Category Archives: Arlington

Adventures with Coby

CobyHi, Sweetie Pies! I’m just gearing up for the work week, and counting the minutes until tonight’s episode of Mad Men. How about you? Are you ready for Monday? Some people don’t seem bothered by Mondays, but I am NOT one of those people. Ugh. I have too much fun on the weekend. 

Speaking of fun, I went biking today, with my bike, Coby, on the Mount Vernon Trail. I rode about 25 miles round trip. It was such a nice and sunny day. In fact, it was so nice and sunny that everyone and their dog (literally) had the same idea. The bigger part of me is thrilled to see so many people out, enjoying the trail and being active. It’s great to see families walking or biking together, and it’s so nice to see people enjoying themselves. However, a part of me also gets frustrated because the trail isn’t all that wide and it has a number of hills and curves. It can be hard to enjoy the ride when you’re constantly worried about passing walkers or runners safely so that you have room to build momentum to climb the next hill, or trying not to run into people who don’t pay attention to the dotted yellow line separating the paved trail into a little two-way highway. I used to walk and run on the trail, and I hated worrying about whether I was going to get hit by a biker. It just gets too crowded for comfort for everyone!

I was reminded of why I’ve kind of avoided the Mount Vernon Trail this summer in favor of some trails that tend to be a bit less traveled. Last Saturday, I set out for a 30 mile trek from my place to Great Falls, MD and back home. It took just under four hours, but it was a fun trip. I was satisfyingly worn out by the time I got back home. Aaah. I love that feeling! To get to the falls, I got on the towpath along the C&O Canal in Georgetown, and rode the gravelly trail between the canal and the Potomac. To get back, I took a paved road, McArthur Boulevard, that had an awesome bike path. I thought I’d share a few photos.

One thing I love about riding on the towpath is the opportunity to see things like this:

BirdmanIt is a bit more secluded and much farther from the highway than the MVT, and that’s a plus. I saw this guy (or girl? not sure…) as well as a few big turtles and some tiny blue lizards. I was busy riding, so I didn’t stop to snap photos of them, but they made me smile. I love that I can enjoy nature so close to my apartment and to the city. You just have to know where to look!

There are lots of old lock houses all along the canal. It’s hard to imagine what it must have been like when the canal was really in use. Here’s the sign on the front of one of the lock houses:

Lock House

After about 15 miles of riding, I made it to the bridge with a view of the falls, and I had to leave Coby behind. Why leave Coby?

No Bikes!Fair enough. Coby waited patiently. In case you have forgotten, “Coby” is short for cobalt, the color of Coby’s frame.

Waiting Coby

This was my view from the bridge:

Great FallsNo visit to a scenic overlook would be complete without a cheesy self portrait (nerdy but absolutely necessary helmet included). 🙂 

Self PortraitThe smile is big because the 15 miles it took for me to get to the falls seemed sort of endless at times. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of markers on the towpath, so it was hard to gauge just how close (or far) I was from the falls. I was so happy to finally be there!! I was also super glad that I had snacks to fuel my ride home! 🙂 

Biking is one of my favorite “exercises that don’t really seem like exercise.” With all of the beautiful scenery and fresh air, it’s easy to forget that I’m getting a workout. My heart rate monitor/calorie counter is my only proof! Do you have a favorite “exercise that doesn’t seem like exercise?” What did you do this weekend? I hope you had a great one!! 

Now, I’m going to make a bowl of oatmeal and get ready to watch Mad Men. Oatmeal seems to be my favorite evening snack lately. I love the flavor, and I really love how well it fills me up. Perfect! Have a good week, Sweetie Pies. Ciao for now! 🙂

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Filed under Arlington, Fitness, Great Falls, Mount Vernon Trail, Weight Loss Success Story

Greek Yogurt: Kitchen Superstar

Hello sweeties! I hope this finds you enjoying your summer! I’m enjoying mine. 🙂 As you know, part of my summer fun involves visiting the farmer’s market. I went to my market in Courthouse on Saturday and made a major haul:

Market BootyI bought peaches, one little nectarine, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, an onion, yellow squash, zucchini, Brandywine tomatoes, beets, garlic scapes, tomatoes, some silver queen corn (my childhood favorite!!!), a container of Blue Ridge dairy Greek yogurt, and a pork shoulder that is barely peeking into the picture on the bottom right hand side. There’s also a little piece of cherry pie that I just couldn’t resist. It was a little one, I swear! 😉

I had a plan for the peaches, and they’ve been sitting in the box with their nectarine buddy and ripening a bit this week.

What a peach!

This was all gone. 😦

Cherry Berry "Ice Cream"Time to make more frozen loveliness! I peeled all but one of the peaches and the nectarine (5 fruits), and gave them a blitz in the blender along with 1/4 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond breeze, the juice of a lemon, the scrapings from a random vanilla bean I had in the fridge and a little can of fat free sweetened condensed milk. Today, I added a bit of extra love to the batch too: 1/2 cup of fat free plain Greek yogurt. I put the mix into the machine and flipped the magic switch.

Magic MachineWhile my mix was going for a spin, I peeled and chopped the remaining peach. It was SO ripe and juicy. YUM!

Peachy KeenAfter the freezer had been running for 30 minutes, I added my ripe peach chunks and let it run for 10 more minutes. 

ChunkyTake a look at this!:

Peachy Creamy LoveThis batch is bursting with fresh peach flavor, creaminess and tang from the Greek yogurt, and the smooth sweetness of the condensed milk. I will be sure to add Greek yogurt from now on. I couldn’t believe the difference it made! This is the creamiest batch I’ve made so far. I’ve tried more traditional recipes using eggs and full fat dairy before, but I can be quite happy with a slightly less creamy dessert that still tastes great and is virtually fat free. The Greek yogurt really upped the creaminess (as well as the protein!) without adding extra fat. Me likey. Me likey a lot!

Seriously, I don’t know how I made it for so long without Greek yogurt in my kitchen! It’s great for making potato salad, chicken salad and tuna salad creamy. It works well in baked goods. It makes a great salad dressing when mixed with a bit of mustard/vinegar/pomegranate molasses/hummus. It’s yummy with honey/maple syrup/agave/jam/nuts and fruit. It works great as a sub for sour cream. It adds creaminess to curry. It makes a great dip for fruit when mixed with a bit of PB2 and jam. I’ve never asked it to make my morning cup of coffee, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it could do that too. Yes. I believe Greek yogurt has officially become a staple in my kitchen. In case you can’t find it where you live, you can always make your own! Making your own might be a cheaper alternative as well, and that’s a good thing these days.

Aside from my frozen deliciousness, I’ve had a pretty uneventful week in the kitchen. I mentioned that I bought a pork shoulder at the market on Saturday, and I’ve been eating leftover pulled pork all week. While not as lean as a pork tenderloin, it isn’t too bad, and I tried to minimize the fat as much as possible. First, I trimmed off all of the visible fat using my kitchen scissors, and rubbed the pork with some mesquite grilling spice mix:

Pork!Then, I put it into the slow cooker with 1/2 an onion, 1/4 cup of apple juice, 3/4 cup of water, and 2 Tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Then I let it cook on high for two hours. After two hours, I flipped it over and let it cook for a couple of hours more. 

In the PoolAt that point, my meat thermometer told me that it was done, and I pulled it out and let it rest. Easy! 

Yum!

I let it cool and then gave it a good shred with a couple of forks. 

This pork shoulder was about 2 1/4 pounds before cooking. I put in enough liquid to keep the meat moist, but the meat was really just dipping its toes in the puddle. My goal was to allow the fat and juices to run off into the bottom of the pan instead of later appearing on my plate. I grew up eating Memphis style barbecue, which isn’t typically swimming in grease or sauce. I saw a number of recipes on line for cooking a pork shoulder in a slow cooker, and most of them involved adding bottles of barbecue sauce. I think that is no bueno from a calorie perspective and also from a yumminess perspective. I didn’t need that much sauce, and there would have been no way to avoid any of the fat that had cooked off if the drippings and sauce were all incorporated. I wanted to be able to taste the meat, and I was surprised at how much I liked this given that I cooked it without the benefit of a smoker. It was moist, delicious and, maybe by virtue of its ecofriendly upbringing, it really tasted like pork. Perfect!

My friend, Inga’s mom, came over for dinner Saturday night, and we each had a big plate of summer:

Plate o' SummerI’ve enjoyed something similar for my dinners this week, but now it is all gone. 😦 I’m going to have to do this again sometime soon!

I’ve had one other blogworthy eat this week. I picked up a little package of this wondrous stuff at Whole Foods over the weekend:

Awesome!I nibbled some by itself, but quickly realized its proper place:

Outstanding Oat BranThe. Best. Oat bran. Ever. It has chocolatey nibs, coconut, sweet raisins, berries and oat bran goodness all in one big bowl. Sadly, I’m out of this yummy little mix, but I will definitely be buying more on my next Whole Foods visit!!

So, now you’ve seen the highlights from my week. I know I’ve become a once or twice a week blogger this summer, but I’m finding so many nice outdoor activities to keep me occupied. Last night, I decided to walk home from work instead of taking the metro. It took two hours, and I was pretty pooped when I got home. However, the weather was great, I enjoyed my stroll through the city, and I got some exercise without hitting the gym. I’m trying to find more opportunities for that sort of activity, and it was a fabulous day for a long trek home. What’s your favorite way to get in some exercise without going to the gym?

I’m also trying not to focus so much on food. I think that, while useful, keeping a photo journal of my eats each day was putting way too much of a focus on my food and making me a little crazy. I’m sure to go back to that eventually, but, for now, I want to focus on new dishes and treats in my posts. I loved everything in this post, and I loved telling you about it!

Now, it’s time for me to head to bed. I did something weird to my shoulder the other evening, and I don’t think this evening’s strength training workout did me any favors. I believe that some ice may be called for, and then I’m heading to bed. 

I hope you have a great weekend, and I hope you stick with me and my infrequent posts. I think I just need to take it easy a bit and go from there. I’m sure I’ll be in the kitchen this weekend, and I’ll want to tell you about it for sure. Until then, ciao for now, y’all! 🙂

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Filed under Arlington, Farmer's Market, Food, Greek Yogurt, Recipes, Slow Cooker, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story

Sweet Watermelon Sorbet, Peruvian Chicken and a Leftovers Pizza

Hi! I haven’t fallen off the face of the Earth, but I have been super busy! It was so nice having my parents here last week. We had a great time, and we had some yummy eats too. 🙂 I didn’t snap photos of all of my food last week, but I did take pictures of a few of the highlights. I mentioned a sweet frozen treat that we whipped up in my last post, and here it is:

Sweet Watermelon SorbetWe made a big batch of watermelon sorbet using my long neglected ice cream maker. Why haven’t I been using this kitchen gadget on a regular basis??? I vow to put it to good use this summer for sure.

A large watermelon arrived in my vegetable box last week, and if I hadn’t been expecting guests, I’m not sure what I would have done with a whole watermelon! I was so glad to have company here to help me eat it. Unfortunately, when we cut it open, we found out that it was already a bit on the “super ripe” side. It was a little mushy, and, even though we are all watermelon fans, it wasn’t very appealing. My mother suggested freezing it and using it in smoothies. Food waste avoidance definitely runs in the family! I remembered the ice cream maker lurking in the back of the cabinet, and we hatched a plan.

Sweet Watermelon Sorbet

Ingredients:

4 1/2 cups of seeded and pureed watermelon

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp. lemon or lime zest

The juice of one lemon or lime

Directions:

Place 1/2 cup of the watermelon puree and the sugar in a saucepan. Heat it to a simmer, and remove it from the heat. This creates a simple syrup. Stir in the lemon/lime zest and the citrus juice. Allow this mixture to cool for 20 minutes. Add the sugar mixture to the remaining 4 cups of watermelon puree. Place the mixture in your ice cream maker, and follow the machine’s instructions. It took about 30 minutes in my Cuisinart ice cream machine, and then we put it in the freezer to firm up some more overnight. 

Freeze-o-matic!Inga’s parents (you know… Inga, my favorite dog…) invited us over for dinner on Thursday evening, and we had this sorbet for dessert, along with some cute little lemon cookies from the store. Inga’s parents made some awesome steaks, tasty Israeli couscous, yummy asparagus and a nice fresh salad for dinner. It was a delicious meal– as always, and it was nice for my favorite parents to meet some of my favorite friends! 🙂 

As you can see from the photo at the top of the post, this sorbet wasn’t smooth like a sorbet that you might buy at the store. I let it sit out a bit before serving because it was quite hard, and I kind of broke it up with a heavy spoon while I was dishing it up. I think it would have been smoother if I had let it sit out a bit longer, but I was too impatient! Maybe I’ll experiment with letting it warm up a bit more the next time I make a batch. At any rate, it was a sweet, clean and refreshing end to a nice meal with family and friends. 

On Friday, I decided to take my parents to check out one of the Peruvian chicken joints in the area. We went to Super Pollo in Ballston, and it really hit the spot!

Peruvian ChickenI had 1/4 of a chicken, white meat only, with some chickpeas and fried plantains. Yum! The green sauce was nice and hot, and it was the perfect contrast to the creamy yellow sauce. I love stewed chickpeas, and the cumin flavored chickpeas might have been my favorite part of the meal. The plantains were sweet and tasted, well, pretty sinful. They were nice and caramelized, and there were even a few super sweet little crispy bits. So good! I decided to go crazy and try an Inca Kola with my meal, and I was a bit disappointed to discover that it tasted just like cream soda. I do love cream soda, but I guess I was hoping for something a bit more… interesting. 

Super Pollo has moist, tender and delicious chicken worth standing in line for, and the price can’t be beat. It was less than $25 for three plates like mine and three drinks. Around here, that’s pretty amazing! If you live in my area, this place is well worth a visit.

After our tasty lunch, we did a bit of shopping and made a quick stop at Trader Joe’s. While we were at TJ’s, I decided to grab one of their whole wheat pizza crusts (out of the refrigerator case) so that we could make a quick pizza for dinner. We did a bit of a fridge clean-out, and it made for a pretty tasty pie.

Pizza PieFirst, I put some Country Bob’s sauce on the crust. Then, I topped it with some spicy ground turkey leftover from the taco salads we had on Tuesday evening. I chopped the leftover grilled veggies from our Wednesday night meal and added them to the mix. Finally, I crowned the pizza with the rest of the ball of smoked mozzarella (leftover from grilled veggie night) and a bit of low-fat cheddar. After eight minutes in the oven on my hot pizza stone, we had a yummy dinner— and a bit of breathing room in the fridge! 

Din DinI had a great time with my parents. We didn’t really do anything very touristy during this visit, but we did see quite a bit of Arlington and Alexandria. They are pros at visiting DC now, and I guess we’ve hit most of the hot spots! I have to say that the leisurely pace they set for the week actually suited me just fine!

I enjoyed lots of delicious food during their visit, but I made plenty of reasonable choices along the way too. I really tried to make sure to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, and I tried to exercise a bit of moderation when it came to the sweets. There was an impulse Moon Pie purchase that could have been a problem, but I made it through. Perhaps it was easier given the fact that I’ve never seen a Royal Crown cola in these parts. If you are a southerner, you know that those things DO go together! 🙂

I know that my posts have been super sporadic lately, and I think I’m in the process of finding a good balance. I love posting (and reading other blogs!!!), but the warmer weather has me spending more time outdoors away from my computer. Things may continue to be sporadic for awhile, but I’m still here! I hope you will keep reading! 

Now, I need to get to bed. Ciao for now, y’all, and have an excellent week!

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Filed under Arlington, D.C., Food, Peruvian Chicken, Recipes, Sorbet, Uncategorized, Washington, Watermelon, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story