Fat Loss Foodies Cooking School

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been a part of a program called Fat Loss Foodies Cooking School, spearheaded by an awesome woman here in Winston-Salem, Leslie Ann Quillen (LAQ). Leslie Ann is a personal trainer, fat loss nutrition coach, and self-proclaimed foodie, and she’s pretty great. I’m glad to have met her virtually, and hope to meet her in person soon, too! (Shout out to my friend Teri of A Foodie Stays Fit for introducing me to Leslie Ann!)

Initially, I didn’t think this online course was for me. After all, I’m not aiming to lose weight, really. But as I read more about the program, I became intrigued. This was a course on how to start developing diet habits that drive fat loss and leave muscles intact, all while eating delicious meals that keep you full and fuel your energy level. As a person who’s definitely tried lots of approaches when it comes to healthy eating (some more sustainable than others), this seemed quite appealing.

During the four-week Fat Loss Foodies Cooking School, LAQ offers videos/blog posts about things like an intro to hormonal fat loss, the role of cheat meals, how much protein (and what kinds) you should be eating, and much more. Plus, LAQ sets up a private Facebook group for the class’ participants so everyone can interact and ask questions, share meals, etc. She hosts periodic webinars with other experts as well as Periscope check-in conversations. Since it’s an online class, there are women from all over the world participating, which makes it so fun and community oriented.

Kevin and I already eat healthily, but so far (it’s just Week 2) this course has helped me focus more on eating a protein-filled breakfast (I haven’t been great about eating breakfast historically, and am especially bad about getting enough protein in the morning) and worry less about the amount of calories I’m consuming and more about what type of foods I’m eating and when. It’s been great to try some new recipes, learn more about what my body specifically needs, get Leslie Ann’s advice on great ways to modify recipes to make them fat loss friendly, and just feel a renewed excitement about food rather than getting stuck in a rut on weekdays (and not doing a good job of planning for meals). Rather than feeling daunting, I’ve enjoyed prepping breakfasts the night before and coming home and cooking an interesting, balanced dinner rather than just making a salad or some quick stir fry veggies (which are my go-to weeknight dinner options about 99% of the time).

My biggest achievement so far? Breakfast, hands down. A mere two weeks ago, I was a breakfast skipper extraordinaire. I figured I’d save those calories for later in the day. But I’ve been reminded of the importance of not only eating breakfast, but eating the right kind of breakfast. This morning, I heated up the Blueberry Protein Pancakes I’d made last night. I feel full, and they were SO good.

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(Photo credit: LAQ Fitness. I ate mine too quickly to take a pic!)

Last week, I made a Spicy Breakfast Casserole that Kevin and I ate the whole week, warming up a slice each day with a side of fruit. So easy. So delicious. So healthy. Win. Win. Win.

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Thanks, Leslie Ann, for this great resource, and for sharing your knowledge and encouragement. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a jump start to a healthier eating lifestyle or who, like me, just need a boost to really make the foods you’re eating do the most work for your body to keep it strong, lean, and healthy. (I’m not sure when Leslie Ann will be offering another round of Fat Loss Foodies Cooking School, but in the meantime check out her website for some great resources and awesome recipes.)

 

Beautiful Back To School Essentials For Students And Non-Students Alike

Summertime, with its long, sunshine-filled, lazy days, is quickly coming to a close, and back to school fever is setting in big time. Even for those of us who have moved beyond the academic world and its schedule, this time of year tends to bring with it an itch for a restart of sorts. Whether that means some lovely office supplies for your workspace, a brand new tote to carry your essentials to and fro, or some key must-haves to make the workday more enjoyable, the urge for “new” is definitely in the air.

With that in mind, here’s a collection of a few items to usher you into fall 2015 in style.

OFFICE SUPPLIES: Because it’s a proven fact (or should be – that’s my theory, at least) that you’re more productive when surrounded by beautiful things:

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  • Be inspired to be a good note taker with these playful sea creature-themed notebooks. Since they come in sets of three, you can strategically place them in various places so you’ll be sure to have one on hand when a great idea (or meeting you need to document) strikes.

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  • Sure, the digital landscape offers countless ways to stay organized using your computer, phone, or tablet, but for those who prefer to kick it old school planner-style, try this elegant option for a 2016 planner.

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  • In order to maintain an organized workspace, you need a place for all the items on your desk. Enter this beautiful desktop organizer, offering a place to house some smaller desk items in a clutter-free way.

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BAGS AND TOTES: Because the supplies are important, but it also matters what you carry them in.

  • You can’t go wrong with a well-made leather tote that you can enjoy for years to come. Go all in and get this one personalized to make it extra special.

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  • Pockets sure do come in handy when you need to access something easily, and this tote comes with plenty of those.

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  • Sturdy, casual, but still on-trend, this tote can go from office to carry-on to weekend bag in a breeze.

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  • Stripes are a perfect way to transition from the nautical fun of summer into a more regimented fall schedule while hanging on to some of the whimsy.

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MISCELLANEOUS: Because details matter.

  • An essential morning item, which is often most conveniently consumed on the go. Fill up this adorable travel mug to get caffeinated in style during your morning commute.

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  • A girl’s always got to be charged, so when your phone starts to lose power and you’re not near an outlet, be prepared with this pretty on-the-go charger.

mobile charger

iPhone case

Send Some Sweetness: A Baked Goods-Themed Giveaway (Round 2)

Happy Wednesday, y’all!

I first hosted this giveaway this time last year, and felt like it was worth resurrecting. So here goes: Send Some Sweetness, Round 2!:

If you’re anything like me, it’s amazing how a treat can brighten your day. Sometimes I’m just a cookie away from a rotten Monday being a pretty okay one.

With that in mind, I’m starting a giveaway I’m calling Send Some Sweetness, which is a way for y’all to nominate special people in your lives who might enjoy a sweet surprise in the mail one random day. (And — BONUS! — you’ll get some sweet stuff to enjoy, too.)

Here’s how it works:

  1. Leave a comment on this post telling me about this awesome person in your life and why he or she deserves a baked-and-then-mailed-with-love treat, but DON’T LIST A SPECIFIC NAME!
  2. I’ll select one winner, and will then work with that winner to get the name and address of their nominated guy or gal to hook them up with some homemade deliciousness.
  3. I’ll also send the same baked goods to the nominator. Sweet treats all around!

Winners will be able to select from the following delightful Curiouser & Curiouser baked goods (some of my all-time faves!):

blondietoffeepretzel   funfetti

Sweet stuff, wonderful people, and surprise deliveries. That’s happiness waiting to happen, folks! So come on — start the commenting and let me know who in your life deserves a treat. (I’ll be accepting nominations through next Friday, September 4.)

My Double Quinceañera: Recap + Recipes

For about five years now, I’ve been wanting to throw a double quinceañera party for my 30th birthday. (A quinceañera is a traditional Mexican celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday party, so 15+15 = 30. And there you have it — a double quinceañera!)

This past weekend, that party dream became a reality, and it was amazing.

I hit up Goodwill and found the PERFECT quinceañera dress (pink, poofy, and complete with a bow on the waist) for the very affordable price of $4.

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Next up: A piñata.

Should you ever find yourself in need of a piñata, I strongly suggest hitting up your local Party City, where you’ll find piñatas galore in all various shapes and sizes and themes. I went with the unicorn piñata (obviously) and filled it with candy and airplane bottles of tequila. Treats for kids and adults alike!

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Then there was the menu to plan. Alas, I did a terrible job of taking photos of the party in general, including documenting the food, but wanted to share these recipes with you. I found some good new ones for this event! We had chicken tacos (Kevin grilled some amazingly delicious chicken using our go-to marinade, Mr. Yoshida’s, and we had various toppings), and in addition to tacos, chips, and salsa, we served:

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For dessert, there were four selections:

 

My sister, Susan, and brother-in-law, Marty, came up to Winston from Columbia, South Carolina, to be a part of the weekend, and not only attended the party but helped a TON with prep. They’re just the best, and I’m so thankful for them. It was great having them here for the fiesta!

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Thanks to everyone who came out to help celebrate my double quinceañera. I have the best friends and family!

 

 

Links I’m Loving

Fridaaaaaaay!

Here’s a picture of Fulton wearing a Mardis Gras mask to get everyone in the Friday spirit:

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(Quick plug: Get more fun Fulton pictures like this by checking out my #FridaysWithFulton series on Instagram.)

Now, let’s get down to some links, shall we? Here’s some Internet goodness I’ve been loving this week:

  • Okay, so Target kind of ripped off the Tiny Hamster concept with this video, but I can’t help but adore it. A turtle with a Ninja Turtles backpack! A guinea pig sharpening pencils! Ducklings taking selfies! The cutest thing I’ve seen all week, to be sure.
  • Stephen Colbert, I adore you. I already loved you, and then I read this GQ article and now love you even more. “The next thing he said I wrote on a slip of paper in his office and have carried it around with me since. It’s our choice, whether to hate something in our lives or to love every moment of them, even the parts that bring us pain. ‘At every moment, we are volunteers.'”

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  • On a recent episode of Late Night with Seth Meyers, Bill Hader recounted a night he and Vanessa Bayer were stoned in Amsterdam while filming Trainwreck and Vanessa got lost. It was amazing. You should probably check it out.

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Happy weekending, friends!

Cooking With Banana Peels

Yes, you read the title of that post correctly. We’re here to talk about banana PEELS today, people.

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As someone who eats at least one — often two — bananas virtually every day, I was surprised to learn that I was losing lots of the fruit’s potassium by throwing away the peel. In fact, 40% of a banana’s potassium is in the peel. Plus, peels contain other awesome nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin B, lutein, and both soluble and insoluble fiber. (Crazy, right?) And to think about all the healthy goodness I’ve been tossing into the trash for years!

So that leads to the next question: Cool, so banana peels are good for you. But I don’t particularly want to EAT banana peels.

Enter banana peel recipes. (Prepare to have your mind blown.)

First of all, banana peels taste different — and should be treated/used differently — based on whether they’re yellow or green. Yellow, ripe peels are sweeter and softer in texture, and work well as additions to smoothies. (I used to peel and then freeze bananas for my smoothies, but have started cutting off the ends of the peel and freezing them whole. Just be sure to wash them first.) Easy as that! Just use your favorite smoothie recipe (one that includes a banana, of course), but put in the whole banana, peel included.

When it comes to green banana peels, think savory. These peels are starchier than their riper cousins, and take on the flavors of the ingredients they’re prepared with. Unlike with yellow peels, you definitely want to cook green peels. I haven’t yet tried cooking with green peels, but am planning on giving these a go to see what this trend is all about. (Have any of y’all tried cooking with green peels?)

Here are a few more recipes that include banana peels. Here’s to potassium!

 

 

Thoughts On Turning 30

I turn 30 this coming Friday (!!!), and as that date quickly approaches, I started thinking about what I’ve learned during my almost-30 years on the planet. I certainly feel like I know myself more these days, and it’s nice to feel that way after lots of years spent feeling more unsure of things and myself and my place in the world.

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It’s funny, because as I consider the things I know and believe these days, the overwhelming theme seems to be “gray.” That wasn’t always the case. These days, though, I don’t feel confident that I truly know many things, but at the same time I’m extremely comfortable in that lack of confidence. I’m comfortable in the gray. Embracing the gray has made me calmer, less anxious, less judgmental, and happier overall. The gray feels great, in fact.

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When you Google “turning 30,” you get a barrage of articles — lists, mostly — titled things like, “What Nobody Tells You About Turning 30,” “30 Books You Need To Read Before Turning 30,” “18 Reasons You Should Look Forward To Turning 30,” “Habits To Master Before Turning 30,” etc. I found some of these lists funny, some helpful, some irrelevant, and some anxiety inducing (“I haven’t done all those things yet and I turn 30 this week!!!” and the like).

Initially, I started writing this blog post thinking I’d make a similar list. “30 Things I Know Now That I’m Almost 30,” or something along those lines. After all, lots of the things I read in those “turning 30” lists resonated with me. Yes — I agree that I know myself more these days. That I’m so glad I spent money on travel (and will continue to fund that value). That life is more comfortable these days in good ways (fewer, closer friends, a more “grown-up” living situation including the best husband ever, being farther along in my career, etc.). That family has become more important than ever. All of those things are most certainly true, so I guess I’m where I should be, in many ways.

But instead of feeling inspired to qualify these “turning 30” thoughts into a list, I just find myself feeling…happy. Content. Not content in a way that makes me feel stagnant. Quite the opposite, in fact. Content in a way that will help fill my future with confidence, curiosity, and exploration. Content in a way that trumps fear. Content in a way that makes me feel more whole. More like me.

If this is what almost-30 feels like, I’ll most definitely take it. Let’s do this, fourth decade!

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Links I’m Loving

We made it to yet another Friday, friends! And that, I think, calls for a bit of a celebration. Or, at least, a few fun links to click on, right? Right.

  • First up: Arby’s. Major kudos to Arby’s for their commercials that aired during Jon Stewart’s last episode of The Daily Show. Well done, Arby’s (but your “We have the meats” tag line still really grosses me out, for the record).
  • I made this cabbage- and quinoa-based salad this past week, and it’s pretty great. Kevin and I enjoyed it as a side dish/lunch for a few days, and it kept well in the fridge. Give it a try!

salad

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  • “Jessica’s Daily Affirmation” is still the best. I know, I know: This video is a million years old. (Well, six. Which is a million in Internet years.) But still. Whether you’re having a bad day or a good one, Jessica will surely make you smile. (This video is quoted a lot at the Keller house. “I can do anything good. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!”)

Happy almost weekend!

Pistachio Kale Pesto With Zucchini Noodles And Cherries

Last night, after talking about trying a zucchini recipe for roughly six months, my friend Ashleigh and I tried a slight variation of a new recipe that was most definitely worth the wait.

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Not only is this recipe healthy and delicious, it’s also super easy to whip up (especially if you have a cherry pitter on hand!). Although I suppose you could make this meal without a spiralizer, I’d definitely recommend using one if you can to make things simple. I have this inexpensive one from Target and have been very happy with it.

The evening was a success not just because we killed it when it came to dinner, but also because Ashleigh brought her adorable golden retriever puppy, Parker, over to meet Fulton for the first time. The result? They LOVE each other!

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To round out this meal, we also cooked some salmon (brushed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then placed in a 425-degree oven on a foil-lined baking sheet for about 10 minutes), which paired really well with the noodle dish.

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Pistachio Kale Pesto With Zucchini Noodles And Cherries
(serves 3-4)

Recommended tools

  • spiralizer
  • cherry pitter

Ingredients (for pesto)

  • 3-4 handfuls of kale (we used the bagged kale from Trader Joe’s and used about 3/4 of the bag)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 3/4 cup fresh basil, packed
  • 1/2 cup roasted shelled pistacios
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 3 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients (for the noodles and topping)

  • 4 medium zucchini
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup pitted and halved fresh cherries
  • pistachios and lemon juice to top

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Directions (for pesto)

  • Place kale in a large pot and barely cover with water. Bring to a boil, and while the water is boiling prepare an ice bath (water + ice cubes) in a mixing bowl to blanch the kale. Boil kale for about a minute, then remove from pot and place in ice bath. Remove kale and pat dry with paper towels.
  • Place the garlic in a food processor and mince.
  • Add in the prepared kale, basil, pistachios, lemon zest, and lemon juice, pulsing until well blended and relatively smooth.
  • Slowly pour the olive oil through the top of the food processor while it’s running, adding it a bit at a time until the pesto reaches your desired consistency (check it often!).
  • Add salt and pepper, then place pesto into a bowl and set aside.

Directions (for remainder of dish)

  • Using your spiralizer, create noodles with the zucchini. Drizzle noodles with a small amount of olive oil, and add salt and pepper, tossing to coat.
  • Combine pesto with prepared noodles, tossing to combine evenly.
  • Top noodles with extra pistachios, cherries, and lemon juice before serving.
  • Enjoy immediately!

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A #NationalChocolateChipCookieDay-Worthy Recipe

So far my theme for this week seems to be COOKIES. (I am happy about this theme.)

Yesterday I shared a recipe for funfetti sugar cookies, and today I have a classically perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe to pass along.

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Yesterday, as it turns out, was #NationalChocolateChipCookieDay, and when I realized this fun fact (at about 8 p.m. last night, thanks to a few Instagram posts I happened to catch), I just had to take advantage of the holiday. The timing was perfect, since I’d been eying a new-to-me chocolate chip cookie recipe I wanted to try. Plus, Kevin and I had just finished the Netflix series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, so I needed a post-show activity to help me not be so sad that the series was over.

But one other recipe before we get to the cookie of the day, and that’s for a delightfully refreshing cocktail that my favorite Winston bar, Single Brothers, makes. This has been my go-to drink at Single Brothers since we moved to the city four years ago, and I had one last night when I met my friend Lindsay at the bar. I don’t have the exact recipe with proportions and all, but the ingredients are cava, St. Germain, and lemon juice, complete with a twist of lemon peel for garnish. It’s amazing, as well as lovely.

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Now that you’ve enjoyed your cocktail, how about a cookie? This recipe is bound to please. It’s nothing fancy — just a solid chocolate chip cookie, but it’s loaded with chocolate chip deliciousness.

(Here’s how Fulton feels about NOT getting a cookie.):

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Chewy Chocolate Chip-Packed Chocolate Chip Cookies
(makes about 24 cookies)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 cups (1 11.5-ounce bag) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

  • In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  • Using the paddle attachment on a stand mixer, cream together the butter and both sugars until well blended.
  • Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy.
  • Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended.
  • Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a spatula or wooden spoon.
  • Roll dough into balls (about 2-3 Tablespoons per cookie), then refrigerate rolled dough for about 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.
  • Place chilled cookie dough onto prepared baking sheets and bake for 11-13 minutes (taking them out of the oven when they still look slightly under baked for maximum chewiness).
  • Let cookies cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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