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.

ShrimpGrits1
Eaten with a side of sauteed spinach with lots of garlic, onions, and tomatoes.  So good!
Breakfast Recipes · Easy recipe · Vegetarian

Breakfast, sweet breakfast

When I think of lunch and dinner, my mind automatically conjures up images of savory dishes. But breakfast is special. It can be sweet, savory, or anything in between. I’ll be honest, I generally don’t gravitate toward sweet breakfasts. I’ll choose an omelet over french toast on most days, and I won’t feel like I missed out on anything. That hasn’t always been the case, though. As a child, I remember loving the morning after a family birthday party because we inevitably had leftover birthday cake. I could usually either sneak a piece before my parents woke up or my siblings and I would convince them that it was a perfectly acceptable breakfast. Considering the alternative was usually a sugary cereal like Lucky Charms, it wasn’t really a huge difference, but somehow it felt like we were being allowed to get away with something bad. And now I’m working to become a registered dietitian…my how times have changed!

BBerryCardamomPancakes

Once in a blue moon, I have a craving for something sweet like pancakes.  If that happens on a day that neither my BF nor I have anywhere to be, I will indulge that craving. Of course, I try to make them as healthy as I can, and in my search for something nutritious yet fluffy and delicious, I came up with these little gems. I used whole wheat flour with a little almond flour to lighten them up a bit. A touch of Greek yogurt adds creaminess, and I went light on the butter. And the cardamom adds an unexpected warmth that perfectly compliments the sweet blueberries. Don’t be scared by the photos – I have yet to master the art of the perfect round pancake, but trust me when I say that what they lack in looks they make up for in deliciousness.

BBerryCardamomPancakes2
Topped with a little butter, some bananas & blueberries, and maple syrup. Yum!

Blueberry Cardamom Whole Wheat Pancakes
Servings: 4
Serving Nutrition:  345 calories, 12 g protein, 15.3 g fat, 798 mg sodium, 6.4 g fiber, 42.3 g carbohydrates
Ingredients
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 heaping Tbsp plain Greek yogurt
1 1/4 cup milk
2 Tbsp melted butter
1 cup blueberries

Directions
1. Mix flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom in one bowl.
2. Mix remaining ingredients (except blueberries) in a separate bowl.
3. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until dry ingredients are all mixed in but small lumps remain in batter.
4. Fold blueberries into batter.
5. Heat non-stick skillet over medium heat.
6. Scoop small amounts of batter onto skillet at a time and cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until the edges start to set, flip and cook the other side for a couple of minutes. Both sides should be golden brown.
7. Serve with your choice of toppings and devour!

 

Easy recipe · Life Balance · Tasty Sides · Vegetarian · Veggies!

If at first you don’t succeed…

I just heard a quote that really resonated with me – “Failure is not the opposite of success; it’s a part of success.” ~ Arianna Huffington. Full disclosure, I actually heard it on the new Queer Eye season on Netflix, then had to look it up to find out who originally said it. Yes, I love the Fab 5. Judge me all you want; I don’t care.

Anyway, if I had heard this quote a long time ago, it might have saved me a lot of heartache. Nobody likes to fail, especially when it seems like everyone around you is doing so well. I personally have had my share of situations where I felt like a failure. For example, when I moved to New York after business school without a job. Admittedly, I had a bit of an ego thanks to my newly acquired MBA, and I felt certain that I would be able to find something relatively quickly. Well, that was in the summer of 2007, right as the sub-prime mortgage situation was beginning to unravel. I was looking for work in commercial real estate. You get where I’m going with this, right? The economy and the highly competitive job market in New York gave me a big heaping dose of reality. It took many months of networking like crazy, sending an uncountable number of resumes, and what seemed like endless interviews to finally land something. I ended up staying with that company up until the time I decided to go back to school for nutrition – over 7 years – so it all worked out and I was successful in landing a job in my career of choice (at the time) in one of the greatest cities in the world. It just took perseverance, hard work, and the extreme bullheadedness I was blessed with. This same mentality has helped me through many a difficult situation in my life, so I take it with me into every new challenge I face. [I should note that I had a pretty awesome support system, too. Without these people, I might not have made it.]

What does this all have to do with my current career path and/or food? Well, my latest challenge involves a dumpling. Specifically, one of the chicken & dumplings variety. One of my favorite meals my Grammy made when I was growing up in Texas was chicken & dumplings. Her dumplings were so light and fluffy and floated effortlessly over the stew beneath them. It was like they were made of air. Despite multiple attempts and even enlisting the guidance of my sister, who once got a tutorial from Grammy on how to make this coveted dish, my dumplings seem destined to sink and become a dense, doughy blob every single time. I am bound and determined to make the perfect chicken & dumplings, though, and when I do I promise to share them with you. We might have to eat chicken & dumplings every night for the next few weeks to get this right…it’s a tough job but somebody has to do it.

You know what I never fail at? Roasting vegetables. Fall is officially the season for roasting vegetables, and I kicked it off with some Brussels sprouts we had hanging out in the fridge. This recipe is sweet and tangy with a little spice from the mustard. It’s a great alternative to loading your sprouts with bacon.

BrusselsSprouts2

Honey Dijon Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Servings: 4 (side servings)
Serving Nutrition: 114 calories, 4 g protein, 0.4 g fat, 277 mg sodium, 4.7 g fiber, 26.8 g carbohydrates
Ingredients
1 lb Brussels sprouts
1/2 medium red onion, sliced ¼ inch thick
2 Tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
Salt & Pepper

Directions
1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F.
2. Trim then cut each sprout in half.
3. Combine all ingredients in bowl, making sure mustard seeds are evenly dispersed.
4. Spread sprouts cut side down on baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray (I lined mine with foil for easy clean-up).
5. Sprinkle with salt & pepper.
6. Roast in oven for 15 minutes, then remove from oven and stir.
7. Return to oven for about 5-10 more minutes, or until desired level of browning and cripiness is achieved.

BrusselsSprouts

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.

orzosalad2.jpg

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!

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 · 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 · 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.

Easy recipe · Lamb recipe · Summer · Veggies!

Texas Cuisine to Brooklyn Greens

I just got back from a weekend trip down to Texas to visit the family. Visiting Texas in the summer is always a dreaded endeavor for me. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love spending time with my family, but the heat is a bit overwhelming. When my brother texted me a couple of weeks ago to tell me that it was 110 degrees, the fear immediately set in. But, by some amazing stroke of luck, we had cooler weather in Dallas this past weekend. They got a little of the rain that was pounding the East coast and it cooled everything down to the point that I found myself actually wearing a light sweater a couple of times. It was awesome.

Whenever we visit Texas, we have our list of things that we absolutely must do. As you can imagine, most of them are food related. We must have Tex-Mex at least once. That one is pretty self-explanatory if you’ve ever had Tex-Mex. If you haven’t, I just have one word: queso. It’s hard to find good Tex-Mex queso in New York, so we eat as much as we can when we’re visiting Texas. We also must eat at Ballard Street Cafe, which is this little diner-style cafe in downtown Wylie, TX. Downtown Wylie is your typical small-town Texas downtown. It spans about 3 blocks on one street that is lined with a variety of shops. It even has an opry house, which we have yet to check out, but it definitely adds character to the town. Ballard Street Cafe serves your standard home-style Texas food. Their menu includes chicken fried steak or chicken, biscuits and gravy, burgers, and even tamales, just to name a few. You know, health food. We always walk away feeling a little sick from overeating, but we still do it every single time we’re in town. Finally, we must always have a BBQ. My brother has a big backyard with a nice grill and, since we don’t have that at our fingertips here in Brooklyn without throwing some elbows at the public grills down by the waterfront, we like to take advantage of that luxury when we’re visiting the fam.

While we eat really tasty food in Texas, it is very meat and cheese heavy and I always come back to NY craving every vegetable I can get my hands on. I’m currently craving this amazing lamb flatbread drizzled with tzatziki sauce. It is really light and refreshing, but it’s packed with flavor, and it is so easy to make and comes together pretty quickly once you get the lamb trimmed. As a bonus, you will have plenty of leftover lamb and tzatziki to make more flatbreads or a salad.

LambFlatbread

Lamb Flatbread with Tzatziki Sauce
Servings: 2
Serving Nutrition (without tzatziki): 418 calories, 33.2 g protein, 21.6 g fat, 25 g carbohydrates, 502 mg sodium, 4.5 g fiber
Ingredients
For Lamb
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb boneless leg of lamb (fat trimmed)
1/2 small red onion, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp coriander
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Flatbread Toppings
2 whole wheat flatbreads (I used lavash)
1/2 cup loosely packed spinach, chiffonade or roughly chopped
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 medium cucumber, diced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup loosely packed mint leaves, torn
Tzatziki Sauce (see below)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Once you’ve trimmed the fat from the leg of lamb, cut lamb into bite sized cubes.
3. In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Once hot, add minced onions and saute until translucent.
4. Add garlic and cook for about a minute.
5. Add lamb, lemon zest, and all spices and cook, stirring often, until lamb is browned. I like my lamb a nice dark pink on the inside, so I stopped cooking when it was all browned on the outside. If you like your meat well done, keep going a few more minutes until it is cooked through. You may need to cut a chunk in half to check for doneness.
6. While lamb cooks, place flatbreads on a baking sheet and place in oven for about 5 minutes.
7. Place each warm flatbread on a large plate and evenly top with spinach, onion, lamb, then tomatoes, cucumber, feta, and mint.
8. Generously drizzle tzatziki over everything.

Tzatziki
Nutrition per tablespoon: 9 calories, 1.1 g protein, 0.2 g fat, 0.6 g carbohydrates, 40 mg sodium, 0 g fiber
Ingredients
1 1/2 cups of plain low-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cucumber, shredded
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt & pepper to taste

Directions
1. Use a paper towel to absorb any excess moisture from cucumber.
2. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
3. Taste and adjust salt & pepper as needed.

LambFlatbread2
Yum!
Big City Life · Life Balance · Tasty Sides · Vegetarian · Veggies!

Variety is the Spice of Life

If you think nutritionists/dietitians only eat kale, salmon, quinoa, and organic artisanal almond butter, you would be wrong. First of all, nobody eats healthy all day every day. We all need to splurge once in a while, and every good health enthusiast does too, we just try not to overindulge most of the time. Secondly, eating the same things over and over again is not really healthy either. You need a lot of variety in your diet to get all of the vital nutrients. Did you know that the color of your food contains nutrients? The pigments found in food are made up of important chemicals and antioxidants that your body needs, so you really should be eating a rainbow of foods. Eating a mix of red, yellow, purple, orange, and white fruits and vegetables is just as important as eating lots of green.

vegfriedrice3.jpg
The red onion looks almost neon in this lighting. Sadly, I am not glow-in-the-dark purple today.

Beyond just a lack of nutrients, anyone who eats the same three or four things every day, no matter how clean or healthy those things are, is destined to go on an out-of-control binge at some point. Especially if they prepare the food without butter, oil, or salt like some athletes preparing for competitions do. Boredom + no flavor = no joy. And depriving yourself of joy eventually leads to a complete breakdown of self control…if it doesn’t, you are a saint. Food should taste good! I mean, God wouldn’t have given us taste buds if he/she didn’t want us to enjoy our food, am I right? That said, when trying to eat healthy, cutting back on things like butter, oil, and salt can be challenging because these things contribute so much flavor. Never fear, though! There are other great ways to add flavor to your food without adding calories. Here are some of my favorites.

  • Onions and garlic – I put these pungent vegetables from the allium family in almost everything. They have a lot of flavor and they’re packed with nutrients…and as a bonus they make your home smell like heaven when they’re cooking.
  • Citrus – squeeze a little lemon or lime juice over almost anything and you get instant flavor. You can also roast chicken, fish, or veggies with sliced lemon or orange on top to infuse them with citrusy goodness.
  • Herbs & spices – you may have to experiment a little with different herbs and spices because they all have a distinct flavor. Just be careful with spice mixes like adobo or chili powder as they can sometimes have a lot of salt. Something I’ve recently discovered is that a little cinnamon added to a spicy dish like spicy shrimp tacos adds a really unique flavor that I can’t resist. I always thought of cinnamon as a spice just for sweets…who knew it was so diverse?
  • Vinegar – my pantry currently holds at least 5 different types of vinegar. Like spices, each one has a unique flavor, but they all add a tangy pop of flavor to your food.

I still use butter, oil, and salt too, but I don’t have to use nearly as much when getting such great flavor from these things.

A standard go-to meal when we’re busy or we don’t really want to cook is a quick stir fry or fried rice. Below is a fried rice I made last night that is loaded with colorful veggies and has a ton of flavor without a lot of oil and much less sodium than you find in most other fried rice recipes. We ate it as a meal, but it would make a great side dish as well. I used whatever veggies I had in my fridge, but you can switch them out for other fresh or frozen veggies based on your preference or what you have at home. Frozen peas and carrots or a frozen stir fry veggie mix are always great time savers that we tend to keep in our freezer at all times.

VegFriedRice
I had some leftover sprouts, so I threw them on top as garnish. Pretty, but completely unnecessary. The fried rice is great without them.

Easy Veggie Fried Rice
Servings: 4
Serving Nutrition: 296 calories, 9.1 g protein, 10.9 g fat, 40.7 g carbohydrates, 573 mg sodium, 4.4 g fiber
Ingredients
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 medium red onion, diced
3 sprigs green onion, sliced, white and green parts separated
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups sugar snap peas
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (adjust for your desired spice level)
1 tsp ground ginger
3 cups cooked chilled brown rice
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp rice vinegar

Directions
1. In large skillet, heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Once hot, add red onions and white parts of green onion and saute until translucent.
2. Add garlic and cook for about a minute.
3. Add sugar snap peas and cook about 2 minutes, stirring often, then add bell pepper and cook for 2 more minutes.
4. Push veggies to one side of skillet and pour beaten eggs into other half. Let sit until edges of eggs are cooked, then with spatula or spoon push edges of eggs so that any uncooked egg liquid on top runs off onto skillet. Let cook until eggs are cooked through (it will look like a small omelet), then remove eggs from skillet and chop into small pieces.
5. When peppers and sugar snap peas begin to soften, add chopped eggs, rice, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes, and ginger to skillet and stir to mix well.
6. Add green parts of green onion, stir into mixture, remove from heat, and serve.

Bonus points if you can eat it with chopsticks. I have yet to master eating rice with chopsticks…I end up with more of it on the floor than in my mouth. Any pointers you can give me are welcome!

Chicken Recipe · Summer · Veggies!

No Soggy Lettuce Here

Salads have come a long way over the years. I can’t pinpoint when exactly I noticed the shift, but over time restaurant menus have offered more and more tasty, unique salads that could easily be the main course for a meal. That said, the mere mention of a salad still conjures up visions of sad, soggy lettuce with many people. At work, we do salad events from time-to-time where we offer a spread of a lot of different ingredients, along with sample recipes, and let attendees assemble their own lunch salads. We still sometimes get comments like, “this is rabbit food”, but by and large the attendees to these events leave excited to make more creative salads at home. If you include plenty of protein and make sure the flavors complement each other with some sort of flavor profile, a salad can be a truly satisfying meal…especially in hot weather. And nothing says summer like peaches and basil! Never had them together? You’re in for a treat!

A couple of weeks ago, I had some peaches at home and wanted to whip up a quick lunch, so I threw together a salad that ended up being one of my all-time favorites. I used pre-cooked chicken breast strips from Trader Joe’s to cut down on cooking time, but any cooked chicken you have would work well. For this particular meal, I wanted a light lunch so I stuck to fruit, veggies, and protein, but if I were to make this for dinner I would probably toss in a little quinoa or brown rice to get some whole grains. You really have to make this while peaches are still in season. The sweetness of the peaches and balsamic combined with the salty parmesan is great, and the basil gives it an unexpected pop of flavor. The picture here doesn’t do it justice at all…it is so simple and tasty!

BalsamicPeachBasilSalad

Balsamic Peach & Basil Salad
Servings: 2
Ingredients
2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 peaches, pitted and sliced
6 ounces cooked chicken
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup fresh basil, chiffonade or roughly chopped
2 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions
1. In skillet over medium heat, sauté onions in 1/2 Tbsp olive oil until translucent
2. Add garlic and cook for about a minute.
3. Add peaches, chicken, and balsamic vinegar and cook until peaches soften.
4. Mix 1/4 cup of basil into peach mixture and remove from heat.
5. In large bowl, toss spinach, remaining basil, carrots, tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and remaining olive oil.
6. Divide spinach mixture between two bowls or plates and top each with half of peach mixture.

Enjoy!