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!

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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!

 

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.

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!
Batch Recipes · Easy recipe · Life Balance · Mid-Life Career Change · Pasta · Tasty Sides · Vegetarian · Veggies!

Easy is the Name of the Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Snack Balls…

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

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

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

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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 · 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.

Life Balance · Mid-Life Career Change

The Beauty, and Stress, of Change

We humans are creatures of habit.  We fear and dread anything that takes us outside of our comfort zone.  When I tell people about my career change, I often get responses like, “you’re so brave”, “you have balls” and, of course, “I wish I could do something like that”.  Well, you can.  I don’t have super powers, I just learned how to get comfortable living outside of my comfort zone.  The first, and hardest, step is deciding that you are willing to forego a little comfort in the short term to make changes that will make you happier in the long run.  No easy task.  Recently, my BF made the decision to make a major career change as well and I have relived every moment of that crazy emotional roller coaster with him.  So, here’s a little of what I learned from my own experience with career change.

First of all, it is never easy to uproot what you’ve known and built over the course of however many years.  It is especially difficult when you are making a decent living and the change you want to make will take you out of the full-time workforce for months or years on end and/or you know the new career will involve a substantial pay cut.  I realize that everybody has different circumstances and for some, this just isn’t an option.  That doesn’t mean you can’t make changes, you just might have to do it in a way that allows you to continue working.  Either way, it really just comes down to one question – what motivates you?  If money is all you need from your career, it’s a no-brainer – keep climbing the ladder you’re on.  If feeling happy/satisfied/rewarded is what’s truly important to you and you’re not getting that from your current career, you might want to consider a change.

So now what?  I don’t know about you, but I didn’t have this vibrant glowing image of exactly what I wanted to do.  I just knew I was unhappy where I was and I had a lot of interests floating around in my head.  I needed to narrow it all down.  Take all of those interests and evaluate for each one what exactly your role would look like and whether it fits not only with what you want to do, but also (1) what you’re good at – job satisfaction is enhanced when you are able to use  your strengths and shine, (2) what will fit with your lifestyle – for example, if you have kids (or dogs) you might not want to be on the road 5 days a week, and (3) whether you will be able to earn enough to support that lifestyle – OK, I know we said money isn’t the motivator here, but let’s be honest, we all need to eat.  Don’t expect to be able to sit down, make a list, and magically have all the answers in one day.  Give it some time.  Everyone is different, but in my case I was reading about nutrition and playing with recipes for a couple of years before I had my aha! moment.

So now you know what you want to do and you need a plan.  Does it involve going to school?  Research all programs in the geographic areas you’re willing to consider, evaluate quality of education, whether or not they have a focus in the area of the career path you want to pursue, how long it will take, how much it costs, when you will have to start, etc.  If it doesn’t involve school, start working on that resume to highlight the experience and skills that will fit with your new role then get to networking.  Networking is exhausting and, for some, nerve wracking.  It’s a necessary evil, though.  I wouldn’t have gotten a job when I moved to New York if I hadn’t networked.  Go to professional meetings, lectures, and happy hours.  Reach out to alumni from your college who are in your field of interest.  Talk to friends and family…they might know someone.  Don’t be afraid to tell people what you’re doing because you never know who can put you in contact with the right person.  It only takes one.

Image result for strengthsfinder 2.0 test
The test associated with this book helped me narrow down what I’m good at.

Now it’s time to pull the trigger.  If you have been networking and making connections, the change might just happen naturally.  But for the rest of us, this is the hardest part.  “Take the plunge” or “make the leap” – there’s a reason there are such ominous phrases to describe making a big change.  It’s risky and scary and we all get anxiety just thinking about it.  In my case, I needed reassurance that I was making the right decision, so I hired a career coach.  We explored my strengths, my interests, my daydreams… everything.  I wanted to make sure that there wasn’t anything I would be just as happy doing that wouldn’t require another 4 years of school.  In the end, all signs pointed to dietitian, so I dove in head first.  Some people, like my BF, need to sit with the decision for a little longer.  However you process it all is up to you as long as you don’t let the fear of change stop you.  Just remember that without change, great things will never happen.  It’s all up to you!

 

Batch Recipes · Life Balance · Mid-Life Career Change · Running · Snacks

Hitting the Reset Button

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

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

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

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

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

trail-mix

Honey Cinnamon Trail Mix

2 cans of unsalted mixed nuts

1/2 cup of dry oats

2 tbsp of chia seeds

flax or sunflower seeds

shredded coconut (optional)

honey – around 1/2 cup

Cinnamon

dried cranberries (or whatever dried fruit you prefer)

dark chocolate M&Ms

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

 

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

Finding a Routine

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