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 · Breakfast Recipes · Easy recipe · Fall Food · Snacks

Happy Halloween!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I ate it for breakfast with some vanilla Greek yogurt. I later added some baked cinnamon apples. Yum!
Batch Recipes · Big City Life · Chocolate · Easy recipe · Life Balance · Mid-Life Career Change · Running · Snacks

More Snack Balls…

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

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

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

ChocolatePBBalls2

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

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

Big City Life · 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.

Chocolate · Snacks · Travel

Happy New Year!

I know, I know…it has been a LOOOONG time since I’ve posted anything here and, to anyone who visited during my extended hiatus, I apologize for my absence.  I got a little wrapped up in school, work, and family stuff.  You know, life.  I’m not a fan of excuses, though, and one of my goals for 2018 is to get back to posting here somewhat regularly.  A lot has happened in the past year, so I’ll start with a really quick catch-up.

Last time I posted, I was struggling with fitting everything in with school, my volunteer work, a part-time job, running, personal life, etc.  I had even deferred the marathon for which I had been training.  I still continue to struggle with a routine given my schedule varies so much from day-to-day, but things are getting better.  School has been going great and I am still very happy with my decision to take the leap and make a career change.  In February, my boyfriend and I moved in together and it has been great seeing each other every day without trekking an hour between our apartments.  In August, my volunteer work in corporate wellness turned into a part-time job as a nutritionist working with teen moms.  It’s so amazing to be getting paid to do something I truly love, and I’ve discovered a new passion for menu planning and recipe development!  After a long break from running, I struggled to get back at it and in October 2017 I ran that marathon I had deferred from 2016.  I wasn’t in as good of shape as I would have liked, so it hurt really badly, but I finished!  All-in-all, it was a pretty good year.  Then, to start the new year, my boyfriend and I finally took the vacation we’ve been talking about for over 2 years.  We kept putting it off because of school, work, and finances, and it was so worth the wait!

We spent 10 glorious days in the Caribbean while Mother Nature was pounding NYC with snow and brutal cold. Well, it wasn’t all glorious, but I’ll get to that in a second. We wanted peace and quiet on this trip so that we could recharge our batteries and have time really connecting with each other, so we decided to go a little off the beaten path. We chose to visit the island of Montserrat, and proceeded to pick dates for the trip and look at flights. We booked flights for January 3 – 13 and went looking for a place to stay.  We found a lovely villa just up the hill from a beach that had amazing views. The only problem is that it would not be available until January 4. In order to get to Montserrat, you have to fly into Antigua and then take either a ferry or a short flight from there. We already had our flights to Antigua for the 3rd, so we decided it wasn’t the worst thing in the world to stay a night in a beautiful place like Antigua. We booked an early morning flight from Antigua to Montserrat on the 4th, so we decided to stay at what we thought was an inexpensive hotel near the airport. Our plan was to have a nice dinner then get to bed early, so we didn’t need luxury accommodations. What could possibly go wrong??

MNI Sunset1
Sunset view from our villa in Montserrat

Well, our lodging in Antigua wasn’t exactly what we expected. It was actually a “guest house”, which is just someone’s home where they rent out a room. Our hostess, though very sweet, was quite the talker! I think our check-in process took about an hour because she kept getting distracted with telling us stories about her knee or foot injuries (making us look at both of them) and her family of circus people. Not a problem. We decided to just make the most of it by going for a walk around the neighborhood to find a place to grab a bite to eat and maybe a tropical cocktail or two. Our hostess physically blocked the doorway on our way out because she wanted to keep talking to us, but after a few minutes we politely navigated our way around her and went on our way…only to learn that the neighborhood wasn’t exactly walkable. There were no sidewalks and cars were zipping past us at a scary pace. After dodging traffic for about 10 minutes, we decided to turn around and stop at the gas station for bottled water and snacks and go back to hole up in our room for the night. We were exhausted from travel and the drastic change in weather anyway, so it seemed like a good plan.  Well, over 12 hours in a tiny bedroom is a really long time! Thankfully, I had made snacks for the trip, including my Chocolate Chip Snack Balls, which served as our dinner that night. After that, we were a bit worried about what the rest of the trip would be like, but luckily the next leg of the trip was amazing. The lesson I learned from this adventure, though, is to always travel with plenty of good snacks!

Now, if you’ve read this far, you deserve a cookie…or a ball that tastes like a cookie! One of the big food trends these days is snack balls, AKA “protein balls” or “fat balls”. I’ve seen a few that looked good, but I thought I could make them better, so I decided to give it a go. After a little trial and error, I came up with these yummy little chocolate morsels. With almond flour, oats, chia seeds, and Greek yogurt, these balls are nutritious AND delicious. They make a great pre- or post-workout snack, and I’ve even been known to eat them for breakfast.  Here’s to a great 2018 and eating more balls!

BrownBalls
I did not put the coconut in the food processor, so you can see the chunks here. Mmm!

No-Bake Chocolate Chip Snack Balls

Makes about 24 golf ball sized bites.  Each bite contains 66.4 cal, 1.8g protein, 3g fat, 5.5g sugar, 1.4g fiber, 19mg sodium.

1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
2/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup dried cranberries (or your preferred dried fruit)
1 cup dry oats
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup almond flour
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup mini dark chocolate chips

Put cranberries, coconut, and oats in a food processor and chop until finely chopped (if you like chunks of coconut, leave out of processor).  Mix all ingredients together thoroughly, forming a thick dough, and roll into balls about the size of a golf ball.  Chill in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat.

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.