Batch Recipes · Big City Life · Easy recipe · International Cooking · Life Balance · Vegetarian · Veggies!

More than your average brunch

Before I moved to Brooklyn, I lived in the West Village in Manhattan for 5 years.  I absolutely loved living there.  Despite being in the heart of New York City, it really feels like a cute little neighborhood, with tree-lined streets and brownstones and families galore.  It was very similar to the neighborhood where I live now in Brooklyn, but the restaurant situation is on a whole different level.  Some of the best restaurants in NYC can be found in the West Village, and the variety of cuisines is incredible.  Italian?  Check.  Sushi?  Check.  Brazilian?  Check.  Ethiopian?  Check.  You get the picture.

Anyway, one of my favorite meals to eat out is brunch.  For me, there’s not much I would rather do on a weekend than get together with girlfriends at lunchtime to eat breakfast food and drink mimosas, especially on a patio on a nice day.  The only complaint I ever have with a girls’ brunch is that a lot of brunch menus look almost exactly alike.  You can pretty much predict there will be some sort of omelette, an eggs benedict or florentine, pancakes or waffles, potatoes, bacon, sausage.  You know, the classics.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the classics, but I really appreciate it when a restaurant thinks outside the box a little with their brunch menu.  Variety is a good thing.  One of my favorite brunch spots in the West Village, Joseph Leonard, mixes it up with some pretty unique regular menu items, plus every weekend they have a different brunch special.

One weekend, I went to brunch at Joseph Leonard and their special that day was a Moroccan chickpea stew topped with a poached egg.  I was intrigued, so I had to try it.  It was the absolute best brunch I’ve ever had.  The spices in the stew created a flavor bomb, and I am always in love with a perfectly poached egg on anything.  I wanted to bathe in the meal in front of me, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

MChkpeaStew1

In my quest to recreate that magical meal, I ended up with what has turned out to be my go-to batch recipe for busy weeks.  This Moroccan chickpea stew is so flavorful – you get complex Moroccan flavor with just a little spiciness, then there’s a little pop of sweetness from golden raisins.  Yum!  Not only do I eat it for breakfast or brunch with a poached egg and toast, but I also eat it for lunch with tomato & cucumber salad, tsatziki and pita bread, or for dinner I’ll eat it over basmati rice or couscous with a dollop of Greek yogurt.  You could also use it as a base for baked eggs.  It’s so versatile and happens to be really easy to make using your slow cooker, too.  Set it and forget it!

MChkpeaStew3

Moroccan Chickpea Stew
Servings: 8
Serving Nutrition: 180 calories, 6.1 g protein, 3 g fat, 772 mg sodium, 34 g carbohydrates
Ingredients
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ras el hanout
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 large or 2 small potatoes, diced
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes
1 large carrot, diced
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 (15 oz) can low sodium chickpeas, drained & rinsed
1 bunch fresh kale, chopped, or 1 (8 oz) package frozen kale
1/2 cup low sodium vegetable stock
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper

Directions
1. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat, then add onions and sauté for 2 minutes.
2. Add garlic and all spices and cook, stirring frequently, for another minute or 2, or until mixture becomes really fragrant.
3. Add onion and spice mixture to slow cooker (3.5 quarts or larger).
4. Add all other ingredients to slow cooker and stir to mix well.
5. Cover and set to cook on high for 4 hours.
6. Come home from work to an amazing home-cooked meal that makes your house smell like heaven.
7. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro if you have it and enjoy!

Note: if in a hurry, you can skip steps 1 and 2 and just put everything in the slow cooker and go, but these extra 2 steps really open up the flavors in the spices and make them pop.

MChkpeaStew2

Batch Recipes · Chicken Recipe · Easy recipe · Fall Food · Life Balance

Do the Hustle

Anyone else do a little dance after reading that title? No? Alrighty then…

I hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving filled with friends and/or family and more good food than you could handle!  As the title to this post suggests, we are now officially knee deep in the holiday hustle and it’s all coming at us like a freight train.  Regardless of which holidays you celebrate and whether those holidays are joyful or stressful for you, I think we can all agree that this time of year can be very emotional.  It’s definitely a balancing act with school/work deadlines, social engagements, figuring out where you’ll be celebrating the holidays or planning to host, shopping for the perfect gifts in overcrowded stores, and travel.  There’s also the inevitable family member (or friend) who you would normally dive under a school bus to avoid running into, yet, on the holidays you’re the jerk if you don’t spend an eternity listening to how his or her dogs are doing.  And let’s not forget about all of the food surrounding this time of year.

Over the past few years, I’ve made some changes in my mindset regarding food and they have helped relieve a little of the holiday stress.  So, here are a few tips that have worked for me:

  1. Eat a lot of veggies. Really, this is something I do throughout the year now, but during this time of year there are sweets galore and gatherings that involve eating heavy food, so eating more veggies in between celebrations helps ensure that your body is still getting properly nourished. Bonus: fill up on the good stuff and you won’t want to eat the entire gingerbread house.
  2. Eat in as much as you can.  Clearly, you can’t bail on the company holiday dinner, but maybe you can bring your lunch that day.  Or say no to the holiday soiree your friend’s husband’s sister’s cousin is throwing and stay home instead.  I have to admit, saying no to social functions used to be a hard one for me, but these days I don’t feel guilty for opting out of an event or two if it helps keep me sane.  And having good food at home makes staying in so much more appealing.  Making big batches of a couple of meals on Sunday will help ensure you always have something good to eat at home.
  3. Relax.  You’re going to splurge a little during the holidays.  We all do it and it is not the end of the world, or even the end of your health or diet goals.  The worst thing you can do is beat yourself up every time you indulge.  Actually, even worse is to give up because you think you blew it anyway.  Take a step back and breathe.  One cookie, or one day of eating (ahem, Thanksgiving), or even a week of holiday parties is not going to destroy what you’ve worked for.  Just resume regularly scheduled healthy habits and move forward.  And remember to be present and enjoy time with your loved ones rather than worrying about how many calories you just ordered to, “get in my belly”.  It will all be OK.

chickendumplings3.jpg

Need a good batch recipe? Make my chicken and dumplings!!!  In this post, I talked about trying to recreate my Grammy’s chicken and dumplings.  I kept the essence of Grammy’s chicken & dumplings, but bulked it up with more veggies and made the dumplings from scratch rather than using a biscuit mix (I didn’t love the ingredients in the mix and the BF and I agreed that it tasted a bit like plastic).  I struggled with getting the perfect fluffy dumpling and we ate a lot of them in the process, but I finally got it right and the result is sooooo good.  This also happens to be a great soul-warming cold weather meal.  It’s easy to make, but does take a bit of time (about 1.5 hours total prep + cooking), so plan ahead. Enjoy!

ChickenDumplings4

Fluffy Chicken & Dumplings
Servings: 8
Serving Nutrition: 258 calories, 13.7 g protein, 5.7 g fat, 38.1 g carbohydrates, 774 mg sodium
Ingredients
Stew
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
4 stalks celery, 1/4 inch slices
1 cup carrots, 1/4 inch slices
1 medium potato, diced small
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup parsley, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp cornstarch (or flour)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Dumplings
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 cup milk (I used 1%)

Directions
1. In large pot over medium heat, sauté onions in olive oil until they begin to soften.
2. Add garlic and cook for about a minute.
3. Add celery, carrots, potato, salt, and pepper and stir to mix.
4. Add chicken breasts, chicken stock, bay leaf, and enough water to cover chicken breasts and bring to a boil.
5. After chicken has boiled for about 20 minutes, reduce heat to a simmer, remove breasts from pot and shred with a fork. Return chicken to pot.
6. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch with about 3 tablespoons of hot water and mix until a smooth paste forms. Add cornstarch mixture to pot and mix thoroughly.
7. Let stew simmer for about 20 minutes or until liquid thickens to desired stew consistency.
8. While stew is simmering, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl.
9. Cut softened butter into flour mixture until little beads of dough form consistently throughout mixture.
10. Slowly stir milk into flour mixture a little bit at a time until all dry ingredients are incorporated into dough. It will be a thick dough that will be difficult to stir.
11. Once stew is thickened to desired consistency, lower heat if needed to maintain a low simmer, remove the bay leaf, and stir in parsley and more salt & pepper if needed.
12. Drop 1 tablespoon of dough at a time onto the top of the stew, starting along the edge of the pot and working your way inward.
13. Cover pot and let simmer for 20 minutes.
14. Remove lid and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes.

ChickenDumplings2
Look at how light and airy that dumpling is!
ChickenDumplings1
The stew underneath is delicious too.
Batch Recipes · Easy recipe · Life Balance · Mid-Life Career Change · Pasta · Tasty Sides · Vegetarian · Veggies!

Easy is the Name of the Game

I’m not gonna lie, I have it pretty good here in my little world. I’m not saying it’s perfect by any means, and I can get a little overwhelmed at times, but thus far my BF and I have been able to help each other out when one of us has too much on our plate. That’s all about to change. Next week, my BF starts training for his new career and he is going to be gone most of the time. It’s all very exciting for him, but we are going to have to prepare big time. And by prepare, I am of course talking about the only thing that matters, which is food. Right now, on the days I don’t get home from class until almost 10 pm, he cooks dinner. Those days are over for a while. He is also going to need to take lunch every day. Basically, we’re going to have to do a lot of planning and batch cooking and we will need to expand our repertoire of super simple and quick dishes. Being the food nerd that I am, I’m getting really excited about it.

This past weekend, we went up to Connecticut to spend some time with his family, and his mom took us to LaRocca’s Country Market, which is like my kind of heaven. LaRocca’s is a gourmet market where you can get fresh produce, groceries, prepared foods, or made-to-order sandwiches. Their deli counter has a ton of salads that look amazing. I wanted to try everything, but I settled for just using some of it for inspiration.

orzosalad.jpg

One of the salads that looked particularly yummy was an orzo salad with artichokes, tomatoes, dill, feta cheese, and olives. I didn’t get a chance to taste it at LaRocca’s, so I have no idea how my version compares to theirs, but it sounded so good I had to give it a shot. I used basil instead of dill, and I have to say that it was so incredibly easy to make and we could not stop eating it. We had it as a side, but you could easily make it a main dish by adding some protein. In fact, for lunch today I ate leftovers with some spinach and chickpeas, plus a little extra lemon juice and cracked pepper to flavor the chickpeas. It was delicious.

orzosalad2.jpg

Easy Orzo Salad
Servings: 10 (side servings)
Serving Nutrition: 264 calories, 8.6 g protein, 9.6 g fat, 262 mg sodium, 37 g carbohydrates, 2.3 g fiber
Ingredients
1 (16 oz.) box orzo, cooked al dente
1 (6 oz.) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
2 medium tomatoes, diced (or 1 can diced tomatoes, drained)
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped or torn
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
Plenty of fresh cracked pepper

Directions
1. Combine all ingredients in bowl and mix well.
2. Taste & add pepper or lemon juice as needed.

OrzoSalad3
Orzo salad + spinach + chickpeas + lemon juice/cracked pepper = perfect lunch!
Batch Recipes · Big City Life · Chocolate · Easy recipe · Life Balance · Mid-Life Career Change · Running · Snacks

More Snack Balls…

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of catching up with a couple of friends over a run followed by brunch. The three of us have trained for marathons together in the past, which involves very long runs that can sometimes be uncomfortable, if not downright painful. You get to know each other very quickly and very intimately on these runs. Talk of bodily functions, odors, and other highly personal issues is not only within the bounds of normal conversation with runner friends, it is sometimes the only thing that keeps you going and has been the basis of many a lifelong friendship. We are all bound together in our gross and strange commonalities. It’s a beautiful thing…for us. If you have to sit next to us on the subway after a sweaty run, you probably don’t think it’s so beautiful. Sorry ’bout that.

Unfortunately, I am not able to catch up with these ladies as much as I would like. Life has gotten busy for all of us and it can be tough to coordinate schedules. That said, when we are together we often speak about how to manage a busy schedule and still take care of ourselves by eating well and exercising. Basically, it isn’t easy and none of us have found the perfect solution, but we can continue to work on it one small change at a time. I have been doing pretty well with my diet lately, so my goal for this new semester, which just started 2 weeks ago, is to prioritize exercise. Even just 10-20 minutes on a busy day is better than nothing.

On our run, one of my friends requested that I post some slow cooker recipes. Honestly, I don’t use my slow cooker nearly enough, but it is always a great way to make a healthy home cooked meal when you’re busy. I typically think of the slow cooker as being for fall and winter dishes like stews and roasts, but it really can be used year-round for a wide variety of foods. This summer when it was so hot I refused to turn on my oven, I made a chicken and rice dish in the slow cooker and it was way better than I expected…and so incredibly easy. That said, I tried to recreate it and it was not nearly as good the second time, so back to work I go! While I work on perfecting that recipe, I will share another flavor of my favorite convenient snack balls…dark chocolate & peanut butter. Yum!

ChocolatePBBalls2

Dark Chocolate and Peanut Butter Snack Balls
Yield: About 24 balls
Nutrition per ball: 66 calories, 2.6 g protein, 3.2 g fat, 26 mg sodium, 7.6 g carbohydrates, 3.6 g sugar
Ingredients
2/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 cup uncooked rolled oats
2/3 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1/2 cup almond flour
4 Tbsp peanut butter powder
1 Tbsp honey
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions
1. Put coconut, cranberries, and oats in food processor and chop to your desired consistency.
2. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. It will be a thick dough, so you might need to use your hands to combine everything.
3. Form dough into golf ball sized balls.
4. Store in refrigerator for easy snacking.

Batch Recipes · Pasta · Shrimp Recipe · Summer · Veggies!

Who are you calling shrimp??

I may be short, but big things sometimes come in small packages, right?!?!? Much like the little crustaceans we so love to use as a derogatory reference for people of small stature. One 3-ounce portion of shrimp packs about 15 grams of protein! That’s more than a quarter of the daily protein needs of your average 150 pound person. Shrimp contain omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA and DHA, which are important for cardiovascular health. They also contain the antioxidants selenium and astaxanthin (the pigment that gives shrimp a pink color when cooked). Additionally, shrimp is low in saturated fat.

I don’t know about you, but I crave light, citrusy seafood dishes during the summer. I had a craving several weeks ago for shrimp scampi. Typically a very buttery dish, I used a fraction of the butter called for in most recipes and really amped up the lemon flavor. It has become a favorite around here and I’ve made it at least 3 times since the summer began. This recipe makes a pretty big batch, and we eat the leftovers for a couple of days. I think it’s just as good eaten as leftovers…so good that I only got one photo before we devoured it. Oops!shrimpscampi1_li.jpg

Lightened Up Shrimp Scampi
Servings: 6
Ingredients
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large shallot (or 2 small), minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup dry white wine
1 – 1.5 lbs shrimp, peeled & deveined, tails off
2 medium lemons – zest & juice
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (more or less depending on how much spice you like)
1 box (13-16 oz) whole wheat pasta (spaghetti, angel hair pasta, or linguine work well)
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup baby spinach, chopped

Directions
1. Cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving ½ cup of cooking water.
2. In large skillet over medium heat, sauté shallots in butter and olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and cook for about a minute.
3. Add white wine and shrimp, cooking shrimp for about 1-2 minutes on each side, or until just pink.
4. Add lemon zest and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low and add salt & pepper to taste.
5. Add pasta to skillet with shrimp, then add parsley, spinach, lemon juice, and ¼ cup of the pasta water, and toss all ingredients together until well combined. Remove from heat. If pasta still seems dry, add more pasta water until sauce distributes easily. Salt & pepper to taste.
6. Serve with lemon wedges and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!

 

Batch Recipes · Italian Recipe

Back in Action

Well, the Olympics are long over and I’m finally getting back to normal.  Actually, I don’t know that I can use the term “normal” to describe anything about me.  Seriously, everything in my life, all of my life choices, and even my personality/sense of humor are all a little off kilter, so perhaps I should just say that I’m getting back to my usual self?

Anyway, I digress. Since my last post, we celebrated National Nutrition Month in March, so I was a wee bit busy.  School was status quo, but at work we had some special events for both employees and residents.  Good times all around.

I’m in the middle of writing a research proposal on the anti-aging benefits of niacin supplements (the jury’s still out – a lot more research needs to be done, so don’t go start overloading on niacin supplements, please!) and taking two online courses on the ethical treatment of humans and animals in research (don’t be jealous), so I’m going to keep this post short and sweet.

In my last post, I promised my recipe for tomato sauce.  The recipe makes a large batch, so you can cut it down if you want, but you might regret that decision once you taste it.  I actually eat it by the spoonful.  It doesn’t seem like anything special, but for some reason I love it so much better than jarred sauces.  And it’s better for you than most of them…bonus!

tomatosauce3.jpg

Easy Tomato/Pasta Sauce

Ingredients
1 medium onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
4-5 stalks of celery, diced
1 ½ cups shredded carrots
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 (28 oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 (28 oz) can low sodium tomato sauce
3 large bay leaves
1 Tbsp dried basil
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (less if you don’t like spice)
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Directions
In a big pot, sauté onion in olive oil over medium heat until it begins to soften. Add garlic and celery and continue to sauté for about 2 minutes. Add carrots and tomato paste and stir well. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, bay leaves, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, and about ½ tsp each of salt & pepper and increase heat to medium-high. When sauce begins to boil, lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add more salt & pepper if needed. If you don’t like chunks, you can remove the bay leaves and blend until sauce is smooth. An immersion blender is probably easiest, but you could also blend in batches in a standard blender. I personally love the chunks, so I skip the blender.  I generally toss in a handful of roughly chopped basil at the end as well…that’s optional but I love basil so I can’t get enough.

Buon appetito!

TomatoSauce2
I mixed in some ground turkey to make it a meat sauce and served over whole wheat pasta with a little parmesan & chopped basil…om nom nom!
Batch Recipes · Life Balance · Mid-Life Career Change · Running · Snacks

Hitting the Reset Button

There are those times in everyone’s life when you have too much on your plate and it gets overwhelming and chaotic.  You’re burning the candle at both ends and you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel through everything that has piled on top of you.  At those times, you have to take a step back, breathe deeply, and evaluate the situation.  Are there obligations that aren’t helping you to move forward that can be eliminated?  Are there things you can do now to make your life easier tomorrow or a week from now?  Are there things you’re doing in reaction to the stress that are making it worse?

I was in such a situation recently.  Fall classes started at the end of August and I am taking a full coarse load.  Around that same time, I took on a part-time job to supplement savings and financial aid.  I was also still attempting to train for a marathon and maintain relationships with the people who are important to me, including my boyfriend.  It was just too much and, as a result, I was eating poorly (skipping breakfast because I woke up late and just ran out the door, or having pizza for dinner because I was too tired to cook), I had no time to work out, and I was irritable because I was exhausted and I was staring down a mountain of school work I still had to get to.  Something had to give.

After a lot of thought, I knew the first thing that had to go was the marathon.  I was less than 2 months away from running 26.2 miles and I could barely squeeze in one or two runs a week, and my body was sluggish on every single one of those runs.  I tried to force it for a few weeks, but the realization that continuing down that path would most likely result in injury made the ultimate decision a no-brainer.  So, I deferred and will now be running the Marine Corps Marathon in 2017.  I’m happy with that decision.

After I pulled the plug on the marathon for this year, I was still overburdened and stressed beyond belief.  The job.  Let me tell you about the job.  It didn’t pay much and I realized quickly that it was very demanding both physically and emotionally.  The schedule was never set in stone and I could either be cut from or added to a shift within just a day, or even a few hours, of the shift.  It made it impossible to plan anything at all.  My role was to assist with cooking classes, which I thought would be good experience for my future in food and nutrition, however I spent most of my time washing dishes.  At the end of every shift, my feet hurt like crazy and sometimes I would have to work back-to-back shifts with no break.  It was causing the plantar fasciitis in my left foot to worsen and I started to get sharp lower back pain.  I laughed that I could run marathons but couldn’t stand for hours at a time without wanting to cut my feet off and roll up into fetal position, but I swear it was harder on my body than running!  I was so exhausted and cranky every time I left that place.  The final straw was when they scheduled me for 14 consecutive days.  I had to get out of there, so I gave them 2 weeks notice and made my exit as swiftly as I could.

Now, I’m back to trying to find my new normal.  I’ve taken a volunteer position with a non-profit helping out with their corporate wellness program.  I am loving the work I’m doing and it will go a long way toward building my resume in nutrition.  I still need to find something else part-time that pays, but I am not going to stress myself out over it.  Right now I’m just enjoying being able to focus on school and cooking with my boyfriend again.  We didn’t do much of that at all during my craziness, and it’s something we love doing together and it helps us to eat healthy.  The first things we made were a couple of things we could keep on hand and just grab to take with us when we are in a rush.  We made egg muffins that we keep in the freezer for a grab-microwave-and-go breakfast.  They are so easy – just put a bunch of veggies and whatever other fillings you like into a muffin tin, pour whisked eggs in to fill, then bake on 375* until the eggs are cooked through (about 20 minutes). We chose to fill them with spinach, bell peppers, Trader Joe’s chicken jalapeno sausage, onions, and cheddar cheese.  Yum!  The other thing we made was my favorite trail mix.  Also really simple to make and the cinnamon and cranberries give it a bit of a Fall flavor (but, let’s be honest, I devour this year-round), so I thought it appropriate to share now.  Note that I am not giving measurements for some of the ingredients because everyone likes different proportions of the various items in a trail mix, so it’s really up to you.  Enjoy!

trail-mix

Honey Cinnamon Trail Mix

2 cans of unsalted mixed nuts

1/2 cup of dry oats

2 tbsp of chia seeds

flax or sunflower seeds

shredded coconut (optional)

honey – around 1/2 cup

Cinnamon

dried cranberries (or whatever dried fruit you prefer)

dark chocolate M&Ms

In a bowl, combine nuts, seeds, oats and coconut.  Stir in honey until it thinly coats everything, then add as much cinnamon as you’d like and stir well.  I’d say I probably end up using around a tablespoon or two of cinnamon.  Spread your mixture on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 375* until just starting to brown – around 10-15 minutes.  Let cool thoroughly, then break up clumps and mix in cranberries and M&Ms.  This makes a big bowl of trail mix you can portion out into sandwich bags.  It won’t last long, though.

 

Batch Recipes · Chicken Recipe · Mid-Life Career Change · Running · Tex-Mex Recipe

Finding a Routine

Lately I’ve felt like my life has gotten a wee bit out of control.  It’s sometimes easy to fall into a routine when you work a normal day job and have set obligations or hobbies outside of work.  And while the word routine can sometimes have a negative connotation, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as it isn’t too extreme.  In fact, this girl is craving a routine.  It has now been 8 months since I quit my job and went back to school to study nutrition.  Every day is a different schedule and I’m finding it hard to get in the groove with the things I feel like I need to do to feel good and balanced, like working out and (ironically) eating right.  I am not the type of person who is able to force myself to get out of bed early unless there is somewhere I have to be, so my sleep schedule has become erratic.  That then creates a domino effect whereby I feel like I don’t have enough time to get my school work done so I skip my workout and eat whatever leftovers I have in my fridge or order delivery.  Much to my dismay, I have easily fallen back into the college student lifestyle, but my body and sanity can’t handle it so well in my old age.  The madness has gone on long enough.  I recently got caught up in the excitement of joining lotteries for Fall marathons and decided on a whim to enter the lottery for the Marine Corps Marathon in October.  My thought process went something like this, “This is a really popular marathon, so the odds of me getting in through the lottery are pretty slim.  I’ll just enter the lottery and if I don’t get in, I’ll skip marathon season this year but I won’t look like a complete lazy butt because at least I tried, right?  If, by chance, I do get in, I’ll suck it up and run it…but that won’t happen”.  Well, guess what?  I got in.  Damnit!!  So now it’s time to get off my keester and get my crap together.  Here’s what I am doing/plan to do:
  • I will make it a priority to run or do strength work at least 5 days each week.  This has to happen, and I’m declaring it to all of you right now.  There, accountable.
  • I am the queen of procrastination and I do it every single time I do school work or study.  I don’t think that is going to change anytime soon, but perhaps I can cut back a bit by scheduling specific times for studying during which I have to get it all done, and instead of watching Friends episodes on Netflix or playing games on my phone (yes, I do that, don’t judge) during my procrastination breaks, I will do core and strength exercises…maybe while watching a Friends episode.
  • When I cook something that can easily be frozen and reheated, I will make enough to actually do that.  Last week, my boyfriend and I made chili and chicken tortilla soup and froze enough for at least a few meals.  I also have a freezer bag full of homemade tomato sauce hanging out in there waiting to be made into a veggie lasagna.  Having that available should cut down on my leftover pizza and Seamless binges.  My wallet and my waistline will thank me.
  • I will keep healthy snacks and breakfast bars available to just grab and take with me to class.
  • The biggest and most difficult change is going to be the sleep schedule.  I am going to make a point of getting to bed before midnight every night during the week and getting up at or before 8am.  Again, I am declaring this to you so I will be accountable.
I could probably go on for days with grand ideas to completely overhaul my life, but as they say, if you try to do too much you won’t stick with it so I’m stopping there.  Please feel free to share any ideas on ways to make this easier or little tricks that have worked for you.  Any words of wisdom or inspiration are greatly appreciated.  Tough love is also encouraged.
Now, if you have never had chicken tortilla soup or are looking for a good recipe, read on.  This recipe packs a bit of heat, though, so if you are averse to spice, you can adjust the jalapenos and cilantro down…or up if you like it hot.  I make this fairly often as it reminds me of the tortilla soup I get at Tex-Mex restaurants back in Texas.
ChkTortSoup
Chicken Tortilla Soup
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
8 cups low sodium chicken broth
3 breasts of chicken
2 large tomatoes, diced (or a 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes)
2 cups cooked black beans (or one 15 oz. can)
1/2 lime
1/2 tsp cumin
Cilantro, roughly chopped
Salt & Pepper
Start by sauteing the onions in olive oil until they are almost translucent.  Add garlic and jalapenos and cook for about 1 minute.  Add chicken broth, about a 1/2 cup of water, and diced tomatoes and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.  Add chicken breasts whole and cook for about 20 minutes.  Remove chicken breasts from pot and shred with a fork, then place back in the pot.  Add black beans, juice from 1/2 a lime, cumin, as much cilantro as you like (I load mine up with about a 1/2 cup), and salt & pepper to taste.  Simmer another 10-15 minutes.
Garnish
I like to top my soup with pepper jack cheese, plain Greek yogurt (tastes very much like sour cream but better for you), crumbled baked tortilla chips, avocado, chopped jalapenos, and freshly chopped cilantro.  If I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll make my own tortilla strips by taking corn tortillas, brushing both sides with olive oil, cutting into thin strips, then baking at 425* until they start to brown.
Enjoy!