Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Food Tuesday: Three Bean Chili and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Winter makes me want warm, comforting, hearty meals. Rather than going for soup, this week, I opted for chili. The meal was exactly what I needed. Delicious. As for the grilled cheese on the side, I can only explain it by saying I really wanted one. While cooking, do you really need another reason? Also, before you say it, I know grilled cheese sandwiches are a bit of a cheat (ok, a full-on cheat) but it's literally 1 degree outside and I just don't care. Bring on the comfort food!

Three Bean Chili*

2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used avocado oil)
1 bell pepper, chopped (I used yellow)
1 small onion, chopped (I used 1/2 a large red onion)
1 small jalapeno, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
1 can (15.5 oz.) chickpeas, rinsed
1 can (15.5 oz.) black beans, rinsed
1 can (15.5 oz.) pinto beans, rinsed (I used small red kidney beans)
1/4 cup sour cream
Chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 avocado, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium. Add the bell pepper, onion, jalapeno and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables soften about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste, chili powder and cumin. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium.Simmer, stirring occasionally until the chili thickens (20-25 minutes). Season to taste. Garnish with sour cream and cilantro. (I opted for avocado over sour cream)

Grilled Cheese**
4 slices hearty bread of choice (I used oatmeal bread)
4 slices Muenster cheese
4 slice Havarti cheese

Heat a griddle or a large cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Place two slices of bread on a clean work surface and place 2 slices of each type of cheese on each slice. Top with remaining bread slices pressing gently to adhere. Generously butter both sides of each sandwich, spreading it all the way tot the edges.  Place sandwiches on the griddle or skillet and cook until golden brown on each side and the cheese has completely melted, 3 to 4 minutes per side and the cheese has completely melted, 3 to 4 minutes per side, turning once. Before removing from griddle, flip sandwiches to reheat first side, about 15 seconds. Cut each sandwich diagonally in half. Serve immediately with a bowl of chili.

* Chili recipe from Every Day with Rachel Ray.
**Grilled cheese technique from Martha Stewart Living.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Monday Quotable

I'm working on a lot of things this year. Facing fears is one of them. Conquering procrastination is another. This past weekend, the two came together as I walked into an improv class (that I finally booked after first talking about it over a year ago) and pushed my inner shy girl out of the way. I had the BEST time. Ash and Robyn took the class with me and now all of us are talking about doing a 10 week course with--get this--a live show at the end. 

I don't suffer from crippling shyness. I speak in public all the time. I've even hosted a few charity events. I took a public speaking in college to get past the cotton mouth/hands trembling phase. That said, I still get butterflies in my stomach every time. And don't even get me started on networking. I can make small talk with the best of them but I can't initiate the conversation...and I always need a glass of wine. And (pardon my grammar) ain't nobody got time for that--especially for where I want to take Nicole's Curated Life this year. 

For me, perhaps it is a little more fear of putting myself out "there" that shyness at this stage. Either way, I am facing the fear and I'm doing it as quickly as possible (to knock those procrastination demons out of the way). Next month, I have to find something new to get outside of my fear box. Rappelling class anyone?? 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Playlist

Back in the day, when I used to upload my Friday Playlists using Grooveshark, I'd browse through hundreds of songs a week looking to expand my own music catalogue. In the process, I found some great artists that I've continued to be excited about. Laura Mvula is one such artist. From the time I heard Green Garden, I knew I'd love her music. If you haven't heard of her, she is a British soul-singer and (lucky you!) you cab get her debut album, Sing to the Moon right here.

In doing my research on her, I discovered that she has been singing professionally for about 10 years (and I am sure she was signing long before that) with various groups. In 2005, she was with Black Voices, an a cappella group started by her aunt. In 2008, she formed her won jazz/neo-soul group called Judyshouse. She wrote and sang for the band. She also directed a choir founded by Black Voices. In 2012, she started sending out demos and found a manager as a result. He debut album was released to critical acclaim in 2013 and she's won several awards over the last two years. In 2014, she released an orchestral version of Sing to the Moon.

She says her influences include Jill Scott, Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill. I totally see why I like her so much. I can't wait to hear more from her. Until then, the songs on today's playlist will have to do. You can check out her VEVO channel for some behind the scenes footage as well. Enjoy! Happy Friday!!


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Living the Veg Life

Since I've been on a clean eating kick (minus that ever-so-delicious slice of cake I had last night) since the start of the year. I read a lot of articles about the health benefits of eating well. For instance today, I did research on the benefits of garlic. I constantly use it in cooking but didn't realize it was a superfood (I know! Shame, shame). The point is to learn new things everyday and try to tailor your eating towards healing, whole foods. 

When I saw the Health Perch article below, I decided it was worth sharing as a good primer for those considering becoming vegetarian. Even if you just do a Meatless Monday every week, it provides some tips and recipes. Original article here. Enjoy! 

Insight From Our Favorite Vegetarian Bloggers

The most recent research on our country’s eating habits found nearly half the U.S. population eats at least one vegetarian meal per week, but only four percent maintains a vegetarian or vegan diet all the time. While there are benefits to eating meat on occasion, countless studies point to the many health benefits of vegetarian and vegan diets. Research suggests those who avoid meat have a lower risk of obesity, hypertension, type-2 diabetes, heart disease, and multiple cancers. But let’s be honest: Salad for every meal doesn’t sound so appetizing. We reached out to our favorite vegetarian bloggers to see how they cook up new and innovative dishes and what inspired them to chose a mostly plant-based lifestyle. They were also kind enough to send along their favorite fall recipes—all vegetarian and all tasty.

Veggie Mama

Stacey Roberts eats, reads, travels, picks up endless LEGO, and blogs about all of it. Check out more from Stacey here.
You’ve said on your blog that you’re not a big fan of tofu. Would you eat it if it was slathered with BBQ sauce, or is it a no-go?
Oh I’ll eat just about anything slathered in BBQ sauce! In fact, one of my earliest recipes I posted was tofu in a glorious smoky BBQ sauce. DELICIOUS. I’ve evolved to love tofu a little bit, but it’s got to be done right.
Have you ever had to deal with backlash for your choice to live a vegetarian lifestyle?
Not necessarily backlash, but I’ve had (more than) my fair share of meat jokes and silly comments. It’s half a part of Australian culture, where we gently make fun of people and don’t take ourselves too seriously, and half people feeling a bit threatened and defensive about their own choices.
Any tips for those looking to transition into a vegetarian lifestyle?
My only tip is to do it the way you know you’ll be comfortable with and will be able to sustain. If that’s going cold turkey, excellent. If it’s doing it gradually, excellent. Find lots of great recipes online or in books, find a buddy to do it with, and if you slip up, then just try again.

My New Roots

A holistic nutritionist and chef, Sarah Britton (BFA, CNP) is the creative force behind MY NEW ROOTS, the award-winning food blog which features original recipes that taste great, look beautiful, and boast incredible health benefits. A Certified Nutritional Practitioner, Sarah is the founder of New Roots Holistic Nutrition. The goal of New Roots is to educate others to be an active participant in their own health and healing. Sarah’s debut cookbookis available for preorder. Check out more from Sarah here.
Why are you so passionate about plant-based food?
Eating a plant-based diet has so dramatically changed the way I feel, for the better—I have more energy, clarity of mind, and most importantly, connection to the earth. There is also a noticeable peace and calm that comes with eating this way. The body is strong and the mind is at ease.
You describe yourself as a “whole food lover.” What does this mean to you?
I try to avoid any foods that have been radically transformed from their original state. Short of that, if I know that I can’t make it at home in my kitchen (yogurt, pickles, nut milk, granola, etc.), then I probably wouldn’t eat it. Whole foods are perfect little packages of nutrition, so much more than the sum of their vitamins and minerals. When we begin taking apart foods to prolong shelf life, increase or decrease macronutrients, and alter the taste, we really do dismantle the delicate life force and balance of elements that are synergistically linked for our own benefit.
What would be your top tips to someone who wants to eat healthier but has no idea where to start?
Starting small is very important. Many people feel the need to overhaul their diet in a day, and this is simply unrealistic. Swapping processed foods for whole foods (quinoa for white rice for example) is a great way to start because you will notice a difference in how you feel right away. But I always say the three things you can do to change your health dramatically without visiting the health food store are chew your food, drink more water, and think happy thoughts.
Favorite fall recipe: Beet and Black Lentil Borscht

Veggie Num Num

Trudy Slabosz is the creator of the vegetarian blog Veggie Num Num. A vegetarian for more than 15 years, she has a passion for healthy vegetarian food and creating veggie meals everyone can enjoy. Vegetarianism has had a profoundly positive effect on her life and her aim is to share just how easy, healthy, and delicious being a vegetarian can be. She lives and cooks in South-east Queensland, Australia, with her husband, their daughter, and the fat tabby cat Ludo. Check out more from Trudy here.
You’ve been a vegetarian for more than a decade. What encouraged you to ditch the meat?
For me, the choice to be vegetarian was quite a sudden decision. As a kid I was fortunate to have a mum who frequently cooked amazing veggie meals, but even so, I never really contemplated becoming vegetarian until my early adult years. Quite simply, I had an abrupt realization that I no longer wanted to eat meat because I no longer wanted eat animals. It’s a decision I’ve never regretted and one that’s filled my life with many positives!
How does vegetarianism positively influence your life as a whole?
Being vegetarian makes me happy in so many ways. It’s encouraged me to be a conscious eater—not only conscious of where the food on my plate comes from but how nutritious and wholesome it is. I’ve learned so much over the years about choosing natural whole foods full of all the good stuff our bodies need to be healthy and strong. It’s changed the way I look at food, eating, and living a healthy and conscious life. It has taught me the positive repercussions of staying true to your beliefs and how making your own choices and sticking to them can be incredibly empowering.
What happens if you do slip up and eat a not-so-healthy treat? Do you choose to share it on your blog?
There can’t be anything wrong with the occasional indulgence. Life is to be enjoyed and food is so incredibly enjoyable. I love to eat cakes and biscuits and I’ve been know to share the odd cake or cookie recipe on Veggie Num Num too.
Favorite fall recipe: Vegan Gluten-Free Pumpkin Muffins

The Messy Vegetarian Cook

Kip Dorrell is a self-confessed messy cook with a penchant for vegan food and travel. When she’s not making a mess in her home kitchen, you can find her in a far-flung corner of the globe seeking local recipes to veganize. Check out more from Kip here.
You moved from Maryland to London. How has the location change affected the way you cook?
Before I moved to the UK I had no knowledge of cooking beyond opening a packet and putting it in the microwave, a habit that carried me through my first couple of years abroad. The way I interacted with food changed not as a result of my move, but in a single moment upon eating tofu at a vegan restaurant in Beijing.
Prior to then I hated bean curd, but that meal changed my entire outlook on food. I vowed to learn to make my own tofu (and I did), and in that pivotal moment my relationship with food changed to the extent that I wanted to be more than a consumer of my meals. Instead I began to crave both participation in the preparation and an understanding of the process.
Your goal is to make food delicious despite the lack of meat or a major focus on weight loss. What are the main factors you look for when creating a meal?
I’m neither a health expert nor a nutritionist, and I also dislike the body-shaming tactics that often go along with focusing on weight loss in any lifestyle. I seek balance when I’m preparing my meals. I don’t restrict myself from eating any particular food and I eat a wide enough variety that I can easily go a month without repeating a meal. I also don’t mind if I gain a few pounds here and there.
Balance to me also extends beyond a meal tasting good. I am heavily influenced by Thai cooking, a style in which flavor, texture, and contrast are appreciated equally. If I’ve prepared a crunchy deep fried dish, for instance, I’ll eat it alongside a light and refreshing soup and rice. An extremely salty dish will be accompanied by a bland dish. Condiments like fried garlic and peanuts are always present to add texture.
What helped you choose to live a vegetarian lifestyle?
When I was 12 I met a friend who didn’t eat red meat, and that was my introduction to the idea of eschewing a given food. Soon thereafter, my parents took me to an open day at the Maryland Department of Agriculture, where I was given a sample of fish to eat. As I chewed, I turned to look at the aquarium behind me, put two and two together, spit the fish out, and that was the end of all meat for me. Eighteen years later, I became vegan.

Veggie Madness

Lukas Volger is the founder of Made by Lukas, a New York based company that makes fresh, ready-to-shape veggie burger mixes. He’s also the author of Veggie Burgers Every Which Way, Vegetarian Entrees that Won’t Leave You Hungry and the digital quarterly, Feast by Lukas. He lives in Brooklyn. Check out more from Lukas here.
You take a whole-foods approach to vegetarianism. What does that mean for you?

For me this means eating lots of different vegetables and fruits, paired with whole grains, beans and pulses, and organic eggs and dairy. On occasion I eat fish and meat, and when I do it’s carefully sourced, but that’s a rare, special occasion thing. For the past several years I’ve been careful to avoid over-processed foods, those that are loaded with preservatives and stabilizers and other additives. I’m sort of a DIY cook—I like to make most things myself.

You have your own line of veggie burgers without tofu. What types of ingredients do you use instead for a balanced burger?
I like tofu, but my Made by Lukas veggie burger mixes are “all about the vegetables” (that’s our tagline!). They’re comprised of 80 percent fresh, locally sourced vegetables, and the remaining 20 percent of the ingredients are quinoa, spices, and seeds. Our flavors (kale, carrot-parsnip, and beet) reinforce this concept. I really love vegetables, so developing a veggie burger that tastes like delicious vegetables—as opposed to one that aims to replicate a meat burger in taste and texture—was right up my alley.
What helped you choose to live a vegetarian lifestyle?
I feel better when I eat this way and I find it’s an affordable way to eat really well. And of course there are terrific environmental consequences to reducing our collective meat consumption, though I do think it’s important to eat diversely and seasonally, even if following a vegan or vegetarian diet.

Vegetarian Mamma

Cindy Gordon is a foodie who loves to blog about gluten-free vegetarian/vegan recipes. Her family also focuses on foods that are peanu-t, tree nut-, dairy-, and gluten- free. Cindy’s family is dedicated to finding and creating recipes and products that fit the family’s allergy needs. Cindy resides in Ohio with her husband and two boys. She enjoys spending time with her family, the outdoors, gardening, wine, and cooking. Check out more from Cindyhere.
Your family is not only vegetarian, but also follows other strict dietary guidelines due to allergies. What are some of your kitchen staples that work for everyone in your family?
We do not have any peanut or tree nut products in the house. Part of the family also avoids gluten and dairy. Staples for us are foods that are naturally healthy and naturally allergen free. We are always stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables. We love apples, blueberries, bananas, carrots, broccoli, and avocados (just to name a few). We are always well stocked with fresh food.
Other blogs are a big inspiration for you when it comes to mealtime. What nutritional guidelines do you look for or adapt your recipes to fit?
I love finding recipes on other blogs that are healthy but also simple to make. When looking at recipes to adapt, I try to make sure they use common ingredients that I or one of my readers is able to find at a local store. We are all busy. Time in the kitchen should be fun and inspiring. Using simple recipes with healthy simple ingredients makes cooking a breeze! I try to focus our recipes on whole foods and unprocessed foods when I can. While we do enjoy our sweets, I try to limit the intake of sugar and anything artificial in our house.
Do you have any suggestions for others who would like to cut out GMOs and artificial flavors and colors when food shopping?
We are a family of label readers due to all the allergens we need to look out for with our food restrictions. Being a label-reading detective is key! Learn the names of things are you trying to avoid or need to avoid. For example, there are many ways gluten can hide in certain products. We shop at a grocery store that does not allow any products with artificial flavors or colors, so that makes shopping a bit easier.
Favorite Fall Recipe: Broccoli Bean Casserole

Lisa’s Kitchen

Lisa Turner has been a vegetarian for more than 20 years. Her passion for healthy food, with an emphasis on Indian cooking, along with other ethnic dishes, has flourished over the years. Lisa’s Kitchen was started in 2007 to share her passion for cooking and to provide guidance for those also wishing to follow a varied and healthy vegetarian diet with plenty of whole foods, without sacrificing flavor or creativity. Check out more from Lisa here.
You’re an avid spice user—in fact many of your recipes include more than a handful of spices. What are your favorite spices to use?
That’s a tough question to answer because my cupboards are packed full of an array of different herbs and spices. If I had to choose though, I would say turmeric, cumin, coriander, and, of course, cayenne. A good homemade blend of garam masala and chat masala is also a must in my kitchen.
It’s no secret you love legumes. Which is your favorite and what’s your favorite way to use them?
Another tough question, because, again, my pantry has an endless variety of legumes on hand to choose from at any given time. I would have to say chickpeas though as they are perfect in curries. They are also ideal made up into dips such as hummus, and feature perfectly in salads and made up into little koftas or patties. They can also be stuffed into little breads or served up with chutneys and sauces.
Beyond just tasting great, what nutritional benchmarks (if any) do you look for in your meals?
Balance, quality of ingredients, and freshness. Processed foods are avoided.

Veggie Runners

Veggie Runners is a food and fitness blog written by mother and daughter marathon runners, Jayne and Bibi Rodgers. Winner of Best Blog at The Running Awards 2014, it’s full of gourmet recipes for athletes, running tips, and chatty tales of their trials, tribulations, and occasional triumphs in their trainers. Check out more from Jayne and Bibi here.
Running is a huge part of both of your lifestyles. What are some of your favorite vegetarian ways to fuel up before a workout?
For big races, we start carb-loading two days before with interesting grains like quinoa in veggie burgers, or barley in a risotto (we call it barlotto). Some people eat big bowls of pasta, but it’s just too boring for us! Protein is important when you’re training, but it’s really not too difficult to get with a balanced vegetarian diet—even frozen peas contain six grams of protein per serving!
Lot’s of readers look up to you for suggestions and advice for leading a healthy lifestyle. What tips can you share to eat like a healthy food blogger without the blog?
Don’t be afraid to try things out, don’t be intimidated by new ingredients, and be proud of your food choices. If someone is asking about the chia seeds on your salad, or the hemp hearts on your cereal, take it as an opportunity to help other people learn. Not every ingredient will be a winner (I’m still trying to work out how to make the chlorella in my cupboard palatable) but some will. You won’t know how you lived without some ingredients after a while. Can you say coconut oil…?
How do you keep things fresh and avoid eating the same lunch every day?
The key here is in prepping. I [Bibi] often chop up lots of salad vegetables on a Sunday night and keep it in a big bowl, covered. Each day, I portion some off and add something different, such as curried chickpeas, leftover falafels, a boiled egg, or a handful of nuts and seeds. I also always have at least two kinds of homemade soup in the freezer to pull out when I’m having a lazy day and just need something quick. By the end of the week, there’s nothing wrong with a peanut butter sandwich, as long as you have a piece of fruit, too. We’re all about progress, not perfection.
Favorite Fall Recipe: Root Vegetable Barlotto

Amuse Your Bouche 

Becca Pusey is a full-time blogger living in the UK with her new husband and gorgeous pet rat. She spends her days cooking, writing, and washing endless dirty dishes. Her blog, Amuse Your Bouche, is full of simple vegetarian recipes, and she aims to show that vegetarian food doesn’t need to be fiddly, unsatisfying, or lacking in flavor. Check out more from Becca here.
You’re a huge cheese fan. How often do you incorporate cheese, eggs, and other non-plant-based vegetarian foods into your cooking?
I’m not a vegan, so I use cheese and eggs on an almost daily basis, but definitely not for every meal. We eat vegan meals quite often too!
Simplicity is a major tenant of your recipe index. At what point do you drop a recipe because it’s too complicated?
I usually don’t even attempt a recipe if it’s too complicated—spending hours on a fiddly recipe just doesn’t appeal to me at all. I like simple dishes with simple ingredients. As long as you’re using some good flavor combinations, a simple dish is usually just as tasty as something far more complicated.
What are some of your favorite vegetarian protein sources (aside from cheese!)?
I’m obsessed with both chickpeas and black beans—they’re a great way to raise a vegetarian dish from side dish status into a full meal. They’re really filling and they mean that a vegetarian meal can be just as satisfying as a meal full of meat.
Favorite Fall Recipe: Butternut Squash Black Bean Skillet

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Love List

1. Over the holidays, the "yams vs. sweet potatoes" conversation came up and persisted. No, my family is not full of agriculturalists and we are a lot more exciting than it appears. The issue was with candied yams and sweet potato pie. Did I mention my family is Southern...yeah, both dishes are always on the Thanksgiving table. Anyway, Ash and I had been dealing with Sweet Potato-gate in NY (total absence of sweet potatoes for months in our 3 local grocery stores) but we'd seen individually wrapped "yams" that looked just like our normal sweet potatoes. So we bought them and surprise, surprise--their "yams" were indeed sweet potatoes. When it came up over Thanksgiving, my mom and brother in law broke it down and then I found this article while surfing the web weeks later. That and a lot of other kitchen mistakes are here. Sheesh, that was a blabbering mouthful. (The Kitchn)

2. The Rubik's Cube is meant to challenge you and keep you busy for hours but at some point, if you can't solve it, you just want to know how. You're welcome. (Rubik Solve)

3. Want to know U.S. drinking trends by region? It's totally useless information (unless you're planning to open a bar) but I thought it was pretty interesting. (Vinepair)

4. Sweat is empowering...I don't know about you but this video is good gym inspiration for me. I'll take all I can get!! (Greatist)

5. I'm all for a good detox drink and Olivia of LoveHealthFitness quite a few. The lemon, turmeric, ACV, honey, cayenne tea (sounds delish, right) is my current fave. Seriously though, I know it sounds a bit odd if you're not used to combining the flavors but I love it and appreciate all of the benefits it provides. (YouTube-LoveHealthFitness)

6. Turmeric, in general, has great healing properties and health benefits. Read more about what it can do for your skin here. (Marie Claire)

7. Hey cronut lover, meet the Bruffin and fulfill your every sweet or savory pastry dream. Hello new cheat day guilty pleasure--and good news, they ship! (Bruffin Store)

8. Alexandra "Alex" Scott was diagnosed with neuroblastoma (a type of childhood cancer) shortly before her first birthday. From the time she was a child, she had a goal to eradicate childhood cancer. She started a lemonade stand and wanted to give money to doctors to allow them to help other kids like her. She ended up raising $2,000. Unfortunately, Alex passed away in 2004 at age 8 having raised more than $1 million to help find a cure for cancer. Today, her legacy lives on through Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation. Check out the foundation and give a little or a lot! We all know someone effected by cancer. (ALSF)

9. Task Rabbit functions off of the notion that we all need a little help sometimes. Whether you need cleaning, organizing, assembling furniture, or moving help, they are there. Read more here. (Task Rabbit)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Food Tuesday: Grain Salad and Roasted Radishes

When I think of radishes, I don't think of dinner. I think about the two lonely slices of radish that appear to be in every bag of iceberg based salad in the supermarket. They're not exactly on my list of go to ingredients for dinner. Even so, my curiosity was peaked while watching The Kitchen a couple of weeks ago. Sunny turned the group on to roasted radishes as a side dish and since I love roasted vegetables, I thought I'd give them a try. I totally found a new fave. I paired them with a grain salad (think pasta salad but with whole grains) that I was inspired to make after having a pre-packaged product. * It made for a light but filling dinner. Give it a try and let me know what you think! Recipes below.

Grain Salad
1 cup red quinoa, cooked
1 cup brown rice, cooked
1/4 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
1/4 cup sliced almonds  (I like these)
2 sun-dried tomato halves
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste (for grains--taste after dressing is added)
1 teaspoon flat leaf parsley, chopped fine

Cook quinoa and rice in salted water according to package instructions. Take a cup of each and rinse with cold water. Set aside to continue cooling while you mix your dressing. For dressing**, in a saucepan simmer the sun-dried tomatoes in 2 inches of water for 3 minutes, or until they are tender, drain them and mince them, In a bowl whisk together the tomatoes, both kinds of vinegar and the garlic. Whisk until well combined. Next, while continuing to whisk, add stream in the oil until the dressing is emulsified (oil and vinegar are combined and not separating).. Stir in the basil. Add grains into the bowl and fold until all of the dressing is absorbed and evenly distributed through the grains. Add the roasted peppers and almonds. Stir. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. Top with parsley before serving.**

Roasted Radishes***

8 ounces radishes
2 tablespoons, olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lemon, juiced

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Halve or quarter the radishes and place them in a bowl. Toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the radishes to the prepared baking and bake until tender and a little golden, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle the lemon juice on top and serve immediately.

* The product I tried was Betty Crocker Suddenly Salad Grain Salad. They make a few different flavors and it is a great product in a pinch. You can learn more about them here.

** Salad dressing recipe courtesy of Epicurious.

**Recipe courtesy of Food Network.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Monday Quotable

If you celebrate, I hope you had a lovely Valentine's Day. I often find the holiday (and I'm stretching to call the Hallmark marketing ploy a holiday, but I digress) too ripe with expectation. There is too much tied to cards, flowers and chocolates and not enough tied to the point--LOVE.

Ash and I had our first date on February 12 so we usually do something to celebrate that day instead of Valentine's Day. I'll admit there's usually a pancake breakfast in bed and a fancy at-home dinner in front of a movie on the actual day (Ash handles breakfast and I handle dinner) but neither of us is wedded to it. For instance, this year, I was sick. I wanted nothing more than to bundle up with some junk food and watch TV and though there were some "I can rally" detours in between, that is how we ended the night. It may not sound like a romantic night for some but for us, it was awesome--though I am sure Ash could have done without my sniffels and coughing.

That's just the point of today's quote. People put a lot of stock in romantic love at this time of year. In reality, your world shouldn't stop just because you're single nor should it stop because of a Valentine's Day flop. It's just a day, people...a Hallmark holiday at that. The world keeps turning without roses, cards and overpriced chocolate. Hell, it keeps turning no matter what. It's up to you to find love that helps you enjoy life's ride--and it should start with love for yourself. You should choose to honor that love before everything else. You are love personified whether you see it or not. It's time to embrace that.

Once, you're there, make a plan to celebrate love every day. And when Valentine's Day rolls around, honor the place you're in. Whether it's a pampering day for yourself, a party with your single friends (which by the way, is what I did the year I met Ash--he even helped me shop for the food on the night of our first date) or a fancy, expensive night out on the town with your S.O., something is out there to make life's ride a hell of a lot more fun. Get on board!! And if all else fails, and you think Valentine's Day is actually worth a pity party, go buy the best damn chocolate you can afford, pour a (heart healthy) glass of wine and enjoy some time with yourself!  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Take a Moment...

My blog is supposed to be about a life well-lived and all of the tings that create that…for me anyway. Yet, I’ve totally put myself on a self-care hold. I am last on my list when it comes to taking care of people and things. A couple of years ago, one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to stop putting myself last. I did for a time but I am falling back off the self-care wagon. I read an article on Huffington Post last year that talked about the signs you’re pushing yourself too hard. They are:

Five Signs You Are Pushing Yourself Too Hard

You feel crabby. You get cranky on the outside because you feel so much pressure on the inside. Crabbiness is a sign that your soul is starving for play and pleasure.

You forget all you have accomplished and only see what you haven't yet done. You get more done in a day than most people, yet you rarely feel a real sense of accomplishment (for more than a few minutes anyway). You are always on to the next chore, to do, achievement, so there's not time for rest or celebration.

You put your self-care on hold. You want to go to that afternoon yoga class, eat healthier, get to bed earlier, but it never happens. You keep telling yourself that you will eat better, go to the gym, get more sleep when you are not so busy (but you are always busy!).

You cancel plans because you are too "busy." Busy with work, with kids or with whatever project has currently got you embroiled, you cancel plans to do things for fun, you show up late, or you often have to say "No, I can't I'm too busy."

You sleep with your electronics... when you sleep. You have a hard time "turning it off" -- your mind, your phone, your email. You go to bed looking at your email or Facebook, and you wake up checking your online connection before you connect with yourself (admit it, you are checking your email before you pee!).

I fall into all five categories. I am managing to meditate daily (it’s one of this month’s goals) but friends, let me tell ya—IT IS NOT HELPING. I think my mind is too busy.  I decided to look into ways to jump off the hamster wheel for a bit. Then, I decided to make it a post because taking care of yourself is pretty much critical to a life well lived.

Take a walk. Stop whatever you’re doing and take a walk away from your work. It could be a walk to the bathroom but if you can manage more than that, all the better. Give yourself a mental pep talk along the way.  YOU’RE AWESOME! YOU’VE GOT THIS (whatever your “this” may be, you’ll get through it without nailing your own ass to the wall)!

Call a friend. I know it sounds like a save from a TV game show but it’s really a stress reliever. Sometimes just getting lost in a good conversation can make you feel a million times better. Plus, if you’re pushing yourself too hard, you probably owe your friends some time. If you can, make it a talk over coffee/cocktails or dinner.

Reconnect with your significant other. Chances are you’ve pushed them to the side to handle all the stuff that’s keeping you busy/stressing you out. Take out time for love and romance.
Breathe! My heart was beating a million miles a minute the other day. I was under a deadline and it felt like it might beat out of my chest. I’m talking 120 bpm while sitting and typing. I was able to right myself with some deep breaths and a moment away from the e-mail yelling back at me. It really helped.

Go get a massage…or ask your significant other for one. Just releasing the tension in your stress zones can do a world of good.

Dance it out. Fans of Grey’s Anatomy know the power of the dance (unless you’ve got a cool steam valve waiting in your basement (Christina and Owen style). Ok, now that I’ve completely alienated all the non-Grey’s fans, let me get back on track. Some stress calls for cranking up your favorite songs and dancing around like no one is watching.

Exercise. This is a tough one for me because stress makes me want to lay down, not run a 5K. That said, I do feel better after a good sweat session at the gym—even if it’s just because I’m proud of myself for going.

Journal. Write down all the things troubling you then tear them up/burn them. Release them. Then, take a moment to write down everything you’re grateful for/blessed with. You may even want to write down situations that you got through despite not thinking you could. Sometimes, that’s a great reminder of just how much of a rockstar you are.

Pray/Meditate. When you can’t lean on yourself, lean on a higher power.

What do you do to decompress? All tips welcome. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Monday Quotable

What a whirlwind the last two weeks have been…and now, I am sick. Between work coming at me with a vengeance , the weather taking another icy turn for the worse and social gatherings, I am worn out BUT we are on this fabulous life change train for better or worse and I’m planning to enjoy the ride.  

So, let’s get into this post. Today’s quotable is short and simple  and it also explains why I’ve been M.I.A. for two weeks. You wanna know what else this multitasking quotable does? It reminds me that if this blog is going to be a priority, I’ve got to beef up my reserve of content so posts keep coming even when I’m falling apart. It’s tough though. I kinda like to write about my life as it happens…but I’m working on doing both. I’m also working on a ton of other stuff aimed at living my version of a good life. See last month’s resolution post here.
So, I gotta say, the first month of the year went pretty great goals wise. Let’s take them one by one.

1.Eat clean, whole foods; complete one three-day juice cleanse—I completed a cleanse and got back to eating foods that aren’t battered, smothered and covered (except for one bout with vegetarian chicken and waffles, but I’ll get there). I ate well 95% of the time and cut alcohol consumption way (WAY) down. By month end, I’d broken through a weight plateau and was down a pants size. Woo-hoo!! Weekend cheats keep me balanced and results keep me focused.

2.Sign up for an improv class—Check. I’ll be taking Intro to Improv at Improvolution this month. Do I want to be a comedienne? Nope. I just want to come further out of my shell. I’m actually really excited about this one.

3. Finish purging items we don't need—We purged alright. I think the sanitation department may want to put a hit out on us at this point. We got rid of so much and we still probably have way too much for a simple life. But we’re scaled down and committed to continuing to weed out things. Loving new plates? Fine . Buy them and donate the old ones. No one needs 5 sets of plates and a set of China. I mean, really???

4. Try two new restaurants—This month we tried Sweet Chick and Clyde Frasier’s Wine and Dine. We’re downtown kids so CFWD wouldn’t have been a first choice for us. We met friends there for a double date and it was actually pretty good, once you get past the furry walls. Sweet Chick was our choice because I wanted to try their veggie friendly chicken and waffles. Loved it. Will definitely go back.

5. Get back in the gym on a regular schedule (at least 4x/week)—I didn’t do well on this one at all. I managed to lose weight with changed eating habits, lots of stair climbing and a few at home workouts. The gym is calling me. I hope to listen in February.

6. Complete expansion of blog phase one (vlogging)—Vlog? We don’t need no stinking blog! Kidding. I haven’t changed my mind. I just didn’t have time. I couldn’t even get the written posts done. This goal is being pushed to late February/early March.

7. Create debt elimination and savings plan for 2015—I succeeded with this goal. In two years time (gosh, that sounds far away). I’m happy to have a realistic plan that’s helping us move towards our bigger dream.  

8. Attend one networking event—This one is a foul ball. I searched for events and found a meetup I was interested in. I rushed like crazy to make it there after a super hectic day at work…and no one else showed. BOOO! Looking for new ops this month. Got any suggestions?

For February, the goals are below. What are your goals this month?

1. Create a YouTube channel and create at least 1 video.
2. Stick to debt elimination and savings plan.
3. Attend a networking event.
4. Try two new restaurants.

5. Operation decoration.
7. Continue eating clean 90% of the time.
8. Try a new recipe with an ingredient I’ve never tried.
9. Meditate/pray for at least ten minutes a day every day for the rest of the month.
10. Create two weeks worth of reserve blog material (suggestions more than welcome!!).