Monthly Archives: August 2012

Sweet Potato, Chicken, and Spinach Risotto

Sweet Potato, Chicken, and Spinach Risotto

This is one of the yummiest experiments I have had in a while! With a little bit of prep ahead of time, this is a cinch to create. I boiled my potatoes the night before (diced 2 extra-large ones and boiled for the week to use in this risotto, as well as in wraps and salads) and used the crock pot to cook the chicken the day of. Keep in mind you will have to be constantly stirring the mixture while adding chicken broth one cup at a time for about 25 minutes, but the process goes by much quicker than I thought it would. This yields a large amount of servings! My parents and I each had two pretty large helpings, and there is still some leftover. The additions of chicken and potatoes to this batch really beefs it up.

Cook time: Approximately 35 minutes

Yields: 8-10 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 small-medium sweet potatoes (cubed and boiled)
  • 3 chicken breasts (cooked and shredded)
  • 1 cup Italian dressing (for cooking chicken in crock pot)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion (diced)
  • 3 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 4-6 cups baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons Smart Balance (or butter)
  • 1 cup Italian 6-cheese blend (or parmesan)
  • Torn basil leaves

Directions:

Place three chicken breasts in a crock pot, cover with chicken broth or Italian dressing. Once cooked through, shred and set aside.

Cube sweet potatoes and boil in water in a saucepan for 15 minutes on medium heat. Set aside. (I boiled a large batch the night before to make this process easier.)

Put 3 TB of extra-virgin olive oil in a heavy pot and add diced onion and garlic. Sauté until onions start to turn translucent, and then add uncooked rice. Stir to coat. Add salt and pepper.

Pour ½ cup wine over rice, constantly stirring. As it starts to reduce, add chicken broth one cup at a time while stirring. Continue process of stirring and adding one cup broth at a time for about 25 minutes total. About ten minutes in, also add other half of wine to the mixture. Make sure to constantly stir, as risotto can burn easily if left unattended. The texture you are going for is chewy but not glue-y, and a little al dente.

After 20 minutes, add spinach a few handfuls at a time while continuing to stir. It will wilt and cook down very quickly.

After 25 total minutes of stirring, immediately take pot off heat and stir in Smart Balance and cheese. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes.

Garnish with torn basil leaves and add more salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately. Enjoy!

I also added crushed red pepper to mine because I am a spice-freak. 😉 So tasty.

xoxo

Fit for TBA: My Favorite Workouts (Part II)

Hello there! Happy Monday…I am definitely ready for a fresh new week.

Let’s start it off with Part II of Fit for TBA: My Favorite Workouts! You can find Part I here.

Fit for TBA: My Favorite Workouts! (Part II)

I have a true love for yoga, and definitely don’t make enough time in my schedule for it. I truly think one reason I have been so stressed out lately is not having that time carved out every week to let go and quiet my mind. I can’t tell you how many times I have gone to my favorite yoga classes, only to walk away yoga-noodley AND have a clearer head…my instructors always seem to have the right things to say, and help you to feel like you are in the right place at the right time, and your life is right where it should be. I need to do yoga more regularly again!

Runners-Up: BodyCombat and boxing-inspired classes. Alright….sometimes there is no better feeling than uppercutting that imaginary bad guy in your kickboxing class, and delivering a nice roundhouse right to his head. And hitting a heavy bag is a therapy session all on its own!

I could go on and on about these super-inspiring, outrageously gorgeous girls, but all you need is to spend a few minutes on their blog or YouTube channel and you will see why! They have developed a lifestyle eating plan that works, and started a Community that is unlike any other. And they are so FUN! I couldn’t recommend them enough.

Runner-up: Cassey at Blogilates. She has the cutest personality and blog, and a great YouTube channel as well. Her Call Me Maybe Squat Challenge is NO JOKE!! Seriously….do it everyday for a week and try to tell me you don’t see a difference in your thighs!

Taking this class has been one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself. Women should absolutely weight train! (Good article on why strength training is so beneficial to women here.I accredit this class for the definition in my arms that I never thought was achievable. It is my main source of lifting, and in two (sometimes 3) days a week, I get in my full body weight lifting sessions, accompanied with fun instructors and good music. Since starting weight training, I haven’t gotten bulky, but definitely more toned. Due to the lack of testosterone in us ladies, we can’t can’t too bulky without the help of supplements. With the high rep, lower weight-style of BodyPump twice a week, lots of pushups, and protein afterwards, I am perfectly happy with my weight training. It’s what works best for me right now, and all of us regulars cannot deny the effects of BodyPump! This is one group fitness class that also caters to the males just as much as women. Our classes at my gym are often 50/50!

I am not much of a long distance runner. As much as I want to train for a half marathon, sometimes I think the Disney Wine & Dine is so enticing to me A) because of the cute medals and B) due to the fabulous food and drink awaiting for you at the end. I get bored easily and usually tap out at 3 miles, so Tabata intervals are PERFECT for me. I usually perform these on a treadmill. A Tabata is a 4 minute cycle where you go hard for twenty seconds, totally STOP for 10 seconds (I hop on the sides of the treadmill), and repeat for 8 total rounds within the 4 minutes. This. Is. Killer. I am not very fast, and my top speed is usually 9.5-10, but let me tell you. Two rounds of these with an incline walking warmup and cooldown and I am spent!!! Shape magazine has a great article on why Tabatas are so great for you.

“Doing as little as 4 minutes (or one “Tabata”) can increase your aerobic capacity, anaerobic capacity, VO2 max, resting metabolic rate, and can help you burn morefat (and make you look 200-percent leaner) than a traditional 60-minute aerobic workout. That’s right—4 minutes of Tabata can get you better fitness gains than an entire hour of running on the treadmill.”

…yes, please! 🙂

 

Hope you all have a great week…my weekend included a super fun bachelorette party in Atlantic City (Revel is AMAZING!!), a shopping trip to Anthropologie where I bought a towel set I have been lusting over (and picked up my sister’s huge paper mache elephant head from there as well, which I had to carry through the mall like a crazy person), and a yummy Shrimp Fra Diavlo dinner, accompanied with a Weeds marathon, Breaking Bad, and a couple glasses of Malbec. AND some Oreo ice cream pie…my parents wanted to celebrate Coop’s 30th, too! They got him a programmable crock pot. THIS I am happy about. 🙂 Any great crock pot recipe ideas? Hoping to catch up on some sleep this week!

Have a fabulous week!

Fit for TBA: My Favorite Workouts

Today I am introducing a new series on The Balance Artist: the Fit for TBA Awards! For each installment, I will discuss my favorite fitness and healthy-living-related things. Although I am not a certified instructor or personal trainer yet, I enjoy sharing my favorite things with fellow fitness and healthy-living enthusiasts!

First up: My Favorite Workouts! (Part I)
Fit for TBA Awards: My Favorite Workouts

BodyCombat is by far my favorite group workout. It is a perfect combo of boxing, tai chi, taekwondo, karate, and muay thai, and beats plain old steady cardio any day in my book! Lots of jabs, crosses, knees, uppercuts (my favorite), roundhouses and side kicks (my other favorite). The hour flies by and you are drenched in sweat by the end, and you feel super powerful! It is amazing what your body can do. And there’s always so much energy in the room! Since I have been taking Combat regularly for the last year, my core, legs, and arms are noticeably stronger, and my endurance is way up. SUCH a fun class!

Runner-Up: Zumba. Since I was a dancer for 13 years, I can be very picky about dance-inspired classes, but if you find a great instructor, this can be one of the most fun classes!

These DVDs are by far one of the toughest workouts around! Shaun T means business, and this 90 day challenge does NOT get easier as it goes on. In fact, the stronger you get, the harder you are able to push yourself, and these are some serious workouts! I started doing Insanity when I moved back home from college and wanted to change some things about my life. One thing I was able to control was my fitness and dedication to a healthy lifestyle, and I was so ready to finally do something for myself! And….let’s just say Shaun T whipped me into shape, and FAST. You begin to crave these sweaty workouts. Don’t be too intimidated, you get out of it what you put in, but you will build up so much strength if you stick with it (and you use ALL body weight! No free weights, pull-up bars, or any other fitness equipment needed. So at-home friendly.) and you will no doubt get some new definition in your muscles.

Runner-Up: Beach Babe by Tone It Up. It’s no secret I love the Tone It Up girls, Karena and Katrina. Their nutrition plan is top notch, but you don’t have to be a TIU member to take advantage of their workouts. They post workouts every Tuesday on their blog, and also partner up with Livestrong to deliver great videos. This DVD is great and their HIIT the Beach workout (1 of 7 included in this DVD) is perfect when you are short on time but want a good, sweaty HIIT workout.

Not many better things in the world than being about to get a good workout in while exploring the beauty this world has to offer. Two of my favorite places to hike?

New Hampshire

and Tucson, Arizona.

I miss the Sonoran desert so much! Always had the best hikes there.

Runners-up: Walking/Running with the Pup and Kayaking. On my fitness bucket list: try stand up paddleboarding! And SUP yoga sounds super awesome, too!

These are hands-down the best sculptor for your obliques. They are tough, but I am obsessed with them! The conditioning tracks at the end of BodyCombat and BodyPump often incorporate these, and since I have been doing variations of planks throughout the last year a few times a week, my core is stronger and more defined than ever. These things TRUMP sit ups, anyday!

(You don’t need to have your top leg up…just the regular version of a side plank is killer!)

Runner-Up: Regular plank, with alternating shoulder taps, or alternating knees + pushups.

Gina is not only a Tucson-native, with an adorable husband and baby, but she is also an awesome instructor of all-things-fitness. When I get back out to Arizona, I am for sure going to make it out to one (or more!) of her classes! Her Tabata Thursdays are great, as are all the posts in her Focus On: series.

 

Be on the lookout for future Fit for TBA series posts including: favorite workout clothes/accessories, and my favorite health and nutrition finds. What are some of your favorite workouts?

Off to do some last-minute prep for a best friend’s bachelorette party tomorrow! Early morning Dirty Double (Combat/Pump), pretzel tray pickup (DROOL Philly Pretzel Factory!!!), and then AC, here I come, baby! Mary, I hope you are ready for a wild night at Revel! 😉 Have a great weekend everyone!

Jersey Fresh!

Much love to my favorite local farmer’s market!
One of the very best things about being from the Garden State is that fresh, local produce is always abound in season. Jersey tomatoes are the absolute BEST!
 
 
Pepper lover’s dream!
I stopped by to get some jalapenos (I am making “skinny” jalapeno poppers for part of Coop’s birthday dinner tonight), but was drawn to the chocolate-colored and purple bell peppers. They had 6 different colors of bell peppers, along with all kinds of hot peppers, from habenaros to hot and sweet jalapenos to poblanos.
Check out my haul, including the chocolate and purple bell peppers, a stripey heirloom tomato, and more. Best of all, this was all under 8 bucks(!!!)….making my impulse buys totally warranted.
Plum the size of my whole hand!
I love how everytime I go, there are unique assortments of some of the best produce in the country. Plus, the market is on my commute home, so it’s perfect to pop in at lunch or on my way home from work. AND they sell wine there.
I miss fresh California avocados (they are SO much cheaper out west!!!), but since being back East again, I have been taking full advantage of the awesomeness that is the Garden State.
(Being able to have a smoothie bowl chock-full of fresh produce on the patio during your lunch hour is always nice, too!)
xoxo hope you are having a great week! I’m off to walk the pup and then cook my favorite 30-year-old his birthday dinner! 🙂

A Birthday Post! And The Balance Artist Links

Not only is tomorrow Coop’s Big 3-0….but today is my blogging anniversary! TBA hasn’t been around that long (since April!), but my original blog, Sam Bock Illustration & Design, began this day, last year.

(Any readers remember this?)

Happy Birthday, Coop!

This past weekend, I surprised Mr. I-Don’t-Want-a-Party-Grumpy-Gus with a room at Windrift in Avalon.

(Photo via windrifthotel.com)

We fell in love with it Memorial Day weekend when we first saw the renovations, and I knew we had to stay there! Had to do something special…thirty is a big deal!

I made the two of us some veggie-filled pitas and some smoothies to get some last-minute nutrition, and we headed down to the good ol’ Jersey shore early Friday afternoon.

It was a really great weekend full of friends and surprises. Started off with discovering our sweet room view (right over the pool!) and cracking open some Malbec after hunting for a wine opener.

We ate lots of great food (wood-fired pizza, sushi, oysters, Bang Bang Shrimp, etc. from Windrift are all Sam & Coop-approved), and my sister Allie and her boyfriend Oscar came for the first night.

Shenanigans ensued.

Gosh, I love them.

Saturday was a hot one, but our friend Norty met us after the four of us had brunch on the deck and we beached it for hours until we took it to the pool.

(Photo via windrifthotel.com)

(Photo via windrifthotel.com)

It was so convenient having our meals at the hotel, and we actually didn’t make it out to any other bars at all in Avalon this time. We had too much fun and never left! Saturday night, a bunch of our friends from Ocean City came to surprise Coop, and we ended up hardly leaving our small suite…we had the best time!

Sunday was reggae happy hour at the Golden Inn next door, where we met the CUTEST basset hound/black lab puppy named Sadie and Coop sat in for one of our favorite reggae bands, The Raggamuffins!

My rockstar can play chill reggae, too! It was a very different “shore weekend” for us, but it was so much fun! Already can’t wait to go back to WD. If you are ever a Jersey shore-goer, definitely check it out. It is our absolute favorite!

Happy Birthday, Blog!

I also wanted to implement a new little aspect to my blog, since it IS my blogging birthday!

Called “TBA Links,” I will link up four links of possible interest at the bottom of posts. Since my posts tend to be lifestyle-related on a regular basis, I figured these links will help me stay true to my original intent for my blog…balancing my life of art, food, fitness, and fun.

One for each section of the heart and soul of TBA: Art, Food, Fitness, & Just for Fun. Here are my first TBA Links!

  • Are you a big birthday-celebrator?
  • Have you found any great links lately?