Cauliflower Margherita Pizza

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Enjoy pizza night without the guilt by sinking your teeth into one of this cauliflower margherita pizza – low carb and full of flavor!

easy cauliflower pizza

I know what you’re thinking – 2 years called and they want their recipe back. I GET IT – I’m a little late to the whole cauliflower pizza crust craze. But in my eyes, it’s better late than never and also I love pizza and am on a perpetual diet.

Cheesy cauliflower pizza

Things have been getting a little desperate over here. I’ve been trying, really trying, to shed this extra weight. I’ve given up desserts, I force-feed myself breakfast every morning and I’ve been doing my best to cut out carbs.

cauliflower

I KNOW – BELOVED CARBS.

tomatoes

And as you know, pizza is full of those pesky, albeit delicious, sugars, starches and fibers. Instead of giving up pizza all together (which WOULD NEVER HAPPEN), I opted to make a crust lower in carbs but still loaded with flavor.

cheesy pizza

Enter cauliflower. Now, I’ve read so many recipes where people say they hate cauliflower but love the crust – which is odd to me because you definitely get the flavor of this vegetable when you’re eating it. To me, that’s no biggy since it’s one of my favorites (I eat this recipe ONCE A WEEK!) I will say though, if you hate it – I’d recommend not making this.

low carb cauliflower crust

Case in point – my husband. He loathes cauliflower – down to his bones. So, I thought I could trick him into eating it if I baked it under gobs of fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and our own fresh-grown basil. WRONG. SO VERY WRONG. As soon as he walked in the door he says “WHAT IS THAT SMELL? WHY DOES IT SMELL LIKE CAULIFLOWER IN HERE?” Then his gaze quickly darted to the stovetop where he saw a pizza, and soon, his mouth was agape. “WHY DO I SMELL CAULIFLOWER BUT SEE PIZZA? WHY IS THE CRUST WEIRD? CLAIRE, WHAT DID YOU DO!”

cheesy margherita pizza

So yeah, there’s no fooling anyone. But truly, it’s really an easy, and low-carb, way to enjoy pizza. The crust definitely has a unique texture (a little more porus than a regular bread crust) but it holds it’s own against the slabs of fresh mozzarella, the deluge of cherry tomatoes and the basil. Now, you could definitely top it with whatever delicious assortments you can think of –  and tell me how it turns out!

cheesy pizza

And also share any success stories you may have with tricking picky husbands, children, friends into eating it. I need some more pointers.

Cauliflower Margherita Pizza

simple margherita pizza

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 8. Crust slightly adapted from Jo Cooks.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: About 15 – 20 minutes
Total time: 25 – 30 minutes

Ingredients: 

For the crust:

  • 1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 cups shredded, part-skim mozzarella
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (or 2 – 3 gloves fresh garlic)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the toppings:

  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
  • About 1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
  • Bunch of fresh basil, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place the cauliflower florets and a dash of salt and pepper into a food processor and pulse until it resembles rice (about 3 – 5 minutes of heavy pulsing). Remove and place in a mesh strainer. Gently push out any excess moisture. Place the pressed mixture into a microwave safe dish, with a lid, and cook for about 4 minutes.
  2. Once cooked, place in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs, one by one, stirring after each addition. Mix in the cheese, fresh basil, fresh thyme, garlic powder and additional salt and pepper to taste. (The mixture will look a little moist and soupy, but don’t worry!)
  3. Line a large pizza pan with parchment paper (and be sure to cover the entire surface) and carefully spread the crust mixture on top. Smooth it out as much as you can, spreading to cover most of the pan (it won’t spread in baking).
  4. Bake crust for about 23 – 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove.
  5. Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella over the crust. Add the slices of cheese, cherry tomatoes and half of the fresh basil. Add a dash of salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Bake another 6 – 8 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Garnish with additional fresh basil and enjoy!

DSC_4308

Nutritional information per slice:

Calories: 228.5
Fat: 16.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 5.6 grams
Fiber:  1.5 grams
Protein: 11.5 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 

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

Black Bean Hummus Pasta

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I’ve written over 20,000 words these past two days, so I’m taking a much needed breather. The thing is, I’m so incredibly caffeinated that I can’t just sit and watch Southern Charm without typing, so I thought it’d be a blast to update this little corner of the world wide web. Ya see, it’s been a bit since my last update, and it was pretty heavy. (Thank y’all SO much for your kind words, by the way!) So, let’s go with something a little less heavy, figuratively speaking.

creamy hummus pasta2

Black bean hummus pasta. I made this, um, way too long ago. Like, when I still lived in Charleston long ago. Like, when I wasn’t even a vegetarian yet and weighed 35 more pounds long ago. It’s so weird looking back on these photos and thinking of the space I was in. Miserable with my weight, in a place I felt lost, and with a man who I didn’t know anymore.

Creamy hummus pasta2

It’s so weird that you can feel everything all over again just by looking at a photo. BUT, we aren’t talking about heavy stuff. We’re talking about black bean hummus. Honestly, it’s kind of all I eat now that I’ve cut meat, most dairy and heavily processed wheat products (like pasta, bread) out of my diet. Plus, I’ve partnered with Sabra so my fridge is literally STOCKED with mini hummus cups. Which are the perfect post-Orange Theory workout snack, especailly because I’ve opted just eating it with a spoon.

Black bean pasta

I don’t eat a ton of pasta, but this one I’m definitely okay with splurging on. For one, it’s super powered with fiber and protein, which means you don’t need as much to feel full (like it’ll stop a carb-a-holic like me from overindulging). Luckily for me now, I’m in a house with four other hungry people (including a 192 pound power lifter), so a big bowl of pasta like this won’t last through the night, better yet another day. That makes it easier for me to control my portions and feed people I love in the meantime!

black bean hummus2

I have another article to pen, a million more photos to edit and a workout to get to, so we’re going to skip the small talk and just get right to the recipe. I have an arsenal of more recipes to share, so stay tuned the next few weeks. We’re bringing this blog baby back to life!

Black Bean Hummus Pasta

Spicy hummus pasta2

Hummus serves 8. Pasta serves about 6.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 12 minutes

Ingredients: 

For the hummus:

  • 15 ounce can of black beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (save 1/2)
  • 1 habanero pepper, seeded and chopped (save 1/2)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil for garnish
  • Chopped nuts

For the pasta:

  • 1 package (16 ounces) spaghetti + 1 cup reserved pasta water
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped tortilla chips or pita chips
  • Fresh basil chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: 

  1. To make the hummus, place the black beans, basil, tahini, lime juice, jalapeno, habanero and garlic clove in a food processor. Pulse on low. Gradually add the water until the mixture starts to thin. Add salt and pepper to taste. Measure out about 1 cup and save the rest.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Add the pasta and a dash of salt. Cook until al-dente, about 8 minutes. Drain, saving 1 cup of water.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk 1 cup of hummus with pasta water and stir until creamy. Add in the tomatoes and mix to combine. Serve with crushed chips and chopped basil. Serve warm.

best creamy hummus

At Home with Blue Apron

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Sometimes I find myself a person of contradictions – I swear I hate running but have started putting my sneaks to the pavement lately for weight loss purposes. I swear I’m not a cat person but can’t help but force snuggle any feline I can find (strays aside). I proclaim I’m an anti-fast food eater yet sometimes find myself 2 cars deep in the drive through for Chick-fil-A. And really most importantly, I say I’m a chef-to-be who doesn’t use printed recipes but then find myself cooking at home with Blue Apron.

blue apron fish

Now, it’s okay to be contradictory at times – we’re not perfect. Running, felines and Chick-fil-A aside, there’s some pretty legitimate reasons for me putting my heart and my brand behind Blue Apron – connivence. I’m busy – like, around the globe in 8 different countries in 3 weeks busy, and I just don’t want to spend my free, fleeting hours at home trying to be on Chopped. I want to prepare a locally sourced, fresh meal that takes less than 40 minutes, doesn’t require 2 hours on Pinterest and results in a meal I’m proud of.

dinner for two

When they asked me to try out a box to review, that was why I agreed. I’ve had success with others in the past, I’m juggling 3 careers and my wasitline just can’t take another batch of takeout. What I didn’t expect was how true to life their claims on TV were. The ingredients are fresh – actually fresh. The kale is crisp to the bite, the meat looks like it was just pulled from the butcher that morning, the apples have not even the slightest inclination of a bruise. Now, I have to say, this was just my box, and yours could be different – but from first glance, their “fresh, local” claim seemed to stand up.

  kale2

Beyond the ingredients, which I proudly photographed like a fool with my studio window open, the neighbors staring in with the ut-most-confusion, I found the recipe cards easy to follow. You chop this, mince that, stir this, whisk that. Plus the photos help even the most novice of chefs prepare it without any problems. After the box was opened, the cards poured over, I decided on the fish for the first meal – for one, always cook fish first. And two? I just got back from Austria and couldn’t stomach another hearty meal.

**KEEP READING TO FIND OUT HOW YOU CAN GET FREE MEALS!**

fish ingredients blue apron

I followed the step by step, chef created instructions and much to my delight, dinner was done, plated, styled and ready to eat in less than 40 minutes.

cooking

Now, as a cook – I’ll admit, it was HARD to not add my own flair to the dish as it was being created. So, I added a bit of this super spicy chile infused olive oil I picked up on a recent trip as a drizzle to the end – just to add a touch of Claire.

fish prepared

So here’s where the contradictions come back – it’s a complaint in you have only the ingredients you need for the dish so there isn’t much wiggle room for creativity – however, I had no problem adding my own spice kick and addition despite the pre-portioned set-up. I think you can be as creative or as strict as you want with these. If you have some tomatoes in your fridge, nothing is stopping you from tossing them in to add more juiciness. Or nothing is saying you can’t add in some grainy mustard or a loaf of crusty bread. You can do as little or as much as you’d like to make each your own if you’re more experienced.

ingredients

What I loved most about Blue Apron, and this meal, was it gave me time to actually set the table, grab some flowers for the garden and create a date-night at home that’s actually easy to replicate.

flowers

table setting

I’ll have to say, one of my favorite parts of this meal was the calorie count (which was just 525 for the entire meal), the ease of preparation and the freshness of ingredients. what I love most about the service is their commitment to recycling (you can find a recycling center near you that’ll pick up the boxes and recycle them for free with USPS); the endless array of recipes you get week after week (finding ending the bland chick breast dinner monotony) and the ease for busy families. Whether there’s just two of you or four, Blue Apron gives you some of the freedom of meal planning back so you can, you know, actually sit down and enjoy dinner again.

dinner

For me, it gave me a night to celebrate. It wasn’t an anniversary, a birthday or a special date at all – it was just a Tuesday. But I made it special, much in part to Blue Apron. And that’s why I’ll stand behind it – it really has the ability to turn any night into something just a little more extraordinary.

Now, as fun and lovely readers of mine, Blue Apron is offering you an amazing discount to try it out yourselves.

blue apron

*NOTE: Blue Apron sponsored this post, but in no way are my opinions persuaded by this. My thoughts are 100% my own. 

Protein Packed Green Smoothie Bowl

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This might sound sacrilegious as a healthy food blogger, but I’m never excited to have a smoothie for breakfast. Now, that may seem surprising, given how many smoothie recipes I actually have on this blog. But if we’re being honest, smoothies just aren’t as exciting as french toast, a big stack of pancakes , a big bowl of huevos rancheros or literally anything with bacon or maple sausage. They’ve become an easy go-to for busy mornings of after the gym, and little thought is put into it.

green smoothie bowl

Which is depressing and sad and precisely why I decided to give them a makeover with the help of Braun‘s brand new Pure Mix Blender. Braun is back in North American kitchens with a brand new line of beautifully designed products to help you amp up your favorite recipes and turn them into something new and totally unexpected.

PicMonkey Collagblendere

My mission, if you’ll call it that, was to recreate a recipe that just doesn’t excite or enthrall anymore, and I almost immediately knew I had to make a smoothie. I’ve been trying to perpetually get into shape, and have been resorting to healthy, low-sugar smoothies to do this. But, as I said before, they became monotonous – I’d had handfuls of the same ingredients, mix and drink – without little to no enjoyment.

smoothie2

So, to perk up my sad smoothies, I decided to give one of my favorite recipes a little bit of a facelift.

I put down the straw and the cup and opted for a spoon and a bowl instead. Now, I’m not new to the smoothie bowl phenomenon – but I have to say, it’s one of the easiest and prettiest ways to perk up an everyday smoothie. For me, my favorite part is the textural contrast. Where I got bored just sipping a smoothie, the addition of crunchy granola on top gives this bowl the perfect textural contrast.

creamy protein packed smoothie bowl

Even though it’s the same smoothie I’ve been drinking for weeks, the swap for a bowl and the addition of beautiful sliced fruits, homemade fruit bars, chia seeds and granola transforms the way I consume it. No more mindless slurping, I truly enjoy each and every bite – and it feels more like a breakfast, one you could sit down and eat (even on the weekends) with as much as excitement as you would with a big stack of pancakes.

[insert video]

Now, I can’t say everyone will share that same excitement, but for me, the smoothie bowl facelift was exactly what I needed to end the mundane smoothie sips and bring joy back to breakfast.

It is the most important meal of the day, after all. Shouldn’t you enjoy it?

Protein Packed Green Smoothie Bowl

smoothie bowl 3

Serves about 2.
Prep time: >8 minutes
Blend time: 2 – 3 minutes
Total time: About 11 minutes

Ingredients:

For the smoothie base:

  • 1 cup fresh kale
  • 1/2 cup low-fat, no sugar added strawberry yogurt (Greek or regular)
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 nectarine, sliced
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries (I used frozen strawberry puree**)
  • 1 1/2 cup low-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup water or sugar-free juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar-free strawberry jam

For the bowl toppings:

  • Granola
  • Sliced nectarine
  • Sliced apple
  • Strawberries or frozen puree cubes
  • Chia seeds

**Simply blend 2 cups strawberries until pureed and pour into ice cube trays. Freeze until solid.

Directions:

  1. Place all of the ingredients (for the smoothie base only) into a blender (I used Braun’s new PureMix Blender).
  2. Blend on medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until smooth and creamy. Add additional ingredients (like fruit) to taste, or additional milk for desired consistency.
  3. Pour the smoothies into two bowls. Add the toppings to the tops of the smoothie (in any fashion you’d like) and dig in!

Nutritional information per bowl:

Calories: 425
Fat: 13.2 grams
Carbohydrates: 55 grams
Fiber: 4.5 grams
Protein: 18 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 11

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

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.

Cheesy Baked Corn Dip

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We’re switching gears today from Mothers Day to Cinco de Mayo – because after the horribly stressful week I’ve had, I need a day focused around cheesy baked corn dips, margaritas a plenty and more salty chips than I can muster.

cheesy corn dip

I won’t go into details -to be honest, I’m just too wiped out to. Instead, we’re going to do something I never do (due to my verbose, never ending desire to blab), we’re just going to talk brass tacks. Or in this case, this dip.

spicy cheesy corn dip

Mexican food in the US is a far cry from Mexican food in Mexico – but anyone could tell you that. Their dishes are fresher, more reliant on zesty spices and herbs and are rarely, if ever, fried. That’s exactly why I truly love visiting that part of the world. The people are unique and hilarious, the settings are as diverse as they are beautiful and the food – it’s just like nothing I’ve ever had before. I’ve only been to Mexico twice (and to the same place, of all odds) but I’m always counting down until I can get my feet back into that sand, my eyes staring off into the breathtaking sunsets and my mouth firmly sunk into a tray of tacos.

sunset meixco

Until then, I’m going to enjoy Mexican food as I’ve come to love it here in the states – laden with cheese. Luckily the rest of the dip has healthier ingredients, like lower fat cream cheese, olive oil mayo and Greek yogurt. I did that for one reason – there would be no skimping on cheese.

  super cheesy corn dip

We need it today, loaded with chiles, corn, zesty spices, cilantro and everything that tastes good in this world. But, you know, to be somewhat healthy (and because I fed all of our tortilla chips to the turtles), it’s served with a side of fresh carrots. You can use whatever you want – chips, pita, a spoon, a fork, your face. However you eat it, one thing will remain the same – you won’t be able to stop.

So just plan to wear yoga pants.

Cheesy Baked Corn Dip

easy cheesy dip

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Yields about 2 cups. Adapted from Crunchy Creamy Sweet.
Prep time: About 10 minutes
Cook time: About 12 – 14 minutes
Total time: About 24 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil mayo (or regular mayo)
  • 4 ounces low-fat cream cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 can (4 ounces) green chiles
  • 1 can (14 ounces) corn, drained
  • 1 tablespoons crushed red pepper
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Liberally coat a skillet or baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a mixer or bowl, beat the Greek yogurt, mayo, cream cheese and 1 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Gently stir in the corn, chiles, crushed red pepper, cilantro and salt and pepper.
  3. Pour the mixture into the baking dish. Top with remaining 1/2 cup cheese.
  4. Bake for about 12 – 14 minutes, or until cheese is melted and golden brown. Serve with additional corn and chiles as garnish with carrots, pita or tortilla chips.

Nutritional information per serving (about 2 tablespoons):

Calories: 175
Fat: 13.25 grams
Carbohydrates: 5.6 grams
Fiber: 0.8 grams
Protein: 4.2 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 4

More recipes like this one!

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Cheesy Kale & Artichoke Dip

chunky-mushroom-dip-500x371

Chunky Mushroom Dip

Crab-dip

Warm Crab & Artichoke Dip

Creamy-white-bean-dip2

Creamy White Bean & Broccoli Dip

Easy Grilled Flank Steak with Cilantro Pesto

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Unless you live in Denver (sorry friends – that blizzard looked rough), there’s a chance it’s finally feeling nice and warm outside. Which is exactly why we’re starting this Tuesday with a big, beautiful, sexy slab of grilled flank steak with cilantro pesto. Because if this doesn’t make you break out the shorts, flip flops, margarita makers and wide-brimmed hats, I don’t know what will.

Juicy steak

One of the (many) benefits of living in coastal South Carolina is the weather. Minus a few chilly mornings and a few rainy days, the weather has been almost perfect since we moved in. More sunny days than not, and most afternoons touching the 70-degree mark by 2pm. Coming from an area that still had snow a few weeks ago, this has been a MAJOR game-changer in not just our moods (or tans), but also the way we eat.

easy cilantro steak

Instead of heavy soups, cheesy casseroles or yet another pizza, we’re eating delicious spreads of beautiful grilled meats, fresh vegetable salads and tons of corn on the cob. Because unlike home, you can light up that grill in December down here. Which is why most of our dinners are enjoyed al-fresco on our porch or outdoor patio, with the beautiful sounds of charcoal sizzling and ducks squawking in the background. (How serene is my new backyard?!)

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Although I made this steak a few weeks ago (before travel, life and, well, travel) took over, it’s definitely going to be on the rotation all summer long. Not only is it SO easy to prepare, it’s even easier to make – just a few minutes on each side to sear and slightly char. Now, I’m a full believer that steak should be enjoyed medium rare – and if you want to eat it any other way, you’re dead to me. I kid (sort of). If you’re really skeevy of the pink inside, cook a little longer to your preference.

Easy grilled steak

Just don’t tell me about it.

Although the steak is the Oscar winner in this dish, we couldn’t leave without honoring the best supporting actor – the cilantro pesto.

  creamy cilantro pesto

It’s no surprise that I’m a giant sucker for this iconic leafy herb – I’ve used in more dishes than not. However, I’ve never made a pesto with it. The steak sings on its own, of course, but I wanted even more flavor backed into each bite – so I dressed it with luscious spoonfuls of this bright green pesto. The two paired together just works. Bright and earthy, vibrant and bold – it’s the perfect marriage of classic American and South American flair.

steak with pesto

So go ahead – fire up that grill and eat like it’s summer. Your new piece will thank you.

Easy Grilled Flank Steak with Cilantro Pesto

Easy steak with creamy pesto

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 6.
Prep time: >10 minutes
Cook time: About 12 minutes
Total time: 22 minutes

Ingredients: 

For the steak:

  • 1 1/2 pounds flank steak
  • 1 tablespoon steak seasoning
  • Dash of salt and pepper

For the cilantro pesto:

  • 2 cups fresh cilantro, large stems removed
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup high quality olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: 

  1. Heat grill to high heat. Lightly grease the top with cooking oil or spray.
  2. Liberally season the steak with steak seasoning and salt and pepper. (Ensure both sides are coated).
  3. Using tongs, place the steak onto the grill and sear both sides (about 1 – 2 minutes on each side) to get a nice color. Reduce heat to medium-high, and cook another 4 – 5 minutes on each side (for medium rare). Remove steak and let rest about 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, place all of the pesto ingredients into a food processor. Pulse on high until creamy. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Once steak has rested, slice (against the grain). Serve with pesto and enjoy!

ingredients

Nutritional information per serving (about 3 ounces steak and 2 tablespoons pesto):

Calories:  353
Fat: 27 grams
Carbohydrates: 8 grams
Fiber: 2 grams
Protein: 26.5 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 10

Matcha Power Smoothie

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And I win for the most uncreative recipe title ever! But given how many ingredients this mother has, it’s just easier for SEO to put Matcha Power Smoothie.

amazing power smoothies

Now, I’m brand new to team Matcha and I’m 567% addicted to it already. My friends at Aiya sent me a sample to play with a few weeks ago and I decided my first science experiment, I mean recipe test, would be a smoothie. Simple, cost-effective (if I royally eff it up) and a healthy start to my day.

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Which given I’ve been eating like a caveman NOT on paleo (extra sides of mashed potatoes, please?) a healthy smoothie is what I need so I don’t die by 32. The great thing about Matcha is that it’s full of healthy AF ingredients, like antioxidants and natural energy. Maybe it’s because I work from home now and am always working, I’ve found I get SO incredibly tired by 3pm. Like, can barely keep my eyes open I need to take an immediate nap kind of tired. I’ve never been a fan of drinking coffee past the morning, so I’ve been sipping herbal teas to keep my eyes open so I can write.

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And even that wears off. So I thought I’d give this trendy matcha craze a try to see if it can help with my lackluster motivation after lunchtime. HOLY ENERGY, BATMAN. I’m not going to Dr. Oz you on this stuff, but it truly gave me a boost of energy WITHOUT giving me heart palpitations or giving me an epic crash an hour later. Honestly, it just felt natural. I just felt more awake and more productive. Plus, with a whooping 24 grams of protein per glass, I was full until dinner. LITERALLY.

Matcha power smoothie

Now, I’m sure this doens’t happen for everyone (if it did, the world would be a happier, more productive place) so don’t take my claims and write me angry emails if it doesn’t work for you. I’m just conveying how I felt after one of these matcha power smoothies for lunch. To make sure it wasn’t just a fluke (like maybe I had used too much), I made the same one this morning and felt the exact same results.

green tea smoothies

I didn’t even NEED coffee today, guys. Like, that’s big. Now, I’m not going to fully replace my coffee with Matcha (could you imagine? I travel all the time, people would think I’m effing insane), but I’m going to try to drink it when I’m home to limit the havoc my beloved coffee wreaks on my insides.

  matcha

If you’ve never tried it, just give it a whirl in this smoothie. The berries, peanut butter and mango give it a beautiful added sweetness, and all you really taste is a slight hint of green tea. I added chia seeds as well for added protein, but you can adapt and omit as you see fit. And let me know how you feel. Honestly, it’s a slight game changer for me, so I’d love to hear how you guys react!

Matcha Power Smoothie

best power smoothie

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Yields about 2 large smoothies.
Prep time: >5 minutes
Blend time: 1 – 2 minutes
Total time: 6 – 7 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups frozen strawberries
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 fresh mango, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cups roughly chopped kale
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoons matcha powder
  • 1/2 cup organic mango juice*
  • 1/2 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 – 1 cups 2% milk ** (add more or less depending on consistency. I added about 1 cup)
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons honey***
  • Fresh mango and chia for garnish

*If you can’t find this, sub in additional milk or another juice you’d like.
**I added this for a dash of sweetness, feel free to omit.

Directions: 

  1. Place all of the ingredients (from the frozen strawberries to the honey) in a powerful blender. Blend on high until thick, creamy and smoothie.
  2. Pour smoothies into large glasses and garnish with mango and chia seeds. Serve immediately or store in a sterilized mason jar.

ingredients

Nutritional information per serving:

Calories: 515
Fat: 13.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 75.6 grams
Fiber: 11 grams
Protein: 24.5 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 13

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

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.

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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.

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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.

Divorce, Diets, Drugs & Dating

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I can’t believe it’s been over 6 months since I last updated this little corner of the internet. For the longest time, I just didn’t know what to say. See, quite a bit has changed in my life since that last post. It actually breaks my heart to read it. I spent a few weeks last month debating on whether or not I should delete this entire blog all together.

I guess I should rip the band aid off first, right? The biggest change is my marital status. I’m getting a divorce.

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No matter how many months it’s been since we both agreed to end our marriage, reading those words never gets easier.

That’s why I spent so much time hovering over the “delete” button on my WordPress admin site. Every single post is a reminder of what I don’t have anymore. Even though we’re both amicable – friends even – it doesn’t mean there aren’t days I cry missing the life I once had.

My ex and I spent 9 years together, most of those during one of the most important decades of my life. We went through so many highs and even more devastating lows. We lost two dogs, went through a fire, dealt with the death of loved ones. Even though we had so much foundation, we just weren’t strong enough to survive the latest blows that came at the end of this summer. Those blows, which I’ll probably never talk about, were too much for us to overcome. And honestly? We weren’t strong this year. We went through a big move, job changes and financial cut backs. I look back and think if what happened this summer happened a year or two ago, we’d probably been able to overcome it. But when you’re already falling so quickly out of love with someone, you don’t have the fight you used to. And you start to see a life where you don’t have to fight to keep things together.

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I respect my ex, which is why I’m going to end the divorce portion of this right now. It’s not messy, I wish him nothing but all the happiness in the world and I know one day we’ll both look back and smile.

Probably the second most substantial change in my recent life is my diet and my weight. It’s not news to anyone I steadily put on weight during the last few years of my marriage. I think back now, and it’s all so simple – I wasn’t happy. I was miserable, actually. And, like so many other women and men out there, I didn’t talk about it. I didn’t do anything but just eat and drink. I told myself that the weight was due to anxiety medicine, that it was due to stress. I never actually spent anytime reflecting inside of myself and facing what the real catalyst for the weigh gain was – uncertainty and misery.

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When my marriage was imploding last fall, I made a change. I decided I was going to stop eating meat. It was a really easy decision, actually. I was getting sick all of the time on my travels. Literally, daily. I just couldn’t digest food, it seemed. I noticed it happened more when I had meat in my diet. So, I just stopped eating it. I remember the last hearty meal I had. I was moving out of the house my ex and I shared and I had a hamburger. I also can remember how I’d never felt so sick in my life those following few hours. That was all it took. I haven’t had a bite of meat since then. To be honest, I haven’t even had a fleeting desire to eat meat since then.

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Well, the first 2 months’ post meat were true game-changers with my appearance. From the beginning of October to the beginning of December, I lost 25 pounds. In mid-December, I decided to make another change – I decided to give veganism a chance. As a glorified cheese and dairy addict, it was much harder than I thought. But I went in with 100% dedication. From the beginning of December to mid January, I lost 15 more pounds.

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I’m now down a total of 40 pounds. I’m not 100% vegan all the time, it’s just really hard as a food writer. But I try. And I notice a huge difference when I don’t do it. I’ve truly never looked better. I’m at a weight I haven’t been since I was a junior in college, my hair is so shiny and my skin is as clear as a baby’s.

Of course, diet isn’t everything, as we all know. I also threw myself into an exercise regime right after my divorce. Which, of course, is also why I think I better than I did in the past. I’m not just thin, I’m fit. I workout 4 times week, doing a mix of totally different exercises. A few days, I do Pure Barre, other days I do Orange Theory. In between, I run, bike and hike. So many of my trips lately have been activity based, so I’ve been lucky to get to tackle some of the world’s hardest hikes and really push myself more than I ever have.

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I still have about 6 more pounds to go until my ultimate goal, but I’m finally happy with myself for the first time in over 10 years. Other parts of my life may be complicated and stressful, but it’s really reassuring knowing I have my health.

Another bonus of exercise and a happy mindset with food? I don’t take anxiety medicine anymore. None. I haven’t taken any medicine in about a month and I can tell you I don’t face any of the crippling anxiety I once had. Maybe it is the endorphins, the change of my diet and my entire outlook on life, but it’s really refreshing not having to be reliant on drugs to feel normal in my day to day life. I’ve found there are other ways I can find peace with myself that don’t involve a prescription.

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Don’t get me wrong, there are still moments I feel that oh-so-familiar rush of anxiety. There are days when I wake up and think I’m going to have a panic attack. But I don’t rush for the Xanax anymore. instead of popping that comforting blue pill, I take deep breaths. I write. I go for a run. I cook. Or I just face it. It sounds terrifying, to face the things that give you the most anxiety, but it’s also freeing. Instead of numbing the thoughts that bright me stress, I face them. I try to find solutions to the problems that pop up. I try to find a way to handle it instead of run away from it. I spent so much of my 20s running away from everything – my marriage, my jobs, my family. And I’m finally learning you can’t run from things that give you stress, you have to face them. Even if you don’t think you’re strong enough.

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If I’m strong enough to face the millions of demons I have, so are you. Trust me in that.

If you’ve been following me on Snapchat (@wayfaringclaire), you probably know all about the last portion of this update – dating. If there’s one thing I didn’t miss in my 9-year relationship, it was dating. I knew the world was changing fast, I have a ton of single friends and watched them go from dating app to dating app, trying to weed through ALL OF the frogs in search of their prince. And even in the thick of the unhappiest months of my marriage, I was never envious of them. I thought “hey, I’m fucking miserable, but at least I don’t have to date!” Which, I know, sounds pretty pathetic. But now that I’m in the middle of the nightmare that is called online dating, I still sort of agree with that sentiment.

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I’ve gone through the ringer in terms of relationships the past few months. The first guy I let in after my divorce and dated decided to ghost me. The second one was just in it for a hook up. And this last one? Pardon my French, but fuck. Just fuck. This last one was with someone I truly saw a future with. Someone who made me happier than I’ve been with anyone in a long time. We were nearly perfect. The only issue? Distance. And that’s not something he could budge on, and I totally understand that. Just like I can’t budge on not traveling, I can’t expect him to budge on distance. It just sucks, considering we both wanted nothing more than to be together.

So, broken hearted with tear soaked eyes, I’m realizing I might be alone for a while. And that’s terrifying.

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So, I’m single again. And instead of jumping back into another app, I’m taking a breather. I’m going to spend some time finding me. Spend time getting to know the person that sometimes looks and feels like a complete stranger. I see my life, how I’m dealing with situations and how I’m handling this new chapter, and I don’t have a clue how I’m managing. I’ve turned into this strong, powerful and no-holds-bar person, and truthfully, it’s such a change from the me I was before, it’s taking some getting used to.

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Al in all, through all of those changes, I’m happy. Not everyday, of course. But most of the time, I wake up feeling good about this next chapter of my life. I feel happy knowing that it won’t be long until I’m truly happy. It’ll take time, I know, but I’m taking the right steps to get there.

I don’t know when I’ll update this again or if. But I needed to say it, needed to get it out there. In a way, this is my journal and this is an entry that needed to be published months ago.

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