Big City Life · Easy recipe · Life Balance · Tasty Sides · Tex-Mex Recipe · Travel

Arizona Adventures

Last week was my last spring break, probably for the rest of my life, and I went to Arizona to spend 6 amazing days with my boyfriend.  It’s been a long time since I’ve lived like the locals anywhere outside of New York City, and I had forgotten how easy life can actually be.  We have a lot of conveniences within a short walk here in NYC, but getting there is like playing a game of Frogger: dodging kids on scooters and oblivious adults walking with their noses buried in their phones.  Then, when you get to your destination, there’s almost always a crowd.  Don’t even get me started on the public transit.  Being bumped by, having close physical contact with, and inhaling the coughs and sneezes of everyone on a packed train is glorious.

In Arizona, we had so much space!  We had to drive everywhere, which is both good and bad.  Clearly, there’s the benefit of avoiding the aforementioned public transit scenario, but it is more expensive and less environmentally friendly.  And the stores and restaurants are big and not always crowded…it’s incredible.  The only complaint I have was the heat.  It hit 100 degrees at least three of the days I was there…in April.  Summers there must be miserable.

Anyway, we kicked off the trip with a visit to the zoo.  Yes, we are adults, but we still love the zoo.  We got there when they opened to avoid the crowds for the main attraction – the baby animal nursery.  They had baby jackals and hogs and lions!  Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures because I was too busy squealing and trying to figure out how to get through the glass that separated me from them, but trust me when I say they were all ADORABLE!

Next, we went flying!!!  My BF is out in Arizona training to be a commercial pilot.  He already has his private license, so he took me up for a nice tour of the Phoenix area.  This is the first time I’ve flown with him and, to be honest, I was a bit nervous.  Not because I don’t trust his abilities, but because those tiny planes scare the crap out of me.  I don’t know what I was worried about, though.  We had smooth skies and it was incredibly peaceful.  Such a great experience!

To end the trip, we drove up to Sedona for a fun little hike to a swimming hole called ‘The Crack’.  The day we went was much cooler than the rest of my visit, which was good for the hike but not so great for swimming in cold water.  It was nice and relaxing to sit on the rocks and enjoy the the cool air and sunlight, though.  We had the place to ourselves for a while and it was so tranquil.  We were surrounded by the mountains with gorgeous red rocks and we had the background noise of the stream running over the rocks below us.  If you’re ever in that area, I highly recommend it.

Throughout the trip, we ate really well and stayed active.  Another perk you wouldn’t find in NYC without paying an arm and a leg is a gym in his apartment complex.  Oh, and swimming pools with grills.  We made good use of all of it.  We grilled steaks and fish, we swam, we hit the gym every day.  We ate out a few times, too.  There’s a lot of Mexican food in Arizona, so we took advantage of that.  One thing that bothers me at Mexican restaurants is the rice.  They usually give you a side of Spanish rice and beans with your meal, and the rice is almost always really bland.  It’s usually an orange-yellow color, and they sometimes toss in some chopped vegetables – bell peppers or corn or carrots.  At most restaurants, though, I have to dump an entire bowl of salsa on the rice to give it some flavor.  It’s disappointing because I do love a good, tasty rice dish.  So, I made my own Spanish rice and it is so flavorful you won’t even think about adding salsa.  It makes a great side for tacos, enchiladas, fajitas…really anything.  It’s also pretty easy to make and a lot of the ingredients are things I usually keep on hand anyway, so sometimes I throw some beans in and eat over spinach for lunch or dinner in a pinch. This version has a bit of spice to it, so if you don’t like spicy foods, you can skip the cayenne pepper and/or jalapeno.  You can also use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth for a vegetarian option.  Enjoy!

SpanishRice1

Simple Spanish Rice
Servings: 8
Serving Nutrition: 111 calories, 2.8 g protein, 0.9 g fat, 23.2 g carbohydrate
Ingredients
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup long grain brown rice
1 cup chicken broth
1-1/4 cup water
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 medium bell pepper (any color), diced
1 medium jalapeno pepper, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

Directions
1. In large saucepan, add olive oil and onion and cook until onions are translucent.
2. Add rice, chicken broth, and 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
3. Stir in tomatoes, bell pepper, jalapeno, garlic, spices, and 1/4 cup water. Cover and simmer another 25 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Serve with chopped fresh cilantro.

SpanishRice2

Big City Life · Breakfast Recipes · Easy recipe · Mid-Life Career Change

Internships and Burglars and Carrots, Oh My!

There’s been so much excitement around here I can hardly even handle it!

First and foremost, match day was last Sunday.  Match day is the day students who are applying to dietetic internships find out whether or not they got into a program.  A 9-12 month dietetic internship is a requirement for eligibility to sit for the exam to become a registered dietitian.  It is the final step in my career change.  The career change I’ve spent almost 4 years working toward…after quitting my very stable job.  No pressure.  After months of applying and waiting, I finally found out that I got matched and I will officially start my rotations in the Fall semester!  A huge weight has officially been lifted.

Also, a couple of weeks ago, whilst studying, I heard something at my window.  I looked up to see a man dressed in all black with a mask on his face standing on my fire escape trying to open my window.  It was the middle of the day and I assumed he was looking for an empty apartment to rob, so I yelled to let him know I was there.  He moved to the bedroom and tried opening that window, so I commenced freaking out.  I seriously don’t think I’ve ever been so frightened in my life.  Shaking uncontrollably, I called 911 and tried to map out my escape route in the event he managed to break in.  Thankfully, the police got here within about 5 minutes, but it felt like an eternity.  Three plain-clothes officers came to my door and proceeded to tell me that they saw my landlord downstairs and he told them that he had a construction crew waterproofing the building.  As you can imagine, I was at once filled with relief, embarrassment, and a little frustration.  I have to say that I am extremely grateful to the NYPD for their quick response to what I thought was going to be my demise.  I think my heart rate has finally returned to normal, so I can have a good laugh about it now.

And looking ahead, I get to go to Arizona and spend a week with my boyfriend in 10 days!  We’re going to go hiking and cook a lot and he’s going to take me flying.  I absolutely cannot wait!

BotanicGarden1
So many flowers at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden!

Another pretty exciting event is the onset of spring.  The warm air and green trees and flowers just make me happy.  One of the side effects of the beginning of spring is seeing bunnies and pastel everything everywhere you go, though, which inevitably leads to cravings for carrot cake.  So instead of making a whole big cake for just me, I tried my hand at making my oatmeal taste like carrot cake, and it turned out to be so good that I can’t stop making it.  If you love carrot cake, you must try this.  It’s really easy and quick, too.  The hardest part is shredding the carrots, which can be made easier by throwing them in the food processor.  The recipe below says 2 servings, but these are very large servings so I usually get 3 days of breakfast out of one batch.  That’s enough to curb my craving for, like, a day or so.  Enjoy!

CarrotCakeOats2

Carrot Cake Oatmeal
Servings: 2
Serving Nutrition: 432 calories, 17 g protein, 12 g fat, 64 g carbohydrates, 493 mg sodium,  7 g fiber
Ingredients
2 cups milk
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp maple syrup or brown sugar
1 cup shredded carrots (use smallest holes on grater)
1 cup rolled oats
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp cream cheese

Directions
1. Heat milk, spices, and syrup over medium-high heat and stir to combine well.
2. Add oats and carrots and bring to boil.
3. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until mixture reaches desired consistency.
4. Mix in vanilla extract, then remove from heat.
5. Swirl in cream cheese and serve. Top with chopped nuts & raisins if desired.

CarrotCakeOats1
Different lighting, but same carrots-and-spice flavor…with raisins. Yum!

 

Big City Life · Chicken Recipe · Easy recipe · Life Balance · Mid-Life Career Change · Veggies!

Hunkering Down for the Weekend

Oh, hello there! It’s been a bit since I last posted and I was starting to miss this little blog thing here. As you may know from my previous post, I went on a road trip after Christmas that lasted into the new year and it was so much fun!  I am working on a post recapping the whole adventure, so stay tuned.  Since I got back, though, I’ve been in over my head with applying for dietetic internships.  It’s hard to believe the time has finally come to put what I’ve learned into practice and I have to say that, even with all of the excitement of finally reaching this milestone, it’s a wee bit overwhelming.

First, before I can even think about hitting “submit” on that application, I had to put together a professional portfolio so that my program director can give the official thumbs up that I completed all of the required courses.  I’ve also been attending internship fairs and open houses for the programs I’m interested in.  The application itself is a lot of work, too.  You have to request letters of recommendation and transcripts, make sure your resume is beyond impressive, and write an amazing personal statement that not only speaks to your character and capabilities, but also provides insight into what motivates you to pursue dietetics in general and, more particularly, what makes the program to which you’re applying the right fit…all in less than 1,000 words.  That’s not a lot of words, y’all!!  And apparently, “I want to help people and I love food, soooo…” isn’t gonna cut it. If applying to more than one program (and with only 50% of students getting into programs each year, applying to more than one is a good idea), then you’re writing multiple statements.  Needless to say, things are a little crazy around here.  That said, I wanted to pop in and say hi and share a nice, hearty slow cooker recipe that might come in handy when trying to avoid stepping foot outside in this wintry mess we have headed our way this weekend.

This Slow Cooker Ginger Orange Chicken recipe has been in the works for a while and I think I finally got it right.  Good thing citrus is still in season!  It’s a complete balanced meal in one, with lean chicken, brown rice, and loads of colorful veggies.  With a little spice from the ginger and crushed red pepper, some bright sweetness from the orange, and a little savory from soy sauce, this dish hits all the right notes.  It smells really good while it’s cooking, too.  So, throw everything into your slow cooker and let the aromas fill the air while you bundle up on the couch with a good book or a little binge watching (I highly recommend the Netflix series You…loved the show despite the fact that I will never see Dan Humphrey the same way again).  Stay warm, y’all!

gingerorangechicken2_edited

Slow Cooker Ginger Orange Chicken
Servings: 4
Serving Nutrition: 298 calories, 32.8 g protein, 4.5 g fat, 32.5 g carbohydrates, 4.1 g fiber
Ingredients
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
3 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 tsp salt & pepper
1/2 cup uncooked long grain brown rice
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into slices
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 cup carrots, sliced on a diagonal
3 cups kale, deveined and roughly chopped
Zest of 1 navel orange
1 navel orange, cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds

Directions
1. Salt & pepper chicken and heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add chicken and cook until golden brown, or about 3 minutes on each side.
2. Combine ingredients 3 through 9 in slow cooker and mix well.
3. Add veggies and stir.
4. Nestle chicken into veggie mixture. The kale will be really bulky – that’s ok as long as it fits well enough to put the lid on. The kale will wilt as it cooks.
5. Lay orange slices across the top of the chicken.
6. Cover, and set slow cooker to high temperature for 3 hours*
7. Str veggies to coat with sauce and serve with orange slice as garnish.

* Note: cooking time may vary for different slow cookers, so check to make sure rice is cooked before serving. If not, add a little cooking time.

Tell me, have any of you watched You yet?  Did it creep you out as badly as it did me?  Any other binge-worthy recs?

 

 

 

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!
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.

Big City Life · Easy recipe · Summer · Tasty Sides · Tex-Mex Recipe · Vegetarian · Veggies!

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Welcome to today’s edition of “Only in New York”. Ok, so it’s not a series yet, I just made it up, but I think it should be a regular thing because I see crazy crap around here all the time. We’re going to kick this series off with the Justice Truck, a mobile legal consultation truck. My first reaction was, “WTF??? This looks like a ploy to lure unsuspecting people in and kidnap them.” Perhaps I’ve watched a few too many true crime dramas. After a little thought, though, it actually makes sense in cities where people can’t always get to the attorney’s office. Either way, the graphics on the truck are pretty ridiculous, so I had to share. I’m having visions of Jim Adler, “The Texas Hammer” driving this truck. If you’re not from Texas, I encourage you to watch one of his commercials on YouTube. I laugh every time I see one.

Justice Truck
Forget about food trucks, lawyer trucks are the wave of the mobile business future.

In other news, this holiday weekend marks the end of summer for many of us. Never fear, though, the official end of summer isn’t until September 22, so we still have a little time to take advantage of those delicious summer fruits and vegetables…hopefully while enjoying more moderate temperatures outside. I mentioned this mango & corn salsa in my last post and you must make it. It’s actually my BF’s recipe, but I’m stealing it from him. Don’t judge. It is sweet and tangy and spicy all at once, and it’s so beautifully colorful that you can’t help but smile (or at least I can’t), so you will be grateful for my act of theft.

MangoCornSalsa2

This recipe calls for roasted corn. Grilled corn has the same sweet flavor. You can just throw a few ears on the grill until you get a nice char then cut the kernels from the cob. Or, if you’re like me and don’t have a grill readily available or simply want a quicker option, Trader Joe’s has an amazing frozen sweet roasted corn that I use for pretty much everything involving corn around here. You can adjust the spice level of this dish by using more or less jalapeno, or leaving the seeds in the jalapeno will kick up the spice a bit as well. Fun fact – technically it’s not the seeds that hold most of the spice, it’s the white ribs that connect the seeds to the outer part of the pepper, but if you don’t remove the seeds you don’t remove the ribs either and you get the added fiber from the seeds. Yay fiber!!

MangoCornSalsa1

Mango & Corn Salsa
Servings: 12
Serving Nutrition: 100 calories, 2.8 g protein, 1 g fat, 196 mg sodium, 3.6 g fiber, 22 g carbohydrates
Ingredients
2 mangoes, cored and cubed
2 bell peppers (any color…I do 2 different colors for variety), diced
1/2 large red onion, diced
5 cups roasted corn kernels
1 medium jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, minced
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
Zest of 2 limes
Juice of 2 limes
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions
1. Combine all ingredients in bowl and mix well.
2. Taste & add salt/pepper as needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big City Life · Cheese, cheese, and more cheese · Chicken Recipe · Easy recipe · Mid-Life Career Change · Snacks · Summer · Tasty Sides

Sunset Picnic, Take 2

Last weekend, my cousin and her boyfriend came down from Vermont to visit. This cousin and I grew up thousands of miles apart so we didn’t really know each other well as kids, but as adults we connected and realized we have a lot in common and we became great friends. I don’t get to see her nearly enough, so I was ecstatic to see her and finally meet the man in her life. We had an awesome weekend – we went to a concert in Queens, checked out the World Trade Center memorial, walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, imbibed at a couple of breweries, and just enjoyed catching up. On Saturday, after walking around all day, we had the grand plan of making some salads and a meat & cheese plate to take down to the waterfront and have ourselves a nice little relaxing sunset picnic. We went all out. We made this potato salad, a simple green salad with strawberries and balsamic, and a curried chicken salad. After getting everything ready and packed up, we went outside to find that it was raining…pretty hard. I don’t know how we failed to notice that before leaving the apartment. I guess we were just having too much fun catching up. We are a bunch of talkers, after all. Anyway, we hiked back upstairs, put pillows on the floor, and had our picnic around the coffee table. (We ate everything too quickly to get pics…sorry!) My BF and I had really talked up the sunset views on our waterfront, so I’m sad that our guests didn’t have the beautiful backdrop of Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty while they ate, but we had a blast chatting and playing ’80s and ’90s trivia. I kicked all of their butts. No regrets.

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Yep, this is basically our backyard. We’re pretty lucky. Lady Liberty is covered up by the ship on the left, but she’s over there.

Today, I start classes for the Fall semester, so last night I wanted to do something fun with my BF before the craziness begins. We decided to try the whole waterfront picnic again, and this time the weather gods cooperated. We took some meat, cheese, crackers, and grapes and made another green salad, a yummy mango & corn salsa (recipe coming in the next post), and more curried chicken salad. The chicken salad was at the request of my BF, and he proceeded to eat it straight out of the bowl. I guess he liked it. When I originally made it for the first picnic, I just kind of threw together things that I thought would taste good and didn’t really have high expectations, but it was really tasty so I will share it with you. Enjoy!

 

CurriedChickenSalad_edited

Curried Chicken Salad
Servings: 4
Serving Nutrition: 97 calories, 12.6g protein, 3.9g fat, 1.4 g fiber, 2.7g carbohydrates
Ingredients
1 cup finely chopped cooked skinless chicken breast
¼ cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
2 celery stalks, diced
¼ cup shredded carrots
½ avocado, diced
2 tsp curry powder
1 handful roughly chopped cilantro
Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions
1. Combine all ingredients in bowl and mix until curry powder is fully integrated.
2. Taste & add more curry powder or salt/pepper if needed.
3. Eat with crackers, over greens, in a wrap, or straight from the bowl.

Big City Life · Life Balance · Tasty Sides · Vegetarian · Veggies!

Variety is the Spice of Life

If you think nutritionists/dietitians only eat kale, salmon, quinoa, and organic artisanal almond butter, you would be wrong. First of all, nobody eats healthy all day every day. We all need to splurge once in a while, and every good health enthusiast does too, we just try not to overindulge most of the time. Secondly, eating the same things over and over again is not really healthy either. You need a lot of variety in your diet to get all of the vital nutrients. Did you know that the color of your food contains nutrients? The pigments found in food are made up of important chemicals and antioxidants that your body needs, so you really should be eating a rainbow of foods. Eating a mix of red, yellow, purple, orange, and white fruits and vegetables is just as important as eating lots of green.

vegfriedrice3.jpg
The red onion looks almost neon in this lighting. Sadly, I am not glow-in-the-dark purple today.

Beyond just a lack of nutrients, anyone who eats the same three or four things every day, no matter how clean or healthy those things are, is destined to go on an out-of-control binge at some point. Especially if they prepare the food without butter, oil, or salt like some athletes preparing for competitions do. Boredom + no flavor = no joy. And depriving yourself of joy eventually leads to a complete breakdown of self control…if it doesn’t, you are a saint. Food should taste good! I mean, God wouldn’t have given us taste buds if he/she didn’t want us to enjoy our food, am I right? That said, when trying to eat healthy, cutting back on things like butter, oil, and salt can be challenging because these things contribute so much flavor. Never fear, though! There are other great ways to add flavor to your food without adding calories. Here are some of my favorites.

  • Onions and garlic – I put these pungent vegetables from the allium family in almost everything. They have a lot of flavor and they’re packed with nutrients…and as a bonus they make your home smell like heaven when they’re cooking.
  • Citrus – squeeze a little lemon or lime juice over almost anything and you get instant flavor. You can also roast chicken, fish, or veggies with sliced lemon or orange on top to infuse them with citrusy goodness.
  • Herbs & spices – you may have to experiment a little with different herbs and spices because they all have a distinct flavor. Just be careful with spice mixes like adobo or chili powder as they can sometimes have a lot of salt. Something I’ve recently discovered is that a little cinnamon added to a spicy dish like spicy shrimp tacos adds a really unique flavor that I can’t resist. I always thought of cinnamon as a spice just for sweets…who knew it was so diverse?
  • Vinegar – my pantry currently holds at least 5 different types of vinegar. Like spices, each one has a unique flavor, but they all add a tangy pop of flavor to your food.

I still use butter, oil, and salt too, but I don’t have to use nearly as much when getting such great flavor from these things.

A standard go-to meal when we’re busy or we don’t really want to cook is a quick stir fry or fried rice. Below is a fried rice I made last night that is loaded with colorful veggies and has a ton of flavor without a lot of oil and much less sodium than you find in most other fried rice recipes. We ate it as a meal, but it would make a great side dish as well. I used whatever veggies I had in my fridge, but you can switch them out for other fresh or frozen veggies based on your preference or what you have at home. Frozen peas and carrots or a frozen stir fry veggie mix are always great time savers that we tend to keep in our freezer at all times.

VegFriedRice
I had some leftover sprouts, so I threw them on top as garnish. Pretty, but completely unnecessary. The fried rice is great without them.

Easy Veggie Fried Rice
Servings: 4
Serving Nutrition: 296 calories, 9.1 g protein, 10.9 g fat, 40.7 g carbohydrates, 573 mg sodium, 4.4 g fiber
Ingredients
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 medium red onion, diced
3 sprigs green onion, sliced, white and green parts separated
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups sugar snap peas
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (adjust for your desired spice level)
1 tsp ground ginger
3 cups cooked chilled brown rice
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp rice vinegar

Directions
1. In large skillet, heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Once hot, add red onions and white parts of green onion and saute until translucent.
2. Add garlic and cook for about a minute.
3. Add sugar snap peas and cook about 2 minutes, stirring often, then add bell pepper and cook for 2 more minutes.
4. Push veggies to one side of skillet and pour beaten eggs into other half. Let sit until edges of eggs are cooked, then with spatula or spoon push edges of eggs so that any uncooked egg liquid on top runs off onto skillet. Let cook until eggs are cooked through (it will look like a small omelet), then remove eggs from skillet and chop into small pieces.
5. When peppers and sugar snap peas begin to soften, add chopped eggs, rice, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes, and ginger to skillet and stir to mix well.
6. Add green parts of green onion, stir into mixture, remove from heat, and serve.

Bonus points if you can eat it with chopsticks. I have yet to master eating rice with chopsticks…I end up with more of it on the floor than in my mouth. Any pointers you can give me are welcome!

Big City Life · Chicken Recipe · Summer · Tex-Mex Recipe

It’s Summer!!

Admittedly, I have a love/hate relationship with summer these days. As a kid growing up in Texas, summer meant a lot of time spent in the swimming pool and lounging around without a care in the world. These days, I practically melt in the heat and humidity of New York City. People tend to get agitated in this heat and take their frustrations out on whoever is nearby, even perfect strangers. In fact, the other day I was walking across the street and had to pass behind a car that was sitting in the intersection. Other people were crossing the street coming the opposite direction, so I stayed to the right. One girl who was walking the opposite direction wanted to walk where I was. I couldn’t move because I had the car directly to my right and other people coming toward me on the left. She was clearly unhappy to have to go around me and elbowed me in the ribs as she passed. No joke. Things like this happen all the time in a packed city like this, but it happens much more often when we have to endure sweltering heat and humidity.

I do realize that I come from a state where the summer heat can only be described as Hell-like, and it has been pointed out to me more than once that I should be used to this heat. I respond to that by explaining that we do not just walk around and hang out in the summer heat in Texas. People there have cars with A/C, houses and workplaces with central A/C that is usually set to arctic temperatures, and swimming pools and/or clean lakes and springs are not hard to come by.  By contrast, in New York we walk and ride subways where the platforms are saunas and the subway cars themselves may or may not be air conditioned but it doesn’t matter anyway because most of the time you’re packed in so tightly that it’s still hot and you’ve got no less than 2 people (if you’re lucky enough to get a seat) pressing against you, sweat and all. Now let’s talk about the window units they call A/C. The majority of us city dwellers live in old buildings and central A/C didn’t exist when the buildings were constructed. So, we buy heavy boxes we call “window units” and precariously prop them in a partially opened window with the majority of the unit hanging outside of the window. The only things holding the units in are the window pulled down over the top of it and a couple of flimsy accordion-looking extensions on the sides that may or may not be screwed into the window sill. I’m truly surprised these things don’t fall out of windows and hurt passersby all the time. I’m not an engineer, though, so I just go with it. Anyhow, window units don’t have much power at all. You get a really hot day, and these rinky-dinky A/Cs barely put a dent in the temperature of your apartment. And the swimming situation…the only free options are the crowded public pools, where the water is at least 50% urine, or the Hudson or East Rivers, where you run the risk of developing gills or a third eye after swimming in them. Nice, private swimming pools are hard to come by, so they charge an arm and a leg for you to use the facility for one day and they’re sometimes just as crowded as the public pools. Basically, summer in New York means sweating for 3 months straight.

OK, rant over. I actually do love certain things about summer, and NY. I love the longer days, the hordes of puppies being walked at any given time, the smell of flowers when I pass the community garden down the block from me, and having a nice cold glass of white wine or rose on a patio while people watching is one of my favorite summer activities. People watching doesn’t get much better than New York in the summer. Most of all, though, I love the food (you probably saw that coming). When it’s hot out, I crave light, citrusy dishes, lots of seafood and summer vegetables and herbs…mmmmm.

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On that note, I developed this recipe for National Nutrition Month back in March. It was intended to go on my company’s internal blog, but they ran out of space and didn’t post it. I hate to waste a good recipe, though, so here you go! Using whatever chicken leftovers you might have – grilled, baked, rotisserie – you can make these chicken fritters and eat them on a salad, make a sandwich or wrap with them, or just eat them alone as a hearty snack.  They are loaded with summer veggies, both canned and fresh, that can be swapped out for what you have in your fridge or pantry. I’ve also included the recipe for a tangy chimichurri that is a perfect complement to the fritters…and really everything. These don’t last long in my house, so hopefully you enjoy them too!

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Southwest Chicken Fritters
Yields: about 8 fritters, each = 151 cal, 10g protein, 6g fat, 15g carbs, 3g fiber
Ingredients
1 ½ cups shredded chicken
½ cup canned low sodium black beans
½ cup red bell peppers, diced
½ cup shredded zucchini
½ cup corn kernels
½ avocado
Juice and zest from ½ lemon
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro (or 2 tsp dried cilantro)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 large eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs (or 3 slices of toasted bread chopped in food processor)
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
Directions
  1. With a fork, mash up the beans and avocado.
  2. Add all other ingredients and mix well.
  3. Put in fridge and chill for about 10-15 minutes (while you make the rest of your meal and/or the chimichurri sauce below).
  4. Form mixture into patties about the size of a small burger patty.
  5. Lightly spray a non-stick skillet with cooking spray or olive oil.
  6. Cook patties over medium heat for 4 minutes on each side.
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Chimichurri Ingredients
1 cup fresh cilantro
2 tsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp minced onion
4 cloves garlic
Juice from ½ lemon
½ cup olive oil
½ jalapeno
Salt & pepper to taste
Directions
Either toss all ingredients into a food processor and pulse until smooth, or finely chop all dry ingredients then stir in olive oil.

 

BBQ Recipes · Big City Life · Summer · Tasty Sides

Summer BBQ-ing

To me, nothing says summer like putting some burgers and hot dogs on the grill and having a few beers or rose wine. I grew up in the suburbs of Dallas, which is very landlocked, so rather than spending the summer at the beach, the good old fashioned BBQ is just what we did.  Now that I live in New York, it’s a little more challenging to throw a BBQ. We live in tiny apartments that rarely have access to outdoor space, with the exception of our small fire escapes. While people have been known to try and grill on fire escapes, it is dangerous and illegal. I recently moved to an area with public grills nearby. They are first-come, first-served, so we have to get there early to stake out a spot with a grill and then be willing to throw elbows to defend our spot, but I’m excited just to have the opportunity to do a little BBQ-ing this summer.

For the 4th of July, we made our way down to the grills early only to find that the city was not allowing their use on that day. I completely understand why they wouldn’t want that liability…the grills are located along the East River where the Macy’s fireworks were taking place, so a big crowd was a sure thing. We were a bit bummed, though. Luckily, all we needed to grill were the turkey burgers, so we just ran up and cooked them on my stove and brought them back down where everyone was already snacking on guacamole and sides.

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I’m going to be honest, the stars of any BBQ for me are the sides, but they can be pretty unhealthy. My personal favorite is potato salad, complete with loads of mayo. For our 4th of July gathering, we were planning to be out in the heat all day, so I tried my hand at a mayo-free version and I can honestly say that I might just like it better. It was delicious, healthier, and you don’t have to worry about it spoiling after sitting out for a couple of hours.

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I also make turkey burgers that are tasty and juicy. My major complaint with lean turkey burgers is that they tend to be dry…not the case with these babies. As noted above, they can easily be cooked in a skillet on the stovetop if you don’t have access to a grill, too.  Recipes for both are below. Enjoy!

Turkey Burgers

1 lb ground lean turkey

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 medium yellow onion, minced

1/2 jalapeño, minced (optional)

A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

Combine everything in a bowl until well mixed. I find it’s easiest just to use your hands. Form patties and cook on stove or grill until cooked all the way through. On average, 5 minutes per side on the stove over medium heat or on the grill is good, but it depends on the thickness of your patties, so just make sure there’s no pink in the middle. If you have a thermometer, the center of the patty should be 165*.

Potato Salad

2 lbs potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes

3 slices lean center cut bacon

1/2 medium yellow onion, diced

1 tbsp whole grain mustard

1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp honey

Salt & pepper to taste

Boil potatoes until fork-tender but not mushy. Drain water from potatoes in a strainer then rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Cook bacon until desired level of crispness, then place on paper towel. Sauté onion in same pan until translucent. Chop bacon into small pieces and combine with potatoes and onion in large bowl. In separate bowl, combine mustard, olive oil, vinegar, and honey and whisk together. Pour mustard mixture over potatoes and mix well.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve or chill in fridge.