Good morning, coffee lovers! In case you missed it, yesterday was National Coffee Day. This is a serious holiday on my calendar which required careful calculation and strategy for hitting up the main coffee shops without over-caffeinating myself ;)
Dutch Bros. is a main coffee drive-thru in the PNW and as part of their National Coffee Day celebration, profit from every drink went to our local Boys and Girls Club charity. PLUS customers were given a full “punch card’ which can be redeemed for a free drink on your next visit. Another coffee hut was offering 4 drinks for $10, and my office even created their own coffee bar in the break room. There were flavored foam pumps (I did not even know that existed!), whip cream, fancy creamers, sprinkles, and coffee-flavored chocolates. My heart was very very happy yesterday.
The coffee love just KEPT ON COMING this morning because a brand new coffee shop literally right down the street from me had its Grand Opening today. They advertised free coffee all day, so of course I pulled in on my way to work. I expected the free drink to be black coffee. Nope! ANY drink, fancy as you want, all for free. They have Oreo Chillers and Rockstar Freezes and Pumpkin Spice Lattes and something called a “Caramel Blondie.” Creature of habit, I went with an iced nonfat vanilla americano but I just might go back after work for something a little more festive. Depends on if I feel like going for a run first or not ;)
Anyways, what I’m REALLY here for is to share the last bit of fun from my weekend that included a fishing trip and my very first Blue Apron meal. Last summer, my family vacationed in Mammoth Lakes, California and went fishing very early in the morning. I caught nothing. This trip, I caught so many fish that I had to take a break to let my dad fish without having to continually re-set my line! :)
We mostly caught trout, and threw them right back in the river (after snapping a picture first, duh. It’s 2016.) It was so peaceful to stand in the river, look out into the forest and just appreciate the autumn day.
That night, we got home feeling drained and lazy. Then I remembered that my first Blue Apron box had arrived on Friday and I had 3 different meals to choose from! I love that they come in refrigerated boxes with all of the ingredients pre-portioned. The recipe cards are so detailed and I really appreciate the photos of each step. I picked the “Summer Pepper Shakshuka” with eggs and za’atar. This was the first time I’ve ever cooked a Middle Eastern dish myself, and I think it turned out pretty dang close to the picture!
There was something relaxing about dicing up all of the fresh vegetables. I threw them into a large pan and added the seasonings that came with my delivery. The best part? PITA BREAD. You know how much I love my carbs. The actual pita was already cooked, but it came in a circle like pizza crust. I got to slice it into triangles, toast in the oven and add the za’atar seasoning. They came out flavorful and toasty, just like they should!
Fresh pea shoots brought some color into this dish! The protein came from farm-fresh eggs that were added to the pan at the last few minutes. It seemed like a savory breakfast-for-dinner meal, but breakfast is my favorite so I was completely onboard for that!
My favorite part of cooking Blue Apron meals is how aesthetic they are plated! I know I’m not the only one who’s always proud when I serve a dish that looks restaurant-worthy. Especially with the Instagram food porn that makes a bowl of oatmeal look like pure art. Taking an extra minute for the presentation is one of those simple little things that is so satisfying, and I think every Blue Apron meal includes a very beautiful presentation.
A little feta sprinkled on top and voila! I think the whole meal took between 30-40 minutes to create. It was bursting with flavors that were somewhat foreign to me. I’d never cooked with za’atar, shallots, or pea shoots before. Cost-wise, Blue Apron meals are considerably less expensive than eating at a restaurant. The meals are less than $10 each, but seasonal specials and discounts are always popping up in my inbox. Plus everything is delivered to your door and pre-measured. I’m at that weird transitional phase between an on-campus college student with a meal plan and dozens of campus dining options to living completely on my own and “fending for myself.” Since health and nutrition are so important to me, I hardly want to get into that bad habit of resorting to microwave meals for dinner every night.
I learned about Blue Apron through fellow bloggers PBFingers.com and HungryRunnerGirl.com & I think it is the perfect transition for me to start learning to cook whole nutritious meals!
There are two more new-to-me meals from my last delivery to create this weekend and I can’t wait to try the Summer Udon Salad! (I opted for the vegetarian meal plan.) After a whole week of 5:00am workouts, I want nothing more than a lazy Friday night at home with yoga pants, Grey’s Anatomy, decaf coffee, and some time in the kitchen with a new healthy recipe. Plus all those Udon noodles will serve as my carbo-loading for tomorrow’s long run! Shelby, my running teammate, and I are going to try to get in 13 miles before the weather turns dreary tomorrow morning.
A few months ago, I was asked to write an article for another blog that related to health and fitness in college. I came up with “6 Healthy Tips for Navigating Campus Dining” and now I’m sharing it on my own blog because it’s perfect for the back-to-school season! A Monday seems like the best time to give ourselves some healthy reminders, especially if you had a particularly splurgey (<– new word!) weekend. Which, hello, it’s COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON, so it’s understandable. ;)
6 Healthy Tips for Navigating Campus Dining
By: Kenzie Estes of stronglikemycoffee.com
I remember my first dinner in the campus dining hall my freshman year of college. It was called “The Hot Spot” and the buffet of food was completely overwhelming. My eyes widened as I tried to take in the wall-to-wall counters of food lined with a salad and sandwich bar, pastas and pizzas, stick-to-your-ribs mashed potatoes and gravy, Asian stir fry bowls, and everything in between. Freshly baked cookies under vanilla soft-serve would have made the “Freshman 15” a very real experience had I not been so devoted to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Nutrition is particularly important to me in college because I was recruited to my university’s NCAA Division 1 Track and Cross Country team. Even without my athlete status, continuing to make healthy choices in school is incredibly important to thrive in your new environment with the stress and workload that comes with being a student.
1.) Leave the “Get My Money’s Worth” mentality outside.
Buffets and their unlimited offering can invoke a mental need to get the most bang for your buck, which has more to do with quantity than nutritional quality. Focus on building a plate that is full of color and nutrition. If you have a difficult time choosing your meal, remember that everything will be there again tomorrow!
2.) Pre-plan your plate.
Have some sort of idea of what you are craving before you enter the dining hall to avoid having to examine all of the food. Without a plan for your meal, you might end up “sampling” a little bit of everything (been there, done that) which can add up to more calories than you realize.
3.) Pick one splurge meal each week.
It’s also important to note that it is not healthy to completely deprive yourself of the ice cream station or cookie cart either. If you occasionally treat yourself to something indulgent or plan a “cheat meal,” you are likely to stay on track with your health goals.
4.) Use entrée plates as a base & add to it.
Oftentimes buffets offer a variety of pastas, pizzas, sandwiches and soups because they are widely popular and simple to feed the masses. One of my favorite ways to pack a nutritional punch in cafeteria meals is to grab fresh vegetables or salad bar ingredients and mix them into the pre-served entrees. Stir a handful of spinach and carrots into a bowl of soup, and tomatoes and bell peppers into a plate of pasta. Cut up an apple over a salad or slice a banana into your oatmeal or cereal.
5.) Be picky.
Don’t eat something just because it’s there. Be selective with what you put in your body! If it’s not amazing…skip it.
6.) DON’T be afraid to bring your own ingredients!
A friend of mine has a bag of chia and flax seeds in her purse to add to oatmeal or cereal. Many times I’ll bring in Quest protein powder and a shaker to mix with almond milk. Salsa, pepper and liquid amino acids can spice up any dish if your campus’s cooking is particularly bland. And of course I always have my own powdered coffee creamer.
Brunch in the Hot Spot was always my favorite way to start a Sunday morning. Everyone comes in their pajamas, some bring notes to study, some just talk with friends. Everyone cozily enjoys their omelets and coffees before Monday kicks in. With a little effort, your college dining experience can be fun and healthy.
Before you scoff at my silly title, let me explain myself!
Freekeh is an ancient grain from young green wheat that can be cooked like rice or quinoa. It is a mainstay of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine.
Freekeh Foods sent me two packages of the grain, original and tamari flavor, just to try out. I didn’t know what exactly to expect, but was surprised to learn that a generous serving size (3/4 cup cooked) contains only 130 calories with nearly three times the fiber and protein of brown rice.
I decided to cook up the Freekeh with some steamed brussel sprouts and kale, along with a homemade ginger garlic sauce. The original Freekeh doesn’t have much of it’s own flavor and the nuttiness actually reminds me of plain steel cut oats. It’s very filling though and easy to customize with herbs, spices and sauces! The organic grain would make another healthy alternative to white rice or pasta for dinner entrees, and I can’t wait to try out a breakfast recipe using almond milk, vanilla, and cinnamon too :)
- 1 cup dry Freekeh (plus 2.5 cups water)
- 1 cup brussel sprouts, rinsed and halved
- 1 cup kale, rinsed and ripped into bite-sized leaves
- 4 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 Tbs. low-sodium tamari sauce (soy sauce alternative)
- 1 tsp. minced garlic
- 1 tsp. ground ginger
- black pepper to taste
1.) Add Freekeh and 2.5 cups water to a medium pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
2.) Place brussel sprouts (fresh green beans is great too!) in a steamer, and cook until softened. Add in kale for the last five minutes.
3.)While vegetables are steaming and grains are simmering: combine tamari sauce, balsamic vinegar, garlic, ginger and black pepper in bowl. Whisk until well-combined and set aside.
4.) Once vegetables are steamed, transfer the greens into a medium skillet over medium heat with 1 Tbs. olive oil. Pour the garlic ginger sauce over the vegetables and sautee for 2 minutes.
5.) Serve the grains and greens with whatever protein source you prefer!
I plated mine with a quinoa sweet potato veggie burger from Costco. Gotta love a new and unique ingredient to add to my home-cooked clean dinners (because let’s be honest, there are only so many ways combine brown rice and broccoli before it starts to feel a little repetitive.)
I totally enjoyed cooking up this new “recipe” over the weekend. I used my Sunday Long Run (15 miles!) as an excuse to lay in bed with my book for three hours in the afternoon before deciding to get up, be productive, cook something and take pictures of it. ;) So far I’ve been disappointed that our Sprouts doesn’t carry these Freekeh packages but I can’t wait to find them elsewhere and try out the rosemary flavor. Let me know what you think!