how to make an epic salad

Thanks for all the sweet and encouraging comments on yesterday’s posts.  Every single comment on this blog truly means so much to me!

Today has been pretty uneventful really…I’ve spent the morning working away on the blog and Outbox stuff, breaking just long enough for breakfast and lunch.   I do, however, have a new “eats” page at the top to show for it – so go check it out if you get the chance!

Jon and I did go out for a run this morning, which unfortunately turned into a half run half walk.  We intended to crank out 3 quick miles, but the return of the heat and humidity plus Jon running late for work got the best of us.  I think we may start hitting up the treadmill for our short runs until this heat lets up a little bit.  I am not a big fan of the treadmill, but I’m even less of a fan of sweltering heat.

Breakfast this morning was one of my all-time favorites

Cinnamon raisin Ezekiel muffin with 1 tbsp of natural peanut butter and half a sliced banana

And lunch was one of my favorites from last year.  When I was a teacher, I would make my lunch before I went to bed every night.  A version of this salad was one of quickest, easiest, healthiest and most popular meals I ever took!  Popular because several of my coworkers would always ooh and ahh over it’s color and beauty.  Now that I am at home for many lunches, I don’t make it as much, seeing as how I don’t have to worry about being on-the-go…but today it was resurrected!

So, in honor of our last few weeks of summer, here is a quick little tutorial on how to create an awesome salad.  Salads don’t have to be just lettuce. I’ll be the first one to say “I don’t like salads” if we’re talkin’ lettuce and a few tomatoes thrown on top. I know some people really dig that, but for me – they’ve got to be loaded with different flavors, textures and colors to be enjoyable and to keep me going throughout the afternoon.  So, here we go.

Pick your base

  • spinach
  • spring mix
  • romaine
  • kale

*Next, chop your greens and put them in a large bowl. This salad could get big, so leave plenty of room:)  I always chop mine up because I want every bite of salad to have a bit of everything.  Plus, I try to avoid shoving giant lettuce leaves in my mouth in front of my lunch buddies (which granted, now mainly include Olive).

Choose and chop your veggies. I like my salads to be bulky.  Lettuce really ends up being a smallish part of the overall masterpiece.  But you definitely want to create volume by tossing in lots of different veggies.  I usually use anywhere between 3 and 5 of the options below.

  • squash
  • zucchini
  • mushrooms
  • artichoke hearts (a must in my opinion!)
  • onions
  • celery
  • carrots
  • bell pepper
  • broccoli
  • snow peas
  • sprouts
  • corn
  • cold peas
  • asparagus
  • beets, shredded
  • green onions
  • tomatoes

Choose your protein. Every good salad has to have protein.  I’m going to stick to vegetarian suggestions.  For beans, I usually add in about 1/3 – 1/2 of a cup.  Sometimes I’ll go with 2 different types of beans and add 1/4 cup of each.

  • beans (kidney, black, chick peas, navy etc)
  • chopped egg
  • nuts (sliced almonds, walnuts etc)
  • tempeh
  • tofu

Choose your healthy fat.

  • avocado
  • nuts/seeds
  • olive oil

Choose your dressing.  Now we all know that a bad dressing can ruin the most healthy and delicious salad.  The great thing is that with all the flavorful elements you’re adding to this salad, you don’t need much of a dressing!  Here are a few of my personal favorites – just to add a bit of moisture.

  • balsamic vinegar, straight up.  I poor on about 1-2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar and call it a day.  It adds the perfect amount of flavor, in my opinion.
  • olive oil
  • lime or lemon juice
  • salsa
  • hummus

And now for what I consider to be the best and final add ins. These are things that really add a huge punch of flavor or texture.

  • dried fruit without added sugar (cranberries are my favorite)
  • chia seeds
  • fresh fruit (apples, mandarin oranges, strawberries, blueberries, pears, grapes)
  • seasonings – sometimes just a sprinkle of ground red pepper or oregano can add the perfect touch

Now that all of your ingredients are in a huge bowl, it’s time to mix it up!

This is one of the most important steps because if you just add everything onto a plate, layer by layer, then you won’t get a little bit of every ingredient in most bites.  And we definitely cannot deal with that.  So mix it up really, really well!

Lastly, dump it all out either onto a plate or in a to-go container. Now off you go with a super healthy, filling and tasty lunch that will make you the envy of everyone you know! ha.

Note: obviously some of these suggested ingredients can serve for more than one category.  For instance, olive oil could serve as your healthy fat and your dressing.  Or chia seeds could serve as a fun, crunchy add on or as a source of healthy fat or protein.  You get the picture.

If you’re someone who is always in a hurry when making lunch like I was was, I suggest using some time on the weekend to pre-chop your veggies that need it (rocket science, right?).  Then reserve a small space on one shelf of your fridge for “salad fixins.”  That way, when you get ready to create your salad, everything is ready to go – you can just snatch it out of the fridge, toss in a little of this and a little of that, throw a lid on it and go!

Along with creating this salad for lunch today, I also made a new and improved batch of hummus.

Spicy Garlic Hummus


  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp tahini
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp vinegar
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp water
  • 1/4 tsp ground red pepper


  • toss everything into a food processor minus 1 tsp minced garlic and process until smooth
  • transfer hummus to a small bowl and add remaining tsp of garlic to the very center
  • garnish with a sprinkle of ground red pepper

Well, I’m off to have a (hopefully) productive afternoon!  See you all later;)

What is your favorite salad topping?

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counting and cookies


Today has been a pretty low key day.  Jon and I took a rest day today, so no workout this morning.  We got up just in time to get ready and head to the coffee shop.

One of my favorite things in life is local coffee shops. Now, you all know that I love my Starbucks for a quick and tasty cup of coffee, and it’s a good thing because unfortunately our favorite local coffee shop is only open between 7 and 3.  So, outside of those hours, we head to Starbucks.  But on mornings when we hit up The Daily Grind I seem to have an extra spring in my step, like everything is right with the world.

However, this morning as we sauntered up to get our coffee fix, we ran into this

Another unfortunate fact about hometown coffee goodness is that if something goes wrong – the whole shop closes down.  Charming on one hand, yet very disappointing on the other.

By that point my stomach was growling up a storm, so I headed home to make some breakfast.

For some crazy reason I seem to be on a bit of an egg kick.  Not sure how I feel about that – but I decided to go with it.  I cooked one organic, free-range egg + one egg white in the microwave for 2 minutes and then sandwiched it between 2 Van’s flax waffles for a simple, delicious and filling breakfast.

After a few hours of work and tutoring, I met up with my friend Grace for our weekly Panera lunch date.  I ordered a half Mediteranean Veggie sandwich and half Garden Vegetable soup with an apple.

It hit the spot as usual!  I packed up the apple to take home.  Fun fact about Panera apples: My love affair with apples began at Panera.  I had never really loved them before, and then one day I ordered one at Panera just because I didn’t want chips or more bread – and I totally fell in love!  After that I had an apple almost every day for months on end.

Today I started something new in my life that I want to tell you about.

I started counting calories. Over the course of the summer I have slowly put on a few happy pounds.  I call them happy pounds because they’re a result of carefree summer days and nights, eating whatever I please and enjoying every second of it.  Sounds lovely, right?  Well, it has been fun, but now I’m starting to really feel it.  Fall is coming on fast and all my flowy skirts will soon be tucked away in favor of warmer tighter jeans.  While I’m more than ready for jeans, jackets, football games and cold morning runs, I’m not really feelin’ the tight uncomfortable feel these extra pounds are plaguing me with.

I am in full support and favor of intuitive eating and not worrying about the numbers.  It’s a well-known fact that calorie counting is….how do I put it…frowned upon in the blog world.  The reason for this is because it can be more hurtful than helpful for many people.  Oftentimes people become obsessive or bogged down by the numbers, and it becomes a negative factor in their lives.  Over the last couple of weeks, I have tried to intuitively cut back in smalls ways, but because I’ve gotten into the habit of eating however much I feel like eating, I’ve sort of lost touch a little bit with my hunger signals and with appropriate portion sizes.

In addition to that, race training can add difficulty to listening to hunger cues.  And I don’t just mean overeating.  I also mean under-eating.  Yesterday could serve as a perfect example.  Knowing that I’m trying to cut back a little bit, I was focusing on eating smaller portions; however, because we had run 5 miles yesterday morning, my body was feeling extra hungry all day and I wanted to make sure I was fueling it properly, while not overdoing it.  On long run days it’s easy to have the mentality that because I ran this morning, I can eat however much I want.  If I really want to feel better and fit into my jeans in the coming weeks, that’s not gonna cut it.

So while calorie counting has sort of a bad reputation, it can also be helpful for getting back on track and being more diligent about giving your body exactly what it needs through discipline.  I plan on counting until I feel that I’ve gotten back in the groove as far as listening to my body and gauging portion sizes, and then I’ll be able to carry on with my normal intuitive eating as usual.  Counting calories is not something I’m interested in doing for the long term, but for the next several weeks I’m counting (ha) on it helping me out:)

I’ll keep you updated on how it’s going.  Feel free to ask me if you have an questions about it.  I don’t plan on posting calorie amounts, but will of course still be posting my daily eats.

And now, on a slightly different note, I bring to you the promised recipe for

Super-Charge Me Cookies from Eat, Drink and Be Vegan


  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 2/3 cup spelt flour
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1/4-1/3 cup raisins or chopped dried fruit (I used dried cranberries)
  • 3-4 tbsp carob or chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup flax meal
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp nut butter (I used peanut)
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp organic canola oil (I settled for non-organic)


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a bowl, combine oats, flour, salt, cinnamon, coconut, dried cranberries and carob/chocolate chips, sift in baking powder, and stir until well combined.
  • In a separate bowl, combine flax meal, syrup, nut butter, and vanilla and stir until well combined.
  • Stir in oil.
  • Add wet mixture to dry, and stir until just well combined (do not overmix).
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Spoon batter onto baking sheet, evenly spaced apart, and lightly flatten.
  • Bake for 13 minutes (no longer, or they will dry out).
  • Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet for 1 minute (no longer), then transfer to a cooling rack.

See you all later!

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a hoax

Only a few more hours left to enter the chia seed giveaway!

Yesterday I was MIA…at least here on the blog.

There was, however, a lot of action going on off the blog.

Cookies were baked (and eaten!)

Walks were taken

Delicious food was prepared and consumed

And the moon was watched.

Not sure what that other object is – it wasn’t visible except in the photo.  Must have been something to do with the lense?

Yes, that’s right.  I said the moon was watched.

My lovely sister sent me a text message on Friday evening tell me that at 12:30 am I would be able to see Mars and that it would appear as big as the moon.  Well, I’m not one to miss out on an event this epic!

So, while Jon fell asleep by about 11pm, I burned the midnight oil, waiting for my chance to get a glimpse of the red planet.  At exactly 12:28 I shook Jon awake and told him, “you have to get up!  we have to go see Mars!”

He faithfully stumbles after me, down the hall and out the front door, where he sleepily plops down on the porch while I stand in the middle of the yard, camera ready.

I watch…and watch….and watch.  Waiting.

And nothing.  There was nothing but the trusty moon and a sprinkling of tiny stars.

So, after about 10 minutes, we traipse back inside where I immediately hop on the computer to get the lowdown.  It’s at this point that I find out that we’d been duped!  Apparently this email goes out every year, and it’s all a hoax designed to get fools like me to stare up at the sky, hoping to see a once in a lifetime event.


Luckily the husband is very sweet and forgiving of my crazy antics.

But Cristen, you better watch your back ;)

Onward and upward.

This morning we got up super late for our weekly long run.  Because we cut back to the half marathon, our weekly long run was cut back as well.  So we went out for 5 miles.  I think I underestimated it.  I was a little too cocky.

We’ve been running seven plus miles, so I thought we had this one in the bag.  It didn’t go so well, however.  By the time we got out there the sun was beating down with a vengeance, and despite the drop in temperatures as of late, it was blazing hot.  With the help of a little walking, we finished it out though.  Bad runs always happen, so we’re not too bummed.  The walking time was actually kind of nice:)  We’ll get revenge next week.

I’m off to get caught up on some work that piled up a bit while we were playing all day yesterday. I’ll be back with a recipe for the second batch of cookies later.

Hope you all had a fantastic weekend!

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a thai kind of night

Last night we had a special visitor!

Bjorn was a part of the team we worked with in Thailand, and he now lives in California.  He was in town last night, so he and Jon had dinner together and then they came back to the house afterward to hang out.

I had my weekly scheduled chat session for my photography class, so I couldn’t go to dinner.  And when Jon told me they were going to our local Thai restaurant I was so bummed because I’ve been craving Thai food.  And I wanted to spend time with Bjorn of course!

So what’s a girl to do when she’s home all alone and craving Thai food?

If you said get take out, shame on you;)

Classic Cashew Veggies

snow peas
zucchini, sliced
canned baby corn, cut
organic carrots, chopped
broccoli, chopped
brown rice
3 tsp low sodium tamari
2 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp arrowroot powder
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
chia seeds
raw cashews

the sauce lineup:)


1.  Add olive oil to wok
2. Heat olive oil over medium heat
2. In a small bowl, mix together tamari, maple syrup, arrowroot powder, rice wine vinegar
3. Place chopped carrots and broccoli in wok and stir fry for several minutes
4. Add baby corn, zucchini, snow peas and cashews to wok
5. Pour liquid mixture over veggies and stir fry for 10 minutes or until desired softness is reached (I like mine to be a bit crunchy)
6. Add mushrooms and cook for just another couple of minutes
7. Pile veggie mixture atop a bed of brown rice, sprinkle with chia seeds and enjoy!

and the star of the show

This was just as good or better than what I get at the restaurant – and it was so fast and easy!!  The cashews definitely make this dish, though, so give your right arm if you have to, but don’t leave out the cashews!

It was an interesting change to cook for one instead of two.  Cooking for one has it’s perks…such as no worries about the husband rejecting my sauce (I told you he’s brutally honest).  But I have to say I much enjoy cooking for two – the company in the kitchen can’t be beat.  Jon and I usually cook together – read: I cook and he entertains me.  It works:)

However, I have to say that sometimes the husband comes through and creates his own unique spin on things.  He’s the one that inspired today’s lunch.

Haha, just kidding!  I actually did have this meal for lunch, but I decided to spare you the pictures because the box truthfully is prettier than the meal itself.  But I’m positive the meal tasted better than the box did.  Not that I would know.

Here’s what the husband really did inspire

This is one of his favorite “inventions” and he’s so proud of them.

I taught my PiYo class this morning and then went straight to campus to tutor my new ESL student, and by the time I got back home I was starving and craving mexican food in a big way.  I don’t like to eat frozen meals too often because fresh food is so much better!  But it is nice to have one on hand for those days when you just want something super fast and easy.

But I couldn’t have mexican food without chips and salsa and seeing as how we didn’t have any tortilla chips I went with this healthified version.

Basically just cut a corn tortilla into 8 pieces, place them on a cookie sheet, spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt!

Bake it for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees, watching carefully to make sure there’s no burnage.  You want the edges to get barely browned and crispy!

Pair with some homemade salsa, and you’re set!

I’m gonna go sit down, put my feet up and sip on a Pom spritzer for just a bit before I get some more work done.  The friendly people at Pom Wonderful were kind enough to send me a case of Pom juice to try out, and I’m loving it!

There are so many ways to use it, but for starters just mix it with some seltzer water and ice

It makes a perfect afternoon pick-me-up, and it’s full of antioxidants to boot!

Diet coke – be gone!

Btw – the company didn’t ask me to review this product...I just tried it, loved it and wanted to share it with you all!

Happy Friday to you all!!

Who does the cooking (and cleaning!) at your house?

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silence is golden

Good morning!

As soon as our alarms started buzzing this morning, Jon and I headed out for an early morning 3 mile run.  It was a beautiful morning, and I was kicking myself for not having my camera.  Please let me know if you’ve mastered the art of carrying your DSLR while running ’cause it seems the best moments happen while out on the road:)

It was the perfect time of morning as the sunlight was just barely peeking up over the horizon and glinting off the tops of the fields.  Has anybody ever told you that Oklahoma has the prettiest sunrises and sunsets?  Well, we do.

Second only to this maybe.

Sunset during our time in Halong Bay, Vietnam

This morning was just one of those moments when I could hardly believe the beauty.  The perfect way to start the day.

There was a biting chill in the air this morning as well, and despite my hands going numb it felt quite refreshing.  Three cheers for fall!  Have I mentioned that it’s my favorite season?

After I got back and showered, I blended up a green smoothie.  Anytime I go more than a couple of days without one, I start to have withdrawals :)

2 handfuls of spinach, 1/2 banana, 1.25 cups almond milk, 1 tbsp chia seeds, 2 heaping tbsp Vega powder

I changed it up a bit this morning by swapping chocolate Vega powder in for Amazing Grass.  I was a little nervous adding 2 heaping tablespoons of powder because I have yet to use a protein powder that didn’t make my smoothie chalky tasting.  I can honestly say that this one did not!  It added 12 grams of protein, 2 servings of veggies (like it needed more veggies:), 2500 mg of omega 3, 6, 9, 1 billion probiotic cultures, only 100 calories, and a hint of chocolaty goodness! And by the way, Vega did not ask me to review their product; I’m raving out of pure love of the product:)

Technically, this powder is supposed to be added with just water for a quick and healthy shake on the go – I’ve been a little hesitant to try it, but I think I just might have to now!

On a different note, now that I’m working from home, I’m finding out some things about myself that I didn’t know before.

  • I really do like working at my desk better than on the couch
  • I have a lot more discipline than I ever realized
  • a good cup of iced coffee goes a long way with my mood and productivity
  • I really can control the urge to snack even though I’m 4 seconds away from chips and salsa at any point during the day
  • If/when I begin to feel lonely or isolated, I must book it to the coffee shop asap to avoid the downward spiral
  • I don’t feel lonely or isolated most of the time
  • I like to work in silence

I often feel the need to have music on in the house – especially when I’m there alone.  It really does motivate me, and it’s nice to have some noise going on because unfortunately Olive doesn’t provide much good conversation.

At least she’s cute.

But I’m realizing more and more how nice it is to just work in silence.  With the windows open and the sun shining in, it’s rather inspiring to just have quiet all around.  I think it also helps me to focus better, and my thoughts have the freedom to take me wherever they want:)  You should try it!  You just might be surprised how nice it is to just be quiet.

Do you find that you work better with music or in silence?  What about working out?  That’s a whole different topic, but do you prefer to workout with music or enjoy the silence?

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