Michigan Road Trip – What No Peanut Butter?

As you may have guessed, I’ve been away the whole weekend. This time I was on a road trip – to Michigan. I will be the first one to admit that 6-7 hours in a car with a 5 year old a toddler can get a little dicey. But what’s even more challenging is finding healthy things to eat when I’m on the road.

Because we left so early on Friday morning, Scott wanted to stop for breakfast at Cracker Barrel. I am not against CB, but I’ve been there so many times that I’m barreled out.  Nonetheless, he was the driver so he got to choose.

In my college days and even pre-kid days, I would love to stop at CB for their cheesey potatoes and their biscuits. But now, I have absolutely no desire to eat those things, especially for breakfast.  As you know, I normally eat yogurt, oatmeal, or Kashi cereal for breakfast. I also like to incorporate some type of fresh fruit and/or peanut butter. As I casually looked at the menu, I saw “fresh fruit” and oatmeal on the menu, and thought, this couldn’t be that bad. But then I noticed that the “fresh fruit” included sliced bananas and fried apples – ugh! When did we start labeling fried apples as “fresh fruit”? This is a total Jamie Oliver nightmare.

The server came to our table and the conversation went a little something like this…

  • Me – Do you have any fresh fruit other than bananas and fried apples?
  • Server – No, that’s it
  • Me – so no fresh berries or melon?
  • Server – no that’s it
  • Me – Ok, then I’ll take the oatmeal
  • Server – we stopped serving oatmeal at 10 AM
  • Me – But it’s only 10:10 AM, you don’t have any left?
  • Server – no, it’s all gone.
  • Me – Do you have yogurt?
  • Server – No, we don’t serve yogurt. We tried serving it years ago but it didn’t go over well.
  • Me – OMG!!! Well then I’d like an English muffin with peanut butter
  • Server – We don’t have peanut butter.
  • Me – What is with Cracker Barrel? You guys need to get with the times!

As this point, I was so frustruated, I forgot to ask what cereal they served. I would bet money that they didn’t have Kashi. My server then explained that, like me, she was surprised that CB didn’t have these items. But she said that the restaurants were trying to keep with the authentic country or “down home” type of food. I could see that she wanted to help me, but it was beyond her control. My husband said, “there’s plenty of things to eat on the menu” to which I replied, “yeah, if all I want to eat is CARBS!” Ugh, I was not happy. I settled for one poached egg an English muffin with jam. I wonder if they considered the prepackaged jam a fruit as well?

Cracker Barrel, if you weren’t so convenient on road trips, I would avoid you like the carb-laden plague.

Early Summer Breakfast

It’s summertime in Chicago! Well, almost 🙂 This week it has been near or above 80 degrees, which definitely makes it feel like summer. There are so many things I love about summer – swimming, running outdoors, wearing cute sandals, and….dining al fresco!

Whether I’m eating at home or at a restaurant, I love eating outside. There’s something about being among nature that makes the food taste better. And so, to celebrate this early arrival of Summer in Chicago (at least by temperature’s standards), I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast outside. It included:

  • French bread spread with brie and Trader Joe’s raspberry jam
  • 2 cups of chopped fruit (for the fiber) topped with a dollop of plain nonfat Greek yogurt (for the protein)
  • Tazo Awake tea with skim milk

Ahhh, breakfast perfection! Now, if I could only find some new cute sandals – Nordstrom 1/2 yearly sale for women, here I come!

Got Fiber?

(Photo Courtesy of Flickr)

A few months back, I received a complimentary copy of the book, The Full Plate Diet. The main premise of the book is that by adding more fiber to your meals you will essentially lose weight (because you will feel fuller, eat fewer calories, etc.). Since I received the book, I’ve been reading it intermittently. Although I do not believe that just eating more fiber can help you lose weight – and keep it off – I think that how much fiber we eat does impact how much we eat and, therefore, how many calories we take in.

In the past few days, I have been trying to add more fiber to my daily meals. On average, I was eating about 15 g of fiber a day, which is actually below average – most Americans eat around 20 g. The authors of The Full Plate Diet stress that our bodies need 40 g of fiber each day to lose and maintain a healthy weight. Wow, that meant that I had to add 25 g of fiber to my daily meals! I was convinced that I would have to eat prunes, sticks, and rocks in order to get that much more. That is, until I read more of the book. The Full Plate Diet gave me a great overview of foods and their fiber content, which was extremely helpful. I mean – who knew that raspberries have one of the highest fiber contents of all fruits?

So, yesterday was the big day. I attempted to reach 40 g of fiber without eating tree bark and without turning into a bloated monster….let’s see how I did:

Jen’s Fiber Intake for Monday


  • 1 cup Kashi Go Lean cereal – 8g
  • 1 cup raspberries – 8 g
  • 2/3 pear – 4 g


  • 3 cups mixed spinach and romaine – 6 g
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes – 1 g
  • 1 cup strawberries – 3 g


  • 3 cups mixed spinach and romaine – 6 g
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes – 1 g


  • 1/2 cup strawberries – 1.5 g

Total – 38.5 g of fiber

Just to clarify, this was not ALL the food I ate yesterday, just the food that had a significant amount of fiber. Because I ate other things during the meal, like couscous, I’m sure I surpassed the 40 g mark. Not too bad! But, I have to admit, getting this much fiber in my diet was a real challenge. I don’t normally eat a cup of raspberries at one sitting, nor do I eat two spinach salads in one day. I really think that a good way to jump start your fiber-filled day is with your breakfast. Just by eating the high fiber cereal and the raspberries, I was able to knock of 16 g of fiber – that was more than I would normally eat in a whole day. But, if it weren’t for Kashi and the fruit, I’m fairly certain my fiber intake would have been much lower for the day.

So how did I feel? Well, not too much differently than I normally feel. Although I did feel a more full throughout the day and I felt like I had more energy. I also did not crave food at my normal “snack times”, which I’m totally happy with.

If you’re curious about how much fiber you’re eating throughout the day, go to The Full Plate Diet online. The site has a great tool where you can select the food you’ve eaten at each meal and it will calculate the fiber intake – so easy and kind of fun in a weird “I heart fiber” kind of way. And, if you need to add in more fiber to your diet – let’s face it, we all do – check out the free e-book version of The Full Plate Diet. The books gives the top fruits, veggies, grains, etc that contain the most fiber and essentially give you the most bang for your calorie/fiber buck.

So, before your next meal, ask yourself – Got Fiber?

Pears Are Always In Season

I’ve been on a fruit kick lately. Maybe it’s because I’m trying to eat more fiber-rich foods. Or maybe it’s because I’m wishing summer to get here! Whatever the reason, the other day I went to the grocery store and came back with:

  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blueberries
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Apricots
  • Red seedless grapes
  • Pears

I wasn’t even planning on getting all of this fruit but it looked soooo good at the store. One thing I noticed was that there were several more varieties of pears than normal. I didn’t even think it was “pear season”, but I guess with so many varieties, pears are always in season. Anyway, I usually stick to the green Bartlett pears – that’s what I grew up with, so that’s what I know. However, this time, I decided to try something different. I picked out one Taylor’s Gold pear, pictured above, and 2 Bartlett pears. I am not very familiar with Taylor’s Gold but learned that it is a New Zealand pear with golden-brown skin. According to Epicurious, the Taylor’s Gold pear is good for making jams, jellies, and sauces. But, because it’s very sweet and juicy, it’s great for eating as well – I know, because I had it this morning and it was awesome!

If you want to learn more about pear varieties that are grown in the US, what they could be used for, and even what wine/cheese go best with each variety, check out USA Pears.

Planting a Vegetable Garden

(Photo courtesy of Flickr)

We finally did it – we planted our vegetable garden! A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I had been wanting a vegetable garden for years. After removing a ton of stones and small boulders from our “rock garden” and turning over the land, we were finally ready to plant. However, one thing led to another, including my trip out of town, and we weren’t able to plant the garden until today.

Our first step was clearing the garden once more – this time of those spinner things that fall from the trees. They are such a nuisance because if they actually take to the soil they can sprout little trees anywhere and everywhere. Well, I couldn’t let that happen to my garden, so rake in hand, I removed as many as I could.

After that, we headed to Home Depot to pick out our plants. Unfortunately, there must have been a mad rush for vegetable seedlings on this 85-degree day, because many of the vegetables we wanted were not even there. Blah! So, it was off to another garden center for us. I had better luck at the garden center, but still had to buy seeds for some of the vegetables we wanted. I was told it might be “too late” to start from seeds, but what the heck. If it doesn’t work, I’m only wasting about $5 on 3 packets.

After over an hour of shopping, here is what we finally arrived home with:


  1. Cilantro – one plant
  2. Thai basil – one plant
  3. Roma tomatoes – two plants, plus two more for a Topsy Turvy hanging plant holder
  4. Red, green, yellow peppers – 4 plants total
  5. Cucumbers – 2 plants
  6. Jalapeno – about 8 plants total
  7. Watermelon – 1 plant (hey, it’s worth a shot!)
  8. Snap peas – 2 plants (heard they were easy to grow)
  9. Strawberries – 6 plants for a Topsy Turvy holder

Seed Packets

  1. Carrots
  2. Broccoli
  3. Spinach

Quite honestly, aside from finding all of the plants we wanted, the hardest part of planting our garden was deciding where to put everything. Each vegetable has special needs – snap peas grow up and they like to be close together; carrots can’t be planted too deep or shallow; watermelon vines spread out so they need lots of space, etc. We did our best to make sure every vegetable was given the attention it needed. We even got the kids involved – helping us drop the seedlings into the holds, pouring in the dirt, etc. They called it “making salad”, which was just too funny! Little do they know that in a few months, that’s exactly what they will have – all the makings for a salad!

Now, only time, and consistent watering/weeding, will tell how well we’ve done at our first attempt at gardening. I admit, we have probably gotten in over our heads. I’m not worried about recouping the $100 we spent on the garden, I just want to actually have vegetables grow and not have our efforts be completely fruitless (no pun intended). Stay tuned!!

So Glad to Be Home

(Photo courtesy of Flickr)

Hey all! I’m so excited – I am going to the Healthy Living Summit!!! As of today, it looks like there are still tickets available. But I’m sure they will go fast, so if you’re thinking about going, I suggest you buy your ticket ASAP!

I just returned from my 5-day stint in Washington, DC. It was a great trip but a little long for its purpose. Plus, my throat was on fire the whole time and still is. I’m heading into the doctor tomorrow. At first I didn’t think it was strep, but now I’m pretty sure it is. The weird thing is that other than my throat, I feel fine. Whatever I have, I need to get well ASAP because I’m headed out of town again next weekend.

To help with the pain and soothe my aching throat, I’ve been drinking hot tea like it’s going out of style. I must have had 2 teas each day while in Washington. My tea of choice these days is either Tazo Awake or just about any brand of English Breakfast (love Harney and Sons!). If I’m using a bag, I steep it for about 3 minutes or so, then add a bit of skim milk – no sugar. Ahh, sooo good! I even tried a couple English Breakfast lattes that were quite yummy. However, please be aware that even tea lattes made with skim milk have anywhere from 100-150 calories per drink. Keep that in mind if you’re watching calories!

I have to say that I am so glad to be home and back sleeping in my own bed. The room that I had for the last week overlooked the lobby/bar area, just one floor up. So, it was very noisy from about 6:30 AM to well after midnight. This went on for 4 nights in a row. Then, last night, about 12:15 AM, I was fed up and called the front desk. I asked them when they planned to turn the music down so that people could sleep. After all, it was after midnight on a Wednesday – it wasn’t like it was 9 PM on a Saturday. The woman said she would let the lobby/bar know that I filed a noise complaint. Well, the music and noise were still going strong at least 30 minutes later. Ugh – not happy! I finally fell asleep, so I don’t know what time the music actually shut off. So much for my complaint – I really didn’t expect that kind of service (or lack of) from a Marriott hotel.I don’t think I’d stay there again, and if I HAD to, I would definitely ask for a higher floor.

Anyway, enough of my hotel ranting, I’m off to bed. Have a great night!

A Star-Spangled Evening

Hey all! Today was my last full day in Washington, DC, and what a day it was! So, what did I do today? Aside from working from 10:30 AM to 4:30 PM, I….

  • Ran 5 miles around the White House and Washington Monument
  • Got a massage and facial
  • Ate some awesome bread pudding with butterscotch sauce
  • Watched the movie Leap Year, with Amy Adams, on my computer
  • Attended a private after-hours event at the Smithsonian!

At the American History Museum, I got to take a photo with Revolutionary War musicians. They asked me if I could add a little color to my coat – they must be comedians in there spare time. At the Natural History Museum, I was able to rub elbows, err…stones, with an Easter Island statue – me no dum dum (random Night at the Museum reference)…

Plus, I covertly took a photo of America’s own pride and joy – the American Flag – aka the Star-spangled banner…

Whew! All in a days “work”. Now, I’m off to pack. I have to work our 1/2 day conference tomorrow then I’m flying back to Chicago mid-day. See you all tomorrow night as I write from Chi-town!

All Work and No Play

Today was day #2 – on my own in Washington, DC. After a brisk run, followed by a little morning work, I headed off to the Smithsonian – a place that I had not been in over 20 years. I spent more than two hours wandering the halls of the Natural History and the American History museums. I even got the chance to visit Julia Child’s kitchen! During this time, I was torn between loving the freedom to come and go as I pleased, but wishing I had Scott with me to share the experience.

On the way back to the hotel, I stopped off for afternoon tea at a local favorite – Teaism in Penn Quarter. Teaism would not be my first choice for authentic afternoon tea (British style) – it’s more focused on Asian tea. But the cafe provided a great atmosphere to enjoy my English breakfast, some cake, and a cookie. Because I had nowhere else to go, I took my time, savoring the drink and good eats, and reading a magazine from cover to cover – something I rarely do nowadays.

Tomorrow I actually have to WORK, but thankfully, not until 10 AM. I’m planning a 6-mile run around the city, then another dinner out tomorrow night. Life is hard when you’re on a business trip – he he!

Dinner at Circa in Washington DC

Hey all! Hope you had a great weekend. I was up and at ’em around 7 AM today. I went for a 6-mile run, then came home to finish packing for my trip to DC. I boarded a plane around 1 PM and touched down in DC about 3:30 PM. Whew – all that in just a matter of a few hours! Since my conference doesn’t start until tomorrow, I quickly unpacked at the hotel then headed out to take in the sites. I walked all over Penn Quarter, sampling froyo, viewing the goods at Teasim, and then finally stopping off at the American Art Museum and Portrait Gallery.

Later on, I met Prachi – a DC friend of mine – for dinner at Circa on Du Pont Circle. Circa Cafe is a mix of trendy and charming, and with the weather at 70 degrees, you just can’t beat sitting outside! To start, we split a bottle of Chardonnay and some super yummy risotto croquettes…

These croquettes were awesome! Cheers to the chef who thought up the idea to bread risotto balls and deep fry them! Note to self – must try these at home. Next up, I enjoyed the Rocket salad with cherry tomatoes, arugula, sliced chicken, and more…

As you can tell, I was more than happy with my entree choice, the wine, and the company. Since I don’t see Prachi very often – a couple times  a year – we try to catch up on everything when we do see each other. Sadly, I learned that she is moving to Phoenix for a year with her boyfriend, Jigar. I only say “sadly” because I don’t travel to Phoenix very often so will likely not see her for quite some time. Ironically, Phoenix is where Prachi and I met for the first time about 5 years ago. I have never met Jigar but I’m sure he must be a great catch – after all, he likes Pazo restaurant in Baltimore!

For dessert – Prachi and I shared a wonderful orange almond crescent bread pudding with pistachio gelato. OK, we really didn’t “share”. She ordered a decaf coffee and I ate most of the dessert, but can you blame me…

Who can pass up bread pudding sans raisins with creme anglaise? The only thing that would have made this better is chocolate – hmm, something to think about for next time.

OK ladies, it’s off to bed for me. Planning a early AM run tomorrow!

Unusual Benefits of Exercise

(Photo courtesy of Flickr)

Prevention magazine recently identified 17 ways that exercise improves our health. Although there are a few obvious benefits on the list – like weight loss, reduced stress, etc – there are a  few that might surprise you. Regular exercise can:

  • Make you happier and increase your productivity at work
  • Improve your vocabulary
  • Improve your dental health
  • Reduce your risk of getting colds
  • Improve your vision
  • Help you sleep more soundly
  • Make you smarter by improving mental fitness

So, even if you don’t need to lose weight, there are more than enough very good reasons to keep you moving everyday. Just pick one and get going!