Monthly Archives: July 2012

Don’t Wait Until After Vacation

Standard

Today we return from vacation. It got me to thinking about my I’m Not on a Diet post.

Vacation was great. It was relaxing and enjoyable. I’m living life. And I’m happy.

I once had the mentality that, in terms of my exercising and losing weight, that I would “get back on track” after vacation. Or… after this big event or that stressful life situation. Or… on Monday. However, about a year ago, I finally realized that:

  • There will always be vacations. {Thank God!}
  • There will always be parties, weddings and big events.
  • There will always be stressful or unexpected life situations.

I had to learn to live healthfully despite all of those things, because they will always be there. I decided to change my habits slowly. I decided not to deprive myself. I decided to indulge once in a while, but not over indulge.

I’ve found that happy medium. And it truly is happy.

How many times do we overeat or eat something we consider bad and then feel guilty afterward? The food did not make us happy.

On the other hand, how many times do we start a diet with the intention of sticking to it, but then become anxious in situations where we encounter something we can’t have? We feel deprived. The thought engulfs us. It’s all we can think about.

Neither of those situations makes us happy.

Instead, happiness, for me, can be found on a line between the two. I learned that I can have anything I want in moderation. I’ve even learned that some things I think I wanted, I really didn’t. {Really, the thought of Oreos are better than Oreos themselves.} I don’t feel guilty, nor deprived. Sure, I may slip over to one end of the spectrum or the other from time to time. But I recognize how I feel when that happens and now know how to find my way back to the middle.

For me, happiness also means relaxation. I used to be believe that if I had a rough day that I “deserved” to relax. But I never truly relaxed sitting on the couch when I knew I should be working out or cooking something healthy. I felt guilty instead.

However, when I discovered that working out led to relaxation, the more likely I was to do it. After getting a run or workout in, I felt like I had accomplished something. I didn’t have to worry about it. I could sit down and truly relax. That kind of relaxation feels 100 times better than the kind where I tell myself I just deserve to relax and  do nothing.

For me:

Happiness in Health = Moderation + Relaxation

In the past year, I could have made plenty excuses to go off my path. I could have “started over” every time I made a mistake. I could have waited until after the next holiday, vacation or event was over to do so. And I could have inflated my Day 1 weigh-in every time with a “last meal” that I knew I couldn’t have on my plan. But I decided not to do that this time. I decided to do all of these things instead:

  • Go on a food tour of Northeast Minneapolis.
  • Take cooking classes.
  • Attend a Leadership Convention for the Traveling Vineyard. {Lots of wine and good food!}
  • Go to a Twins game and a Saints game.
  • Host friends and family in town.
  • Go up north.
  • Go to an out-of-town wedding.
  • Try new restaurants using Groupon.
  • Attend concerts and plays.
  • Watch numerous Packer games out.
  • Exercise on Thanksgiving Day.
  • Conduct in home Wine Tastings.
  • Go out-of-town and enjoy Christmas with my family.
  • Enjoy fondue with friends.
  • Play lots of Texas Hold ’em.
  • Start a blog.
  • Vacation in Hawaii.
  • And Much more…

What would my life last year look like if I decided to either:
Wait to get healthy until after each of these events was over
OR
Wait until I was “done” losing weight and getting healthy before I did any of these things or skipped them altogether?

I would feel guilty in either situation!

So, I didn’t wait until after vacation. I just started. I knew that I had to learn along the way and that I wouldn’t have all of the answers or be perfect. But most importantly, I knew I didn’t have to.

Was I considerably healthy this past vacation? No.

Did I overeat? Yes, a few of times. {Boy did I learn from that stomach ache!}

Did I incorporate some healthy pieces? Yes. {I actually craved good salads!}

Did I workout? Yes! While I wanted to do more, I did get my three proposed runs in.

Did I enjoy myself? Absolutely.

Did I learn what I can do next time? Without a doubt.

We’ll see what the weigh-in says tomorrow. I fully expect to have gained five pounds. But I’m not starting over. I’m learning and making changes every day from the day before. It reminds me of what Kate said in a cooking class: “Success is made from mistakes well-handled.”

You will always have vacations and weekends and parties to tempt you. The challenge is to learn how to deal with them now. If you are looking to get healthy, don’t wait until after vacation. Don’t wait until next Monday. Instead, do it now! Let yourself evolve and improve with each passing day…

Cheers~

Carrie

Culinary Boot Camp: Risotto

Standard

Earlier this week, I told you about my experience with local cooking classes over the past year. I love them so much that I’m going to continue to take them whenever I can. And I plan to post my impressions here on Season It Already!

My most recent Class:

Culinary Boot Camp: Risotto

at Local D’Lish in Minneapolis

While my friend Jared and I may have met because we are fellow Wineaux, we have become foodie friends as well. {Although, I’m not sure that I like the term “foodie”. I’ve learned that I’m not quite as adventurous as I’d like to think I am.} Still, food and wine go hand-in-hand; so it’s only natural.

In fact, last summer, Jared and I snagged Groupons for a food tour of Northeast Minneapolis. Jared, Rob and I booked this intriguing tour for one particular weekend. However, we later learned that my friend Katie {another fellow Wineaux!} was going to be in town from Ohio with her husband for a wedding. We wanted to meet up, but with limited time constraints on their part and this tour already booked, we ran into some difficulty. So, Katie and her husband decided to join us! The tour was fantastic and a great way to explore the city for both out-of-towners and locals alike. We stopped at five different eateries in Northeast Minneapolis and learned the history and sampled the food of each. I would highly recommend Twin Cities Food Tours. The tour starting point was at Local D’Lish – a small urban market focused on local, organic ingredients and giving back to the community.

So when a Groupon opportunity came up to take a cooking class at D’Lish, Jared and I jumped on it. Unfortunately, with both of our busy schedules, it was difficult to find one that we both could attend and were interested in – there were so many options! I think we bought the Groupon in February, but the class we scheduled wasn’t until May. While risotto isn’t the lowest calorie option for me to learn how to make while trying to lose weight, Rob and I have recently come to love it!

You see, I used to think risotto was just rice. I didn’t understand that it was a different style of rice (arborio) and what intensive labor it takes to make it. And I think I hadn’t had the right stuff. I can’t pinpoint when we first discovered its greatness, but when made properly, we can appreciate it to its fullest.

However, this class involved so much more than learning how to cook risotto!

Instructor Kate Moore started out by making us an appetizer while teaching us some basic cooking skills in preparation for our risotto. She made the whole class fun and engaging!

Jared assisting Kate in class

We learned how to make our own stock. I found it interesting how she added the hot stock to the risotto, something you can’t do with stock-in-a-box, unless you heat up the boxed stock first before adding it to the dish. But how many people actually do that? Kate also taught us flavor profiles and how to change things up so that we could use the bean dip base (our appetizer) or risotto to create our own add-ins.

She kept talking about how we really need to make sure everything is really well-seasoned. {I knew I liked her for some reason!} She warned us that the salt she added may seem like a lot, but that we need to add more salt than we may be used to when we work from scratch. Pre-packaged and processed foods are already laden with {often too much} salt. Cooking from scratch allows you to control the sodium, and even if you feel you like you are adding a lot, it’s still far less than what you’ll find in most packaged/processed foods.

“Taste frequently, season fearlessly!” she said.

Another phrase she repeated throughout the class: “Food is sexy – because you have to activate and engage all the senses.” I like that.

However, one of the most surprising parts of this class for me was that I had the best salad dressing I’ve ever had in my life! While, Kate did give us some basic recipes, she also included how we could leave room for creativity. She encouraged us to play with the ratios and “build those muscles” – cooking muscles, that is. “The path to success is paved with mistakes well-handled,” she said. So true! I’ve felt like a failure in the kitchen more than a handful of times and often feel like giving up. Kate gives you the confidence to be your own boss in the kitchen. I felt empowered.

I have since tried to make the dressing we had in class, and while it wasn’t as perfect as I remembered hers to be, it still was such a great alternative to bottled dressings or the simple vinaigrette.

Since I highly recommend that you visit Kate’s website and seek out a class or book her for a private event, I don’t think she’ll mind if I post her recipe for this dressing I can’t get over:

~

Emulsified Herb Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 to 1 cup loosely packed fresh herbs (50% parsley and scallions, 50% directional herb)
    • direction herb = the herb you want as the dominant flavor. Kate used basil in class.
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar or champagne vinegar (I only had balsamic on hand, which I think is what gave my dressing a different flavor)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Put everything except the oil into your food processor or blender. Blend to combine/purée guts. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil to emulsify. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. “Feel free to play with the ratios to build those muscles!”

~

I thoroughly enjoyed Kate’s class at D’Lish. I loved her personality and style and learned a ton. Kate trained and worked at the popular Lucia’s Restaurant and Wine Bar in Minneapolis. She currently teaches cooking classes through various venues and also does private events at very reasonable rates. They are great for bridal showers, birthday parties, couple’s parties and other social events. She’ll come to you!

Have you ever made risotto? If so, what was your experience?

Where have you had the best risotto?

Cheers~
Carrie

Run Streak / Active Streak – How did I do?

Standard

On Memorial Day, I decided to participate in a Run Streak. The challenge was to run just one mile every day from Memorial Day through the 4th of July. As a new runner, I decided to change it up a bit. I knew that I needed my rest days between runs because one mile is still a lot for me. Instead, I planned to take Sophie for at least a one mile walk on those days. My intention was to do an Active Streak.

So how did I do?

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Memorial Day

2.5 mile run

1 mile walk w/Sophie 2 mile run 1 mile walk w/Sophie 1 mile walk w/dogs 5k Race 1.25 mile walk w/Sophie
2.5 mile run 1 hr Yoga class, 1/2 hr walk w/Sophie 2 mile run 1 m walk w/Sophie 1 m walk w/Sophie Dog Day 5k  
3 mile run 2 mile walk w/Sophie 2.5 mile run   3 mile run 1.5 mile run, 1hr Yoga class 3.5 mile run
  2 mile run 1 hr Zumba class 2.5 mile run, 1 hr Yoga   3.5 mile run  
GOLF 3 mile run     2.75 mile run   4 mile run
    4th of July

2.5 mile run

       

 

So, I missed ten days. Not so hot, right?

I was about to input my reasons excuses why I didn’t even walk Sophie for one mile on those days or walk just one mile on the treadmill while watching TV. But those are just excuses and I did not want to validate them.

But here’s how I look at it:

  • Since Sophie hadn’t truly been walked in ages, the one-mile Sophie walks helped in “training” her for the Dog Day 5k walk.
  • I did make it 13 days into an Active Streak! I don’t think I’ve ever been active 13 days in a row before.
  • I truly believe I worked out more days than I would have had I not done an Active Streak.
  • The Active Streak kept me motivated to just get out there even when I was in a bad mood and didn’t want to do anything – i.e. the night before my 2nd 5k.
  • The first time I broke the Active Streak, I decided that I wasn’t going to quit. On my next opportunity, I was going to make up for it by walking Sophie two miles instead.

Next time:

  • I believe that the first time this challenge was offered, it was for the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas or Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. I think this is great because it is a busy time of year and it encouraged people to stay active when they normally put that piece aside. I plan to take this challenge again during that time, whether it is offered or not.
  • I will have a plan of quick things to do so that I cannot make the excuses I did this time around.
  • If I break the Active Streak, I will have a makeup plan determined in advance.
  • I will keep detailed notes on days that I break the Active Streak so that I can re-evaluate better next time.

Did you take the #RWRunStreak or #ActiveStreak?

If so, how did you do?

American Burger Bar – St. Paul

Standard

Since tomorrow is Independence Day in the U.S., I find it only fitting to give our impression of the American Burger Bar.

We happened upon American Burger Bar when we couldn’t dine at the restaurant we had planned on because there was a private event. I thumbed through our Groupons for something in the area and found a Restaurant.com gift certificate for the American Burger Bar.

Since Rob is a burger enthusiast, we’d been meaning to try this place. The reason why we hadn’t? Restaurant.com gift certificates never expire. We are always trying to use up our expiring Groupons first.

While there are also locations in Minneapolis and St. Joseph, we dined at the one situated in downtown St. Paul. The interior had more of a supper club feel, not what you’d expect for a burger joint.

American Burger Bar claims that their burgers are:

“Handcrafted and Delicious

“Handcrafted burgers, fresh-made malts and an amazing beer list helps make American Burger Bar a major treat for everyone!  We use only the highest quality meats, cheeses, and breads in preparing your food.”

Sounds right up our alley, right? Well, here is our impression.

We started with the Chorizo Feta Dip for an appetizer. I didn’t even notice it on the menu, but Rob ordered it. How he knew it was on the menu without me reading it to him, I have no idea. 😉

Chorizo Feta Dip

This dip was better than expected! I’m glad Rob ordered it. It was very similar to a spinach artichoke dip, but with a spicy kick from the chorizo. This could easily be split between four or more people or would be too easy to overeat! My tip would be to put a small amount on your plate so you can gauge your portion size.

Mr. Burger Connoisseur ordered the:

Smothered Patty Melt

What a cute little All-American look on the top slice of the bread! The cheese melted into an “A” with a couple of American flags gives it a nice touch. However, the novelty was lost on the flavor. There was none. Maybe Rob and I have had too many above average burgers that we just weren’t impressed by this one.

I ordered the:

Turkey Burger

Because I had originally planned on something healthier that evening, a burger was going to be a little bit of a challenge to put in my calorie budget for the day. However, I was at a burger joint. And since I hadn’t ordered nor made a turkey burger in a really long time, I thought this was the place to order one. Their burgers are handcrafted after all.

But what I got was a frozen patty. No, my burger did not come to the table in a frozen state. However, it was obvious that this patty came from the freezer. This was far from half-crafted. I guess one could argue that I didn’t order an actual burger. However, if you are going to be “burger” bar, don’t you think all of your burgers should be made well? Especially when you boast “high quality meats”? The burger was disgusting as was the sauce sitting next to it on the plate above. The fries weren’t even worth it. Don’t worry, I didn’t go hungry. I still had that chorizo dip.

Oh yeah, and their “amazing beer list” was less than stellar.

Our verdict? We were grateful to have that Restaurant.com gift certificate rather than pay full price for this food. We have no reason to go back again. There are so many other places that have better burgers in the Twin Cities.

Fire up that grill this 4th of July, because you can definitely make a better burger at home!

What’s your favorite kind of burger?

Cheers~
Carrie

Cooking Classes

Standard

My friend Jared and I have started to take cooking classes from time to time. While they can be a little expensive, we have found them absolutely worth it every time. The first couple we took were at the Kitchen Window in Uptown Minneapolis. One was a knife skills class.

It was life-changing!

Yes, you can laugh. But I never knew chopping an onion could be so quick and easy. Later that year, we took another one on How to Cook from Your CSA Box. While the instructor was a former chef and owner of a local CSA that neither of us subscribed to, it didn’t matter. The class was more about using seasonal produce and becoming more confident in our own cooking. The young instructor’s experience and expertise was impressive. The #1 thing I learned from that class:

NEVER apologize for your cooking.

I’m a novice cook. So I’m always afraid of how something new is going to turn out. When I plop something in front of my husband, I start out by telling him why I’m not sure this or that worked or if I under or overcooked something. This is wrong! Repeating these words and apologizing only reinforces our cooking insecurities, creating the fear to try something again. Instead, he said, if someone has anything to complain about our cooking, they can do the cooking next time.

When I made the San Marzano pasta that was demonstrated in that class, my husband was so impressed that he said I could take cooking classes any time because I just keep getting better. Note: My husband does not cook nor have any interest in ever cooking. Furthermore, he’d rather go out to dinner any night of the week. So this comment is a huge step – in both his willingness to eat at home and my cooking ability!

Another class Jared and I took was a fun, participatory one on sauces at Saga Hill. I have never come away from any of these classes disappointed. In fact, I recently bought Groupons for upcoming classes at both Saga Hill and the Kitchen Window. I’m looking forward to learning something new later this summer and fall with my friend Jen.

However, my most recent cooking class was on risotto. Come back later this week to learn more about it! I plan to review these classes as I take them. Trust me, it’s one place where I’ve learned to Season It Already!

Have you ever taken a cooking class?

If so, what was it?

What were your impressions?