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Turning Over a New Leaf

Hello, beautiful people!  I hope you’re still there and that we haven’t lost you yet!.  We went MIA for a brief moment, as we’ve been brainstorming where we want this blog to go.

Honestly, the more we thought about it, we realized we didn’t just want a space to document our daily food and exercise.  That is so far from our original purpose of creating a blog in the first place.  Not to mention, I think it was starting to drive us crazy trying to make sure we got a picture of everything we ate.  It works for some people, but not so much for us.  (I still enjoy reading blogs that do this though and have so much respect for people who can!) It is especially difficult to do that as a couple.  So we decided we have to do what works for us.  The beauty of blogging is that you can try many, many different things until you figure it out.  What’s most important is STARTING.   

We want to take this blog in a slightly different direction.  We are going to start writing more informative and inspiring posts from which you can LEARN something, posts that just make you think, “hmm that’s interesting!”, and posts that challenge you to live the life of your dreams.  Although we may still dedicate a page or a certain time during the week to update our own progress, we mainly want to focus on letting you know about things we learn or come across that we think may help you lead a healthier, happier life.  The main point is, we will try to only write about ourselves or our journey when we feel it is something that will be of use to you

If we get down to it, the name of our blog, “The Passionate Pair”, came to existence because we wanted to help people realize there is so much more to life.  We want to inspire others to ignite passion in everything they do, whether that means leaving a job that is making you miserable or incorporating new habits into your life that can help you appreciate and love the life you already lead.  We’ve been on quite a powerful journey, both spiritually and health-wise, for the past year.  Now is our time to start sharing with the world what has led and continues to lead us down this positive and fulfilling path.  Our outlooks on life have done a complete 180* in one year, and we hope we can show others how easy it is to just be happy.  Once you learn this secret, everything else in your life starts to come together and make sense.   

For now, our main topics will focus on health, nutrition, fitness, and inspiration

We hope if you’ve been following our blog, you continue to do so.  There will still be plenty of yummy food and fitness fun to come!       

We’ll get into more details in the next coming posts, but we’re so excited and think you will be too!  Please leave us feedback with your thoughts.  Let us know if there is anything in particular you’ve been wanting to change in your life to make it more rewarding, and we’ll do our best to help you make that change.

Remember, we’re all in this together.  😉

“If there is no passion in your life, then have you really lived? Find your passion, whatever it may be. Become it, and let it become you and you will find great things happen FOR you, TO you and BECAUSE of you.” – T. Alan Armstrong

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Skip the Dunkin’ Donuts Drive-Thru and Make Your Own Everything Bagels at Home!

Hey everyone! Dustin here.

Today we decided to make our own homemade Everything bagels.  Tracy loves ordering these at Dunkin’ Donuts, but $2 bagels can add up.  And there’s never enough seasoning on the ones we get at the store.  Not to mention all of the crazy ingredients that get put into them.  We wanted to make some that were slightly healthier and more delicious.  We dusted off the bread machine and put it to use!

Our inspiration came from this recipe from Recipezaar.

INGREDIENTS:

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  • 2 1/4 tsp of dry active yeast (equivalent to 1 packet)
  • 1 1/2 T sugar
  • 1 cup warm water (nuked for about 45 seconds)
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached wheat all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 T canola oil
  • Cornmeal
  • Poppy seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Dry chopped onion
  • Salt and pepper

STEPS:

1. Take out your bread machine or kitchen mixer with dough setting. Note: I’m sure you can mix and knead all by hand.  I’m just not too knowledgeable on that subject.

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2. Combine 1 cup of warm water, 1.5 T sugar and 2 1/4 active dry yeast into the bread machine.  Let it stand for 5 minutes until the yeast is activated.

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The yeast will start to look like this once it activates.  You will see foam floating on top of the water, as it bubbles up.

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3. Once five minutes is up, add 2 cups of all purpose flour and 1 tsp of salt to the mixture.

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4. Set the bread machine to the dough setting and mix until it forms into a ball-like shape or until the ingredients have formed dough.

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While the dough was being created we turned our counter into a work space to work in the dough.

5. As you can see we added flour to our counter top.  One the dough is done you then add an additional 1/2 cup of flour and work it into the ball.  Add a little more flour if you need to make it less sticky.

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6.  Put the dough ball into a greased bowl (with canola oil) and rotate it a few times so that all areas of the dough are covered.

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7.  Put a dish cloth or other small towel over the bowl and set it in a warm spot for 60 minutes to rise.

Trick: Turn your oven on 350 degrees for 30 seconds and then back off so that the oven is warm inside.

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8. After one hour of rising, your dough should have doubled in size.

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9. Next take the dough back out and punch the air out.  Then divide it into 6 equal pieces, and roll them into 6 inch logs.  Or you can make 12 mini-bagels.

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10.  Connect both ends of the “log” together to form a circle. Be sure to press it firmly to ensure it stays connected.

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11. Place the bagels on a greased pan and cover for another 20 minutes to rise some more.

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12. While the bagels are rising, get out another cookie sheet.   Drizzle with oil and cover with cornmeal.

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13. Mix one egg yolk. (You will baste this on to get the spices to stick.)

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14. After 20-30 minutes, the bagels will be ready for the final steps.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Then, take out a large pot and boil up 4 quarts of water with 1 1/2 tsp of sugar.

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While we waited for the water to boil and the bagels to rise.  We got together our poppy seeds, sesame seeds, chopped onion and salt and pepper. The bagel toppings!

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Here is the system we set-up for the next part.  Boiling water, empty bowl for draining, and cornmeal pan.

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15. When bagels are done rising and your water is boiling, you’re ready to go. Drop the bagels in (3 at a time) for one minute. Then, drain for 5 sec in a bowl and then place them on your cookie sheet.

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We then took a butter knife and perfected the holes in the center.

16. Put the bagels in the pre-heated oven for 5 minutes.

After the 5 minutes is up your bagels should look like this.

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17.  Now, baste each bagel with the egg yolk and then sprinkle with poppy seed, sesame seed, copped onion, salt and pepper.

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Now that’s how I like to see a bagel coated!  No skimping on toppings when you make your own!

18.  Bake at 375 degrees on the middle rack for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.  We took them out at about 20 minutes to test the center and found they needed another 7 minutes or so.

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19.  When don baking, place them on a cooling rack.  You’re done!

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If you did everything right you should have a tasty everything bagel like this!

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A note on storing homemade bagels:

Since we don’t use any kind of preservatives, these bagels do not exactly have a shelf life.  They will harden quickly if you don’t have a plan.  They are best enjoyed immediately.  However, this can be unrealistic if you have a hectic schedule.   You can keep them fresh by freezing them in an airtight container.  Simply take one out, defrost, and toast it whenever you’re craving it!

Seriously, the best bagels ever!

Do you have any great bagel recipes that you would like to share?  Please feel free to drop us a comment.  We would love to try your bagel creations!  Or if you’ve never made them, what’s your favorite to eat?  Next up for us will be jalapeno-cheddar!

Panda Express Style Chow Mein

Having a Panda Express across the street from your apartment can be a dangerous thing when a large order of chow mein only cost $3.  We recently discovered this, having been eating vegetarian since January 2nd.  It was one of the only options we could eat…thankfully!  For the first time, we actually didn’t leave feeling overly full or sick to our stomachs. 

Anyways, it made us crave even more the next day, so we decided to take on the challenge of making it.  We Googled some recipes and ended up going with a video series we found on YouTube.  It was super simple and easy to follow.  Check it out here!  We only ended up adapting a couple of things.      

Panda Express Style Chow Mein

INGREDIENTS:

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  • 8 oz package of egg noodles
  • 1/4 cup sliced white onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped cabbage (we’ll be using 1/2 cup next time)
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup mung bean sprouts (we chopped them)
  • 1 T vegetable oil (we used olive oil, but I think we’ll try veg next time)
  • 2 tsp of minced ginger
  • 2 T of minced garlic (or 4 cloves)
  • 1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 T of water
  • Note shown: Splash of rice vinegar

STEPS:

1. Slice the onion and chop the celery, cabbage, and bean sprouts.  Note shown: Bring a big pot of water to a boil for the noodles.

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2. Heat up the skillet on high and put 1 T of oil.  Once hot, add the vegetables. 

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3. Add the garlic, ginger, and crushed red pepper.  Bring heat to medium-high and stir fry until the cabbage is wilted. 

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4. While the vegetables are stir-frying, the water should be at a boil.  Add the 8oz package of noodles and cook for about 6 minutes.  Drain the water in a colander. 

Sorry! Hard to get a picture with the steam.

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5. When the stir fry is ready, it should look similar to the picture below.  Now you’re ready to add 2 cups of low sodium soy sauce and 2 T of water. 

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6. When the soy sauce has been stirred in, pour the cooked noodles on top.  Stir all ingredients together completely.  Put a splash of rice vinegar and toss once more. 

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Voila!  You are done.  Now enjoy with your favorite Asian-inspired entree. 

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We’re definitely excited about experimenting with various Asian-inspired dishes after creating this one. 

Experiments in Soup-Making and Butternut Squash

Today was a slow-starting kind of day.  I think our early mornings caught up to both of us.  We fell asleep at 9PM last night and didn’t wake up until 9:30 this morning.  It’s so important to listen to your body and what it needs, so I’m glad we got that extra sleep.

We ate a quick breakfast, made our green smoothies, and spent the day running some errands.

Today’s green smoothie had a new ingredient: frozen peaches.  Yum!

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Each smoothie contained:

  • 1/4 cup soy milk
  • 6 small pieces of chopped pineapple
  • 4 cups spinach
  • 3 slices of frozen peaches
  • 4 chunks of frozen banana
  • 2 T vanilla yogurt
  • 1 tsp flax seeds (ran out of chia seeds 😦 )
  • 2 T of water
  • 3 ice cubes

Ready to go!

DSCN3336 After errands we started working on:

VEGETABLE STOCK AND SOUP

The ingredients were super simple:

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  • 1 celery stalk
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 red potato
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 vegetable bouillon cubes (we cheated a little)
  • 6 cups of water

Cut up all of the ingredients:

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Chop the carrots and celery, slice the potato, and quarter the onion.  You can leave the skins on them all!

Heat two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil on medium high:

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When it’s hot, throw in all of the ingredients mentioned above:

DSCN3345 Let cook for 5 minutes without stirring:

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DSCN3347 When the 5 minutes are up, stir the vegetables until they brown:

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Once the vegetables are browned, pour in the 6 cups of water:

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And three vegetables bouillon cubes.  We used these:

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Bring to a boil, then let simmer for a minimum of 30 minutes (longer for more flavor).  We did it for about an hour:

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When the time is up, scoop out the vegetables, which will leave you with a simple broth:

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We made two batches and decided we didn’t want to throw away all of the veggies, so we poured the broth from the first one directly into the other batch that was cooking:

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You can simply store the broth in your freezer for a later date.

Into the second batch we added the white and light green portions of leeks, 2 more cups of water, 1 cup of brown rice, 1/2 cup quinoa, and 4 cups of broccoli florets.  You also have to cut your vegetables into bite-site pieces, as opposed to huge chunks.

We then brought it to a boil and back down to a simmer for another 30 minutes or until the rice was completely cooked:

DSCN3401 We ate it with some Kashi Original 7-Grain CRACKers, Siracha, and a splash of tomato juice:

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Overall, it was satisfying with loads of vegetables and protein-packed quinoa.  We both, however, agreed it seemed to be missing some spices.  More experiments to come, I guess!

Now, for our most delicious new discovery:

BUTTERNUT SQUASH!!!!

We’ve had these bad boys sitting in our fridge for a while now, and they were still good!  We just did a simple recipe on the stovetop.

The ingredients included:

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  • 1 big butternut squash (we only used one of the two pictured above—1.5lb)
  • 1 T of minced garlic
  • 2 T of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup vegetable stock (or water)
  • salt and pepper to taste

First, peel the butternut squash.

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Cut it into about 1/2 inch cubes:

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Heat the olive oil on medium:

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Add the minced garlic and stir until brown:

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Once brown add in the cubed butternut squash and vegetable broth:

DSCN3382 It will seem like there’s not enough broth, but there is!  It will be low in the pan.

Bring to a boil, then simmer and cover for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

DSCN3383 After 15 minutes, simply stir the butternut squash until broth is absorbed and squash is browned to your liking.

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We sprinkled ours with walnuts:

DSCN3397 And obviously HATED it:

DSCN3399 We’re about to head out now to pick up some more ingredients.  There will be many more experimenting with recipes in the next few days.

Goodnight and sweet dreams!

California Egg Scramble

Happy Friday Everyone!  Dustin here.  Today was day 3 of our morning running. 

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We still have some Whittle My Middle and yoga to do tonight.

For breakfast we had, surprise surprise, pancakes and eggs! Maybe we’ll just make that the theme for the week so we can come up with some new ideas for breakfast next week.  

The pancakes gave us the perfect opportunity to try out one of our new pans (aka our other pans were dirty).  We have been putting off using them because we thought seasoning them was going to be a lot of work.  It was actually really easy!

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First you heat the pan up for about 30 seconds on medium.  Then you drop 1 teaspoon of oil on the pan (we chose olive oil).  Finally wipe the olive oil around the inside of the pan with a paper towel.  Ready to go.

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The theme for the eggs was:

California Scramble

Out of the following ingredients, can you guess which one inspired the name?

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  • Mixed sweet peppers
  • Onion
  • Red Potato
  • Avocado
  • Tomatoes
  • Cheese (;))

Here are the steps we took to make the dish:

We sautéed the red potatoes for a couple of minutes with some olive oil in pepper since they take a little longer to cook.Then we added in the onions and peppers for a couple minutes more.

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Throw in the avocado and tomatoes and stir all together.

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Pour the eggs over everything.  Throw on a sprinkle of cheese. Then start scrambling away.

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Tracy’s finished breakfast plate.

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There’s some avocado.  Yummy!!!

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My breakfast plate  with lots of tomatoes.  I even had a full glass of tomato juice with it.

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I love my tomatoes.

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Check back later for our homemade soup! Thanks for reading… Dustin

Our First Morning Workout!

Today we woke up bright and early at 5AM for our first morning workout.  We were actually in bed by 9PM for the first time.  Woohoo! It felt so good to get an ample amount of sleep and still wake up early. 

We were out the door by about 5:20. 

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We’re fortunate enough to have a gym at our apartment, so we go there to do the Couch to 5K program.  We planned to start last night, but it was PACKED.  Not one machine was available, and we didn’t want to wait until it was too late because we knew we wouldn’t wake up early.

This morning, however, we had the whole gym to ourselves. I think this time will work out perfectly. 🙂

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We quickly realized one of the treadmills is currently down, but we didn’t let that stop us.  While one of us did Couch to 5K on the treadmill, the other did stretches and floor exercises.  Eventually we want to add a strength training program, so any suggestions are more than welcome.  We are complete newbies.

After the gym, we came home and each ate half a banana to refuel (or fuel for the first time today).  Tomorrow, we will eat something small before working out.

Then we did Angela’s Whittle My Middle exercises.  Holy cow!  Those definitely showed us how badly out of shape we both are.  It’ll be interesting to see our progress as we continue doing it every day. 

Here are today’s results:

  Dustin Tracy
Front Plank 60s 40s
Side Plank 30s each side 30s each side
Torso Twists 15 reps 15 reps
Plank ups FAIL FAIL
Boat pose 15 reps 30s hold
Bicycle 2 sets of 30 reps 2 sets of 30 reps
Side plank w/ twists 8 reps 8 reps

We both had issues with the plank-ups.  I think we need to build up some more arm strength, but rest assured, we will be able to do them by the end of this challenge!

Check out Angela’s page at Oh She Glows if you’re interested in participating or learning more about the exercises we’ll be doing. 

Although we felt sore after it was all said and done, it feels amazing to have accomplished so much before the start of the day.

We were starving, so we cooked up some more whole wheat pancakes and vegetable egg scrambles—can’t get enough of them.

I had one egg (with Siracha) and two small pancakes:

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Dustin had two eggs and two bigger pancakes:

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He is loving his new Habanero hot sauce he got for Christmas:

DSCN3017 Time to shower and get ready for the day.  I promise our goals post is coming…they are already written.  🙂

Have a good morning!

Happy 26th Birthday to Dustin!!

It’s Dustin’s b-day!!

His 25th b-day!

To Dustin:

Happy Birthday to my soul mate! You truly are the “love of my life, and I’m so glad I found you”…or you found me! 😉  We’ve been through more crazy circumstances in 3 years than most couples go through in a lifetime, and through it all we remained by each other’s side .  You are more than a fiance…you are my best friend.  I cherish all of the time we spend together and am grateful each and every day that we can share the life that we do (with our fur-babies).  The seeds we planted are just now starting to sprout and I am so excited to see the beautiful plant that grows.  You have grown up so much since we started our relationship and even though there are times when you drive me absolutely crazy (😛), I love you more with each passing day.

We each have so many opposite traits and habits that would make us seem incompatible to the rest of the world, but it is those differences that create the perfect team.  And it is the things we have in common and are both so passionate about that provide the glue that keeps our relationship together and strong.

Today is a day I celebrate just how special you are to me.  There is no one else in the world who could take your place.  I LOVE YOU…with all my heart!<3

Check back later for some b-day photos and our 2010 goals!!!