Jess Finds Balance

My journey to finding a healthy balance with eating, exercise, and life in general

Cooking Dinner in Pajamas October 17, 2010

Filed under: Food — jessfindsbalance @ 8:56 pm
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Confession: When I’m hanging out at home, there is a 93.78% chance that I’m in comfy PJs. Cooking dinner tonight was no exception:



On the menu for tonight was an Eating Well recipe for Indian-Spiced Eggplant and Cauliflower stew. You know me; I love my ethnic vegetarian stews!



To make it, I first sauteed a chopped onion and several crushed cloves of garlic in canola oil. Once it was getting soft, I added LOTS of curry powder, garam masala, ground mustard seed and ginger. Then, I added 1/2 cup chicken broth, 1 chopped eggplant, 1 can of diced tomatoes and a large can (30 oz.) of chickpeas. I was supposed to add a head of cauliflower, but the pot was so brimming that I only had room for half of it:



So I roasted the rest with some olive oil and salt. (400 degrees for about 30 minutes, tossing halfway through) I lurve roasted vegetables 🙂



My serving, over brown rice:



Getting ready for school tomorrow. It’s been a relaxing and social, yet productive, weekend and my batteries are as recharged as they can get! Wish me luck for my 11 mile run tomorrow 😀


Not to Worry, I’m Still Alive and Well October 12, 2010

Filed under: Exercise,Food — jessfindsbalance @ 9:20 pm
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Hi everyone. I’ve just been taking a break from the blogging. Last time I blogged, I was having a hard time getting back on track. While I don’t feel 100% back in the swing of things, I definitely feel confident that I am well on my way to getting back there. I’ve been doing a good job listening to my hunger and satiety signals and eating lots of yummy foods.

As an update for my half-marathon training (T-4 weeks and 5 days!), I finally broke double digits yesterday, running 10 miles in 1:33! That’s an average pace of about 9:20 minutes/mile, including walking breaks. I was hesitant to set a time goal for myself, but I’m starting to really belief that I can run a sub 2 hour half. It is a really tough course – I ran about 1/2 of it yesterday – with lots of hills in the middle. I think that from now on, I will do my long runs on the course so I can feel comfortable and get accustomed to the hills.

Tragedy did strike at 3.5 miles yesterday, though, when I tripped over a sprinkler camaflouged by the dust and rocks around it. I think that I might have strained/sprained something on the top of my foot, but running and walking don’t bother it. Only when I twist it in weird ways does it bother me. I did manage to continue the run without any pain, so I’m pretty optimistic that it won’t get in the way of my training!

I made an awesome Indian stirfry tonight. First, I wrapped a block of extra firm in lots and lots of paper towels, then put a plate (topped with four bowls) on top of it to squeeze all the water out. Then, I sauteed the tofu, cubed, in some hot sesame oil until it was browned on all sides.

Next, I added snow peas, chopped onion and sliced shitake mushrooms. Once that was soft, I added some chopped roasted kabocha squash (sliced and then roasted with olive oil and salt at 400 degrees for 20 minutes on each side – my fave!) until it was heated through. Then, I added lots of curry powder, ground ginger and some salt. I mixed well to coat the veggies in tofu in the spices and then added ~1/2 cup light coconut milk.


(Sorry for the poor picture quality. Dave put the camera somewhere and he isn’t home right now to tell me where it is!)

It tastes so delicious! I can’t wait to have leftovers for lunch tomorrow 🙂

I haven’t seen my kids since Friday, with Columbus Day yesterday and a professional development day today. I might even say that I miss my kiddos and am excited to see them tomorrow. Yay for three day weeks!


Autumn First September 28, 2010

Filed under: Food — jessfindsbalance @ 7:29 pm
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It’s been absolutely gross here in the Boston area this week, with temps in the 70s and lots of rain. Tomorrow we’re supposed to see some sun, though! Looks more like summer weather than fall, though.

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I found this recipe for squash, lentil and chickpea stew on Eating Well a couple weeks ago and have been dying to make it. Tuesday is the day that I have dinner on my own while Dave is at his class, so I decided that today would be the day to test it out.

This is a slow cooker recipe, which is so convenient for weeknights. It does require planning, though, so if you’re a fly by the seats of your pants for dinner kinda person, you could opt to make it on the stovetop that night instead. I must say that slow cooking is awesome because it melds the flavors so well and everything gets nice and soft 🙂 Whenever I make slow cooker recipes, I always prepare everything the night before, and then put it on to cook in the morning.

To make it, I first soaked 3/4 cup dried chickpeas in water, leaving about 2 inches of water on top of the chickpeas so that they have room to expand. I let them soak overnight.

Last night, I chopped 1 medium butternut squash, peeled (you can peel it yourself or buy it in the store already peeled), 2 large carrots and one white onion and put it in my slow cooker.

Then I added 4 cups of chicken broth,

2 tbsp. tomato paste,

lime juice, lots of ginger (fresh is best, otherwise dried is fine), cumin, garlic powder, a pinch of saffron, a bit of cayenne pepper, salt and pepper.

Did you know that saffron is the world’s most expensive spice? I made sure to conserve and only used a pinch!

I also added one cup of red lentils and the drained, soaked chickpeas.

All ready to go:

I cooked it in the slow cooker on low heat for about 7 1/2 hours. Then I mixed everything well to mash up the squash and carrots. Here’s the finished product:

I decided to just have it on its own, although you could serve it over brown rice, bulgur or whole wheat couscous. It’d also be nice with some fresh chopped cilantro, crushed peanuts or plain greek yogurt.

Another thing I love about stews? Leftovers! This left me with enough for five other meals!

I like to bring a whole bunch to work and leave them in the freezer there. I take them out a few days before I know I am going to use them. Our freezer at home is so crowded, so it helps to make room for everything else in there and means that I don’t have to carry as much to school every day.

For dessert, I made my first baked autumn fruit of the season. This is one of my favorite recipes to make in the fall and is so easy. I started out with one gigantic Jonagold apple, one bosq pear, and one bartlett pear.

I chopped them up into one-inch cubes, then tossed them with some lemon juice (~3-4 tbsp.), apple pie spice, cinnamon and splenda. You could also use honey, agave nectar or maple syrup. Baked in the oven at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes.



I had a few bites for dessert, in addition to some Moose Tracks light ice cream. I know, I shouldn’t be eating dairy with my stomach in its precarious state!

I’m taking it easy tonight, reading my book and watching Glee in T-32 minutes. I actually had to come home early from work today because my stomach was so upset. I felt so bad leaving my kids, especially since they have a test tomorrow, but they did receive a study guide on Thursday of last week! Let’s keep our fingers crossed that they studied sufficiently!


Middle Eastern Eats September 27, 2010

Filed under: Food — jessfindsbalance @ 1:39 pm
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As I’ve written before, I could eat Mediterranean food every day and never get sick of it. So when I came across this recipe for Middle Eastern Chickpea Platter on Eating Well, I knew I had to make it!

To make the chickpea mixture, first I sauteed one medium eggplant, chopped with a few minced cloves of garlic in some olive oil. I cooked in over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring often.

While that was cooking, I whisked 2 tbsp. tahini, 3 tbsp. lemon juice and 1 tbsp. of water. Next, I drained and rinsed one 15 oz. can of chickpeas and then tossed the chickpeas in the tahini mixture. Once the eggplant mixture was soft, I added that to the chickpea mixture and tossed to coat. I added salt and pepper to taste and some dried parsley, too.


On the side, I’m having a little salad of chopped tomato, minced red onion, fat free feta crumbles and a couple finely chopped kalamata olives.

A quartered whole wheat pita for dipping.

My kind of meal 🙂


Fun Find! September 22, 2010

Filed under: Exercise,Food — jessfindsbalance @ 8:55 pm
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I’m going to make this quick since I’ve had a long day and am in need of some R&R!

After school today, I headed to the gym  and hopped on the elliptical for 50 minutes. Afterwards, I did some foam rolling for my very tight IT bands. I really need to make more time to do some serious stretching! My legs have felt so tight. I think that I’m going to break out my yoga mat tomorrow evening for a quick yoga session.

I forced myself to go to body pump today, where we did the new release. I’m not quite sure how I feel about it yet, but I’m glad that I got in my strength training!

I’ve decided that I am going to start helping coach the intramural cross country team at my school. I’ve been thinking about it and know that I would absolutely love it. I also think that it would be a good place for me to act as a role model for healthy living. I’ll keep you updated!

On another good note, look what I found at the grocery store today!!!

I got home way too late tonight and didn’t end up eating dinner until 8. I did have a snack when leaving the gym at 5:30 to tide me over, which did help. A small handful of almonds and a prune:

While making dinner, I snacked on some kale chips I made using olive oil and parmesan cheese, baked at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

Dinner tonight was a quesadilla using sauteed onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, zucchini and spinach. I used one oz. of Cabot’s light cheddar, which I shredded, and a light Laughing Cow cheese for added creaminess.

First I sauteed the veggies in some canola oil.

Once the veggies were soft, I removed them from the pan. Next, I put the cheese in a Flat Out multigrain wrap and added the veggies. I folded it back in half and put it back in the pan, covered, for about 4-5 minutes each side to let it crisp up and to let all the cheese melt. (Sorry I don’t have more pictures, I was so hungry that I didn’t take time to do it!)

While that was cooking, I also made a can of refried beans. These were pretty tasty, although I still prefer the TJ’s refried black beans with jalapeno more!

I topped my quesadilla with 1/4 sliced avocado and some plain greek yogurt.

I ended up going back for seconds of the beans. I ❤ beans! This meal was just so tasty. It hit the spot!

Dessert was a pretty big serving of grapes

and a Weight Watchers Giant Fudge bar.

Off to relax. Good night!


Leftovers Make My World Go ‘Round

Filed under: Food — jessfindsbalance @ 12:26 pm
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Howdy! Lunch today is leftover vegetarian meat sauce over whole wheat penne, topped with parmesan cheese:

A pluot for dessert

Snacks include a pineapple Chobani yogurt

and a humongous honeycrisp apple with a Sargento light colby jack cheese stick.

This week is flying by. I can’t believe it’s Wednesday already!


The Power of the Positive September 21, 2010

Filed under: Exercise,Food,Opinion — jessfindsbalance @ 8:54 pm
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As I’ve mentioned, I’ve had a hard time adjusting to teaching 8th grade this year and miss my 6th grade buddies terribly. There are a lot of things I’m struggling with, especially since I was just so happy with my job for the last two years. Instead of dwelling on all the things that aren’t going well, though, I’ve been focusing on the things that are going well: I have a great team of kids that I work with every day and there are some really nice teachers in the 8th grade.

Being an optimistic and upbeat person hasn’t always come so naturally to me. Until the end of high school, I was a complainer and always dwelled on what wasn’t going well for me. What brought about the change? Losing weight (the first time) and finding self-confidence. I learned to like myself for who I was, which made me happier overall. Going to college was also really good for me, since I was just in a better place socially, emotionally and intellectually. So it is important to make sure that you’re in tune with your wants and needs and take the steps you need to get where you want to be.

This shift in my outlook didn’t happen overnight, though. Whenever I notice that I’m spending more time thinking about the annoying/frustrating/sad things, I try to guide my thoughts to something that’s good about it. Case in point: my current assignment in school. I also try to spend more time with people that lift me up. One last thing I do is to take time to do the things that make me feel good about myself, like playing piano, exercising, and spending time with friends. What are things you do to help stay positive?

Along those lines, I had to harness my positivity during my run today. It was such a struggle for the first four miles, but I stuck it out, despite the recurring thought to turn around and go home, and finished 6 miles in just over 54 minutes. I kept telling myself that I could make it through, and instead of aiming for “perfection” (i.e. a quick pace and few walking breaks), I decided to slow my pace a bit and walk as often as I needed to until my legs loosened up. I also tried to look around and notice just how nice out it was: about 65 degrees with a light breeze and sunshine! In the end, I finished at a really quick pace: 9:15 minute/mile and ran my last mile at a 8:30 minute/mile pace!

On my way home from school, I knew that I needed some caffeine to help me get into the running mindset. I stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts and bought a small iced 1/2 decaf 1/2 regular coffee with caramel flavoring and skim milk. Ahh…So refreshing!

Dinner tonight was an absolute favorite recipe of mine: Hearty Vegetarian Meatless Chili. I’ve found the recipe on Google Books here. I find a lot of Weight Watchers recipes to be flavorless and not filling enough, but this one is definitely an exception. Whenever I cook this for people, they always rave about how yummy it is!

To make it, you first saute several crushed cloves of garlic, one chopped onion, one chopped green bell pepper, and a minced jalapeno (use more seeds for a spicier dish, fewer for a milder taste) in some olive oil for about 8 minutes, until soft. Next, add 1 chopped eggplant, a bag of soy crumbles, one 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, oregano, 1/2 cup water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for 30-40 minutes. Add a can of drained and rinsed red kidney beans and let simmer for another 20 minutes, or until eggplant is soft.

The finished product:

I served it over brown rice and topped it with reduced fat cheddar cheese and plain greek yogurt.

I decided today that I want to get into Glee.


I sang a cappella in college and know that the show will be fun and bring me back to my good old days of singing. I watched a couple episodes at the gym one day, and had a hard time not dancing and singing along while on the elliptical. Who else is watching tonight? Do I need to watch the other seasons to know what’s happening?