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!

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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.

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

 

Easy recipe · Tex-Mex Recipe · Vegetarian

Learning to Love Tofu

March is National Nutrition Month!  We’re now more than halfway into it, so this is a good time to check in on my goals for the month.  At work, we’re using this month to encourage employees to try new foods with the goal of adding more variety to their diets. I had this grand goal of trying all kinds of new foods myself and, well, I haven’t done as well as I had hoped. I started out strong by purchasing a prickly pear at the fruit and vegetable market because I was curious and had heard they’re good. After it gave me several tiny yet surprisingly painful splinters, I was afraid to touch it, so it ended up going bad before I could clean and cut it. Turns out the name actually has meaning.  Oops!  I’ll have to give it another go before the month is over.  Next time I’ll be sure to wear gloves.

One new thing I actually have tried lately is cooking with tofu. Technically this is something I tried before March, but I did it while we were planning for National Nutrition Month at work.  I got a little excited about trying new things and got a jump start on the month…that still counts, right?  To be honest, I’ve had tofu before and never really liked it, so I never tried cooking it at home. I had some really tasty teriyaki tofu recently, though, and it made me want to try cooking with it myself. Naturally, this Texas girl chose to start with tacos.  In looking through the recipes I’ve posted to-date, I’m actually embarrassed I’ve never posted any taco recipes here before.  Better late than never, right?  And these tofu & mushroom tacos are so tasty that I’ve had them on repeat since the first time I made them…in fact I just had them last night.

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I am personally really big on texture and don’t like anything mushy, so for these tacos I stuck with extra firm tofu. The key really is in the marinade. Tofu and mushrooms are great for taking up the flavors they’re cooked in, and giving them a little time to soak up all of the amazing flavors and spices from this marinade makes the tacos extra mouth-watering. Bonus – they cook up really quickly after they’re marinated, making them great for a weeknight dinner.  Topped with the yogurt-based Cilantro Lime Crema (recipe follows taco recipe) and some avocado, they’re both delicious and nutritious.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

TofuMushrmTacos4

Spicy Tofu & Mushroom Tacos
Yield: 6 tacos
Nutrition per Taco: 176 calories, 21.7 g protein, 6.3 g fat, 19.3 g carbohydrates, 2.4 g fiber, 173 mg sodium
Ingredients
1 (12 oz.) package of extra firm tofu
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 medium jalapeno, minced
1/2 medium onion, minced
3 cloves garlic
3 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp each salt & black pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
6 tortillas (I used Trader Joe’s Corn & Wheat tortillas…best of both worlds!)

Directions
1. Drain tofu and remove excess moisture by pressing between 2 plates. Cut tofu into cubes.
2. In a bowl or plastic bag, combine all ingredients and let chill in refrigerator for 20 minutes.
3. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu and mushroom mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are browned.
4. Serve in tortillas with Cilantro Lime Crema, avocado slices, and cilantro.

TofuMushrmTacos2Cilantro Lime Crema
Yield: 6 Tbsp
Nutrition per tablespoon:  33 calories, 3 g protein, 1.7 fat, 1.8 g carbohydrates, 0.1 g fiber, 206.2 mg sodium
Ingredients
1/4 c plain Greek yogurt
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 c chopped cilantro
1/2 medium jalapeno, minced
1/2 tsp each salt & black pepper

Directions
1. Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix well. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

TofuMushrmTacos3

Easy recipe · Snacks · Travel

Road Trippin’ Into 2019

I am so far behind on finishing this post, and for that I apologize!  I am happy to say that I have officially submitted my dietetic internship applications and I can get back to regularly cooking and sharing on here.

As you may know, I spent a couple of weeks over the holidays on the road moving my BF from Brooklyn to Arizona, and it was a pretty awesome trip, albeit a little rushed at times.  We kicked it off before the sun came up on December 28, stopped in Dallas for some family time and New Years festivities, then continued westward to the Phoenix area. Day 1 was the most notable because we made a few stops along the way. First, we did a quick driving tour of the Gettysburg battlegrounds. That was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Admittedly, I didn’t pay much attention in high school history classes, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve developed a deep appreciation for the events that shaped our world. Due to the government shutdown, some of the monuments in Gettysburg were closed, but we at least got to peek into the cemetery where Lincoln gave his famous address, and we spent quite a bit of time at Little Round Top, the site of a famous battle involving troops mostly from New York and Texas (the original NY vs TX standoff).

After several more hours of driving, we stopped for dinner at The Tavern in Abingdon, VA then checked out The Martha Washington Inn just down the street, both of which served as hospitals for Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War.  Unfortunately,  I was way more interested in eating my dinner than photographing it, so I have nothing to show you.  Trust me when I say, though, that The Tavern is worth checking out if you’re in the area and I can definitely recommend the baked salmon with tomatoes, feta, and spinach.  It was delicious.  The Martha Washington Inn was interesting as well.  It’s a gorgeous mansion that is supposedly haunted.  We thought about staying there, but I was a wimp and didn’t think I would be able to sleep a wink.  Maybe another time.

After we filled our bellies, we went a little further down the road into Tennessee to check out the Christmas lights all around the Bristol Motor Speedway then take a lap of the track.  Although I wasn’t driving and we were only going about 30 mph, it was pretty cool to be on a real NASCAR track.  The angle on that thing is no joke. My BF said it felt like we were going to tip.  I couldn’t feel it from the passenger seat, but it looked steep so I’ll take his word for it.

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Days 2 and 3 were just a lot of driving – across Tennessee, down into Arkansas, then into Texas for a bit of a break from the driving.

After spending a few fun days ringing in the new year with my family, we got back on the road.  It took what seemed like an eternity to get out of the state of Texas.  Seriously, I lived there for the first 31 years of my life and still had no comprehension of exactly how huge that state is until now.  There wasn’t really much to see on our drive through west Texas except oil derricks and refineries.  On the plus side, I saw my first tumbleweed when it rolled into the middle of the freeway and I had to swerve to avoid it.  Luckily, there weren’t any cars around us at the time.  The route we took through New Mexico into Arizona wasn’t really all that scenic either, but 2 days after we left Dallas, we ended our trip in Phoenix.  We spent a few days exploring, then sadly I had to hop on a plane back to NY for a dietetic internship open house.

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How did we survive 5 days trapped in a car together?  My coworkers had given me a book of “Would You Rather?” questions, and that kept us occupied for long stretches.  It’s a really fun book – the questions stimulated a lot of conversation, so definitely check it out if you have any trips coming up.  We did a lot of belting out the tunes whenever we could get a clear radio station.  Ok, maybe it was mostly me doing the singing.  Alright, alright, it was really only me, but I did it to entertain us both!  We also  talked a bit of trash about the cars flying past us.  Seriously, there are some insane drivers out there, and we ranked Tennessee number 1 for the worst drivers encountered on this trip.  They drive crazy fast and cut people off…and a lot of them are in very large trucks.  Scary.

What did we eat?  Eating on a road trip can be tricky because roadside eateries and gas stations don’t generally have many nutritious options.  Sometimes we needed to just get out of the car and sit down for a meal, so we went with it and did the best we could, but we definitely would not have felt good by the end of the trip if that’s all we had to eat.  We planned ahead and brought nutritious snacks so that we knew we were at least getting in some good nutrients along the way.  The snacks really were clutch.  We had trail mix, chocolate & peanut butter snack balls, cheese, oranges, and smoothies.  One of the smoothies we took is one of my long-time favorites – Dark Cherry Oat Smoothie.   I packed them in reusable squeezy pouches like the ones they sell kids’ applesauce in.  Those pouches are awesome…I got them on Amazon for the trip and now I use them to take smoothies to work with me.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a tasty smoothie recipe to add to your breakfast (or snack) game, look no further!

CherryOatSmoothie

Dark Cherry Oat Smoothie
Servings: 2
Serving Nutrition: 253 calories, 7.3 g protein, 12.4 g fat, 31.6 g carbohydrates
Ingredients
1/2 medium banana
1/4 c rolled oats
1/4 c plain Greek yogurt
1 c frozen dark cherries
1/2 c vanilla unsweetened almond milk (or whatever type of milk you prefer)
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1/4 c shredded unsweetened coconut
1 handful of spinach or kale

Directions
1. Add all ingredients to blender and blend until smooth and serve.

 

 

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!

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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?

 

 

 

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.

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.

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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!

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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.

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Look at how light and airy that dumpling is!
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The stew underneath is delicious too.
Easy recipe · Fall Food · Italian Recipe · Pasta · Running

Big Goals Need Big Bowls…of Pasta

It officially feels like fall now.  Don’t get me wrong, all of the gourds lining the stoops in my neighborhood and the fall breads and Thanksgiving sides filling my Instagram feed have definitely helped, but something was missing.  Over the past couple of weeks, though, the leaves around here have begun to cover the sidewalks in red, orange, yellow, and brown. And the weather now consistently has a little chill to it (rather than dreading the brutal cold that is coming way too soon, I’m choosing to enjoy the beauty of the current conditions while they last).  Oh, and let’s not forget that, for the past five years, fall for me has centered on marathons.  I didn’t run or even begin to train for one this year, but a little over a week ago I did participate in the festivities for one of my favorite days of the year – Marathon Sunday in New York.

The New York City Marathon is one of the most inspirational events I’ve ever been a part of.  You see runners of all shapes, sizes, ages, and levels of ability out there pounding the pavement to reach an incredible goal.  For some, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime achievement to cross that finish line.  For others, it’s a certain time or performance goal.  Regardless of the goal, that 26.2 miles is an emotionally and physically draining journey that never gets easy, no matter how many times you take it on.  Huge congrats to everyone who ran a marathon this fall!  As a spectator, you can’t help but get excited for these people chasing a dream, and sometimes it will motivate you to chase down your own dream, whether that be a marathon or not.  As a runner, the crowd support is unbelievably energizing and is sometimes the only factor that keeps you from sitting down and crying.  Everybody wins.

While the marathon itself is an incredible event for runners and spectators alike, I realized on Marathon Sunday that I prefer to be one of the runners.  There are several reasons to hate running marathons, including the pain and the time commitment.  I only need one reason to love it, though, and that is what will motivate me to run another one – training with friends.  For me, running is a social sport.  The friends are what keep me accountable and make me want to show up and put in the work.  There’s something about the long process and the grueling hours of training that helps to build amazing friendships.  So, after last Sunday I decided to enter the lottery for the 2019 NYC Marathon.  Maybe I’ll get in, maybe I won’t.  I’m excited to see what happens either way.

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Prepped & ready to cook!

Thinking about training for another marathon got me thinking about another of my favorite things – eating…a lot.  While technically not considered “carbo loading”, which requires 2-3 days of eating high carbohydrate meals and isn’t achieved in just one dinner, during training I used the weekly long runs as an excuse to eat a big quantity of pasta the night before.  Due to my sensitive digestive system, I found a pasta that worked for me and ate the same thing every single week.  I used to order my pasta from a nearby restaurant for delivery, but then I moved to Brooklyn and started studying nutrition, so I recreated it my way.  To make this dish a little healthier, I added tomatoes and used chicken sausage instead of beef or pork, but it definitely fills the void of my weekly Gottino’s take-out.  It’s also really easy to make.  Bonus!

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Note: I couldn’t find broccoli rabe at my store the last time I made this, so I used baby broccoli instead and it was also delicious.

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Orecchiette with Sausage & Broccoli Rabe
Servings: 6
Serving Nutrition: 382 calories, 15.4 g protein, 13.7 g fat, 4.1 g fiber, 49 g carbohydrates
Ingredients
1 12oz package orecchiette
2 links pre-cooked sweet or hot Italian chicken sausage, casing removed & meat finely chopped
1/2 medium onion, diced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
8 oz broccoli rabe, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Directions
1. Boil pasta according to package instructions until al dente, then drain and reserve about a cup of the pasta water.
2. In large skillet, add 1 Tbsp olive oil and onions and sauté until onions begin to soften.
3. Add garlic and continue to cook about a minute.
4. Add thick stalks of broccoli rabe and cook about 3 minutes, then add tomatoes and thin stalks of broccoli rabe and cook until tomatoes soften.
5. Add sausage, remaining olive oil, and parmesan and thoroughly mix.
6. Slowly stir in pasta, adding pasta water a little bit at a time as needed to loosen up sauce and allow thorough mixing.
7. Mix in red pepper flakes and add salt & pepper to taste.

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

Happy Halloween!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fall Comfort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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