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On Friday night I decided to make a dinner that we don’t usually have at home. It was a little rich – and we do not tend to have dinners full of rich, creamy, bacon-y food. But I needed it and it was good for the soul.

The idea came to me during a walk with two friends over our lunch break on Friday – so I can’t take all of the credit. A friend of mine asked if I ever did a creamy pasta sauce with pasta and vegetables. I told her that I had not done something like this in a very long time, but I had a craving for such a dish. In my head it would be not just pasta and vegetables, but grilled chicken and pancetta. As soon as the idea was in my head, I was looking forward to my next creation in the kitchen.

I started off my weekend with a run to Wegman’s. I picked up one piece of grilled chicken, slices of pancetta, broccoli, garlic, milk and Gruyère cheese.

When we got home I turned my oven on to 400 degrees. I chopped up the pancetta in half inch pieces and turned on the stove. At the same time I also quickly washed and prepped the broccoli. I lined a baking sheet with foil, threw the broccoli florets on to it and drizzled olive oil and sprinkled sea salt and freshly ground pepper as well. Once my pan was hot, I added the pancetta and browned it. SC thinly cut up the grilled chicken while I was working the pancetta.

Once the pancetta was browned, I spooned it out of the pan into a small plate lined with a paper towel to drain. I cleaned most of the fat off of the pan (but left just a little bit for flavor). I added three crushed and chopped cloves of garlic to the pan with 2 tablespoons of butter. Once the butter was melted, I added two scant tablespoons of flour to make my roux. Once the flour had cooked, I slowly added some milk to the pan and a little half and half because we had it on hand. Soon enough I had just a little bit of a cream sauce – next time I might make more, but this time it was good enough. Because we don’t eat a lot of rich meals, I didn’t want to shock our system with a super creamy / cheesy dinner. Once the cream sauce was developed, I sprinkled a small handful of Gruyère into the mix.

At this time the pasta was finished cooking – it only needs to be al dente because you’re going to throw it into the pan to cook with the other ingredients. I reserved a cup of the pasta water in case I needed it for the cream sauce. I added the pasta, chicken, broccoli and pancetta into the pan. Wow, this was amazing!! I ended up adding a little of the pasta water just to increase the volume of the sauce (I really skimped on it I realized in the end…)

It really felt like the dinner was ready in no time. A few days earlier I had mentioned to SC that we don’t go out to dinner all that often (ironically I said this as we were going out for a wonderful dinner…) and as we were eating the dinner we had just made he said, “See?! This is why we don’t go out to dinner all that much – because this is restaurant quality food right here and we like cooking it!” I couldn’t argue with him. It was a fantastic dinner – and it was exactly what I was craving. I love having a dinner in mind and going home to make it. There is nothing better than what you were desiring comes out so well. It might not be a pretty photograph, but this dinner was fantastic – and I will definitely be making it again soon!

The title of this blog post about sums up my day. I got up at 5:20 AM. I drove to work, I worked all day, I got out for a quick walk at lunch (it was almost fifty degrees in Boston today which is downright amazing!!!), went back to work, ended work, went for a run, went to the grocery store, drove home, made dinner, showered, and finally ate dinner at 8pm.

For breakfast I had another one of my incredible (now frozen) egg sandwiches. I love these things!! I’m sad that I only have two left from my original batch, I’m not looking forward to making more – but I enjoy eating them so much. I love starting my day off with a great dose of protein – it keeps my hunger bay until lunch.

After my brief walk (it was warm but really windy) I enjoyed quite a wonderful dinner. I must say a couple of my colleagues were pretty jealous over this beautiful plate – and I also must say that that I was pretty spoiled. On Monday night I was literally trying to hold my eye lids open at 9:15 pm so that I could finish an episode of Making a Murderer when SC told me to go to bed. I was exhausted (and had 17,500 fitbit steps to show for it!) While I was sleeping SC made and packed my lunch. The end result was nothing short of spectacular:

Grilled chicken over arugula, with raspberries and some of the most amazing strawberries I have tasted in years (I am not kidding!). On the side a small piece of seven grain sourdough bread with organic peanut butter.

We celebrated an office birthday today – and I definitely had a piece. Because I haven’t been eating processed sugar much at all lately, the frosting seemed so sweet. But I ate it. And I am sure it helped fuel the run I got under my belt a couple of hours later. (Right!?)

After dropping my running buddy off at the T (and I can’t say enough about my running friend – I would be lost and a lot less motivated without her!!!❤ ) I popped into Star Market to do some power grocery shopping. I knew exactly what I was making for dinner – Mark Bittman’s Pasta e Fagioli, one of my all time favorite soups.

I finally got home at 6:45 pm and went right into the kitchen to start dinner. After getting everything cooking and serving my mom a bowl of soup, I took a shower. I finally sat down to my own soup at 8pm. It had been a long day – but let me tell you, the soup tasted so good.

It turned out I put a little too much pasta in the soup – but what can you do? I guess there are worse things in the world than too much pasta in your soup. The fresh parsley really makes this soup!

With all of that under my belt today, I’m signing off and heading for bed. Until next time, blog readers!

Snow Day Food

This weekend saw the first big snowstorm for the East Coast this winter. Somehow we missed the brunt of the storm, but it was still enough snow for me to cancel my Saturday evening plans which was a real bummer.

On Saturday we got out the crock pot to make a bunch of shredded chicken! I use the famous recipe from Skinnytaste as a starter for my shredded chicken – her Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken. (If you have not tried this recipe, what are you waiting for!? It is a great one!)

I added five chicken breasts to the crock pot, 32 ounces of low sodium chicken broth, two cans of tomatoes with green chilis, two cans of black beans (drained), 1/2 a cup of frozen corn, 1 1/2 teaspoons of cumin, onion powder, garlic powder and 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. I also added a pinch of kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro. The chicken cooked for 6 hours and the entire house smelled amazing!

After five hours and forty-five minutes, I took the chicken breasts out to shred them. I love how easily this chicken comes apart after cooking for so long! We had a lot of chicken:

I let the mixture continue cooking in the crock pot for another half hour (maybe a little bit more as I got the rest of dinner together!).

Because we had so much extra liquid leftover, I sort of thought of this as a shredded chicken stew. It really hit the spot as the snow kept falling on Saturday night.

I cooked jasmine rice to go with our ‘stew’ and cut up avocado and squeezed fresh lime juice on top of both bowls:

This dinner was so satisfying and filling – thanks to all of the protein from the chicken – that I did not have to go back for seconds. It was the perfect dinner for a night in due to the snow.

Sunday morning I woke up hungry and wanting a nice breakfast. After cleaning off my car (we had a few inches – but nothing like New York and Washington, DC thankfully!) I came in to start my breakfast. I made an over medium egg and topped it with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese, freshly cut tomato and diced avocado. On the side was a slice of Wegman’s rosemary olive oil bread (this is one of my favorite breads – which says a lot because you know how much I love bread!).

This breakfast really hit the spot and kept me going until after I did forty five minutes on the treadmill a couple of hours later.

After my forty five minutes on the treadmill I worked on a healthier oatmeal cookie recipe at SC’s request. I think what I came up with turned out pretty well! (I’ve had two cookies already – no more for me!)

Recipe: Healthy-ish Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:

3/4 C flour (Whole wheat if you have it!)

3/4 C oats

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

Sprinkle of cinnamon & nutmeg

Pinch of salt

2 tsp vanilla

1/4 C brown sugar

1/4 C coconut oil

1 egg

2 T milk

1/3 C dark chocolate

1/3 C raisins

Instructions:

Combine flour, oats, baking powder & soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into a small bowl. Whisk together the ingredients so they are evenly distributed.

In a larger bowl, combine your coconut oil (if it is in solid form, warm the coconut oil until it is back to its liquid state – make sure it is not warm because you don’t want it to cook your egg!) mix your coconut oil, brown sugar and egg together until smooth. Add vanilla and mix again. Gradually add your dry ingredients to your wet. When the mixture starts getting dry, add the milk one tablespoon at a time. Once the dough has come together add your raisins and chocolate chips.

Wrap your dough in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Turn your oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Once the oven is ready, take your dough out and using a cookie scoop, form your cookies onto the baking sheet. Press the cookies down slightly with a spoon. Place baking sheet in the oven and bake for 12 minutes. Remove your cookies when they start browning.

Gently remove your cookies from the parchment lined baking sheet and place on a wire wrack to cool.

ENJOY!

Food Prep

Over this past weekend I spent a couple of hours on food prep for the work week. I made salads for lunch and egg sandwiches for breakfasts. I spent two hours preparing these foods, and it paid off every day for the rest of the week. I kept thinking “This is the best two hours I’ve spent in a long time!” I loved having my breakfasts and lunches taken care of.

Here’s what I did:

In the morning I ran to Trader Joe’s. I got the rest of the ingredients I needed to make my meals: eggs, arugula, yogurt ranch dressing (I can’t say enough about this dressing – I love it so much!), tomatoes, chicken and so on.

Once I got home I got all of my containers ready for the salads. For my breakfast sandwiches, I prepped my english muffins and lightly toasted them. I cracked six eggs, added some 1% milk, and poured the egg mixture into a 8 x 8 pyrex baking dish. I baked the eggs for 25 minutes at 375 degrees. (For a great instructional article on how to make these breakfast sandwiches read this article – it’s where I got my breakfast idea!) I found turkey bacon at Wegman’s (nitrate free) and used it on my egg sandwiches and I had a piece on my salads each day for lunch.

For the salads there was a lot of washing vegetables, chopping, and dividing ingredients into my containers. I lined the containers with a piece of paper towel at the bottom and top of the containers – this really helps to absorb the moisture of the salads – especially by Friday. My salads lasted ALL WEEK!

Tuesday was the first day I tried my breakfast sandwich. I was thrilled with how good the sandwich was – and more importantly how it kept my hunger at bay until lunch time. I love starting the day off with so much protein – I had about 18 grams of protein in this sandwich!

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Before I sat down with my salad, I went for a walk outside. I was bundled up and it was refreshing to get outside for some fresh air. Before I ate my salad, I added the Trader Joe’s yogurt ranch dressing, grilled chicken, a piece of the Wegman’s turkey bacon and croutons. It was a great lunch!

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Ingredients in the salad: romaine lettuce, arugula, tomatoes, orange pepper, carrots and cucumbers. For me, I just love eating salads during the winter – they taste so fresh and I love having the vegetables incorporated into my day!

Over the weekend I made another new dinner: Shepherd’s Pie. Most traditional shepherd’s pies are made with lamb. I made mine with grass fed organic beef and organic ground pork. Wow, this combination was pretty amazing! I loved this meal and definitely think I will make it again before this winter is over:

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I also made a loaf of banana bread:IMG_0367

It was quite tasty for snacks over the weekend and during the work week.

I was very happy with this past work week. I felt really happy to have rather healthy breakfasts and lunches. I was able to run three times over the week – twice outside which was especially great!

This weekend we are expecting some snow in our forecast so I hope I can be as prepared for the work week for this next week – but I’m not quite sure how it will work out!

A New Dinner

I really need to make new dinners more often. Tonight’s dinner was really new and exciting to me! I made a chicken and chickpea curry.

Before I started working on the curry, I grabbed my rice cooker from it’s trusty hiding spot and started on my basmati rice. I love that I can just start rice and then let it cook all by itself – so easy, and I can concentrate on the main show – the curry!

I started the curry by heating up two teaspoons of coconut oil in my pan. I cut up two chicken breasts and when the pan and oil was heated up (and smelling amazing!) I added the chicken. I added a pinch of Himalayan salt. I cooked the chicken on one side for about four minutes and then I turned each piece and cooked the chicken until it was cooked through (another four minutes). In the meantime I had chopped up an onion, a yellow pepper, and three cloves of garlic. Once the chicken was cooked, I took it out of the pan and put it on a plate lined with a paper towel. I added another teaspoon of coconut oil to the pan and then added the onion and yellow pepper. I sautéed the vegetables for five minutes. I added a small pinch of salt and a good amount of freshly ground pepper (a few cranks of my pepper mill). I cooked the vegetables for about four more minutes, stirring frequently. Then I added the garlic and a tablespoon of curry powder (I used Trader Joe’s brand) and cooked everything together for two more minutes.

Once things started to brown, I added a cup of chicken broth and a can of Trader Joe’s light coconut milk (shake both the broth and coconut milk before opening and adding to your pan). I brought the mixture up to a boil and then reduced the pan’s heat so it continued to simmer.While the pan is simmering, I added a can of chickpeas that I had rinsed and drained. I added a teaspoon of hot sauce. I continued to cook and stir for ten minutes.

During this time I toasted a piece of garlic naan bread in the toaster oven. In “no time” everything had come together. The rice was perfectly cooked, the naan was warm and my amazing curry was looking delicious! I plated the curry on top of some rice, squeezed some lime juice on top and added one chopped scallion.

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During tonight’s dinner I was so excited to chop my onion because it was the first time I was using my new onion goggles! I love them and actually cooked with them the entire time I was making dinner. I almost forgot to take them off before I started eating… oops!

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Thanks to these handy onion goggles, I think I’ll be doing a lot less crying in the kitchen. Ever since I was a little kid onions made me cry my eyes out as I was chopping them! My dad used to try to come up with lots of different ideas for helping me and making the onions less pungent. One of the things we used to do was put the onion in the freezer for five minutes before I started chopping them. That did seem to work. But these goggles are definitely a keeper!! (Oh you might think – let someone else chop the onions you crazy kid! Yes, that would be an option – but I always loved chopping and would never let anyone else do it for me!)

Normally I do my cooking on Sundays so that I have more time to do what I need to do during the week (like going to the gym!). But this past weekend went so quickly and I really am not sure where the time went. I decided to let myself take a break from the gym today to go home and make dinner.

The rest of my week is really busy – but I’m really excited to eat this curry for dinner for the next couple of days! It is really fun to create a new dinner and have it turn out really well.

I hope you are all having a good start to your week. Keep cooking and I’ll see you soon!

Back To Reality

Well, my wonderful winter break officially ended this morning at 5:15 when my TWO alarms went off. Thankfully the alarms did not seem like a rude awakening. This morning I used a trick I learned years ago when I started getting to work early. When your alarm goes off turn on your bedside light. It helps your body think that it really is time to get up – even if it is completely pitch black outside.

It was down right frigid this morning. When I left for work at 5:50 AM it was still pitch black outside (the moon was high in the sky along with about twenty stars – it was quite beautiful) and it was NINE whole degrees. Thankfully my car warmed up pretty quickly and I was comfortable thanks to my heated seat and travel cup of coffee.

I had breakfast around 8am this morning after checking a few things off of my to do list. A couple of weeks ago Think Thin protein oatmeal was on sale at Target so I picked up a couple of containers. I love the “to go” fashion of the oatmeal – since I am always eating breakfast at work, and it was pretty helpful this morning.

The oatmeal was ok and pretty filling, I did not need another snack until 11 AM. My only hesitation with the meal was that it was rather high in sugar, and was 200 calories for the container. But it certainly served its purpose today!

At 11 o’clock a friend brought me a container full of cake pops as a belated birthday celebration – it was such a fantastic treat! She is such a thoughtful friend always considering the fact that I might not want a huge piece of cake on my birthday. These cake pops were the perfect portion and it really made my day. Having friends at work is such a great thing in life. It certainly makes coming back from a vacation a lot more fun!

My cake pop was delicious:

I was so happy with myself for all of the time I spent yesterday with my meal preparation for the week. My lunch was really good, filling and healthy. I had browned lean ground turkey with red onions and quinoa with eggplant, onion and zucchini.

I topped the turkey with salsa. It was a great lunch and I was thrilled because it kept me full for the rest of the work day. (And I had another cake pop when some other work friends stopped by later in the afternoon!)

I left work and headed straight to the GYM at 3:45 this afternoon. I was so happy with myself. I was a little tired after waking up so early and working a longer than a full day – but my number one priority for my day was to get to the gym after work. I felt accomplished just walking in the door!

I did a thirty minute workout on the elliptical machine – so it wasn’t a huge workout, but I was just happy to make it and get myself back into the routine. My fitbit had over 12,000 steps when I got home from the gym. Victory!

I was once again very happy that I did not have to do much to get dinner ready tonight. I got home, started pre-heating the oven to 350. I took a quick shower, by the time I was out the oven was preheated and I threw in the stuffed peppers. I tossed together a salad with tomato, cucumber, romaine lettuce, and avocado along with some crunchy strip thingies that were very good. I also had my “healthy” chicken nuggets with dinner for some protein:

The chicken nuggets were so easy yesterday. I cut up three chicken breasts, dipped each piece in an egg wash, dredged the pieces in panko and baked them for 25 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees. Tonight I put them into my toaster oven and toasted them up so they browned a little more. This dinner was really fun and creative. I cleaned my plate!

I hope I’ll be sleeping well tonight with waking up so early and having such a full day. I hope your day was as good as mine was. I highly recommend taking the couple of hours on a Sunday to plan and prep your meals for the week. It made a big difference for my day. I am hoping for another good day tomorrow!

Meal Prep

Ok – let’s be honest. Eating healthy is not easy – I’m not going to lie to you. It takes a lot of time, planning, and preparation. It’s hard! I just spent three hours in the kitchen prepping for the upcoming week. I’ve now got lunches until Thursday, dinners until Wednesday and my breakfast is pretty much all set to go. You’ll see more of the breakfasts and lunches tomorrow when I recap the day.

So, three hours in the kitchen. An hour and a half at Whole Foods picking up all of my healthy and fresh ingredients. And another hour at the gym earlier today. That’s a total of 5 1/2 hours dedicated to leading a healthy life in my day today! Good thing I had the day off from work – otherwise I never would have gotten it all done. It’s 6:30 pm and I’m sitting down to write this blog entry with a much deserved (in my opinion!) glass of melbec and a hot mug of ginger tea. Not bad for a winter’s evening! I’m sort of exhausted – but I think I’ll sleep really well tonight and be ready to face my four day work week tomorrow morning when I wake up. Here’s hoping!

My morning started off on the right foot. I finally dragged myself out of bed at 9am (after watching an hour or so of the morning news in bed – ahh!) The house was quite cold, I found my robe and made my coffee. An hour later I fixed my breakfast – a bowl of stovetop oats with blueberries, a sprinkle of brown sugar and cinnamon. This is one of my favorite winter breakfasts and it keeps me full for several hours.

Because it was my last day of winter break I had a lot of things to accomplish. More laundry (it never ends!) and one of the things I needed to do was change the Brita filter in my water pitcher. So, I threw out the Brita filter, washed my Brita pitcher and then discovered that I was completely OUT of Brita filters. So while my bed linens were in the wash, I ran to Target to get more filters. (And tissues, paper towels, etc. etc. etc.) After that trip, I had a new filter and my Brita was back online. I was relieved since staying hydrated is one of my main goals these days.

After all of that running around I decided it was time to go out and try my new gym. I convinced my mom to go with me. I am so glad that yesterday I had told a friend that I was definitely going to try my new gym today – it turns out my friend was also trying out a new gym today. We made a pact to go and report back. We live in different cities, but it was the ONLY way I got myself to the gym – because I knew I had to tell my friend that I went and how it was.

Well, it turns out that I really liked the gym. It was a good day to go for the first time since it was a Monday afternoon. I could get the lay of the land, and not feel too overwhelmed – it was not very busy at 1pm. I did the elliptical machine for 35 minutes. Then my mom and I went into a studio and worked on our form with weights, focusing on our arms. After arms, we went down to the weight machines to work on our legs for a little while. It was a great full body workout. And it was a much needed break from the treadmill for my body. I felt great about our trip to the gym. I’m hoping to get back on Tuesday and Wednesday this week… I hope I keep the motivation going to accomplish this goal!

After the gym I went off to Whole Foods to get the things I needed for the week. I had a list and knew the meals I was going to put together for the next few days. It was important to go in with a plan. (Even with this plan I still ended up getting two bags of Skinny Pop and a couple of other bags of sweet potato chips – oh well!)

I got home, showered, shoveled (did I mention it was snowing?) and started cooking. I also gave myself a few minutes to eat lunch since I was very hungry at this point (it was 3pm and I had breakfast at 10am!) Thankfully I had decadent leftovers from my birthday dinner last night – mushroom tortellini. It was delicious – I’m wondering if it was actually better than it was last night…

I had three wild mushroom tortellini leftover, and it was the perfect amount.

Once I got back to cooking I did not stop for over three hours. But now I’m facing the week in really good shape. Knowing what is for dinner on Tuesday and Wednesday is going to help me get to the gym and this is a really important goal for me.

While in the kitchen I cooked up ground turkey, quinoa, zucchini, eggplant, chicken “nuggets” and a few other things. I am really excited to have the stuffed peppers (quinoa, zucchini, eggplant went into these) for dinner tonight:

This will be my dinner – along with the “healthy” chicken nuggets and salad – for the next three nights.

I must say, I have been setting aside two hours on Sundays for the last month to get my lunches prepped and made for the first few days of the work week. I also make my healthy snacks and make sure that I have a healthy breakfast on tap for the week (this is usually oatmeal or Greek yogurt with fresh berries). The couple of hours I spent on Sundays doing this is so crucial to me having a healthy week ahead. I highly recommend making the time to do this if you can. It makes such a huge difference!

Stay tuned for what I made in the kitchen today – I’ll report back on how my breakfast, lunch and dinner is tomorrow night!

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