Half-Yearly Favorites

Since it’s now over half-way through the year, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite things as of late (both food and non-food related).

Here’s 5 things that might just make your life a little better, like they did mine….

1) Fage Greek Yogurt with Fruit (pronounced Fa-yeh!)

This stuff is unreal, it is so good. I have to have it every morning. I mean it. If I don’t, the whole day is out of whack. It’s got the protein to get you going and keep you full, it’s slightly sweet, and just plain good.

They sell the variety pack at Costco and it’s the best price around. I usually buy 2- 12 packs at a time…. I told you, I have to have it!

2) Vitamins… the gummy variety. (Vitafusion brand)

I have never been so calcium filled in my life. These gummies are so good, you will swear you are eating candy.

They have the multi-vitamin version as well. Obviously, I eat those too. They have 10-30 calories for 2… I just pretend its zero. But in all seriousness, I read a news article just recently that discussed the absorption ratios between the vitamin varieties. With vitamins in pill form absorption is about 10-20% and Gummy vitamins are close to 50%! ( I don’t know if this is exact science but you can digest it better and what’s more… no upset stomach!)

It just so happens, I also get them at Costco*, even though I have seen them around at other stores, their price can’t be beat.

* This is not a Costco endorsed blog post, I swear.

3) Morning Quiet Time and Bible Study

MUST also involve a nice hot mug of coffee…

After my Bible study ended in May, I knew I needed something else to help me keep my routine of being in the Word daily. My aunt recommended Charles Stanley’s In Touch magazine. It’s a monthly magazine that has short daily readings with commentary and one longer 15-20 minute study AND it’s free. Just go to the In Touch website and sign up. (You will get the occasional mailing asking for donations, but it’s worth it.)

4) Amazon Mp3 store

Recently I was looking to buy a few albums online and remembered my mom had given me an Mp3 CD from Amazon so I thought I’d check out what they had before purchasing on iTunes. I am so glad I did. There are daily deals and I found most of what I was looking for priced at around $5… and that’s the whole CD!

…And I was looking on Friday and the daily deal was Justin Bieber – Believe for $1.99. You’re darn right I bought it… I just can’t shake this fever… Bieber Fever.

The best part, once you launch the download, it automatically goes into your iTunes. Bam.

Here’s some of what I’m loving to listen to at the moment:

Luke Bryan – Drunk on You – Tailgates & Tanlines – It’s my unofficial-official song and album of summer. (or is it official-unofficial? You know what I mean.)

Blind Pilot – Keep You Right – We Are the Tide- This is a recent addition, it’s a little Indie and I can’t take credit for ‘discovering’ them but this Portland based group just makes good music. It is the perfect background music during a mundane day at work.

Florence and the Machine – the entire Ceremonials album – If you ever have the chance to see her live, you have to go. It may just be one of the best concerts I have ever been to. I didn’t think this was possible but she sounds even better live than on CD.

Josh Abbott Band – Some good ol’ Texas country, enough said. Oh and he has some amazing duets from all of his albums including Good Night for Dancing and Oh, Tonight.

One Direction – What Makes You Beautiful – It’s my guilty pleasure. Let’s leave it at that.

5) Shhhhooooooeeeessss (aka: Kicks, Sneaks, etc.)

Back in the early 00’s, I had a shoe obsession. It died out a little as I started running more and more and found it more and more difficult to find shoes that were comfortable. Well… it’s back.

I got 2 pairs of these Nike Free 5.0 at the Nordstrom anniversary sale (the other pair is purple). It feels like I’m wearing slippers.  The first wear for these bad boys was at the Florence and the Machine concert and I could have danced all night.

The sale goes through August 5th.* Just in case your interested.

*This is also NOT a paid Nordstrom advertisement.

Can’t wait to see what the last half of the year brings!

Hiking and Almond Granola

After living in the Seattle area for 2 years… I finally ventured to hike the infamous Mt. Si on Saturday! I went with a co-worker turned friend and another great friend and frequent hiking partner-in-crime/sweat.

4 miles up and 3,150 ft. of elevation gain gets you this. Well not this exactly… take the three of us out and that’s what you get.

We booked it up the mountain, climbing the first 4 miles in an hour and 40 minutes. Yeah that’s right, all 3,150 feet elevation gain. The average time up is about 2.5 hours. Let’s just say, no one passed us.

Talk about timing, we got up to the top and had a view of Mt. Rainier for about 5 minutes and then the clouds rolled in.  (You can see it just faintly). The panting, “let’s uh talk uh later uh because uh I can’t uh breathe” moments, and unreal amounts of sweat (so sexy) were worth it.

The 4 miles down, we took a more stroll-like pace, laughing and chatting. I’d imagine the people going up were probably extremely perturbed at those “happy laughing girls.” We’re ladies… get it straight.

“Hey, you guys look at those pretty berries.”

“Oh, oh, and those moss-covered trees are so cool! I’ve got to take a picture.” It’s all about appreciating the flora and fauna, folks. AND I’m so turning into my mother, she’s never seen a rock that didn’t catch her eye.

What better to do after 8 miles? Make granola, duh.

If I had thought this through a little more, I would have made granola in time for a pre-hike breakfast but hindsight’s always 20-20, as long as I’ve got my contacts in.

Start with the dry goods. Oats, coconut, raisins, almonds, wheat germ (not pictured, I forgot about it until step 3), cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg and a dash of ginger.

Add in the wet. Agave nectar and canola oil.

Mix the dry and the wet ingredients all together. Is it weird that I thought this tasted good? Post-hike delusion maybe?

Spread it on a lined baking sheet in one thin layer and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes until golden in color.

Serve with your favorite yogurt, by itself, or some nice cold milk.

Raisin Almond Granola

This is a combination and tweaking of multiple recipes so I could get what I really liked. 🙂

2 c. Rolled Oats (not quick cooking)

1 c. Slivered Almonds

1 c. Raisins

1/2 c. Wheat Germ

1 tsp. Cinnamon

Dash Nutmeg and Ginger (about 1/8 tsp. each)

1/2 c. Agave Nectar

1/3 c. Canola Oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, combine all of the dry ingredients. Add add the oil and agave and mix to combine. Make sure everything is well coated with the oil and agave mixture.

Spread in one thin layer onto a parchment (or foil) lined backing sheet and place in the oven. Bake for about 25-30 minutes until golden, mixing and turning 2-3 times during the cooking process.

Let cool and store in an airtight container for up to week.

Ally 2.0 and Bell Pepper Pots

This past week, I’ve been in Denver having a fantastic time with old and new friends. I was there to celebrate one of my best friends weddings. You saw her bachelorette party here.

Rebecca and I met in college. We were always the “mature” ones. We were both in very different stages of our lives than we are now. We’ve both grown and matured even more than we already had up to the point of our meeting at Gonzaga.

During all of our reminiscing, laughter and tears (happy), we kept referring to our “old” selves, which brought me to a revelation of sorts…

This “old Ally” was still me with just a little (maybe a lot) more beer, late nights, and possibly irrational decisions (even with my “maturity”). Not necessarily bad, just different and younger…

The “new Ally” has a head more squarely on her shoulders. While I still might be uncertain about what the future holds (and still drink a few beers here and there, the wedding included 🙂 ), I am so much more certain than ever before that I have the faith and strength through Christ that he will take my hand and lead me where He has planned me to be. That doesn’t mean it’s any easier, I still struggle daily with being aware of His work and direction in my life (my self guidance and doubt often takes over).

But one thing I do know is that I don’t think I could have gotten to this new and improved (in my humble opinion) Ally, without the “old Ally.”

Really, what I’m trying to say is… we all go through seasons in our lives. Some of us (me especially) are lucky enough to be able to transition through the changes with the same wonderful, loving, and endlessly supportive people.

Woah… That was deep. And I was writing in the third person.

Now let’s eat.

This recipe is adapted from a cookbook my sister got me for my birthday. Cooking with Trader Joes. It’s a brilliant idea, recipes with most of the ingredients from Trader Joes. That being said, I don’t think I bought any of this from Trader Joes… it’s just a bunch of really good recipes.

I tweaked this a little and added some spiced crumbled sauteed tofu for a little extra protein.

When planning to crumble tofu, it’s always best to lightly compress and let it drain for 20 minutes or so. Wrap it with a clean dish towl and the weight of the fruit bowl will do the magic!

Then place in a hot pan to brown on both sides and start to break apart.

After its completely crumbled, add the taco seasoning.

Next add in the drained black beans, salsa, and rice to meld the flavors and heat through.

I think I need to start making prettier food.

While the tofu cooks and the mixture sits on the back burner, slice the peppers in half and clean out the seeds. I like using the variety pack of peppers, the colors are so vibrant and fun!

Scoop the tofu/rice/bean mixture into the pepper halves and place in the oven for 30 minutes.

Top with a little extra salsa and crumbled cotija (Mexican) cheese. And eat with your eyes, your tummy, and your fork!

It’s such an easy, filling, simple recipe and the other good news?!?! Two halves only has 420 calories. The original, no tofu, version only has 320 calories! Serve with a nice side salad and you’ve got a fantastic meal for less than 500 calories! Tastes even better now, right?!?

Here’s how to do it….

Festive Spicy Pepper Pots

Serves 4-8. (8 is the perfect side dish and 4 is a nice hearty meal)

3 C. cooked brown rice

1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 (16 oz.) block of extra firm tofu

2 tsp. olive oil

1 small (4 oz.) can green chiles

1/2 sweet onion diced

3/4 to 1 tbsp. taco seasoning

4 bell peppers, sliced in half length-wise, stems and seeds removed

1 (16 oz.) jar of Salsa (mild to medium works best)

Cilantro, optional (for garnish)

Cotija Cheese, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Start by opening the tofu and drain the liquid. Wrap in paper towels or a dish towel and compress for 20 minutes to remove any excess water.

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil and saute the diced onion until translucent. Place the block of tofu in the pan, allowing each side to brown before beginning to crumble.

Using your spoon, begin to break the block into bite size pieces, alot like crumbling ground beef. Let the pieces lightly brown and then add in the taco seasoning. Cook the tofu with the seasoning for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, allowing the taco seasoning to flavor the tofu.

Add in the cooked rice, salsa, black beans and green chiles and stir to combine.

Stuff the mixture in the pepper halves and place in one or two baking dishes. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until the peppers are tender, about 30 minutes.

Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days (I made it just fine to 6-7) or in the freezer for up to 2 months.