Friday, March 28, 2014

Healthy Shrimp and Vegetable Fried Rice

Yesterday's Workout:
3 mile brisk walk outside with Jasper
2 hours of house-cleaning...does that count? :-)

I could lie and pretend like this meal took hours to prepare and is totally made from scratch, buuuut I won't do you like that. I've been a little lazy on the weeknights with dinner prep and have resorted to the easiest methods of getting a healthy meal on the table, hence why there have been very little recipe posts lately.

I'm not crazy big on frozen meals. If you opened my freezer, you'd see a giant bulk-sized pack of chicken breasts, individually wrapped steaks, shrimp, perhaps some ground beef, and a pack of frozen vegetables for those just-in-case moments, a box of Greek yogurt fudgesicles (my new dessert fav at night), and some frozen goods from Trader Joe's: vegetable fried rice, chicken potstickers, and this incredibly amazing French-style flatbread with ham, caramelized onions, and gruyere cheese that I like to have on-hand in case we have last-minute visitors. Seriously, if you haven't tried it, go buy it. Right now.

If I'm going to cook a semi-homemade meal, it's going to be with Trader Joe's frozen goods. I seriously have yet to try something in their frozen section I don't love. The other night, I was really into the idea of Chinese food. Rather than order a big old container of greasy, overly soy-sauced fried rice (and let's be honest, you never ONLY one thing off a Chinese takeout menu, it usually turns into 3-night's worth of food), I opted to make it myself. I thawed out some fully cooked shrimp to add for protein, grabbed the bag of TJ's vegetable fried rice, and the meal came together in 5 minutes...8 minutes if you count the thaw time.

So let's just talk about this rice for a second. I prepared the recommended serving size (1 C cooked) in 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Along with the shrimp, the meal came to a grand total of:

Calories: 329
Fat: 16.5 g
Carbs: 42 g
Fiber: 3 g
Protein: 23 g

That one cup was the perfect serving size for one person, and I supplemented it with a side salad (gotta get those greens in!) If I had ordered this at a takeout place, I never would have stopped at one cup, and I easily would have taken in 3x the calories that my semi-homemade one contained.

So while this isn't reeeeeally a recipe, I figured I'd share anyways for those times where you're craving Chinese but are trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Healthy Shrimp and Vegetable Fried Rice
(Serves 3)

33 medium-large shrimp, fully cooked and frozen
1 bag of Trader Joe's Vegetable Fried Rice, frozen
2 Tbsp oil (TJ's recommends vegetable oil, but I used olive oil)

  • Thaw your frozen shrimp under warm running water for 3 minutes. Remove tails and set aside.
  • Heat oil in skillet. Add shrimp and contents of 1 bag of vegetable fried rice. Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes until fully cooked.
  • Season with addition salt and pepper - or even hot sauce, as desired. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

35 Minute Treadmill Workout (3.25 miles)

Yesterday's Workout
3.25 mile treadmill workout
[Adapted from this Fitsugar workout]
Leg Circuit:
3 x 20 squats
3 x 20 deadlifts
3 x 20 lunges (each leg)
3 x 20 sumo squats
3 x 20 calf raises
Abs on stability ball

I found the above treadmill workout on Pinterest awhile ago and decided to give it a shot yesterday. I loved that it incorporated all the different segments into one 35-minute workout. I adapted the original workout to suit my fitness level by increasing the walking/recovery speeds a bit. This is definitely not a beginner workout, but you can absolutely adjust the speeds or inclines to better suit your level. By breaking it into 6 segments, the workout flew by in no time. I love that about interval training! I followed my run with a difficult leg circuit, of which I could feel the effects the second I rolled out of bed this morning. Hello, glutes and quads!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Corn and Black Bean Salsa

Yesterday's Workout:
5 miles

This weekend, it hit 50 degrees by Saturday afternoon, so Brent deemed it a good time to test out our new grill. Man oh man, I don't know how we survived so long without one! We had managed to prepare a decent steak by first searing on the stove stop then transferring it to the oven to broil, and we've perfected that over the last few years. Our method worked for some time, but steak just isn't the same if it's not grilled. I feel like my life is whole again. Now if only the weather will cooperate so we can do this more often, we'll be all set.

Alongside our steak, Brent julienned tri-colored peppers and marinated them in a lemon, oil, rosemary, parsley drizzle before grilling. If you closed your eyes and took a bite, you could swear it was mid-July. What really made the meal feel like summer though was the corn and black bean salsa I made on the side. I stumbled across this recipe on Food Gawker this week and stashed it away for safe keeping, which just happened to be Saturday. I know there are multiple variations of this salsa out there, and I feel like I've tried a dozen over the years, but this one is by far my favorite. The proportions of each ingredient are just perfect. I have a feeling I'll be making it weekly this summer to go on top of salads. It's really good served as a heaping pile in a tortilla scoop, and just as delicious by the spoonful. Do it.

Corn and Black Bean Salsa

1, 16 oz bag of frozen corn, cooked and drained
1, 15.5 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 C red onion, diced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 1/2 avocados, diced
1/4 C cilantro, chopped
Juice of 2 limes, or 3 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste


  • Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir to evenly distribute. 
  • Serve cold with chips, on salad, or eat by the spoonful! 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Happy Spring!

Yesterday's Workout:
1 mile run (8:00)
2 minute walk 
Upper body strength
*Repeat 3 times for a total of 3.5 miles in 30 mins
Abs on stability ball

We made it!! Today is the first official day of spring, and I am SO ready for it! I plan on celebrating by taking Jasper for a long walk to enjoy the 50 degree weather we are being blessed with today then meeting up with a friend for dinner.

Happy Spring!! 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Last day of winter

Yesterday's Workout:
10 minute upper body Barre3 online workout

It's technically the last day of winter. I don't know whether to celebrate knowing spring starts tomorrow, or cry because this so-called spring isn't looking quite so promising yet. I really wish we could rewind to the spring of 2012 when it wasn't like living in the Arctic, and it was in the 80s for an entire week straight before April even came along. Oh, to dream....

In the meantime, I'll settle for the snow to melt in my yard. That's all I ask, really. Also, for the landscaping gods to send along their infinite wisdom for returning my yard to its natural beauty. I have a feeling it's going to be a rough spring trying to revive that sucker. Wish us luck!

P.S. that picture is from last October, which is probably the last time we were able to even keep the windows and doors open before the winter of hell came. Jasper is counting down the days until he can patrol his yard from the kitchen again.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pasta for dinner? Who am I??

Yesterday's Workout:
2 mile run (16:00) 
1/4 mile walk 
40 minute Total Body Barre3 online workout

I ate pasta for dinner last night. Seriously, who am I? Everything in moderation! I made a giant pot of my homemade gravy (marinara is perhaps a better word) loaded with about 40 meatballs over the weekend, so before I freeze the rest, I will be sneaking in as much as I can. One of these days, I'll get around to sharing the recipe on this blog, I promise. And it's a good one. It's the only thing that will get me to cook pasta in the house, actually.

I know you heard me say it enough last week, but dammit, I love barre3! I couldn't wait to get home from work yesterday to do it. It's so much fun trying out new videos, too. I've only done three workouts so far, all total body ones, but every one was completely different from the other. I opted to do a little 20 minute cardio sesh on the treadmill to warm-up beforehand yesterday, and I feel it helped my body to be a little more "open" and capable of a fuller range of motion for barre3. I think even as little as 5-10 minutes of light running beforehand might be enough to warm the body, so I'll try that next time.

And what would this blog be lately without a picture of Jasper?? I can't help it, he's a ham for the camera. Last night, he jumped up on top of Brent on the couch and kind of just slid back into this position. They stayed like this for awhile until Jasper started dozing off and almost fell off the couch. Too cute.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Weekend Recap

Yesterday's Workout
6 miles

Well, I'm happy to report that I am capable of making cake pops now! I churned out about 3 dozen on Saturday morning, and minus the fact they are tedious m-f'ers to make, they turned out great. Of course, I failed to take a picture while they were all cute, wrapped, and presented in an adorable Easter basket for the baby shower. So this messy, partially-completed one will have to do.

My partner in crime was my cooking buddy all weekend. And by cooking buddy, I mean he trolled the kitchen looking for any scrap that fell overboard. Luckily, none of the chocolate made it's way on the floor.

This little dude is my shadow, especially on weekends. He's always on the lookout for where the action is taking place, so he follows me everywhere. Out in the garage, dusting, vacuuming, making the bed, going out to get the mail, doing laundry, putting on clothes. Yes, even the bathroom. I turn around, and he's there staring up at me. Then he gets all sweet and mopey when he knows I'm about to head downstairs to workout. I don't usually let him come down with me because he gets into any little thing he can find in the basement, where we keep the treadmill. I'm also afraid he's going to try to jump on the moving belt one of these days. He also tries to climb on top of me while I'm on the floor doing ab work. Doesn't work so well.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Drop sets and Jasper dancing for PB

Yesterday's Workout:
Advanced HIIT Treadmill Workout (3.6 miles)
Upper Body Workout: 
1 x 12 bicep curl; drop set 
1 x 12 skull crushers; drop set
1 x 12 chest press; drop set
1 x 12 shoulder press; drop set
1 x 12 bent-over row; drop set
1 x 12 hammer curl; drop set 
1 x 12 tricep kickback; drop set
1 x 12 chest flyes; drop set
1 x 12 upright row; drop set
1 x 12 deadlifts; drop set
*Exercise was done with 10 lb weights and drop sets completed with 8 lb weights

I love incorporating drop sets into my strength training. A drop set is a method where you have completed an exercise with heavy weights, and you immediately drop the heavy weight and decrease the weights to continue the exercise until muscle failure is reached. So for instance, yesterday, I started out with 10 lb dumbbells, completed 12 reps of an exercise, and then I changed to 8 lbs weights and completed as many reps as I could of the same exercise until my muscles were fatigued. Drop sets are a great way to stimulate muscle growth, as they target deep down. My upper body was burning after yesterday's workout!

On a totally unrelated dog can dance. I kid you not. Apparently, it's the poodle in him. He has been a big fan of standing up on his hind legs since he was just a little pup, and he's learned to master it since then. Last night, Brent was eating peanut butter out of the jar (one of the reasons I know we are soul mates), and Jasper wanted in on that in a bad way. He'll do just about anything for peanut butter...

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Never regret a workout

Yesterday's Workout:
60 minute Total Body Barre3 Online workout

When I got home from work yesterday, I had absolutely zero motivation to get my blood flowing. All I could think of was taking a hot shower, throwing on my sweats, and plugging through the DVR. Jasper was in a more playful mood than usual, which really didn't help the matter. I had a long mental struggle and finally forced myself to trade in sweats for spandex.

I wanted to check out some more of what barre3 has to offer, so I opted for a 60-minute total body one led by the barre3 founder, Sadie Lincoln. I have to say, I liked this one even better than the first video I did. It was a little more difficult, and I really enjoyed her teaching technique. By the end of the workout, my legs were shaking, yet I still felt strong. The core section was my favorite!

Lesson learned: no matter how much I don't initially feel like doing it, I never regret fitting in a workout.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Good weather for once!

Yesterday's Workout: 6.5 miles
2 mile walk 
4.5 mile run
Abs on stability ball

The weather was just too good to be inside yesterday, so outside we stayed. I typically resort to spelling out the word W-A-L-K in convo with others if Jasper is around because the second he hears the actual word, he goes nuts. He drops whatever he's doing and runs for the door. I'm starting to think he's even learning to spell. Okay, maybe not really, he's probably just associating the sounds of spelling out the word, but still. He starts to rally me out the door, and we can never seem get out fast enough in his opinion.

He was a VERY happy pup yesterday to be out in the sunshine all afternoon. We came back from our walk and played in the yard for awhile before I went on my own "me time" run.

Jasper has an issue with digging, as you can see above. As much as I can't wait for all the snow to finish melting in the yard, it will be a constant struggle to keep him from digging up the grass this spring. We found a new hole almost daily this past fall when we first moved in. Mulch is his favorite. The terror....

My run was great - I managed a 8:15 mile pace and felt awesome. It's amazing what a little good weather can do for a mood - total uplift! I can't wait for it to be consistently in the 50s...until then, we're due for some rain and show the next two days. Such is life in New England!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Barre3 Online

Yesterday's Workout:
60 minute Total Body Barre3 Online workout

Yesterday, I was quickly reminded the existence of my hip and glute muscles is still a thing. I had been dying to get into barre classes right around this time last year, but unfortunately never made it to a studio. I haven't set foot in a gym since last August, and I haven't participated in group exercise class for a year or so (I think my last class was yoga actually). Not that I don't love taking classes - I do! But I admit that I prefer the convenience of working out at home most days. I'm much more likely to do it if all I have to do is walk to my basement! I've been slowly purchasing my own equipment over the years to build my own home gym, and I feel it's a better investment for myself than shelling out money for a hefty gym membership every month. When I want to change it up and participate in a more "group exercise class" activity, I turn to Xfinity On Demand, where they have plenty of options ranging from cardio, dance, kickboxing, sculpting, pilates and yoga.

Two of my favorite low-impact workouts are pilates and yoga. Sometimes if I'm lucky, I'm able to catch a yoga-based pilates segment On Demand, but they're pretty rare to find most times. I like these workouts because they mix pilates-based strength movements and core exercises that get your heart-rate up with yoga stretching. I always feel really great after these workouts.

Barre3 is basically a fusion of ballet barre, yoga, and pilates. So finally, I decided to bite the bullet and purchase a barre3 online monthly membership. It's only $15/month and you get access to unlimited videos. I like the convenience of being able to the workouts right at home. Many of the workouts require light hand-weights, a chair, and their special 'core ball' - I don't have any weights lighter than 8 lbs, so I used 2 water bottles, and instead of the core ball, I used a small pillow. These replacements did the trick!

You can cater your workout any way you want really. They offer different lengths of time (10, 30, 40, and 60 minutes) and you can choose the area you wish to focus: total body, prenatal, postnatal, upper body, lower body, or core. I went all in for the 60-minute total body workout - because apparently, I like torture (kidding!) In all seriousness, this workout kicked my ass. The instructor referred to their special technique as the barre3 "one-inch method" - where you engage a muscle, lift an inch, then lower, and repeat for as many repetitions as the instructor says, working the deep muscles. The first few reps, I was all "this isn't so bad", but then after 2 minutes of constant repetition, I was shaking and found myself having to take breaks. Even after all the torturous repetitions I was forced to engage in, I was hooked. I actually can't wait to go home and try another workout tonight after my run.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Weekend Recap

Yesterday's Workout: 4 miles
1/2 mile cool-down 
Ab Circuit:
25 stability ball crunches
20 leg lifts with stability ball
30 crunches, heels on stability ball and knees bent 90 degrees
40 bicycle crunches
1 minute plank
*Repeat 2X

Daylight Savings is the devil. There, I said it. I'm a very early riser and was beginning to get used to watching the sun rise on my way to work last week - it made it feel like it wasn't 6AM and that maybe the depressing winter was over. Then this morning happened. Back to pitch darkness. And snow...because one dimension of miserable just wasn't enough. If you are like me then I have some good news - only one more month until the sunny mornings return. We can do this!

Alright, back to my weekend recap. It started with my lovely half-day on Friday. Jasper and I embarked on a 4 mile walk, and the weather was simply gorgeous: sunny, 40 degrees....but very wet due to the snow melting. By the time we got back, Jasper's lower half was completely soaked and brown. Dude finds every puddle and every patch of mud, I swear. He got tossed right into the bath tub when we got home.

Off to my mom's we went to celebrate my step-grandmother's 75th birthday! We ended up staying over that night since it was late. Jasper is like a little kid when he sleeps over my mom's. He never actually sleeps for fear he's going to miss out on something. So Brent and I were pretty exhausted Saturday morning. We intended to relax, have breakfast then head home late morning, but then we got a call from ADT that our alarm was going off - NOT the kind of call you want to get when you're an hour away from home first thing on a Saturday morning! We grabbed all our stuff and rushed back home. Turns out it was a false alarm (thank God!), and we suspect it may have been something as simple as the curtains flowing when the heat kicked on, setting off the motion sensor. I took a long nap when we got home to make up for sleep lost Friday night - exhaustion has owned me lately - and felt somewhat normal by the afternoon. We put together Brent's grill that we bought last weekend. After a few hours of work, we were proud owners of this spiffy new grill!

Brent thought it would have been cool to leave it in between the living room and dining room to highlight our ability to grill and serve tableside or couchside. Yeah, that got vetoed right away. It's in the garage until the weather improves.

Saturday night, I didn't feel like grocery shopping, and we didn't have anything defrosted, so we opted for a dinner out. We had a gift card for Legal Seafood, and I was dying for surf and turf. My eyes were bigger than my stomach though. My meal was HUGE: 6 ounce filet (medium rare, of course!), scallops, and grilled shrimp with brown rice and broccoli. I ate as much of the meat as I could and took home the rest for Jasper - spoiled dog. The brown rice and broccoli made for a great lunch the next day, too!

Sunday we were busy installing the backsplash behind the stove top in our kitchen. This project was actually not as bad as I thought it would be. It's not finished yet though - the adhesive needed 24 hours to dry, and then we still have to seal and grout it. Here's what it looks like adhered to the wall though:

Pretty, right?? I love that it goes with our antiqued white cabinets. It also brightens the kitchen a bit. Love it!

Once we finished that project, we had to run our usual Sunday errands. This time, it included a pit stop at 32° Yogurt Bar, which is conveniently located right next to our local pet store. This was my first time in one of these yogurt bars, and my God, I am obsessed. I'm one of those people that likes a lot of toppings on my ice cream - I'm definitely not a smooth ice cream kind of girl. Peanut butter cup ice cream? It better have peanut butter cups and fudge chunks in EVERY bite. I went with a froyo twist of chocolate and sea salted caramel pretzel, topped with - well, too many things to name. Brownie chunks, chocolate covered pretzels, cookie dough crumbles, peanut butter chips, cheesecake bits, and hot fudge. I pretty much licked the bowl clean. I was in my personal fat-kid heaven.

Needless to say, I stuck to salad for dinner with some roasted chicken. Perfect end to the weekend!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Friday things

Yesterday's Workout:
Cardio/Upper Body Circuit:
8 min run @ 7.5 MPH 
2 min walk @ 4.0 MPH
2 x 12 shoulders (press, side raise, front raise)
2 x 12 chest (push-up, dumbbell press, dumbbell flies)
2 x 12 biceps (curls, hammer curls, alternating curls)
2 x 12 triceps (kickbacks, dips, skull crushers)
2 x 12 back (bent over row, one-armed row, deadlift)
*Repeat circuit 3 times
Mileage: 3.4 miles

Happy Friday! And a happy one it is, indeed. We actually have warm(ish) weather heading our way in the northeast starting today. We still have a good foot of snow covering our yard that just doesn't seem to want to melt - which I guess is hard to do when temperatures don't get above freezing in a week. Daylight Saving is also this weekend, which mean's we are one step closer to spring/summer. Can't go wrong with that!

I've decided to take a spontaneous half-day off today to hang out with my little four-legged buddy. The plan is go for a nice long walk and enjoy the warmer weather before we pack up and head out to my mom's for the night. It's my step dad's mom's 75th birthday tonight, so we're taking her out to a nice Italian restaurant to celebrate.

On the to-do list this weekend in the Morse house: install backsplash tiles behind the stove top in the kitchen. As of now, it's just regular painted wall, which is extremely inconvenient when oil splatters all over it while cooking. I wanted something I can just wipe down quick - as of right now, I scrub with a magic eraser, which I'm afraid will slowly keep removing layers of the wall paint with it. So instead, we bought some gorgeous stone tiles last weekend at Lowe's that will hopefully be more functional - and the added bonus of being gorg!

Also, I volunteered to make cake pops for my friend's baby shower next weekend. The only problem is I've never actually made them before. So I'm thinking a demo run will need to take place this weekend so that I don't royally butcher them next weekend. Any takers that want to come help taste-test?!

My downtime will be spent reading my new Vampire Forensics book (thank you, Allyson!!!!) in my cozy little reading space (above). Likely Jasper will protest this because he seems to have a thing against people relaxing in the house instead of entertaining him constantly. So wish me luck!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Endurance and Lent

Yesterday's Workout: 6 miles
5.1 mile run:
Mile 1: 7.1 MPH (8:27 min/mile)
Mile 2: 7.2 MPH (8:20 min/mile)
Mile 3: 7.3 MPH (8:12 min/mile)
Mile 4: 7.4 MPH (8:06 min/mile)
Mile 5: 7.5 MPH (8:00 min/mile)
Last 0.1 miles: 6.5 MPH (9:14 min/mile)
0.9 mile walk 
Yoga stretching

I've been sticking to a 3-4 mile safe zone lately, and I wanted to incorporate a longer run this week. Endurance bores the heck out of me lately, so I wanted to change it up a bit. I started at a 8:27 mile pace, and with each mile, I increased speed by 0.1 MPH, until I reached my final 8:00 mile pace.

I find this workout a lot more challenging than just setting the speed to 7.5 MPH for 5 miles. By increasing speed every mile, your body has to work hard to adjust to moving faster before setting in at that pace. It's a great way to improve running stamina and keeps a treadmill endurance workout from being too mundane.

After my workout, I chowed down on the buffalo chicken stuffed peppers I had leftover alongside a baby spinach salad, packed with carrots and queen stuffed olives. I've been really into those lately - as in, I've gone through a jar in less than a week.

Side note: Lent begins today. I've opted to partake for the first time in years...I will be giving up my morning cup of joe for the next 40 days. That's right, bye-bye coffee! I already limit myself to only one 8-ounce cup in the morning, but it will be nice to go totally coffee-free to awhile. Will you be giving anything up this year?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Recipe Recommendation: Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Peppers

Yesterday's Workout:
Leg circuit:
1 x 20 sumo squats
1 x 20 lunges (each leg)
1 x 20 calf raises
1 x 20 squats
1 x 20 deadlifts 
Repeat circuit 3x
Abs on stability ball

I have a must-try recipe for you guys today. I was perusing through Food Gawker over the weekend and stumbled upon this recipe for Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Peppers. Doesn't that sound fantastic?

I followed the recipe exactly as is. It took about 30 minutes to put together and another 30 minutes in the oven. For two people, it makes enough for two nights worth of dinner. I can't wait to have the leftovers tonight! And good lord did this smell amazing in the oven. Jasper was licking his chops the entire time...

This can definitely be stashed away in the "healthy dinner" recipe category. I plugged the ingredients into MyFitnessPal, and each stuffed pepper half is only 120 calories, plus 10 grams of protein!

I highly recommend heading over to the recipe and bookmarking it for yourself!