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

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.

TofuMushrmTacos5

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

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

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

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

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

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

MangoCornSalsa2

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

MangoCornSalsa1

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

It’s Summer!!

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

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

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

ChkFritters2

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

chkfritters4.jpg
Southwest Chicken Fritters
Yields: about 8 fritters, each = 151 cal, 10g protein, 6g fat, 15g carbs, 3g fiber
Ingredients
1 ½ cups shredded chicken
½ cup canned low sodium black beans
½ cup red bell peppers, diced
½ cup shredded zucchini
½ cup corn kernels
½ avocado
Juice and zest from ½ lemon
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro (or 2 tsp dried cilantro)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 large eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs (or 3 slices of toasted bread chopped in food processor)
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
Directions
  1. With a fork, mash up the beans and avocado.
  2. Add all other ingredients and mix well.
  3. Put in fridge and chill for about 10-15 minutes (while you make the rest of your meal and/or the chimichurri sauce below).
  4. Form mixture into patties about the size of a small burger patty.
  5. Lightly spray a non-stick skillet with cooking spray or olive oil.
  6. Cook patties over medium heat for 4 minutes on each side.
Chkfritters1
Chimichurri Ingredients
1 cup fresh cilantro
2 tsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp minced onion
4 cloves garlic
Juice from ½ lemon
½ cup olive oil
½ jalapeno
Salt & pepper to taste
Directions
Either toss all ingredients into a food processor and pulse until smooth, or finely chop all dry ingredients then stir in remaining ingredients.

 

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!