I think it’s safe to say that spring has finally sprung here in NYC (we’ll just forget that Friday is supposed to go back down to the 50’s).
Saturday and Sunday were nice, but today is even nicer. I even brought my Kindle and plan to use my lunch hour to continue reading The Happiness Project outside.
Yesterday I also completed the grueling task of switching my wardrobe. Out with the fall/winter clothes, in with the spring/summer clothes!
When I was packing for Arizona two weeks ago, I realized that a pretty significant portion of my summer clothes had to go this year. I haven’t done a major spring/summer refresh in at least a couple of years, so I found that my clothes fell into a few different categories: they looked ratty because I’ve had them for so long, they were a little too young looking, or they just didn’t fit quite right anymore. Of course, there were some things I liked and wanted to keep but, overall, I was feeling a little uninspired.
I remember feeling similar last year, but deciding to keep it all because “I’d probably end up wanting to wear it.” Yeah—we’ve all been there before.
Turns out, I didn’t wear most of it and, when I went through the process of switching my wardrobe this year, I didn’t even have a desire to keep most of it. So, I filled up a big, big bag to donate.
It feels so refreshing to have a closet that isn’t spilling over with clothes I don’t wear, and I feel good knowing the stuff that’s in good condition will be going to someone who needs it!
The idea of filling some of that empty space with some newer, more appropriate pieces isn’t so bad either.
Switching gears a bit: This grapefruit, kale, and avocado quinoa salad is something I’ve been enjoying for the past week. It’s the perfect winter-to-spring meal. The salad features a few winter items like kale and grapefruit, but is incredibly light and fresh. Plus, it’s very healthy (hello, bathing suit season in t-7 weeks!).Pin It
I’m back in the big city for the weekend, but have no big plans. Sometimes that’s the best way to do it. I’m sure they’ll be some basketball watching and maybe some walking around in the park (say hello to a forecast of 60 degrees on Sunday! Um, finally!!).
Being that today’s the best day of the week, I’ve got a little treat for you today: another deee-li-cious smoothie recipe.
This smoothie reminds me of an amazing milkshake I get on family trips to a lodge in the Poconos. It’s one of those places that just kind of transports you to the past—it’s so family-oriented and has that old-time charm. Very Dirty Dancing meets the Shining, except I haven’t fallen in love with any employees yet–er, anyone for that matter–and there’s really nothing scary about the place.
Anyway, they have this darling tea room (I like to call it the pop shop) in the basement that has light bites and some killer milkshakes. My favorite? Banana! Sadly, I only get the opportunity to indulge in this treat once a year when we head to the resort.
Not anymore, folks.
The other day I got the idea to make a honey banana smoothie and, when I took the first sip of my creation, nostalgia set in. I had unwittingly created a healthier version of the banana milkshake. I’m serious, this slightly sweet smoothie could be dessert, but it’s made without ice cream and uses dairy-free milk instead of full-fat milk. It’s a real winner: so creamy, so tasty.
Without spinach:Pin It
Ever since moving in November, I’ve been lucky enough to escape the wrath of the New York City subway system for the most part. I walk to and from work unless it’s really raining or I’m really late, so I pretty much only hop on the subway a few times a week to see friends or run an errand.
I just started reading The Happiness Project and the author, Gretchen Rubin, says walking just a small amount (I think she says 10 minutes) each day can help you feel happier. I’ve definitely found that to be true, and really do think walking to work gives me some time to think and admire some of the beauty in NYC. It really seems to clear my head a little.
Though, the fact that I no longer have to stand like a sardine in the subway cars during rush hour with crazies like this woman cannot be ignored and surely has something to do with that weight being lifted.
Seriously. This lady exists. And she’s terrifying. (Please note: I am in no way trying to minimize the severity of mental health problems. Just imagine being screamed at wildly, sneezed on, and spat at when you’re just trying to get home.)
If you try to talk to one of my friends about her, he—honest to goodness—gets visibly upset.
Another recent subway experience taught me why one should not be excited to see an empty train car during rush hour.
There is a reason that car is empty, my friends.
The reason that day: There was a man laying down across a bench of seats drinking booze and smoking a cigarette (smoking a cigarette on the subway!!!). He had also most certainly wet his pants and more–we shall not go into details on this food blog. Doors closed before I could realize that it was not my good fortune to be traveling to Queens on a quiet day, but rather everyone else would prefer to squish into the other cars than be in the smelly (understatement of the century, people. I was actually gagging) car.
A few days later my friend had two consecutive days in which she had the joy of riding the subway to work with a naked man.
Point of the story: New York City can a big, scary place and sometimes I really do feel like a tiny fish in some seriously crazy water.
A-ha! The (weak) tie together.Pin It
I’m baaack from my crazy, whirlwind trip to the Southwestern state of Arizona.
How beautiful is that?!
I spent three sunny 80-plus degree days in Scottsdale lounging by the pool, shopping, and dining. Lots of dining.
I even tried a tequila shot with the worm in it on my last day. It was so. gross. Do not try the tequila shot with the worm in it.
That gruesome beverage was part of an “Easter egg hunt” we did around Old Town (where all the shops and bars are) in Scottsdale.
The day, which was organized by my friend’s extremely creative boss, began with a beautiful Easter brunch at a resort. Afterwards, we hopped on bikes he had decorated with Easter balloons to begin the hunt.
He’d leave each place a little before us, text us clues as to what locale he was at, and then let a waitress or bartender in on the secret and give them our prizes. For example, at the first place we had to figure out what he was drinking and order it. We scrutinized the drink up and down, made our guesses, and both got it wrong so we got smaller token prizes instead of the big egg. The right answer would have been to simply ask the bartender what he was drinking and order that! So simple, but so easy to miss!
It was so much fun and definitely made my Easter one to remember. I’m used to spending the holiday with my mom’s extended family doing our own little Easter egg hunt, so I was definitely missing their presence when I woke up Sunday (and I’m not just saying that because my mom reads this!).
Thanks to my very gracious hosts, the day was just as festive and fun.
I’m happy to be back in New York, but I’m definitely missing the flavor of Arizona—especially those balmy temperatures! So, here’s my attempt at preserving a taste of the Southwest: Southwestern twice-baked sweet potatoes.
This twice-baked sweet potato has absolutely no cream or other fattening ingredients you often find in twice-baked potatoes, but still has tons of great flavor thanks to the smokiness of the chipotle and tons of beans and veggies. Sprinkle it with just a little cheese and I could eat this all week long!Pin It
Well, I was going to tell you all about how I generally eat really healthy, but then I get to the airport and Burger King just has this gravitational hold on me (gross, I know) so I made these no-bake oatmeal raisin bites in attempt to stay away from the burger, but then something that’s actually interesting happened to me.
In other words, you’re in luck because I will no longer bore you with the intricacies of my occasional encounters with fast food.
Yesterday I redeemed a “Belly Bite,” which is basically a free product or service offered by this loyalty company, Belly, in hopes that people will return to the business offering the free thing. It was really pretty awesome: I got a free manicure at a pretty nice place. All I had to do was pay the tip.
Here’s where my fun began.
I had no cash on me when I left to go to the nail salon, so I stopped at the ATM just a few blocks away to get cash, knowing I would likely have to pay the tip in cash. Anyway, I took out $60 for the weekend–three twenty dollar bills. When it came time to tip the nail technician, I had to get change for one of the $20′s from the girl at the front desk. Looking back, it was an awkward exchange. The two girls sitting at the front desk could not find enough change in their drawer for my twenty, so they went into their own wallets to formulate change. They gave me a $10, a $5, and five $1′s for my $20. I handed the girl her tip and off I went.
Now, I’m a little embarrassed to tell you how I discovered that the $5 I received was counterfeit but it also sort of makes the story.
I stopped at the wine store on my corner to buy a few mini bottles of vodka for my trip (expert travel tip: paying $2 for a mini bottle is way cheaper than the $8+ they charge in-flight and those minis meet security requirements. Great, now I sound like a drunk). When I went to pay, I handed the cashier a $5 and two $1′s. He handed the $5 back to me and said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t take this; it’s fake.” Ummm, WHAT!
He took out one of those little highlighter pens to demonstrate for me that, because the pen mark stayed brown and did not turn yellow, I was indeed stuck with a phony five. Flustered and confused, I gave him a $10, got my change, went home, and promptly called the nail salon to complain.
After much argument and a mention of the police, she agreed to give me a new $5 but the place is like a 15 minute subway ride and, let’s get real, I guess it’s really just not worth the hassle over $5. I resigned to eat the loss.
UNTIL! A few hours later, while I was packing, I noticed that I didn’t have my singles. Amid all the confusion over the fake, the guy at the wine store forgot to give me my singles.
So this morning I stopped across the street on my way to work, explained the situation to the cashier, and they would not give me the $2. They assured me that their registers had checked out at the end of the day and basically insinuated I was lying. I know it’s only $2, but I go there all the time and thought they would have a little faith in me and know a little something about that thing called customer service. Instead, she said to me: “we are a business, which means they can’t just hand out money to anyone.” No need for the attitude, lady.
The bank was my next stop. I figured I’d suck up the $5 loss+ $2 loss=$7 loss and turn in that damn five and just get it out of my life. Plus, I wouldn’t want to screw anyone else with it.
The lady at the bank patiently listened to my story, took one look at the bill, and laughed. It’s a $5 bill from 1950. It’s not fake, it’s just old.
Since I was in full monster mode and can’t just leave anything be, I marched right back to the liquor store to tell them that my money was indeed real and that, because of their overly scrutinizing cashier, I was all anxiety-ridden about having a fake bill, was now out $2, AND they insinuated I was a liar.
I’m certain that they think I’m the lunatic, but I think they are the crazy ones. Seriously guy at the register? I’m gonna give you a fake $5 (that’s not fake at all) and then try to finagle an extra $2 out of you even when it turns out the questionable bill was not questionable at all? I think not.
I may be out $2, but at least I’m on my way to Arizona curing my headache with my mini bottles of Voli and these delicious no-bake oatmeal raisin bites with no hamburger in sight (okay, maybe only because there isn’t a Burger King in my terminal).
Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!!
P.S. I am not a lunatic–I am just very, very stubborn. What can I say, it’s the Taurus in me?Pin It
Thanks to two of my lovely “blends” (for those of you not down with the lingo—that’s blog friends. Blends.) Carol and Alissa, I’ve been on a serious smoothie kick for the past three weeks and there’s no end in sight. The Green Pina Colada Smoothie and the Thin Mint Smoothie had me hooked. Can you blame me?
I really look forward to my morning smoothie for a few reasons: they are easy to make, they taste absolutely divine, they keep me full for hours, and I sneak in an extra serving of greens without even tasting it.
Yes, you can trust me on that last one.
I was always fairly certain that everyone was lying right to my face when they said “I swear you can’t taste the [insert green vegetable that does not belong in my smoothie here].” But, what do you know? Turns out they were right and I was wrong. Stranger things have happened.
Though Carol and Alissa’s versions of the green smoothie were on the menu most mornings, I did experiment with a few other flavors. This being my favorite:
My banana oat green smoothie is inspired by a smoothie that they sell at one of the stores on my boycott list, Bocca. It’s a good smoothie, but the only exception to my Bocca boycott is a bagel and a diet soda. And that only happens when I’ve quite possibly had one too many adult beverages the night before and cannot live without a bagel with cream cheese (the origin of the boycott, btw. Who puts only a skid mark of cream cheese on the bagel and then charges you an arm and a leg when you ask for a little more? Not cool.) and a diet soda.
Anyway, the original smoothie has banana, granola, honey, and non-fat frozen yogurt. All bias aside (ha!) mine is better for a few reasons: I do not have to give $4.50 to a store I do not like for a single smoothie, mine has less calories, and mine sneaks in that extra serving of veggies.Pin It
Ok, you guys: Can I complain for just a minute? Technically speaking, spring has finally arrived. I say technically, because I’m calling bluff. Spring has not sprung, at least in these parts. It is currently 37 degrees, which is bad enough but then weather.com has to go ahead and tell me that, with the wind chill, it feels like 29 degrees. Oh, and it snowed this morning. And we are expecting more snow on Tuesday. It’s March, people. What is this, the Arctic circle?
Luckily, I’m headed to sunnier parts exactly one week from today. I’ll be spending Easter weekend in (hopefully) sunny Scottsdale, Arizona where the temperature is a very desirable 80 degrees. Bring on that vitamin D!
In the meantime, I’ll begrudgingly put on my puffy coat, my earmuffs, and my mittens and drag myself to work in the very chilly wind and snow.
At least I have this warm, comforting and extremely delicious bowl of chili to look forward to when I get home.
Chili is a tough thing to make look pretty, but it really is so darn tasty. Can you agree to believe me if this photo isn’t doing it justice? Okay, good.
I know I have a few vegetarian readers out there and, as I was walking to work, I was thinking about how I’ve had a lot of carnivorous recipes lately. Well, it dawned on me that I should suggest you all make this chili with sweet potatoes in place of the ground turkey and add kidney beans and extra bell peppers. I already know the beans and the bell pepper taste mighty good in this chili, but something tells me sweet potato would be extra delicious paired with the smoky chipotle flavor. Just a thought.
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 large bell pepper, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 1 (32-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
- 2 chipotle chilis (in adobo sauce), finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons adobo sauce
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- ½ 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
- ½ 15-ounce can corn, drained
- Heat olive oil in a large pot. Saute onions and bell pepper until onions are translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Saute about 1 minute until garlic is fragrant, being careful not to burn.
- Add ground turkey and cook approximately 8 minutes, until cooked through.
- Stir in diced tomatoes, chipotle chilis, adobo sauce, chili powder, and cumin. Simmer for 15 minutes until mixture begins to thicken slightly, stirring occasionally. Add chickpeas, black beans, and corn and simmer 5 more minutes.
I used this past weekend as a bit of a rest weekend to fully recuperate from last week’s flu and to just do some low-key stuff that makes me a happy girl.
Friday after work I rushed to the gym, where I spent a quick 45 minutes running on the treadmill, then hopped in the shower and ran to happy hour to meet my friend Erin. A buffalo chicken quesadilla and two beers later, I had most certainly negated my entire workout and was totally ready for bed.
Saturday morning I was up bright and early for a total body conditioning class at the gym. Now I remember why I’m not usually a fan of group exercise classes! Has anyone else felt utterly lost and stupid the first time they stepped foot in a class at the gym? Oy vey.
I only managed to get to class a few minutes before it started, so yours truly—the newbie—was stuck front and center. Now, either I’m not very coordinated or there are just a few moves that will take some getting used to, because there were definitely a couple times where I’d try, realize I was doing it totally wrong, and helplessly look around the room to watch others and figure it out (my main problem: I apparently have a hard time figuring out left from right. It’s hard when you’re trying to look in the mirror!). At one point the instructor even lost count, because he was trying to help me figure it out. How humiliating!
It mustn’t have been too scaring, because I am going to attend a 30 minutes abs class tonight, and I plan on going back to total body conditioning tomorrow night. I’m just trying to swallow my pride and stick with it, so I can hopefully get the hang of it. The workout was too good to give up on. I’ve been thoroughly sore for two days!
Even though I learned that total body conditioning might not be my strong suit (yet!), making delicious meatballs certainly is.
Once I started feeling better last week and felt I could transition away from chicken noodle soup and Gatorade, I used some leftover ground turkey to make myself some meatballs.
I’ve got a TON of spinach in the house (thanks to a green smoothie train I’ve been on) and I always have garlic on hand, so I thought some spinach and roasted garlic meatballs would be the perfect way to make a meal out of pantry staples. I was 100 percent correct. I chowed down on these for the remainder of the week, and was so sad to see them go. They are light, but packed with plenty of flavor and they are absolutely delicious on a bed of spaghetti and marinara sauce.
- 1 head roasted garlic
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ½ pound lean ground turkey
- 1 cup chopped baby spinach
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- ¼ cup shredded parmesan
- ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400F. Cut top ⅓ off of the garlic head in a straight line across and drizzle with the olive oil. Wrap loosely in foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, until soft. Let cool.
- Combine turkey, spinach, egg, parmesan, salt, and pepper. Squeeze garlic out of the heads and into the bowl. Mix until all ingredients are fully combined.
- Roll 1 heaping tablespoon of the mixture into a meatball. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until cooked through, approximately 30 minutes.
Once upon a time 2013 began. January was a whirlwind of fun, fun, fun. There were lots of nights spent with friends and was generally smiles all around. Hence little to no posts.
Then February rolled around and it all came to a screeching halt. The weekends were still jam-packed with things to do, but it was generally a drearier month with not much going on. I used the time to get back into the gym, which was key for me. Just yesterday, I wanted to go to the gym but felt that I should give myself one more day to recuperate from the flu. Well, never in my life would I have thought I’d see the day when not being able to go to the gym was a disappointment in my eyes.
You guys: I have totally been converted. I can say without fibbing whatsoever that I have been to the gym four times each week (some weeks five times) ever since the very first week in February. That means I’m on my sixth week! Can you tell I’m proud of myself?
But this little story isn’t just to toot my own horn for developing a healthy habit and finding the time to work out, it’s about February and that wonderful month. During the month of February I literally ate this chickpea and kale curry no less than a dozen times. I also made it a habit to eat quinoa “fried rice” no less than a dozen times. So, yeah, you do the math. I rotated two dinners for the better part of the month of February. Like I said earlier, dreary!
That being said, at least this chickpea and kale curry is a real winner. Despite eating this all. month. long, I still found myself craving it last week. What can I say? It’s really tasty and really easy to whip up. Plus, there’s plenty of nutrients packed into this weeknight meal. Any way you look at it, it’s a winning meal that I’ll happily sit down to any night.
P.S. This meal is originally a slow-cooker recipe from My Recipes but, honestly, I just don’t see the point in slow-cooking this. It’s super delicious on the stovetop in just 20 minutes, and I have a hard time believing canned chickpeas wouldn’t get kind of soggy in the slow-cooker for 6-8 hours?!
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 (19-ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 2 (14.5-ounce) cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 (13.5-ounce) can light coconut milk
- 1 tablespoons hot curry powder
- 1 tablespoon garam masala (optional)
- 2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeño peppers
- 2 cups ripped kale
- Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion saute until onions are tender and transparent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic add saute 1 minute until fragrant, being careful not to burn the garlic.
- Add chickpeas, tomatoes (with juice), coconut milk, curry powder, garam masala (if using), and pickled jalapenos to the skillet.Stir ingredients together and bring to a simmer. Cook for approximately 10 minutes until flavor is developed and the mixture has thickened slightly, stirring occasionally. Stir in kale. Continue stirring until wilted, approximately 5 minutes. Serve over couscous, quinoa, or rice.
I have some good news and some bad news. First, the bad.
This girl is home sick with the flu today, and oh. my. gosh. this thing really took the wind out of me. Fever, aches, upset stomach, you name it.
I’m lucky enough to be camping out at my grandparent’s cozy apartment until I feel better, and I’ve got an arsenal of products from the drugstore to (hopefully) help speed up that process.
Now, for the good news: I have an incredibly delicious recipe to share with you all today.
Last week Alysha made a cranberry swirl bread and mentioned that she was on the hunt for a cinnamon raisin swirl bread. I’ve never been a big fan of raisins, but for some reason I couldn’t get it out of my head.
I had all the ingredients on hand, so I found this recipe on The Kitchn and got to work while watching Sarah’s Key on Friday night (a great movie and even better book, by the way!).
Before the bread was even done, I knew it was going to be good based on the smell coming from my oven. So sweet and delicious.
Once the bread was finished and cooled, we dug in. The result was a perfectly moist and slightly sweet bread with a nice ratio of perfectly plump raisins.
Even though the bread was fairly time consuming to make, it was so worth the effort. I snacked on the bread all weekend and had finished the entire loaf by Sunday morning!
- For the bread:
- ½ cup raisins
- 1.5 teaspoons active dry yeast
- ½ cup skim milk
- ⅛ cup unsalted butter, melted
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2¾ cups all-purpose flour
- For the filling:
- ¼ cup granulated white sugar
- 2¼ teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 large egg beaten with 2 teaspoons warm water
- Put the raisins in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Let plump for at least 10 minutes. Drain and set aside, reserving the water.
- Pour ½ cup of the drained raisin water into the bowl of a standing mixer or large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over top. Let sit a few minutes, then stir to fully dissolve the yeast into the water.
- Stir the milk, butter, and salt into the water. Add the flour and stir to form a shaggy dough. Knead in your mixer on low speed with a dough hook or knead by hand for 8-10 minutes to form a smooth, slightly tacky dough. If the dough is still very sticky (think: bubble gum), add a ¼ cup additional flour. The dough is ready when it forms a ball without sagging and quickly springs back when poked.
- Toss the raisins with a few tablespoons of flour to absorb any residual moisture. With the mixer on gradually add them to the bowl and continue kneading until they are evenly distributed. (If kneading by hand, turn the dough out onto your work surface and pat it into an oval. Sprinkled about half the raisins over the top and fold the dough like a letter. Pat it into an oval again, sprinkle the remaining raisins, and fold it again. Knead the dough by hand for a few minutes to distribute the raisins through the dough.
- Return the dough to the bowl and cover. Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about an hour. Meanwhile, combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and beat together the egg and water in a second bowl.
- Roll the dough out on the counter. It should be slightly less wide than your baking pan and as long as you can make it.
- Brush the entire surface of the dough with egg wash, leaving about two inches clear at the top. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon and sugar. Starting at the end closest to you, tightly roll up the dough. When you get to the top, pinch the seam closed. Transfer the loaf to your loaf pan seam-side down.
- Let the loaf rise until mounded over the top of the pan and pillowy, 30-40 minutes. Halfway through rising, preheat the oven to 375° F.
- Brush the top with some of the remaining egg wash. Sprinkle any remaining cinnamon-sugar over the top of the loaf. Bake for 40 minutes until golden brown.
- Remove the loaf from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.