Breakfast Recipes · Cheese, cheese, and more cheese · Easy recipe · Life Balance · Mid-Life Career Change · Travel · Veggies!

Happy Holidays!

I hope you are all surviv…errr…enjoying this holiday season!  I haven’t yet been able to get in the spirit over here with final projects and exams, but I am happy to say that the semester is now officially over and I AM DONE WITH MY DPD CLASSES!!!!!!!!  If you’re getting the impression that I’m really freakin’ excited, you are very perceptive. For those who aren’t familiar with DPD classes, they are the series of courses that are required before you can apply to a dietetic internship and sit for the registered dietitian exam.  This has been 3.5 years in the making and, while it doesn’t mean that I’m done with school and stress, it is a major hurdle in this career-changing journey.  The next step is to apply to dietetic internships in February and continue to take classes for my master’s program.  If all works out and I get matched with an internship program, that will begin in late August and will take 9-12 months to complete.  In summary, I’m not done, but I’m making progress and I’ll take it.

Other big news in Buttercup-land is that my BF is moving away temporarily to complete training for his career, so we are going on a road trip!  While I’m not excited to have to live thousands of miles apart for any amount of time, I am excited to have some good quality time on the road, checking out parts of the country neither of us has ever seen.  If you follow me on Instagram (@eatupbuttercup.blog), I’ll be sure to post some pics along the way.  They will probably include food.  Oh, who am I kidding? They will definitely include food.

But, now that school is out and we’ve mapped our trip, I can focus on getting jolly.  For starters, we put lights on Milo the Moose (the papier mache moose head on our living room wall), and I made Christmas cookies for co-workers. And today at around 4:30 pm, a light bulb went off in my head and I finally realized that Christmas is just a few days away.  Yikes! So this is as good a time as any to talk about holiday eating strategies.  Some people think they have to fast all day until the big dinner.  Admittedly, I have done that in the past (before I began studying nutrition, of course).  You really should eat a good breakfast, and lunch or a snack or two if your holiday meal is on the later side, for at least a couple of reasons.  First, you’re going to be starving by the time dinner rolls around, and you’re likely to eat 5 times as much as you normally would.  While I don’t think a holiday is the time to count calories, nobody wants to eat so much that they are in pain from overeating.  Second, eating at regular intervals is necessary to maintain stable blood sugar, which helps with both weight management and mood.  I don’t know about you, but I get HANGRY, y’all!  You will be eating for the sake of those around you, and they will thank you.

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I made this breakfast strata for Thanksgiving and it was just what we needed to start the day off on the right foot.  Lots of veggies and protein to fuel a full day of festivities.  I assembled it the night before so that the bread had a chance to soak up the egg mixture, then in the morning I threw it in the oven without having to even think about it.  We also had enough left over to eat for lunch and dinner the next day.  And it was delicious.  Win, win!  This would be great for Christmas morning, New Year’s Day hangover breakfast, or hosting weekend brunch.  Enjoy!

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Italian Sausage & Veggie Strata
Servings: 6
Serving Nutrition: 282 calories, 19.7 g protein, 12.9 g fat, 24.7 g carbohydrate
Ingredients
1/2 loaf sourdough bread
1/2 medium red onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium jalapeno, minced
2 bell peppers, diced (I used one red and one yellow)
1 cup spinach, roughly chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cooked Sweet Italian chicken sausages, chopped
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
6 large eggs
1-1/2 cups low fat milk
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Directions
1. Cut or tear bread into 1-inch pieces and place in a 9” square baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.
2. Add ingredients 2 through 8 (onion through sausage) plus 1/2 of cheese and stir.
3. Whisk eggs with milk, oregano, salt, and pepper.
4. Pour egg mixture evenly over top of bread mixture.
5. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top.
6. Chill in refrigerator for at least an hour; overnight is preferable.
7. When ready to cook, pre-heat oven to 350°.
8. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a fork poked into the center of the casserole comes out clean.

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.

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Eaten with a side of sauteed spinach with lots of garlic, onions, and tomatoes.  So good!
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!

 

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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.

Breakfast Recipes · Cheese, cheese, and more cheese · Running

More Cheese, Please…Or Not

Everyone has their own comfort foods: those go-to meals or snacks that just satiate you in a way no other food can.  It makes you feel warm and comforted…hence the name.  I personally have a lot of comfort foods and almost all of them involve cheese.  I LOVE cheese – all kinds of cheese, but especially the ooey-gooey melty kinds of cheese – and anyone who knows me knows that you don’t come between me and my cheese unless you want to lose a finger.  Any credible nutritionist would tell you to limit your consumption of cheese because, you know, saturated fat.  I usually ignore that and focus more on the valuable nutrients you get from cheese, like calcium, protein and vitamin D.  But, much to my dismay, cheese can sometimes cause issues with my sensitive digestive system.  That doesn’t deter me on a normal day, but when I’m marathon training it can wreak havoc.  During training season I have to learn the word moderation and come up with other ways to satisfy my need for comfort food.
Recently, I’ve started reaching back into my childhood for comfort food that doesn’t involve loads of cheese.  When I was young, my Grammy would make “dropped egg on toast”.  All it entails is a poached egg on top of buttered toast.  So simple yet oh so yummy and satisfying.  To be fair, she’s not the inventor of eggs on toast, but in my opinion she was the best.  I’ve put my own twist on it and use whole wheat English muffins most of the time, or if I’m feeling fancy I’ll mash up avocado on the toast before I put the egg on top and maybe sprinkle red pepper flakes.  I used this handy little tutorial on how to make a good poached egg (http://www.purewow.com/entry_detail/national/11507/The-one-trick-to-poaching-an-egg.htm) and now I just can’t stop putting them on top of everything.  The beauty of a poached egg is that you don’t use any oil or butter, so it’s a really healthy way to cook them.
eggontoast
Another childhood favorite of mine is chili.  This is also really simple to make and so comforting with or without cheese piled on top.  I just put a dollop of Greek yogurt (in lieu of sour cream…tastes pretty much the same and it’s better for you) and,  if I have one, I’ll add slices of avocado on top.  Which brings me to another point – I find that when I add avocado to soups, salads or sandwiches, I almost don’t even miss the cheese…I know, blasphemy!  There’s just something about the creamy texture that, when added to an already tasty dish, takes care of that craving for me.
Yet another comfort food for me is mashed potatoes.  The problem with mashed potatoes is that they can be loaded with butter, and the way I make them most definitely falls into that category.  One way I get my potato fix without the butter is to take a baked potato and mix in Greek yogurt (this is easily becoming one of my favorite condiments) and some chunky salsa.  This works for sweet potatoes, too.  If I happen to put a sprinkle of cheese on top, it’s not the end of the world.  Moderation, right?
Now, I’m off to eat as much cheese as I can before I’m deep into marathon training.