Saturday, January 28, 2012

Fine tune

This past week, I went to the Miranda Lambert concert - it was supposed to be last week, but she had to postpone the dates due to the unfortunate death of Blake Shelton's dad. If you did not know, they are married.

It was completely worth the wait - the concert was amazing, emotional, and full of girl power! Pink guitar, pink microphone, pink tights. Miranda is my kind of girl.

You could tell it was hard for her to be back on stage after such a difficult week, but she was definitely a trooper. The video below was my favorite moment of the concert. Miranda always comes across as a tough cookie, but she showed her vulnerable side, and I was able to really appreciate that. There was not a dry eye in the house. This song makes me cry whenever I hear it driving in the car, so of course I was crying during the concert. There may not have been a dry eye in the house.

Best quote of the night: "Don't tell anyone I cried all night, or I'll kick your ass."

She played a good variety of old singles, and new songs off of her record. I really enjoyed her performance of 'Fine Tune' because that is one of my favorite songs off her new album. It is unique. If you have not purchased Four the Record yet, go do it. Now. I'm telling you. It is one of the best albums I have heard in a while. I don't have the urge to skip a single song.

On a side note, in my original seat, I was sandwiched between two 30-something year old women swooning over Chris Young. Back off bitches, he's mine. And two very horny 50-year old's that would NOT stop touching each other and making out. If this is not bad enough, at one point during the set change, the gentleman stood up and his 'friend' asked if he needed to get up. He said "ha, no.. I'm just checking to make sure you are the right height *winky face.*" Her face was indeed in his crotch, and then she proceeded to rub her hands around that area. Luckily, I was able to move a few rows down where my friends were sitting.  I could not take much more of that! Imagine what would have happened when the lights were out.... even TEENAGERS do not behave that way at a concert. I was thoroughly grossed out.

I cannot avoid awkward situations, no matter where I go.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Whole again

Well, my internet has been out for a full 48 hours and it was the worst 48 hours of 2012. As you can tell, I am back on-line, because who gets on the internet without wireless? Oh, and I am dramatic.

53 dollars later, I have a new wireless router (which I may or may not need - but it is small and works well). My HD channels in my living room are also back - which is why the internet turned off in the first place. Time Warner reset SOMETHING and coincidentally that reset resulted in my internet disappearing.

I had to entertain myself with concerts (more on that later), working out, and *gasp* reading. Because my HD was out, TV just hasn't been worth watching! Again, being dramatic... I really have been busy, so it was a good time for the internet to go out (if there is a good time for that to happen).

Favorite quotes of the internet outage:

Michael Shay: Is your internet back? Or do I need to call the suicide hotline?

Jonathan (brother): OK, get out your iPad... Wait... you have an iPad?!?! When the hell did that happen? *context - we were verifying if the 'fixed' wifi worked, I had referenced my iPad several times in the conversation without this clicking*

Holla! A big shout out to my little bro who is my IT department away from work. He was calm, and talked me through fixing my internet. And after unplugging and replugging the modem in a very specific order about 5 times... Success! Here I am!!! Just in time for the weekend... because I am so cool and have no plans. Totally OK with that, it has been a long week and I am looking forward to relaxing and my first no-alarm Saturday in weeks!


Monday, January 23, 2012

The treadmill.

I really hate working out on the treadmill. If I am entertained (with a TV), I can walk on it... but it just gets so boring. I am pretty much maxed out after an hour.

Today at the gym, all of the ellipticals (with TV's) were taken... so I resorted to the treadmill. And of course I ran right into a dilemma. Do I walk, or do I run. The longest I have EVER run on the treadmill is appx. 5 minutes. It is just so. boring.

I wanted to make the most out of my workout, so I decided to try this thing called 'speedwork' that all the blog people talk about. Maybe, maybe this would entertain me?

This is how my workout went:
0 - .25: warmup at 4.5 MPH (walking)
.25 - .45: 5.5 - 6 MPH (running)
.45 - .5: recovery at 4 - 4.5 MPH (walking)
Repeat run/walk intervals until you reach desired mileage (or time)
Half-mile cool down walk (3.5 - 4 MPH)

I repeated the run/walk intervals until I reached 2 miles, and then I walked .5 miles at an average pace of 3.5 to 4 MPH for a cool down. All in all, I finished 2.5 miles in about 32 minutes.

Granted, my speeds are a lot slower than the typical runner, so feel free to adjust to your desired pace. How often should one do 'speedwork' each week? Should I incorporate this at least once a week? While the treadmill is (I repeat) so. boring... I have no interest in doing speedwork intervals outside. I like to jog along at my merry little pace! Perhaps I will get faster in time!

Now that I have discovered that the treadmill is sort of bearable... I think I want to replace one of my elliptical workouts with speedwork. I need to work this in after-work though... I got ridiculously sweaty and it took me like 30 minutes to cool off, and it's cold outside!

In other news, I am too cheap to buy a foam roller. I know these are great tools to stretch out the muscles... BUT, Target has a sale - $17 for a foam roller. And, online they have a coupon for $5 off! So I got a $25 foam roller for $12! Boy did I feel like a bargain hunter. Now I need to learn how to use it! Any tips?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ode to Barbeque

I love barbeque. Eastern North Carolina, Lexington North Carolina, and Midwestern barbeque. I really do not discriminate. Ironic: pigs are my favorite animal and have been since I was a wee little girl.

Awwwwww... me and my brother. Why wasn't I given a snack too? Hmph.

In October I took a 24-hour trip to Saint Louis for work. I ate barbeque pretty much the entire time. At the Memphis airport on the way there (NOT at the place referenced below, unfortunately) and a work lunch.

The Branding Iron, Jackson, MO

Hi little piggy!

Their spicy BBQ sauce was amazing. 

BBQ on texas toast with a loaded baked potato. Can you say 'nom nom?'

Which brings me to Memphis BBQ... on my flight back from Vegas I plotted happened to have a layover in Memphis. That airport has Jim Neely's Interstate BBQ... I can't play favorites with BBQ, but this really was ah-mayyy-zingggg. I could only eat half before I got on the plane, but you bet your bottom dollar that takeout tray flew all the way back home to Charlotte with me.

A little taste of Heaven at the airport

That would be slaw, baked beans (with brisket), and the BBQ - all served with 2 slices of Wonder Bread. I went back to get a new to-go bag because mine had sauce all up in it.. they gave me MORE bread. Oh, happy day it was!

And finally, in my Ode to Barbeque, I could not leave out Lexington-style. It just so happens that Lexington is on the way from work to my parents' house. So I can't help but stop by and pick it up whenever I make that trek directly from work... Smokey Joe's is my favorite. So cheap, and so delicious! I love that my 'welcome home' feast is always a delicious BBQ sandwich!

 Red slaw and white slaw! Both kinds to please the masses.

 Oh. Yeah. 

Baked Beans

Ok, now I am hungry... thank goodness I will be going home (via work) at the end of the month and I can make a pit stop in Lexington. Time to go forage for a snack...

Friday, January 20, 2012

2011 Belk Bowl

Over Christmas vacation, my mom and I went to the Belk Bowl (NCSU vs. Louisville - woop NCSU won!!!)

Quick summary of events: It was freezing and windy. I got to spend time with my mom and caught up with some dear friends of the family and a friend from college. I drank a lot of beer. And ate some pizza.

Here are a few pictures of the evening, since it has taken me almost 1 month to actually getting around to posting about this, I will keep it short! OOPS!

He is an NC State fan too...

Me and Sarah

Holy moly, crowd!

Me and my mom... brrrr

Me and Sam - you can't see it but I am making the Wolfpack hand!

The view from our seats, not too shabby for the cheap seats!

30 within 30 - protein challenge

I was watching Dr. Oz this week, and he recommended having 30 g of protein within 30 minutes of waking up in order to jump-start your metabolism. Mine has been sluggish, so I am willing to try almost anything at this point to lose these last 10 - 12 lbs...

In order to do so, I want to start my day with a protein shake on my way to work. I don't usually eat breakfast until 9:00 AM, and I don't think this is really helping my cause... I am not planning to replace any meals with my shake, but I am planning on switching up my eating schedule and using the shake to supplement my meals. Here's what I am going to try for the next few weeks... Until my protein powder arrives, I am going to use the Atkins shakes for a good grab-and-go option.

6:30 - 7 AM: Protein Shake
10 AM: Breakfast/snack
*insert potential lunchtime workout*
2 PM: Lunch
4 PM: Snack
*or insert potential post-work workout*
7 PM: Dinner

Based on this informative post, I chose to order the Food Science of Vermont Vanilla powder, and plan to mix this with 1 c. of Smart Balance milk. This will give me 31 g of protein to start my day. Let's see how long this lasts...

I also discovered Luna Bars. To me, protein bars have a reputation of being diet-y and gross. But I decided needed to give them a try again (breakfast on the run), on my new quest for more protein. I think the Peanut Honey Pretzel bar has officially changed my life. The stats were great for a protein bar... I compared a few on-the-spot in the aisle at Target. And I really did not have high hopes. OMG this protein bar was good. I think you could unwrap it and give it to someone, telling them that it was a cool new candy bar, and they might not know the difference. Maybe this is because I haven't had a candy bar in a while and have forgotten what they taste like... but I am not exaggerating about the deliciousness.

What is your favorite protein bar? Do you have a protein powder that you favor? Do you believe Dr. Oz's theory of 30 within 30?

Soy Horseradish Tofu

Last week, I had my first Tofu Xpress experience. For those of you who don't know what it is, it is a tofu press for people like me who are grossed out by the layers of kitchen towels and heavy pots method. Anyway, you have to press the liquid out of your tofu, in order for it to absorb the flavor in which you are cooking it. In this case, soy sauce and horseradish. I was inspired by this recipe - but added the horseradish to kick it up a notch!

I pressed the tofu overnight, and then sliced it.. in hindsight, I probably would have marinated it overnight as well - or at least for a few hours. Hindsight is 20/20. I just poured the marinade over the tofu.

For the marinade, I mixed soy sauce and horseradish up. After that got on the tofu slices, I sprinkled them on both sides with sesame seeds and baked in the oven at 400 degrees for about 12 minutes on each side.

While this was a great flavor combination, I wish I would have marinated it longer.

On the side, I served a tofu noodle stir fry with some bean sprouts and an asparagus, onion, mushroom mix from Trader Joes. Delicious. Extra flavor was added with soy sauce and some spicy chili sauce. This was by far my favorite part of the meal, and ridiculously low in calories. I might make this prepared with the sesame tofu diced up next time!

Also, I made a sesame rice - I would say it turned out just 'eh.' I had quicker cooking rice than the recipe called for... so the rice got overcooked. The flavor was there though, and this would be delicious had I cooked it properly. Note to self: don't try cooking rice in the oven, just throw the ingredients in the rice maker. I did get to use my mini Fiesta casserole dishes! That was very exciting.

 I think I want to try making Italian breaded tofu next time I make it! I wonder if I mix in some nutritional yeast, if I can pretend I am eating mozzarella cheese sticks (yeah, right but a girl can dream!) I also bought tempeh and want to do something with that eventually... Any suggestions?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Healthy Breakfast Cookies

I figured making healthy breakfast cookies would be a good alternative to bringing an English muffin or something of the like on my train trip to DC. The train left Charlotte at 7 AM, and I promptly eat breakfast at 9 AM, so I had to have something mid-travel (preferably not out of the cafe car)! Chocolate Covered Katie posted a recipe for healthy breakfast cookies that I thought would fit the bill!

Of course, I had to change up the recipe a bit to make it my own. These did turn out delicious - I would eat them for breakfast, or a dessert. They weren't too sweet and had just enough peanut butter taste in them to satisfy me. My only complaint, this recipe only makes about 12 (small-ish) cookies. A serving size based on my nutrition facts would be 4 cookies. I wouldn't be able to eat JUST this for breakfast - I had a clementine with it... and then plenty of other snacks later in the day...

Here it is... Pieces of Cake's Version of Breakfast Cookies - that contain mostly healthy ingredients, just not the best caloric stats I've seen...

1/2 c. rolled oats
1 individual container of no sugar added applesauce
1/4 c. reduced fat Jif
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 tbsp. mini chocolate chips
Pinch of salt
1 packet Splenda (or other no-calorie sweetener)

Mix all of the ingredients together and form in to 12 cookies. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 12 - 14 minutes. Store in the refrigerator if you don't eat immediately.

Calories 293, fat 13 g, carbs 28 g, protein 8 g, fiber 2 g, sodium 167 g

In hindsight, I would have used only half of the chocolate chips (1.5 tablespoons) to get a bit of the chocolate flavor, with a few less calories. Adding cocoa powder to the batter would make these taste a lot like no-bake cookies, and using a mashed ripe banana instead of applesauce would add some additional natural sweetness. Adding some walnuts or pecans would add a bit of crunch. There are plenty of variations!

What is your favorite on-the-go breakfast?

Happy 100th post!!!

Pieces of Cake has gone through an evolution over the years... and this is my 100th post! I look forward to growing my blog even more in the future. Thanks to everyone for reading, following, and commenting!!!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mid January check-in

I am going to keep on keepin' on with these check-in posts. They are helping me stay accountable to my goals, even if I don't keep with them 100%.

I fell off the bandwagon this weekend with my half-marathon training. It was just too cold in Washington DC to spend more than 10 minutes outside. In all reality, I have only skipped two days - and substituted today's workout. I was supposed to run 3.5 miles. It was really windy outside and I didn't feel like dealing with that... so I walked 4 miles on the treadmill in 60 minutes. I felt like that was a good compromise. Then I rewarded myself with sushi with my friend Kristen - I hadn't seen her since before the holidays, so it was wonderful to catch up.

Also, this place has such. cheap. sushi. I'm talking $6 for 12 pieces... and average-sized pieces too. It was legit. It has been a few hours, and I am still alive. It is only about 2 miles from my apartment. Hello, takeout. I can afford sushi on the reg if it is as cheap as going through the McDonald's drive through.

I have a date tomorrow - I had to take a one week hiatus. Back at it this week though. Next week I am stepping out of my comfort zone and going to an after-work social event with work people my own age. I feel like that counts... right? Maybe? Or maybe I will have a second date!

Food-wise... I am pretty successfully avoiding going out to lunches this week. My only lunch outing is planned for Thursday. I will be eating in for dinner Thursday and Friday nights. Then Saturday I am going to Greensboro to meet my friend Casey! And her husband Brent... who is also my friend. Casey and I are getting haircuts and having girl-time. I can't wait!!! It is a good halfway point to meet for the day.

Thursday night is the Miranda Lambert concert. Another exciting event that I absolutely cannot wait for. I have been listening to her new CD non-stop in anticipation. If you haven't heard it yet, listen to Four the Record. My favorite songs: Over You, Fine Tune, and Safe. Seriously... Go, right now to Spotify.

Life has been so busy lately. I have no idea how I did it when I was in school. I guess I am just filling my time with different things. I think it took me a record 24 hours from arriving home from my trip to unpack my suitcase completely. Usually this is completed within an hour of walking through the door... I am also playing catch-up with my DVR. Ready for a relaxing Friday night in, where it is warm!

Looking forward to the week ahead, and so thankful that it is already Wednesday... and that I have so many great things to look forward to!

MLK Jr. Weekend in DC

I spent the last weekend in Washington DC, visiting two of my dear friends:

Keena and Christine.

I took Amtrak from Charlotte to Washington DC - would I do it again? Maybe, but probably not... airplanes are faster. Taking the train from Charlotte to Raleigh is a much more reasonable distance. However, you got to take big suitcases on the train - and being the control freak that I am, I like to have my luggage with me at all times. Relinquishing the carry on at the gate check is very challenging for me. In the wintertime, being able to take a big piece of luggage with you (for free) is critical since clothes are so much more.. voluminous. P.S. I miss summer.

If you can't tell from these photos, we had an awesome time. We enjoyed the International Spy Museum where I got some very valuable training on spy technology and tactics. Will serve useful in my 'side job.' If I told you more, I'd have to.... well, you know... naturally, we weren't allowed to take pictures. Grr. Don't they know I need to document everything?!?

We also went to the Smithsonian Museum of American History, where we took plenty of pictures. It was  really cold. Yes, I was outside in the cold. I know this is unheard of and really not normal behavior for one who hibernates all winter, but I had some tourist-y things to do.

Such as, take pictures of monuments.

And, pretend to be the president. Watch out 2016...

The weekend ended perfectly, with all things North Carolina. Drinking Cheerwine at Ray's Hell Burger. I was so excited for the burger to arrive, that I completely forgot to take a picture... So let me tell you: the burger was rubbed in a spicy chipotle sauce, cooked medium, and topped with sauteed mushrooms, onions, and brie cheese. Nothing better than brie on a burger, in my opinion. It. Was. Amazing. With a side of mac and cheese. Do yourself a favor, and go there.

At Union Station in DC, where my train was departing, there happens to be a Bojangles - while I have a Bojangles approximately 3 blocks from my apartment, my DC friends do not. Can you believe the only one in DC is located at the train station?! Anyway, a kids supreme meal for me it was! The fries were eh, the chicken and biscuit were delicious, and so was the honey mustard.

The train ride back wasn't quite as pleasant as the train ride in - it seemed about 2 hours longer (it kind of was, of course there were plenty of delays), lots of screaming children, and a hacking sick coughing woman sitting directly behind me. I am currently crossing my fingers, hoping that I do not get sick!

DC has always been one of my favorite cities, and now it is even better since two of my wonderful friends live there. Thanks to both Keena and Christine for a fantastic weekend. I can't wait to come back and visit, when it is warmer. I promise I will be back when the high is at least 70 degrees.

In closing, my favorite picture of the weekend. This basically sums up our friendship.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Vapor 4 Life - Giveaway Winner

Vapor4Life giveaway announcement time!! I used to pick a number... and...

The winner is - Sanna!!! Please email me with your address, and I will get this sent off to you this week! Congratulations!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mid-week check-in

Here is my check-in for the week...

Half Marathon Training - Week 2

  • Monday: Pilates
  • Tuesday: 3 mile run
  • Wednesday: 30 minutes on eliptical
  • Thursday: 3 mile run, free weights while watching TV (arms)
  • Friday: rest while stuck on a train
  • Saturday: Monument run and lots of walking
  • Sunday: More walking, I am sure

On track so far! I am lucky to be meeting up with friends who also want to get out and work out! I am also going to be in a city where I will be doing a lot of walking. Good thing, because I surely will be doing a lot of eating. It is restaurant week in DC, and I plan on eating my way through the city... 

Meals - 2012 Week 2

I did eat out yesterday for lunch, tomorrow lunch is provided (training class), and Thursday we are having lunch with a supplier... So, more lunches out than I had anticipated. But, I am trying to stay healthy and track! So far, so good.

I realized my loophole in my eating out plan - I didn't include anything breakfast related... I am going have to put a limit on it, because I love getting breakfast to-go on the way to work. I am going to allow myself one breakfast per week, and one trip to Dunkin' Donuts for coffee per week. This week I have been to DD once for just coffee, and I am going to grab it for breakfast tomorrow. Looks like I will be packing my breakfast for the train on Friday :-)

One of my goals also was to cook with tofu more often - I tried a new recipe tonight. More details to come on that later... but, here is a picture of my masterpiece creation. Tofu served two different ways! That is kind of cheating though, tofu noodles don't realllly count. The side in the casserole dish is sesame rice. 

P.S. Don't forget to enter my blog giveaway!!!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Weekend Recap

This weekend I did absolutely as little as possible. This won't be the most exciting post.

I did, however, accomplish something completely unheard of in Katie-land. I ate out only ONCE this weekend (because I had to). I tried a new recipe. I ran 7 (total) miles. And walked who knows how many more.... New Year's goals are totally on track!!

Friday: worked, came home, ran 3 miles, collapsed on couch, played on iPad, watched DVR, ate dinner four-year-old style (pigs in a blanket, mac and cheese, coleslaw, and a pudding cup). The equivalent of a perfect Friday to me. 

Saturday: Drove to High Point to meet my mom and neighbor for adventures at FurnitureLand South, where we walked who knows how many miles - they have over one million square feet of 'showroom space', I saw the world's largest dresser (correction: world's largest '18th century Highboy' replica), and everyone bought the furniture they came there to buy (well not for me, I didn't buy anything. I was just there for moral support). Again, came home and ate a repeat of the 4 year old's dinner and collapsed on the couch.

Sunday: Woke up at 8 AM (too early.), watched bad Lifetime movies, fell asleep again, woke up again, ran 4 miles, watched more bad TV, made Stuffed Cabbage Casserole. Ate it. Acquired horrible headache. Passed out.

The week ahead:

Continuing to make good progress on my New Year's goals.

  • I am on track for my half-marathon training plan (Pilates tonight)
  • I have been flossing every day! Confession: not last night, my head hurt too badly and I just quick-brushed my teeth before passing out.
  • I am trying a new tofu recipe this week (but adding horseradish) and making a sesame rice and bean sprout, asparagus, mushroom saute to go with. 

All New Year's goals go on hold this weekend... Well, I will still be exercising (walking, maybe a run or two, and perhaps dancing!) and flossing and hopefully eating decently... But I am going to Washington DC this weekend to visit two dear friends!!! I can't wait! I have some cute new outfits to show off wear. It has been about 3 years since I have been to DC (for a very brief appearance) and it is one of my favorite cities. Oh yeah, I am taking Amtrak again... should be fun! The train I am on has wifi. Thank goodness.

I am looking forward to going to the International Spy Museum, the Newseum, trying new restaurants, and last but not least seeing Keena and Christine!!

Stuffed Cabbage Casserole

Being a good little Polish girl, Golumpki (gwumpki) is one of my favorite Polish meals, but I don't get it often. Who wants to actually stuff cabbage? Bring on a casserole.

Last night's dinner: Stuffed Cabbage Casserole courtesy of

The only actual ingredient substitution I made from the original recipe was to use turkey instead of ground beef. Other modifications: I didn't use olive oil, and used half of the cheese. I only had sweet and spicy Hungarian paprika (read: cayenne), so I used half of what the recipe called for and it gave it a nice kick! I also cut my dish in to 8 pieces, rather than 10. Because I used the turkey and cut the olive oil, the nutritional facts are still great!

Katie's Version of Stuffed Cabbage Casserole

  • 1 lb. 93/7 Ground Turkey
  • 1 large onion, chopped fine
  • 1 tbsp finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme1 tsp sweet Hungarian Paprika
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 heads green cabbage, coarsely chopped>
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) petite dice tomatoes with juice
  • 1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
  • 1/4 + 1/3 cup water, divided
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup low-fat mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a large glass casserole dish with non-stick spray. (My dish was 13" x 9").

Heat a large frying pan on medium heat; add ground beef and cook until it's browned and cooked through, breaking it apart as it cooks. Remove ground beef and set aside.

In the same pan, add chopped onion and cook over medium heat until the onion is translucent and starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic, dried thyme, and paprika and cook about 2 minutes more. Then add the diced tomatoes with juice, tomato sauce, and ground beef. Add 1/4 c. water to the pan. Simmer until it's hot and slightly thickened, about 15-20 minutes.

While it simmers, cut cabbage in half, cut out the core, and remove any wilted outer leaves; chop the cabbage coarsely into 1 inch pieces.

In a large pot or pan, add the cabbage and 1/3 c. water. Cook over medium heat (steaming the cabbage with lid on) until the cabbage is wilted and about half cooked, turning it over several times so it all wilts and cooks. Season with salt and fresh-ground black pepper.

When the meat and tomato sauce mixture has cooked and thickened a bit, stir in the 2 cups of cooked rice and gently combine.

Spray casserole dish with non-stick spray and the layer half the cabbage, half the meat mixture, remaining cabbage, and remaining meat mixture. Cover tightly with foil and bake 30 - 40 minutes, or until the mixture is just starting to bubble on the edges.

Remove foil and sprinkle on cheese. Bake uncovered an additional 15 - 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and starting to slightly brown. Serve hot.

Recipe serves 8 (hearty servings)! 275 calories, 29 g carbs, 8 g fat, 22 g protein, 7 g fiber, 655 g sodium

This. Was. Delicious. Took a while to put together, but the end result was so worth it. It was also relatively inexpensive... Cabbage is so cheap to cook with. You really get the bang for your buck with this casserole. Try this, tonight! What is your favorite healthy casserole recipe? Please share!!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Giveaway - Vapor4Life

Welcome to my first blog giveaway! I hope to do more of these... I received a request from Vapor4Life a while back to review one of their products, and they were happy to provide me one for myself, and one to give to a lucky reader! Unfortunately, between finishing school and the holidays - it has taken me far to long to get to this post. For that, I apologize!

You are probably asking... what is Vapor4Life?

Vapor4Life sells electronic cigarettes, which are a smoking alternative that produce a water vapor instead of smoke. Therefore, it has no ash, bad smell, or even a flame because it’s battery operated. An e-cigarette is essentially a battery powered alternative to smoking. 

While I am not a smoker, I know many people who occasionally smoke cigarettes (ahem, while drinking, ahem).. and I personally own a Hookah, and do not smoke frequently; however, it is a nice way to relax. 

All you have to do is charge the e-cigarette with the provided charger, insert the flavor (+nicotine, if you so desire) cartridge in to the end. The cigarette automatically turns on when you take a puff and off when you have finished the puff. 

The cartridges are available in a variety of flavors and nicotine strengths, ranging from nicotine-free (recommended to users who do not want any nicotine or have reduced their nicotine level down but still want to experience the hand-to-mouth simulation while enjoying the flavors) to 36 mg (recommended for users who smoke multiple packs of "full flavor" cigarettes per day).

My favorite is to enjoy a fruity flavor cartridge with a glass of wine... which reminds me: summer, oh how I miss you! While I do enjoy sitting down to smoke hookah, this is a much more efficient way of doing a similar activity. You still get the flavor and the water vapor, and can choose your level of nicotine.

Because these are smoke-free cigarettes, using water vapor, they are safe to smoke inside and won't leave any of the stinky cigarette mess behind.

I opted to giveaway a nicotine free electronic cigarette starter kit on my blog. This is great to have if you are an occasional smoker, or are trying to quit the habit and like the routine of smoking. I have tried my e-cigarette a few times, indoors, with no issues. The flavors taste delicious! From Peach Cobbler to Pineapple to Vanilla to Clove.. there are so many flavors to choose from.

This starter kit includes 2 e-cigarettes, the wall charger, and 5 flavor cartridges (all nicotine-free): melon, pineapple, watermelon, green apple, and banana.

To enter this giveaway, leave a comment here of your favorite flavor of the 5 provided!! A second entry will be provided if you like Pieces of Cake on Facebook and leave a comment doing so. This giveaway will close on Sunday at 9PM and the winner will be posted then. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year's Resolutions: an update

So now that I am two days back in to the swing of things, I thought of a few more things I want to add to my New Year's resolution list. I feel like many of my resolutions are some things that I should be doing on a daily basis, and are definitely do-able.

I would call these more goals than resolutions, and hopefully  many of them will turn in to good habits, naturally occurring in my daily routine.

Original goals are in italic, and new/updated resolutions are in bold. I completely left out any 'personal' goals... Oopsies! Can't forget about #1!

Weight Loss

  • Get down to my goal weight by the end of April - after the holidays, I am sure I have at least 15 lbs to lose now. Darn Christmas cookies.  
  • For the month of January: only eat out for lunch once per week and dinner twice per week. Revisit this in February to make sure it is realistic.  
  • Oh, and stay away from alcohol as much possible (Realistically, this means once per week, if that). Exception for January: MLK Weekend in DC. 
  • Cook more fresh and healthy foods! Invest in fresh produce every week and plan meals each week.
  • Clean out my freezer by supplementing fresh foods with meals I have in my freezer. So far, so good!

    • Train for and run at least one half marathon (hopefully 2: one in July, and one in December).
    • Take a Pilates class at the gym.
    • Do a new Pilates DVD from Netflix at least once per week. 
    • Learn how to strength train at the gym and at home to supplement my running efforts.
    • Instead of going out to lunch, go to the gym! 
    • Run at least 3 times per week (once on the weekends!) This is covered in my workout schedule!
    • Create a monthly workout schedule (check!) for January - March and stick to it (on schedule so far!) Continue this in to Feb, March, and April. 
    • Stretch before and after my runs, and after I do the eliptical. Incorporate a new stretching routine (I downloaded it free from itunes!) at least once in January. 


    • Go on approximately 1 date per week - or at least make more of an effort to get one per week...
    • Floss every night, not just 'when I feel like it.' - you know you have it on your list too. 
    • Follow my skin care regimen laid out by my dermatologist - scalp, hand, and back care. Time consuming but I need to get these issues back under control, especially in the winter months when it all seems to get worse. 
    • Tidy up my apartment each night before going to bed - this means: put away clutter, load dishwasher, and get things ready for the morning.
    • Make bed on the weekends. For real. 
    • Cook a new tofu recipe at least 2x per month.

    • Become an expert in sourcing marketing and communications spend at work
    • Take more training classes to complement my professional development

    • Start a food-related blog project once I reach my goal weight
    • Make something at least once a month off of Pinterest to feature on my blog
    • Host some fun blog giveaways! (Stand by. One is coming soon!)

    Wait... These goals aren't scary! They are attainable and will keep me on track for healthy living in 2012!

    I am EXCITED!!! And so is Betsy... New year, new beginnings!!!

    Ok, we were really excited to see Taylor, but if we took a picture about how we feel about 2012... this is what it would look like. 

    Spanish Rice and a Quesadilla

    Last night for dinner, I tried out a spanish rice recipe with things I had in my pantry, and a quesadilla with things I had in my freezer and fridge! Trying this whole, make what you have and don't eat out thing... It seems to be working pretty well! Thank goodness my dad sent me home with some tortillas, or else I might be starving to death :-p Just kidding. That would never happen in my house.

    Betsy found this recipe and we both had very similar dinners last night! Here is my spin on it...

    Spanish Rice

    1/2 c. uncooked brown rice (cook it!)
    1/2 large onion, diced
    1 c. diced peppers of any kind (I used frozen mixed peppers)
    2/3 tsp. chili powder
    1/3 tsp. cumin
    1 can petite diced tomatoes, partially drained
    Salt and Pepper to taste

    Saute the onion and peppers in a large pot until softened and onions have a golden color. Add cumin and chili powder. Add in can of diced tomatoes. Let simmer for a few minutes. Add in cooked rice. Stir all together and let simmer until all of the liquid is absorbed. Salt and pepper to taste.

    This makes 3 servings of a very healthy 1+ cups each.

    Nutrition Info:
    179 calories, 39 g carbs, 1 g fat, 4 g protein, 6 g fiber, 337 g sodium

    Black Bean Burger Quesadilla

    1 medium whole wheat and/or high fiber tortilla
    1 spicy black bean burger (I used morningstar), diced
    1 wedge chipotle laughing cow queso
    1/4 c. frozen peppers, thawed
    1/4 c. shredded lettuce

    Spread queso on to tortilla, pile rest of the toppings on one half. Fold and grill! You may have to put a small plate or bowl on top of the quesadilla as it cooks to keep it folded. This makes one super-stuffed quesadilla!!

    Serves 1. Nutrition info will change based on tortilla and burger, so I did not include it on this recipe.You could really add anything to this quesadilla and it would taste delicious - spinach, onions, more cheese??? The list goes on.

    Served with Spanish Rice - excess toppings spilled out and piled on top!

    In other news, I started training for the Raleigh Rocks half-marathon yesterday. I may or may not run the race, but I figure why not try and train for it to have some structure to my routine. Here goes nothing...

    Week 1:
    Monday: Rest
    Tuesday: Eliptical
    Wednesday: 2 mile run
    Thursday: Eliptical
    Friday: 3 mile run
    Saturday: Rest.. maybe pilates/a stretching workout?
    Sunday: 4 mile run

    *Note: because Saturday is supposed to be gorgeous, and Sunday is supposed to be rainy/blah... these may get switched around.

    Tuesday, January 3, 2012

    Cookie Dough Dip

    Thanks to Chocolate Covered Katie, I have a recipe for Cookie Dough Dip. Pick your jaws up off the floor and put on your stretchy pants. This stuff is good. And you won't believe the secret (healthy) ingredient!

    You can find Katie's recipe above, but here is my version. She also has a sugar free version!

    Cookie Dough Dip (serves 6)

    • 1 1/2 cups chickpeas (1 can, drained) 
    • 1/8 tsp plus 1/16 tsp salt
    • tiny bit over 1/8 tsp baking soda
    • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
    • 3 tbsp reduced fat creamy peanut butter 
    • 2 tbsp milk
    • 1/4 c. Splenda brown sugar
    • 2 to 3 tbsp oats
    • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
    Add all ingredients (except for chocolate chips) to a blender or food processor, and blend until very smooth. Then mix in the chocolate chips.

    The first time I made this, I put it in a blender. It turned out well, but the food processor got it a lot creamier and took the garbanzo bean texture out. I served it with graham crackers on the side - it was a hit at the party and no one had a clue that this was made from garbanzo beans!!


    Nutrition Info as prepared (dip only):

    217 Calories, 33 g carbs, 8 g fat, 7 g protein, 5 g fiber, 275 g sodium
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