Eat in Month 2014: Week 2 Check In and Ice Skating

Well, we’re half way done with the Eat in Month 2014 Challenge (though it’s not too late to join)! How are you holding up? I must admit, this year has been really tough. I’m not sure if it’s this hard every year, and I just forget, but it sure seems harder than normal. I’m really missing some of my favorite restaurants where I often get lunch or a quick post-Zumba dinner. The good news is that I’ve already noted some things to keep my habits in check for the rest of the year.

What I’ve learned/noted so far:

  • Spice up simple lunches with extra features – my go-to lunch is a turkey sandwich, but paired with a tasty snack (like those kettle salt and vinegar chips I can’t stop eating at the moment) or some locally made hot garlic, probiotic pickles by Pickleville, the whole meal is more enjoyable. Add in fun twists or a couple, small upgrades to treat yourself.
  • toasted turkey and cheese sandwich > turkey and cheese sandwich (find a toaster oven!)
  • Plan ahead – eating at a local restaurant is okay if you can afford it and you enjoy it, but you shouldn’t just do it as a crutch if you’re feeling lazy or don’t have anything to eat at home.
  • Eat your greens – cook extra vegetables throughout the week and portion into individual servings to grab and go with lunch.

What have you learned, noted, or thought about with this challenge?

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January 8

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As I mentioned above lunch was much better with some of my favorite chips and locally made pickles. The only thing that would have made this better is maybe a piece of delicious chocolate. Finding a toaster oven at the office has been a big win, since I think they make the sandwiches taste so much better.

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I was feeling really tired from my 9-to-5 and teaching Zumba, so I took a bit of help from the freezer and made these Trader Joe’s vegetable pot stickers with an arugula salad with fresh sliced cucumber. While I was at Trader Joe’s this week, I got a bag of organic lemons, and I used one to make a quick lemon vinaigrette, which I really enjoyed. I even had an extra slice of lemon for my water.

January 9

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For some challenge years, I don’t eat anything that doesn’t come from my house. This year, I’ve decided that I can go to Starbucks once per week. I was having a particularly long morning on the 9th and got my new usual – the green tea latte with half classic syrup.

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For lunch, I tried a new frozen meal – Chana Saag by Saffron Road. I really like how the company pays a lot of attention to quality of ingredients and sourcing, which you can read about more on the Saffron Road web site. The lunch was really tasty, and I’ve already purchased a new one for a rainy day.

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The only downside to frozen meals is that they don’t seem to keep my hungry. So, I had some coconut peanut butter toast and green beans later in the day.

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For dinner, I made a big stir fry, making sure I had enough for leftovers.

January 10

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I normally don’t love leftovers. I find that chicken tastes weird when it’s reheated in a microwave. But, this meal re-heated fairly nicely. I actually really enjoyed it and would do it again in the future. I especially liked how, unlike when I eat out (with most restaurants), I can control the quality of my chicken.

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For dinner, we started with salads and then…

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…we made pizza! We got ingredients from Pasta & Provisions – they have the best dough, sauce, and cheese. The cheese is really key. It just melts so much better than the stuff at the grocery store. We enjoyed this whilst catching up on the end of Sherlock season 2! We’re so hooked. Didn’t season 3 just start?

January 11

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On Saturday, I spoke on a panel of local bloggers at Whole Foods for their health fair along with Lauren (who writes for Food Babe), Brittany, and Lori. We had a great discussion, and it was so nice catching up with my blog friends and meeting Shannon who organized the event. And since I was there, I stocked up on some groceries for #eatinmonth and picked up this…

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…delicious light lunch of toasted baguette slices with brie and olives.

January 12

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On Sunday, I did a boat load of cooking. One thing I made was a double batch of my Spiced Red Lentil, Tomato, and Kale soup so I’d have plenty to freeze for later.

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And I took a break in the middle of the day to go ice skating after watching the US Nationals ladies long programs the night before. Seeing all the beautiful skating made me miss all the skating I used to do and had me googling adult competitions at midnight. While I won’t be competing any time soon, I figured I could at least hit up a local rink and skate around a bit. I’m extremely rusty, but I had a great time. Boy, were my legs hurting the next day, though!

January 13

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One of the best things I made on Sunday was a new oil-free granola recipe. I can’t wait to share it with you, but I do have this granola recipe already blogged if you can’t wait. Anywho, that stuff was like crack! Healthy-crack, of course. I enjoyed the granola all week with coconut milk yogurt. I eat dairy, but I love the way coconut milk tastes, and the yogurt was really good. I did learn that I don’t like the Trader Joe’s one as much as the So Delicious, though, because the TJ’s one is kind of lumpy, while the latter is nice and smooth.

January 14

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And thanks to a trip to Great Harvest on Saturday, we had more whole grain bread so I could have my current favorite breakfast: buttered toast with a fried egg. Though, after eating that granola the rest of the week, there could be a nice favorite making it’s way to the top!

***

Is anyone else excited for the winter Olympics to start? I feel like I’ve fallen out of it ever since Michelle Kwan stopped competing, but the US Nationals has re-inspired me! I’m pulling for the two US underdogs – Polina and Jason Brown. Have you heard of them yet? Polina came in second at her first ever senior level competition, and she’s just adorable. Her programs were really beautiful, and I thought she really pulled you into her skating. I can’t wait to see how she does in the Olympics.

And you may have heard of Jason’s program already since it went a little viral:

FIrst of all, this program is so impressive. Although he doesn’t do any quadruples, it’s still full of challenging jumps and moves in addition to being highly entertaining. One of the things that really jumped out at me was the entrance to some of his jumps since some were pretty complex. And the best thing is watching at the end when he sees his scores and is so surprised. It’s just so cute.

Go Jason and Polina!

Eat in Month on the News {WCNC}

You may have already seen on twitter, but The Chic Life has recently been featured on local news station WCNC for Eat in Month! When I found out they wanted to feature me, I first got really excited and wanted to tell everyone. Then, I got extremely nervous that I was going to do a terrible job, so I didn’t tell anyone…not even my friends or family. The less people who saw it, the better, right? I guess that’s flawed logic since it was obviously public and people would probably see it eventually, but…that’s how it went down.

I’m definitely much more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it. Maybe if I practice making more YouTube videos, I’ll get better? But so far, I feel awkward on camera, plus I don’t like the way my voice sounds. Silly, right? There is a reason I keep procrastinating finishing that Zumba shoe review video.

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When I found out that the interview was definitely happening, I sought professional help from my friend Dion, who actually helped make this whole thing happen. She was a total doll and gave me tips on what to wear, as well as, a pep talk. Plus, she gave me all the photos I’m using in this blog post!

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On the day of the interview, I was greeted at the station by Dion who took me back and introduced me to Sonja. Sonja was so friendly and personable, I instantly felt a little more at ease just talking to her. And she even read my blog before hand! Too cool! I had so much fun talking to her.

The newsroom was so cool to see in person, and I was honored that they put my Eat in Month logo on the monitors in the background.

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I was ridiculously nervous during the interview, and I felt like I kept tripping over my words. Side note: I’ve started looking at people on TV (from the news to cooking shows) in a whole new light. Not that I thought it was easy before, but some of these guys look so darn natural. How do they do it!?

I also had no clue where to look as far as the cameras go. Sonja told me I could just look at her, but I felt weird just staring at her. lol :P I should have taken a photo of the camera – it was behind a box or something, so I couldn’t quite tell where exactly to look. I felt like I’d be like that Mad TV/In Living Color sketch where the newsperson keeps looking at the wrong camera. I can’t find the video of that skit, but I did find this other one, which is one of my all time favorite In Living Color clips.

Anywho, I was in awe watching Sonja rock out her portion of the intro and the interview. You can tell she knows what’s she’s doing!

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Major thanks to Dion for all her help, to Sonja for being so warm and helping me feel comfortable for the interview, to Caleb for getting that web video up so quickly, and to Robin and WCNC for featuring me at all. Thank you all!

(photos courtesy of Dion Lim at WCNC – you can follow her on twitter here or Facebook here)

Video | News | Weather | Sports

Fri Jan 04 14:02:50 PST 2013

Charlotte blogger starts ’Eat in Month’ health challenge

Click the video player to watch the full report. If using the WCNC mobile app, slide to the ’Video’ section. view full article

And here’s the final interview!

Reader question: Have you been on TV, and if yes, for what?

Dinners Lately {1/13-1/18}

It’s funny how my blog post schedule works out most weeks. One minute, I’m thinking I can do three posts in one night. The next, I’ve been going non-stop since waking up and can’t force a midnight blogging session. Mostly, I had the latter this past week, which means lots of great things are happening, plus some will lead to fresh blog content ahead. I have some projects in the works, and plenty of fun recipes coming up soon: challah breakfast bread pudding, mom’s Filipino pork adobo, hot chocolate oatmeal, and other goodness.

In the meantime, I have some photos of some Eat in Month dinners from this past week:

Sunday

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After spending the weekend with my family, I hurried back to prepare for a choreo session with my dance fitness company. And after that ended, I hurried back to my house to spend the last couple hours of the day clearing out my kitchen, dining room, and living room for some special guests (details coming soon). Since I knew I’d be frantically cleaning (throwing things into the guest room) most of the night, I needed something fast and easy for dinner. I turned to my mom’s pork chops with rice, plus steamed vegetables (orange cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli) and soy dipping sauce. I’ll have to share this recipe with you guys, too. We ate it all the time growing up, and I love it.

Monday

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Hubby cooked dinner on Monday night – grilled Earthfare cheeseburgers, tater tots, and steamed vegetables (cabbage and broccoli).

Tuesday

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On Tuesday, I ended up eating some lunchtime pizza the office ordered in to celebrate a co-worker’s birthday, another co-workers departure, and another co-workers return. I decided to partake in the celebrations and eat my sandwich as a snack later. Unfortunately, I ate the sandwich way-too-later, and I was still full by the time hubby wanted dinner. I ended up just sautéing some shrimp and spinach for something quick and light.

Wednesday

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Hubby also cooked dinner on Wednesday while I was at Zumba. We had salads with balsamic vinegar with a mix of greens from the grocery store and from my family’s garden.

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We also had spaghetti with whole wheat pasta.

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And the highlight of the meal for me was this Heist Brewery 17-grain bread. Has anyone else in Charlotte tried this stuff yet? Heist Brewery is a new vendor at Atherton Mills. They make breads using the mash resulting from the beer brewing process. This bread is seriously good. I made a sandwich with it for a lunch, and I haven’t liked a sandwich that much in a long time. And the only thing I changed was the bread! The loaf was pretty pricey at $8, but for the flavor, it was worth the splurge as an occasional treat. We drizzled ours with a little olive oil and toasted it under the broiler. Next time, I’m hitting up the Saturday market to try their famous biscuits!

Thursday

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Another thing I’m loving from Atherton Mills are the hot garlic pickles from Pickleville. I can’t stop eating these things. I mean that. But, considering pickles are pretty healthy in general and these are even probiotic pickles, I feel pretty good about my snack choice. (Psst – Charlotte friends, there’s a coupon on the pickle man’s web site if you want to get your own!)

I’ve been snacking on these with lunch all week. Yum!

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I was just driving home from Zumba Thursday night, thinking about how it’s been surprisingly easy to do Eat in Month this year, when I got the call from hubby – our power was out. We’d already planned to make pizza, which I was really looking forward to, so we decided to try to wait it out. We made it to 9:30pm before calling off the wait. I considered eating a snack bar or a spoon of almond butter from the pantry, but I decided that I shouldn’t let EIM keep me from eating a real meal. I felt like power being out was pretty much out of my control, so we opted to get Chinese take-out. I know, it felt a little like a cheat, but it was that or almond butter. My pantry may be stocked, but we don’t have a lot of room temperature eats…especially since we’d pretty much finished the Heist Brewery bread by this time. Besides, I’ve kept up with Eat in Month when I didn’t have a working stove or kitchen sink (remember this post?)…but no microwave, no stove, no access to the fridge or freezer was just too much this time around.

Friday

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And on Friday, we finally made the pizza we’d plan to make the previous night. Better late than never, right? If you’re going to make homemade pizza and you don’t feel like making the ingredients yourself (and you live in Charlotte), I have two words for you – Pasta & Provisions. The “&” doesn’t count as a word, right? It’s like a symbol, eh? ;) I’ve tried many different at-home pizza options, and Pasta & Provisions has the tastiest winning ingredients. We like to stop by to get a ball of pizza dough, pizza sauce, and fresh-grated mozzarella (it melts SO well!). Then, I just use my pizza stone and some corn meal and we have a delicious dinner.

Reader question: Have you had any interesting eats lately?

Weekend Eats and Bailey’s Buds

Yea, I put “Bailey” in the title so you’d look at this post. I know you like him more than me, and I’m okay with that. But first, I must share some photos of my eats over the weekend.

Actually first-first – I must send you all a big thank you for supporting The Chic Life in so many ways. We hit a new milestone today – 1,300 likes on Facebook. Woohoo! I’m so excited, and I hope I can continue providing great blog posts, fun photos, and other randomness that you enjoy. Thank you so much for reading, subscribing, liking, and all that jazz. I truly do appreciate it.

As I mentioned the other day, Eat in Month really has me eating better than I have in recent months. It’s a refreshing change, and I’m really enjoying it. The planning ahead part is a pain in my a$$ (just to be honest), but I’m really enjoying the eats, themselves. Here’s stuff we had this past weekend…

Friday

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We grilled (Earthfare) burgers on Friday night and had them with tater tots and steamed broccolini.

Saturday

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After Saturday morning Zumba, my friend Sarah and I hit up Atherton Mills to stock up for Eat in Month. While we were there, Sarah discovered that one of the vendors who actually normally sells handmade jewelry (Skye Turtle) was also selling homemade spanakopita. Since hubby had texted me that he ate all the turkey lunchmeat (and I thought this sounded better anyways), I figured this may be a good purchase for lunch. I re-heated it in the oven and served it with a simple salad with sunflower seeds, cherry tomatoes, and a drizzle of fig balsamic vinegar.

Sunday

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My sister recently emailed me this photo from when she made my Pumpkin Pie Muffins

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…which inspired me to whip up a batch for Sunday breakfast/brunch. I didn’t have pumpkin seeds, so they weren’t quite as pretty as the original batch. But, more importantly, they tasted darn good, which is all I really cared about.

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We had them with eggs and bacon because that’s how we roll.

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And for lunch, we had mesquite-turkey-muenster-bacon paninis, salads, and homemade pickles (that my family made).

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The bacon made a second appearance for the day since we didn’t get enough at breakfast, apparently. And everything is better with bacon.

Bailey

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Oh, and here’s the Bailey photo I promised. Happy? He’s really happy in this photo. He has a slew of stuffed friends to keep him company. You should see him carrying these giant things around the house. It’s really cute. The blue and yellow orb in the basket in his new favorite toy…probably because we fill it with treats that fall out of the side when he rolls it along the floor. It’s hard to trump a treat-yielding toy.

***

I’ve slowly started adding new recipes to the Eat in Month Pinterest board, but you can click here to check it out and follow as I find new recipes to share.

Hope your 2013 is off to a fantastic start!

Weeknight Meal Saver: A Good Rub

Hello everyone!

Hope you all had a fabulous weekend. I must admit, I was eating out a lot in December, so I wasn’t sure how Eat in Month would go this year. But so far, It’s going swimmingly. Seriously, I’m eating so much better. I have photos of eats from the weekend to share later, but first, I’d like to share an idea for an emergency dinner.

One of my favorite things to keep around for when I’m in a bind is a good rub. When I’m really busy or have an extra-long day, I don’t want to have to think about dinner. I just want something good to eat that’s preferably cheap and fast. Rubs take out the thinking work. Just rub onto protein of choice and cook. Add simple sides. Done. No making a grocery list or following a recipe. Seriously, busy people, take note.

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I think I’ve smelled every rub at Savory Spice Shop now. This one, Team Sweet Mama’s Kansas City Rub, is my favorite for chicken. The name makes me giggle, but this stuff is great. I rub it onto chicken breasts and then grill them. Two ingredients. Total deliciousness.

You can order the above online (or find it at your local SSS store) or you can try to make your own. There are tons of recipes out there just a quick google search away. I even have a recipe for one (click)!

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Hubby was a sweetheart and made dinner on Thursday night while I was at Zumba. He made grilled chicken with the above rub, plus steamed broccoli and mac and cheese. I know you guys know I’m into clean eating and all, but that’s what I strive for…most (the majority?) of the time. I don’t have any rules about 100% clean eats. I’m all about making the better choice. I recently stocked up on Annie’s mac and cheese when I found it on mega-sale. I know it’s processed, but I’ve read over the ingredient list, and it’s way better than some other processed options out there (that shall go unnamed). And anyways, when your man says he wants to make dinner while you’re dancing with your girlfriends, you eat it with a smile. Am I right, ladies? I thought he did a great job with dinner!

Reader questions: What do you turn to when you don’t want to think about what to cook for dinner? Do you have any simple tricks or flavorful ingredients you use?

Pantry Clean-Out and Eat in Month Groceries

I’m so glad to hear so many people are joining in on the Eat in Month challenge! Twitter and Facebook have been abuzz with people sharing how they’re getting ready. The theme of the day seems to be prep, mostly stocking up on groceries. It’s a good strategy and one I started on the other day while I had some free time.

I spent a good portion of Sunday prepping for Eat in Month as follows:

  1. I removed any old/expired foods from the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer.
  2. I assessed what I had remaining and what I thought I needed (as far as solid staples) and made a shopping list.
  3. I went grocery shopping, focusing on getting staples that were on sale.
  4. I re-stocked and re-organized (grouping like items) the new and old staples in the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer.

I gotta say, this is definitely a great way to start the year. I feel like I have a great grasp on what foods I have and I’m ready to tackle the new year eats-wise. And I just love how everything is so organized! Here are some photos of my pantry and the groceries I picked up:

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I still want to get some more storage containers, but I’m researching good options. I’m considering just getting larger mason jars, but I’m not sure they’re the most efficient. I definitely want to get glass containers. Do you guys have any recommendations?

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I love having frozen fruits and vegetables in the freezer at all times. The vegetables make a great, last-minute side and can also be thrown into soups and noodle stir-fries.

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I love broths for quick soups, to cook grains, or to make simple sauces.

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This is a random mix of items here. I don’t drink soda very often, but I like having some light options when the mood strikes. I love having the ginger ales they sell at health food stores around – they have great ingredient lists. This one in particular is sweetened with honey and pineapple juice. I also really love Cascal. Fresh fruit is a must – we almost always have bananas and apples. Snack bars are also a must, but I didn’t see any that had a good sale price. I love these Green Superfood bars, but they’re a little more expensive than I want to spend for pantry snack bars. I try to stay under $2. Larabars are my favorite, and I like to get big boxes of them at Costco.

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Pasta and sauce = easiest last minute dinner ever. We have a quasi-homemade beef sauce that we make when we don’t know what else to eat. I should probably share that recipe with you guys. Maybe in the next week or so? But, if you’re really desperate, you can just cook pasta and add this sauce and call it a night.

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Various tomato products are great for some many things – to add flavor to soups or make quick sauces.

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Here are some more great pantry staples – tomato paste – to add to sauce and soups. Garlic – good with almost everything. Panko breadcrumbs – makes a simple and easy dinner when paired with chicken.

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I’m not vegan or dairy-free, but I prefer non-dairy milks to make oatmeal or smoothies.

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Tofu – an easy way to bulk up protein when you haven’t been to the store recently. I like to add these to soups or noodle stir-fries, and it’s great marinated in soy sauce and then roasted. I love yogurt for a filling but healthy snack – straight-up or topped with granola. Eggs – a great, quick protein and a breakfast staple in our house. We love fried eggs or egg bakes with whole grain toast.

***

I’m thinking of re-writing my pantry tips post. I read the one I did a couple years ago, and it’s still good, but I think I have a couple more tips, and I’d definitely like to update the photos. Any interest?

Anywho, I’ve got some ideas for quick and easy meal ideas, and I made a new soup recipe that would be great to make for a cozy meal. Plus, it makes lots of leftovers that you can freezer for later. I think frozen soup is going to be my life saver this year as far as the challenge goes.

Reader question: What groceries have you gotten recently?

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