About Me 2.0 – or – Why am I still blogging?

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When I started this blog, I was a full time graduate student and was working full time while trying to find balance.  I found that focusing on my fitness and health was the best way to take care of myself during stressful times.  It caused me to create set aside time for self care, whether that was an hour workout or hiking on my (very limited) days off.  I also began learning a ton about nutrition and eating well, which was partly inspired by the heath conscious, farm-to-table values of the city I had just moved to.  Taking the time to focus on my physical health had an incredible effect on my mental health.  When I moved to Portland, I was overweight, anxious and depressed – and I was furthering my education in a field that could perpetuate those problems if I wasn’t consciously looking for ways to combat them.  By the time I finished graduate school in February 2014, I was no longer experiencing depression or anxiety, I was 35 pounds lighter, and I was training for my first marathon!

As I began to change my habits, people started noticing and asked what I was doing.  I started sharing my meals on Instagram and Facebook and told people about new ingredients I was trying.  I would post about when I would squeeze in a workout during an extremely long day.  With the desire to talk more about what I was learning and cooking, I started this blog.  I wanted to show that even though I was swamped with school work and trying to make ends meet financially, I was still able to change my eating and focus on my physical health.  I also wanted to promote a healthy lifestyle as a way to improve mental health.

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So, now I am done with school.  I work that regular 9-5 and don’t have tons of school work to do when I get home each day.  I have thought about whether the original intent of this blog is still relevant with my new way of life and whether I am still a busy girl getting fit.  After some thought, I have ultimately decided that yes, it is still relevant.  My work is stressful, my days still feel hectic and are often longer than 8 hours.  I am still really busy outside of work too, maintaining my relationship with my partner, family and friends, and finding time to take care of myself.  I am still striving to improve my health and become to best version of me in all areas.  I am still not rolling in the dough so I need health and wellness to fit within a budget.  I am nowhere near perfect.  I eat cupcakes when they are delivered to my work.  I drink lots of wine when hanging out with my girlfriends and some Fridays, Nick and I are just too exhausted to do anything for dinner except order a pizza.  I want fitness, health and wellness to fit into a realistic, “everyday person’s” lifestyle.  And I want to talk about how that can be possible.

In 2015, I am re-committing to this blog and I hope to learn as much as I can about the art of blogging to bring you better posts about recipes and wellness tips.  To start off, I am completing the Blogging 101 training hosted by WordPress (I am already behind on assignments – typical for my learning style!  I’ll always be a procrastinator!).  This year, you will find more posts with:

  • Recipes
  • Tips and tricks on preparing healthy meals for yourself and your family
  • Ways to fit fitness into your everyday life
  • Suggestions on how to create overall balance in your life so you always feel fulfilled
  • Plus some recaps of our adventures in the Pacific Northwest and beyond 🙂

Perfectly imperfect.scottileona.com

I look forward to meeting more people who are interested in similar topics, so please reach out!  My email is scottileona@gmail.com 🙂

Resolutions | 2015

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So here we are!  2014 is rapidly coming to an end and we are facing the excitement of a new year.  I really like New Years.  I like the surge people feel to let go of the past and place hope in the future.  There are few times throughout the year where it is so common for people to evaluate what they want in their life and actually make a list of changes they want to make.

Interestingly, there are some themes among the New Years Resolutions that thousands of people make every year.  Some of the most common resolutions are:

  1. Lose weight
  2. Quit smoking
  3. Save money and get out of debt
  4. Learn a new language or skill
  5. Be more environmentally friendly
  6. Volunteer more or give to a charity
  7. Travel
  8. Be less stressed

Sound familiar?  I know I have set some of those same goals before.  Wanna know why they are so popular?  Because they are great goals!  They are all about focusing on yourself, improving your health, expanding your mind, getting your finances under control and giving to others.  This list shows me that most people want to be an overall better person each year and that is really inspiring.

Unfortunately, studies have shown that only 8% of people accomplish their New Years resolutions over the next year and only 46% of resolutions make it past June.  I was told by a coworker today that they do not set New Years resolutions because they don’t stick to them and it just makes them feel bad.  Why are New Years resolutions different from the goals you may set in say, April?  Or August?

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There is so much pressure associated with New Years resolutions.  It must be the hugeness (that’s a word right?) of the entire year ahead.  Maybe we feel like, because we have 12 months to accomplish these goals, there is no excuse not to achieve them.  And given the amount of time ahead, we set HUGE goals – losing weight and managing your finances are no small tasks.  We become so overwhelmed with excitement for the possibilities that we create overwhelming expectations for ourselves.

Setting huge, overwhelming, scary goals is so good for the soul.  I think we need to set goals for ourselves that stretch our imagination for our lives, for who we can be.  The New Year presents this amazing opportunity to really become a new person.  This is who you were in 2014, and the New Year just screams this is who you can be.  What we have to remember, however, are the many small steps that are required to achieve huge goals.  And we need to appreciate every step of progress we make toward those goals, no matter how small.

So if you want to lose 15 pounds in 2015, remember you have to lose 1 pound first.  Celebrate when you clean out your cabinets and fridge and replace junk food with fresh produce.  Heck, celebrate the ONE day you swap those chips for an apple.  Those are all steps toward a healthier you and need to be honored.  And on December 31, 2015, if you haven’t lost 15 pounds, but did lose 7 – C E L E B R A T E.  You made some changes and started down a path that you wanted to go down.

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New Years does not need to be your only opportunity to set huge goals.  You have 364 other amazing days to evaluate your life and reflect on what you want.  Take time throughout the year to look back at your New Years resolutions and decide if those are still goals you want to accomplish.  How do they fit into your life 4 months later?  If they still capture what you want to achieve, take a look at how far you have come.  If you haven’t even started those small steps necessary to begin a resolution, take a hard look at what’s stopping you.  Remember why you set that goal in the first place.  And most importantly, be kind to yourself.  Be gentle when life throws you curve balls and you have to let go of some things in order to cope with more pressing matters.

You’ve set huge resolutions for yourself because you deserve to achieve AMAZING things this year.  I wish you the very best tonight, tomorrow, and always and I can’t wait to hear about what you have planned for 2015 ❤

scottileona@gmail.com

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Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Amaranth

A few months ago, I discovered amaranth at my local food co-op and decided to give it a try.  I had read about this lovely little grain in the Thrive Energy Cookbook by Brendan Brazier and I first tried it out as a rice substitute in this stuffed poblano peppers recipe.

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Amaranth is a tiny grain that looks a little like quinoa and packs a serious nutritional punch.  This gluten free grain contains:

  • Three times the average amount of calcium
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin C – Amaranth is the only grain documented to contain this!
  • Complete protein

I love amaranth because it cooks up quick and is super versatile.  In addition to using it as a substitute for rice, you can make it into porridge and eat it for breakfast!

To cook amaranth, rinse 1 cup under cold water.  Boil 2 cups of water on your stovetop and add the amaranth.  Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the water is absorbed.  To make a thicker porridge-like consistency, use a 1:3 grain to water ratio and mix in desired spices.

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Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Amaranth

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 poblano peppers
  • 1 cup cooked amaranth
  • 1 cup cooked pinto beans
  • 1/2 cup corn
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • Sharp cheddar cheese, grated (omit or use a dairy-free alternative to make this vegan)
  • Avocado, tomato, cilantro and lime for garnish

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350*F.  Cut the peppers in half and remove the stem and seeds.  Brush the peppers with olive oil and place on a baking sheet.  Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or so to soften the peppers.
  2. While the peppers bake, mix the amaranth, beans, corn, cilantro and green onions in a bowl.  Add some cumin, cheyenne, salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Remove the peppers from the oven.  Fill each pepper with the amaranth stuffing.  Top each with a little shredded cheddar cheese and place back in the oven until everything is warmed through and the cheese is melted.
  4. Serve with avocado, tomato, cilantro and lime.  Enjoy 🙂

Homemade Graham Crackers

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Last month Nick and I attended a birthday bash at Crater Lake for our bestest bud.  Neither of us had ever been there, although it has been on our list since the day we moved to Oregon!  Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States.  It was formed around 7,700 years ago when Mount Mazama volcano collapsed and created a large caldera that eventually filled with rain and snow melt.  It is an understatement to call Crater Lake breathtaking.  There are really no words to describe how blue the water is.  I also loved the huge lava rock formations and the trees that surround the lake.

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There is a road that goes around the perimeter of the lake and twice a year the park closes part of that road to cars so cyclists can enjoy it all to themselves!  We enjoyed the 33 mile scenic ride, which included over 3,800′ of climbing, PLUS the 10 mile ride each way from our camp ground that included another 800′ of climbing.  By “enjoyed” I mean our legs and lungs were screaming with each climb.  However, at each break, our minds were BLOWN.  It was awesome in every sense of the word.

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We all took turns preparing the meals for the group and enjoyed a variety of campground gourmet.  The item that really topped my list, though, were homemade graham crackers that my lovely friend Christine brought.  They had a thicker texture than store-bought crackers and were way more flavorful.  An added bonus: we can identify all of the ingredients!  Of course, we took that health train off the tracks by making s’mores with these glorious crackers…but hey, what’s a camping trip without s’mores?

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Christine found her inspiration for these Homemade Graham Crackers from The Post Punk Kitchen, with a few additions and changes.  Below is her recipe.  I can’t wait to make these at home and enjoy as a snack with tea or fruit!

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Homemade Graham Crackers

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Graham Flour
  • 1/3 cup turbinado sugar (this adds some extra texture and crunch, you can also use regular sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon extract
  • 1/4 cup milk of choice

Instructions

  1. Preheat the over to 350* F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Make a well in the middle and pour in the oil, molasses and vanilla and cinnamon extracts. Mix the liquid ingredients into the dry until well combined and crumbly.
  3. Add the milk and stir to combine.  Use your hands to knead the dough a few times until it holds together.  Christine recommends if the dough is dry and crumbly to roll out, you can try adding a tbsp or so more milk.
  4. Line your work surface with parchment paper.  Place the dough on the parchment paper and work dough into a rectangle.  Sprinkle with flour and use a rolling pin to flatten out the rectangle until it is about 10 x 14 inches.  The dough should be about 1/8 inch thick.
  5. Trim the edges and cut the dough into 8 crackers.  You may be able to get some more crackers from the trimmed edges, so roll it out and cut them up!  No need to waste good dough, right?  Very carefully transfer the crackers to the baking sheet.  Poke each cookie with a fork a few times.
  6. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes.  12 minutes gives softer cookies, that according to the Post Punk Kitchen, are better for making ice cream sandwiches!  What!  That sounds like something I need to do!  14 minutes gives you crispy cookies.  You decide how you like ’em.
  7. Let cool completely on the baking sheet.

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Nom.  Now let’s go camping!  Oh, wait…it’s winter now.  We can still camp in our living rooms, yeah?  😉

 

My Journey to Healthy and Happy, Part 1

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As I sit in my apartment in Portland, roasting Kabocha squash and cooking quinoa, watching silly TV, and thinking about the details of the marathon I am running in 2 days, I can’t help but reflect on how much my life has changed in the last 4 years.

I had started my career in social work by working and volunteering throughout college and felt I was so lucky to have found a field of work I was passionate about.  What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was the emotional and physical toll I was putting on myself by simply doing too much for others.  I poured myself into my work and left little space for me.  On top of that, I was living in an expensive city and had to work two jobs after college to cover rent.  This left me a depressed, confused, and anxious young lady, not to mention the extra weight I had gained.  When Nick and I moved to Portland, we knew things had to be different in order for both of us to sustain our health and well-being while I attended graduate school for social work and public health.

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We took the opportunity of a new city and the unknown world we were entering to make some big life changes.  After a stressful couple of years, we took a step back and realized we had neglected ourselves, which greatly impacted our health and our relationship.  We had each put on at least 35 pounds and were no longer comfortable in our own skin.  We didn’t know that much about nutrition, but Nick had the Beachbody programs p90x and Insanity.  He did p90x for a while, got into the habit of exercising regularly and started to see some results.  He then started Insanity and I will never forget the day he told me I should start with p90x because he thought Insanity was too intense for me!  I’m the type of person who takes the doubts of others as motivation, so I immediately processed his advice as a challenge.

I started doing p90x work outs and slowly learning about purchasing whole foods and preparing food at home as much as possible.  At first the progress and my focus was slow.  By the summer of 2011, Nick and I were getting the hang of Portland life and I decided to go all in with my health and fitness.  I started Insanity and tried Shakeology for the first time.  I quickly realized how amazing I felt when I spent an hour a day doing something that was only for me.  Not only was I feeling stronger and so accomplished after each work out, but all those extra pounds I had acquired were coming off.  I replaced one meal a day with Shakeology and continued to learn about nutrition and clean eating.  I also started connecting with people who were also doing Beachbody programs and found myself as part of a community FULL of positive people who have the same passion for healthy and learning how to live their best life possible.

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As I continued through graduate school, I continued to incorporate exercise and healthy eating in my everyday life.  I’m not going to lie, it was tough.  I was working on two Master’s degrees, completing internships for school, AND working full time.  To fit this all in, I had work, school, or internships every day of the week.  There was a time when I would take a vacation day from work so I would get ONE day off in a month.  During my third and final year of grad school, I was working nights on top of completing school.  It was an absurd and unsustainable schedule, but I had to make it work.  In order to keep myself sane and healthy, I kept working out and learning about healthy eating and included those two things in my schedule just like I would a class or work.  I would find those couple of hours that were free each day to squeeze in a work out, cook, and pack meals to bring to work and school.  I kept at it because I could see and feel what exercise and healthy eating was doing not only for my body, but for my mind too!

Since the start of my journey to health and happiness, I have lost 35 pounds.  I have learned SO much about food and nutrition and I am no longer intimidated by farmer’s markets or the unfamiliar foods I may get in my CSA box.  I also don’t feel lost around a yoga mat, a set of dumbbells, or a stability ball.  I have run 8 half marathons and am a few days from completing my first full marathon.  I have been able to tackle longer and longer distances in my running because of the confidence that I have gained by completing work out programs like p90x and Insanity.  I have gained confidence in my body’s ability to endure and take great comfort in the community I have surrounded myself with that supports me wholeheartedly in reaching these goals.  I have literally watched muscles appear on my body.  This confidence transfers into other areas of my life as well, allowing me to feel more comfortable taking risks and making tough decisions at work.  Most importantly, I have learned how to balance my extremely hectic work life with time for myself.  I spend an hour every morning focusing on both my physical and mental strength and when I eat well, I know I am appreciating myself and my body.

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And I have done all of this from the comfort of my own home.  Nick and I now have an arsenal of work out programs and have been steadily building our home gym equipment, despite the tiny size of our apartment!  During the times when we were flat broke and could never have afforded gym memberships, having the option to purchase a complete work out program that we could use over and over again was amazing.  I still love working out at home.  My morning commute from bed to “the gym” is about 15 seconds, leaving zero room for excuses when I’m not feeling up for it.

What started as a challenge to complete that intense program from the infomercials has led to a whole new lifestyle for my partner and me.  We focus on our health, focus on time together and on creating balance between work and our other interests.  I am in a much better state of mind and can recognize when I need to take a break from the city or work life and get to the mountains.  It’s been a difficult, eye-opening, and rewarding journey that I still only see in the beginning stages.  I continue to strive to learn more, love more, and push myself farther.  Thank you to all of you who support me and join me in my journey to happy and healthy ❤

Blueberry and Minty Peach Vanilla Shakeology

Hello there!  I hope you had a lovely weekend.  Portland continues to bask in summer’s glory with sunshine, delicious produce, and SO many weekend activities!  It’s hard to keep up with everything that goes on throughout the summer!  

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I am now in week 12 of training for the Portland Marathon and seriously can’t believe the race is only 7 weeks ago!  On Saturday my long run was 16 miles.  16 miles!  That is 3 miles longer than I have ever run before.  It was by no means easy.  It was hot, I got tired, and walked more than I would prefer.  I did, however, finish and that is my main goal for the race.  I’ll keep trucking along and putting my best foot forward with each run 🙂

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Last weekend, Nick and I picked fresh peaches on a farm on Sauvie Island.  We came home with a box of huge, juicy peaches that entice me every time I open the fridge!  With those on hand, along with the huge bag of blueberries I picked on Sauvie Island and froze, I had the perfect solution for lazy summer days.  To keep cool on Sunday before heading to the second day of MusicFest NW, I headed straight for the blender and whipped up a Blueberry and Minty Peach Vanilla Shakeology.  Pure perfection.

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Blueberry and Minty Peach Vanilla Shakeology Recipe:

Serves 2

For the first layer, combine in a blender:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 handfuls of frozen organic blueberries
  • 1 scoop Vanilla Shakeology
  • Ice

Blend and split between two large glasses.  If it’s really warm in your house, place the glasses in the freezer while you make the second layer.

 

For the second layer, combine in a blender:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 organic peaches
  • 6-8 (or to taste) fresh mint leaves
  • 1 scoop Vanilla Shakeology

Blend and pour over the first layer in the glasses.  Stick a straw in there and enjoy!  ❤

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Baked Vegetable Tempura and Soy Glazed Salmon

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Recently, Nick and I booked a two-week trip to Japan.  This trip is to celebrate my completion of graduate school and to just get the heck out and see the world!  We have been asked by almost everyone we have told, “Why Japan?” and our answer is, “Why not?!”  There are so many places all over the world we want to visit, so we had to just start by picking one and this year, Japan won!  We are so incredibly excited!

The night we booked the flights, we wanted to celebrate with a healthy Japanese-inspired food.  We made baked vegetable tempura and it was absolutely delicious!

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To make, you will need:

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  •  A bunch of asparagus
  • 1-2 sweet potatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • 1 Zucchini
  • 2 eggs
  • Panko bread crumps

 

 

The amount of each vegetable depends on how many you are preparing for.

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  1. Preheat oven to 450* F.
  2. Toss the chopped vegetables in whole wheat flour to lightly coat
  3. Dip each piece in a bowl containing the eggs, scrambled
  4. Next time the vegetable pieces into a bowl of Panko bread crumbs
  5. Line the veggies up in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes or until browned

 

 

 

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We served ours with a ginger soy glazed salmon.

To glaze the salmon, you’ll need:

  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 salmon steaks
  1. Simmer the soy sauce and grated ginger in a small saucepan.  Once it starts to simmer, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the honey and mustard.
  2. Cook the salmon skin side up on a lightly oiled pan for about 5 minutes
  3. Flip over and spoon some of the glaze over the top
  4. Transfer the salmon to a baking sheet that is lightly oiled or lined with aluminum foil for easy clean up.
  5. Stick the salmon in the oven at 350* F until done, about 5-10 minutes.

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Nick made a dipping sauce for the tempura with Dijon Mustard, honey, Chinese hot mustard and a little champagne vinegar, but of course he didn’t measure anything out!  Play around with dipping sauces, those are fun to create with whatever you have in your pantry or fridge.  🙂

If anyone has traveled to Japan and has suggestions of things we must do, please share!