Panzanella, King of the Salads!

A week or so ago, Living Social had a deal in which you spent $10 and received a $20 coupon to Whole Foods!  I just couldn’t resist.  Last night after work, I walked the mile to Whole Foods with a shopping list in hand.

For whatever reason, I had been craving panzanella salad all week, so I decided to go with a recipe from Ina Garten, a sure winner! I also wanted to add salmon so here’s my take on Ina’s recipe.

Baked Salmon Panzanella Salad


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 load of French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 cucumber sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
  • 20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1 pound salmon
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 450 degree Fahrenheit. Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned.

Place raw salmon on a foil lined pan.  Season with salt, pepper, and the juice from one lemon.  Place salmon in 450 degree oven and bake for 12-15 minutes.

While the salmon bakes, make the vinaigrette for the salad.  For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers.

Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.

Remove salmon from oven after 12-15 minutes and allow to cool before platting.

Serve 1 – 1 1/2 cups of panzanella

and top with piece of baked salmon

Dinner is served!!

So I know I shouldn’t say this, but I really can’t believe it’s already Friday.  This week was an interesting one, to say the least, and I’m really looking forward to a few days off.

This weekend should be incredibly relaxing, or at least I intend it to be!!  The weather is suppose to be AMAZING (highs in mid 50’s, lows in 40’s– though there is a slight chance of rain but oh well).  I plan to crack open the windows, throw on a hoodie, and enjoy two days off!  Here’s what’s on the agenda:

  • Friday Night— Dinner with Liz, Julie, and Neal
  • SaturdayArt on the Avenue (This is my favorite art festival in DC!  I wait all year for this)
  • Sunday— 5 mile run with Neal, Redskins vs. Rams, graduate work

Have a fantastic Friday everyone!! Don’t forget to take the Locus of Control quiz!  It’s really interesting.

Locus of Control

Even though it’s a lot of work, I love graduate school and I love my grad program.  Last week for one of my classes we focused on creating a learning assessment.  Through various assessments I was able to gather both my learning style and better understand other aspects of my personality that contribute to my learning. One assessment called the “Locus Of Control & Attributional Style Test” was extremely interesting.

“Locus of control refers to how a person perceives the cause of life events. Someone with an internal locus of control would generally perceive himself or herself as responsible for certain occurrences (his or her actions would have a direct bearing on the result). On the other hand, a person with an external locus of control would most often blame (or thank) fate, destiny, luck, society, or some other force beyond his or her control.”

The assessment doesn’t take too long (5-10 minutes) and can shed light to an aspect of your personality.  You can find the Locus of Control assessment here.

I found my results to be rather accurate and quite interesting.  I scored a 66 on a 1-100 scale.  My assessment results stated that “You have a fairly internal attribution style when it comes to success. In general, you interpret your success as a result of your skills, intelligence, nice personality, etc. although you might think it takes a bit of luck as well. As a result, you are usually able to accept the credit you deserve. Your self-esteem, motivation, and general well-being certainly benefit from this orientation.”

I agree with the outcome of my assessment as I do feel that skills have a lot to do with success, but at the same time “a bit of luck”, as they put it, has something to do with our success.  I believe in timing and that sometimes things just line up— it can be out of our control.

Did you agree with what your assessment said about your locus of control? 

Today I have a dentist appointment, work, gym and then lots of graduate work.  Happy Thursday everyone!


Some Early Fall Favorites

1. Fall colors

2.  PUMPKINS — in all different forms!


3.  Pumpkin Pull-Apart Bread


4.  University of Iowa Football

5.  NFL


6.  Dunkin Donuts Coffee (thank you Keurig and DD K-Cups)

7.  Victoria’s Secret Sheer Love body products (I know this has nothing to do with the fall, but I love this new scent)

8.  Del Ray Art Festival (coming up this weekend!)

9.  My Birthday!! (just a few weeks away)


10.  And of course, Amish Market Giveways!!  And the winner is….

Sarah — “I’m just happy that fall bring cooler weather!!!!  And I would try bother on either toast or in my morning oatmeal!!!”

Congratulations on winning a jar of Jake & Amos Pumpkin Butter and Sweet Potato Butter!  I hope you enjoy them!

Have a wonderful and happy hump day!  What are some of your fall favorites so far?

Weight Watchers CORE Plan

Biggest Loser Challenge Week 1

  • Starting Weight: 226.6 pounds
  • Week 1 Weight: 224.8 pounds
  • Total Weight Lost: 1.8 pounds

Woop Woop!  1.8 pounds lost!  A great first week.  Last week I really focused on counting my calories and feel good moving forward.


As I wasn’t able to type up my weekly plan yesterday it game me the opportunity to look at what I ate on Monday without a plan.  Without my plan I ate a lot of carbs and didn’t incorporate any green vegetables into my diet.  This is one of the reasons why I love planning out my meals ahead of time as I’m able to balance my diet out.  My diet is not perfect by any means, but I do strive to balance what can often be unbalanced (carb heavy).

Workout Breakfast Lunch Dinner Plans
Monday 4 mile run Bagel thin with pumpkin spice cream cheese, banana Leftover brown rice with corn and beans, apple, cashews Leftover brown rice with corn and beans, granola Monday Night Football: Redskins vs. Cowboys
Tuesday Weight Lifting Bagel thin with pumpkin spice cream cheese, apple Leftover chili with 1 slice cornbread Salad of some sort Biggest Loser and Graduate Work
Wednesday 3 mile run Bagel thin with pumpkin spice cream cheese, banana Lunch at work (salad bar) ? Happy Hour/Dinner with Becky and Dana
Thursday Weight Lifting Bagel thin with pumpkin spice cream cheese, apple Leftover chili Salad with oven roasted salmon Graduate Work
Friday 30 mins easy Bagel thin with pumpkin spice cream cheese, banana Salad with oven roasted salmon ? Graduate Work

This made me think about my diet when I lost 50 pounds back in 2006-2007.  As a Weight Watchers member, I decided to go on their CORE plan instead of counting POINTS.

The Weight Watchers CORE plan 

Meat and Meat Substitutes

  • Lean beef, lamb, pork and veal (loin or round)
  • Ground beef (7% fat or less)
  • Organ meats fresh, frozen or canned
  • Poultry – Chicken and turkey, no skin
  • Ground chicken or turkey, once a day only
  • Fish and shellfish, fresh, frozen, or canned, any variety as long as it is not packed in fat or oil
  • Tofu, any type
  • Frozen veggie burgers
  • NO deli meats or hot dogs

Eggs, Dairy & Cheese

  • Whole eggs or whites
  • Eggbeaters and other egg substitutes
  • Fat-free milk, cheese and sour cream
  • Soy milk and soy cheese
  • Plain fat-free yogurt


  • Any fresh, frozen or canned fruit (no added sugar; canned must be packed in water or juice (not syrup)
  • No juice
  • Unsweetened applesauce
  • No Dried fruits


  • Any fresh, frozen or canned veggies (includes corn, beans, and lentils— see below for potatoes)

Cereal and Grain

  • Cream of Wheat, oatmeal and such
  • Other whole grains, such as quinoa, barley, grits, cornmeal, couscous, etc.
  • All-grain cereal (puffed wheat or rice, shredded wheat, and all bran cereals with no added sugar) with fat-free milk or soymilk — Once a day
  • Whole-wheat pasta, brown rice OR potatoes (any variety)– Once a day

Fats, Oils

  • 2 teaspoons daily


  • Soups made out of CORE foods (lentil, split pea, french onion soup)
  • No cream based soups


  • Coffee (without sugar)
  • Tea (without sugar)
  • Diet soft drinks
  • Club soda
  • Seltzer (plain or unsweetened)
  • Water or mineral water


  • No-calorie sweeteners like Splenda, Stevia, or Equal
  • Seasonings and herbs, without added sugar
  • Fat-free salad dressing
  • Fat-free margarine
  • Fat-free mayonnaise
  • Extracts and flavorings

The key to the CORE program is learning to listen to your body.  All of the foods listed are “unlimited” except where noted (brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and potatoes for example) so it really comes down to knowing when you’re hungry, understanding how hungry you are, and stopping when you’re satisfied.

A lot of people hated this program but I absolutely loved it.  It was quite the transition for me, as it removed processed foods from my diet… but was that really a bad thing?  Over the past 4 years I have incorporated processed foods back into my diet, like granola bars, peanut butter, bread, bagels, etc..  Processed foods are “easy” but I can’t say I need them or can’t live without them.

Here’s what a day on the CORE program looked like for me:

Breakfast Lunch Snack Dinner
2 egg omelet with diced mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers Salad with lettuce, pinto beans, diced baked chicken breast, salsa, and fat free sour cream Piece of fruit and/or oatmeal Whole wheat pasta with roasted tomatoes and ground turkey

As I move into week two of my Biggest Loser Challenge, I want to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into my diet and would like to begin limiting the processed foods I eat.  Obviously I have a pack of bagel thins at home (see meal plan) but I know that I can make healthy changes to the rest of my diet.

REMINDER: Today is the last day to enter the Amish Market Giveaway.  Instructions can be found here.

Hodge Podge Monday

Today’s post is rather hodge podge as there is so much I want to share.  First off, who has seen this commercial?  I cried the first time I saw it and it still gets to me every time…

It’s really a beautiful take on life but it makes me happy and sad all in a one minute commercial.  Darn you Lowes!

This weekend was a lot of fun but also consisted of a lot of hard work.  Friday night Neal and I went to the National baseball game at Nats Park.

This weekend was their last home series of the season, so we had to make it out there (and buy their nachos…. sooo bad for you good).  We had a wonderful time and the park was just beautiful that night.

Pretty nice considering it rained all day!  Although the Nats lost, Neal and I had a fantastic time… right Neal?

Saturday morning I went to the Annapolis, MD Amish Market with my Aunt Danielle and had a wonderful time!  Remember you still have a chance to enter the Amish Market Giveaway!  A winner will be selected Wednesday morning.

Sunday Neal and I both woke up late so we didn’t go out for our scheduled 4 mile run.  Instead we stopped at Grounded Coffee, went grocery shopping and then made our way back home.  I had a lot of graduate work to do, so I spent the after working on a project.

Around 5PM Neal and I went for a 1 hour walk, which was a really nice change of pace.  I’m really proud of our 15K training so far, but it was really nice to just go for a walk.  Confession: I really have a hard time running!  I always feel great afterwards, but it really is challenging for me.  What I’ve learned though is with time, your body will adapt and running will become easier!

We made up our 4 mile run this morning, running at just over a 10 minute pace.  We finished 4 miles in 43:51 (running on a 2 minute run, 1 minute walk interval).  Neal had a great run and I’m really glad he pushed me this morning.

Tonight the Washington Redskins play the Dallas Cowboys in Monday Night Football, so I’m making Chunky Beef Chili and Jalapeno Cornbread for the occasion!  I’m really looking forward to sitting back and watching some football.

Happy Monday Everyone!

Any fun plans this week?  Last week of September…

Amish Market Giveaway

This morning I met up with my Aunt Danielle at the Annapolis, Maryland Amish Market.

Before going inside though, my rock star Aunt taught me how to fold a fitted sheet!!  Checked that one off of my bucket list!!

After our sheet session we headed inside for breakfast at the Dutch Market Restaurant.  The key to having breakfast here is being there when they open at 8:30AM.  By 9:30AM there was a line out the door.

I ordered blueberry pancakes and my aunt ordered french toast.  Both were fantastic!

With full bellies, we were ready to shop!

Here’s what I bought…

  • Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese
  • Honeycrisp Apples
  • Macintosh Apples
  • Fresh Apple Cider
  • 2 Buffalo Chicken Sausage Links
  • Butterscotch Peanut Butter (oh yeah!!)
  • Giveaway Goodies

My favorite part of the Amish Market is the baking section. I realllllly wanted to buy this bag of marshmallows (like from Lucky Charms) but had no good reason to buy them.  How cool is this though?  I was thinking this would be fun for cookies or a birthday cake.

Wall of Spices

Wall of Sprinkles

For dinner tonight, I made Buffalo Chicken Sausage Pasta!!  I love anything buffalo and just knew I could make a great dish with the sausage I bought today at the Amish Market.

Ashley’s Buffalo Chicken Sausage Pasta Bowl

  • diced red onions
  • 2 buffalo chicken sausage links (raw)
  • 2 TBSP oil
  • RedHot Hot Buffalo sauce
  • 1 box pasta (I used Barilla carrots and tomato mini farfalle)
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced spring onion
  • crumbled blue cheese

I began by adding 2 TBSP of oil to a large pan.  Once the oil was hot I added 1 1/2 cups diced red onion.  While the onion sauteed I removed the sausage from their casings.

Begin by inserting your knife into the sausage link, under the casing.

Run the blade of the knife along the casing, opening the sausage from end to end.

And ta-da!  After removing the second link from its casing, I added the raw chicken sausage to the sauteed onion.

While the meat cooked, I boiled the pasta and diced my spring onions and celery.

The chicken sausage cooked for 15 minutes and then I added 3 TBSP of buffalo sauce.  Please note that Neal and I love spicy food.  You may want to add more or less than I added.  Next I added the cooked pasta (drained) to the meat and onion mixture.

Dinner is served!!  The great thing about this dish is that each person can add whatever toppings they want, if any, to their bowl of pasta.  Neal and I both added spring onions, celery, and blue cheese to our bowls of pasta!  It was DELICIOUS!

So now to the giveaway!!  You have a chance to win a jar of Jake & Amos’ Pumpkin Butter and Sweet Potato Butter.  

I love adding a dollop of these “butters” to a bowl of oatmeal or as a spread for toast.  Neither is actually butter, but rather a thick “jam like” spread.

To Enter the Amish Market Giveaway simply:

  • Leave a comment on this post about your favorite fall activity or how you like to use pumpkin/sweet potato butters

  • Earn an extra entry by tweeting: “I want to win @coffeeckecardio’s Amish Market Giveaway!” (Just make sure to leave a second comment on this post with your tweet)

  • Earn an extra extra entry by signing up for a subscription to Coffee Cake and Cardio.  (Just make sure to leave a third comment on this post saying you’ve subscribed to Coffee Cake and Cardio). 

I’ll randomly pick a winner on Wednesday morning (September 28, 2011). (Please note that you must live in the Continental United States to qualify).

Only 9 More Weeks?

Yesterday I received the most startling e-mail… We are only 9 weeks from Black Friday!! AHHHH!  I’ll be honest, I had a small panic attack as I haven’t even thought about the holidays yet.  They creep up on me every year and every year I think to myself, “self, next year you’re going to start saving, prepping, and shopping in September/October for the holidays”.  Well now is my chance!


Ways To Save

  • Use resources like to help you to create a holiday savings plan
  • Make a list of who you want to shop for this holiday season and create a spending budget per person.  This will help you create an overall budget.
  • If you have a large family or group of friends, ask if everyone is interested in doing Secret Santa or creating a rotating schedule each year that way you only have to shop for 1 person/couple/family instead of multiples.
  • Set aside $10-$20 (or any amount you’d prefer) a week, placing the savings in an envelope labeled gifts/party/decor/etc..  The trick is to shop only using the money you’ve placed in the envelopes.  This helps you to budget and to use your savings wisely!
  • Take advantage of the fall festivals as they often have local vendors selling adorable handmade gifts (earrings, paintings, photography, etc.)
  • Etsy anyone?
  • Keep an eye on current sales!  Sales don’t just occur between Thanksgiving and Christmas.   You’d be surprised what you can find cheaper in October vs. in December.
  • Check out Ebates!  What’s better than cash back?
  • Begin creating handmade gift!  Knitting scarfs, baking baked goods, or making homemade thank you cards are great ways to wish someone a happy holiday without breaking the bank!
  • Shop for that “ugly sweater” or a cute holiday outfit at a local consignment shop or thrift store.
  • Don’t hesitate to go into gifts with multiple people.  Instead of spending $60 on that new purse for your Mom, see if your siblings or significant other want to chip in.

Although it’s only 9 weeks away, I am extremely excited.  Black Friday shopping is a HUGE family tradition of mine and I haven’t miss a Black Friday in 14 years!  This Thanksgiving my sister is coming into town and I can not wait!  I’ll definitely miss having my mom there, but I know she’ll have fun in Texas.  I’m also hoping to drag Neal Black Friday shopping, as I did last year!

Black Friday 2010

So around 4:30PM yesterday I was overwhelmed with the craving for a bison burger.  I don’t know if you’ve ever tried bison, but it’s wonderful and is incredibly lean.  My go to Bison burger restaurant is Ted’s Montana Grill.  I texted Neal right away in hopes that he’d be up for an evening out and thankfully he was totally game.

Neal ordered our favorite burger, the blue creek burger, which has blue cheese and bacon on top.  I ordered a new burger called the Avalon.  Although it sounds like an apartment complex, the toppings sounded delicious; blue cheese, bacon, garlic aioli, arugula and caramelized onions!! I was so excited.

We had a wonderful dinner together and were able to talk lots about blogging and book writing.  We’re both really enjoying our hobbies and it’s so fun to share our experiences and joys with each other.  After getting my bison fix, I headed home and tackled homework.  Graduate school is kinda kicking my tail this semester, but I’ll get through!  4 more classes… 4 more classes… 4 more classes….  That’s what I have to keep reminding myself.  May 2012 can’t get here soon enough, in regards to school that is.

This morning Neal and I ran for 30 minutes.  Hopefully we got a little under 3 miles in, but I’ll have to use Map My Run later to know for sure.  It’s really interesting how different we both can feel on a given day.  I’ll have an off day and he’ll feel great and vice versa.  This week I learned that either way, it’s just about getting out there and doing it.

Well, off to work I go with Dunkin Donuts Keurig brewed coffee in hand.  Hopefully the rain will let up today that way Neal and I can make it to the Nationals game tonight!  I’m going to miss baseball season….  Happy Friday Everyone!!

What’s your approach to holiday shopping and savings?