Big City Life · Breakfast Recipes · Easy recipe · Fall Food · Snacks

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, y’all! I have to admit, Halloween has never really been my favorite holiday. As a child I was deathly afraid of people with painted faces. And no, I’m not just talking about creepy clowns or scary monsters. I’m talking ANY amount of face paint. When I was five and my sister decided she wanted to go as a green goblin, of course I had to follow suit (she was 2 years older, so I wanted to do everything she did). When it came time to get ready for a night of trick-or-treating, we decided that my sister would get her face painted first. I sat down to watch my mom apply the green goop, anxious to see the results and to get my turn. The second my mom swiped one streak of green paint across my sister’s forehead, though, I screamed and ran into my bedroom and didn’t come out for the rest of the night. The lure of candy wasn’t anywhere near strong enough to get me out among the ghouls and goblins.

That wasn’t the only time my fear kept me sidelined from the trick-or-treating festivities. There was also the time I was at my Grammy’s house and my teenaged uncles decided to come home dressed as the band Kiss. You know, the ones with black and white painted faces and one of them breathes fire? Yeah, I was terrified of them. Even just a poster of them kept me from stepping foot in my uncles’ room. I spent that evening with my head buried in my Grammy’s bed pillow.  And then there was the time, at my Grammy’s house again, that my aunt’s boyfriend (later husband) came over dressed as a mummy. He was wrapped in head-to-toe gauze and, while his costume didn’t involve face paint, I guess the fact that I couldn’t see his face sent me screaming to Grammy’s bed again. It probably didn’t help that I was watching Scooby-Doo on TV at the time.

Luckily, that fear eventually went away.  Except for the clowns.  I think I will always be afraid of creepy clowns.

In my 20s and early 30s, Halloween was a big deal amongst my friends, so I made the effort and got involved. After a while, however, the effort it took to come up with and put together a good costume and fight my way through crowded Halloween parties became way more than I was willing to put forth, so I now wear black and call it a day.  I do enjoy seeing the costumes on the kiddos, though. And I might even watch a scary movie tonight. Who says I don’t get into the spirit of the holiday???

You know what I do get into the spirit of, without hesitation? Fall breads. My Instagram feed has been inundated with pumpkin bread, banana bread, butternut squash bread, and multiple other flavors and combinations and it has been making me HUNGRY.  So I decided to try my hand at making a bread out of my favorite fall fruit, apples, and the result was delicious.  It was really easy to make, so I encourage you to try it.  It also goes quite nicely with baked cinnamon apples and vanilla yogurt…just sayin’.

Whole Wheat Apple Spice Bread
Servings: 12
Serving Nutrition: 159 calories, 4.2 g protein, 3.5 g fat, 3.4 g fiber, 29.5 g carbohydrates
Ingredients
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
3 medium apples, diced small or grated (I used McIntosh, but any sweet apple will work)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup honey
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp canola oil

Directions
1. Pre-heat oven to 350°.
2. Mix flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in one bowl.
3. Mix remaining ingredients in a separate bowl.
4. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until dry ingredients are all mixed in.
5. Pour batter into a non-stick loaf pan sprayed with cooking spray.
6. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick placed in center of loaf comes out clean.
7. Cool, cut, and eat!

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I ate it for breakfast with some vanilla Greek yogurt. I later added some baked cinnamon apples. Yum!
Cheese, cheese, and more cheese · Easy recipe · Life Balance · Mid-Life Career Change · Shrimp Recipe

Fall Comfort

We are now more than half-way through October (what???) and I’m not gonna lie, the change of seasons is kicking my butt. I blame it on the change of seasons because of the shorter days, but in reality it’s probably a combination of things. In addition to the mild seasonal blues I get when we start to lose daylight hours, I’ve had some tough exams and projects at school and I’ve been looking (unsuccessfully) for additional part-time work that I can fit into my existing school and work schedule. It turns out that when you’re over 40 and have worked in the corporate world for most of your adult life, people are a little weary of hiring you to sit at a front desk and greet people. Go figure. Regardless, it all has me a little stressed out and I’ve been dealing with a mild bout of anxiety over the past couple of weeks. Luckily, it’s not debilitating by any means. I usually just breathe through it when I feel like it might become a full-on panic attack, but the heightened emotional state hangs around a bit.

If I’m 100% honest, I don’t even think school and work are all I’m worrying about. I think aging might have a bit to do with it. I’m not one to blame my age on everything, but hear me out for a minute. The older I get, the more I expect from myself. I expect that I have to work twice as hard to be the absolute best at everything I do. I have to make straight A’s at school and I have to always be at the top of my game at work. I also tend to get down on myself about where I am in my life. I realize that I chose to give up a good career to follow my passion, but the longer it takes to finish what I started, the harder it gets to make the sacrifices that come with it. I feel like I’m constantly declining events and/or travel because of cost, schedule, or a combination of both. And don’t even get me started on the fact that I can’t seem to drink coffee anymore. I’m only half kidding about this one. I really love my coffee! I know many people who say they can’t drink coffee after a certain time or they won’t sleep, but that’s not my issue. I have no problems sleeping most of the time, but my nerves aren’t quite what they used to be and coffee sets them on edge like you would not believe. If I have more than one small cup, I feel so anxious I want to crawl out of my skin and curl up into a ball in the corner. As a result, I mostly just drink tea, but on weeks where I am particularly stressed, even tea can cause a bit of edginess. This situation has me a bit bummed, so if you have suggestions for good coffee alternatives, I’m all ears.

When I get down or anxious, like a lot of people, my first instinct is to reach for comfort food. And I allow myself to indulge a little, but I’m careful not to overdo it. As with any situation, moderation is key. Not only do high sugar or starchy foods tend to lead to overeating that makes me physically feel bad, but these types of foods are not good for anxiety and stress. They cause your blood sugar to spike, and then it drops and you’re left feeling tired and energy-less (is that even a word?). It also doesn’t keep you satisfied for long, so you end up eating more. This is the type of emotional eating that can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food and weight gain if you let it. So, when I need comfort food, I make sure to load it up with vegetables and lean protein and I keep my portions in check so that a little indulgence doesn’t lead to a downward spiral of binge eating and self loathing. One of my recent favorites for comfort food indulgence is shrimp and grits. In fact, we’ve made it a recurring dish in our weekly meal prep for this fall. I love Cajun food and, coming from a state that borders Louisiana, you would think that I have eaten this my entire life. Not so. I was just exposed to this amazing dish a few years ago and I loved it so much I felt the need to make my own spin on it. Apparently shrimp and grits can be made many different ways, but I like mine spicy with Cajun seasoning and a tomato-based sauce. Enjoy!!

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What’s your favorite comfort food? And don’t forget those coffee alternative recommendations!!!  Much appreciated!

Spicy Shrimp & Cheesy Grits
Servings: 6
Serving Nutrition: 361 calories, 28.4 g protein, 11 g fat, 3.5 g fiber, 33.5 g carbohydrates
Ingredients
1 lb peeled & deveined shrimp
1/2 medium red onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper (any color, but I like yellow or orange), diced
3-4 stalks celery, diced
2 chicken andouille sausages, sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 Tbsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp Cajun seasoning (this has a bit of kick, so adjust down if needed)
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (adjust according to your desired spice level)
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
Salt & Pepper to taste
Optional – chopped green onions for garnish

Grits
1 cup quick grits
1 cup milk
3 cups water
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 oz (3/4 cup) shredded cheddar cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions
1. Spray large skillet lightly with olive oil & sauté onions until they begin to soften.
2. Add garlic and cook for about a minute.
3. Stir in sausage, bell pepper and celery.
4. Add white wine, stirring to get any cooked bits from bottom of pan, and cook until smell of alcohol diminishes.
5. Stir in seasonings and tomatoes and bring to a low boil.
6. Reduce heat to simmer and spread shrimp in single layer in sauce. Cook for a few minutes on each side, or until shrimp turns pink.
7. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
Grits
1. In medium saucepan, bring water, milk, and 1/2 tsp salt to a boil.
2. Reduce heat to low and whisk in about 1 Tbsp grits until it soaks up liquid, then continue slowly adding remaining grits 1 Tbsp at a time and whisk until all liquid is absorbed.
3. Add butter and cheese and stir until well mixed.
4. Add salt & pepper to taste.

ShrimpGrits1
Eaten with a side of sauteed spinach with lots of garlic, onions, and tomatoes.  So good!
Breakfast Recipes · Easy recipe · Vegetarian

Breakfast, sweet breakfast

When I think of lunch and dinner, my mind automatically conjures up images of savory dishes. But breakfast is special. It can be sweet, savory, or anything in between. I’ll be honest, I generally don’t gravitate toward sweet breakfasts. I’ll choose an omelet over french toast on most days, and I won’t feel like I missed out on anything. That hasn’t always been the case, though. As a child, I remember loving the morning after a family birthday party because we inevitably had leftover birthday cake. I could usually either sneak a piece before my parents woke up or my siblings and I would convince them that it was a perfectly acceptable breakfast. Considering the alternative was usually a sugary cereal like Lucky Charms, it wasn’t really a huge difference, but somehow it felt like we were being allowed to get away with something bad. And now I’m working to become a registered dietitian…my how times have changed!

BBerryCardamomPancakes

Once in a blue moon, I have a craving for something sweet like pancakes.  If that happens on a day that neither my BF nor I have anywhere to be, I will indulge that craving. Of course, I try to make them as healthy as I can, and in my search for something nutritious yet fluffy and delicious, I came up with these little gems. I used whole wheat flour with a little almond flour to lighten them up a bit. A touch of Greek yogurt adds creaminess, and I went light on the butter. And the cardamom adds an unexpected warmth that perfectly compliments the sweet blueberries. Don’t be scared by the photos – I have yet to master the art of the perfect round pancake, but trust me when I say that what they lack in looks they make up for in deliciousness.

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Topped with a little butter, some bananas & blueberries, and maple syrup. Yum!

Blueberry Cardamom Whole Wheat Pancakes
Servings: 4
Serving Nutrition:  345 calories, 12 g protein, 15.3 g fat, 798 mg sodium, 6.4 g fiber, 42.3 g carbohydrates
Ingredients
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 heaping Tbsp plain Greek yogurt
1 1/4 cup milk
2 Tbsp melted butter
1 cup blueberries

Directions
1. Mix flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom in one bowl.
2. Mix remaining ingredients (except blueberries) in a separate bowl.
3. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until dry ingredients are all mixed in but small lumps remain in batter.
4. Fold blueberries into batter.
5. Heat non-stick skillet over medium heat.
6. Scoop small amounts of batter onto skillet at a time and cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until the edges start to set, flip and cook the other side for a couple of minutes. Both sides should be golden brown.
7. Serve with your choice of toppings and devour!