I was lucky enough to spend the weekend with my parents last weekend, an experience which will now be called The 2015 Summer Culinary Adventure Part 1. Both of my parents love to cook (a passion which finally rubbed off on me after college) so our lives seem to revolve around creating lunch and dinner menus every day I'm there (breakfast is used to plan).
One warm day, we decided on a Peruvian ceviche for lunch. This light, refreshing, cold dish is perfect when it's heavy and humid out. Since it's that time of the year, I'm sharing the recipe with all of you today!
Just a note: There seem to be a zillion ways to make ceviche so feel free to play around with the recipe.
1 lb fresh, sushi grade fillet of Mahi Mahi or another firm white fish, cut into cubes
Juice of 2 limes
½ to ¾ of an inch of grated ginger
2-3 cloves minced garlic
2/3 of a jalapeño, chopped (up to you if you want to keep the seeds)
½ tsp of hot pepper paste (like Harissa)
1-3 tsp fish broth (optional, I didn't have any so I didn't use it)
1-3 tsp milk (I used light coconut)
Salt to taste
Combine all of the ingredients and marinate for 20 minutes.
Taste and adjust with more pepper paste/milk/garlic if needed.
SALSA CRIOLLA (marinated red onion)
1 small-medium red onion, sliced very thinly
Juice of 1/2-1 lime
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1-2 tsp chopped cilantro
Salt to taste
Mix everything except for the salt and let marinate for 1 hour. Salt just before serving. OPTIONAL: To help make the raw red onion more easily digestible, you can let the sliced onions sit in ice water for a little bit.
I had some sliced radishes on the side but sliced jicama would have been even better. You can also serve the ceviche with plantain chips if you need some starch. Serve before, after or next to a simple spinach or arugula salad with chopped tomatoes and avocado and you're good to go!
Guys! I am so excited to be kicking off my #DiningOutStrong series! Thanks in advance for reading!
A few notes before I dive in:
First things first: If you haven’t read my post with my tips about how to enjoy dining out without worrying about derailing your fat loss efforts, click here now and then read this post after!
Second: #DiningOutStrong is all about figuring out how to have an awesome meal at a restaurant without mucking up your food plan. If you know me, you know I love stinky cheese, pate, croissants and wine. And those nuggets of awesomeness have their times and places. But if fat loss is your ultimate goal, you will have to choose when to include foods like this — the rich, the saucy, the fried — into your life. I’ll leave it to you to decide when to treat yo self. I’ll leave it to me to give you all the other delicious options!
I chose Farmhouse Evanston as my first #DiningOutStrong destination and two friends were kind enough to join me. Farmhouse is located right downtown at Church St. and Orrington Ave. It was a big deal when it opened up because it was pretty much the first farm-to-table concept to come to town. Many of their ingredients are locally sourced and there’s even a garden on the roof (according to their Facebook page). Most of the interior is reclaimed which gives the dining rooms this cool rustic-chic feel. The night we went — a regular Wednesday night — was busy and bustling with people doing some post-work dining. The atmosphere was upbeat and vibrant which I LOVE (I’m not a fan of being one of the only diners in a restaurant).
Upon looking through the menu, I’m happy to report that there were quite a few dishes the three of us could choose from. Though I’ve heard the cheese curds are some of the best around, we opted for a beautiful salad instead: Shaved local asparagus with golden beets, breakfast radishes, raw English peas, baby butter lettuce and a verjus vinaigrette. It was delightfully refreshing on this warm night and definitely big enough to share three ways. Rebecca mentioned she doesn’t usually like beets but thought these beets were crisp and delicious. There were other salads on the menu (like the black kale salad with sour apple, dried Michigan cherries, Wisconsin parmesan, crunchy heirloom wheat berries and a sherry vinaigrette) but ours sounded like the best way to start dinner without getting too full. Had it been cold outside I might have ordered the homemade chicken soup with kale and wild mushrooms; I’ve had it before and it is excellent. Overall, I’d say that in regards to ordering an appetizer at Farmhouse Evanston, the best options are the salads because most other appetizers are fried.
Now onto entrees. Rebecca and I each ordered the pork tenderloin with cracked wheat green herb salad, grilled asparagus, black garlic and thyme vinaigrette while Melissa ordered the pan roasted trout with pearl pasta salad, charred spring onion, sweet potato chips and sun dried tomato relish. I thought the tenderloin was cooked really well and was very nicely seasoned. Melissa’s trout was cooked nicely and was definitely the star of the dish. That said, it felt like something was missing so we shared the special veggie side of the day which was mixed mushrooms and kale in garlic butter. The size was perfect for the table.
Other options for entrees included the half Amish chicken with glazed spring market vegetables, sandy potatoes and ramp butter (which I’ve heard from many people is really good) as well as the Farmhouse dry aged burger: 100% grass fed beef which comes with lettuce tomato, onion, Nueske’s bacon, Red Barn Heritage white cheddar on a country style roll with fries... Um. Right. About the roll and fries, use this #DinignOutStrong tip: When the pickins are slim on the menu and you eat red meat and you just don't want another freaking salad: Order the burger. The choice is yours regarding eating the bun (and bacon and cheese); I typically don’t eat the bun because it’s rare that the bread tastes THAT good. I may have a few fries with my burger but can also ask for a side of veggies instead OR I can just ask for the burger to be put on a bed of greens. This way you get protein and veggies.]
Moving on to dessert: We skipped it. Instead of getting something that might not blow our minds and then finishing it anyway, we decided we were content enough and left it at that. I did thoroughly enjoy my one glass of wine, though, which helped me feel extra OK skipping dessert (I don't usually drink during the week; it's one habit that's helped me not only maintain my goal weight but also sleep way better on "school nights").
Overall, Farmhouse offers a good amount of options for those who want to enjoy a night out. I will say that across the board, with the exception of our proteins, the food needed more seasoning. But if you’re looking for fresh food with loads of vegetable and protein options, a place with a great vibe that also has a huge outdoor seating area when the weather is nice, Farmhouse passes the IzzyFit #DiningOutStrong test.
Sara contacted me last summer from Boston to set up a personal training consultation in August, once she'd moved to Evanston. Um. How much do I LOVE that she was so on top of it? Sara had goals (to run a marathon) that she wanted to reach so she made training her priority.
Over the course of the following months, it became clear that Sara's job and schedule were incredibly demanding and the thought of a marathon became too much. For some people (Sara included), the thought of dropping out of a race/meet/etc might feel like failure. But I was so proud of Sara for making the healthier decision: One that would ultimately keep her healthy and able to train for the long-term while not flooding her system with far more stress than a person should handle which I firmly believe would have left her injured or just with a genuine hatred of training.
Sara showed up every week and stayed consistent. She has made incredible lifestyle changes over the last few months that have left her with a lot less stress, better sleep, a healthier system, fitting into a hot red dress that didn't fit right this time last year and she was at the top of the leaderboard in this spring's CleanSlate28! She's an inspiration and I'm happy to have you meet her!
What were your initial goals when you started training?
I moved here in August for work and didn't know anyone, but I knew I wanted to avoid falling off the fitness bandwagon during a time of lots of stress. So I found Izzy during the summer and signed up right away. My goals have morphed a lot over time as I've learned to be a bit more patient with myself, but originally I'd say they were: 1) stay fit while being stressed about moving and 2) do some strength training that would help with a marathon I had signed up for (marathon didn't pan out, btw).
How do you think your sessions have helped you out?
Even though I didn't wind up completing my marathon, I'm running with a lot fewer aches and pains now. I also got to do a bunch of things that I wouldn't have done if I'd have been focused on running longer distances, including a long-standing goal to deadlift my bodyweight successfully. :)
What do you enjoy most about training?
I'm a very process-oriented person. I like checking the boxes on the training plan and watching the weight I can lift or the reps slowly go up (except for the single leg glute bridge reps. Those don't need to go up anymore, ha). Izzy keeps things nice and varied. If I were doing it on my own I'd probably do the same 4 exercises for 6 months and would never push myself as hard. It's nice to have a fun place where I'm challenged to do new things.
Is there anything surprising that you've discovered with strength training?
Throwing a medicine ball at the wall is a way more effective way of dealing with stress than a stress ball!
Do you have any fitness goals for this year?
I really, really, REALLY want to be able to do a pull-up. I think it might be the most impressive exercise and I don't remember ever being able to do one, even as a little kid. It'd feel so amazing if I could pull that off now.
I'm also still flirting with the idea of running a marathon. It might be this year, it might be next year. I know it's going to be in the back of my mind until it's done, though, so I need to get that taken care of at some point.
How would you describe your philosophy on working out and nutrition?
I view my time working out as my me-time. I really look forward to the hour-ish I spend 4 or 5 times a week running, with Izzy, or doing strength training. It keeps me sane and balanced. Whether I'm talking something out with Izzy or just thinking while I run I usually either find a solution, or come to peace with, a problem while working out.
As for nutrition - I just finished CleanSlate28 and it was totally amazing! I am happier and healthier eating whole, real food and plan to continue it as much as possible. I *feel* more energetic and well-rested than I have in a long time, which has been fantastic.
What advice would you have for anyone just starting out?
In the last few years I've lost a certain amount of weight (not really sure of the exact number to date, I haven't been on the scale in a little over a month thanks to Izzy) and went from not being able to run for 2 minutes to running half marathons. It started with a Groupon (no, really) for a 30 day gym membership for $19.99. I figured it was worth $20 to see if I could rearrange what I thought was an impossible schedule for an hour of me time a few times a week. It resulted in so many wonderful, positive things I can't even describe that were way better than weight loss. I remember being too tired at the end of the day and thinking I'd never have time to be fit again, and I promise there is time, you just have to fight for it. When I moved from Boston to Evanston I knew it would be a struggle to keep what I'd built - but I also knew it was one of the most important things to me. Finding Izzy and having her help me through that has been so incredibly helpful!
Start now. Don't plan to start on Monday, or when life is less busy, or after meal X, Y, or whatever. If you want to change things start right now. Call and make an appointment, take the stairs, order something different at lunch, or whatever. Getting healthy and strong isn't a temporary diet, it's a decision to change your life for the better and for good. Make a change you can stick to now and then add more later.
Anything else to share?
I firmly believe we make time for the things that are important to us, but sometimes we're the worst at making time for ourselves and our health. I'm really thankful that Izzy has helped me continue to carve out that time even when life has been hard. The last couple of months of awesomeness have been so rewarding for that. I wanted to give up sometimes when I first moved here, but Izzy's relentless positivity kept me from throwing in the towel. Now I am starting the summer in wicked good shape and can't wait to see what's next.