Pacifica Hike – Montara Mountain North Peak

The Montara Mountain North Peak Hike at McNee Ranch has become one of my absolute favorite hikes in the Bay Area, and I’m going to share all the deets with you! It’s about 7 miles out and back, and takes about 2-2.5 hours roundtrip depending on your speed and skill level (this is a moderate hike FYI). Begin at the Grey Whale Cove Trail, and right from the start, you’re greeted with a refreshing coastal breeze and gorgeous views of the ocean. Yesssssss, give me nature!  While enjoying the scenery, you’ll quickly realize that you’re basically climbing one very large mountain, which can get quite steep at some points. Bring on the increased heart rate! When you finally make it to the top, you are rewarded with a 360 degree view of the entire Bay. I’m talking San Mateo Bridge, Oakland, SF city skyline, Sutro Tower, Pacifica beaches all the way to Half Moon Bay… you’re gonna see it all at the top. Hello beautiful! And on the way down, get ready to burn them legs because some parts can get quite steep. Engage the core.  All around, this is a great workout. Like, you’re guaranteed-to-sweat-kind-of-workout. And don’t forget, definitely bring a large water bottle with you. Optional: put the water in your super-hip fanny pack and get made fun of the entire time by your fiance. Or don’t… totally up to you.

Oh, and I almost forgot!! The best part after the hike… FISH BURRITOS. I’m not kidding you, the best fish burrito I have ever had in my life is at El Toro Loco in Pacifica. You earned it!

McNee Ranch Directions:

Photo: Google Earth

On the San Francisco Peninsula in San Mateo County, Montara State Park is approximately 20 miles south of San Francisco. There’s a large parking lot situated along the CA-1 Cabrillo Highway. We like to start at the Grey Whale Cove Trail next to the Grey Whale Cove Beach, as there is a larger parking lot, and smaller trail to start from. You’ll only be on the Grey Whale Cove Trail for about 200 yards, or about 5 minutes, because you’ll want to take the first left up the mountain heading east. This left turn is unmarked and informal (keep your eyes peeled!) but be sure to take it because it climbs directly up the mountain. This informal path is much steeper but it does shorten the total time to North Peak. The informal path meets up with a larger path, and it’s pretty straight forward to the top of the hill.

(And in  case you wanted to see what it looks like when I see a good burrito…)

Tzatziki Lamb Meatballs & Spiralized Beets

This dish is BOMB. Something about the combination of savory lamb meatballs baked with fresh mint from the garden and crunchy warm beets all topped with a creamy homemade cilantro tzatziki sauce make this dish so freaking delicious. It’s incredibly different and unique, and so tasty that I could honestly eat this for dinner at least once a week. Patrick and I found this recipe in our Inspiralize Everything Cookbook, and we fell in love with the idea of spiralized beets immediately. We made a few tweaks to the recipe to give it more flavor, and I think we’ve finally perfected the ingredients and quantities to our liking. I know it’s a weird combination of ingredients, but seriously – try it. You won’t regret.

Estimated Time: 1 hour

Ingredients (serves 4):

Meatballs:

  • Minced Ground lamb: 1 lb
  • Ground Cumin: 1.5 tbsp
  • Ground Coriander: 2 tsp
  • Paprika: 1/2 tsp
  • Garlic Cloves: 4 large, minced
  • Fresh Mint: 1/4 cup, minced
  • Breadcrumbs: 1/4 cup
  • Salt: 3 cranks
  • Pepper: 2 cranks

Beets:

  • Red Beets: 2 large, peeled and spiralized
  • Salt: to taste
  • Pepper: to taste

Yogurt Sauce:

  • Non-Fat Plain Greek Yogurt: 1/2 cup
  • Shallot: 1/2 shallot, minced
  • Fresh Cilantro: 2 tbsp, minced
  • Lemon Juice: 1/2 lemon, squeezed
  • Paprika: 1/2 tsp
  • Salt: 1 crank
  • Pepper: 1 crank
  • Water: 2 tbsp

Garnish:

  • Raw cashews: 1/4 cup, chopped or halved
  • Cilantro: 2 tbsp

Preheat the oven to 425. Prep two baking sheets with parchment paper. Separately, prep a third baking pan or sheet with cooking spray. Peel the beets, spiralize them, and distribute over the 2 parchment paper baking sheets. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then set aside.

Next start working on the meatballs. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix with hands, form 2″ meatballs and place on the baking sheet that’s been been sprayed with cooking spray. Place beets and meatballs in the oven and then set two timers. For the beets, bake for 10-12 minutes (or until al dente). For the meatballs, bake for 17-18 minutes. While those bad boys are baking, prepare the tzatziki sauce. You’ll see I added 2 tbsp water into this sauce, only because I like a more runny consistency. But if you like the sauce on the thicker side, you can omit the water.

Beets should be close to done by now, so take those out when the timer goes off and then distribute the noodles amongst 4 plates. Last but not least, chop up your cashews and place on a baking sheet (I just reused the baking sheet from the beets).

Once the meatballs are done, take them out and then switch the oven to broil. Broil the cashews for 1-2 minutes (watch closely! They will burn fast!). Add the meatballs and tzatziki sauce to the plated dishes, and garnish with cashews and cilantro. Yum yum yum!

Warm Spinach & Sausage Caesar Salad

This warm green salad is very easy to make, and is hearty enough on its own for lunch or dinner. The tasty flavors of savory sausage juxtapose sweet, ripe grape tomatoes and crunchy spinach melt in your mouth. Dine al fresco with a glass of rose, and I’d say you’re set for a good day.

Estimated Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients (serves 1):

  • Baby Spinach: 3 big handfuls
  • Mild or Hot Italian Sausage: 1 link (I recommend New York Style Sausage Company)
  • Grape Tomatoes: 10 grape tomatoes, sliced in halves
  • Baby Bella Mushrooms: 3 large mushrooms, sliced
  • Light Caesar Dressing: 1 tbsp (I recommend Ken’s Lite Caesar)
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese: 1 tbsp
  • Olive Oil: 1 tsp

Pour the olive oil into a small skillet, and turn to medium-high heat. When the pan gets hot, place the sausage in the pan and cover with a glass top. Sear for about 3 minutes, flip, and sear and char the other side for another 3-4 minutes (keep glass top on while searing). Next, pour just a couple tablespoons of water into the pan, cover, and reduce heat to medium. This creates some steam for the sausage to continue cooking. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes with glass top on the pan, or until sausage is cooked all the way through. Meanwhile, combine all the remaining ingredients into a large bowl. Slice the sausage into bite-size pieces, add to the salad, and stir together. Done!

Veggie Chickpea Curry

Totally healthy and extremely tasty. Need I say more? Clean. Colorful. Vegan. Yummy. This is a great, easy curry that is full of protein and fiber. Between the mix of cumin, curry powder, tumeric, ginger and fresh squeezed lemon juice, this dish packs a punch that pairs nicely with a side of warm brown rice.

Estimated Time: 1 hour

Ingredients (serves 5-6):

  • Cauliflower: 1/2 large head, chopped
  • Baby Carrots: 4 handfuls, chopped
  • Onion: 1/2 large, chopped
  • Petite Diced Tomatoes: 14.5 oz can
  • Diced Green Chilis: 4oz can
  • Garlic: 3 cloves, minced
  • Fresh Ginger Root: 2 tbsp, grated
  • Cumin Powder: 3 tbsp
  • Curry Powder: 3 tbsp
  • Tumeric: 1/2 tbsp
  • Cayenne Powder (optional): 1/2 tsp
  • Lemon Juice: 1 whole lemon, juiced
  • Water: 1/2 cup
  • Olive Oil: 2 tbsp
  • Fresh Cilantro: garnish

If you’re craving brown rice with this recipe, get that started first. Next, combine olive oil, carrots, onion and garlic in a large pot and turn to medium/high heat. With a wooden spatula, mix the olive oil around with the vegetables and continue stirring for about 3 minutes. Turn the heat down to low/medium and begin chopping up the cauliflower into small bite-sized pieces. Once that’s all cut up, add the in the cauliflower, diced tomatoes, green chiles, fresh ginger root, cumin powder, curry powder, tumeric powder and optional cayenne powder to the pot. Give it a good stir and increase heat to medium for about 10 minutes. Next, stir in a 1/2 cup of water. Cover the pot with a glass top, reduce heat to low/medium and continue simmering for approximately 30-40 minutes. Not done yet! Turn the stove off and squeeze in the fresh lemon juice. Mix all together and now you’re done! Serve over a bed of brown rice and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Lagree Pilates at Core40 SOMA

Before I begin, I just want to point out that I realize the photos of me on the machine are extremely dorky. Hey man. Take me as I am. So, I’ve been going to Core40 in San Francisco for about a year now, and it’s one of my favorite studio classes to take because its quick, efficient, and fun. Only 40 minutes of intense muscle burn! The Core40 Studio has both spin classes (shoutout to my sister-in-law, Stephanie Jensen, one of the BEST spin instructors!) and lagree pilates classes on the M3 Megaformer.

So what exactly makes lagree different that traditional pilates? Simply put, lagree is much more intense, with more weight resistance and increased targeting on more muscle groups at one time. For example, I can be in an “elevator lunge” and be working my legs, core and arms all at the same time. From Core40.com:

In Pilates, you typically take breaks between each set of exercises (similar to a Yoga class). The Lagree philosophy is that shorter transitions lead to a quicker burnout and a shorter workout (less time, more intensity).Use slow movements (to target slow twitch muscle fibers, scientifically proven to burn more fat), resistance training (to build muscle strength), continuous tension (via spring resistance) and constant engagement of your core (on a moving platform) to push your muscles to maximum exertion and keep your heart rate elevated throughout.

There are several studios in San Francisco, but I love the SOMA studio because it offers special “Ramped” classes which is even harder. The reformer basically has an electric ramp attached, and it changes the angle of the exercises, creating more intensity and a bigger burn. YAS please.

Nova Lox Eggs Benedict

If you’ve got an insatiable hunger to impress your friends with killer #brunchvibes, I got your back. A fancy twist on a traditional eggs benedict, this alternative is different, fun and simply delectable. My dad is an avid Monterey Bay fisherman, so I grew up around all types of fish. Nova lox is one of my favorites, which is basically cold smoked salmon, cured in salt and thinly sliced (different than traditional smoked salmon, which is often hot smoked). Despite the fact that hollandaise sauce is not the healthiest delicacy on the planet, I still kept it in my recipe. I’d recommend just a small drizzle, but this is where it’s up to you decide how healthy you want to be. Just remember, everything is okay in moderation.  This tasty dish pairs well with a side of fresh, fragrant berries. And a mimosa. Or glass of rose. Or both. No judgements. You do you b00, it’s the weekend.

Estimated Time: 45 Minutes

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • Nova Lox Salmon: 8 oz packet
  • Whole Wheat English Muffins: 2
  • Farm Fresh Eggs: 4
  • Asparagus: 4 spears, cut in half
  • Salt: a few dashes
  • Cooking Spray: a few sprays
  • Paprika: 1 tablespoon

Hollandaise Sauce (serves 8, so you’ll have extra):

Turn on the oven onto broil. On a baking sheet, line with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Place the asparagus on the sheet, spray the greens with cooking spray and sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. Cook in the oven for about 2 minutes, flip over, and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until it turns bright green. Concurrently, toast your english muffins in the oven as well, by placing them directly onto another rack (no butter) for about 2-3 minutes. Keep a close eye on both while they cook. Set the english muffins and asparagus aside.

Next, start working on the hollandaise sauce. Melt the butter in small saucepan on medium-low heat, then add in the cold water and hollandaise sauce packet with a whisk. Stir frequently, and continue to cook on medium heat until it starts to boil. Reduce the heat to low and then begin arranging the dish.

Each plate gets two toasted english muffin halves. Stack about 1-2 slices of nova lox and 2 halves of asparagus on each english muffin slice. Finally, it’s egg time.

For the eggs, you will need a medium skillet and an empty wine glass. Fill the skillet with about 2 inches of water, turn to high heat and when the entire bottom of the saucepan is covered in bubbles and starting to boil, sprinkle just a few dashes of salt into the pan. Crack one egg, place it into the wine glass, and then slowly and gently pour the single egg directly into the skillet. Continue, one at time, cracking each egg into the wine glass, and gently pouring each egg in a clockwise arrangement. Each egg needs about 3 minutes to cook, so the first egg should be close to done by the time you’re finished cracking all 4. You’ll know it’s done when it turns white and the yoke begins to float. With a slotted spoon, carefully lift each egg, drain completely, and place on the english muffins. Drizzle with a small bit of hollandaise sauce, and then sprinkle just a small dash of paprika to finish it off. Congrats! You did it!

Best Ever Turkey Zucchini Burgers with Avocado

Looking for a super moist turkey burger that’s full of flavor? These burgers are fiance-approved, and refreshingly light on the tummy. By substituting cheese with fresh avocado and vine-ripe tomatoes, we’re adding tasty colors to this best-ever turkey patty. Ah yes, that turkey patty, the star of the show. No ketchup, mustard or mayo needed on this number: I’m giving away three secret ingredients that make this turkey patty stand proud on it’s own: fresh basil (for impeccable flavor), Worcestershire sauce (you’ll taste why) and zucchini (for moisture and nutritional content – double bonus!). Get excited.

Estimated Time: (1 hour 20 minutes, which includes 1 hour of marinating time)

Turkey Patty Ingredients (serves 5):

  • Lean Ground Turkey: 16oz
  • Raw Zucchini: 1 medium, shredded
  • Whole Wheat Bread Crumbs: 1/4 cup
  • Yellow Onion: 2 tbsp, minced
  • Garlic: 1 clove, minced
  • Fresh Basil: 2 tbsp, minced
  • Worcestershire Sauce: 1.5 tsp
  • Salt: 2-3 dashes
  • Pepper: 2-3 dashes

Burger Ingredients:

  • Hamburger Buns (wheat or white): 5 buns
  • Hass Avocado: 1 large, sliced
  • Vine-Ripe Tomato: 1 large, sliced thick
  • Yellow Onion: 1/2 large, sliced
  • Iceburg Lettuce: 5-6 large leaves

Start by preparing the turkey meat. Combine all ingredients into a large bowl and mix with clean hands. Note to engaged women: unless you want raw meat in it, take off your engagement ring. On a large plate or baking dish, split and create 5 patties, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Once you’re ready to grill, start up the barbecue and clean off any old residue. Grill the turkey patties for approximately 8 minutes, flip, and cook for another 5 minutes or until the meat is cooked all the way through. Meanwhile, using cooking spray, sauté your onions in a small skillet via kitchen stovepot on low heat while the burgers cook. Onions will take about 10 minutes. Once the burgers are close to being done, toast the hamburger buns on the grill for light crunch.

Stack all the ingredients onto the bun and you’re done! Also optional to eat your burger “naked” by substituting the hamburger bread with fresh crisp iceburg lettuce. Hope you enjoy it!

Spicy Sausage Zucchini Pasta

Crumbly, hearty sausage bits simmered with grape tomatoes spilling over a bed of light, fresh zucchini noodles…you gotta try this. If you’ve never tried zucchini noodles, I urge you to give it a go. And while yes, it is not real “pasta,” it still gratifies the mind with every twirling bite. I use my spiralizer at least once a week with no regrets because it’s so easy to use and it whips out noodles of all sorts in a matter of 2-3 minutes.  By using spicy sausage, this dish delivers a spicy punch which actually pairs nicely with the subtle, accommodating features of the zucchini.  Not to mention, this tasty meal is super friendly on the calorie budget.

Estimated time: 30 minutes

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • Hot Italian Sausages: 3 links (I recommend New York Style Sausage Company)
  • Raw Zucchinis: 4 medium
  • Grape Tomatoes: 3 big handfuls, cut in halves
  • Low Sodium Chicken Broth: 1/2 cup
  • Cooking Spray: 2 pumps
  • Fresh Oregano: leaves from 2 sprigs
  • Parmesan Cheese: 2 tbsp

Using your spiralizer, spiralize your zucchinis first. Spread the noodles out on a cutting board, and cut the noodles in 5-6 inch increments (the noodles can get very very long if you don’t cut them up a little bit). Next, spray a large non-stick skillet or wok with cooking spray and warm to medium/high heat. Cut the casing off the sausage and throw all the meat in the pan. Dispose the casing. With a wooden spatula, break apart the sausage into smaller crumbles as it cooks. Once the sausage begins to brown, add the grape tomatoes halves, chicken broth and oregano leaves. Reduce heat to super low and simmer for about 5-7 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed into the meat. Add in the zucchini noodles and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes. The zucchini will release more water into the mixture, giving you back some sauce. Be careful not to overcook the noodles (the noodles will keep cooking even after you turn the stove off) – you’ll want to keep a bit of crunch upon serving. Turn the stove off, plate the dish, and top with a tablespoon of parmesan cheese. Tasty!

BBQ Pork Pizzas

This pizza is totally guilt-free. And while cauliflower crust is sort of cool, this barbecue pizza is waaaaay cooler in my opinion, and much faster to make. We had some left-over ribs in the fridge that I didn’t want to go to waste, but you can totally substitute with any other type of meat. Imagine this in your mouth right this second: light tender pork, tangy barbecue sauce, crisp red onions, fragrant herbs cut fresh from the garden, and delicious mozzarella cheese. So much yes.

Estimated Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • Grilled Pork Ribs: 4 pork ribs, deboned and shredded with fork
  • *Substitute Grilled or Baked Chicken: 6 oz, shredded with fork
  • La Tortilla Factory Low Carb, High Fiber Tortilla – 2 large tortillas
  • Cooking Spray – 2 pumps
  • Barbecue Sauce: 1/4 cup
  • Red Onion: 1/3 cup, chopped
  • Cilantro: 1/3 cup, chopped
  • Green Onions: 2 large stocks, chopped
  • Low Fat Mozzarella Cheese: 2/3 cup, shredded
  • Red Pepper Flakes: 2 dashes, optional

 

Using a small convection oven or large regular sized oven, preheat to 350. If using a small convection oven, you might have to do one pizza at a time (which is no biggie because these bake fast). Spray the topside of each tortilla with cooking spray and toast the tortillas for approximately 2-3 minutes depending on your oven. You want the tortillas to be just a bit more firm than when they started.  Now, spread the barbecue sauce evenly across the two tortillas; the trick is spreading all the way to the edge of the tortilla so that you get enough sauce in every bite. Distribute and layer all of the remaining ingredients onto the pizzas and bake for about 5-7 minutes or until cheese is melted. Top with red pepper flakes if you’re feeling spicy. Pair with a spinach salad and call it a night!

Steel-Cut Oats w/ Mixed Berries

Steel cut oats with mixed berries

I posted a recipe a few weeks ago with cottage cheese and mixed berries, and I received some requests for a non-cottage cheese version. Turns out not everyone loves CC as much as I do 🙂 That’s okay! Here is another berry compote option that is equally delicious: steel-cut oats! Nomz.

Estimated Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients (serves 1):

  • Dry Steel-Cut Oats: 1/4 cup
  • Water: 1 cup
  • Frozen/Fresh Mixed Berries: 1/2 cup
  • Splenda: 1 tsp

Boil the water in a pot and add in the oats. Cook on high for about 3 minutes and then reduce to low heat, continually stir, and cook the oats until desired consistency (about 15-20 minutes). Meanwhile, microwave the berries for about 45 seconds or until the juices begin to run. Add the Splenda and mix together. Once the oats are done, top ’em with the berry compote. Delish!

Weight Watchers Points Plus: 4 points