBS).

And to go against the basis of capitalism, we are paying for a product that isn't good! It doesn't even taste good. Try eating fresh, and I mean FRESH, meat instead of what you buy at the store. It's not just meat, either. A freshly-picked strawberry tastes eons better than the ones you buy at the store. And tomatoes? Go to your local farmers market and buy a fresh tomato. They are in season. Then go to the grocery store and buy a tomato. Eat them side by side. NO COMPARISON. You know why? Because tomatoes you buy in the store are picked when they are green and then injected with chemicals to ripen (See here). Even fresh onions taste better than store-bought. And the chemical-free, organic produce? It tastes even better.

My point is that our food production system goes agains the laws of capitalism. We are buying a substandard product that is based off of unethical business practices. Any true believer in capitalism should be against this. Does this mean the government should get involved? Honestly, I don't fully know the answer to that. The government is already involved, conservatives won't agree to more government regulation, and recently any kind of government "reform" has been ineffective, only creating hoops and red tape without actually getting to the root of the problem. But I also think that these businesses shouldn't be allowed to do what they are doing.

So what do we do? Spread the word! One of the reasons capitalism fails here is because people aren't educated on how their food is produced, so how could they know not to buy bad food? The capitalist way to solve this is to not buy the food yourself, and tell others not to buy the food as well. Encourage your friends and family to go to the farmers market and buy products that are in season. Spread the word about my blog (Did I just shamelessly advertise? Maybe.). Don't buy meat from mass-produced meat corporations such as Tyson or Perdue. I'm in the process of compiling a list of unethical meat producers, and a list of ethical ones.

I know for a fact that Harvestland products are organic. You can buy them at Walmart. *gasp* I know. Walmart doesn't seem to fit into the picture of sustainability. But it actually really does. They sell quite a few sustainable, organic products that frequent my shelves and fridge. Harvestland chicken are cage-free, steroid-free, and humanely raised. They also sell Stonyfield organic yogurt. Be on the lookout for more organic, safe, sustainable food producers. I'll be posting a list soon.

We can change this without, as I say, being a complete and total hippie. Use word of mouth, instead of the hand of the government, to fix this problem. It's problems like this one that make people search for alternatives to capitalism, which, in my opinion, are dangerous to our freedoms. Don't give people that chance. Change in a capitalist society has to come from the consumer. That's you and me. It's up to us to change this.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Unexpected Awesomeness and another Farmer's Market favorite - Zucchini Pasta

Today was full of pleasant surprises! After a great total body workout at the gym and lunch out with the girls, I got a text message from Kara who said "There's a Prius outside with sustainable1000.com written on it." So I looked it up to learn more about it! Turns out a man named Shane Snipes is traveling the country in his Prius in 250 days, and he's set out to do 1,000 interviews about sustainability. How cool is that?! AND he showed up in Lawton and is staying with a friend in my apartment complex! I was really excited to find this guy in my apartment complex, and I really wanted to talk to him. So of course I went stalker-status and walked by his car about 10 times, hoping he would come outside. The 100-degree heat was getting to me, so I ended up leaving him a note on his car, saying that I wanted to talk to him, and I left him my phone number and blog address. He called me about an hour later, and we walked around my apartment complex while we talked about sustainability! He even took a little video interview of me that will *hopefully* end up on his YouTube site, which you can access on his website.

It was so cool to meet him! I think it's really awesome that he has set out on such a prestigious project in an effort to define sustainability on a wider scale and show that it's not difficult to be sustainable! He has been traveling around the country since April 2, and Oklahoma was his 17th state he has visited. Check out his website and become a fan on Facebook; help get the word out there that he is doing this!

On to a new recipe! If you've noticed, I've been using a lot of zucchini and squash in my recipes. That's because it's a great summer vegetable, it's really healthy for you, and it's so versatile. You can make so many different dishes with zucchini and squash. Also, it's very popular at the farmers market; everybody has it and they are really cheap. I usually buy 3 or 4 zucchini or squash every week!

This recipe is a quick and easy favorite of mine. I think I mentioned it a few posts ago in passing, so I wanted to share it with you. This is great for a quick dinner or even lunch, and it's healthy and very tasty!

Zucchini and Whole Wheat Pasta

Extra virgin olive oil
1 large or 2 small zucchini, chopped into half-moon slices
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Lemon juice
Whole wheat penne pasta (I use about half a box for my husband and myself for dinner)
Fresh Parsley, minced
Fresh Basil, chopped
Parmesan cheese
Optional: fresh mint (I tend to leave it out because the mint is never really fresh here and it doesn't taste very good)

1. Boil water in a pot and add pasta.
2. While waiting for the water to boil, and for the pasta to cook, heat the oil over med-high heat in a large frying pan.
3. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring and turning from time to time for about 5 minutes.
4. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so, until the garlic starts to brown.
5. Remove pan from heat. Squeeze some lemon juice over the top and stir.
6. Add the pasta, parsley, basil, and parmesan cheese and stir until thoroughly mixed. The amount of parmesan cheese is up to you, I personally can't use self-restraint when it comes to parm!
One great thing about this meal is that if you have other vegetables you need to get rid of, you can add them in. Broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, or onions would all be great additions to this recipe. I had a half of a tomato I needed to get rid of, so I diced that and threw it in at the very end. It turned out great!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sustainable Tips and a Little Bragging

I know that I've been MIA for about a week, and I'm sure that all (seven) of my readers (two of which are my mother and mother-in-law) are sitting at the edge of their computer chairs/couch/bed to find out where I've been. Worry no more, I am back!

Today is Ryan's and my first wedding anniversary. We decided to go all out for this anniversary, after all, you only get your first anniversary once, and we don't know if Ryan will even be in the country for the next one. So I've spent the last week prepping for the occasion. Anyone who knows Ryan knows that he LOVES Mustangs, and I was supposed to buy him a model Bullitt that he had found on the internet. Of course by the time I got around to ordering it, it was out of stock. So I decided to go with the traditional wedding gift, paper and clocks. I made him a model Bullitt out of paper and painted it myself. Anyone who knows me knows that I am NOT crafty, so this endeavor created quite a headache for me! I also framed one of our wedding pictures, and bought him a USMC wall clock.

Ryan went above and beyond! He planned an entire weekend in Dallas at the wonderful Palomar Hotel and the most delicious dinner at Stephan Pyles restaurant. It was amazing! We went shopping yesterday and checked out the Dallas World Aquarium today, which was completely awesome. But what really blew me away was my gift:
When we first got engaged, we were both poor college students and he didn't have a lot of money to spend on a ring. Not that my ring was cheap, but he has said ever since that he wanted to get me a bigger, better one. So that's what he got me for our anniversary! I wasn't expecting it so soon; I thought a few years down the road I would get an upgrade so this was completely unexpected! At any rate, I don't mean to brag a bit, but I seriously am so lucky to have my husband. I have gone through a lot this year and I couldn't have done it without his unconditional love and support.

Now for the actual purpose of this blog. Aside from advocating farmers markets and the random rant about the guy who left his car running, I haven't spent much time talking about how to protect the environment. I promise, I'm making up for that today. Here are a few tips to be a little friendlier to our planet. These tips don't inconvenience you, they don't cost you more money, and you don't have to change your life just to follow them. It is VERY easy to follow these tips.
  • Buy reusable shopping bags. Plastic bags never decompose, so try to limit your usage of them! For years, I used the old "Oh I'll buy them but I would never remember to take them with me, so I just won't get them" excuse. Shame on me! It's very easy to get into the habit of remembering to bring them with you once you own them. No excuses! They are cheap, and if you buy one every 2 weeks or so, you can build up quite the arsenal.
  • For your other shopping bags, ask for paper, every time. Paper is easily recycled. In fact, I use my paper bags to hold all of my recyclables.
  • Recycle!! Growing up in the California suburbs, I took recycling for granted. It was so easy to just throw all my recyclables in a bin and have them picked up. Little did I know, that is not the way the rest of the country operates! But recycling centers are everywhere, and it doesn't take a whole lot of effort just to separate your recyclables and drive to the recycling center once a week. You can even make it a routine, and finish it off by rewarding yourself with your favorite treat.
  • I never thought I would have to say this, but clearly, it needs to be said. Don't leave your car running while you run in to get a sandwich. Seriously.
  • While on the subject of cars, refrain from using drive-thrus whenever possible. Especially when there is a long line.
  • Keep your tires properly inflated to optimize gas mileage.
  • If you have the time, bike to the grocery store/movie store. I know weather, distance, and time constraints can prevent you from doing this, but if it's within reason, there's no reason not to! You can even get a trailer to put behind your bike for your groceries. It can even be a fun family activity. Last weekend I saw a whole family walking to the grocery store together in the Oklahoma heat.
  • Use natural light during the day. It will save you money and it's better for the environment.
  • Shut off lights when you're not using them. Get in the habit of shutting the light off when you leave the room.
  • Buy flourescent lights. They last longer and use less electricity.
  • Unplug stuff you aren't using. If you are leaving town for a few days, even unplug your TV, microwave, stereo, etc.
  • If you are running your A/C or heat, make sure all windows and doors are closed. Shut vents in rooms you don't frequent or are not being used.
  • Only do full loads of dishes/laundry
  • Skip the dry cycle/dryer and air dry your dishes or clothes.
  • When rinsing or washing dishes by hand, don't turn the water on all the way. You can get the water you need at a low trickle instead of blasting it at full capacity.
  • Take shorter showers. No one, and I mean NO ONE, needs longer than a 15 minute shower. I may seem rude with this one, but seriously. Stop being so high-maintenance.
  • Use the microwave/toaster oven to reheat things. It uses less electricity than the stove and oven
  • Instead of driving to the gym to use the treadmill (and more electricity), run outside if weather permits.
  • Use recycled or biodegradable products. As more people are becoming concerned for the environment, recycled or biodegradable products are generally advertised by their labels.
  • Don't buy individually wrapped candies... it's not like you need the sugar anyway!
  • Buy domestic products. This includes water, coffee, alcohol, clothing, leather, cars (that are actually assembled in the US!), toys, and I'm sure there are more.
  • This may seem silly, but limit your toilet paper consumption! Two or three squares per use should cover it.
  • Replace disposable with reusable. Diapers, razors, batteries, ink cartridges, plates and silverware...
Alright, that is quite enough for one day. I want to thank my husband for sharing the last year of our lives, and all our years ahead, being married to me. =)
Photos courtesy of our wonderful photographer, Beth Armsheimer

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Answers and Awesome Stuffed Zucchini

My dear friend Sonya at Sonya Ruth Photography left a comment the other day, asking if it's ok to work out twice a day. After some research, I finally have an answer.

You can work out twice a day, as long as you pace yourself and it's not every day. Your body will be too worn out for you to effectively exercise if you keep it up for too long. According to Kristie Leong, M.D., and Jeff Bayer, fitness specialist, if you work out twice in one day, you should take the next day off. If you don't, your muscles won't have enough time to rebuild themselves to get an effective workout. Leong also recommends doing a 20-30 minute cardio session in the morning and 20-30 min resistance training/weights/toning in the afternoon or evening. For more on twice-a-day workouts, see askmen.com or ehow.com

Now! Onto my super yummy stuffed zucchini recipe. I got the idea for this recipe when I went to the farmers market a few weeks ago; someone I bought some zucchini from handed out recipes, and they handed me one for stuffed zucchini. This recipe, in my opinion, looked bland and boring, but it put the idea in my head that I could stuff zucchini with something wonderful! Then I checked allrecipes.com and found a recipe that had some more elements to it I could use. The one major flaw with this recipe is that it didn't use and herbs or seasonings, which can make it quite boring. So after reading what some people did to spice up the recipe, I came up with my own version of stuffed zucchini. One of my favorite things about this recipe is that you can make it super healthy if you want, or you can make it a little indulgent. Enjoy!

One very large zucchini
1.5 lbs of ground meat - I like to do half 93% lean ground beef and half spicy italian sausage. You can still get the flavor of the sausage if you do less, and be more healthy
Two fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Fresh Parsley, thoroughly chopped
Fresh Basil, roughly chopped
1 egg
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
Parmesan cheese
Mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 350
1. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Take a spoon and scoop out the seeds. DO NOT DISCARD THE SEEDS!
2. Brown the meat in a frying pan. I also sprinkle some dried parsley, basil, oregano, thyme, and salt and pepper over the meat as it's browning. Especially do this if you are using more ground beef than sausage.
3. Transfer the meat to a large mixing bowl. If you used sausage, make sure to drain the fat off the meat in a strainer or with a slotted spoon before transferring it.
4. Saute the onion and garlic in a small amount of vegetable oil until the onion starts to become translucent, then transfer to the bowl as well.
5. Chop the zucchini insides you saved in step one. Transfer to bowl along with the tomatoes, basil, and parsley.
in this picture, you can see (starting at the top and going clockwise) the chopped zucchini insides, minced garlic, red onion, and chopped tomato.

6. Add the egg and tomato sauce to the bowl, along with some salt and pepper, and a few dashes of the parmesan cheese. (If you are going healthier, you can omit the cheese from this step)
7. Mix everything up until all the ingredients are covered in the tomato sauce and egg, and everything is thoroughly mixed together.
8. Place the zucchini halves onto a baking sheet covered in foil. Scoop the contents of the bowl into the zucchini halves. It will probably run over onto the foil.
9. Sprinkle some mozzarella, parmesan, and breadcrumbs on top.
10. Place in oven and cook for 35-40 minutes, until zucchini is soft and cheese starts to brown. Be sure to let it cool for a few minutes before eating it!

This is big enough to feed 4 people. I hope you try this one, it's my favorite recipe I've posted so far!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Stephen Colbert goes Steffstainable!!

Below is a link to a clip from The Colbert Report last night. In his typical tongue-in-cheek fashion, Stephen advocates being healthy and eating sustainable seafood!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Eating and Working Out

I don't know about you all, but I sure love to EAT, especially after working out!! In fact, it's a tradition of mine to come home from the gym, pig out, and veg on the couch for at least an hour. Ahh, the upsides of being a housewife... (the downside? 3 words: dirty. toilet. bowl.)

Anyway, the timing of eating and working out is VERY important. Your body needs ample energy both before and after your workout to maximize its effects. I've done a little research (as in, while stuffing my face after hitting the gym today, I needed some justification for my 4th lunch course) and came up with some tips for eating to maximize your workout.

#1 - You ABSOLUTELY need to eat before you work out, especially if you do so in the morning. According to Martica Heaner, a Health and Fitness columnist for MSN, the average person burns about 100 calories per hour just by being alive. Which means that between dinner and breakfast, you've burned up to 1200 calories. You need to replenish yourself if you are going to do a strenuous workout (which, in my opinion, is the only kind you should do under normal circumstances. Why waste your time?). If you don't, you can force your body into starvation mode, which actually stores more food in your body, and makes you feel less hungry. This can lead to binge eating later, which will completely undo everything you did at the gym.

#2 - Don't stuff yourself, and give yourself enough time between eating and working out. The timing is something you can play with; some people I know can eat a good-sized breakfast and then go on a run an hour later. I need at least an hour and a half, and two hours is better, with a light breakfast. Now, what to eat? Pop Tarts are not acceptable. (hah) A light, healthy breakfast can be just as easy as sticking a pop tart in the toaster. Here are few ideas:
  • My favorite: vanilla yogurt with strawberries and bananas mixed in. Sometimes I crumble up half of a Nature Valley granola bar for an extra crunch
  • Smoothies - ice, and any kind of fruit you have on hand. Strawberries, bananas, blueberries, blackberries, cantaloupe, and peaches have all been a part of my smoothie at one time! Add a little bit of juice (my favorite is Dole's Orange Strawberry Banana) and a scoop of yogurt to make it creamy. Yum!
  • Toast with peanut butter. Good source of protein!
  • Milk and cereal. I tend to avoid this because it makes my tummy uncomfortable.
  • Eggs - but I like to save those for after the workout
  • Lots of water! Be hydrated!
Try to stay away from greasy breakfast meats and big meals. You know your body, if there is something that upsets your stomach or takes long for you to digest, don't eat it!

#3 - Eat after working out, but eat healthy! You need to eat foods that are high in carbs and protein. Within one hour after working out, your body needs to replenish your muscles with carbs and protein. That means everything you eat will automatically go to that instead of storing it as fat. According to Heaner, it's called a "metabolic window", where your body replenishes with carbs 50% faster, and with protein 80% faster.

#4 - Don't eat fatty foods! Foods such as cheeseburgers, potato chips, and sweets will slow down your digestive system and actually prevent the carbs and protein from getting to your muscles, meaning you could miss that crucial "metabolic window."

#5 - So what do you eat? Foods that are high in protein and carbs! Here are a few:
  • Eggs - I like mine hard-boiled
  • Peanut butter sandwich... I skip the jelly to cut down on the sugar
  • Low fat chocolate milk
  • Salads
  • Rice cakes
My post-exercise lunch includes 2 hard boiled eggs, a slice of wheat bread with peanut butter on it, a salad with tomatoes, cucumbers (both of which I buy from farmers market!!), and black olives (my favorite) topped with some balsamic vinegar and a little olive oil, and whatever fruit I have in the fridge. Sometimes I snack on Sun Chips and later in the day I like to indulge in something sweet! If I was actually trying to lose a large amount of weight, I would cut out the snacking for sure, just as a disclaimer to those of you who are trying to slim down.

So, to recap.
Step 1: Eat breakfast.
Step 2: Work out like crazy.
Step 3: Pig out!!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Chicken Tenders and Zucchini Gratin

I was flipping through my favorite issue of Fine Cooking (the May issue of quick and healthy meals) that my mother-in-law gave to me to find an exciting new recipe to try. I came across one of my favorite go-to pasta meals, whole wheat penne with zucchini and fresh herbs, and along the side were quick and easy ways to prepare zucchini. One of the recipes I came across was a gratin with zucchini, and a lightbulb went off in my head! I could use the vegetables that I got from farmers market. I decided to try it, but since Ryan almost always has to have meat in his meal, I thought I would add some chicken to the recipe. So here you have it, Chicken Tenders and Zucchini Gratin, a la Steffani!

Thinly sliced chicken breasts, or chicken tenders (about 3 per person)
Salt and Pepper
Vegetable oil
2 tomatoes*
1 zucchini*
1 yellow squash*
1/2 red onion*
Fresh basil, roughly chopped
Fresh parsley, finely chopped
Parmesan cheese
Mozzarella cheese
Extra virgin olive oil

*if cooking for more than 3 people, increase the amount

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Coat the chicken in breadcrumbs, and season with salt and pepper.
3. Heat some vegetable oil in a skillet over med-high heat, and brown the chicken.
4. While the chicken is browning, chop the tomatoes, zucchini, squash, and herbs. Be careful to keep an eye on the chicken, though!
5. When the chicken is browned, remove from heat and spread over a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil.
6. Top the chicken with the zucchini, and then sprinkle a little bit of basil, parsley, onion, and salt and pepper. Then layer the squash on top of it, topping it with the onion, herbs and seasonings. Last, layer the tomatoes.
7. Top the tomatoes with the rest of the herbs, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
8. Put in oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and starting to brown and the squash is soft.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Keeping fit on a tropical vacay!

One of the greatest things about being a military spouse is meeting other amazing, strong women in your same position. I was lucky enough to meet an incredible group of these women when we were stationed in Virginia for 6 months for The Basic School (or The Big Suck, The Baby Supplier, or The Bull Shit). We all came together about halfway though the training and by the end we were the best of friends. It was an amazing experience to be in such a big group of women, be able to plan events and all be together without getting catty, cliquey, or rude. But, all things must come to an end, as our time together in Virginia did. Some of us are still there, but others are in Florida, Missouri, Oklahoma... just to name a few. We decided that for one of our friend's 21st birthday, we would all come visit her (and a few other girls) in Florida for a weekend. Unfortunately, due to some factors such as pregnancy, jobs, and money situations, not everyone could make it. But 6 of us were reunited for this short time and it was so refreshing to remember what it was like when we were all together, to have some girl time, and to just forget about how crappy military life can be sometimes. We spent 4 days hanging out on the beach, boozin it up, staying up late and chatting, and we even went parasailing!

While on vacation, Kara suggested to me that I blog about keeping healthy on vacation. What a brilliant idea! So I thought I would gather together a few tips to keep yourself healthy while enjoying yourself. Keep in mind that I never follow ALL of these rules at once while on vacation. It's your vacation, so pick and choose which ones to follow!

My number one rule is the only one I always follow: INDULGE YOURSELF! If you have been sticking to a healthy diet, working out, and taking care of the environment, you deserve it! So go for it! Just don't overdo it.

The first thing Kara and I did when we got through security at the airport at 8 AM was grab an alcoholic beverage with our breakfast. I don't know about you, but drinking is always a big part of my vacations, and it's always an easy way to gain unneeded calories. A way to minimize this is to stick with liquor-based drinks. We all know that beer contains a lot of calories. I can even feel it after I drink one! So try and stick with liquor mixed with juice. Vodka tonics, and gin and tonics, are great low-calorie drinks. If you are making mixed drinks at home, try using fresh ingredients. Strawberry daiquiris are just rum, strawberries, lime juice, sugar, and ice. Pina coladas are just pineapple juice, coconut milk, and ice. Dole makes a really good pina colada juice; you can just add some rum and ice to it for a quick pina colada! To make the drinks more creamy, add a scoop of yogurt! My summer favorite, which has a little more sugar but still keeps your calorie intake low, is what I call a vodka soda. Mix your favorite flavored vodka (I like raspberry or watermelon) with either club soda or mineral water. It's really yummy and fruity, and it cools you down on a hot day! Not that I'm opposed to an ice cold Corona and lime on the beach, which I definitely did on my vacation. And what drink did I get at the airport? Why, a bloody mary of course!

Now, I know if you are vegging on the beach you are going to want to snack. Let's keep it healthy here! If you want something sweet, bring fresh fruit. We brought strawberries to the beach, and they were super yummy. We also brought various sandwiches, including turkey with pepperjack, PB&J, and tuna. If you are craving something salty, my dear friend Kaylie introduced all of us to Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips that come in a fully compostable bag! The bag is really noisy but the chips are great and it's good for the environment! Double whammy. All this food was enough to sustain us at the beach!

It's also easier than you think to exercise on your vacation. I am definitely guilty of slacking on this one, but it can be easily incorporated into your day. You can always go for a jog on the beach; that doesn't even require shoes. Kara even woke up a half hour earlier than the rest of us and went on a run! I was so excited for her. Then, there are the exercises that you can do while vacationing. First, dancing. I know, it's so perfectly obvious, right?! I'm not exactly sure how long we were dancing on our first night out, but we all worked up a sweat and I'm sure we burned off all the calories we consumed in our drinks! It's also a great way to get the toxins out, and with proper hydration, prevent a hangover the next day! The last great exercise is laughter. Laughter burns calories and works out your abs! I'm definitely positive that I got enough exercise from laughter over the weekend.

My last rule is one that I always follow if I can help it. That is, don't eat fast food. Even at the airport, you have the option to grab a sandwich or a fruit plate. Fast food is terrible for you, and it's responsible for the cheap, artificial, mass-produced foods that they now sell at the grocery store. Try and avoid it!

So those are my tips for you. The best thing to do for yourself is have fun and indulge a little bit, but when you get home, get right back into your routine! We gave ourselves one day to recoop, and then this morning we went to the farmers market and to the gym! Don't let yourself slide out of your routine; it will only take longer to get yourself back to where you were.

All in all, I had a great vacation. To our hostesses, thank you SO much for your hospitality. This was the most fun I have had in a while (I know, means a lot coming from the girl who lives in Lawton!) and it will be a weekend that I'll never forget! To all of my Quantico girls, especially those who couldn't come this weekend, I miss you all SO much! You are all truly like my family away from home, and each of you have inspired me in some way to be a better person. I love you all!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Farmers Market Feast: Jamaican Jerk Chicken with Mango Salsa, Tomato and Pepper Salad, and Roasted Red Potatoes

A dear friend of mine, Sonya, just got her wisdom teeth out today! Kara and I took her to the dentist and got her home in one piece, and I told her that I would cook dinner for her husband. Our husbands are super busy this week with some mystery acronym (you get a lot of those in the military) called the JCATS, so I figured that with Sonya all drugged up, poor hubby wouldn't get any dinner that didn't consist of a lot of grease.

I decided to make use of all the good stuff I got at the farmers market this weekend. So I went with Jamaican Jerk Chicken with mango salsa, an old standby that is super easy to cook. For sides, I went with another old standby of mine, roasted red potatoes with a special seasoning, and a new endeavor, Tomato and Green Pepper Salad. I got to use tons of stuff I got at the farmers market, including green onions, shallots, red potatoes, tomatoes, and green peppers. I hope you enjoy!

Note: The recipes are out of order from the order above. I'm listing them in the order I cooked them because it is the most efficient way to prepare this entire meal... aka I'm super lazy and also hungry, so this was the quickest way to get dinner on the table.

First, prepare the potatoes
3-4 red potatoes (bought these from the farmers market, this is enough to feed 3 people)
Olive oil
Chili powder
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Cayenne pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Cube the red potatoes. Gold yukon potatoes also work well with this dish. To cube them, I cut them in half lengthwise, and then cut each half lengthwise down the middle. Then cut widthwise in about 3 or 4 cuts to create the cubes.
3. Line a baking sheet or pie tin with aluminum foil. I love lining everything with foil because it minimizes the mess, and you can also recycle the foil. Place the potatoes in the tin and drizzle with olive oil. Spoon the potatoes around so they get completely covered in oil, but be careful not to poke a hole in the foil!
4. Sprinkle the seasonings on top; use lots of chili powder, oregano, salt and pepper, but be careful with the onion and garlic powder. The amount of cayenne pepper is up to how spicy you want it; I sprinkle 2 dashes into my palm and then sprinkle it over the potatoes. Note: This spice mix is also delicious on corn on the cob, just rub some butter on the corn and then sprinkle the spices all around it!
5. Spoon the potatoes around again so all sides are coated with the spices. Cook for 45 minutes.

Second, prepare the chicken while potatoes are roasting
This meal is particularly quick if you create the spice mix in advance. I always have lots leftover so I save it in a spice jar for the next time I need it. You can put it on chicken or fish, or even pork.
Spice mix:
2 TBL coriander
2 TBL ground ginger
2 TBL brown sugar
1 TBL onion powder
1 TBL garlic powder
1 TBL salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp ground thyme
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
cayenne pepper

Mix these spices together in a bowl. Again, the amount of cayenne pepper depends on how spicy you want it; I usually do about 2 dashes.

Line a baking sheet with foil, and place chicken thighs on top. I usually do 2 chicken thighs per person. Sprinkle the chicken with the seasoning, making sure it is thoroughly coated. For a stronger flavor, flip the chicken over and coat the bottoms as well. Place in the oven and cook for 35-40 minutes.

Note: You may want to prep the spice mix beforehand. I always have some on hand so I don't have to worry about it, but if you put the chicken in too late after the potatoes, you'll end up overcooking the potatoes.

Third, prepare the salad while the potatoes and chicken are cooking.

I got this recipe from Rachael Ray, but I tweaked it a bit for my ingredients on hand. The original recipe asks for an onion, but I used a shallot since they were available at the farmers market, and it also asks for red vinegar, but I used balsamic since I was able to purchase some from a local store in San Luis Obispo. It still turned out great.

2 green peppers, chopped
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 shallot/onion, minced
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
Lemon juice (fresh if you can, but I always have some in a bottle for a standby)
Balsamic vinegar/red wine vinegar
Olive oil
Ground cumin

1. In a salad bowl, mix together the green peppers, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and parsley.
2. Squeeze the lemon juice over the top. Drizzle a small amount of vinegar over the top, and then the olive oil. It's always important to do olive oil as the last liquid to anything; otherwise it will prevent all the other liquids from reaching the vegetables.
3. Add the salt, pepper, and cumin.
4. Toss the salad and set aside so the vegetables can marinate.

And last but not least, the mango salsa

2 ripe mangoes, peeled and cut into big chunks
1/2 red pepper, roughly chopped
A small bunch of green onions, chopped from the white part to halfway up the green part
3/4 of a shallot, roughly chopped
Lime juice (maybe a 2 second squeeze)
Lemon juice (3 second squeeze, you want more lemon than lime)

Add all ingredients to the food processor. Pulse until it is the consistency of your liking.

When the chicken and potatoes are done cooking, place the chicken onto each plate and cover with the mango salsa, and serve the potatoes and salad.
The finished product!

The tastes of all the fresh produce was amazing. There is nothing better than a fresh tomato, especially when it's mixed with fresh green peppers and shallots! We couldn't help ourselves; with all these great flavors and the island livin mon, we had to wash down this tasty dinner with our favorite Jamaican beer, Red Stripe mon!!!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Hey, can you put your sandwich down for a sec so I can punch you?

Ryan, the dogs, and I are back from Dallas (aka civilization) and ready to face Lawton (aka hell) once again. Wicked was AMAZING; I have wanted to see it for so long and finally got the chance to! I wanted to relive it so badly that on the way home today I sang my acapella version of "Defying Gravity" while Ryan was sleeping (so he wouldn't have to hear my mad skillz), after which I realized I should shove a sock in my mouth to refrain myself from butchering such a wonderful song. Next time I want to relive it, I'll just watch the episode of Glee where they sing it. They do it much better justice than I do.

Overall, it was a very pleasant trip and great to spend some quality time alone with my husband, away from all the stress of the military (although his conversations were littered with military terms, no matter how much I BEG him not to. Do I talk like a teacher when I come home from subbing? No. Honey, I know you are reading this and I love you. =). Anyway, despite our fun time, we saw something while we stopped for lunch that REALLY pissed me off, hence the name of this post, and directly relates to this blog.

Disclaimer: I'm about to get really fired up. In advance, pardon my French.

We stopped for lunch in this little town in the middle of nowhere at a Subway. I don't really like Subway, but we were starving and I'm pretty sure there wasn't anything else for an hour in each direction. We crack the windows, pour the dogs some water (it was REALLY hot), and go in. Some douchebag is at the counter taking his sweet time ordering his sandwich. It's like he's never been in a sandwich shop before. Asking all kinds of questions like "What kind of meat do you have?" and "Well the Subway I normally go to has a picture on the menu of the sandwich I always get, so I don't know what it's called or what's in it. Can you make it for me?" 10 minutes and 6 order changes later, he finally pays and sits down to eat.

We order our sandwiches and chips (I got Baked BBQ Lays, by the way, which has TWELVE less grams of fat than the regular BBQ Lays!), pay and go on our merry (and slightly annoyed) way. On our way out I notice that the car parked next to us is empty, but running. It took me a second to realize what was going on, and then it hit me. THIS ASSHOLE LEFT HIS CAR RUNNING BECAUSE HE WANTED TO KEEP HIS A/C ON SO IT WOULD BE COOL WHEN HE GOT BACK IN.

Are. You. FREAKING. Kidding. Me. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? Do you realize how much you are wasting right now?!?! This was not my small, gas-efficient Corolla either. It was an EXPLORER. And so he doesn't have to endure one minute of heat, he takes his sweet time ordering his food, is a complete and total jerk to the "sandwich artist", and then SITS DOWN TO EAT IT while his oversized car emits pollution into our air! That is just completely unnecessary and selfish.

I mean, that thought would never cross my mind. "Hey I'm going to keep my car running while I eat my lunch so my car won't be hot when I get in. I'm such a genius!!" That thought never crossed my mind, and I had my dogs sitting in the hot car!! The plan was to get in and get out as fast as we could. This asshole was lucky I didn't realize what was going on until I got in the car or I might have taken his keys as a souvenir.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Hungover Trip to the Farmers Market

Let me just start out by saying I'm hungover as hell today! A few friends decided we would celebrate the weekend, and a few margaritas, daiquiris, and vodka sodas later, we decided that we would get up early and go to the farmers market.

I LOVE farmers market. In our college town, San Luis Obispo, the city would shut down the main street downtown every Thursday and have a farmer's market. Half of the street had farmers selling fresh produce, and the rest had BBQ stands, bounce houses, cookie stands, and even political displays. I definitely took it for granted, growing up in California and having all the fresh produce I could ever need, year round. Then we moved to Virginia and I learned what it was like to have produce that was trucked all the way across the country. Everything was more expensive, it spoiled quicker, and it didn't taste as good.

Now, living in Oklahoma, we have a little more choice. Kara found out about the farmer's market a few weeks ago; it only happens in the summer here and they definitely don't shut down the main road to put up a bounce house. But the produce is SO good and the people are friendly. We went last Saturday and Wednesday, and again this morning. It was enough to forget that I was woozy and had sworn off drinking for the rest of my life.

Farmers markets are great for a few reasons. First, you haven't lived until you've bitten into a fresh tomato or zucchini. You can taste the difference from the stuff you buy from the store. I don't know if the all the produce at the farmer's market is organic, but as my friends who graduated with degrees in agriculture will tell you, organic isn't always better. But fresh IS always better. A lot of stuff at the grocery store is trucked from all over the place, but you know exactly where the food at the farmers market comes from. Most of the time, you are giving your money directly to the person who grew it. How cool is that?!

Farmers markets are also great because it's good for the environment. According to cuesa.com, the average meal travels about 1500 miles from farm to plate. To give you a little perspective, that is from the coast of California all the way to Oklahoma City. I've driven that route. It's a LONG way! Imagine how much money is spent on gas, and how much pollution is sent into the air, just to transport our food. I'd be interested to look into which areas "import" (for lack of a better term) the most food, such as big cities. Be on the lookout for that on here. Anyway, when you buy from a farmers market, the food has travelled a significantly smaller distance, having a smaller impact on the environment.

Buying from the farmers market is also CHEAPER! On an average trip to the commissary (grocery store on base), I spend about $115. This past week, I spent $80. On Saturday and Wednesday combined, I spent about $15 on produce, and that was enough produce for the whole week. That's a total of $95 altogether, saving me $20! I bought quite a bit of produce this morning, and I ended up spending $17.25.

Finally, you get to support people in your community. Everyone in politics is always talking about the people on "Main Street"; these are the small, local business owners that have to compete with the big, powerful corporations. So when you go to the farmers market, you are helping enrich your community and support your own local Main Street.

So food from the farmers market is better, cheaper, good for the environment, and good for the community! Why wouldn't you go? I strongly urge each of you to find out if there is a farmers market in your community and go check it out. You may be surprised; I'm pretty sure they even have farmers markets in New York City. It's so fun to go and buy all this yummy food! If you don't have a farmers market near you, you can grow your own food, but that is for another post.

Here is my loot for today!
A dozen eggs, a GIANT zucchini, yellow squash, cucumber, 2 green peppers, 2 shallots (which I'll be using in my Jamaican Jerk Chicken with Mango Salsa, look for the recipe!), 2 tomatoes, a pound of peaches, and a bag of fresh basil. I can't wait to eat all this!

And can I just say I have the most amazing husband ever? While I was typing all this, he made me his famous french toast and cleaned the kitchen. What a guy! I won't be around for the rest of the weekend; Ryan, the dogs, and I are going down to Dallas to go see Wicked! I'm so excited! Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, June 18, 2010

The First Attempt at a Total Body Workout

Let me give you a little background on what led to the Total Body Workout. Going to the gym has gotten really boring. I used to spin twice a week, which is my absolute favorite way to work out. I was essentially addicted to it when we lived in Quantico. But the gym on base here in Lawton does not really offer motivating classes. I mean, you can get a good workout from it, but it's really not fun. Especially when it came to the spin classes. Long story short (and I promise I'll tell the long story later, which involves Kara and me setting up computer speakers in the middle of the gym and conducting our own spin class), there are no spin classes I enjoy going to and especially none at a time I desire (6 AM, no thank you, or 3:30 PM after I have been stuffing my face all day).

So recently I've just been running on the treadmill, trying to decrease my run time. My overall goal is to be able to pass a woman's PFT (physical fitness test, for you non-Marine folk), which is 3 miles in less than 30 min, maybe less, I'm not sure, 100 crunches in 2 minutes, and 75 seconds of a flexed arm hang (where you hold yourself at the top of a pull-up position, and time runs until your arms lock). The female run time is a little easy so I'm trying to be able to pass the male run time, which I think is 24 minutes max. Anyway, so I've just been running on the treadmill and lifting weights. I HATE RUNNING. I recently started swimming twice a week, but the monotony of getting on the treadmill and hating every second of it was really getting to me.

Kara and I decided we would try a drill-style cardio workout. After doing a little research, I decided to do 1-minute cardio drills with strength training drills in between. Right now, the cardio drills are designed to be low-impact because Kara has shin splints, but as soon as she gets new shoes, we'll be all over the place! I got most of these drills on about.com and I'll include pictures if I can. The whole workout took about 45 minutes and MAN it was killer! My legs and arms are so sore, but it gets the stamp of approval and we will definitely be doing it twice a week!

Warm-up: 5 minutes of cardio and then stretch. I got on the elliptical and did what my old spin teacher Connie called a "weighted warm-up." You start off light on the resistance and very slow, and increase your pace until you feel your heart pumping. This should take about 1-1.5 minutes. Then, increase the resistance every 20-30 seconds. On the elliptical, I usually go up 2 levels, 4 times. If you are on a treadmill, you can increase the incline or your speed. After you have spent 20-30 second on your last increase, take all of the resistance off so you are back to where you started. You should feel a wash of heat over your body. This is good, it means your blood is flowing and your muscles are loose and ready for stretching. Do another 30 seconds at least in the original resistance level. Now you're ready to stretch! Make sure to do a quad stretch (ankle to butt and hold it there), hamstring stretch (prop your foot up on something, height depends on flexibility and lean over your leg, touching your fingers to your toes) calf stretch (heel on ground and toe in the air, bending your other leg and reach down and touch your toe). Also, shoulder rolls and stretch are good. When I get a chance, I'll post pictures of each stretch so you know what it should look like.

Now you're ready to work out! You will need:
  • two dumbbells that are on the lighter side of your ability. I curl 20 lbs in my normal workout, and I needed 10 lbers to get me through this workout.
  • a step, both for stepping on and for laying on
  • a medicine ball (if you don't have access to one, a dumbbell could probably work)
  • stability ball
  • a clock
Modifications can be made in absence of any of the equipment except the dumbbells

Ball squats: Stand close to but facing away from the wall, with legs shoulder length apart. place the stability ball in between the middle of your back and the wall and the dumbbells between your feet. Squat down and pick up the dumbbells and hold them comfortably at your sides, the ball rolling up and down the wall as you squat. Do 2 sets of 12-20 reps (we did 20). Modification: if you don't have a stability ball, you might be able to try it with a medicine ball. You can also just do normal squats.

Knee lifts with medicine ball: Hold the medicine ball up over your head. Lift up your left knee while bringing the ball down to meet it at your waist. Repeat on the other side. Alternate sides for 1 minute. Be sure to keep the pace up. The faster you do it, the better workout you get.

Lunges with dumbbells: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, plant your right foot in front of you. Bend your knees and lower your body until your left knee is almost touching the ground. Raise yourself back up, and then lower again. Do 12-20 reps on the right, switch to the left and to 12-20 reps, and then repeat so you do each leg twice. IMPORTANT! When bending your front knee, make sure your knee never moves further forward than your toes. You should try to make a 90 degree angle with your calf and thigh.

Front kick with squat: Stand with feet shoulder length apart. Squat, and when you come up bring your right knee up and kick in front of you. When you bring your leg back down, squat again, and then kick with your left. Alternate sides for 1 minute.

Dead lifts: Stand with feet shoulder length apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your back straight, your head forward, and your knees just slightly bent, bend at the waist and lower the weights to the floor. Drive your weight into your heels as you stand up. Do 2 sets of 12-20 reps.

Diagonal Knee Smash: This is a typical kickboxing move. Reach your arms up into the air toward the left side of your body. Upon bringing them back down, pull your knee up so it meets in between your arms. Lower your leg back to the floor and reach your arms back up into the air. Repeat on the right side for 30 seconds, then switch to the left side for 30 seconds.

Squats: Stand with legs shoulder width apart, feet parallel to each other, and dumbbells in your hands on top of your shoulders (see picture below). Bend your knees and push your butt back, as if you are sitting in a chair. Again, be sure that your knees don't bend over your toes. In fact, when you are in the squat position, your weight should be on your heels and you should be able to lift your toes off the ground. Do a set of 12-20 full squats, then a set of 12-20 pulses in the squat position. Repeat.

Side lunge with punch: Step back with your left foot and punch with your left hand. Then switch to the right. If you do this quickly enough, you should be doing it with a slight hop from one side to the other. Do this for 1 minute.

Plie squat: Stand like you would if you were doing a normal squat, dumbbells and all. Now turn your feet out so they are making a 45 degree angle. When you squat, your butt should go straight down, not back. Your knees should bend over your toes, outward, not forward. This will tone those hard to reach inner thighs. Do 12 squats, and 12 pulses. Repeat.

Side knee Lift and Kick: Bring your right knee up so it's next to your hip. Then kick straight to the side. Switch sides. Repeat for 1 minute.

Incline bicep curls and overhead press: This move is KILLER because it not only works your arms but your core as well. Sit on top of your stability ball with a dumbbell in each hand. Walk yourself forward so you are sitting on the side of the ball; your core and thighs should be engaged to keep you in place. Do 12-20 bicep curls. Walk backwards so you are sitting on top of the ball. Do 12-20 overhead presses. Repeat.

Front kick and low lunge: Do a front kick with your right foot. When you bring it down, pull it far behind your left leg so you go into a lunge, placing your fingertips on your right hand on the floor for balance. Stand up straight and do it on the left side. This takes a little coordination, so concentrate! Repeat for 1 minute.

One-armed row: Holding a dumbbell in your right hand, place your left foot on the bench/step and your left hand on your thigh. Let the dumbbell hang down in front of you, and pull your elbow straight back so the dumbbell goes up to your hip. Do 12-20 reps on each side, twice.

Tae-bo kicks: Starting on your right foot, do a front kick. Then do a left front kick, and a right again. On your fourth kick, kick your left foot back for a back kick. When doing this you should turn your hips slightly to the left and look back at your left foot. So it should go, front right, front left, front right, back left. Repeat for 1 minute
(sorry, no picture of this one!)

Chest flies: Lay down on the bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Hold them up in the air directly above your chest with your arms just slightly bent. Then, without bending your elbows, lower the weights to they are even with your body, and then pull them back up. KEEP YOUR ELBOWS LOCKED, DO NOT BEND THEM! Do 2 sets of 12-20 reps. Modification: If you do not have a step, stand up, and let the dumbbells hang at your sides. Then raise the dumbbells so your elbows are in line with your shoulders, and your arms slightly bent.

Tae-bo kicks: Do the same thing as above, but start on your left foot. Front left, front right, front left, back right. Repeat for 1 minute.

Tricep dips: Sit on the ground in front of your step, placing your hands on the step. Lift your butt off the ground. Bend your elbows, lowering your body, but do not touch the ground. Raise and repeat. Do 2 sets of 12-20 reps. Modification: Hold one dumbbell with both hands so the weights are facing the ceiling and the ground. Bend your elbows so the weight goes behind your head, and extend.

Stairsteppers: Step on and off your step with both feet. Do this as fast as you can. Repeat for 1 minute.

Cool-down: Jog around your workout area, and slow to a walk, for about 4 minutes. Repeat stretch routine.

YAY! We made it! This workout is very tiring and it can be easily modified for all different ability levels. If you are more advanced, do the cardio drills for a longer amount of time, and do more reps or use heavier weights. If you are a beginner, take the drills a little slower, and do a small amount of reps. The other thing that can be modified is your recovery time. Use the time between your first and second reps of your strength drills to recover. Don't take too long of a recovery, even as a beginner. Never ever rest longer than 45 seconds, and if you do 45 seconds, spend the last 15 moving. We probably did 10-15 second rests in the beginning, and 20-25 second rests toward the end of the workout.

I hope you enjoy this workout!