Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Note to Self...

Don't leave a half eaten chocolate coffee scone next to your work station all day if you don't want to be tempted!!

For some reason I just left it there... all afternoon.

Then got totally sidetracked by looking for flights to Europe in May!!

Alex and I are going for it. Yes, there are jobs to worry about and savings that should probably be left alone, but this is my thought: YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE. If I don't travel to Europe now- when I'm not on a solid career track and don't have a mortgage or some other debilitating debt holding me down- when AM I going to go?

Can someone please tell me I'm not crazy?!

Onto other things (as if I'm able to think about other things...)

This morning, it was cold in our heatless house. I did not want to get out of bed, let alone go to spin class.

I made my coffee, broke off a piece of a scone (hooray for willpower) and checked my usual blogs...

With spin class set to start in 20 minutes, I was still PJ-laden. But I knew if I was planning to write a post about staying/getting fit before the holidays, I couldn't be a total hypocrite.

Donning my warmest workout ensemble,

I dragged myself to class with this as my fuel:

(Definitely the best Larabar in my opinion- tastes JUST like a pb cookie!)

I arrived a couple minutes late and, to my complete surprise, got the LAST bike!

This has never happened in all my 2 1/2 months of spinning at the Y.

Usually there are AT LEAST 4 or 5 bikes for the taking.

Not today, folks. A couple other late arrivals breezed in, only to walk right back out after scouring the room.

In between pants, I spoke to the [super sweaty] guy next to me, "Wow, it's really full today."

He gasped, "Yeah, everyone's trying to lose weight before Christmas." As he turned his head away, a 1/4 cup of sweat flew off his nose in a stream. Gross.

All sweating aside, his comment made me realize that shaping up before the endless holiday parties and family gatherings begin is already a no-brainer in many people's minds.

That's great news! It also inspired me to let you guys in on a couple important reasons/tips to either stick with the routine you already have (despite every fiber in your early morning shivering, sheet-wrapped being shouting "NO!") or start easing into a workout regime now so that when the new year hits and resolutions abound, you'll already be one step ahead of the game.

  • Get your strength training on! Invest in a Jillian Michaels DVD (she will make you burn) and workout at home if you're not a fan of the gym. I've said it before: building muscle will help your body burn all the extra cookies and libations you'll be no doubt be indulging in over the next month.                                                                                     My favorite at home move? Push ups. SO GREAT for your core, arms and chest. They're tough, but start by trying 3 real ones, then build up to 5, 10 and so on. It'll burn at first but it's the best way (without equipment) to enhance overall body strength that I've found! Learn about proper technique here.
  • Don't stress about cardio. Yes, we all want to build endurance, but if all the crazy holiday errands have taken over and you just don't feel like pushing yourself on the elliptical today, don't worry about it. Take it nice n' easy. Bring a magazine and just move for 30 minutes. The fact that you've chosen to do even a little something for your fitness is good enough. 
  • Bundle up and take a walk. Okay, if you're in the midst of pre-Arctic winter, this one might not be for you but I LOVE putting on some layers, a scarf and gloves and going for a brisk walk with loved ones during this time of year... It's a great time to catch up, walk the pups or just admire the holiday lights and scenery.
  • Go ahead and jump on the train if you haven't already. I'd be willing to bet that most people put "get in shape" close to the top of their new year's resolution lists. Why wait a month? If you start today by doing simple things (like taking it easy on a cardio machine with a magazine or doing some crunches and push ups at home), you'll already be primed and ready to take it up a notch come 2011. Plus, by forming those habits and incorporating exercise into your day now, it won't be so hard later.
  • Try sticking to clean eats between the partying. I'm personally making it a mission to down more green juice than usual and get heavy doses of fiber-filled fruits and veggies everyday. Cleaning out your system while you can will allow your body to better serve you when it's faced with 2 servings of grandma's not-so-easy-to-digest, but still delicious green bean casserole.
  • The endorphins you get from exercising on a cold morning will beat sleeping in for that extra hour any day of the week- I swear!
I hope this inspires you just a little. As tough as it is to stick to a set schedule during this jam-packed time of year, exercise is one thing you definitely won't regret pencilling in!! Especially when you're at that cocktail party. On your third piece of cake...


How'd that happen?

I'm off to make some hummus and other stuff...

Until tomorrow ;)

BTW: Please remember that I am not a personal trainer by any means... These are just things I've found to be true in my own experience. If you've got questions, email me- mbee321@gmail.com!

Monday, November 29, 2010


Have I told you about my latest?

Dark chocolate covered "Espresso Pillows" from Trader Joe's.

I'm not exaggerating when I say I could literally put the tin up to my mouth and pour.

My love for all things coffee and chocolate comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me well.

Some might even go so far as to call it an addiction... No comment.

Since the pumpkin bread is reduced to this:

and I almost jumped out of my chair with joy when I saw this recipe on Angela's blog, I figured this would be the PERFECT morning to give these babies a go...

And that's how "Perfect Chocolate Coffee Scones" came into my life...

First I combined the almond milk and apple cider vinegar to let it curdle (I read on Emily's blog that this combo serves as a substitute for buttermilk in vegan baking. HOORAY for learning new things!!)

Then it was coffee time...

Once you go freshly ground, you never go back.

The recipe called for "strong coffee," and I happily made it so!

Once the wet and dry mixes are ready...

Combine. (And bemoan your camera for freaking out on you temporarily)

The aroma was already intoxicating.

Now for the best part:

We're ready to bake!

I watched my special needs oven very carefully as I did the dishes (my new favorite habit), and out they came.

Perfect... If I do say so myself.

Remember that these are scones, so if you're expecting a super sweet cookie-like taste, you might be disappointed. I think they'll make an excellent breakfast appetizer tomorrow morning... Yes, I occasionally eat breakfast appetizers like scones or pumpkin bread (when they're around the house), then follow it up with something heartier and healthier like this:

A breakfast quesadilla on whole wheat tortilla with egg, goat cheese and grilled red onion...

With a side of salsa, of course.

I'm off to the gym... hope my membership card still works ;)

I'll be back tomorrow with thoughts on maintaining fitness levels during the holidays!

See ya :)

Sunday, November 28, 2010


That's pronounced "fun." 

(gah, my boyfriend is clever- but shhh don't tell him that...)

Last night, we attended a Vietnamese wedding reception with friends of ours. We had an absolute blast, along with TONS of food.

The 9 course menu: (served family style)

in addition to an interesting array of hor d'oeuvres

(the pre-dinner meatless delights included melon, sweet pineapple pound cake and a coffee-flavored gelatin square- I love discovering new foods! Especially when they're tasty...)

I was happy to learn that seafood is a staple in the Vietnamese diet, so there were only a couple dishes on the the menu I had to avoid. Everything else = fair game.

Some highlights:

Steamed buns- the texture was indescribably crazy and the taste similar to that of sweet Hawaiian rolls

Lobster- 'nuff said

Seafood Cold Cut plate.

I'll admit: when I saw this on the menu, I freaked out a little and pictured heaping spoonfuls of artificial crab meat and a shrimp cocktail made from defrosted shrimp and jarred cocktail sauce. I was PLEASANTLY surprised when we received a tray filled with fresh shrimp and squid in otherworldly sauces- the most notable concoction being grilled shrimp in a creamy citrus sauce and served with walnuts. Such complex flavors in a "seafood cold cut"- who knew?!

My cold cut plate:


We also had shark fin soup and something called "crab claw with shrimp paste."

Shrimp paste was another ingredient that made me nervous... I don't know if it was the fact that the ball of paste was deep fried or the stuff was actually tasty, but this was one of my favorite parts of dinner!

Of course a wedding is not complete without champagne (can't you tell?)

And cake

DELICIOUS CAKE. I could have downed 2 more of those, but didn't want to pass out in a sugar coma be rude.

The lovely couple.

Apparently, a Vietnamese bride changes up to four times throughout the festivities. This was my favorite dress.

Our table upon leaving:

Um, yeah. We had fun.

This morning I woke up early craving a warm hearty "something."

I took a cue from Ashley and made some oats with banana, almond butter and pumpkin loaf bits.

Over the past week or so, it finally feels like some semblance of fall/winter weather has taken over Los Angeles. For this reason, I've been craving warm, generous portions of food CONSTANTLY. I just cannot get into salad mode! That's why I decided to make a soup from scratch...

More reasons:
a) It'll last all week... maybe

b) I can control was goes into the pot- it'll be vegetarian, protein-packed and AMAZING.

I got started on the prep work while waiting on my scene partner to arrive for rehearsal.

First I strained and rinsed the Trader Joe's 17 Bean and Barley Mix after soaking it overnight.

Check out all that beany goodness

Then I gathered my soup veggies

And chopped (about 1 cup per veggie)

Added some vegetable broth

to the beans

Prepped a pan with some olive oil + crushed garlic and admired my early morning reflection (riiight...)

Cooked up the veggies 'til soft

Then put it all together (plus a can of diced tomatoes + salt to taste) and let it simmer for an hour, while I rehearsed.

Appropriately enough, the character I'm playing is a total "Suzy homemaker" caretaker-type wife to her disturbed husband, so I was able to method act ;) today and serve my "husband" some piping hot soup from the stove...


Unlike another version of this soup I've tried in the past, I added canned tomato to the mix, which brought a distinct sweetness to the final product. Omit the tomato and go heavier on the salt and seasoning if you'd prefer the more savory version.

Alright, I'm going to have another bowl and get ready for work.

Things to look forward to this week:

  • Getting back on the cardio/sweat bandwagon after a quick holiday break
  • Setting up our Christmas tree and decorations Wednesday night!
  • Baking, making, eating, then blogging about it.

Happy thoughts :)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Window Shopping

It's been a gorgeous Saturday here in Los Angeles.

Temps are finally at a holiday season-appropriate level. (Christmas tree on Wednesday- can.not.wait!!)

And 'tis the season to have cake pumpkin loaf for breakfast.

After which Alex and I set out for our ritualistic Saturday morning walk around the 'hood...

We did a little window shopping...

(Yes, cupcake cases count as windows too!)

Glad to see graffiti artists agreeing with this philosophy and spreading the word...

We stopped for brunch at Millie's and, try as I might to want a salad, it just wasn't happening. 

Instead I went with the comfort food option:

Crab cake benedict (one of my favorite meals when done right) with roasted rosemary potatoes.

It's been awhile since I've actually eaten the potatoes that come with brunch (I usually sub greens), but I'm glad I went the hearty route today- they warmed me, heart and soul. (Turns out potatoes can do this)

Over our meals, Alex and I planned our upcoming First Annual Christmas Potluck and White Elephant Gift Exchange Party. Should be a good time! You know you'll get the deets in the coming weeks...

The prospect of having guests inspired us to peruse the local thrift stores for more furniture- and we scored!

$20 for this antique mirror! Now we've just got to hang it... and find chairs, since we have zero in the house- really.

I'm off to shower and get ready for my first Vietnamese wedding!

Catcha tomorrow with a winter-appropriate recipe :)