Almond Butter Thumbprints

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It’s always a good time for cookies, and these almond butter thumbprints are the ultimate snack (that’s paleo to boot!)

It’s Friday. It’s 98 degrees in Chicago. I have 2 articles due, a three hour train ride back to my parents and have to squeeze in a workout. I think I deserve a cookie.

As you know, I just got back from a 16-day expedition cruise through the icebergs of Greenland and the fjords of Norway. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the fact that I’m no longer on that ship, with those strangers who quickly became family, staring at what is easily one of the world’s most beautiful natural landscapes. I’ve had some incredibly life-changing trips and travel experiences that I’ve been beyond blessed to experience and write about, and I can never answer the question “what’s the best place you’ve been?” Because in all honesty, they’re all the best places I’ve been. The world is such a uniquely wonderful place, and I can’t possibly pick a favorite.

I can say now, though, that Norway and Greenland are two that have left a massive impact on me, for a myriad of reasons. Many of which I still can’t find the words for. So, until then, just check out the photos (that don’t do it justice) on my instagram and know that I’ll tell the story of these places as soon as I can sit down to type without massive tears welling up in my eyes.

CAN WE TALK ABOUT COOKIES NOW? My emotions are so incredibly raw and vulnerable lately (read this to understand why), and I haven’t had a solid nights sleep in probably 11 months. I’m on my THIRD venti coffee (and second PSL – don’t judge) and it’s just 11am. So, I’m jittery, crazed and will most likely crash into a pool of my own basic drool on the train ride in about an hour.

So cookies. These thumbprints are probably one of my favorite things in the world. I know it *might* be a little early to start talking cookies, but these babies are too good NOT to share immediately. Not only are they made with almond butter (that I whipped up from scratch), they’re made with almond and coconut flour, which means they’re….drumroll please…PALEO. I’m not paleo in my own diet and don’t have many plans to adapt it, but I do have plans to eat as grain-free as possible since I’m completely stalled on my weight loss.

So, when I have cookies, they’re going to be protein-packed and flour-free, and are probably going to have heaps of natural nut butters in them because that’s all I can seem to stomach lately. So, join me in the celebration of the weekend and let’s eat some mother &^*(ing cookies, alright?

Almond Butter Thumbprints

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Yields about 18 – 20 cookies. Slightly adapted from Bakerita. 
Prep time: >10 minutes
Cook time: About 12 minutes

Ingredients: 

For the almond butter:

  • 3 cups almonds
  • Dash of salt

For the cookies:

  • 3/4 cup homemade almond butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup almond meal (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1/2 cup organic coconut flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 cup naturally sweetened jam or unsweetened chocolate chips

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a mini muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. **
  2. To make the almonds, spread evenly over a large baking dish. Sprinkle with salt (lava or kosher is best). Bake for about 15 minutes (stopping to stir halfway 8 minutes in), or until fragrant. Let cool slightly and then pour into the canister of a food processor. Pulse on low for 20 – 25 minutes or until cream. The almond butter will look thick and clumpy for the first 20 minutes, that’s normal! It doesn’t start to cream until minute 21 – 23.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the almond butter, egg, honey, applesauce and vanilla together until creamed.
  4. In another bowl, whisk the flours, baking soda and salt together. Gradually add the flour mixture to the almond butter mixture and stir until fully combined.
  5. Place the dough into the prepared muffin tin (I used a spoon to scoop it in). Using the back of your thump, gently push down the middle of the dough to make cups.
  6. Bake for about about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on a wire cooling rack.
  7. Once cooled, use a small spoon to scoop the jam into the center of the cookie cups. If you’re going to use chocolate chips, simply melt them in a microwavable glass dish with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and heat until smooth and cream.

**You can also place these on a regular baking sheet and bake them as you normally would.

Nutritional information per cookie:

Calories: 122
Fat: 8.3 grams
Carbohydrates: 9 grams
Fiber: >1 gram
Protein: 4 grams

Spicy Chicken, Vegetable & Noodle Soup

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Welcome Autumn with a big batch of this warm and cozy spicy chicken, vegetable and noodle soup!

As I’m writing this, the ship I’m on is plunging to and fro in waves that roar over 3 meters above the surface of the freezing Atlantic Ocean. Although the movement is sporadic and ravenous, it’s also a little contrived. As soon as we rise above after hitting one, we plunder back into the icy waters. The rhythmic motions haven’t left me seasick, but instead feeling incredibly at peace. The solitude the ocean brings, even when you’re amongst 125 other people, is like therapy to a writer.

Don’t get me wrong, at first, the movements are jarring. You find yourself being thrown around and completely off-kilter. Something happens to you when you lose your balance. In a way, you lose your mind. However, when you let it kind of consume you, you fall into the movements of the waves and it all starts to feel normal, natural even.

There’s truly no place I’d rather be than on the water. Maybe it’s because I grew up with a lake as my playground. I’d spend every waking second I could at my cottages on Lake Erie. I’d swim, sail, boat, jet-ski – if it was on the water, you can believe I was there. I think that’s why I feel so at peace when I can see the glisten of the sun against a body of water.

However, that being said, the charms of rocking back and forth for 40+ hours are starting to fade. As my new British friend on board would say, it quickly sends you into a spiral of madness. As much as I love the water, not having my feet firmly planted on dry land for the better part of 3 days is a bit jarring, and I’m actually craving solid ground in a way I didn’t think I would. I always prided myself on having strong sea legs, but there’s even a limit to my love of water and I *might* just be reaching it. Thankfully land is on the horizon and a hike is calling my name this afternoon.

Sailing, boats and Fjords aside, let’s briefly talk about this bowl of cozy heaven in front of you. Chicken soup is an institution in my house, and even though I’m a vegetarian now, I’ll always remember the feelings of comfort it brought me whenever I was feeling sick, sad, down, blue or cold. Everyone has a version of this soup, and I’ve got quite a few (one with green tea, a classic and a kicked up Mexican version). This one, though, is a little different. It’s a blend of standard chicken noodle with hearty vegetable.

This is a real “stick to your guts” kind of soup without add any extra weight at all. The noodles, which are homemade, add energy boosting carbs, while the chicken and mushrooms give you a healthy dose of protein. The broth, which is kicked up with a bit of jalapeno, is made with heaps of herbs to help fight away seasonal colds. It’s a jack of all trades, much like myself.

The best part? It’s easy as sin, keeping with the theme of this week. The only laborious part, of course, are the noodles, but you can easily make those (with this rustic recipe or recipe with spinach) or buy them at the store. Whatever fits your schedule do it. Just know that after one spoonful of this healthy, delicious soup and you’ll too be transported to your happy place. Whether that’s on the water like me. on a beach, in front of a roaring fire or next to a mountain.

Spicy Chicken, Vegetable & Noodle Soup

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS WEBSITE!

Serves about 8. Pasta recipe from The Little Kitchen.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 60+ minutes
Total time: About 80 minutes

Ingredients: 

For the soup: 

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 12 ounces baby bell mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped & seeded
  • 1 large zucchini, sliced and then quartered
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 3 cans (about 14 1/2 ounces each) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes (not drained)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 whole roasted chicken, cooked and shredded (can sub in rotisserie chicken if you’d like)
  • Few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Few sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • Few springs of fresh sage
  • Fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Bean sprouts for garnish
  • Cilantro for garnish

For the noodles: 

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 – 4 tablespoons water

Directions: 

  1. To make the pasta, place the flours, salt, eggs and water into the bowl of a standing mixer. Turn on medium and start mixing until fully combined. Note, if the dough is too dry, add additional water, but in teaspoon increments. After about 2 – 3 minutes of mixing, attach the dough hook. Mix for about 2 minutes. Then remove the dough from the bowl and place on a very floured surface. Using your hands, knead until soft and elastic. Cover with a damp cloth and let rest for about 5 – 10 minutes.
  2. Once rested, cut the dough into chunks. Fit your KitchenAid with a pasta making roller attachment. Using a rolling pin, roll out one chunk of dough at a time (careful to keep the other dough covered so it doesn’t dry out between use). Carefully push the rolled out dough through the roller. I did this about 3 times to get a very smooth and thin sheet of pasta. Once you’re happy with the thickness, attach the spaghetti and fettuccine attachment. Carefully push the rolled out pasta through that until you get strands.
  3. Using a pasta drying rack, dry the pasta noodles until ready to use.
  4. To make the soup, heat the olive oil over medium high head. Add the onions and cook for about 2 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook for about one minute. Add the butter and stir in the mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, celery, jalapeno and bell pepper. Cook on medium heat for about 3 minutes, or until the vegetables start to tenderize.
  5. Gradually add in the broth, diced tomatoes and lime juice, stirring well. Mix in the fresh herbs and salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 8 – 12 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Add in the chicken and simmer another 2 – 4 minutes.
  6. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta in batches and cook until al-dente. Rinse in cold water and add to the large bowl of soup or serve separately. Add some bean sprouts & cilantro for garnish and enjoy!

Nutritional information per serving (about 1 cup of soup):

Calories: 215
Fat: 3.8 grams
Carbohydrates: 12 grams
Fiber: .5 grams
Protein: 3.5 grams

Cinnamon Sugar Baked Donut Bites

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These cinnamon sugar baked donut bites are so easy, you’ll want to make them all week long!

We’re keeping with the easy theme this week, and I’m pretty sure y’all aren’t mad about that, are you? With back to school in full swing, the seasons changing and the stress, I mean excitement, of upcoming holidays, easy is something we all need a little bit more of.

Especially when it comes to donuts, which is one of the hardest things I’ve had to give up on my quest for fitness. Can I live without meat? Yes. Dairy? Probably. Donuts? UGHH.

The thing is, I rarely indulge in a flakey, cakey, sprinkle topped donut, but when I do, it’s like armageddon. I black out and before I come to, all of the donuts in sight are devoured and I’m in a sugar and fat induced coma that’s nearly impossible to shake. Maybe it’s because as a kid, I’d enjoy donuts anytime I went home to see my grandparents and have such fond memories of them.

Or maybe it’s just the simple fact that they’re sweet little balls of dough that are deep-fried, dredged in glaze or chocolate and often filled with an insatiable variety of creams, jellies or custards. I’ve never met a donut I didn’t like, and considering how many people I meet that I loathe, that’s saying something. I kid. Mostly. Even though I adore these baked banana nut donuts and could consume 62 of these bite-size whole wheat strawberry ones, these decadent little morsels might be my favorite yet. I feel a bit like a hack, though, because they’re not homemade at all, actually.

They’re made with biscuit dough! Doing my best Sandra Lee impersonation, I really just made these out of boredom one day. I had two rolls of biscuit dough in the fridge, enough cinnamon to coat a baby (thanks to a recent trip to India) and heaps of milk (thanks to a farmers market impulse buy). Normal people would probably bake the biscuits for dinner, but I decided to turn them into little donuts and then slather then in a cream cheese cinnamon roll icing glaze.

You could omit the glaze, but why would you? Only truly terrible people would do that, and none of you lovely folks fit that category. So just don’t, okay?

Cinnamon Sugar Baked Donut Bites

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Yields about 12 – 16 donut holes, depending on size. Recipe adapted from Pillsbury.
Prep time: >8 minutes
Cook time: About 18 minutes

Ingredients: 

For the donuts:

  • 1 can (16.3 ounces) buttermilk biscuit dough (I used the reduced-fat version)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup butter

For the glaze:

  • 4 ounces low-fat cream cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a cast iron skillet with nonstick cooking spray. (Note, you can also use an 8 x 8 round cake pan or a 9 x 13 glass baking dish as well).
  2. Remove the biscuits from the canister. Using your hands or a knife, break each biscuit apart into two or four pieces (depending on how big you want the bites to be).
  3. Melt the butter in a microwave for about 30 seconds (at 100% power). Whisk the cinnamon and the brown sugar together.
  4. Using a fork or your hands, dip the dough bites into butter and then cover liberally in the cinnamon brown sugar dusting. Place into the skillet. If you want, you can place them further apart to make separate bites, or do as I did and lump them together. This gives you almost a pull apart doughnut cake in the end.
  5. Bake for about 16 – 18 minutes, or until golden brown.
  6. While the bites cool, make the icing. In a mixing bowl fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese, sugar, butter, almond extract and vanilla extract. While the bites are still warm, drizzle the glaze over them (or pour liberally, your call). Garnish with chopped nuts and enjoy!

Nutritional information per serving (about 2 bites):

Calories: 322
Fat: 12.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 42 grams
Fiber: >1 gram
Protein: 4.2 grams

Easy, Cheesy Crock Pot Tortellini

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This easy, cheesy crock pot tortellini is the ultimate fall comfort food dish. Plus, it practically makes itself!

It’s hard to believe how many people quickly turned from “SUMMER BERRIES! TOMATOES! ALL THE ZUCCHINI!” to “PUMPKIN SPICE EVERYTHING!” as soon as Labor Day passed. Trust me, I get it. I’m a basic b who loves all things fall too. (You should see the extensive collection of scarves, boots and cardigans I own, it’s uncomfortable). But, as I said here in this berry frozen yogurt post, I’m not a fan of wishing away seasons while we’re still in them. 

However, I am a fan of cheesy and hearty carbohydrates, and for that, I’m happy #winteriscoming. 

I mean, look at all that cheese! I’m pretty sure this photo was why the heart-eyed emoji was created. 

As excited as I am for fall and winter, I’m also a *little* stressed. As crazy as summer was for travel (just look at my Instagram), fall and winter are going to be even busier. I’m currently floating in the middle of the Arctic sea in Greenland, and from here, I go to China, Spain, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Australia, Mexico, Belize and then Nepal. Just reading all of those countries has me in a dizzy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m completely thrilled at the prospect of visiting so many new-to-me places and revisiting places I’ve fell in love with, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t completely bummed to miss my favorite season in its peak.

That’s the life, though, of an intrepid and adventurous travel writer and I’ll never complain about the life I’m blessed (and have worked HARD) to have. It’s actually these insanely busy months that make the moments at home even more meaningful. Plus, after 8+ weeks of eating out for every meal, there’s nothing that tastes better than something you’ve made yourself. 

I have this routine when I get back from a trip. First, I do all of my laundry (self explanatory), cuddle the heck out of my dog, spend a few hours catching up with my mom and then immediately get to meal prepping and planning. I write down every single dish I’ve dreamt about making when on the road and then immediately start planning a grocery list. When your ilfe is so void of any sort of normalcy, there’s nothing more exciting than going to a grocery store, shopping for food and then making the dishes you’ve spent the past 8 weeks dreaming about. 

Like this easy, cheesy tortellini. Even though it’s not fancy or complicated, it’s homemade. And when you’re on the road for weeks on end, nothing is more comforting than a taste of home. 

Easy, Cheesy Crock Pot Tortellini

Serves about 4.

Prep time: 5 – 8 minutes

Cook time: 7 hours

Ingredients: 

  • 1 pound ground turkey or chicken*
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 cups marinara sauce (homemade or store bought)
  • 1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup chopped red and green bell pepper
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted Italian), drained
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 package (9 ounces) tortellini (you can even make your own if you’re feeling brave)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, chopped
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan 
  • Fresh basil chopped

**Can substitute soy-based meat or tempeh if you’d like. 

Directions: 

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the ground meat and break up with a spatula. Add Italian seasoning. Cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is golden brown and crumbly. Remove from heat and drain the fat.
  2. Spray the bottom of a 4 – 5 quart slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, mix the meat, marinara, mushrooms, bell peppers, diced tomatoes, onion and garlic together. Mix in the tortellini and add salt and pepper to taste. 
  3. Cover and cook on low for about 6 1/2 – 7 hours, stirring occasionally. Add in the chopped mozzarella and parmesan and cook an additional 30 – 40 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Garnish with fresh basil and serve. 

Nutritional information per serving: 

Calories: 525
Fat: 26.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 61 grams
Fiber: 3.2 grams
Protein: 37 grams

Easy Homemade Berry Frozen Yogurt

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Enjoy those last dog days of summer with this easy homemade strawberry frozen yogurt!

Y’all, who is ready for some fro-yo? Yes, I just said fro-yo and NO, I don’t feel bad about it.

So, can we talk for a second about how many people on my social media networks are already talking about fall? Not just talking about fall, but wishing for it. Trust me, I’m not a huge fan of sweating and I love that crisp Autumn weather and all of the #basic favorites that come along with it. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life and my travels, it’s this – we all need to spend more time living in the moment.

I may lose some credibility here, but there’s a movie that describes this better than I can. It’s called Click. It stars Adam Sandler, I know, but it actually portrays this exact dilemma in a really powerful way. As a synopsis, Adam’s character has trouble living his life in that moment so he procures a magical instrument that can fast-forward his life.

It sounds cheesy but it truly showcases what it’s like to wish away the moment you’re in for a better one. Trust me, there were moments of this year I wish I could have fast-forwarded through and skipped past without having to truly experience them. Looking back now, though, I wouldn’t trade those moments even if I had to. They were hard, emotional and truly challenging, but they’ve helped shape who I am today and I’m forever thankful for that.

As much as I want fall, I’m not ever going to wish away summer to get it. Instead, I’m going to live in this very second, eat a big bowl of this homemade strawberry frozen yogurt, and enjoy a few more nights on the front porch with a glass of rose, listening to the familiar buzz of secadas.

Life is short enough, why don’t we stop wishing for what’s next and just start appreciating for what’s happening right now?

Easy Homemade Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

Yields about 1 quart (4 cups).
Prep time: 5 – 8 minutes
Chill time: 2 hours

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped
  • 1/2 pound fresh raspberries
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • Fresh mint for garnish

Directions: 

  1. Mix the strawberries, raspberries, sugar, honey and lemon zest together.
  2. Add the berries and yogurt to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a mixing bowl, cover with saran wrap and chill for at least 2 – 3 hours.
  3. Once chilled, place into the frozen canister of an ice cream maker. Churn for about 15 – 20 minutes or until thick and creamy.

Nutritional information per serving (1/2 cup):

Calories: 88.5
Fat: >1 gram
Carbohydrates: 21 grams
Fiber: >1 gram
Protein: 2.25

Whole Wheat Raspberry Lemon Scones

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Host the ultimate brunch at home with these soft, flakey, whole wheat raspberry lemon scones. They make the ultimate pairing with a crisp glass of Prosecco!

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

Who doesn’t love a scone? I realized today that I actually don’t have any recipes for scones on my site. Not even one. That seems sacrilegious. How can a lover of these buttery, soft and delicate pastries not even have one recreation on her site? 


 So, that was immediately rectified, especially when Riondo Prosecco reached out to partner. They asked for a recipe that would pair nicely with their super crisp and bubbly Prosecco, and I knew almost instantly it had to be a scone. Even though I sip on Prosecco any time of day, it always reminds me of brunch. And despite being a definite Bellini girl, I have to say I sometimes just enjoy a simple glass of bubbles with my favorite morning meal. 

What makes these scones such a perfect pair with a glass of Riondo is simple – they’re beaming with fresh summer citrus (thanks to the lemon addition) and have mouthfuls of plump, juicy raspberries in almost every bite. Pair that with a glass (or coffee mug, flute, wine glass or solo cup) of Prosecco and you’ve got the ultimate marriage of flavors. 

Now, these scones aren’t low fat, and that’s because I don’t think you can really get that buttery, flakey consistency when you sub with applesauce. If you don’t mind a chewier scone, by all means, sub away! I just wanted the texture to be as close to an English bakery as humanly possible. I did add in Greek yogurt and low-fat milk, however, and used whole wheat flour instead of white. 

Whether you’re hosting an outdoor brunch with your girls or simply enjoying these last dog days of summer, these scones and this Prosecco are the ultimate treat! Want more inspiration? Try these Riondo Prosecco Cocktails!

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Whole Wheat Raspberry Lemon Scones 

Yields about 8 – 10 scones (depending on size)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: About 14 minutes 

Ingredients:  

  • 2 ¼ cup whole wheat flour 
  • ¼ cup brown sugar 
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder 
  • Dash of salt 
  • 3 tablespoons lemon zest 
  • ½  cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold 
  • ¼ cup low-fat milk 
  • ¼ cup raspberry nonfat Greek yogurt 
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract 
  • ¼ cup chopped almonds 
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries 
  • Easy glaze + chopped almonds for garnish 

Directions:  

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray.  
  2. In a large bowl, mix the whole wheat flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon zest together. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles sand. 
  3. In another bowl, whisk the milk, Greek yogurt and almond extract together. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture, alternating with the chopped almonds. Carefully stir in the raspberries. 
  4. On a floured surface, gently knead the dough and form into a large circle (add a little more milk if too dry). Cut into 8 – 10 triangles.  
  5. Distribute the scones onto the baking trays. Bake for about 14 minutes or until golden brown. Let chill on a wire rack.  
  6. Once chilled, glaze and garnish with chopped almonds.  

Nutritional information per scone:  

Calories: 325
Fat: 14.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 37 grams
Fiber: 2.4 grams
Protein: 6 grams 

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Deconstructed Pulled Pork Carnitas Plates

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These deconstructed pulled pork carnitas plates are an easy, low carb weeknight  dinner idea!

*NOTE: This recipe was made and tested before I became a vegetarian. Although I don’t eat meat anymore, I plan on sharing a few more meat-centric dishes that were made during that timeframe. Please see options in the recipe if you want to make these vegetarian!

Since taking almost a full year off food blogging, I’ve acquired *a few* recipes in my arsenal that I just never shared. Even though I wasn’t updating this little piece of the internet, I was still cooking, recipe testing and, well, eating of course. Travel, life changes, a move and a focus on my career just made it hard to share them as soon as I made them. But, lucky for you, I’ve got all of these mouthwatering recipes written up and re-tested so I can bring them to your faces IMMEDIATELY.

Like these deconstructed pulled pork plates. I originally got the idea for these after noshing on amazing pulled pork tacos from a joint in Charleston. Weighing a solid 35 pounds more than I do now, I was really trying to lose weight and be more conscience of what I was putting in my body. Which for me at the time meant low-carb. Now that I’m doing HIIT workouts 6 times a week, carbs have become my best friend. But for a girl who didn’t move and could barely run a mile a year ago, carbs were the devil’s work. Which is where these plates came to fruition.

I actually remade these last week and my family ate them EXACTLY as pictured – no tortillas or crispy taco shells in sight. Just meat and veggies with a bit of rice. My little brother, who is basically a body builder in training, demolished 3 plates of these in a sitting. And I can’t blame him! They’re loaded with protein and naturally low in carbs, things he absolutely needs for his 360 pound squat workouts.

Not only are they healthy (and good for you), they’re pretty darn beautiful, don’t you think? Even though I’m a strict vegetarian, I can still appreciate the beauty a nicely cooked collection of meat can bring to a plate. The pork was cooked so simply – in a crock pot with just a few select spices. You cook on low for 8 hours and then the meat just falls apart when you shred it with two forks. Plus, the recipe makes HEAPS – so you can easily stash some away for later and stuff into a sandwich or mix with pasta.

To round out the meal, I’d suggest pairing it with some homemade cilantro brown rice. Or just eat three plates of it like my little brother did and immediately go squat 6,000 pounds. I mean, whatever floats your boat.

***To make these vegetarian, sub the pork for crispy baked tofu!

Deconstructed Pulled Pork Carnitas Plates

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Pork yields about 12 servings. This recipe makes about 4 – 6 plates.
Prep time: 15 – 20 minutes
Cook time: 6 – 8 hours (for the pork) and 15 minutes (vegetables)

Ingredients: 

For the pork: ***

  • 1 5 pound pork shoulder
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • 1 habanero, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning (or a Mexican spice blend)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the blistered peppers:

  • 2 large bell peppers, seeded and sliced
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil

For the plates:

  • 8 ounces cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 can diced chilis, drained
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed with a dash of salt & pepper
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 2 avocados, seeded and diced
  • 1 serving cilantro lime rice
  • Cilantro

Directions: 

  1. To make the pork, rub the oil all over the shoulder. Liberally coat the entire pork shoulder in Mexican spices. In the basin of the slow cooker, mix the red onion, garlic, jalapeño, habanero, orange juice and water together. Place the pork shoulder (fat side down) into the crock pot. Cook on low for about 8 – 9 hours, or until meat is tender (it will fall off the bone when you try to shred it with two forks). Reserve 1/2 cup of the liquid and skim the fat off the top.
  2. Remove the meat from the crock pot and place on a large cutting board. Using two forks, shred the meat. To serve, heat the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/4 of the meat and drizzle with juice. Heat for about 2 – 4 minutes or until slightly crispy. Repeat until all the meat is cooked.
  3. For the peppers, preheat the broiler. Place the peppers on a large baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Broil for about 10 minutes, turning after 5, or until the skin are blistered (they’ll appear blackened in spots). Remove from heat.
  4. To make the plates, divide the pork, cherry tomatoes, blistered peppers, sweet potatoes, onion, avocado, cilantro and rice. Serve with your favorite taco seasoning, hot sauce or just a dash of salt and pepper!

Nutritional information per serving: 

Calories: 610
Fat: 22 grams
Carbohydrates: 45 grams
Fiber: 4.2 grams
Protein: 29 grams

Easy Tofu Ramen

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Craving some cozy, vegetarian comfort food? Whip up this light, easy and delicious tofu ramen!

I had such high hopes for a headline with this one. Want to hear my first option? It’s so punny I can hardly stand it. TO-PHO.

Get it? Like tofu and pho? But then I quickly realized this recipe isn’t for pho, it’s for ramen, and my heart crushed. Since I’ve been up for hours writing, I gave up quickly and stuck with easy tofu ramen.

I promise people pay me to write sometimes. I know it’s summer and you’re googling cherry recipes, zucchini noodles and all of the tomato-based dishes you can muster, but I’ve always danced to the beat of my own drum and think people – probably crazy ones – are craving a recipe for ramen when it’s 560 degrees outside.

See, for me, ramen (and pho, for that matter) aren’t seasonally sensitive. When I lived in DC, I ate pho all the time, even in the DEAD of sweat-your-face-off-hell-on-earth-month (aka August). Some foods just inspire and ignite feelings of comfort, and for me, that’s always going to be Asian soups. They’re just simple. The flavors come from the fresh ingredients – the spicy chilis that grow along the sloping hills, the veggies and herbs that you can basically pluck from the side of the road.

That’s one thing I miss so much about Southeast Asia. The freshness. It’s farm-to-fork before that concept was a buzzword in the US. It’s simply how they live. Most of the families living in the rural countryside villages of Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and China don’t have the resources to buy processed food from the store. I mean, most of them don’t have four walls on their homes, indoor plumbing or electricity, so the last thing they’re going to spend money on is tomatoes pumped with GMO’s. The food they eat is the food they grow. The meat they eat is raised right outside of their door.

They’ve been living the way we’ve been trying to for decades without a second thought. It’s a hard life – one that requires understanding, empathy, patience and courage – but a simple one. One I think we could all learn so much from. 

But, that’s a different story for a different day. Today, we’re going to chat a bit more about this ramen. As most of you know, I’m a vegetarian now (formerly a vegan), so clearly my ramen is completely meat-free. But guess what, you don’t miss it. The spiciness of the kimchi and chilies, as well as the herbaceousness of the cilantro paired with the crispy baked tofu more than make up for the flavor (and texture) you’d get from meat.

Plus, now you can eat heaps more without the guilt. Which, honestly, is all I care about.

Easy Tofu Ramen

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 4.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 – 30 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 quart low-sodium vegetable broth (homemade or store bought)
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons soy sauce, divided (I used low-sodium)
  • 12 ounces ramen noodles

For the tofu:

  • 1 package extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons spicy Asian chili sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

For the toppings:

  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and sliced
  • 1 cup kimchi, divided
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Sriracha for garnish

For the soft boiled eggs:

  • 4 eggs

Directions: 

  1. Cut the tofu into bite-size pieces. In a bowl, whisk the hoisin, spicy Asian chili sauce and soy sauce together. In a large ziplock bag, mix the tofu pieces and the marinade together. Chill for at least 1 – 2 hours.
  2. Once marinated, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Scoop the tofu out of the marinade and place in the baking dish, careful to evenly distribute the tofu. Drizzle 2 – 4 tablespoons of marinade over the tofu and bake for about 25 – 30 minutes, stopping to toss the tofu after 10 minutes so it evenly bakes.
  3. In a large Dutch Oven over medium heat, add the olive oil. Add in the garlic and cook for about 1 minute, or until slightly fragrant. Add the onions and cook over medium-high heat for 2 – 3 minutes. Stir in the ginger, broth and soy sauce. Reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for about 10 – 15 minutes.
  4. Bring another small pot (about 4 – 6 cups) of water to a rapid boil. Add the ramen noodles and cook for about 4 – 6 minutes, or until soft. Drain and set aside.
  5. To make the soft boiled egg, fill a saucepan with a few inches of water (enough to cover an egg) to a rapid boil. Reduce the water to a rapid simmer and gently (VERY GENTLY) lower the eggs into the water. Cook the eggs for about 5 – 6 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and then immediately rinse in cold water. To peel, wrap in paper towels and gently tap the egg with the back of a spoon to crack it. Gently peel.
  6. When ready to serve, spoon the broth into four bowls. Add in the ramen noodles and top with a few tablespoons of jalapeno, 1/4 cup kimchi, 1/4 cup bean sprouts, fresh cilantro, 2 soft boiled eggs and a heap (like 2 – 4 tablespoons) of crispy tofu.

Nutritional information per serving: 

Calories: 430
Fat: 17.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 21 grams
Fiber: 1 gram
Protein: 17.2 grams

Sour Cherry, Burrata & Wheatberry Salad

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This quick and easy sour cherry, burrata & wheatberry salad is the perfect side dish for any Labor Day get together!

wheat berry salad

I’ve been at my parents house for 5 days and I’ve already binged one show on Netflix and am halfway through another. This is what happens when you’re on the road for 6 weeks and don’t have access to television and your WiFi reliability is drug lord sketchy, at best. I’ve also made 16,750 recipes, worked out incessantly and got heaps of new assignments, but we’re here to talk Netflix. Has anyone watched Friends from College? It’s got Key from Key and Peele, as well as Robin from How I Met Your Mother (I’m sure they have real names, I’m just too lazy to Google them). It’s the perfect mix of funny & serious and touches on some really hard stuff without being overly sappy. I watched it in a DAY and I’m tempted to go back and watch it again. When I’m done with 13 Reasons Why, that is.

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I know, I’m totally late to the game on that one, but HOLYCRAPICANTSTOP. To me, it’s the TV equivalent of a really good book that you absolutely can’t put down. I not only love how they’ve structured the show, I think Netflix did such a good job with the character development. I know there’s quite a bit of controversy surrounding the series, but I think it’s groundbreaking. Bullying – especially online – is a serious, serious issue these days and I think the show approached the topic in a way that’s respectful while still pushing the buttons a little. Before I got into that show, I watched a few minutes of Ozark with Jason Bateman and I was not impressed. It feels too much like Bloodline, and we all know that show is gold and nothing will ever compare to it. I also binged the crap out of Master of None before I left on my adventure abroad and I have just one question. Is anyone else madly in love with Aziz Ansari? Or is just me? I find him absolutely adorable, not to mention an absolute genius. His depictions of dating now are spot on. Trust me, I’m single and it’s about as depressing and harrowing as the show portrays.

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With that transition, let’s talk single life for a second. Any of my readers single? LET’S TALK ABOUT HOW TERRIBLE ONLINE DATING IS FOR A SECOND. The past few boyfriends I’ve had, I met in real life. And the stories are so cute you’d probably cry if you heard them. However, as you can tell by the fact I’m still single, they didn’t work out. And, as a girl who travels more than she does anything else, meeting desirable matches is quite difficult. Sure, I meet heaps of great guys on my adventures, but most of the time they live on the other side of the world and don’t find distance as charming as I do. But, that’s life. So, if any of you have any tricks for online dating that make it far less despondant, please shoot me an email. Or, if you have a success story from an online date, send me that too.

cherries

I need some good news, y’all. This world is full of too much bad. Beyond that, y’all should make this salad. The sour cherries balance the richness of the burrata, and the wheatberries fill you up without filling you out. I ate heaps of this salad after my workout yesterday and was stuffed for 6 hours, which is something that never happens after my workouts. In addition to being a healthy lunch, it’s a great side dish for Labor Day picnics! Which is, like, tomorrow but I’m not ready to talk about how fast the summer is flying by.

Sour Cherry, Burrata & Wheatberry Salad

wheatberry salad

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 4 – 5. Dressing recipe slightly adapted from Epicurious.
Prep time: 6 – 10 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour

Ingredients: 

For the salad:

  • 1 cup hard wheatberries, rinsed
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • Dash of salt
  • 6 ounces burrata cheese
  • 8 ounces sour (or regular) cherries, pitted and sliced
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped fresh basil

Directions: 

  1. In a saucepan, mix the wheatberries, water and dash of salt together. Bring to a rapid boil then reduce heat to low. Cover and let simmer for an hour, stopping to fluff and stir the berries every 20 or so minutes. Let cool.
  2. Once cooled, mix the wheatberries with the cherries, burrata and walnuts (carefully to not bleed the cherries).
  3. In another bowl, whisk the lemon zest, lemon juice, honey and dijon mustard together. Using a whisk, add the olive oil one tablespoon at a time, whisking well after each addition. Mix in the chopped basil and salt and pepper. Drizzle the salad with the dressing and serve immediately.

Nutritional information per serving: 

Calories: 343.6
Fat: 20.4 grams
Carbohydrates: 32 grams
Fiber: 4 grams
Protein: 12.8 grams

Blueberry, Flax and Granola Muffins

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Enjoy a healthy and light bite with these blueberry, flax and granola muffins!

It’s been so long since I’ve last updated this blog, I completely forgot my password. Keep in mind, I have like three passwords for everything I host – bank, paypal, venmo, facebook, instagram – you name it, I have a rotating collection of just a few. Now, before you internet security people scrutinize me, let me tell you one thing – these passwords are harder to crack than the CIA.

granola muffins

Unless you know me, like REALLY KNOW ME, you’d never in one million years guess them. For good reason, they’re obscure AF, ridiculous and probably the weirdest combination of words, names, letters and symbols. I mean, if I’m going to have just a few passwords, they need to be steel-trap good, am I right?

healthy muffins

Even though I know y’all come here to know all about my internet security measures, I thought we’d talk briefly about muffins. Because this is a food blog and that’s why people who have food blogs talk about. Muffins, divorces, anxiety – you know, the reg. Jokes aside, I haven’t had a real, honest-to-goodness muffin in over 2 months so you better believe that was one of the first things I made when I got back to my parents. Yes, I’m still “living” at my parents. However, living is a strong, strong overstatement since I’m gone 3 1/2 weeks out of every month.

granola muffins2

Back to muffins. My family owns two cottages on Lake Erie. These cottages are where I spent my summers as a kid, where I worked when I was 19 – 21, where I met one of my first long-term boyfriends and the place that shaped who I am completely. Well, on the way to these cottages, there’s a fruit stand called Bergman’s Orchard. The fruit is mostly local – from Ohio, Michigan and Indiana farms (aka the Great Lakes regions) and is, without a doubt, some of the best in the entire country. I’m not kidding – the peaches are so juicy they drip down your shirt and the watermelons are that perfect shade of pink.

granola

Well, naturally – as a family of foodies, we stop at this stand on the way to the cottages to stock up on our fruit needs for the week/weekend. Well, when I was in Ohio this weekend, my grandma regaled us with a whole HEAP of peaches. So, after noshing on a few, I was determined to make something with them. So, I did. It’s just not these muffins. Total mind-EFF right? Don’t worry, I’ve got a recipe coming up including those juicy little nuggets, but for now, we’re sticking to blueberries, which as luck would have it, were sourced from that same little fruit stand.

If you can’t find local blueberries, frozen will do just fine. Honestly, they’re muffins. Just make, don’t overthink and enjoy.

Blueberry, Flax and Granola Muffins

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 12.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 22 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup granola (I used Special K)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon flax seed + 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup blueberries

*Not necessary to the muffins, but I found it made the muffins extra moist.

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk the granola, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together.
  2. In another bowl, mix the flax seed and water together. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix the egg, flax seed, honey, sugar, Greek yogurt, coconut milk and olive oil together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Toss in the raisins and blueberries, careful while stirring not to make the berries bleed.
  4. Cover with saran wrap and chill for 24 hours. *
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a muffin tin with paper liners and spray lightly with cooking spray. Fill the muffin liners 3/4 the way full with batter. Bake for about 22 – 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Let chill.

Nutritional information per muffin:

Calories: 235
Fat: 9.2 grams
Carbohydrates: 38.2 grams
Fiber: 3 grams
Protein: 6.2 grams

Smashed Strawberry & Pineapple Vodka Mojitos

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These smashed strawberry & pineapple vodka mojitos are the perfect cocktail for any springtime celebration!

berry pineapple mojitos

Is there anything better than a long holiday weekend? For us working gals, having a day off (where we don’t have to work) is truly the biggest blessing in the world. To be honest, I don’t remember the last day I took off from everything. Between my 9 – 5 job, my freelance obligations and this blog, there hasn’t really been a day where I haven’t cooked, written, photographed or sat in a cube in far too long.

ingredients mojito

And boy am I looking forward to it! For the first weekend in, well, forever, we don’t have huge plans for the weekend. In fact, I’ll probably find myself shopping and laying by the pool for most of it. I do plan to make a few pitchers of these smashed berry vodka mojitos though for our little BBQ for a few reasons. One, they taste amazing.

fresh berry pineapple mojitos

Two? We have a wild forest of mint growing in our front yard.

fresh mint

Seriously, the mint is so rabid it’s overtaking my flowers. Even though I prefer wine to liquor, I knew a mojito had to happen soon or else we’d be killed by the mutiny of mint at our house. That and I’m trying to branch out of just wine and beer and up my cocktail game.

mojito2

Plus, wine and beer aren’t exactly diet friendly so I’m desperately trying to find tasty libations that are naturally sweetened and refreshing without a metric ton of calories or sugar. These? Are just that. The entire batch only has 2 tablespoons sugar and the rest comes from the fruit. Other than that, it’s all naturale baby.

fresh berry and nectarine mojitos

I’m not lying when I say these might be my new signature drink of summer. Now if only I could find a way to make a living sipping cocktails by the pool, I could indulge in these more frequently with a beautiful bronzed tan.

Smashed Strawberry  & Pineapple Vodka Mojitos

Easy fresh mojitos

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 8.
Prep time: 10 – 15 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh pineapple chunks
  • 1/2 nectarine, cut into thin slices
  • 1 1/2 lime, cut in half
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 16 ounces (about 2 cups) vodka (I used berry flavored)
  • 24 mint leaves
  • Diet ginger ale

Directions: 

  1. Place the strawberries into a large bowl. Using a spoon or muddler, gently smash the berries into the pitcher. Add the berries to a large pitcher. Add in the pineapple and nectarine slices. Squeeze the lime into the pitcher and pour in the vodka. Add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, stirring well after each addition.
  2. In another small bowl, carefully muddle the mint leaves so they bruise slightly. Mix the mint leaves (and extracts) into the pitcher.
  3. Top with diet ginger ale and serve!

Easy fruit mojtios

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

Calories: 171.5
Fat: >1 gram
Carbohydrates: 11.12 grams
Fiber: 0
Protein: 0.5 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 2

Now What?

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I feel like I’ve been staring at this computer, the cursor’s blink the only thing decorating the blank screen, for what seems like days trying to write this post. It’s funny, you’d think the one announcing my divorce would have been harder to pen, but it’s this story that’s proving far more difficult. I think it’s because the last post was filled with definitives. It was a factual representation of my life these past 7 months. To me, it read more like an informative news story and less like an emotional feature.

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That story had an ending. This one? I actually have no clue how this narrative, or really my future, is going to end.

I find myself with my feet firmly planted facing a fork in the road. However, unlike Robert Frost, I’m not welcomed with a path that offers least resistance. Both of the trails I’m faced with come with their own set of obstacles. There’s not one that’s easier to traverse. One comes equipped with tangled tree branches thick with thorns, rocky boulders, staggering mountains and verdant bushes coated in poison ivy. The other? It’s home to slippery mud paths that plunge into rushing rapids and dark caves that offer no visible respite from the stifling darkness. No matter which way I go, I’m going to get my ass kicked in the process of trying to find my way out.

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I almost wish I could give that answer when people ask me the careless question, “Now what? What’s the plan for your life?” The question is innocent enough, and I know people don’t ask it with malice intent. But I can’t help but wish they’d refrain, ask me anything else. It’s not just a loaded question, it’s a painful one – one that brings tear-inducing memories of a life I no longer have claim to, a future I willingly gave up.

When I was married, that question was easy. “Oh, we’re moving to Charleston! Or, we’re saving to buy a house on James Island! Yes,  kids are in the picture.” The answers flew off the tongue because, in all honesty, I believed them for quite a bit of our 5 year marriage. It wasn’t until the last year that I started to feel this nauseating dread whenever someone asked us over stuffed turkey or Christmas presents, “So, when are you going to have kids!” Once again, a question innocent enough when the rest of your family is pregnant or expecting, but one that comes with a different kind of sadness because deep down, you know you’re not going to have kids together because you’re probably not going to stay together. For the first time in our 9 year courtship, I saw the end of our marriage when I closed my eyes and thought of the future, not a suburban home filled with the sound of kids.

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Fast forward to this past October, and the crushing reality of our finalized divorce was raw. Even though we both knew it was for the best, it didn’t make the insufferable loneliness that followed any easier to bare. Saying goodbye to the relationship was hard, but saying goodbye to the future we planned was inevitably harder. I no longer had something substantial to plan for. I found myself alone, living with my parents and with absolutely no clue where I was going to be in the next month, better yet next year.

And that’s where I find myself still, more than 7 months later. Despite a brief, yet meaningful, foray into dating, I don’t find myself any closer to finding love. In fact, I think I’m maybe even further away. And the reason for that is simple – I had my heart broken. But the thing that’s the most surprising is this break hurt (and still hurts) more than my divorce did. Looking back on our time together and how our relationship began, I’m not surprised by how it ended. Before we can get to that story, though, you need to understand the first couple chapters of my post marriage dissolution dip into dating.

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When I first found myself ready to get out there, I knew almost immediately I couldn’t stomach something serious. Which is why I entered into every chat, every first date, every kiss and romp in the hay with the same perception – you’re only here to fill a void. And, for the most part, it worked. I was selfish, carefree and completely ridiculous. And I’d be lying if I said every moment wasn’t fun. I’d wake up with a huge smile on my face, the taste of their kiss still on my lips, feeling more empowered, more sexually confidant and stronger than I had in years. I’d walk down the street and people would see me. They’d smile, they’d do a double take, they’d stare from a distance. I felt alive, insatiable, irresistible and beautiful. It wasn’t until the holidays rolled around that those feelings started to fade and I found myself face to the face with loneliness – that haunting feeling I thought I left behind.

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The holidays are tough on anyone, but they’re even worse when you’re recently single after being a “we” for the better part of 9 years. Despite my best attempts at putting on the “happiest” face, I found moments when I was so utterly alone I couldn’t breathe. That’s the thing about loneliness that people don’t realize – it isn’t just a feeling or a thought you can push away, it’s physical, visceral, all-encompassing. It can debilitate you in a way you only thought a broken leg or a throbbing migraine could. And I was feeling every single one of those this past December. There were days I’d cry uncontrollably, where I couldn’t stomach the thought of eating a peanut, better yet a healthy meal. There were countless nights I’d spend wide awake, forcing my poor dog to cuddle with me so I didn’t feel so hopelessly alone. It’s easy to see why, then, that I threw everything I had into the relationship that quickly began around New Years.

And like the glisten of an ornament against a pine tree or the sparkle of a string of lights against a frosty window, my days finally had a touch of brightness.

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The moment he came into my life, everything changed. As fast as loneliness crept into my days, it dissipated with every conversation he and I had. I didn’t mean for things to happen as fast as they did, but with him, it just felt so natural, which is why I threw my entire self into that relationship. Instead of entering with cautious trepidation, I put my heart on my sleeve and trusted him with an almost blind optimism. We went from flirty chats to texts to hours long phone and Facetime conversations. I told him things I never told anyone before, and he the same. It was one of those storybook romances that you don’t think exist, and when they happen to you, you feel a mix of both gratitude and crippling fear.  Of course, as quickly as it began, it ended, and it’s not hard to see why. When things start so passionately, your judgement gets clouded. It’s not until those moments you’re alone together that you realize you didn’t really have that much in common and you’re both going in directions that couldn’t ever possibly align into a realistic future.

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At least that’s what happened with us. We both realized that, despite how much we cared about each other and how passionately we felt, a feasible and happy future was never in our cards. It was a hard, gut-wrenching decision – one that brought tears that still pour down my face, but it was the right one. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. See, I’m a hopeless romantic, I’d rather face an uncertain future with someone I could really love than a miserable one without them.

But that’s not the point of this post. The sadness that breakup caused me only solidified one thing for me – I had no idea what a future as a single, successful woman looked like, and I still don’t. I have a job I love (that people envy), a family that supports me and a body I’ve worked my ass off to achieve. On paper, I have it all together. We all know, though, that life is never black and white and, despite these realizations, I’m still more clouded, confused and – if I’m being 100% honest – alone than ever.

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When I close my eyes and think of where my life will be 6 months down the line, the visions that appear always have another person in them. Even when I try my best to imagine a life without someone else, a life that’s completely my own, a secondary figure always appears, one that pulls me close and holds my hand when we walk down the street. I don’t know what a life, or a future, without someone to share it with looks or feels like. And until I can, I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to answer people definitively when they ask me “Now, what?”

Unlike my other posts or stories, I don’t have an answer at the end of this one, because I don’t know how to authentically respond to that question. I want to believe that the mismatched puzzle pieces that make up my life will eventually form to create a beautiful picture, but I have no idea. All I can do is continue to try my best to be the strongest ME I can be, and in return, hope I find the closure I need from these heartbreaks to move on, and the strength I so desperately desire to build a future that’s just my own.

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Until then, my life is shrouded in “now, whats” and my future is as foggy as a San Francisco morning. And for now, that’s just going to have to do.

Mango & Mixed Berry Cobbler

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Celebrate the [unofficial] start of summer with this delicious mango & mixed berry cobbler – the perfect dessert for your Memorial Day table!

mango berry cobbler

This month blew by my face faster than a tornado. True, I was out of the country for most of it, but still. I’m still soaking up springtime, y’all, I’m not ready for summer, both in body and in mind. But, such is life, and I’m kind of excited to embrace the heat, the longer days, the beach weekends, the evening hammock and wine nights and the long walks under the oaks that come with my first summer as an transplant Southerner.

fresh mango cobbler

Although I’ve just been here a few months, I know one thing is for sure – southerners love their desserts, and celebrate any day, week, month, season change, birthday, Tuesday or season finale with one. To pay homage to my new roots, I decided to honor the change of the seasons with the most suitable of sweets – a mango & mixed berry cobbler.

creamy mixed berry mango cobbler

To me, you can’t have summer without mango. It’s fleshy, perfectly sweet and oh-so-juicy, not to mention amazingly versatile. You can use them in smoothiesmuffins, ice creams, pies or even savory dishes like chicken salad or guacamole. I’ve tried it every which way and can’t decided which my favorite is – because they’re all so good, refreshing, light and, well, summery.

delicious mixed mango cobbler

My love for this fruit knows no bounds, so when the Mango Board asked me to partner with them to feature a recipe using the succulent Ataulofus mango, I *literally* jumped at the chance. This variety of mango is one of my favorite, since the seed is smaller than an average mango resulting in more juicy, delicious flesh. Because of this, I knew almost immediately I wanted to marry this beautiful fruit with other fresh ingredients, like blackberries and raspberries, and bake it all into a deliciously fragrant cobbler.

mango

Because I live in the south and cobbler is a religion, y’all (along with spiked sweet tea, but that’s for another post entirely). Truly though, summertime is nota time to be spent sweating over the stove, which is why this dessert is a favorite. It’s mixed, baked and enjoyed in less than 60 minutes. As someone who likes to host parties and entertain, 60 minutes or less is all I want to spend away from my guests (and the wine bottle). That’s why this little number is gracing my Memorial Day shindig menu.

summer mango cobbler

Whether you’re ready or not, it’ summertime – so let’s cheers with this fresh, delicious and amazing mango & mixed berry cobbler!

Mango & Mixed Berry Cobbler

easy mango cobbler

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 8.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: About 40 minutes
Total time: 55 minutes

Ingredients: 

For the filling:

  • 3 cups peeled and chopped mangos (I used the Ataulofus variety)
  • 1 1/2 cup blackberries
  • 11/2 cup raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour

For the topping:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup almond meal
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons butter, chilled
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean extract

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Liberally grease a baking dish (9 x 13, 8 x 8 or 11 x 7) with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle with flour.
  2. In a mixing bowl, carefully toss the fruit with the lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, honey and flour. Sprinkle in the apple pie spice and toss to combine. Cover and let rest for about 10 minutes.
  3. In another bowl, carefully whisk the flour, almond meal, sugar, and baking powder together. Using a pastry knife, cut in the butter until mixture resembles sand. Mix in the egg, cinnamon and vanilla and stir until fully combined.
  4. Spread the fruit over the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit filling.
  5. Bake for about 40 – 42 minutes, or until topping is golden brown and fruit is bubbly. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream and enjoy!

Nutritional information per serving:

Calories: 385
Fat: 12.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 62.5 grams
Fiber: 1.2 grams
Protein: 4.6 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 10

NOTE: THIS POST WAS SPONSORED BY THE MANGO BOARD. HOWEVER, ALL OPINIONS AND STATEMENTS ARE MY OWN.

Lemon & Chia Seed Bundt Cake

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This springtime lemon & chia seed bundt cake is the perfect accompaniment to your Spring table!

fresh lemon bundt

“This cake has a hole in it!”

I’m sorry – I just can’t make or write about a bundt cake without making that reference – especially now that a sequel is coming out. (For those who aren’t movie obsessed – I’m talking about My Big Fat Greek Wedding). Movie references aside, this might be one of the best cakes I’ve made to date. It’s so fluffy, it’s SO moist (I know), packed with citrus flavor and has just the right amount of sweet. I’ve made it four times since testing the original recipe, and – to a husband who is just “not a fan of lemon”, all cakes have been devoured.

lemons

Nothing screams spring like lemon desserts. The tartness, the vibrant color – it’s as integral to the season as the tulips blooming in my front yard (which may have drowned to their death thanks to the deluge of rain we had this weekend).  Despite the rain, the weather has been relatively perfect for a Southern spring (see also: a Midwest summer).

lemon chia bundt cake

Tacking it back to the cake, what decadent desserts did y’all make for Easter? It rained from Friday afternoon to this morning, so sadly no outdoor picnics, egg hunts or boozy rooftop brunches were in our cards at all. So, we (read: I) binge watched Dateline and then we met my brother in law, his girlfriend and adorable daughter for a falafel pita.

cake mix

Totally screams Easter Sunday, am I right? It’s not exactly how one should celebrate an integral holiday, but we’re not going to get into religion or politics on this happy little space. The one thing that I love about being an adult (currently without children) is you can make your own celebrations and traditions  and observe any day however you’d like. And for me, that meant watching crime shows with some hoppy IPAS and big slices of cake.

lemon bundt cake

Now, since I’ve been an MIA blogger traveling around the globe again, I’m off to whip up some more incredible treats for you guys to share this week. Spring has put a little extra “pep” in my step, so expect quite a few bright and pretty dishes. (and more cakes, because #cakeforpresident).

Lemon & Chia Seed Bundt Cake

fluffy lemon cake with mint

Yields 1 standard bunt cake (or 9 x 13 loaf) (about 10 servings). Adapted from Averie Cooks & Betty Crocker.
Prep time: 12 minutes
Cook time: About 42 – 45 minutes
Total time: >60 minutes

Ingredients: 

For the cake:

  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce***
  • 3 – 4* tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (white if you have it)
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds **

For the glaze:

  • 2 tablespoons melted, unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon heavy cream
  • Fresh mint for garnish

*I added 4 whooping tablespoons of lemon zest, but that’s just because I love lemon flavor. Adapt to fix your needs!
** Can use poppy seeds if you’d like. I like the added health benefits of chia!
***Can use all canola oil if you’d prefer, I subbed in applesauce to cut the fat.

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heavily spray a standard 6 -cup size bundt pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs, white sugar, brown sugar, Greek yogurt, oil, applesauce, lemon zest and vanilla extract together until thick and creamy. Add in the flour and baking powder, beating until just combined (don’t over-beat!)
  3. Using a wooden spoon, gently stir in the chia seeds.
  4. Pour the batter into prepared pan and spread with a spatula until smooth.
  5. Bake for about 42 – 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cool in pan completely. Once cooled, carefully remove and place on a cake stand or plate.
  6. Prepare the drizzle by beating the butter, lemon zest, sugar, lemon juice and heavy cream until desired consistency. Drizzle over the cake and garnish with fresh mint.

Nutritional information per slice: 

Calories: 266.5
Fat:  11.3 grams
Carbohydrates: 38.1 grams
Fiber: >1 gram
Protein: 4 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 8

Chopped Chicken, Strawberry & Goat Cheese Salad

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It’s been over a month since the giveaway, so I think we need to catch up before hopping into my new favorite recipe ever – this chopped chicken, strawberry & goat cheese salad!

Fresh chopped salad

So, to start – we’ve moved! Not just to another city, house or apartment – but an entirely different state moved. After almost 7 incredible years in Alexandria, we’re relocated back down south to Charleston, SC! That means beautiful salads like these with beautiful Southern ingredients will be gracing my table far more frequently (yay 70 degree winters!)

salad ingredients

Some other news (as if moving wasn’t enough) I’m officially going part-time with my job! Cue the happy dance. That means more time to create amazing recipes like this fresh, easy, and healthy salad and share them with you!

Fresh chopped salad

Okay – moving away from all of my news, let’s talk salad. But not just any salad, let’s talk this mouthwatering rendition of my favorite kind of chopped salad! Filled with crispy Tyson® Grilled & Ready® Chicken, tart strawberries, luscious avocados, crunchy walnuts, zesty Italian dressing and herby goat cheese. Seriously guys, it’s the best salad EVER.

spinach

For a girl who is constantly on the go with no time to do much of anything (especially now), Tyson® Grilled & Ready® Chicken ​strips are a lifesaver. They’re amazing in pasta, salad or on their own and are so simple and convienent! When they asked me to create a recipe for them paired with my favorite Italian dressing, Wish-Bone® , I was stoked. Since we’re moving back down south, I knew I had to add some fresh, summery ingredients – like strawberries and avocados.

Easy chopped salad

This will most definitely be my go-to salad next week. With all of our pots and pans in storage, the only thing we have left not in a box is a mixing bowl and tongs. So, clearly it’s all salad, all day long.

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Enough of my rambling – it’s time to share the recipe. Which is entirely why you guys are here anyway. So run to Walmart, buy Tyson® Grilled & Ready® Chicken ​ and make this freaking salad. You will thank me, trust me.

Chopped Chicken, Strawberry & Goat Cheese Salad

easy chopped salad2

Serves about 4. Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: About 5 – 6 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups chopped Tyson® Grilled & Ready® Chicke​n
  • 1 bag fresh spinach
  • 1 1/2 avocados, pitted and chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups strawberries, chopped
  • 3/4 cup chopped orange bell peppers
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons walnuts
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 3 ounces herbed goat cheese
  • Wish-Bone® Italian Dressing

Directions:

  1. Chop the spinach finely and toss into a bowl. Mix in the chicken, strawberries, bell peppers, walnuts and cilantro. Carefully mix in the avocado and goat cheese.
  2. Lightly dress the salad and serve immediately.

Nutritional information per serving:

Calories: 325 Fat: 14.2 grams Carbohydrates: 18 grams Fiber: 6 grams Protein: 14 grams Weight Watchers Points: 7

Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Tyson Foods, Inc. and Pinnacle Foods Group LLC. All opinions are entirely my own.

Comments submitted may be displayed on other websites owned by the sponsoring brand.

Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Tyson Foods, Inc. and Pinnacle Foods Group LLC. All opinions are entirely my own.

Mango Coconut Smoothie Bowl

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This is, hands down, my favorite flavor profile in the entire world. This mango coconut smoothie bowl might just be my new favorite thing.

Crunchy creamy smoothie bowl

When I was in Thailand, I’d get a mango sticky rice for dessert every. single. day. See, the Thai people do it right. They don’t eat shitty desserts filled with preservatives or sugar, they eat all natural desserts made from things found in nature.

smoothie ingredients

I miss Southeast Asia more than I can verbalize. I miss the sounds, the smells, the people. What I miss the most, tough, is the tastes. Despite the fact I got sick (from the water – NOT the food), the food I had there in the kitchens of the locals, picked up from the markets and made for us at local restaurants was some of the best I’ve ever had. Every dish was so incredible packed with flavor – fresh chiles, homegrown spices, locally sourced meats and veggies. Everything tasted like it was made with nothing  but love.

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Now, I know the US has an incredible food culture – I’m not doubting that. I love visiting the states and biting into every delicious morsel. Food is here is made with love, but not in the way the Thai dishes are. It’s so hard to explain and maybe someday I’ll be able to say what I actually mean.

Mango coconut smoothie bowl

Until then, I’ll talk about that dessert. Now, I’ve thought about recreating it for the blog about a million times. But I know it wouldn’t do the actual dessert justice. So instead, I took those exotic and refreshing flavors and turned them into something you can have for breakfast – a smoothie bowl!

Easy delicious smoothie bowls

Unless you’ve been living somewhere without Pinterest, you’ve probably seen the smoothie bowl craze. I’m not one to jump on bandwagons, but I just couldn’t resist. I mean, look at how frackin’ beautiful these bowls are? It’s a smoothie with added fruits and crunchy stuff. (“But I love caramel and crunchy stuff!”) Once you get over how pretty it is and stick your spoon into the thick, creamy smoothie, you’ll melt.

creamy smoothie bowl with mango

Or, if you’re really lucky, you’ll wake up on the white sandy beaches of Phi Phi Island.

Mango Coconut Smoothie Bowls

Super creamy smoothie bowl

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 2.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 0 minutes
Total time: About 10 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups frozen mango chunks
  • 1 medium frozen banana
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups coconut milk (I used low-fat, feel free to sub in full-fat)
  • 1 tablespoon flax seed
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons honey

For the toppings:

  • About 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup crunchy granola
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup mango chunks, defrosted
  • Additional honey for drizzle

Directions: 

  1. Combine the mango, banana, coconut milk (start with 1 cup and add more if necessary), flax seed and honey. Pulse on high until thick and creamy.
  2. Pour the smoothie into two deep bowls. Top with blueberries, granola, coconut flakes, mango chunks and additional honey for sweetness. Serve immediately!

Nutritional information per serving:

Calories: 475
Fat: 16 grams
Carbohydrates: 70 grams
Fiber: 3 grams
Protein: 7.5 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 12

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

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.

Peanut Butter & Banana Overnight Oats

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These peanut butter and banana overnight oats are an easy breakfast for busy weeknights!

Remember that time I wrote an entire post about how much I lovedpeanut butter and then the whole thing dissapeared into the deep dark abyss that is the Chinese wifi system? Oh, WELL if it seems like news to you, it’s because it just happened last week. Before we get into a brief rant about Chinese internet, I do want to discuss the day I had the moment I got back. In case you were feeling a little off about yours, let me regale you with the total complete s&$%storm that was mine.

For one, I spent 20 hours in airports and on airplanes. Two, when I landed in Chicago, the airline kidn of just “misplaced” my bag for an hour. It had made it to O’hare, it was just missing for a little bit. Decided to step out for a PSL or something. Back to the flight for a second, it was BRUTAL. I couldn’t sleep or get comfortable and the person next to me found it fun to squeeze ontop of me. Literally. So, after I got my runaway bag, I hopped on the train for the 45 minute commute to my airbnb.

The train in Chicago is great. It’s almost always on time, super cheap and really easy to navigate. So, I checked my phone (in a massively sleep deprived state) for the cloest stop to where I was staying and it told me Clark/Lake. Now, I thought to myself “Clark/Lake is downtown, not River North. But, my phone wouldn’t lie!” Fun fact. It did. The stop was, in fact, 40 minutes away from where I was staying. And Chicago decided to go from 245,345 degrees to 10 in the span of 4 days so I was massively underdressed.

The fun doesn’t stop there, though! When I landed in China on Tuesday, my phone had decided it hated having battery and told me instead that it needs a new one. Basically, my phone now goes from 100% charged to 43% in less than 10 minutes. So, after schelping on the train, I find a Starbucks to charge my phone for a minute so I can Uber my exhausted face to this airbnb. I order a PSL (BASIC.COM) and just as I was about to pay, the phone shuts down and I have to plead with the barista to hold while I charged it to pay.

Then, for some reason unbeknownst to me, that Starbucks decided to close at 4:30pm on a Saturday, so I’m rushing out to catch an Uber and I drop my phone on the ground, something I’ve done about a million and one times. Except this time? The screen shattered. Like, giant crack across the screen and about a million hairline cracks at the top and bottom of both corners.

I finally got to the airbnb and promptly fell asleep, sitting upright, for 3 hours before my boyfriend came over with a bottle of wine (he’s literally the best person on the planet, more on that soon). So yeah, that was my day in a nutshell. Thankfully, after a hug, a few tears and a few more glasses of wine, all was fixed. So, those are the days you’d want these overnight oats in your fridge. Because those are the days you’d eat cereal and wine for dinner.

Peanut Butter & Banana Overnight Oats

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 4.
Prep time: >10 minutes
Chill time: 5+ hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup low-fat milk (can use soy, almond or coconut)
  • 1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 2 cups Quaker rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seed
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 large bananas, smashed
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk the milk and yogurt together. Add in the oats, chia seeds, flax seed, honey, peanut butter, smashed banana, chopped walnuts and vanilla extract. Stir to combine.
  2. Pour the mixture into a large mason jar and seal. Chill in the fridge overnight, or for at least 5 hours. Serve chilled or warm with chopped walnuts and bananas as garnish.

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

Calories: 356
Fat: 15.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 35.25 grams
Fiber: 8.2 grams
Protein: 16.75 grams

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