Quinoa Risotto with Mushrooms and Caramelized Onions (Gluten Free). Finding Your Fit Place.

Recipe: Quinoa Risotto with Mushrooms & Caramelized Onions (Gluten Free!)

Mushroom Risotto is one of my favorite meals, and after perfecting my recipe, I thought I could recreate it on the healthier side, and started by swapping arborio rice with quinoa. Then with a few more changes (and a couple of test runs), I created this Quinoa Risotto recipe that will satisfy that craving, but not leave you feeling bloated afterwards. And it’s also gluten free!

Quinoa Risotto with Mushrooms and Caramelized Onions (Gluten Free). Finding Your Fit Place.

Quinoa is a source of essential amino acids, which means that it provides you with amino acids that your body cannot create on its own. These essential amino acids are generally found only in meat, so quinoa is a great option for vegetarians that provides complete protein. To adjust this recipe for a vegetarian lifestyle, use vegetable broth instead of chicken. For vegan, do the same, but also skip the milk, butter and cheese, and go a little heavier on the broth. Try adding some pureed butternut squash for creaminess.

Quinoa Risotto with Mushrooms & Caramelized Onions 


  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 pint mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • fresh herbs (parsley and/or basil) for garnish
  • (a little more parmesan for serving)


  1. Cook quinoa according to package instructions, reducing the amount of liquid slightly (should be about 3.5 cups of chicken stock). While that is getting started, move onto step 2.
  2. Heat olive oil in large skillet. Add mushrooms, sprinkle with a little salt, and sautee until brown and fully cooked. Remove mushrooms from pan and set aside.
  3. In the same pan, begin sautéing the onion, adding more olive oil if necessary, Cook until caramelized.
  4. Add the cooked quinoa into the pan with the onions, then add remaining chicken stock and cook on low heat, constantly stirring. When fully absorbed, check to make sure the consistency is to your preference. If not, add more water (a little at a time).
  5. Add butter, milk, and parmesan to quinoa, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until well combined. Garnish with a bit more cheese and fresh herbs, and serve.

Quinoa Risotto with Mushrooms and Caramelized Onions (Gluten Free). Finding Your Fit Place.

Bye-Bye Summer Bloat Meal Plan. Finding your fit place.

Bye-Bye Summer Bloat: My 3-Day Meal Plan to get back into Skinny Jeans

It’s almost time. Time to put away the shorts and skirts that slide up just enough to fit the extra five pounds I’ve been carrying, and time to let fade the five shades of tan that disguise them so well.

Time to say goodbye to vacation and excuses, and embrace tight jeans and a pale complexion. Time to say goodbye to Summer and hello to Fall. And time for me to celebrate.

You see, Fall is my Spring – a fresh start with cool, crisp air, and the opportunity to rid my life of excess. This Fall brings some particularly exciting changes, but still, the best part is the return of structure to my life.

Don’t get me wrong, I live for four-day weekends on the beach, running in the sun, and ice cream every night, but I miss my habits and my schedule. Yes, the structure of fall is coming, and what a better way to welcome it than three days of perfectly regimented meals and workouts.

Oh, how I have missed my daily routine. Follow me (or join me!) for three days as I welcome September and get rid of my Summer bloat.

One thing you will notice about this plan that is different from my others, is that it is vegetarian. Skipping meat makes me feel great when I’m going for the “cleanse” thing, but I also need to support a cardio and strength-training regimen. That’s why you’ll see some extra carbs, and protein from alternative sources.


Meal One:
2 eggs
1/2 cup spinach
2 slices sprouted grain bread

Meal Two:
1 apple
2 Tbsp. peanut butter

Meal Three:
1 sweet potato
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup broccoli

Meal Four:
1 sweet potato
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 cup peas

Meal Five:
6 oz.vanilla Greek yogurt

I’m aiming to keep my water intake at 64 oz. or more per day, and training will consist of daily sessions of both strength and cardio. Feels better to be back on the blog already :)


The 10-Day Plant-Based Experiment: Recap & Review

Eating nothing but fruits & vegetables for 10 days (with one exception!) wasn’t so bad. Initially I dropped a few pounds (mostly water weight), and felt really fantastic pretty much the entire time.

I had some goals that I outlined in my original post, and I felt like I succeeded in reaching all of them. But it was really just a little momentum. After I completed the ten days, it was up to me to use that momentum to continue along my fit journey. There is no quick fix, but there are ways to snap out of bad habits.

We all have ups and downs, and overall, I would say that any sort of “cleanse” is a good way to develop strength for the psychological challenges that go along with coming out of one of those downs.

If you’re looking for more details, check out my daily recaps:

Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four
Day Five
Days Six, Seven, and Eight

The Plant-Based Experiment: Days 6, 7, and 8

Waking up on Day 6 felt better than any day yet, but this morning I also woke up to a smoker filled with (what would soon be) pulled pork. And I spent the rest of the day deciding whether or not I would allow myself to have it.

I also did a 40-mile bike ride, and a couple miles of hiking. And after careful, thoughtful consideration, I went for the pulled pork… and it was just a really amazing decision :)

I had already met my goals for my experiment:

  1. Getting back into my healthy habits
  2. Strengthening my discipline
  3. Stabilizing my energy
  4. Supporting my fitness
  5. Getting back to the low end of my weight range.

And the bit of pulled pork I had didn’t hurt me one bit. All of the things I set out to do are still done, but it doesn’t mean I am going to stop!  After the pulled pork I hopped right back on the vegan train (still mostly raw) and I plan to finish the rest of my ten days strong.

That is why it was important for me to set goals for these ten days. I’ve been tempted to eat outside of the rules I set about a hundred times a day, but every time I analyzed the choice in relation to my goals, it wasn’t worth it. Finally, I had found something that was. Homemade, smoked meat. Yum :)



  • Breakfast (9:00 am) – 2 bananas
  • Snack (11:00 am) – 2 more bananas
  • Lunch (1:00 pm) – 1/2 orange, 1/2 avocado, kale
  • Snack (5:00 pm) – plum, corn tortilla chips, salsa, mixed nuts
  • Dinner (9:00 pm) – pulled pork on a roll, baked beans, and a slice of ice cream cake.. forgot to mention that one :)


  • Bike ride, 40 miles
  • Hiking (maybe 2-3 miles)



  • Breakfast (9:00 am) – 2 bananas
  • Snack (11:00 am) – watermelon
  • Lunch (2:00 pm) – mixed fruit (berries, bananas, and nectarines)
  • Snack (5:00 pm) – apple, mixed nuts
  • Dinner (7:00 pm) – salad with mixed greens, hummus, orange slices, tomatoes, and pine nuts


  • 5k run



  • Breakfast (6:00 am) – 1 orange; coffee
  • Lunch (1:00 pm) – apple and 1 Tbsp. almond butter
  • Snack (4:00 pm) – 1 cup grapes, 1 cup cherries, 1/2 cantaloupe
  • Dinner (7:00 pm) – salad with mixed greens, 1/2 avocado, 1/2 mango, 1/2 cucumber, hummus
  • Snack (9:00 pm) – 2 Tbsp. peanut butter

Not so bad! I’ve got 2 more days, and I’m going to do my best to keep them both fully raw.

The Plant-Based Experiment: Day 5

I woke up in New Hampshire feeling better this morning than any day so far. There were bagels and cream cheese, eggs, bananas, and cookies for breakfast. Saying “no” to the bagels was kind of hard. They smelled so good being toasted, and I’m used to eating whatever I want on these training weekends. But I stuck to fruit, black coffee and water.

When the team left for their ride, it was nearly lunchtime so I had some kale, 1/2 an orange and 1/2 an avocado that I had brought with me, and all signs of hunger went away.

Being on Day 5 is great. I have momentum, plus I feel amazing so there is some motivation to stick with it. I’m also far enough into my commitment that I’ve met my goals, and if I were to eat something off plan, I wouldn’t feel bad about it. So the pressure is off.

Tonight I actually had some corn tortilla chips and hummus, and a little pasta with my dinner of roasted vegetables. I really enjoyed it, and I still stuck to vegan (although not 100% raw).

Turning down cookies is probably the worst part, but it’s actually not really such a big deal at this point. Once I brushed my teeth and got into bed, the craving was gone and I was really glad that I didn’t have any.


  • Breakfast (9:00 am) – 2 bananas, 1 apple; COFFEE!)
  • Lunch (12 noon) – kale, 1/2 avocado, 1/2 orange
  • Snack (3:30 pm) – 1/2 orange, 1/2 avocado
  • Snack (7:00 pm) – corn tortilla chips, cucumber slices, and hummus
  • Dinner (9:00 pm) – roasted vegetables (zucchini, summer squash, onions, bell peppers) and 1/2 c. Pasta
  • 64 oz. water

The Plant-Based Experiment: Day 4

Just a brief check-in for Day 4, then it’s bedtime!


-Breakfast (7:30 am): smoothie with kale, mango, watermelon, and orange -Snack (10:30 am): banana, apple
-Lunch (2:00 pm): salad with kale, avocado, and cherry tomatoes with a splash of olive oil and vinegar -Dinner (6:00 pm): 2 pints cherry tomatoes
-Snack (11:00 pm): banana, apple

I’ve really been enjoying my meals today, although I waited a little too long to eat tonight because I was traveling for the weekend.

I’m in Franconia, NH for Green Line Velo training camp and I’ll be here until Sunday. Training camp means lots of exercise… But also lots of food. The temptations started with a bag of cookies as soon as I walked in the door, STARVING. But I ate an apple, a banana, then got ready for bed.

Skipping cookies isn’t so bad :) we’ll see how I feel about that in a few days…

Goodnight for now! More tomorrow.

The Plant-Based Experiment: Day 3

This morning I woke up feeling pretty similar to yesterday – really great, well hydrated, but pretty hungry and also in need of some caffeine.

(Need to catch up? Check out my Plant-Based experimentDay One and Day Two)

I made another fruit/kale smoothie which was refreshing and filling. This one was made from the same ingredients as yesterday (mango, orange, watermelon, and kale), but the orange was pretty dry and not sweet at all. So that was a little disappointing. I added some cucumber to make up for it. When I took the first sip I wasn’t too excited, but as I continued to drink it tasted better and better. Not really sure what that was all about.

The trip to the grocery store late morning was another opportunity to exercise my willpower. And I found that it was easier today. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel tempted by the trail mix aisle… I just knew what I had to do and I did it.

4pm crash hit me at 3:30 today. Maybe because I woke up earlier. I fixed it with an avocado, 2 bananas, and some black tea.

I noticed today that I was more “snacky,” with more meals that were a bit smaller. Day 3 is pretty rough. I’m not going to lie. I’m getting into the thick of it…


  • Breakfast (7:30 am) – Green smoothie made with 1/2 mango, 1/2 orange, 1/2 cup of watermelon, 1/2 cucumber, and a few handfuls of kale; COFFEE)
  • Snack (10:30 am) – 1 banana
  • Lunch (1:30 pm) – 1/2 baby watermelon (16oz.), 1 apple, 1 plum
  • Snack (4:00 pm) – 1 avocado, 2 bananas; black tea
  • Dinner (8:00 pm) – kale salad: recipe from day 1 (1/2 avocado, 1/2 mango, 1/2 orange blended for dressing and tossed with the other halves of the fruits and 4 oz. kale).
  • Evening Snack (9:00 pm) – 1/2 baby watermelon (16oz.)
  • 48 oz. water


  • Ran .5 miles
  • Warmup Circuit (x3): bodyweight quats, push-ups, mountain climbers
  • Circuit 1 (x3): alternating lunges, kickboxing combos, v-ups
  • Circuit 2 (x3): push-ups, jump squats, walking plank, sit-ups
  • Ran .5 miles

I’ll check in with my goals tomorrow… Today was HARD and I’m tired :)


The Plant-Based Experiment: Day 2

I woke up feeling FANTASTIC this morning. It wasn’t long until the hunger struck, but I was so well hydrated and energized… and overall I felt good.

(Need to catch up? Check out my Plant-Based experiment and Day One)

I needed coffee right away. And also food. I made a fruit/kale smoothie which was refreshing and filling. It was my first greet smoothie, and while I love green juice, the smoothie was much more satiating. It kept me going for a few hours.

The grocery store was challenging. I wanted to buy all the trail mix, but I just thought about how great I felt last night and this morning. And I checked out with a baby watermelon, 2 avocados, some oranges, an apple and 4 bananas.

4pm was rough again today, but I stuck it out… drank some tea and ate a banana. I checked in with some friends and thought about how good I would feel if I just stayed committed.  This is an excellent exercise in self-control. And my willpower is getting back into shape right now. Willpower bootcamp.

With the exception of breakfast, there was no specific meal plan today. I would just stick with raw fruits and veggies and not introduce any nuts or grains yet. Here’s what I ended up eating:


  • Breakfast (8:00 am) – Green smoothie made with 1 mango, 1 orange, 1/2 cup of watermelon, and a few handfuls of kale; COFFEE!)
  • Lunch (12 noon) – 1 apple, 1 banana, and 1/4 baby watermelon (8oz.)
  • Snack (4:00 pm) – 2 bananas; black tea
  • Dinner (8:00 pm) – 4 oz. kale, 1/2 cucumber, 1 mango, 1 orange (A version of the kale salad I made last night: I blended 1/2 orange, 1/2 mango, and 1/4 cucumber for the dressing, then I tossed with 5oz. Kale, 1/2 mango, 1/2 orange, and 1/4 cucumber.
  • Evening Snack (9:00 pm) – 1/2 baby watermelon (16oz.)
  • 48 oz. water


  • Ran 2 miles (8:30/mile)
  • Strength Circuit (x3): push press, dead lifts, bent-over rows, and push-ups
  • Plank Circuit (x2): plank 1 minute, right plank 1 minute, left plank 1 minute

Day Two. The Plant-Based Diet Experiment. Finding Your Fit Place.


1. Get back on my schedule of healthy habits. Almost there… two solid days will feel good when I wake up tomorrow.

2. Strengthen my discipline. I walked by two towering shelves filled with the full line of Trader Joe’s trail mixes (which were next to the mac & cheese samples) and didn’t take the bait. Success.

3. Feel better, with fewer ups and downs in my energy levels. With the exception of 4pm, I had consistent energy throughout the day.

4. Support growth in my fitness. Too soon to tell on this one, but I ran a mile less than I usually do on strength circuit days (although I’m sure I could have done it), and my dead lifts and bent over rows were almost too easy. I used a 60 lb. barbell for both today, which is what I’ve been using recently in my circuit-style workouts. (Strength training only, I’ve been using 135 for dead lifts and 95 for bent-over rows.) Push press and pushups weren’t so bad either. Planks were kind of tough, but I haven’t been working on them recently.

5. Get back to the lower end of my normal weight range. 127.8 this morning, which is down 1.4 pounds. Getting back to normal :)

Another great day! But HARD. Hopefully momentum will kick in tomorrow. It will either be momentum or fatigue… maybe both? We’ll see. Now I’ve got to get to bed before I digest this watermelon and I want to eat again…

The Plant-Based Experiment: Day 1

Maybe it was the extreme indulgence of Fourth of July Weekend, but this morning I woke up ready to dive right back into my healthy habits. After refreshing myself on some research I had done, looking into my own past experiences, and loosely defining the Plant-Based Experiment, I started creating a more concrete plan.

I had already determined that my initial commitment would be to 10 days. My diet would revolve around fresh fruits and vegetables, with added grains and fats to provide me with essential nutrients. Lots of water, and no dairy. But how would this all play out?

I knew that the first day would be the hardest. So my plan of attack was to keep it simple, and thoroughly defined. Instead of opening up all available foods to myself in all quantities, I decided to plan four meals of only raw fruits and vegetables. This would keep me from eating more energy than my body requires, and also prevent me from overeating grains and fat to compensate for the other foods I might be craving.


  • Breakfast (8:00 am) – Two Oranges
  • Lunch (12 noon) – 20 fresh figs (16 oz.)
  • Snack (4:00 pm) – 1/2 baby watermelon (about 3 cups cubed, or 3 hearty slices)
  • Dinner (8:00 pm) – 5 oz. kale, 1 avocado, 1 mango, 1 orange
  • Evening Snack (9:00 pm) – 1/2 baby watermelon
  • Beverages: 48 oz. water throughout the day, green/black tea, and coffee limited to one cup, black


Not surprisingly, I felt pretty good throughout the morning and afternoon. I am incredibly motivated to continue with healthful eating. I think about how beneficial this is to my health, how good I felt when I was more committed to healthful eating, and how good I will feel again on a daily basis if I continue to eat this way. And when that isn’t enough… I think about how great I will look on the beach in a few weeks.

4pm was kind of a rough time, but isn’t it always? Nearing the end of the day.. trying to talk myself into a workout.. preparing a caffeine fix before the withdrawals start…but I made it. I had planned to get in a little cardio, but I just wasn’t feeling it and figured I could use a day off with such dramatic changes to my diet.

By the time dinner came I was pretty hungry, and I was very pleased with the meal I prepared. Kale Salad with Mango and Avocado. I just put 1/2 an avocado, 1/2 a mango, and 1/2 an orange into a blender for the dressing, then chopped the other half of each fruit, tossed with Kale then coated with dressing. Yum!

Kale Salad with Avocado, Mango, and Orange. Finding Your Fit Place.

Day 1 = SUCCESS! I feel great :)

In addition to sharing my daily journal, I also want to be able to talk about my progress in relation to my goals. So I’ll start by sharing my current status on each. I shared a little in the first post, but here are the details:

1. Get back on my schedule of healthy habits. Recently, my meals and workout schedules haven’t felt very regular or in sync. I want to get back to some sort of rhythm and consistency in my schedule. Instead of feeling well fueled and energized from what I’m eating, sometimes I feel weighted down by it.

2. Strengthen my discipline. For a while, saying “no” or pushing myself to go to the gym was so easy. I didn’t feel like I was depriving myself either. Even when I was tempted to skip a workout or eat something decadent, I immediately placed a higher value on how I would feel after making the right decision. I am so undisciplined right now that I can’t enjoy choosing the less healthy option anymore, because I allow myself to make it far too often.

3. Feel better, with fewer ups and downs in my energy levels. Sometimes I just crash, or feel sluggish, while others I am loaded with energy. Since allowing so much more junk into my diet, I sometimes get headaches and fatigued at points throughout the day or week.

4. Support growth in my fitness. I’ve actually been able to do this, even with the way I have been eating and working out. I ran a 52-minute 10k this past weekend (a PR according to Strava), and I’m doing single-leg squats, 135-pound deadlifts (4 sets of 6), and I met my pull-up goal! So how much better would I be if I focused on improving my behaviors? I think a lot.

5. Get back to the lower end of my normal weight range. I tipped the scale at 129.2 this morning, which is the higher end of my weight range.. probably from the weekend of BBQ, s’mores, ice cream, nachos, and pancakes (…so many pancakes). I’m comfortable at about 124-129 pounds, and usually fluctuate in that zone. But I’m getting awfully close to the high end. Time to pay attention again. I knew it wouldn’t last forever!

The Plant-Based Experiment: 10 Days of Fruits & Vegetables

I guess you could call it a “Fruit and Vegetable Cleanse,” or a “detox.” And it’s definitely vegan – mostly raw – but somehow none of those labels really fit. So what am I doing exactly?

For the next ten days, I’ll be focused on eating a plant-based diet. I plan to choose mostly low-fat, raw fruits and vegetables, with the addition of some cooked grains and healthy fats so that I don’t miss any essential nutrients.

Why am I doing this? The short story is that I feel like crap. I’ve been eating freely for the past few months as described in a former blog post. And while my fitness remains strong, and my weight has remained steady within about 5 pounds, there are negative effects to the way I’ve been eating. My energy levels are all over the place, and my bathroom schedule has been a bit off. I get headaches and stomach aches. I’m less sensitive to the pleasure of desserts and salt, and all of the foods of which I should be eating much less. I feel like I’ve lost my rhythm. And I need it back.

Why the plant-based approach? It’s very similar to the meal plans I created and shared before, which made me feel fantastic and supported my training and fitness goals. I was eating simple, unprocessed meals with no added sugar or salt, and drinking lots of water. Most dairy was eliminated, and fat was kept moderate. The major shift this time around is away from meat products and toward fresh fruits and vegetables. With so much competing evidence about which balance of macronutrient intake best supports health and fitness, I thought I would give a new approach a chance. To me they are very similar – whole, healthy meals made of real food. And while imagine that the best approach is somewhere in between, the summer has compelled me toward fresh produce.

So what are my goals? This is the way I approach most challenges. It’s hard to get somewhere if you don’t know exactly where you are trying to go, and a list of goals is a great place to “check-in” when you feel fatigued and ready to give up. So here are mine:

  1. Get back on my schedule of healthy habits.
  2. Strengthen my discipline.
  3. Feel better, with fewer ups and downs in my energy levels.
  4. Support growth in my fitness.
  5. Get back to the lower end of my normal weight range.

Stay tuned! The journey is about to begin…