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Happy Earth Day!

I wanted to start my day with a piece of earth aka a Green Monster and Granola. Into my blender went: 1 frozen banana, 2/3 scoop chocolate whey protein, 1 scoop Amazing Grass Green Superfood, 1 handful of spinach (what was left in my bag), 2 tsp Hershey’s Unsweetened Cacao powder, 1/3 cup pumpkin, cinnamon, 2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1/3 cup water and 3 ice cubes. I’m not sure if it is the pumpkin or the cinnamon that makes this combination so delicious, but it is my favorite green monster concauction I have tried. The pumpkin makes it amazingly creamy and flavorful.

I recently ran out of my new favorite Galaxy Vanilla Almond granola, so I had to pick up another at the grocery store. My grocery store does not carry Galaxy (I bought it at a natural foods store) and I wasn’t in the mood to buy Bear Naked Vanilla Almond, so I decided to give the Nature’s Path version a try. I tried a bite straight from the box before topping my bowl and it had such a familiar taste that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. After brief deliberation, I decided that it tasted like a Rice Krispie Treat! It was good, but I think I prefer it as a snack because it is so light and airy. Galaxy granola still owns my heart for granola toppings because it has such amazing flavor and crunch up until the last bite!

This was such a refreshing and hearty breakfast. I grabbed an apple before running out the door to sooth my need for “crunch” and “juice”. I think I might be slightly dehydrated because I woke up with a bit of a headache. I’ll make it a point to have some more water today, I don’t think I drink enough.

Tangent– I am a granola girl. I have tried almost every granola on the shelves at my grocery store, and I buy homemade versions at the farmer’s market when I see something new. I’m always trying new varieties, and I have not found a better flavor and crunch than Galaxy.

Also, I forgot to add to my late night post the highlight of my day: $4.95 sale on Mangia Crunchy Almond Butter! This stuff is usually almost $10 and I’ve never tried it! It does look delicious and has a nice layer of oil and nut pieces floating on the top of the jar! My other jar is almost finished, and I can’t wait to try this!

Earth Friendly,

Nora

Are you doing anything special for earth day?

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Do you ever have days where you feel like you are constantly racing against the clock? It is either moving too fast or too slow, leaving you bored and idle or overwhelmingly busy. Today was one of those for me. After my morning classes I grabbed lunch at a campus eatery (loaded salad–mixed greens, spinach, water chestnuts, snow peas, chick peas, marinated portobello mushroom, artichoke hearts, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, tofu…and much more with a Granny Smith apple)  and still had time to kill so I went to Starbucks for no particular reason. I was bored so I got a grande hazelnut latte and a Berries GoMega Odwalla Bar. I know sugar-free lattes aren’t the best for me but I have a slight addiction. I don’t even want to know what chemicals are in it, it’s GOOD. Win some, lose some right? I really liked the Berries GoMega bar. I wasn’t particularly hungry for it but I ate the entire thing because it was SO delicious. I loved the pieces of dried fruit and the light sweetness of the bar.

After my afternoon class I came back to get ready for work. As I was packing up dinner I decided I needed a snack.  I ate a large carrot while I was packing my lunch box (not even sure what I threw in there…some tempeh, a banana, veggies, roasted beets, cheese, nuts…I was going full speed, I can’t even remember!)  followed by a Cranberry Kombucha,  1 cup Chobani Plain Greek Yogurt with Bear Naked Fruit and Nut and Blackberries. I only had about a 1/2 cup left of this granola (I put about 2 TBS into my yogurt), and to my COMPLETE sadness, it was all mushy and stale.  After a few bites, I added  a good amount Kashi GoLean Crunch and Kashi Mountain Medley Granola for crunch. I have had the Mountain Medley for a while and it isn’t my favorite granola so I sprinkled some on top to continue working on widdling down my stash.

I have to pause here for a moment and tell you about MY FIRST KOMBUCHA experience. All I really have to say is: “Hello Lover.” I have been wanting to try it for a while after hearing about health benefits, and seeing it in blogs. Lindsay from Cotter Crunch recommended Cranberry to me for a “first try” flavor. I’m a girl who likes beer, so the suprising beer-like flavor from the fermentation was appealing. It tasted like beer meets cranberry juice…beer-mopolitan?  Regardless, it was refreshing to drink and I will be going back for more. Thanks Lindsay!

Dinner was a mishmash at work followed by a bite of a pumpkin muffin and dark chocolate almonds. When I got home I continued my “rushed” state and finally settled down to a big bowl of Perry’s Peanut Butter Chip Frozen Yogurt. I didn’t take the time to get a picture of my bowl (er…well I went back for seconds, so of my two bowls.) but I wanted to show this AMAZING yogurt off. Just look at those peanut butter ripples. I love huge chunks of frozen peanut butter; they melt in your mouth! The chocolate chips are big squares and give it a nice crunch. Honestly, how can you go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate?

I felt like I was rushing all day long. My mind was moving a mile a minute, and I felt like I was incapable of doing everything that needed to be done/addressed in the course of my day. My stomach was actually a bit upset from the randomness/perhaps at times a  bit too large  quantity of food. It reminds me that life is never perfect OR easy. You can’t plan out every moment. You just have to go for the ride, let things happen and accept them for what they are. That being said, it is always nice to take a DEEP BREATH and SLOW DOWN when things seem to be getting out of control. When my world starts feeling off , I have to step back and get a healthy dose of perspective. Usually perspective comes from some self-reflection…and my mom.

Fun Facts:

1) I’m really, REALLY against wasting food. Even if I don’t really like the item I bought, I try to think of ways to use it all up. My Fruit and Nut granola was not worth saving. It was so mushy and stale :(. Instead of throwing it all out I saved the nuts from the bag….well..more like picked them out and ate them. I’m so thrifty.

2) Along with my “sugar-free” syrup love, I also really like a sparkling beverage produced by my grocery store that is chocked full of preservatives and aspartame. I try not to think about the list because it is so good! I’m not a huge soda drinker but these things are bubbly and refreshing!

To a Calm Tomorrow,

Nora

What are your “guilty pleasures”?

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When I have absolutely NO idea what to have for breakfast and need something quick, nutritious and filling, I turn to Greek yogurt, granola and fruit. I am hitting all of my nutritional bases with whole grains, protein and a serving of fruit. I try to pick a granola that is organic (Be careful when you buy granola, many of them have TONS of sugar and are highly processed.) and that has a bit of fat for staying power. I like using a lower fat granola for topping purposes, but when granola is the main component of my breakfast paired with a low-fat yogurt I like a heavier granola for satiety.

This morning I was NOT in the mood to make oatmeal (weird I know…I always am) and I wanted something cold, so toast was not an option. I received a package of Chobani Champions to sample yesterday, and it felt like the perfect opportunity to try another flavor. I am trying to widdle down my cereal/granola collection and I thought that my Bear Naked Fruit and Nut Granola would be the perfect addition to the Honeynana yogurt. I was extremely excited to try this flavor because I LOVED the Chobani non-fat Honey Greek Yogurt I tried a while back, and love the combination of honey, banana and nuts. I used 1/4 cup granola (almost didn’t fit in the cup!) and had a small Gala apple on the side to round my breakfast out.

I really like the flavor of this yogurt. I think the Champion line is a great product for people who have never tried Greek yogurt or for children. Both the chocolate and honeynana had a thinner consistency than other Chobani products, less protein and big flavor. I love Greek yogurt because of the tangy flavor and rich texture, but I have found that for many people it is an acquired taste. The Champion product is great because it is a bit more mild but still packs more protein than regular low-fat yogurt, has probiotic cultures and excellent nutrition! I love the diversity of Chobani’s products; there is something for everyone to enjoy!

I have one hour-long class this morning then it’s off to the gym for my upper body lifting committment! I’m sticking to this in hopes to gain some upper body strength by summer. I haven’t been sore after the past two sessions, so I think I am going to switch up my routine. I think it is important to work different muscles and “build” weights if you are looking to gain muscle, not simply tone-up. And of course I packed one of these:Chocolate Whey Protein Shake: 1 cup Vanilla Soy Milk, 1 scoop Organic Chocolate Whey. Is it weird that I actually like these? I just pack it up with some cold packs, shake and drink…tastes JUST like a chocolate milk shake! Lunch time is usually right after the gym, so I typically don’t have a “post gym” snack, however; since I am trying to build back muscle, I read that protein shakes are the best recovery because your body absorbs the nutrients faster than through a food source. I try to have this as soon as I am finished, and then head home for lunch about an hour later. I haven’t had this routine long enough to promote any results, but I am hoping it helps!

Happy Friday!

Nora

What are essential breakfast elements you have even when you are in a hurry?

How do you feel about protein shakes? Any experience/advice for strength exercises?

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I am a planner. I have mile long to do lists with check marks on the sign, two calendars and every Sunday make a “plan of action” for the week noting what work/activities I have to do each day complete with a time line. Granted, you can’t always plan everything, but when I know I will be in a crunch for time I prepare my meals ahead of time….even breakfast.

Last night I had a late night with friends and knew that I would probably be sleeping in and not have time to make a proper breakfast. I am not one to grab a granola bar and fruit in the morning; it just doesn’t satisfy me. I also have an extremely busy day running around the bakery, so I needed something fast and filling. Last night I prepared: pumpkin overnight oats.

The Base:  1/4 cup rolled oats, 2 TBS oat bran, 1/3 cup Greek Yogurt, 1/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk, 1/2 TBS chia seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves.

Toppings: 1 sliced banana , 1 TBS almond butter, Crofter’s Europe Superfruit Spread (black currant and pomegranate) and Bear Naked Fruit and Nut Granola.

This bowl was so filling, and has prepared me for a full day at work. I love adding chia seeds to my oats. I forgot to add them yesterday and noticed a difference in heartiness and volume. They add crunch and a fluffy consistency to the bowl, and make it more satisfying. It is so easy to eat right, it just takes a bit of planning. 

I don’t have much time today to enjoy the beautiful weather we are having, but after work I am making my 1.5 hour drive home. I’ll be back just in time for dinner with my parents!! PERFECT way to end the day!

Enjoy The Sunshine,

Nora

What is your favorite way to spend time when the weather is nice?

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Before I get into my snack bar reviews, lets start with my favorite meal of the day:  breakfast. Unless I have something in mind (Let’s be honest, I usually think about what I am going to have for breakfast before I go to bed!), my breakfast cravings tend to be non-existent in the morning; I have to debate with myself as I am getting ready about what I am “in the mood” for. Today was an exception to this, and I woke up thinking, “WARM SPICED APPLE, WARM SPICED APPLE.” I quickly entered the kitchen and made stove top oats with natural chunky apple sauce. In my mix: 1/3 cup natural apple sauce, 1/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk, 1/4 cup water, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract, 1/3 cup rolled oats, 1/2 TBS chia seeds, 1 TBS natural crunchy almond butter, Crofter’s North America Superfruit Spread, 1 TBS Bear Naked Fruit and Nut Granola. It was warm and delicious! I’ve never tried almond butter that is JUST ground almonds and was surprised by the runny consistency. I actually really liked it in my oats, but for spoonfuls of nut butter, I think I prefer the sweetness of MaraNatha Crunchy No-Stir.

I have a massive snack bar collection that I need to start cutting down on before graduation! I don’t even know how many Larabars, Kind Bars, Clif Bars, Luna Bars, Kashi Bars and other random bars I have in my apartment. WHOOPSIES, I’m a snack bar pack-rat. I was hungry slightly after breakfast this morning, and decided to try the Bumble Bar, that I purchased a few weeks ago.  It was somewhat bland but extremely hearty packed with sesame and flax seeds. I think I am more of a fruit/nut bar person, so this wasn’t my favorite but the toasted sesame flavor was on key.

Before heading back to school yesterday I had a photo-shoot with my princess-cat, Rose, and tried the Ginger Snap Larabar. This bar contains: Dates, Almonds, Pecans, Cinnamon, Ginger and Cloves. I am SO impressed with the flavor! It was spicy and warm; perfect with a cup of orange tea. I immediately ran to my mom’s spice cabinet to investigate the prominent flavor in this bar. The result: Ground Cloves. I love the cozy feeling of this spice, and think it might be making some appearances in my cooking soon!!

I’m having a bit of  cookers-block. I have been trying to think of new dishes I want to create but the more I search recipes etc for ideas the more confused I am about where my flavors are coming from, and the combination’s I want to try. This is semi-frustrating, but I know it will pass…well I hope it will pass because I plan to participate in this week’s Cook’s Mission!

I wish I could take after my Princess Rose and lay around all day. How nice it must be to live the life of a cat.

Warm Wishes,

Nora

What are your favorite spices and how do you use them?

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On Wednesday morning, I woke up to sunshine, a blue sky and mild temperature in NYC. My dad and I enjoy running, so we took advantage of the rare weather conditions, and ventured out to Central Park. In such a crazy and busy city, this plot of land provides some serenity. It was absolutely beautiful. When we got back to our hotel, I needed some fast fuel so I dug into my “travel food” stash and had a cup of Greek Yogurt, Bear Naked Fruit and Nut Granola, and a big Jonagold Apple.For breakfast the other days we found a small, family-run diner around the corner. It was charming, and one of the few places in the city that didn’t charge an arm and a leg for a bowl of cereal. I ended up ordering the same thing both times we went:  Spinach, Tomato, and Mushroom Egg White Omelet with Potatoes and Whole Wheat Toast.It was huge, but so delicious! Naturally I covered the omelet in hot sauce and ate every last bite of goodness! It came with 2 pieces of this toast (I had about 1.5 slices) which I smothered in Concord Grape Jelly. The potatoes were fresh, but a bit bland so I didn’t finish them. I am not big on hash browns/potatoes for breakfast, but I cannot resist the crispy topping that is generated when they are cooked in a skillet! This breakfast was simple, and had such a familiar, traditional taste.

The basketball games were from about 12pm-4pm and 7pm-11pm each day, so a variety of snacks found their way into my bag:

Fruit and Nut Delight (so hungry...needed a pre-picture bite)

PB&J LaraBar

How'd this get there?

Beer that comes with a pretzel...genius.

I love snacking on LaraBars and KIND Bars. They satisfy my hunger, are portable, and delicious. I also found a Haagen-Dazs Vanilla and Almonds ice cream bar in my bag…weird. My sweet tooth always needs tending to after dinner, so I had to buy one of these during a 7pm game. The last picture was a necessary 12pm beer for the Syracuse game. There was a place in the stadium that sold beer in cups with a pretzel in the handle. It was my only overpriced beer of the Big East Championship, but the pretzel TOTALLY made it worth it.

A few of the days we ended up having late lunches or early dinners. When I am not particularly starving for a meal, nothing is better than a satisfying salad. I had a

Rotisserie Chicken and Grilled Vegetable Salad for a light lunch.And for an early dinner, I had a Roasted Beet, Goat Cheese, Arugula and Hazelnut Salad completed with a multigrain roll from the bread basket. I had to take a picture of the basket because I have never seen so much variety. It contained: sourdough, multigrain, rosemary, and fennel-raisin.I also had some of the fennel-raisin roll, and was shocked by the anise flavor;  it was interesting and amazing. A lot of the food that I tried on this trip has inspired me to try new flavors and varieties in the things I make at home. I wish I had more time to explore the eateries and markets while I was there, I love how much culture is contained in one place.

To Food Ventures,

Nora

In your opinion, what major city has the best food? Do you plan places to eat before you travel, or stumble upon them when you are there?

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I’m writing this post en route on my iPhone so forgive the briefness and potential spelling errors (phones are so hard to type on!). I will finally have my Internet back tonight, and will write more about my NYC foodcapades when I am home. It was a great trip, and we were even able to see NBC Studios and Mama Mia yesterday, which was a nice way to break up the monotony of the basketball games.

This morning was rushed and there was no time for breakfast before our five hour car ride home! I have never been happier to have my pre planned snacks and emergency breakfast options. I still had one yogurt, a Bear Naked Fruit and Nut granola cup, and an apple left. It was car friendly, nutritious and held me over. The yogurt was he last one from my Chobani sample pack, 2% Pineapple Greek Yogurt. I am not a huge fan of pineapple flavored things, and have been putting off trying this flavor. I was pleasantly surprised by the mild pineapple flavor and small pieces of shredded pineapple that it contained. I was expecting the rude, and overly sugared flavor that often accompanies pineapple products, but this was not he case. This yogurt would have made a great dessert with toasted almonds and coconut on top. It wasn’t the best with the Fruit and Nut Granola, but I had to make due with what i had… Girl has to eat, you know? Midway through breakfast I determined that the pineapple Chobani would have been perfect along side (or mixed with) a carrot and raisin muffin. Yum! Speaking of muffins, I may have purchased a few cupcakes on my way home!! I can’t wait to devour them!

Car Bound,
Nora

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