Food for Runners: B-E-E-T-S

>> Tuesday, December 31, 2013

This time of year, we often roast veggies for dinner . . . like every single night. And there's something especially satisfying about making a good side of beets. Before a couple years ago, beets were this mysterious veggie I avoided because I had no idea what to do with them. They were dirty and seemed complicated . . . and I'm so glad I gave them a chance.

I like roasting them in my dutch oven. Here's how. Aside from the taste and texture, I've recently discovered beets are also a great food for runners. Who knew?

Psst: If you're catching up, we've covered tomatoes, almonds, pumpkin, cucumbers, bananas, eggs, garlic, quinoa, berries, peppers, mushrooms, and kale -- and included our favorite recipes from across the web.



"A study by researchers at Saint Louis University shows that eating cooked beets 'acutely improves running performance.' The key, the study says, is nitrate." Runners were tested on a 5K course -- and after eating beets -- "went an average of 3 percent faster and shaved 41 seconds off their times. And their biggest speed gains came over the final 1.1 miles of the race." (Source)

Yup! "Beets are a great source of inorganic nitrate [which] ends up in your saliva, when friendly bacteria convert it to nitrite. Elsewhere in the body, the nitrite is converted to nitric oxide, which does... well... a whole bunch of things related to blood flow, muscle contraction, neurotransmission, etc." (Source)



Our favorite recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc.

Our Apple-Beet Muffins
Gina's Beet Juice The NYT's Mixed Berry + Beet Smoothie
Our Roasted Beets w/ chutney
Susan's Raw, Vegan Beet Tea Sandwiches
Sally's Roasted Beet + Pear Salad
Food 52's Bright Red Beet Hummus
The Vegetarian Ginger's Easy Beet Soup
Our Beet Pizza Dough -- yeah, it's a thing
Yelena's WW Linguine + Beet Puree
Susan's Beet Chips
Our Veggie Beet Burgers
Kitchen Rhapsody's Beet + Chocolate Pots
Cosmo Cookie's Beet Ice Cream
Our Black Bean + Beet Brownies


What's your favorite way to use beets?

Don't forget to read up on these other healthy ingredients:

Foor for Runners: B-E-E-T-S
Food for Runners: T-O-M-A-T-O-E-S
Food for Runners: A-L-M-O-N-D-S
Food for Runners: P-U-M-P-K-I-N
Food for Runners: C-U-C-U-M-B-E-R-S
Food for Runners: E-G-G-S
Food for Runners: B-E-R-R-I-E-S
Food for Runners: B-A-N-A-N-A-S
Food for Runners: G-A-R-L-I-C
Food for Runners: Q-U-I-N-O-A
Food for Runners: K-A-L-E
Food for Runners: P-E-P-P-E-R-S

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Sustainable Fitness: Redefining Success

>> Friday, December 27, 2013

Once you've assessed your (unique) situation with regard to fitness + life, it's time to set a goal for yourself. No matter what's going on, having some goal -- any goal -- is essential to sticking with an exercise program. But with so many races and milestones, it can be hard to choose just one.

Even more frustrating can be mixing up your own goal with the goals of others.


Here's an abridged history of my own running goals:
  • When I started running, I had an immediate desire to run a 5K distance so I could participate in a race. It took me an entire summer to reach that distance goal. It took me a year beyond that to muster the courage to sign up for an event.
  • After I'd been running several years and had a variety of races under my belt, I became active in our local runners club. Seemed like every runner on Earth (besides me) had run a marathon (or 10), was training to run a marathon, or was considering training for a marathon. Eventually I got sucked in and spent months preparing for my first 26.2 mile race.
  • Then, of course, because that first race didn't go as planned, I wanted/needed to break 4 hours. So, I devoted the bulk of a year to reaching this goal -- ultimately ending in 1 DNF, 1 DNS . . . and lots of heartbreak + injury.
  • When I was pregnant, I just wanted to run as long into the trimesters as possible. I ended up completing a half marathon at the end of my first trimester, a 15K long run at 20 weeks, but after not too long -- speed and distance didn't matter anymore. I just wanted to move to move (and did until around 37 weeks). 
  • As a new mom, I wanted to regain the speed and endurance I had sacrificed for over a year, so the motivation was getting back into previous shape and beating my best half marathon time.
Now, though, I'm in this weird crossroads.

I don't have some glaring motivation. Racing hasn't been as enticing. It all takes coordination, babysitting, and money. I don't feel I have anything to prove to myself (though I do get fleeting desires to beat old times -- I think we all do) or others. Honestly, I could see getting pregnant again in the next year or so, and I don't want to make any huge plans (sub-4 marathon, I'm talking to you!) I might later want/need to break.

What I've focused on:
  • Instead of trying to get in 30 miles a week, every week -- I focus on running a certain number of days per week (for me, it's 4 or 5). Of course, I like reaching certain distances and try to keep one weekly long run over 10 miles, but it doesn't always happen.
  • Half marathons have become my sweet spot because I've reached a level of fitness where I can compete with myself . . . but not give up my entire life to do so. By reaching to run at least one double digits run on a weekend, it's only a few weeks to step up to the 13.1 mile distance, so I like that comfort zone.
  • I run fast on days when I feel like running fast. On days when I feel run down, I take things slower. If I find I'm feeling slow for a long period of time, I figure out why. If I feel like I have excess energy, I take full advantage.
  • There are a number of local, inexpensive races from the 5K to marathon distance. Many allow sign-up the day of. If I'm feeling it, I race. If not, I do my own thing and pocket the $$$. Sticking to local races with less rigid signup processes has been helpful.


That all being said, I surely go through periods of time when my training calendar is blank and I just run without a watch or set path. There are also times when I buckle down and train hard to race. I am actually beginning to figure out my spring half marathon calendar because I'd like to get closer to 1:40 this time around. We shall see!

Basically: 
  • Having kids or a busy full-time job or some other situation that makes running/exercise more inconvenient isn't necessarily an excuse to do less. In fact, several of you have said these things have inspired you to shift around your lifestyle or even do more. 
  • For me, I've had to scale back from my previous running/exercise schedule to feel like my best self. But it's all about what works for you in your situation.
  • At the end of the day, I like to get my work done + deadlines crossed off. I like to relax and spend time with my family. I sleep well, prepare healthy meals, and -- because it's still very important to me -- I move my body. I run for health, both physical and mental.
  • If I can do all of these things and still feel happy and energized, I use this as my definition of success. To me, that's what sustainable exercise is all about. If one of these life areas starts overtaking the others for too long, I step back and reevaluate.
Do you feel your exercise/life are in balance? What do you do to keep them that way or adjust when you need a change?

Like what you just read? Browse more of our posts + recipes on Pinterest. You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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Sustainable Fitness: Assessing Your Situation

>> Tuesday, December 24, 2013

As you can imagine, sustainable fitness is different for each individual. We all have different histories, abilities, motivations, jobs, family situations, and bank accounts (to sign up for races, pay gym fees, etc.). These factors -- and more -- seem to change year to year, or even more frequently.

So, the first step toward making doable fitness goals is to assess your unique situation. Think about what's going on in your life. Write it down if it's helpful. It's by doing so that you'll discover opportunities to either increase your training/banish excuses to meet bigger goals or, alternatively, give yourself a break and identify why, for example, you can't complete all your workouts.

(Hint: The answer isn't always that you're being lazy!)

Scenario A:


When I was in my mid-20s, I had all the time in the world and motivation/desire to work out. I worked a 40+ hour desk job that required some travel, so I'd run in the early morning or late evenings if I couldn't find time right after work. If I ran a 20+ mile long run, I could take the rest of the day to lay on the couch, watch TV, and gorge myself with food. I could sleep in and shift around my workouts as necessary.

Otherwise, though, I mostly worried about myself and our lives as newlyweds. We had just bought our first home, so finances were a bit tight -- but we still carved away enough for a gym membership located just around the block.
  • I trained (running) 35-50 miles a week -- 5 days/week.
  • I focused on half marathons and full marathons.
  • We raced several times a month + traveled to race multiple times a year.
  • I took spinning classes 1x/week.
  • I did yoga 1-2x/week.
  • I found time for strength training 2-3x/week.
  • I'd walk during lunches or ride my bike around town for fun.
At this stage in my life, if I wasn't working or fixing up our house -- I was moving my body. On the go, so to speak. Stephen did the same, so it was just sort of our lives. We were athletes and chasing PRs. It was what we did with our free time. It was what we chose to spend our excess income on. It was the area in which we found more friend connections.

Scenario B:


I'm now in my early 30s. I've left my desk job to work around 30 hours at home each week. I also take care of our 2-year-old full time. I've taken a pay-cut as a result, as you can imagine. Free time isn't nearly as abundant either, and I use the early morning and later evening hours to fit in work or family time. Sleep can be unpredictable and instead of literally running myself down, if I can sleep in -- I do.

Though we've tried several locations -- we've decided a gym membership isn't in the budget (or schedule) right now. When we did have a gym membership, Ada was hit or miss with enjoying the childcare they provided -- and a lot of good times to go to the gym conflicted directly with activities for toddlers, so I often felt torn.
  • I train (running) 20-30 miles a week -- 3-4 days/week.
  • I focus on 15Ks and half marathons.
  • I race locally a few times a year.
  • I do at-home spinning OR yoga maybe 1-2x/week.
  • I walk the stroller around on nice days for extra movement.
  • I do push-ups, squats, and lunges -- sans weights -- at home.
I'll be the first to admit that balancing my life (exercise and beyond!) after having our daughter has been difficult. Though I stay home, since I also work -- I do find myself feeling guilty just taking off for an hour at night to go to the gym. I feel pulled in a lot of directions, with the desire to be all places at once. I find myself skipping more workouts depending on each day's situation.

Stephen and I work together to make sure we get running time, which these days is much less for racing and proving myself (to myself, not to others) and much more for de-stressing. I do feel like I make a lot of excuses and bow out of races/events where I used to go all in.

+   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +

Life can change so much, so quickly. So, it's no surprise that priority on fitness either shifts up or down accordingly. I find myself frustrated and often beat myself up because I can't maintain previous levels. I know it can be done. I read about and see others doing it -- and more -- every day. But in my particular situation, if I am really honest with myself, I'm doing enough.

That isn't to say I don't have goals, it's just a matter of finding ones that fit into my new lifestyle. And that's the next stop in this series -- setting goals that fit within your lifestyle. Finding peace in exercise and learning how to better fit it into life versus take over your life.

Whether work, school, children, or whatever else, we're all going through changes!

What has shifted for you that's had an impact on fitness or goals/motivations?

Like what you just read? Browse more of our posts + recipes on Pinterest. You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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(Sustainable) Fitness Goals

>> Saturday, December 21, 2013

This blog has changed dramatically since it first began, hasn't it? Beyond food, I used to write post upon post about all my training -- goals, races, injuries, all of it. Slowly, that talk has faded to everything else going on, including a load of stuff about parenting.

I run quite a bit, actually -- if not for exercise, for my sanity.


Usually between 20-30 miles a week, depending on the weather + sidewalk conditions these days. And I think I may have divulged in the past that my fitness goals are just . . . well . . . different now. For example, I only run a few key races each year. As in, like, 3 or 4. I used to race every other weekend, but would rather save my money and time for other activities/things.

Strangely, I'm still setting PRs. I'm finding that I can still be an athlete without it completely taking over my entire life and identity (and bank account). I love that I'm finding such balance, because it's something I struggle with in all areas of my life.

As I look to the new year, I know I'm going to feel inspired to draw up new goals, including fitness resolutions. Perhaps I'll sign up for new/different races, try some new sport, or even set new weekly mileage goals. Some of these things I'll meet, while others will just end up being pipe dreams.

I'm sure many of you are in the same boat. So, next week, I'll be writing a few posts (much like the Automatic Healthy Eating series) about setting sustainable fitness goals. How to fit working out into your busy life. What to do when your once athletically driven mind shifts + how to find motivation. How to embrace the quality versus quantity mindset. And all that jazz.

What are you interested in reading? 
What fitness-related questions do you have? 
Anyone with a particular goal in mind? 

I'd love to incorporate different stuff you want to hear in these posts.

Either leave a comment below, email me, or send me a tweet!

Psst: Be sure to check out our gift lists!

Gifts for the Active Family
Fun Gifts for Foodies
Active Gifts for Women
On Stephen's List
On Ashley's List
On Ada's List + 80 toddler gift ideas split into 20 fun categories!

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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16 Winter Running Surfaces, Explained

>> Thursday, December 19, 2013

Raise your hand if you live where it's cold. OK. Now, keep it up if you've recently had (or can generally expect) some significant sleet/snow. Cool. Now, keep it up if you don't have a treadmill (or won't use one on principle!) or a gym membership, but are hell-bent on running. Perfect. You guys/gals are my intended audience for this post.

Basically, we hardcore winter runners have to wave a fond goodbye to speedwork and other more quality sessions for a while. We can sneak them in when it's "nice" outside, but those days can seem like few and far between. Time on our feet is usually slower and more frustrating. Trips and spills? Yeah. We are familiar friends by now -- my left thigh has a huge bruise, actually.

But have you ever noticed how MANY difference surfaces we're dealing with here? Here are just a few I noticed on my usual 5 mile loop last night.


  • Mirage: You think you see it up ahead. Why, YES! That's a perfectly clear sidewalk -- no snow or even stray flakes. Yet, when you step onto the surface, it's either deceptive black ice or residual snow on your shoes, making you slip + fall flat anyway.
  • Home Field (Dis)advantage: When you're comfortable -- overly confident -- that your own shoveling job was perfect. I actually slipped and fell the very moment I stepped onto my own sidewalk on my last run.
  • Cruel Intentions?: When a neighbor did a pretty good job shoveling, but left a thin layer, a membrane, even, to remain. Just enough to be slick as hell. Did they actually WANT you to fall? Hey, you'll never truly know. Smile and wave!
  • Eroded Sidewalk: When you reach a point in your regular, well-worn route, and . . . it's just gone. Washed away in a sea of plowed, hardened slush.
  • Wet 'n Wild: You know this spot. All the snow has turned to dark brown, icky wet stuff despite the temperatures being well below freezing. There's no way around it either, so you try your best to high-step and keep your feet dry.
  • Pirates Cove: A snow-covered sidewalk with buried treasure to boot, like shovels or sleds. Bonus points if you don't twist your ankle or fall onto your face.
  • Virgin Territory: A vast expanse where people either forgot, neglected, or downright refused to shovel. Goes from powder to packed to block of ice over time. Very often on the less favored side of a grand property (if you can afford to power that huge x-mas lights display + fuel those SUVs, pay some kid to shovel your sidewalk!)
  • Stepping Stones: Where a man-made path has been created on Virgin Territory by one person and continued by others. Requires some expert balance/aim to make it from one over-sized deep foothole to another.
  • Alaskan Express: Maybe this area wasn't initially shoveled at all, but the Stepping Stones were expanded to pack down the entire path to a nice, firm wintery road. I actually like running on this surface. I imagine sled-pulling huskies like it, too.
  • Hurdles: At the end of almost every street corner, there's a knee-high (or higher, depending on snowfall) snow hurdle one must clear to keep running another tenth of a mile. Repeat.
  • Water Jump: Along with the hurdles, there are often pools of water at their edges -- almost like nature's steeplechase. I hope you're wearing waterproof socks!
  • Tsunami: That random super-high pile of gross/brown packed, plowed snow -- usually near some large intersection. There's no jumping in the world that could get you over that hump. Go around.
  • Captain Crunch: Where rock-hard snow boulders -- of all shapes and sizes -- have taken up residence. Footing and balance are particularly hard. Ouch.
  • Toe Pick: When the sun has melted the snow down, but it has frozen in the night to form a thick sheet of ice. Kate Moseley could probably use this area for figure skating practice. (And if you haven't ever seen that movie -- it's one of my Christmas favorites!)
  • Salt Mine: When someone got a little overly enthusiastic with salt or cinders. Those little pebbles are just, well, everywhere, wrecking their own unique brand of havoc. 
  • Down the Rabbit Hole: When you dodge another obstacle by swiftly switching to the street for a moment and land a leg in a gigantic, newly formed pothole. Except there's no trippy adventure, you just -- uhm -- trip.

  • I'm sure you have more to add, so please do so in the comments!

    Psst: Be sure to check out our gift lists!

    Gifts for the Active Family
    Fun Gifts for Foodies
    Active Gifts for Women
    On Stephen's List
    On Ashley's List
    On Ada's List + 80 toddler gift ideas split into 20 fun categories!

    Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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    Broccoli + Sweet Potato Soup

    >> Tuesday, December 17, 2013

    It's been a while since I've made a new soup recipe. I love chunky stews and chili, which is why I make those varieties far more often than slurpable stuff of this sort. But . . . there I was in my kitchen looking into a sad drawer of limp, forgotten broccoli. The whole USE IT UP! automatic healthy eating tip was screaming in my head.

    I just couldn't stomach another stir-fry.

    So . . .


    BROCCOLI + SWEET POTATO SOUP
    with coconut milk for vegan richness!

    What you'll need . . .
    • 2 large heads of broccoli, chopped small
    • 1 large sweet potato, peeled + chopped
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 1 can light coconut milk
    • 2-3 cups (low sodium) vegetable broth
    • Salt + pepper, to taste
    • Olive or Chili oil (optional)
    Method . . . 
    1. Prepare all your veggies, then in a stock pot over medium heat, saute your onion in some olive oil until soft. Then add in potatoes and broccoli and cook for a few minutes.
    2. Add the broth (start with two cups) and coconut milk and bring to a boil. Then lower to a simmer for around 15 minutes, until veggies/potatoes are soft/blendable. 
    3. Let cool slightly before blending* until smooth. Add more broth as necessary to reach desired consistency. Then return to the stovetop to season with the salt, pepper, and optionally kick up the heat with a little chili oil.
    * I use my Ninja Blender, a.k.a. my poor woman's Vitamix, to blend the tough broccoli.


    Yes. The soup does turn a light brown color, depending on your specific ratio of sweet potatoes to broccoli. If you're looking for a more appetizing presentation, you could always sub in a white potato. But then you'd be missing out on the extra dimension of flavor + nutrition the sweet potato adds. It's a delicate balance.

    You could also add in some cayenne. I love hot + spicy soups!

    Psst: Be sure to check out our gift lists!

    Gifts for the Active Family
    Fun Gifts for Foodies
    Active Gifts for Women
    On Stephen's List
    On Ashley's List
    On Ada's List + 80 toddler gift ideas split into 20 fun categories!

    Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

    Read more...

    Gifts for the Active Family

    >> Sunday, December 15, 2013

    When friends or family ask us what we want or need for Christmas, birthdays, etc., we often don't know what to tell them. As far as "stuff" goes, we're pretty good. But if I think hard, we have our best times when we're outdoors, being active, enjoying the world together. And there are a whole host of items that are helpful for making this experience more enjoyable or comfortable.

    Here are some ideas from our family to yours. And, yes, those Sorel boots are well worth the investment! Stephen just bought a pair, too. We use them a lot on their own -- but also with our snowshoes, which we're finally getting use of this year!




    One thing's for sure: There aren't many shopping days left (in general OR online -- Amazon.com says just 2 days left for free shipping for Christmas delivery), so be sure to check out these other gift lists.

    Fun Gifts for Foodies
    Active Gifts for Women
    On Stephen's List
    On Ashley's List
    On Ada's List + 80 toddler gift ideas split into 20 fun categories!

    Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

    Read more...

    Fun Gifts for Foodies

    >> Saturday, December 14, 2013

    Continuing with our gift lists today . . . this time some fun things for those foodies in your life. I think we all have an appreciation for food on some level, whether it's making or simply eating. Or at least we all have items in our kitchen we'd like to renew or replace.

    My favorite picks below include the cost-sensitive dutch oven (for all that sourdough bread baking), the Oxo Rubber-Bottom Mixing Bowls (they are awesome!), and the pizza stone set (we use ours every day, it seems!).



    Let is snow, let it snow, let it snow!

    (Though, we're only supposed to get 5-7 inches . . .)

    Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

    Read more...

    Active Gifts for Women

    >> Friday, December 13, 2013

    I thought I'd do a couple gift guides on this site. First up is for the female athlete -- something I think a lot of us have in common. Newbie . . . self-made . . . or seasoned veteran. Whether an outdoor runner, gym rat, or yoga fanatic -- this time is year is the perfect time to indulge in some new gear/etc. Good quality stuff lasts for years and is well worth the investment -- heck, I've had the same pair of trusty running tights since college!

    Here are a few items that are favorites of mine (I wear those Brooks Pure Flows, have those hair ties, wear that Under Armour Hood, and love those North Face gloves, for example). Others I have my eye on for gift cards that might be coming my way.

    'Tis the season, right?





    I'll be back with a great soup + cookie recipe for next week, along with a few more gift guides AND the last of the Automatic Healthy Eating Tips!

    HAPPY FRIDAY!

    Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

    Read more...

    Automatic (Healthy) Eating // Tip 7 + Over-Stuffed Omelet

    >> Wednesday, December 11, 2013

    I'm going to go ahead and tell you something I'm not terribly proud of. Until recent years, I was one of the worst offenders with wasting food. Mostly fresh produce, that is. I wouldn't make time to meal plan before writing my grocery list speeding to the store. I'd find myself wandering aimlessly down the aisles having all these grand ideas for homecooked meals.

    Ultimately, I'd buy way too much or just forget about stuff in the fridge and it would spoil. This cycle continued until I started taking better control of our budget. That, along with feeling some new respect for our local produce items, in particular (when we started our CSA share + became closer with our farmers), has motivated me to find ways to use up everything -- including scraps -- before tossing it out.

    // TIP 7: Eliminate Food Waste


    Honestly, after a while I started to feel like buying fresh foods was just a waste. I started favoring cans or other more shelf-stable items. Then I had one of those periods where I felt like all I was eating was crap (because, well, that's what was happening), and I radically shifted my whole method of doing things.

    // PLAN YOUR MEALS

    As I mention above, food waste is almost entirely avoidable if you engage is meal planning each week. That way, each ingredient has a purpose. You should otherwise know how much of something you might have left + use it in another meal or as a snack. For more tips, check out meal planning and food preparation.

    // CHOOSE FOODS WISELY

    try you best to incorporate fresh items into your menu -- the ones that stay good longer in case you really do forget or not use something as quickly as you thought you would.

    In my experience, items that seem to last longer than others include:
    • Broccoli
    • Cauliflower
    • Bell peppers
    • Beets
    • Potatoes 
    • Carrots
    • Celery
    • Brussels sprouts
    • Onions
    • Garlic
    • Parsnips
    • Cabbage 
    • Winter squash
    • Apples
    • Citrus fruits
    I'd say about 85% of my produce take-home is made up of these ingredients to safeguard my investment (and my nutrition!). Greens go bad notoriously fast, so be sure to use them up, and fast! If you have a corner store or hit up your grocer on the regular, you can even consider buying fresh items throughout the week to avoid storage/spoilage issues altogether.

    Healthy bulk food items (including canned goods) are a great bet if you want ingredients that will stay good for a long while. Anything from oats to rice to nuts to spices can be bought in bulk. There's a great opportunity to save $$$ and packaging, too. For me, buying in bulk has always helped with our dry items. It's the fresh stuff that's much harder to tame.

    // SMARTEN UP ABOUT STORAGE

    I used to be a refrigerate-EVERYTHING kind of gal. But with a few tweaks, I've learned some good tips for storing all sorts of produce for longevity and optimal ripeness, flavor, etc.
    • Immediately when you get home from the store, take fruits and veggies out of those plastic bags. They don't let produce breathe + making some major gas issues that rapidly make foods go South. If you like keeping items under wraps, you can purchase inexpensive cloth produce bags to save the plastic and allow items to last a bit longer.
    • Many fruits and veggies can and should be stored at room temperature, not in the refrigerator. The artificially cool air can actually inhibit the ripening process and impact flavor/texture. Depending on your climate, leaving foods out on the counter is usually the best method. I can't say I do this for all my veggies, but most of my fruit is out in a large bowl.
    • Alternatively, when fruit ripens to its peak -- you can move it into the fridge to preserve this state a few days longer, but that's a few days . . . not a week or two.
    • For veggies you plan on keeping in the fridge, be sure to do some prep work so they're ready for the environment. Cut stems off carrots, beets, and other root vegetables. You can actually wash some greens, like lettuce + spinach ahead of time, but control moisture on other varieties.
    • To further control moisture, use your refrigerator's crisper drawer if you have one. Keep it between 85%-95%. You can also purchase crisper containers for a similar benefit.
    • Light/heat have an impact, too. Some items like potatoes and root veggies do best in dark, cool places. A nice corner of your basement might keep certain items fresh for months. Yes, months! Otherwise, make sure those items stored on your counters are out of direct sunlight and aren't next to heating elements.
    • Otherwise, it's all about those ethylene gases. You can actually purchase special, reusable bags to help notorious emitters, like apples, fresher longer and from impacting the rest of your haul.


    // USE 'EM UP

    Toss in extra veggies at meal-time. Or learn other recipes intended to use up leftovers. It's easy with a few hints and tips.
    • Soups and stews are very forgiving, so if you're following a certain recipe -- you can usually toss in whatever you have on hand.
    • Breads and muffins are a great use for those over-ripe or ugly fruits. This is my 100% all-time favorite Banana Bread recipe, and I must say we make it quite often because bananas go fast!
    • Pureeing veggies that are on their way just takes some simple steaming and pulsing in a food processor. From there, you can use in different recipes like Mac 'n Cheese, Pizza Dough, even baby food -- or even freeze for later use.
    • If you ever have too many tomatoes, chop them up and make sauce (to can or freeze or use immediately). I make tomato sauce all the time. There are a number of recipes on this site -- some simmer in just 10 minutes
    • We have a saying in this house -- "if it's green, it can be turned into pesto." Anything from basil to swiss chard to spinach to kale can be blended into this delicious spread. Here are some recipes.
    • Chop or rinse fruit and freeze to toss into smoothies + make Frozen Banana Bites or Banana "Ice Cream". Even the brownest bananas can work!
    • Learn the various food preservation methods from freezing to canning to capture the season at its peak. Often we get LOTS of produce from our CSA and don't quite know what to do, so having this methods in our back pocket ensures we can enjoy this food year-round.


    // And when all else fails you, make an over-stuffed omelet. 
    • Use two eggs or three egg whites. Whisk with a tablespoon of milk or substitute. 
    • Finely chop veggies -- this is baby kale + shiitake mushrooms. 
    • Shred some cheddar cheese and mix with the veggies.
    • In a greased pan over medium-high heat, pour in the egg mixture and let cook until slightly firm.
    • Over top of the still-wet eggs, sprinkle your veggies/cheese. Pinch of salt + pepper. Cover for a minute or two to let cheese melt.
    • Then fold like a letter and keep cooking until you've reached your desired brown.
    This breakfast is super healthy AND used up some mushrooms I just didn't know what to do with. Anytime I make an excuse to eat veggies for breakfast is a good time. I hope these tips are helpful to you!

    If you're just catching up:
    What's your system for keeping produce fresh? Any more ideas to share?
    Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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    Automatic (Healthy) Eating // Tip 6

    >> Monday, December 9, 2013

    I've received such positive feedback on the automatic healthy eating tips, I thought I'd continue on with a few more this week. I'm planning to do a similar series on realistic fitness to help kick off the new year, so be sure to keep an eye out for that one.

    Some days just don't work out when it comes to time for cooking or desire to eat healthy foods. Maybe you're traveling for work and all those fast food joints and convenience stores are coming up short. Maybe you're not feeling well and want to retreat to comfort foods. Maybe you're craving pizza because you're just cravings pizza.

    Whatever the case may be, you still have time to inject some health into that meal.

     // TIP 6: Cheat + Add In


    This tip is sort of two-fold, isn't it?

    // On the one hand, time is a factor that impacts our ability to find or create healthy food sources. This is when all those canned soups, highly salted freezer meals, trips through the drive-through, and stops at the vending machine come into play. Or sometimes we just skip meals, creating an ever bigger issue altogether.

    // On the other, our desire and gravitational pull toward that junkier food is strong. At least for me it is. I could subsist on beer and plain pizza (and chocolate chip cookies) if I had to. And I've even done just that for long stretches out of laziness.

    Whatever you vice, eating like an adult isn't always easy.

    Thankfully, there are some easy fixes for both these cases can be made using last week's tips.

    Most of it is planning and making ahead, while the rest is learning to love those alternatives or adding something healthy to whatever you're eating that isn't. Not all fast food or convenience or prepackaged foods are inherently bad. (Some definitely are, but not all!)

    Oftentimes, they're just empty -- void of nutrition that keeps our bodies healthy.

    Here are some ideas to get you started.
    • Add a large helping of frozen veggies + protein to instant soup/noodle mixes.
    • Same goes w/ other convenience foods (frozen pizza?). Add fresh stuff when possible.
    • Make pizza crust w/ vegetable purees and top w/ more roasted veggies than cheese.
    • Add purees from squash to spinach -- to comfort favorites like Mac 'n Cheese.
    • Keep a fresh fruit bowl at work + eat that apple before the vending machine crap.
    • Freeze healthy meals for a month so all you need to do is reheat them.
    • Investigate fast food (many websites have complete nutritional info) for best choices.
    • DIY trail mix = nuts, dried fruit, + chocolate for quick, healthy snacking.
    • Portion lunches/snacks + put them in office refrigerator on Monday (labeled, of course!)
    • Make up for poor eating the next chance you get, it's never too late to start fresh.
    • Stock up on portable whole foods (apples, avocados, bananas, anything w/ nature's packing).
    • Pack homemade food (sandwiches, energy bars) for business trips to eat on the go.

    Basically, you don't have to avoid all "bad" foods to eat healthfully. Keep yourself in check, yes, but enjoy food foremost. For those times when there are no other options (or you mind just tells you that there aren't), keep these tricks in mind. When I "fall off the wagon" or have some big holiday binge, sometimes it's difficult to feel the whole day week month of eating isn't ruined.

    But drink a tall, cold glass of water and start fresh with the next meal.

    How do you cheat the system? Do you use convenience foods to you advantage? What are your tricks?
    Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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    Automatic (Healthy) Eating // Tip 5

    >> Friday, December 6, 2013

    Planning is a big part of eating well. Even a little thought ahead of time can make a big difference. Today's tip is all about the prep-work. Maybe meal-planning is fun for you -- imagining all the delicious, healthy foods you'll eat in a week. Or shopping for deals. But if you don't love cooking, or sometimes even if you do, the execution of this plan can be difficult.

    If you're catching up:


    // TIP 5: Prep/Make Ahead + Store


    Too often, making meals becomes an afterthought because life gets, well, so busy. Whether you work full-time (or super full-time!), stay home, or something in-between, there's really no perfect situation. Eating well and enjoying meals made with whole foods takes a little bit of work.

    So, treat cooking like a job. Give it a time slot -- even if only an hour -- on a certain day. Create a To-Do list, just as you would at work. Have goals. Continually try to make your process more efficient. Seek out information to broaden your understanding of (simple) cooking methods and (easy) recipes.

    How to start?


    // 20 Prep/Make-Ahead Ideas:
    // STORAGE METHODS

    It's really up to preference and intent for use. You can try freezer cooking for an entire month if you like. Top considerations include freezer space (we have a dedicated upright in the basement) and reheating methods.

    Here are some tips + recipes:



    Otherwise, I try to make sure I keep things fresh by using air-tight containers.
    • For dry goods, like oatmeal, energy chunks, flour mixes, etc., I like using OXO Good Grips containers in various sizes.
    • For storage of produce, I have a set of Rubbermaid Produce Saver containers. They each feature a vent and crisp tray circulate air and keep items fresher, longer.
    • I also use large Wide-Mouthed Ball Jars for storage of lots of ingredients and even soups and stews, applesauce, etc. (including freezing -- here's how).
    • In the refrigerator, I often use gallon Zip-Lock bags, though I'm trying to quit that habit because of the waste involved. 
    As for my specific method, I usually do my "cooking job" on Sunday afternoons. I always make a crock pot soup and some sort of side bread, that way dinner is prepared for the night and lunch the next day. The rest sort of depends on my mood and whatever ingredients are in the CSA share or grocery store that week.

    What's your prep/storage method? Do you agree with making cooking a side-gig for better success?
    Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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    Automatic (Healthy) Eating // Tip 4 + Recipe

    >> Thursday, December 5, 2013

    You know all about my previous and present struggles with sugar (and so-called detoxes). For me, completely cutting it out (a suggestion I've received many times) just isn't an option. I fail. So, I've slowly developed a taste for less sweet treats that are intended more for fueling my body than spiking my glucose levels.

    I still eat traditional desserts -- and often -- but if I keep what we have at home in check, I'm in a better place. Take these energy chunks, for example.

    // TIP 4: Learn to Love Alternatives


    At the start of each week, I like to make up a batch of homemade energy bars or chunks or some other healthed-up snack/dessert option. I make enough for the entire week so I'm not tempted to get out all my baking gear out of desperation on, say, a Wednesday night. That way, if I'm craving something chocolate-ly, and I always have that craving, I have a (healthy) option already on hand.

    What I make changes from week to week, but I love playing with this basic Chocolate-Peanut Butter recipe for energy chunks and then modifying it for whatever ingredients I have in my pantry.

    CHOCOLATE ALMOND BUTTER ENERGY CHUNKS

    What you'll need . . .
    • 1 cup steel cut oats
    • 1/2 cup walnuts
    • 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
    • 1/2 cup natural almond butter
    • 1/4 cup maple syrup
    • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
    Method . . .
    1. Put all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until blended, but still chunky.
    2. Add more almond butter if batter is too stiff.
    3. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
    4. Keep in an airtight container in your fridge.
    * You can replace walnuts with other nuts, almond butter with other nut butters, maple syurp with agave, honey, or other natural sweetener, and leave out the cocoa powder. Totally customizable! 


    From a purely caloric standpoint, you might not be saving much here. But if your main goal is to feel great, have more stable blood sugar, and consume simple foods (good goal, btw!), making alternative treats is in your favor. You can get the healthy fats, etc. you need, all while feeling satisfied + avoiding the brain fog associated with eating too much pure sugar.

    Here are some more ideas:
    Alternatives go beyond making entirely different items for those sweet treats you know and love. Something as simple as a swap of applesauce for oil,  natural, low-glycemic sweetners for sugar, or wheat flour for white is all you need to transform a cookie from conventional to healthful. Here's a handy chart to help with ratio calculations.

    And don't underestimate the power of adding things INTO a recipe versus taking them away. You can toss in flax meal, nuts, dried fruit, oats, or a number of other good ingredients to make a treat more wholesome.

    At very least, you can make small batches in a pinch:
    For more healthy dessert and snack ideas, you can browse our recipe archives (vegan selections are noted with *). I try to make good swaps whenever possible. If you'd rather browse via photo, check out our Pinterest board for previous posts.

    How do you make treats healthier? What's your favorite recipe?

    (If you're catching up, check out tip #1: stock up on frozen veggies + tip #2: buy greens and actually USE them + tip #3: create simple, go-to meals.)

    Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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    Automatic (Healthy) Eating // Tip 3

    >> Wednesday, December 4, 2013

    I used to sit down with cookbooks or my recipe archives and set out to make all these amazing meals each week. Even back when I worked outside the house full time, I made meal planning + cooking a huge priority. I'd go through and meticulously write out the ingredients needed, write up my list, and take lots of time each day preparing food.

    But just as setting unrealistic fitness goals can be overwhelming and defeating, so too can being overly ambitious in the kitchen. Even the best plans can be super organized, easy to follow, and even frugal. If they're too labor intensive, you'll likely fail -- and what's at stake isn't your ego, it's your health.

    Or at least that's how it worked for me.

    // TIP 3: Create Simple, Go-To Meals


    Simple meals don't need to be boring. Instead, they need to be easy + fast to prepare AND feature healthy ingredients. That being said, if you're not used to assembling meals without recipes, it can take some practice to get into a good groove.

    Mastering a few key recipes can be a fantastic use of your time. Focusing on a few to start is helpful if you're learning, but can get somewhat boring. Good news: Before too long, you'll gain more confidence and independence from books + blogs and be able to make your own no-fuss meals like a pro.

    A well-stocked pantry is all you need. And maybe a few ideas . . .

    BREAKFAST:

    Oatmeal
    Smoothies
    Eggs + Toast
    Banana Scramble
    Breakfast Burrito
    Homemade Freezer Waffles

    LUNCH:

    Avocado Egg Salad
    Tofu Avocado Salad
    Couscous Salad
    Hummus Melts
    Apple Melt
    Other Salads
    5-Minute Bruschetta Toast

    DINNER:

    Veggie Stir-Fries
    Veggie Chili
    Whole Wheat Pasta + 10-Minute Tomato Sauce
    Anything with frozen veggies!
    Stuffed Peppers
    Slow Cooker Soups + Stews
    Roasted Veggies w/ Baked Tofu


    What these meals have in common is that they use relatively few ingredients and rely mostly on spices and seasonings to give them flair. I love roasting vegetables as a side for dinners because most just require preheating the oven to 400 degrees F, chopping, and drizzling with olive oil (and adding salt + pepper to taste). After roasting around 30 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes or so, they should be golden.

    I like to keep beans on hand for hummus and soups. I use my slow cooker every Sunday to effortlessly simmer a delicious lunch chili. A little prep ahead of time -- hard boiling -- can make work-week egg salad a breeze. And when in doubt, we cook up tofu or tempeh and toss with some frozen or fresh veggies stir-fried with soy sauce and sesame oil.

    Using ingredients in their most basic form + seasoning is the way to go.

    What are your go-to meals? How do you make them healthy?

    (If you're catching up, check out tip #1: stock up on frozen veggies + tip #2: buy greens and actually USE them.)

    Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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    Automatic (Healthy) Eating // Tip 2

    >> Tuesday, December 3, 2013

    Fact: Healthy eating can feel like a lot of hard work. (If you're catching up, check out tip #1: stocking up on frozen veggies.) When I have my best success with eating lots of the "right" stuff, it's when I'm not trying to follow any fussy recipes. Instead, I get fresh, unprocessed ingredients and make things like salads or warm veggie bowls. Simplicity with cooking seems to work really well with simple, whole foods.

    As a vegetarian, you might be surprised to learn that I sort of hate salad. Well, that's not entirely true, but it takes a LOT for me to enjoy munching on greens. With a little finesse, though, greens become my best weapon in the war against eating entire batches of Peanut Butter Blossoms.

    // TIP 2: Buy Greens + Use Them


    Greens are versatile, though. There's spinach, kale, collards, romaine, swiss chard, and the list goes on. By tossing in a handful of greens to your meals, you add lots of nutrition, including fiber, vitamins, minerals, and various phytochemicals that are great for your health. And salads don't have to be cold and crunchy, necessarily.

    Consider these uses of greens:
    If you're still hesitant to stock your refrigerator with this leafy stuff, start with baby greens like baby spinach or baby kale. The stems are what get me a lot of the time, and on the tiny versions, they're just not an issue.

    The warm salad in the photo above is:

    2 handfuls baby kale + fried tofu + 1/2 avocado, sliced + rehydrated seaweed w/ 1 tablespoon sesame oil + sesame seeds + ginger juice + soy sauce


    I also shy from buying greens sometimes because I feel like they go limp before I get a chance to use them. The first defense is just using them up quickly -- adding them to most every meal. But if that's no possible and they tend to get slimy?

    Here are some ways to keep 'em fresh:

    How do you use greens? Bonus points if you just love a plain salad!

    Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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    Automatic (Healthy) Eating // Tip 1

    >> Monday, December 2, 2013

    I feel like there was this collective groaning all over social media this morning. Too much Thanksgiving indulgence = now it's time to detox, exercise more, "eat clean," etc. I'm not immune to this way of thinking, but at the same time -- at the ripe age of 30, I've grown tired of the whole back/forth of eating as it relates to the holidays. Haven't you? Doesn't it get tiring?

    Honestly, I struggle year-round to keep my eating in check. I haven't kept this a secret from you guys, so this is a topic that I'm raising as we deck the halls, but it's not season-specific. Slowly I've learned a few tricks to make healthy eating more automatic.

    Over the next several days, I'll be sharing my top 5 (or so) tricks to help you make it through this festive season (or just life) without feeling like you need to continually hit the reset button. And if this stuff works for me, there's a wonderful chance it might help you, too!

    // TIP 1: Stock Up On Frozen Veggies


    If you cook with mostly fresh food like we do, you might not step into the freezer section at your local grocery store. I only recently started venturing to those parts because Ada is partial to frozen peas and waffles. And when I did the whole month of freezer dinners, I became much more open to different ways of approaching meal time.

    The more I nosed around the chilly aisles, the more interesting stuff I found.

    For example, not only can you purchase frozen peas, broccoli, corn, peppers, spinach, squash, and pretty much any other vegetable + fruit you can imagine -- but many stores also have these great veggie mixes. I knew that sort of stuff was on the shelves, but our Wegmans has these really interesting Asian varieties that are absolutely perfect for stir-fries in a pinch.


    True, many of these veggie packs aren't organic and some come with these highly processed sauce mixes that are questionable. But at the low price point (yup -- pretty inexpensive!) and convenience factor -- I'd rather toss these in my wok than resign myself to munching on whatever enticing chocolate pie leftovers are in the fridge.

    Preparation of these frozen veggies is simple + fast, too.
    • I usually fry up some cubed tofu or an egg or two, then I set the protein aside and add a little olive or sesame oil to the hot pan. 
    • On medium-high heat, I then take a cup or two of veggies (that's just a single serving) and cook until warmed through, but still crisp (that's the trick, because mushy isn't good at all!).
    • I then splash on a bit of low sodium soy sauce, a squeeze of juice from freshly grated ginger, sprinkle on some sesame seeds, or use whatever else I have around the kitchen to spice things up.
    • I often make rice or some other side dish, but it's not necessary if I'm in a hurry. A healthy meal can be made in like 10 minutes. Seriously!
    For us, frozen vegetables are a solid backup plan if we find ourselves scratching our heads around dinner time. Or if I can't figure out what to eat (or pack for Stephen) for lunch. Or if we're running low on CSA produce or just trying to save a little money.

    If you'd like to hold out for organic, local freezer veggie options, there are winter CSA shares in many parts of the country. Just ask around at your local farmers market. We've taken part in the past, and it's super helpful. All those flash frozen packets of goodness make wonderful soups, pot pies, stir-fries, and stews.

    Heck. With enough foresight, you could even make your own mixes! I'd love to think ahead in the bountiful produce season to have these quality frozen ingredients on hand, especially for this time of year. Sigh. Foresight isn't one of my best qualities.

    Do you cook with frozen vegetables? How often? How do you use them to your advantage?

    Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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