Tag Archives: healthy

A Perfect Meal

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Have I ever mentioned how much I love Girls’ Dinner Night Out?! It’s the perfect opportunity not only to try restaurants with girlfriends, but we often end up at places that Rob would have no interest in a;sdjlfalksdjdining.

Enter Mill Valley Kitchen

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Located in St. Louis Park, Mill Valley Kitchen is a restaurant I had not heard of yet! When we asked Kim how she found it, she said, “Open Table,” which is an online restaurant reservation service. I always forget to look there. It’s a unique and innovative place if you ask me!

From MVK’s website:

Mill Valley Kitchen is a restaurant and bar featuring Northern California inspired cuisine served in a comfortable and refined setting. We use fresh, local and sustainably sourced ingredients to create our menu, and we include nutritional information for each menu item. Our light and flavorful cuisine is designed to enhance the healthy lifestyles of our guests.

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Items on the menu are listed with nutrition facts: calories | fat | carbs | fiber | protein. Vegan (v) and gluten-free (gf) dishes are also noted.

I ordered a glass of bubbly rosé because it is not often that you find one from France’s Loire Valley on a menu by-the-glass, much less for $7.

Carousel Rosé, Loire Valley - $7

Carousel Rosé – Loire Valley, France – $7

By the suggestion of our server, both Jen and I started with the Orange Salad:

Orange Salad - baby greens, pomegranate, pistachio, feta

Orange Salad – baby greens, pomegranate, pistachio, feta

I absolutely adored this salad. It was so refreshing and the perfect way to start a meal. Alas, as I look at their menu right now, the Orange Salad is no where to be seen. Farm-to-table restaurants are both a blessing and a curse. 😉

Kim also ordered a salad:

salad

Baby Kale Salad – manchego, pine nuts, lemon-chili vinaigrette

Let me stress that I think these salads appear bigger in the photos than they actually are. They were the perfect portion sizes pre-entree. Speaking of entrees, the menu item that I found online that I was considering was not available. But something else caught my eye…

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I am a huge scallop fan, especially if it isn’t prepared with bacon. And they were offering one prepared with lavender? Sign me up!

Seared Scallops - sweet potato, fennel, edamame, lavender

Seared Scallops – sweet potato, fennel, edamame, lavender

This dish just sang to me! The scallops were perfectly seared and the combination of flavors was thrilling. And yes, that is popcorn on the plate! It added a little bit of crunch.

Jen nibbled on a Spinach, Chevre & Sweet Onion Flatbread to which she added Shrimp. Kim chose the Sea Bass, which I believe is the miso-glazed one on the menu at the time of this writing.

And because we saw some miniature desserts being brought to other tables, we knew that this was a place where we absolutely had room for dessert and coffee!

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Each miniature dessert was served in something slightly larger than a shot glass – the perfect size! I went with the Triple Chocolate – duh! And of course, I loved the mousse-y goodness. However, they also had a Carrot Cake miniature that night. Since that is one of Jen’s favorites, it was an easy choice for her. That one was topped with a bit of candied ginger.

Kim chose the gluten-free Chocolate Brownie, which was actually two brownies. They were dense, so good thing it came with a side of milk!

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For me, this was the perfect meal.

Because it was so busy the night we dined there, our only complaints were about where we were seated – in the bar area. We had reservations and arrived a bit late, but we called ahead. Normally, I don’t mind sitting in the bar area at all. But the chairs were uncomfortable. And because the place was so busy, there were people standing up between the tables sipping drinks, almost on top of us. Some were so loud that we couldn’t hear our own conversation.

What I did like is that they had their one TV tuned to The Cooking Channel, rather than sports. Although it was changed to hockey later. Hey, we live in Minnesota!

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I sat back and thought about if I’d ever take Rob to Mill Valley Kitchen. Normally, it wouldn’t really be his sort of thing. I mean, because there are no fryers in the joint, burgers are even served with greens. {<–My kind of thing!} But the beef would be grass-fed and high quality.

My thought would be to take him on a Monday during Happy Hour. From 3p – 6p and 9p – close, all burgers are $5. That’s a steal because that even includes their $14 Bison Burgers. And Mondays are half-price bottle of wine night!

When and where have you had a perfect meal?

Cheers~
Carrie

Snack Lunches

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You know what I’ve been absolutely loving lately?

SNACK LUNCHES!

Well, you should have known that by the title.

Anyway, what are Snack Lunches? They are foods that I’d probably normally bring to work to snack on or munch on at home between meals. Instead, I’ve been bringing my snacks to work with me as meals. What’s interesting is that while some look low in calories, they do fill me up! I don’t really need any other snacks later in the day. Here is one of my favorites:

Snack Lunch Cucumber, Capress & Egg

Cucumbers, Hard Boiled Egg & Poorman’s Caprese 

I usually add a fruit to my lunch bag {not pictured above} to round out my Snack Lunch and to have something slightly sweet. As of late, I’ve been noshing on cherries, watermelon and grapes. Like here:

Snack Lunch

Grapes, 1.5 oz Muenster Cheese & Veggies with Hummus

I also have my daily piece of Dove dark chocolate. I do bring one of my pre-portioned bag of 100 calories worth of nuts along, too. {I adore the Rosemary Marcona Almonds from Trader Joe’s!} However, I don’t always end up eating them. I may eat them after work if I have a run scheduled that night. But lately it’s just been me crunching on a cucumber while I keep the pooches separated while they eat. {Shamrock tries to eat the adult food, while Sophie tries to eat the puppy food!}

leftover Tuscan pork chop and veggies with hummus

Leftover Tuscan Pork Chop & Veggies with Hummus

Above is yesterday’s Snack Lunch. On a whim, I chopped up the leftover pork chop from the night before and threw it into my lunch. I didn’t think cold pork sounded that appetizing {I don’t like cold leftover turkey from Thanksgiving!}, but it was actually a really tasty addition!

In some ways, I think of these Snack Lunches as antipasti platters. You know, those plates with an assortment of cheeses, meats, fruits, olives… Yes! I forgot to add that I sometimes add olives to my Snack Lunches!

One day, I picked up a little snack box from Target. Did you know that they offer these in the deli section?!

Snack Lunch-Target

Trail Mix, Spicy Summer Sausage, two types of Cheese & Pretzels

Sure, that Snack Lunch above wasn’t quite as healthy as my others since it lacked veggies. But I did see several different variations of this snack box in the deli section. Some had hummus and veggies. Some included fruit. There were ones with tuna salad and crackers. I probably could have chosen a more healthy option. Don’t worry, I still had plenty of cukes form the Farmers’ Market. I’ve been eating them like crazy right now!

I seriously feel like I can’t get tired of snacks for lunch. I brought some leftovers and a salad to work a couple of times recently, but what I really wanted my Snack Lunch instead. What’s also great is that since you pre-portion all of your snacks before you leave the house, portion control should not be an issue.

Here’s my formula for a healthy Snack Lunch:

  • Protein (chicken, pork chop, cottage cheese, cheese cubes, hummus)
  • Veggies (to eat plain or with dip, hummus, guacamole)
  • Fruit (Right now, I like ones that are chopped into pieces or bite-sized rather than an apple or orange – such as raspberries, melon, cherries)
  • Optional: Healthy Fat (guacamole, olives, a drizzle of olive oil over roasted veggies.)

You could also add a whole grain, too. I love that these are so simple to put together and it helps me use up whatever I’ve got in my fridge.

Do you ever eat your snacks as your lunch?

What kind of foods would you put in your ideal healthy Snack Lunch?

Cheers~
Carrie

Foodie Penpal from Chicagoland!

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This month’s Foodie Penpal box came from Ashley of My Cats and I (Cooking) in Chi. When I found out that Ashley was from Chicago, I told her that if she could somehow ship some hot fries from Pops for Champagne, that my husband would be forever grateful. 😉

From our email exchanges, Ashley and I found that we have a lot in common. We both love trying new restaurants and admit that we dine out more often than our waistlines and wallets can handle. She even gave me some recommendations for new restaurants to try the next time we travel to or through Chicagoland. I also found another person who doesn’t like a ton of bacon in dishes like me! {I seriously thought I was the only one with all the blank stares I get when I mention that.}

So what was in the box? Well, let’s just take a look:

FFP-july

Ashley dubbed this a Reduced Guilt package!

Skinny Pop Popcorn – Mmm. No artificial anything! This stuff is good and coated with just the right amount of salt. “Popped Skinny in the USA,” the company hails from Chicago.

Trader Joe’s Mini Milk Chocolate Bars – For my chocolate fix. It was 90+ degrees in the Midwest when our boxes went out this month. I didn’t think about this until moments after I shipped my FPP recipient’s box! I worried about melted chocolate all over her goodies! I quickly sent her a warning/apology email. Soon after, I received an email from Ashley stating that she had included some chocolate, not thinking about the hot weather and hoped it wouldn’t be all over the box. {See how much alike we are?!} It was nothing the refrigerator couldn’t fix! These separately-wrapped 100 calories bars are heaven.

Trader Joe’s Reduced Guilt Brownie Mix – This one makes me laugh. Whenever a Foodie Penpal {you are assigned to new people every month} asks me about my preferences and if I am okay with homemade or baked goods, I explain that I like both healthy and indulgent treats because I believe that any food can be part of a healthy diet as long as it is in moderation. Then I add, “That being said, when it comes to baked goods, if you send me a brownie, I’ll eat it. But if you send me a plate of brownies, I’ll probably eat those in one sitting, too.” Moderation is tough for me when it comes to baked goods. It’s why I don’t usually bake. So, then, why did Ashley send these to me?

Because you can use the mix to make ONE BROWNIE AT A TIME!

Genius. In fact, I’ve since dumped the mix into a jar with the {simple} directions on top, so I can make myself my own hot brownie anytime. YAY!

FPP-july4

Wonderful Pistachios {single serving pack} – Nuts are one of my favorite snacks. And I still think I might be the only one on the planet that can’t stop laughing at this Crackin’ Gangnam Style pistachio commercial. 😉

Also included was, as she mentioned in her note, one of Ashley’s favorite breakfast recipes for Blueberry Banana Pie Overnight Oats along with the Pecan Praline Granola and Chia Seeds needed in the recipe. I just had to make it!

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Sooo good. I only made half the recipe at a time and it came out just fine. Since then, I’ve also eaten the granola as cereal with banana or peaches added. And do you know how long I’ve been meaning to buy and try out chia seeds?! Now I’m just looking for some more fun recipes and uses for them.

None of those items have I previously picked up at Trader Joe’s. And I may have even passed them by in the future if Ashley hadn’t introduced them to me!

Thank you, Ashley for a not only wonderful and tasty, but also thoughtful package.

I loved {and am still loving} it!

Thinking you want to become a Foodie Penpal? You don’t even need to be a blogger to do it! Here’s how:

1. Sign up by the 4th of the month that you want to participate.

2. On the 5th of the month, you are assigned a Foodie Penpal.

3. You communicate with your penpal about any food allergies or preferences, as well as where to ship the package.

4. By the 15th of the month, send $15 worth of food to your penpal that may include homemade goodies, local treats or just some of your favorite discoveries that you want to share! The box must also contain something handwritten.

5. You’ll receive a package from another Foodie Penpal, who was assigned to you.

6. If you are like me, you squeal with delight when your package arrives.

7. You enjoy said goodies, which you may have never known about otherwise.

8. If you are a blogger, you post about the package you received on the last day of the month – Reveal Day! {If you are not a blogger, you do not need to do anything, but thank your Penpal, of course! However, if your Penpal does blog, you can choose to write a guest post, if you so wish.}

What are your favorite recipes for/uses of chia seeds?

Cheers,
Carrie

SBS: New Year New You Goodies

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This Subscription Box Saturday, let’s talk about the January 2013 Goodies I received. I love my Goodies box because I generally receive around five to eight new snacks to try for only $7 (shipping is free). It’s a steal. I’ve loved almost every box. This one was my least favorite and I’m sad that this was the first box a lot of people got as I recommended Christmas gifts. No worries, it wasn’t a bad box. Just not my favorite.

Goodies New Year

I did like the concept of the first Goodies box of the new year…

You might think that the reason why I wasn’t a fan of the box was that they focused on healthier treats or what they call “sensible foods” to help “fulfill those healthy lifestyle resolutions” in the New Year, but that really isn’t it. I feel like my Love with Food boxes do that every month and nearly always love the contents.

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January 2013 Goodies Box Contents

Goodies encourages you to write reviews of the products on their website. You can rate the snack out of 5 scale rating. Then you answer the following question

In a perfect world*, would you eat this?

* like if calories didn’t matter
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Always? Sometimes? Never again?
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After trying these goodies, here are the reviews I posted on their website:

Nature’s Bakery Fig Bar – Stone Ground Whole Wheat Raspberry – 3/5 ~ Never again.

I didn’t hate it. I just wouldn’t make the effort to purchase these. And if I were in a pinch and saw it on a shelf with other similar options, I’d probably choose the other. Sure, this tasted like a fig bar made with whole wheat ingredients. I really couldn’t taste the raspberry, though. It was fine, but it just did not “wow” me. I only chose that I’d eat this “never again” because I wouldn’t seek it out. Not worth the 220 calories, in my opinion.

Wild Garden Traditional Hummus & Pita Chips – 2/5 – Never again

For only 200 calories, I was really looking forward to this afternoon snack at work! I did find it strange that the hummus “dip” need not be opened until after opening. I tried one of the pita chips and they were flavorless and very disappointing. I didn’t like the hummus dip either and I *love* hummus! This was the first subscription box snack ever that I couldn’t finish. I did throw this one away. Sorry! 😦

Skeeter Snacks Cookie – Chocolate 3 – 4/5 ~ Sometimes

I tried a Skeeter Chocolate Chunk cookie in my November Love with Food box and liked them a lot. I mean – Cookie? chocolate? And now – chocolate 3 times? Done. These aren’t soft cookies, but still quite yummy. Two come in a pack for 190 calories. I had them with coffee. 😉 This is the perfect cookie for those allergic to tree nuts. They never put nuts in their cookies and they don’t have any in their facility to come into contact with them either.

Go Nola Blueberry Wave Granola – 3/5 ~ Sometimes

I like my granola as cereal – with milk or maybe even yogurt. I emptied the packet into a bowl and there was barely any there! I looked at the package – it was only a quarter of a cup. I guess it maybe should have been opened as a snack only. However, the pieces were so small that I can’t imagine picking them up with my fingers. Good ingredients and the flavor was good overall. I just wanted more of it. But I guess a 1/2 cup of that would have meant a lot more calories, too.

Flamous Brand Organic Falafel Chips – Spicy – 3/5 ~ Sometimes

I love what this company stands for with ZERO gluten, wheat, dairy, lactose, trans fat, cholesterol, msg, gmo, hydrogenated oil, preservatives, nor artificial colors or flavors. The falafel flavor was good, but the flavor of the spice was more warming than spicy. Nice with 3 g of fiber and 3 g protein, which is pretty good for a chip.

Stretch Island Fruit – Cherry Berry Fruit Chews – 3/5 ~ Never again

If you like fruit snacks, these’ll be for you. They just aren’t something I tend to buy. And these didn’t change my mind. The ingredients include: pple puree concentrate, cherry puree concentrate, orange juice concentrate (concentrated orange juice, orange pulp, orange oil), natural flavor. Maybe it’s a better alternative for your kids if they eat fruit snacks similar to this?

Cascal Soft Drink – Berry Cassis – 3/5 – Never again

I was excited to try this flavor! I need to read up on what “fermented soda” is. The insert card just says, “The benefits of a fermented drink have been known to include detoxification and boosting energy levels.” I do know that regular energy drinks are not healthy. However, I do enjoy an Archer Farms Sugar Free Raspberry or Cherry Citrus beverage from time to time. And to me, those flavors are much better than the berry cassis I tried here.

Oh well, it was only $7 to try something new. I’m sure next month will be better! I always love to see what themes they put together.

And in case you are curious, these are the Goodies I received in 2012:

December 2012 – Naughty or Nice!

November 2012 – Entertaining Made Simple

October 2012 – My First Box!

What is your favorite healthy, packaged goodie?

Cheers~
Carrie