Healthy Kick Start New Year Giveaway

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The first week of 2016 is *almost* over and I’m just now posting on my blog. Looks like that resolution to be a better blogger has already failed. Such is life – regardless, instead of sharing the 10,000 recipes I have, I’m doing something even better – a New Year Giveaway!

This is for those, like me, who want to start the year off on the right foot. Not talking weight loss here, more just healthy lifestyle makeovers. As much as I’d like to lose a few pounds from the ol’ waistline, I’d much rather be healthier. I want to feel better, not just look better. And I think a resolution, or a goal, to be a healthier, happier person is much easier to keep.

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So many people put so much pressure on themselves to lose weight or get in shape the first few weeks of the year. And I can understand that – holidays are all about indulging and gluttony. We eat too much, drink too much and forget to exercise amidst all of the celebrations. So, when New Years Day rolls around, we start it by filling our heads with so much negativity about our bodies and only focus on the things we NEED to change, not on the things that are already amazing. Sure, being thinner would be wonderful, but it won’t define who I am as a person. This year, and the rest of my 30’s, I’m going to focus more on the things that make me incredible and less on the things I wish I could change. It’s going to be the year of health and happiness, not weight loss and struggle.

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Weight is just a small part of who we are – and for so many of us (me included) it’s the only thing we ever see. So this giveaway is to help YOU remember the other amazing parts of yourself – above and beyond the number on the scale.

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One lucky winner will receive: a Ground 2 Table Spice Set to reignite your love for making delicious dishes for your family (without the need for lots of salt, butter and oil!)

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A Vanilla Bliss Spa gift basket so you can pamper yourself after a long week of kicking ass at work or home.

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A $70 giftcard to lulu lemon so you can splurge on some fabulous workout pants that’ll inspire you to go to that new yoga or spin class.

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And three bags of Community Coffee to kick start your metabolism and give you a boost of healthy energy to conquer your to-do list.

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To enter to win, simply fill out the prompts below! Giveaway ends January 22, 2016 at midnight. GOOD LUCK!
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Goat Cheese, Cranberry & Basil Steak Roll Ups

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Looking for an easy, gluten-free New Years app? Whip up these delicious goat cheese, cranberry & basil steak roll ups! 

steak roll ups

Happy New Years Eve Eve! Do you have any big plans for ringing in 2016? This girl does – BIG ones.

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Well, not Times Square ball drop big, but big for me at least. I’m having 10 people over for a fancy little dinner party. Not just that, I’m catering the whole tête-à-tête myself. Now, 10 people may not seem like a lot for some of you, but for our 900 square foot townhome, it’s a freak-ton. Plus, I tend to go a little batshitcrazy when it comes to hosting so I’m making enough food to feed 34.

Easy goat cheese app

I have 7 pounds of meat in the fridge, 2 pounds of potatoes, two bushels of brussel sprouts and asparagus, 1 pound of chocolate, a wheel of brie, a basket of charcuterie and cheese, a few loaves of bread and a case of champagne and wine. Oh and you can’t forget the bouquets of flowers for centerpieces.

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I made about the same amount for 4 people last year and we had leftovers for days. I’m hoping my hungry friends will eat as much as they can so we’re not left with much leftover. Probably because mashed potatoes made with heavy cream and 3 sticks of butter don’t fit into my “new year, new you” diet plan.

steak roll up

Neither does a full case of booze, but I have no doubt that’ll be polished off by, like, 10 p.m. What can I say, I keep good company.

Honeslty, as I think back, I’ve been doing a cozy meal at home for the past 4 years. I went out a few years before that, when I was young, and it completely wore me out. As much as I love dressing up and sipping champagne with 10,000 of my closest friends – I’d much rater wear faux-leather leggings, an oversized sweater and drink my own cheap wine without judgement. Call that getting older, but I’m totally okay with it.

  Easy steak rollups

This year will definitely be the most I’ve hosted for dinner, so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t freaking out a little. I know I’m good cook, but feeding 10 people (many of whom are big foodies) is just a little bit daunting. That’s why I’m hoping they hit the booze HARD before dinner in case some things don’t turn out Julia Child perfect.

Then again, she often sliced her fingers on air (and bled into the souffles) so maybe I’ll be okay.

Goat Cheese, Cranberry & Basil Steak Roll Ups

easy steak rollups

Yields about 15 rolls
Prep time: About 15 minutes
Cook time: About 10 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 3/4 pound flank steak
  • 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-1/2 ounces (about 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon) soft herbed goat cheese
  • About 1/3 to 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • Fresh mint sprigs
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat broiler. Liberally salt and pepper the flank steaks on both sides. Place on a lightly greased broiler sheet. Broil for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side for medium cooked steak.
  2. Let rest for about an hour and then freeze for about 5 minutes.
  3. Once chilled, slice against the grain as thinly as possible. You should get about 15 slices.
  4. Spread 1 teaspoon of goat cheese on each slice of steak. Top with a few sprinkles of cranberries and a few fresh mint sprigs. Garnish with salt and pepper.
  5. Carefully roll the steak pieces up into a jelly roll. Stick a toothpick in the middle of each to hold together.

Nutritional information per serving:

Calories: 46
Fat: 2.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 3 grams
Fiber: >1 gram
Protein: 4 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 2

Soft Baked Gingerbread Cookie Bars

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Tis the season for last minute cookies, fa la la la la la la la la. Tis the season to frantically bake and blog, fa la la la la la la la la.

Soft baked gingerbread bars

For real though, why do I always wait until the last minute to post epic recipes on here? Oh yeah – because I’m me. And I work 4 jobs.

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Regardless of that, I need to share these, and I don’t care if Christmas is in 2 days and you’re already cookied out. It’s the first holiday themed post I’ve put together in…like a year, so just let me have it.

gingerbread cookie bars

If we’re being honest, I don’t normally gravitate towards gingerbread. Now, I love the smell and the way it always reminds me of Christmas with my mom, but as a taste? It’s not my favorite. I’m more of a peanut butter thumbprint or chocolate chip kind of girl. But, I was feeling super festive this weekend (after binge-watching Lifetime holiday movies) and decided to give it another go.

homemade gingerbread cookie bars

Except, instead of traditional gingerbread men, I made cookie bars. With eggnog vanilla bean frosting and cranberries and crystallized ginger. And, instead of a heavy hand of ginger, I added some cardamom from India.

fresh ingredients

Holy Christmas, you guys. These bars totally changed the way I view gingerbread. They are SUPER soft, moist and chewy – and have just the right amount of spice. Plus, the addition of tart cranberries and sweet candied ginger truly bring them to life. In fact, I’m SO excited about them, I’m making a batch to bring to the queen of cookies herself -my mom!

cranberry ginger bars

Now, I know they don’t hold a flame to what she makes, but I’m hoping she likes them enough to give them some space on her world-renown cookie tray. Which is no easy feat, let me tell you. I may be her daughter, but she takes that ish SERIOUSLY. On Christmas Eve, before the appetizer baking and the ham basting, the three of us (my mom, myself and her best friend) put together the trays. She unpacks the coolers (yes, PLURAL) filled with the 8+ varieties of cookies she made that year. Then, like an artist, she arranges them. If a cookie is broken, has a blemish or isn’t perfect, it doesn’t make the cut.

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A lot of cookies are sacrificed to my face during that tray preparation. But seriously, I’m not kidding. Cookies are a serious business with my mom. I like to think I got some of her talent in the baking department. We’ll see – if you find me crying on Christmas it’s because my soft baked squares didn’t make the cut, and I binge ate them out of sadness. And then I cried even more b/c my pants didn’t fit.

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Oh the holidays. At least there’s wine.

Soft Baked Gingerbread Cookie Bars

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Yields about 22 bars. Adapted from Girl Who Ate Everything.
Prep time: 8 minutes
Cook time: 18 – 22 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

For the bars:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Dash of salt

For the frosting:

  • 1/2 cup butter, unsalted
  • 8 ounces low-fat cream cheese
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons eggnog*
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1/2 cup chopped candied ginger
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cranberries

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×13 baking dish with parchment paper. Sprinkle with flour and spread. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attached, beat the butter, applesauce, brown sugar, white sugar, molasses, vanilla and egg together until smooth and creamy. In another bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and salt together.
  3. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, mixing well after each addition.
  4. Spread the mixture over the parchment paper using a spatula. Bake for about 18 – 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool in pan. Remove from pan (on parchment paper) and let cool on a wire rack.
  5. Meanwhile, beat the butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, eggnog and vanilla bean paste together in a mixer. Add additional eggnog if mixture is too thick.
  6. Once bars have cooled, spread frosting over liberally. Sprinkle with candied ginger and cranberries.

Nutritional information per bar:

Calories: 217
Fat: 7.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 35.2 grams
Fiber: <1 gram
Protein: 2.2 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 6

Cranberry, Orange & Pistacho Eggnog Loaf with Silk Dairy Free Nog

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Eggnog is one of my favorite holiday indulgences. Sure, I love a nice plate of cookies, a perfectly cooked slice of prime rib and the festive finger foods served on New Years Eve. But to me, nothing can hold a flame to my favorite glass of nog, spiked with bourbon, rum or enjoyed on its own. So, when I was asked to do a post promoting a dairy-free nog by Silk, I was both intrigued and skeptical.

Glass of nog

Don’t get me wrong, I love Silk’s products. Their almond milk might just be my new favorite coffee addition ever. However, nog is meant to be full-fat and full dairy, so selling me on something that’s just as tasty without those two components was a little difficult. That was until I had my first sip.

Silk nog

To say I was utterly surprised by the flavor, the taste and the consistency is an understatement. To me, it tasted JUST like my favorite eggnog, just without the fat, the calories and the tummy-ache inducing dairy. As a girl who usually indulges in a few classes of this thick and creamy beverage a year, that’s a pretty HUGE selling point! Oh, and did I mention it has less than 80 calories a glass?

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I know. Plus, it’s an amazing accompaniment to the Sri Lankan cinnamon sticks I bought in India for less than 2 dollars. (Humble brag, I know, but it was truly the best thing I bought over there!) Even though I could drink this in it’s beautiful form all day long, I wanted to see how it held up in my favorite holiday loaves.

easy pistachio loaf

Typically, soy milk isn’t a great addition to baked goods, but I was totally surprised by how well it held up! My noggy pistachio bread tasted just as good with Silk Nog as it did with dairy nog. And even better? It has far less calories and fat, making each bite a little less guilty.

Eggnog loaf

I’m curious – what are your thoughts on egg nog? Would you try Silk’s Dairy free alternative? Leave a comment below with your thoughts! Oh and make this bread. Your belly (and waistline) will thank you.

Cranberry, Orange & Pistachio Eggnog Loaf

easy pistachio loaf

Yields 3 mini loves or 1 large loaf. Recipe inspired by Taste of Home.
Prep time: 15 – 20 minutes
Cook time: 60 minutes
Total time: 75 – 80 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter, unsalted and softenen
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Silk dairy free egg nog
  • 1/2 cup 2% Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly zested orange
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Dash of salt
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons eggnog
  • About 1/2 cup chopped pistachios

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 3 mini loaf pans (or one standard loaf pan) with nonstick cooking spray. Dust with flour.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and orange zest together. In another bowl, beat the butter, sugars, eggs, eggnog, yogurt and vanilla together. Stir in the dried cranberries.
  3. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pans. Bake for about 60 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool completely.
  4. Whisk the powdered sugar and eggnog together. Glaze each of the loaves and garnish with chopped pistachios.

Nutritional information per serving (about 1 slice of standard loaf; 2 slices of mini loaf)

Calories: 160
Fat: 8 grams
Carbohydrates: 17.5 grams
Fiber: 1 gram
Protein: 3 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 4

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Silk . The opinions and text are all mine.

Crock Pot Butter Chicken

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The seasons have changed, a holiday (or two) has tumbled on by. I’ve been to 6 countries, over 15 cities and a wedding. I’ve learned of two pregnancies (not mine) and hosted a baby shower. The past two months have been nothing short of crazy, as you can see. But now, I’m back, in both senses of the word. I’m back HERE, for at least a second, to share some new recipes. And I’m back home, if only for a few weeks.

Quick and easy butter chicken

Granted, I’m going out of town every weekend, but that’s neither here nor there. In fact, let’s just skip the small talk and move onto things that are a little more epic, shall we say.

easy creamy crock pot butter chicken

Like this butter chicken, obviously and the teensy, tiny, small little fact that I just turned 30.

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YEAH. I’ll let you digest that little nugget of information for a second. In the meantime, I’m just going to talk about the creamy pile of bliss in front of your faces. It’s no surprise I’m a fan of ethnic flavors, and Indian is certainly no exception. I’ve always had a deep love affair for creamy curries and spicy chili blends, especially when paired with fluffy rice and naan bread. And my love for the country’s incredibly eccentric (and differing) flavors only intensified during a recent visit to the bustling city of Mumbai.

Creamy butter chicken

I have about 15 more Indian recipes I want to share, ones that are based on the vibrant dishes I enjoyed there. But for now, I’m sharing a simple staple – butter chicken. It teeters more on the Americanized version of Indian food than authentic, but it’s still an absolute classic. The best part about this recipe is you don’t need to stir or stew over the stove to make it – you can just toss it all into a slow-cooker and enjoy the insatiable aromas as they fill your home.

easy crock pot butter chicken

With a full-time job, a growing freelance career, a husband, two dogs and a social life, slow cooker meals are really all I can muster these days. But it’s still food, and homecooked food at that, so it beats the alternative.

I thought I’d be ready to discuss the big 3-0 by the time I got to this part of the page, but I’m not. So let’s skip it for another day. Perhaps a day when I’ve been drinking. Heavily.

Crock Pot Butter Chicken

Super Creamy Butter Chicken

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 6. Slightly adapted from All Recipes.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 5 – 6 hours

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 10 ounces coconut milk
  • 4 ounces heavy cream
  • Fresh cilantro and green onions for garnish
  • + rice

Directions: 

  1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until just translucent, about 3 – 4 minutes. Add the chicken and cook until just browned on all sides, about 6 – 8 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into the crock pot.
  2. Add in the green onions, spices and tomato paste; stir to combine. Add in the greek yogurt, coconut milk and heavy cream, stir to combine. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Cook on low, stirring occasionally, for about 5 -6 hours, or until chicken is fully cooked and sauce is thick. Serve with rice, fresh cilantro and green onions.

Nutritional information per serving: 

Calories: 400
Fat: 16.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 45 grams
Fiber: 2.8 grams
Protein: 16 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 11

Easy No Knead Bread with Fruit Honey Jam

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There is nothing better than homemade bread. Seriously. You can try to say other things, like fluffy cupcakes or homemade pasta, are better – but I’ve got a really strong argument for soft, bakery-style homemade bread. And if you need to know what the argument is – you should probably leave this blog and NEVER COME BACK.

No knead bread with jam

Sorry, I’m really sensitive about carbs right now, mainly because I’m trying to cut back on them. I hear the word “bread” and see red. I didn’t even mean for that to rhyme. Okay…moving on.

Soft fluffy homemade bread

With as busy as I’ve been the past month, it’s the simple touches of homemade that I crave lately. Even though I’ve been working INSANE hours, am traveling every weekend this month and have a 2 week cruise to Europe in two weeks (omg – I sound so pretentious, I’m sorry), I’ve been cooking even more than I used to. Crock pot beef stew, the world’s best pumpkin muffins, spiced hard cider – you name it, I’ve made it. I like to think it’s because I feel bad for my husband because I’m constantly leaving, but I also think it’s because I love home-cooked meals. When you’re on the road as much as I am, you crave something that isn’t fried, rich, cheesy or heavy. (Says a girl who just got back from the Midwest).

Fluffy bread

To be honest, I’m not a great bread baker. For every 5 loaves I make, maybe 2 turn out. I just can’t seem to make them rise or look like they should. So when I found this recipe for easy no-knead bread and took a stab, I had VERY low expectations. When it came out, with a golden brown crust and a soft, melt in your mouth inside, I nearly fainted.

Fluffy homemade no knead bread

I was recently asked by The J.M. Smucker Company to create some unique tips for using a new product and I wanted to share with you how much I LOVE IT. I chose their blueberry lemon jam (which you can find at any Walmart!) and nearly died when I added it to my bread. Unlike many jams (which are loaded with sugar), this one is sweetened naturally with honey. I’m not a huge jam fan, but this stuff is incredible. It’s sweet without being too sweet, full of fresh, plump berries and just a dash of lemon.

jam

In fact, I’m already planning a few other delicious ways to use it in my favorite recipes, so don’t be surprised if you see this tart jam in fluffy muffins, danishes, cakes and even brownies in the next coming weeks. Or, don’t be surprised if you see me eating it with a spoon on instagram when I’ve hit a sugar low. Let’s just go with the second option since that’s clearly a larger possibility given my HOLYCOWICANTEVEN life status.

Easy No Knead Bread

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Serves about 8.
Prep time: 2 hours & 40 minutes
Cook time: 18 minutes
Total time: About 3 hours

Ingredients: 

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • Dash of fresh salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water

For the topping: 

  • J.M. Smucker Company Blueberry Lemon Honey & Fruit jam
  • Butter

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, salt and yeast together.
  2. Add in the warm water, a little at a time, and stir after each addition. The mixture will be a little sticky. Grease a bowl with nonstick cooking spray and place the dough into that bowl. Turn the oven off, cover the bowl with a damp towel and let rise until doubled (about 2 1/2 hours).
  3. Line a crock pot or baking dish with parchment paper and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  4. Remove dough from the oiled bowl, place on a lightly floured surface and carefully form into a soft ball. Place in the baking dish and let rest for about 45 minutes.
  5. Heat oven to 450 degrees.
  6. After it’s rested, place in the oven, cover and bake for about 22 minutes. Remove the cover and bake another 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Let cool. Once cooled, slice and serve with butter and Smucker’s Fruit & Honey Jam!

Nutritional information per slice (with 1 tablespoon butter & 1 teaspoon jam):

Calories: 160
Fat: 6.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 30 grams
Fiber: 2.2 grams
Protein: 4.5 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 4

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of JM Smuckers. The opinions and text are all mine. Comments submitted may be displayed on other websites owned by the sponsoring brand.

My Dream Partnership

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I’ve been a daydreamer for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I’d spend hours writing elaborate tales on computer paper (in crayon – of course) about princesses and dragons. I’d run around my grandparents front lawn with plastic alligators, feeding them on my grandpa’s many prized bushes and plants (much to his dismay). I’d construct these incredible elaborate tales for my Barbies and Polly Pockets, ones of love, heartbreak and even war. My imagination has always one of my best friends.

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And unlike many people who lose their sense of adventure and creativity with age, mine only seems to deepen. Except now, instead of princess and dragon daydreams, mine are more realistic, with tales of running away to Paris, sunset shooting in South America or opening a restaurant in Bangkok.

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I’ve spent quite a bit of time lately daydreaming – not for lack of work fulfillment or a busy schedule, mind you. For work! Both in my full-time job and for my blog, I’ve been daydreaming new recipes, putting together once-in-a-lifetime trips and new short stories. That’s why when I immediately jumped at the opportunity to collaborate with Tap Influence on discussing what my dream partnership would be, if I could choose.

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I’ve worked with so many incredible brands in my 5 year stint as a food blogger and recipe creator. From KitchenAid to Bob’s Red Mill to Le Creuset, my house is decorated with amazing products and stunning props thanks to these partnerships. These are total dream-worthy brands, my friends. So thinking of one that I haven’t worked with that’s a dream was a bit harder than I thought.

dishes

That was until I got my daily email from Anthropologie. And it hit me, really. If I could pick any brand in the world to work with, it would be them. All of my fellow food bloggers can probably understand why too, of course. Their plates, bowls, napkins and measuring spoons are so incredibly beautiful, it’s almost hard to use them. Painted in elaborate detail, with flowers, animals and designs, they truly bring any food photo to life. However, my dream partnership wouldn’t be with food – it would be the perfect party spread.

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Photo via Anthropologie.

I’ve long lusted after bloggers who post stunning tablescapes, and if I had my way, I’d work with Anthropologie to create the most perfect one. The plates would be mismatched, the flowers would be succulent and abundant, there would be so many rustic elements adding character to the spread – like vintage door knobs, antique napkin rings and farmhouse napkins. The glasses would be elegant with gold trims. Instead of simple lights, the room would be decorated with hundreds of bulbs, mason jar lanterns and string lights.

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Photo via Wedding Party App.

If I close my eyes and envision what it would look like, it would be a beautiful mix of these.

perfect spread

Photos 1, 2, 3.

To be honest, I’ve created this stunning tablescape in my head for years, with some slight variations as I grow older. Instead the prim and proper centerpieces I used to love, this one would have messy bouquets with long stems and draping ferns. Instead of a tablecloth, I’d have a burlap runner with a lace overlay. It would be my version of Alice in Wonderlands Tea Party, without the crazed Mad Hatter of course.

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Image via Want That Wedding.

Now I have this insatiable desire to spend all of my take home pay on things to bring this to life. So, don’t be surprised if you see this happening on my blog in the next few weeks. Here’s hoping my dream comes true and Anthropologie offers to sponsor it :)

Now I ask you, friends, fans and amazing food bloggers – what would your dream partnership be and why?

Brands are searching for voices like yours. A TapInfluence profile is a great way to attract attention from top brands who are eager to work with influencers on sponsored content. To get started, create your free profile here.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of TapInfluence, the leader in connecting influencers with opportunties to collaborate with brands.

Low Fat Raspberry Pomegranate Cheesecake Bars

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Two posts in one week – can you believe it? After the crazy (read: exhausting) week I’ve had, this is a big merit. My new job is amazing, but busy – like here until 6:30 pm every night busy – so I haven’t had anytime to live. But, it’s Saturday and my very favorite day of the week deserves some dessert.

Amazing cheesecake bars

So here’s some dessert! Not just any ol’ dessert either – this one is low-fat, fruity and absolutely gorgeous. (The trifecta of awesome for all desserts, I believe). To be honest, it’s another one I’ve had in my arsenal for MONTHS, and one I made for an amazing client Friendship Dairies! If you haven’t tried their products, do it. They turned me from a cottage cheese hater to a bonafide FIEND in just the matter of weeks.

fluffy cheesecake bars

Recipe talk aside – I’m truly so shocked it’s almost October. Like I can’t seem to wrap my head around it. Honestly, this whole year feels a bit like a blur. I mean, that’s to be expected with a big job change, a move and a handful of international trips. It’s just crazy how fast it’s all going. I’ve already been at my new job for over a week and it’s already been a month since my last jaunt abroad. I’m incredible grateful for these adventures that make my life seem to whiz by – I just wish it would slow down JUST A SECOND so I could catch my breath.

ingredients

One thing I’ve always struggled with is making the most of my time at home. Now that I’m not traveling as much as I used to, I’ve noticed my old ways have caught up to me, and more of my free time is spent doing nothing. Don’t get me wrong, doing nothing can be AMAZING. But not when you’re doing it 5 days a week. I’m a big “get out and do things on the weekend” kind of girl, but I don’t apply that same vigor for life on the weekdays. Sure, it’s harder to do things after a long day of work – but I need to. I need to plan more date nights out of the house or jaunts to the city.

  Best ever cheesecake bars

It sounds crazy but I don’t know if I’ll live here forever and not taking advantage of everything this awesome city of mine has to offer will end up being something I regret. Working friends – how do you de-rut your weekdays? Date nights? Lunch outings? I need suggestions! In the meantime, I’ll be face first into these cheesecake bars.

Low Fat Raspberry Pomegranate Cheesecake Bars

Fluffy lowfat cheesecake bars

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 12.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

For the crust:

  • 1 ½ cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • Dash of cinnamon

For the bars:

  • 8 ounce container of softened low-fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup small curd low fat Friendship cottage cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate arils
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate or raspberry jam
  • Fresh mint for garnish

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.
  2. To make the crust, mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, melted butter and cinnamon. Stir to combine. Press the crust into the parchment paper and press down with the back of a spatula. Bake crust for about 9 – 10 minutes, or until golden brown.
  3. Blend the cottage cheese into a blender until smooth and fluffy. Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer and add cream cheese, sugar, eggs, vanilla and lemon juice – beat until creamy and thick.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan and mix in two tablespoons of pomegranate arils. Add the jam with a small spoon and place on the top of the cheesecake. Using the same spoon, swirl the jam around.
  5. Bake for about 32 – 25 minutes, or until fully cooked.
  6. Chill for at least 2 hours then cut into squares and serve with mint and remaining pomegranate arils.

Nutritional information per bar:

Calories: 225.5
Fat: 8.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 30.25 grams
Fiber: 2.25 grams
Protein: 5.2 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 6

Crock Pot Buffalo Chicken Chili

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I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for a change in seasons in my entire life. As you know, fall is my favorite for many reasons (most of which any #basic white girl will tell you). Even though PSLs, sweaters, boots and foliage top the list, another big reason has me equally as excited. This change of seasons bring with it a brand new JOB for me. I may have alluded to it in another post, but it’s 100% official.

chunky buff. chicken chili

And guess what? It’s ALL travel. Every single day I get to write narratives on incredible places, like Cuba, Italy and Malta, for incredible print publications (that I’ll share soon). Not only that, I get to write copy for an incredible variety of amazing clients (that I’ll also share later – they are HUGE!). I get to up my travel with these awesome clients, will finally have my name (and photos!) in print and only have to drive a quick 8 minutes to get to work.

Chunky Chili

I don’t know how I go so lucky with this one, but I did. I’m still pinching myself that this is my real life.

chili

All of that exciting news aside, I’m here to share an amazing new recipe with you. It’s literally fall in a big, hearty bowl. Not only will this buffalo chicken chili warm your bones on these (incredible!) brisk nights, it’s the ultimate game-day meal. Instead of messy wings, make a big batch of this chili and enjoy it with your favorite lager while you watch hours of Football.

PicMonkey Collage

Or, if you’re me, enjoy it with your favorite wine while you catch up on episodes of American Horror Story. Whatever tickles your fancy!

Chunky Crock Pot Buffalo Chicken Chili

Spicy chunky chili

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 6.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: About 6 – 8 hours

Ingredients: 

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cups chopped carrots
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 15 ounce can red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 20 ounce can diced tomatoes, not drained
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup buffalo sauce*
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts**
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Salt and pepper
  • About 1 cup blue cheese crumbles
  • Fresh cilantro or celery leaves for garnish

*Add more for added heat
**Can use boneless, skinless chicken wings as well

Directions: 

  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add the garlic and cook until slightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add in the onions, carrots and celery and cook until just softened, about 6 – 7 minutes.
  2. Rinse the chicken breasts and place into the bottom of the crock pot. Add the cooked vegetables, drained beans, chicken broth, diced tomatoes, buffalo sauce, chili powder and salt and pepper. Stir the ingredients together.
  3. Cover and cook on low for about 6 1/2 hours. Remove chicken from crock pot, shred and add back.
  4. Cook another hour. Remove from crock pot and serve with chunks of fresh blue cheese and garnish.

Nutritional information per serving:

Calories: 400
Fat: 12.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 27.2 grams
Fiber: 9 grams
Protein: 28 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 7

Roasted Grape & Haloumi Crostinis

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I figure since I’ve been gone for about a month I better have an amazing recipe to share with you to make up for it. Honestly, no excuses for my absence. From traveling abroad to caring for a darling new foster puppy to ACCEPTING AN AMAZING new job, I’ve been busy as bees over here and haven’t had much time to cook, better yet write.

Easy roasted grapes2

But I’m here now and I’ve got a truly incredible appetizer to whet your whistles for the fall season. The weather has been beautiful the past two days. The temperatures haven’t exceeded 70 degrees, there’s a crisp chill to the air and I can successfully walk to work without sweating. Knowing the fickle nature of DC weather I’m sure this won’t last, but I’m going to soak it up for as long as it’s here.

grapes

And you better believe i’ll be noshing on these sweet and savory roasted grape & haloumi crostinis while I do. I’ve been in love with halmoumi for years, but typically don’t buy it because it comes with a hefty price tag. For those who don’t know, it’s an Israeli/Middle Eastern cheese that can be grilled (without melting) and has a salty, feta-like taste to it. It’s incredibly verstaile and is honestly just delicious on its own.

Raosted grapes

However, I’ve had these dreams of roasting grapes lately (literally) and I knew I wanted to create a delicious app paring the two. These crostinis are one app that turned out even more beautiful (and tasty) than I could have hoped for. I’m already planning dinner parties in my head where I can wow my guests with their elegance.

grilled haloumi apps

Of course you don’t need an excuse to make these. You can serve them up with a cheap bottle of wine as a dinner for one or surprise your partner with a homemade date night. This is the type of dish that makes any moment, no matter how ordinary, into an occasion.

Roasted Grape & Grilled Haloumi Crostinis

roasted grapes

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 12. Grapes adapted from Healthy Seasonal Recipes.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: About an hour
Total time: 1 hour and 15 minutes

Ingredients: 

For the grapes:

  • 2 cups seedless red grapes
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • Cracked black pepper & sea salt

For the crostinis:

  • 12 slices baguette
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 6 ounces haloumi cheese, sliced
  • About 5 – 6 tablespoons high-grade balsamic vinegar *
  • Fresh dill or herbs for garnish
  • Cracked black pepper
  • About 1/3 – 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place grapes in a baking dish (I used an 8 x 8) and drizzle with olive oil. Add salt and pepper.
  2. Roast for about 45 minutes, stopping to stir halfway through. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
  3. Place bread on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Bake for about 3 – 5 minutes, or until toasted. Remove from oven.
  4. Heat a grill pan over high heat. Brush both sides of haloumi slices with remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Grill on high for about 2 – 3 minutes on each side or until browned with grill marks. Remove from grill carefully and slice into 12 even slices.
  5. Top the toasted bread with haloumi and a spoonful of roasted grapes. Add about 3/4 – 1 teaspoon of high quality balsamic and fresh herbs. Add a dash of salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.
  6. Serve immediately.

* You want a nice balsamic here, one that’s thick to the pour. Don’t opt for cheap, liquid vinegar. For something a little sweeter, omit the vinegar for honey instead.

Nutritional information per serving (1 crostini):

Calories: 125
Fat: 8 grams
Carbohydrates: 10 grams
Fiber: 1.2 grams
Protein: 3.83 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 3

Top It Tuesday: Homemade Pistachio, Coconut & Chia Seed Muesli Parfait

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I wish I liked breakfast foods as much as I like chunks of blue cheese, gooey s’mores and extra buttery garlic bread – but I don’t. Honestly, it’s a chore trying to get me to eat anything in the morning, especially anything healthy. Now, this is not to say I don’t love a nice stack of buttermilk pancakes or double-dipped French toast every now and then, but that’s not exactly food you can indulge in every single day. So lately, I’ve been trying to choke down yogurts and it’s seeming to be much harder than I thought.

parfait with berries

However, I have found something that seems to work – something that’s tasty, healthy and completely dairy-free. Something that I don’t have to force myself to eat and, dare I say, something I look forward to eating in the mornings.

muesli

No, it’s not bacon wrapped pancakes or fried eggs, it’s this homemade pistachio, coconut & chia seed muesli parfait! I was first hooked on muesli (a mix of cereals, dried nuts & fruits) last year when the folks at Bob’s Red Mill sent me a bag to try. Ever since then, I’ve fallen in love with the sweet, salty and fiber-packed crunch of every bite. However, I ran out of that stuff long ago and knew the only way i’d have it again is if I made it myself.

Simple healthy parfait

Luckily the folks at Silk, who I’m working with to promote their dairy-free offerings, asked me to create the perfect topping for their dairy-free yogurt. Their #TopItTuesday campaign is not only promoting their dairy-free (and delicious) yogurts, but giving a little extra love to Tuesday, a day that isn’t really paid much attention to. Before I could even say “YES” to the campaign I knew I was going to make my own muesli with a bunch of tasty add ins.

  ingredients

Making your own is so easy I’m shocked more people don’t do it. You simply mix, toss and stir into your favorite parfait – literally, that’s it. You can make it fancier with more gourmet ingredients, but I’m kind of a simple gal and I’d rather make something I know other people can make too. To make this parfait, all I did was stack the sweet yogurt, fresh berries and crunchy muesli into one perfect little jar. What’s easier than that?

simple parfait with muesli

So friends, like me, who hate breakfast food – give this muesli parfait a try. If you’re not converted, I owe you $50. Not really – but that’s just how sure I am you’ll love it.

Homemade Pistachio, Coconut & Chia Seed Muesli Parfait

SIMPLE FRESH PARFAIT

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Parfaits serve 2. Muesli serves 8 cups.
Prep time – for the muesli: 10 minutes – for the parfaits: 5 minutes
Total time: About 15 minutes

Ingredients: 

For the muesli:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cup quinoa flakes
  • 1 1/2 cup puffed rice crisps
  • 1 1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1  cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 cup dried apples
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Dash of nutmeg

For the parfaits:

  • 2 containers Silk dairy-free strawberry yogurt
  • About 1/2 cup sliced strawberries

Directions: 

  1. For the muesli: Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl and stir until every ingredient is distributed in the mix. (You many need to mix more so the chia seeds don’t sink to the bottom).
  2. Pour the muesli into airtight mason jars and store until use.
  3. For the parfaits, layer the yogurt, fresh strawberries and about 1/3 – 1/2 cup muesli into mason jars and serve.

Best parfait

Nutritional information per serving (1 parfait):

Calories: 350
Fat: 9 grams
Carbohydrates: 55 grams
Fiber: 5 grams
Protein: 14 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 9

This conversation is sponsored by Silk. The opinions and text are all mine.

Radish & Broccoli Rabe Pasta

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Today is most definitely a double (or triple) Venti coffee kind of days. I don’t know why, but I can’t get my shit together this week. I’m tired, grumpy, fatigued and lazy. I’m sure it has to do with my job, the endless slew of foster pups we bring in and a major case of post-trip depression, but it’s really making everyday life a little difficult.

fresh pasta with proscuitto

That’s why you haven’t seen more of me around these parts. I’m still alive, don’t stress – but it’s hard finding the energy to write about food lately. Not that I don’t love it – food is still my number one passion. It’s just I can’t find the words or the energy to fill a blog post.

fresh easy pasta2

But you’re not here to read about that – you’re here for a recipe. Luckily I’ve got a really good one of those for you :) It’s filled with things I just can’t get enough of – like radishes, pasta and broccoli rabe. I could seriously eat these things everyday and never tire of them.

broccoli rabe

Which is strange given I used to HATE radishes. Honestly, it was the only vegetable I couldn’t stand for 25 years of my life. Then one day, i accidentally put them on a salad and freaking punched myself as soon as I crunched into their crisp, peppery shell. I was so in love, I bought some that very night and crunched them like an apple. My friend has also introduced me to the roasted radish dipped in butter and I’m never going back. It’s honestly the most amazing combination of flavors.

radishes2

Just like this pasta. It’s so easy, you can whip up any day of the week. Plus, it’s perfect with a glass (or 10) of wine on a lazy summer night. Plus, it’s just so darn pretty right? It’s the dish to make for your friends when you want to impress them but don’t have a lot of time or money. (aka me every single day).

Radish & Broccoli Rabe Pasta

radish pasta

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 4.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: About 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces ziti noodles
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound broccoli rabe, chopped
  • 4 ounces proscuitto
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 4 teaspoons pine nuts
  • About 4 fresh radishes, sliced
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Add pasta and a dash of salt. Cook until al dente about 8-10 minutes. Rinse in cold water and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic; cook about 3 – 4 minutes. Add in chopped broccoli rabe. Cook on medium heat until broccoli rabe is wilted and softened, about 6-8 minutes. Add salt and pepper.
  3. Carefully chop the proscuitto. Toss the broccoli rabe with the pasta and mix with tongs. Add Parmesan cheese, proscuitto and additional salt and pepper.  Slice the turnips into thin slices.
  4. Serve pasta with a dash of pine nuts and thinly sliced turnips.

Best pasta

Nutritional information per serving: 

Calories: 425
Fat: 17 grams
Carbohydrates: 69 grams
Fiber: 6 grams
Protein: 20 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 12

Roasted Turkey, Cheese & Sprout Sandwich

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I’ve always been a huge sammie girl. When it comes to lunch preparation, I always flock to the deli counter and the side of the store with the fancy cheese in it. Of course as a kid I grew up eating American cheese and white bread, but I’m happy to admit my tastes have changed just a little bit.

Roasted Turkey Sandwich

Instead of white bread, I use French bread. Instead of American cheese, I use slices of Cabot horseradish cheese or fresh mozzarella. Instead of dicey turkey, I use Hormel Natural Choice Oven Roasted Deli Turkey. I also have amped up my condiment and topping game quite substantially, and my sandwiches always have a beautiful bouquet of veggies on top, like beets, radishes or fresh green sprouts.

When I was asked by Hormel to create some recipes using their new NATURAL CHOICE products and I quickly jumped at the opportunity. I’m a healthy girl and I love food that is preservative-free and nutritious, and these deli meats are exactly it – fresh and delicious without any extra crap mixed in.

Roasted Turkey Sprout Sammie

I knew immediately I wanted to make a simple version of a French bread sub. I loaded it with cheese, topped with fresh sprouts and homemade mayo/mustard sauce. It was To. Die. For. It’s the kind of sandwich all other sandwiches want to be when they grow up, let me tell you that.

Roasted turkey, cheese & sprout sandwich

Easy Sprout Sammie

Serves 3.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf French bread
  • 3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 12 slices Hormel Natural Choice Oven Roasted Deli Turkey
  • 9 slices sharp vintage cheddar cheese
  • 3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
  • Fresh green sprouts
  • 2 large tomatoes

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Slice the baguette into three equal parts and then slice in half. Spread with olive oil.
  3. Top one side with 4 slices of deli meat and 3 slices of cheese. Place the other bread slices on the same pan and bake for about 8 minutes, or until crispy and cheese is melted.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk the Dijon mustard and mayo together.
  5. Remove the bread from the oven. Spread the top part of the baguette with Dijon/mayo mixture. Top with fresh greens and tomato slices.

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Hormel for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

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Tuna Couscous Salad

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This light, fluffy and healthy tuna couscous salad is a great summer dish that’s flavor-packed!

tuna couscous salad

I don’t think they’ll ever be a time in my life where I don’t crave healthy food over junk food. Of course, there are those occasional days when I’ve had too much wine the night before and all I could possible want is a hamburger with french fries. But no matter what, I always prefer salads to pastas and fresh fruit to candy bars. That’s just one of the reasons I was over the moon when Genova seafood asked me to create a nutritious dish using their premium tuna.

couscous2

To me, tuna has always had a bit of a bad rap. For one, people never really associate canned tuna with anything gourmet. It’s something you buy to make cheap sandwiches or mix up for a snack. It may be budget friendly and easy, but it’s far from ordinary. Tuna is such an incredibly versatile ingredient. You can toss it in salads (like I did with this tuna couscous salad), mix it into casseroles, make gourmet ceviches and even cocktail party hors d’oeuvres. The possibilities are endless, which is why I’m always trying to find ways to incorporate it into anything I make.

  tuna couscous radishes

Not only versatile, it’s also good for you, especially the Genova brand. It’s made from high-quality, premium grade Yellowfin tuna, is all natural and is packed in pure ,100% Mediterranean olive oil. If you’d like to try it, here’s a coupon offered by the wonderful folks there! I’m going to just say this once – STOP BUYING TUNA IN WATER. The olive oil adds even more healthy antioxidants, not to mention a freak ton more flavor. You’ll honestly be ASTOUNDED by how much better canned tuna in olive oil tastes.

fresh salad

The wonderfully generous people at Genova not only sent me some of their tuna to try, they sent a gift basket with tons of other Mediterranean goodies, like wine, a cookbook, pesto, tri-color couscous and more. As soon as I unwrapped the basket, I immediately knew I was going to use the couscous in something.

gift basket

After a quick stop at Whole Foods and $100 later, I had the most beautiful radishes, bean sprouts, sunflower leaves and more to create a fresh, and delicious, salad.

radishes

To help inspire you to create your own Mediterranean inspired dish, Genova seafood is giving away a gourmet gift basket to one of my readers! One of you will receive the same goodie basket as I did with enough loot to get you excited to cook up a healthy and gourmet tuna dish. To enter, follow the prompts below. Make sure to share your creation with me using the hashtag #realisticrecipes!

Tuna Couscous Salad

salad with radishes

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 6 – 8.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 12 minutes
Total time:  28 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups tri-color couscous
  • 2 (7 ounce) cans of Genova seafood tuna, lightly drained and flaked
  • 1/2 cup high quality olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1/2 large red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup thinly sliced radishes
  • 1/3 cup chick peas
  • 1/2 cup bean sprouts
  • About 2/3 – 3/4 cup fresh greens
  • 4 – 5 fresh chives, chopped
  • Liberal dashes of sea salt and cracked black pepper

Directions:

  1. Bring 4 cups of water to a rapid boil and add a dash of salt. Toss in the couscous and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and cook for about 12 minutes, or until the liquid is evaporated. Remove from heat and fluffy with a fork or spoon. Place in a large bowl.
  2. Add in the radishes, chick peas, bean sprouts, fresh greens and chopped chives. Carefully mix in the tuna so it’s fully incorporated.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt and pepper together. Pour the oil dressing over the salad and mix to combine. Add in additional salt and pepper to taste.

Nutritional information per serving:

Calories: 326.5
Fat: 16.2 grams
Carbohydrates: 37.8 grams
Fiber: 4.2 grams
Protein: 10.4 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 9

To enter the giveaway, simply fill out the prompts below! Ends Wednesday, July 1st at Midnight. GOOD LUCK!
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Tofu Taco Salad

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What a month. Actually, scratch that — what a YEAR. I’ve been running at full-speed ahead since January and I think my body has finally caught up to all of it. I finally know what the expression “bone-tired” actually feels like. Every ounce of me is so exhausted that I’m starting to get physically sick.

tofu taco salad

However, that has changed a little. I got out of dodge this past weekend and spent as much time as possible sleeping, relaxing on the beach and disconnecting from the stresses of my real life. I finally had a weekend where i didn’t have any deadlines, deliverables or work to get through – and I took full and complete advantage of that.

ingredients

I also cooked. Remember when I used to do that frequently? Remember when I used to make delicious dishes and share them here on the blog every day? Me too. Sort of. My life has been such a blur of long days & late nights, I don’t remember the last time I cooked for blogging purposes. Not only am I usually too drained to cook something inspiring after I get home on weekdays, my weekends are so busy with chores, friends and husband that I don’t have a second to make something.

crispy taco salad

But friends, the times? They are-a-changin’. My schedule is becoming more manageable and a heck of a lot less stressful, and blogging is finally becoming something I can actually take on with excitement once again. I’m not sure if its going to be daily, weekly, or just a few times a month, but something will happen on this little space here.

tofu taco salad2

Since I spent the weekend in the sun, drinking all of the wine and actually relaxing, I didn’t get this salad up in time for Memorial Day. However, it doesn’t matter because this is easily one of my new favorite salads because it’s so jam-packed with fantastic flavors; like zesty lime juice, Mexican seasoning, crushed red pepper, creamy avocado, ripe and juicy tomatoes and crunchy tortilla bits.

ingredients2

Not only is this the perfect accompaniment to your burgers, brats and hotdogs, it’s an amazing standalone salad for an entree too!

Spicy Tofu Taco Salad

Plus. this awesome salad is the perfect dish for any hot summer day where all you want is something light & fresh that reminds you of a Mexican getaway.

Tofu Taco Salad

crispy tofu tortilla salad

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 4.
Prep time: 10 – 15 minutes
Cook time: About 40 minutes
Total time: 55 minutes

Ingredients: 

For the salad:

  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped orange and yellow bell peppers
  • 4 cups baby arugula
  • 2 cups chopped on-the-vine tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup green onion
  • 1 cup chopped tortilla chips
  • 1 large avocado, pitted and chopped

For the tofu:

  • 1 package extra firm tofu, pressed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Mexican seasoning
  • Salt and pepper

For the dressing:

  • 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon fat free sour cream
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon fat free mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon ranch seasoning
  • 1 large green onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 large canned chipotle chili, chopped

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large 9 x 13 pan with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Toss the tofu with olive oil, Mexican seasoning, salt and pepper. Bake the tofu for about 30 – 35 minutes, or until crispy, stopping to flip about 17 minutes in.
  2. To make the dressing, mix the sour cream, mayo, ranch seasoning, green onion, lime juice and chipotle chili together. Stir to combine. Cover with foil and chill for at least an hour.
  3. Preheat a skillet over medium heat and add olive oil. Mix in the onion and cook about 2 minutes. Toss in the garlic, peppers and jalapeños. Saute the vegetables until soft and fragrant, about 4 – 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  4. In a large bowl, toss the arugula, tomatoes, cilantro and green onion. Mix in the cooked vegetables, cheese and tortilla chips. Top with chopped avocado and crispy baked tofu.
  5. Toss the salad with dressing and serve immediately!

amazing tofu salad

Nutritional information per serving: 

Calories: 379.5
Fat: 14 grams
Carbohydrates: 22.75 grams
Fiber: 4.5 grams
Protein: 21.75 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 8

Cauliflower Mac N’ Cheese

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I’m a glorified carbohydrate addict. If I had to pick just one dish to eat for the rest of my life, well, it’d be a pasta sandwich topped with mashed potatoes.

cauliflower mac

Not literally, but you catch my drift.

cheesy cauliflower

As much as I adore carbs, I don’t adore the spot they’ve taken up on my hips. Or in my thighs. And most certainly NOT in my stomach. In a perfect world, I’d eat all the carbs I could possibly muster and they would either have no calories or all of the excess sugar/fat would go right into my boobs.

creamy mac

But we don’t live in a perfect world and my favorite pasta mashed potato cinnamon roll sandwiches are going right to places I can’t have them going. This means, much to my own dismay, I’m forced to replace my favorite carbs with vegetables. This isn’t too terrible given my affinity for vegetables, but it’s harder than I thought.

mac n cheese with cauliflower

As hard as it is, I will say one thing – it’s giving me the chance to really play with flavors and find ways to make my favorite dishes taste amazing despite the lack of their main ingredient. Which is how this delicious cauliflower mac n’ cheese came to exist. In place of pasta, I opted for little heads of my favorite vegetable.

cauliflower

Not only does this amazing concoction taste like my favorite cheesy comfort food, it makes it completely gluten-free, extremely low-carb and even richer in fiber.

If this is what low-carb diets look like in real life, well shoot, I should have signed up months (re: years) ago.

Cauliflower Mac N’ Cheese

creamy cauli mac

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 8. Adapted from Vegetarian Times.
Prep time: 10 – 14 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: About 44 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 1 large head cauliflower (at least 1 1/2 pounds) cut into florets
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 cups low-fat milk
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 egg yolks, whisked
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs*
  • Salt and pepper

*OPTIONAL. Omit if you’d prefer gluten-free.

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a standard size baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Add a dash of salt. Add the cauliflower florets and boil for about 5 minutes, or until fork tender.
  3. In another saucepan, melt butter over medium high heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour until a thick paste forms. Gradually add in the milk, one cup at a time, or until mixture is thick (it should coat the back of a spoon). Remove from heat and immediately whisk in cheese, nutritional yeast and egg yolks.
  4. Add the cauliflower and fold in until evenly coated. Add salt and pepper.
  5. Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs and additional salt and pepper.
  6. Bake until cheese is bubbly, about 30 minutes.
  7. Serve with fresh greens, like parsley.

Nutritional information per serving: 

Calories: 361
Fat: 14.2 grams
Carbohydrates: 23.25 grams
Fiber: 8 grams
Protein: 25.2 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 8

Almond, pumpkin seed & peanut butter granola bars

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After St. Patrick’s Day, these quinoa and almond granola bars are exactly what we all need to be eating. To be honest, I didn’t really veer off diet much yesterday. No green beer was consumed, I only partook in one square of chocolate and we had a really healthy, low-fat salad for dinner.

Easy healthy granola bars

Does this mean I’m getting old? As I walked past a few Irish pubs on my way home from work yesterday, I was actually GLAD I wasn’t out. I was glad that in 20 minutes I would be in yoga pants with a big glass of wine snuggling with my dog (who I sadly dyed green 6 years ago for St. Pats).

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I think that makes me old. But I’d much rather be old than sit in a crowded bar drinking green dyed Miller Lite while some guy who is 0.5% irish tries to pinch me because I’m not wearing green. Yes, that has happened and yes I promptly walked away from him. If that happened today, I most likely would have thrown that cheap beer in his face, but alas.

Quinoa granola bars

Now that I think about it, there aren’t really many holidays where I’d rather be stuffed in a bar with a bunch of strangers than at home with my loved ones. Maybe I am getting old, but I’m a firm believer in going to bed at 10, wearing yoga pants as much of the day as possible and drinking good craft beer. I’m a huge fan of long brunches, Snapped marathons, comfortable shoes and big cozy blankets.

Easy pumpkin seed and almond granola bars

And If that’s being old, well shoot, I don’t mind it one bit. Bring on the walkers, canes and early bird dinners, baby!

Almond, pumpkin seed & peanut butter granola bars

Granola bars with almond

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Yields about 14.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Chill time: 3 hours
Total time: 3 1/2 hours

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 2/3 cup chopped roasted almonds
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 cup flaxseeds
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter (I used creamy Jif)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with parchment paper. Add the oats and pumpkin seeds, spread evenly over the parchment paper. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until fragrant and toasted.
  2. Once toasted, remove from the pan and place in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the quinoa, flaxseeds, almonds and chia seeds.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the butter, peanut butter, syrup and honey together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  4. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Press the mixture into the foil. Place in the fridge and chill for about 2-3 hours. Cut into bars and enjoy!

Nutritional information per bar:

Calories: 192
Fat: 8 grams
Carbohydrates: 25 grams
Fiber: 3.25 grams
Protein: 5.5 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 5

Sesame, Soy & Honey Glazed Chicken Wings

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Remember my last post where I talked about how I watched the movie Chef and instantly felt inspired to cook? Well, these incredible sesame, soy & honey glazed chicken wings also came from that giant bout of inspiration. In fact, I made 4 recipes that day in the span of just 3 hours.

soy glazed chicken wings

It was pure magic, my friends. Sadly such bouts of productivity have since disappeared, but I’m hoping for another big day so I can get back on track with my blog, my job and all of my freelance obligations.

Soy cilantro chicken wings

There just isn’t enough time in the day to get everything I need done. Actually, scratch that, there isn’t enough DAYLIGHT in the day for me to get everything done. If I could just get home from work and have amazing light until 11pm, that would be awesome. Sadly, enough in the middle of summer we only have light until 7.

sticky soy glazed wings

I think in order to get my life in order, I should just move to Iceland. During the summer, they have daylight until 2 – 3 am. It’s utterly insane yet completely amazing. I remember walking to dinner at 8pm and it was sunnier than it was at 3pm.

Amazing soy glazed chicken wings

I think I could probably change the world if I had that much daylight. Until then, I’ll dream of my new life in Reykjavik while still trapped in Washington, DC.

Sesame & Soy Glazed Chicken Wings

Incredible soy glazed chicken wings

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 5 – 6. Adapted and inspired by Six Sisters Stuff and Damn Delicious.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 8 hours
Total time: 8 hours, 10 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 3 pounds frozen chicken wings
  • 1/2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sweet ginger garlic spice mix (I used this brand)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 2 chives, chopped
  • Fresh cilantro for garnish

Directions: 

  1. Grease the basin of a slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Toss the wings into the crock pot.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the honey, soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, shallot, sriracha, sweet garlic spice mix and one chopped green onion. Pour 3/4 of the sauce over the wings.
  4. Whisk the corn starch with 1/2 tablespoon water. Mix with remaining sauce to thicken.
  5. Cook on low for about 4 – 5 hours, or until the wings are fork tender.
  6. Once done, remove from crock pot and place in a bowl. Top with remaining sauce, chopped green onions and sesame seeds.

Nutritional information per serving (about 4 wings):

Calories: 513
Fat: 26 grams
Carbohydrates: 35 grams
Fiber: 1.2 grams
Protein: 32 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 13

Creamy Sausage Pesto Pasta

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I’m not even going to apologize for my absence. Or go into this long diatribe about why I was gone. I was in New Zealand on the trip of a freakin’ lifetime and couldn’t tear myself away from the incredible views and epic adventures that were bestowed upon me every single day. For a snippet of my adventures, here’s my Instagram handle!

Pesto pasta

But I’ll be honest, I missed you guys A TON. Even though it may seem like I let this blog get dusty in the attic without much thought while I’m away, I actually think about it every single day. As fun as my life can be, I miss my daily posts. I miss cooking, to be frank. I miss editing photos and staging dishes like this creamy sausage pesto pasta.

pasta ingredients

I can’t promise a two week hiatus won’t happen again, so I won’t try to. Instead, i’ll just jump into this dish that completely blew my mind. Actually, the creation of it came the day I returned from a week-long work trip to Miami.

Sausage Pesto Pasta

My husband was gone at a Super Bowl event and I was home alone. Since I already missed the eclectic and vibrant city scene of Miami, I decided to watch Chef. (PS: If you haven’t seen it, watch it now). While most are inspired by the cubanos in that movie, I was inspired by the pasta dish he made at the very beginning for Scarlett Johansson’s character.

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When he was making it, he had this incredible passion in his eyes. And the moment she took her first bite and had this look of, well, ecstasy was inspiration enough for me to make my own version of it.

fresh ingredients

Not only is this one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had, I also haven’t had that much fun in the kitchen in a long time. I was dancing, singing and smiling. For some people, that comes daily. For me? I sort of lost it. But it’s finally coming back!

Creamy Sausage Pesto Pasta

  creamy pesto pasta

Serves about 6.
Prep time: 10 – 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 – 20 minutes
Total time: About 35 minutes

Ingredients: 

For the pesto:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (freshly grated, if possible)
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Dashes of salt and pepper

For the sausage/vegetables:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 orange sweet peppers (the smaller peppers), chopped
  • 1 red sweet pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups crumbled turkey sausage (I love these Jimmy Dean crumbles)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes (sliced in half)

For the pasta:

  • 1 pound linguine or fettuccine pasta
  • Fresh basil as garnish

Directions: 

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil and add a dash of salt. Add the noodles and cook, on medium high heat, until al-dente, about 7 – 8 minutes. Rinse in cold water and set aside.
  2. To make the pesto, add everything into a food processor and pulse until smooth. Reserve 3/4 cup for this recipe and save the rest for later.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and heat until slightly translucent, about 2- 4 minutes. Mix in the chopped peppers and cook until softened, another 3 minutes. Mix in the sausage and cook, over medium heat, until golden brown. Mix in the pesto, pasta and cherry tomatoes.
  4. Heat another 2 – 3 minutes until everything is heated through. Serve with a dusting of fresh parmesan and basil leaves.

Nutritional information per serving (about 1/2 cup):

Calories: 560.5
Fat: 22.6 grams
Carbohydrates: 60 grams
Fiber: 7.1 grams
Protein: 20 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 

Fudgy Double Chocolate Brownies

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Double chocolate brownies

Valentine’s Day is less than 2 weeks away! For me, this means one thing: chocolate. Well, I guess love and that sh*& too, but in the sake of being honest, I’m mostly looking forward to the chocolate.

fudgy brownies

Dessert isn’t something I eat frequently, primarily because I’m always on a diet. In fact, I tried to think of the last time I wasn’t on a diet and the date 1998 rang a bell. Which makes sense because that’s the year I turned 13. I’ve been on a perpetual diet since then.

Best brownies ever

However, I will also say I use the word diet very laxly. Like, my diets sometimes include bottles of wine for dinner, frosted donuts for lunch and two slices of cold pizza for breakfast. My diets also often include cheese, carbs, cheese, salt and more cheese.  This could also be why my 13 year diet hasn’t prove all that fruitfull. I will say that in that time period I have lost (and subsequently gained) 30 pounds.

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And even on past Valentine’s Days where I was sitting pretty 30 pounds lighter, I was so worried about everything I ate. I was so anxious about every little calories. And now, weighing much more than I’d prefer, I will say my relationship with food has never been healthier. I indulge when I want and celebrate every morsel. That’s why I don’t feel bad about eating (or posting) these rich and fudgy brownies. Sure they’re not healthy, but Valentine’s Day isn’t about healthy. It’s about being with the ones you love, and if the one you love is made with butter, cocoa powder and slathered in chocolate frosting, who am I to say you can’t enjoy every second (or taste) of it?

Fudgy Double Chocolate Brownies

chocolate dessert

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 24.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips

For the frosting:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 x 8 baking sheet with parchment paper and then spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the sugar, vanilla, butter and unsweetened applesauce together until smooth and creamy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the flours, cocoa powder and salt together. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until fully combined. Using a spoon, carefully fold in the chocolate chips.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared dish. Bake for about 38 – 42 minutes, or until browned and crackly on top.
  5. Let cool completely then remove from the pan.
  6. To make the frosting, beat the butter, cocoa powder, sugar and vanilla in another mixing bowl. Spread the frosting over the top of the brownies and garnish with additional chocolate chips.

Nutritional information per brownie:

Calories: 350
Fat: 14 grams
Carbohydrates: 50 grams
Fiber: >1 gram
Protein: 3.8 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 9

My Life With Anxiety

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I wish I could just sit here and share a new recipe with you. I wish I could talk about low fat coffee cake, crunchy apple bars and gooey caramel. But I can’t today. I have to talk about me and something I haven’t been 100% honest with you guys about.

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(Image via Pinterest)

I’m not dying. I’m not getting a divorce. I’m not pregnant nor was I. As the title precludes, today we’re going to talk about something deeply personal and hard. For the past year, I’ve been facing some really hard mental demons of my own. Instead of hiding from my diagnosis anymore I’m going to sit down and talk about it frankly with you guys. I’ve been living with severe anxiety for the past year and a half, and I think I’m ready to talk about it.

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People have so many misconceptions about anxiety. For one, everyone thinks they have it. My neighbor, my family members, every friend I confide in. They all believe they’re suffering from the same anxiety I face. And while I agree that everyone does face anxiety once or twice in their life, that doesn’t begin to scratch the surface at the amounts I face daily, hourly, every minute. So many people laugh when I tell them about it, saying “oh I have that too” or “exercise totally helps me” or “oh stop, everything’s fine.” My favorite though is “oh I’m sort of anxious about this and that, can I have a few of your xanaxs?”

Yes, people actually ask that. And people constantly belittle my disease saying it’s something I can just get over. Don’t you think I’d just get over it if I could? Don’t you think I would trade ANYTHING to not get physically sick when panic attacks hit or I break into a hysteria that leaves me broken? If I could just “get over it” I would have a long time ago.

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I’m not here though to bad mouth people who say those things, instead, I’m going to enlighten them and hopefully open the doors for people who are going through the same thing. See mental illness, despite it being 2015, is still something that carries a bit of a stigma. Anytime a major celebrity dies from depression or suicide, this conversation comes up again and again. “Why can’t they just seek help? Why didn’t anyone try to help them?” And there are even people who don’t think depression, anxiety or any mental ailment is a real struggle, they think it’s something a few pills and some therapy can help. Well, that works for some and it doesn’t for others. No wonder so many people hide their problems and deal with their struggles behind closed doors, so many people are so quick to judge them for having these kinds of problems. In a world where we broadcast our lives on social media and are constantly trying to portray our lives as perfect, it’s hard to sit there and go “I’m not perfect, and here’s why.”

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Trust me, writing this post isn’t easy for me. I struggle with so many inner demons, one of them being jealousy and inadequacy. I’m terrified of admitting that things aren’t shiny and glamorous, especially when it seems all of my friends and colleagues lead these post-card perfect lives. But I’m going to because I know I’m not the only person hiding behind the curtains, staring over at the neighbors greener lawn.

I’ve been struggling with some form of anxiety my entire life. As a kid, I was also a big worrier. My parents never saw that as a point of concern, they just noticed that I seemed to worry about everything, things 8 year olds shouldn’t worry about, like bills and college funds. As I grew up, some of that worrying faded and soon I was faced with the normal anxieties of a teenager. In college my anxiety deepened. It started to manifest itself inside of me and it scared me. Instead of talking to a therapist or confiding in my friends, I drank. I drank nonstop so I could stop feeling this constantly pull inside me that was weighing me down. Untreated anxiety can turn into many things, and my first two years of college it turned into depression. A depression I self medicated, which made things worse. A depression that finally forced me to open my eyes about my problems and find a solution.

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When I transferred schools, most of my depression went away, because I started talking to my family about it. Minus one very traumatic event my junior year, my anxiety had mostly dissipated. I still had it, well after graduation, our move to DC, my first job and break into freelancing. But it was manageable. The moment it became unmanageable was the day after the fire.

The fire left me completely broken. It changed everything about my life. I couldn’t leave my apartment without having a panic attack. I couldn’t walk down the street without having a fear that I’d come home to a burnt down house. Anytime I heard a fire truck, I literally had to take deep breaths to prevent myself from breaking down in public. Every single day was a personal nightmare for me, wondering what horrible thing could happen next.

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I wish I could sit here and say that moving to a safe new place and having a great year made all of my anxiety go away. I wish I could. But I can’t. My anxiety today is as severe as it was the day after the fire. I wake up every morning with a nervous pit in my stomach. From the moment I’m awake, my mind starts processing negative thoughts. I have frequent panic attacks where I feel like I can’t breathe or control myself. When I’m traveling, my thoughts are “my plane is going to crash” or “i’m going to get mugged.” People without anxiety can combat these thoughts easily by deducting odds and understanding chances. I can’t do that. My mind functions in a black and white way. It’s either this or that. I’ll either die in a fiery plane crash or I won’t. I’m constantly thinking of worst case scenarios.

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There was a moment last year where my anxiety completely took over while on a trip for work and I was so worked up, I couldn’t sleep, despite an early flight the next morning. I was so panicked, not even a call with my husband could calm me down and I ended up keeping him up most of the night as well.

That was a breaking point for me, I knew I couldn’t live like that anymore and neither could my husband. As soon as I got home, I talked with my primary care doctor about medicines that could help me deal with my anxiety. She prescribed me two kinds of medicine, one for daily anxiety and one for extreme situations. And I’m happy to report that after 8 months of taking the daily pill, I feel like I finally have some of my daily anxiety managed. But it’s not gone. I’m not someone who wants to spend their life mediciated, so I’ve recently started talking with a therapist. It’s scary at first, but incredible once you completely open yourself up to them. I was reserved, but now I look forward to our meetings every week. She doesn’t judge me or make me feel like I’m crazy for the thoughts. Instead she and I find ways I can handle it without the need for panic attacks or higher dosage medication.

I know my anxiety will never go away and that’s something I just have to find a way to live with. But I do know that I can finally manage it in a way that doesn’t leave me dependent on medicine. It’s been a very hard road and very windy one, but I’m here and I’m so grateful to have the support of the people around me. And I’m grateful to you guys for listening and letting me post this. To anyone who is facing crippling anxiety or any mental illness, don’t be scared anymore. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. Don’t be a slave to your demons, conquer them.

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If I can, you can. And that’s a promise.

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