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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Not only is this the perfect accompaniment to your burgers, brats and hotdogs, it’s an amazing standalone salad for an entree too!
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
Serves about 4.
Prep time: 10 – 15 minutes
Cook time: About 40 minutes
Total time: 55 minutes
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Toss the salad with dressing and serve immediately!
Nutritional information per serving:
Fat: 14 grams
Carbohydrates: 22.75 grams
Fiber: 4.5 grams
Protein: 21.75 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 8
Despite my best intentions, I haven’t traveled to the Caribbean in years. And with how crazy my last few weeks have been, a walk along the aqua blue waters, white sandy beaches and palm tree fringed coastlines of a place like Puerto Rico sounds like an absolute dream to me. With a surprising amount of vacation time piling up and some off-season discounts hitting my inbox, I think a dream vacation to this stunning US territory might come sooner than I think!
I was contacted by IZEA to write a quick little post about the beautiful island of Puerto Rico and I knew a few things would come from it. 1). I’d probably end up booking a trip to San Juan when I was finished. 2). My wanderlust would be in extreme overdrive and 3). I’d fall even more in love with the quirky culture, multi-colored buildings and bustling personality of this unique island. Without the need for my passport or an agonizingly long travel day (it’s just a quick 3 – 4 hour flight from my hometown of Washington DC) makes a trip even more appealing.
I’m barely halfway through my post and I’ve already pulled up Expedia and Kayak to find the best travel deals. With a vacation looming in the distance, I’ve decided to put together my dream itineary to have when I escape to the 270 mile coastlines of Puerto Rico.
I’ve done my fair share of research on this island for work, and even though I want to do everything there is to do, a gal with only a few days to spare has to be more picky with time. So after hours perusing the top travel sites for inspiration and even more time gazing at photos online, these must-haves made my list.
- A hike and climb through the USA’s only rainforest, El Yunque, including a dip in the forest’s many natural pools.
- A bike tour around the beautiful (and rather mysterious) Old City of San Juan.
- A day tanning, swimming, snorkeling and diving at the renowned Flamenco Beach.
- A dip in the incredible Bioluminescent bays of Vieques. This has been on my bucket list for almost 15 years!
- Watching the sunset while sipping on an authentic Puerto Rican rum cocktail (like a pina colada or a Cuba libre).
- A few meals in the trendy SoFo distrcit of San Juan. My mouth is already watering at the thought of some Green Sofrito or a big plate of stick-to-your-guts rice and beans.
In addition to these exciting activities, I’m going to carve out plenty of time to enjoy the five-star accommodations around the island, from hotels to top-rated spas to incredible restaurants. To be honest, it’s taking everything in me to not just book my flight right now and pack my bags as soon as I get home. (Check back with me later today, I might just be on an airplane to San Juan!)
I got a wonderful comment on this happy blog of mine today. Someone said “How can you have a healthy blog when you’re so fat?” It took almost everything in me not to write back a string of expletives and report that a-hole to the google police. But instead, I’m just going to shake it off, a-la Taylor Swift, and post about pizza today.
I gots my priorities in check, y’all!
Back in the day, those kinds of comments would have probably broken me. I would have spent hours going over all of my personal photos on my site, wondering if I did really “look fat.” I would have spend days crafting a thoughtful, yet stern, response to this spam-bot internet troll and would have finally sent it a week later. The sad thing, even writing a response and judging myself in every photo didn’t bring me peace. I still found myself haunted by one disgusting person’s stupid subjective opinion.
Now, I just laugh and move on. It’s weird because I am bigger than I was 3 years ago. In fact, I’m at a weight I’m very, VERY unhappy with. Yet those ridiculous comments don’t bug me now as they did 20 pounds ago. Maybe because even though I’m heavy, I’m actually happy with who I am inside. I know that sounds cheesy and very “After School Special” but it’s true. I’m doing awesome things with my job, I’m fulfilled personally and professionally and, truthfully, I’m just so tired of letting a number on the scale or in my pants define me.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to sit around all plumply without making a change toward my health. In fact, I’m feeling more motivated than ever lately to shed these pounds and go back to a weight I look good at. And finally, for the first time in, well, ever, I’ll feel as good inside as I look outside.
Oh and expect an onslaught of “before and after” bikini bod pics when that happens. Just for that stupid, idiotic, troll face internet monster.
Spinach and Artichoke Dip French Bread Pizza
Serves about 8. Adapted and Inspired by Rachael Ray.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 16 – 18 minutes
Total time: 28 minutes
For the low-calorie white pizza sauce:
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cup low-fat (1% – 2%) milk
- 2 teaspoons italian seasoning
- 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
For the pizzas:
- 1 whole wheat baguette, quartered (so you have 4 equal size pieces)
- 2 (10 ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
- 1 (9 ounce) can of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
- 1 1/4 cups part-skim mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup fresh mozzarella, cut into small chunks
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet or rimmed baking pan with foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
- To make the sauce, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 3 – 5 minutes. Whisk in the flour until you get a thicker paste. Reduce heat to medium and whisk in the milk. Let sauce simmer, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the italian seasoning and cheese.
- Evenly spread the cheesy bechamel sauce over the four baguette quarters. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese evenly over the four quarters. Top with equal layers of spinach and artichoke hearts. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese evenly over the tops of the artichoke hearts and top with the small chunks of fresh mozzarella.
- Add a dash of salt and cracked black pepper over the tops.
- Bake for about 16 – 18 minutes or until cheese is melted and the bread is golden brown.
Nutritional information per 1/2 pizza:
Fat: 11.25 grams
Carbohydrates: 19.75 grams
Fiber: 2.75 grams
Protein: 12.5 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 6
I’ve never needed, or wanted, a margarita more in my life than I do right now. Work has been utterly crazy time. I’ve worked almost every single day this week (weekend included) and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing content about the US states, territories and cities.
However, that’s not the worst part of my work. My camera, also know as my LIFE, was knocked into the tidal basin on Saturday morning but an ignorant tourist. It all happened so fast and by the time I actually registered what happened, my camera was already halfway sunk into the murky waters of the Potomac. After desperate calls to the park police, many choice words said about the idiot group of tourists and an obscene amount of tears shed, I was told there was nothing that could be done.
Yes, losing my camera SUCKS big time, but the worst part of the whole disaster was losing my SD card, which had hundreds of photos not yet uploaded to my computer, including four amazing recipes I worked my ass off on a few weekends ago. Yes, I can remake them and re-shoot them, but it’s hard when I’m working all weekend for my full-time job.
It just stinks. That camera has followed me to 30 countries, to the top of Machu Picchu, through the desert plains of Kenya, on tall rugged mountains in the Philippines and all through the amazing landscape of New Zealand. It’s made thousands of flights, been shoved in hundreds of flight containers and even more car trips. And the way i finally lose it is 10 minutes from my house. I guess that happens though. Don’t most accidents occur a few miles from your house? As much as I miss it, I’m already in the process of buying a new one (which I needed anyway) so i’m trying to find the silver lining.
In the meantime, here’s one of the last photos taken with my beloved. Let’s all take a few moments of silence for this fallen solider, okay?
Creamy Coconut & Berry Margaritas
Serves about 4 – 6.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
- 1 cup chilled coconut milk
- 1/2 cup light cranberry raspberry juice
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup sliced strawberries
- 1/2 cup fresh raspberries
- 3/4 cup tequila
- 1/4 cup triple sec
- Zest and juice from one large orange
- Dash of freshly cracked sea salt
- Fresh berries as garnish
- Sugar for the rim
- Scoop the coconut cream from the top of the can and place into a blender (you should get about 1/2 cup). Fill the rest of the blender with the chilled coconut milk (until you get about 1 cup total, including the cream).
- Add in the sugar, cranberry/raspberry juice, strawberries, raspberries, tequila, triple sec, zest and juice from the orange and a small dash of sea salt. Blend on high until mixture is thick and creamy.
- Chill slightly before serving. Pour into mason jars and garnish with fresh berries.
Nutritional information per margarita:
Fat: 7 grams
Carbohydrates: 20.6 grams
Fiber: >1 gram
Protein: 1 gram
Weight Watchers Points: 4
Friday calls for luscious avocado chocolate cake.
At least, after the week I had, it does. That and a giant bottle of red wine, but that’s besides the point.
Work has been utterly crazy lately. We’re launching 2 huge website updates that has me writing over 1,000 unique pieces of content before the end of the month. Well, maybe not 1,000 but a metric TON. My sleeping, eating and exercise schedule has been thrown for a loop and i’m basically a walking, very malnourished, zombie.
Luckily I love my job so it’s not too painful. I will say though, I’ll be stoked when these go live so I can actually have a day or two off without having to check my email or write about the unique food scene of Iowa.
Thankfully it’s Friday and then the weekend. The funny story is I actually have to work tomorrow, but it’s not all bad. My work involves playing on the Tidal Basin watching the cherry blossoms bloom and having a delicious boozy brunch. I know, things could be worse. Sunday will be spent with my phone as far away from as humanely possible and far too much pizza, wine and binge-watching.
Since I still have a few hours left to go before my weekend of fun, I’m going to indulge in a big fat piece of this gluten-free avocado chocolate cake for breakfast. Before you judge me and bring up my low-carb diet, may I repeat that it’s completely grain and gluten-free? And the addition of avocado gives every piece a big, creamy kick of fiber and protein.
It may not be as healthy as, say, oatmeal, but it’s still low-carb and high-protein. And those are two components of a light and healthy breakfast!
Gluten-free Avocado Chocolate Cake
Serves about 8 – 10. Adapted and Inspired by Eat Good 4 Life.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 40 – 45 minutes
Total time: About an hour
- 2 large, ripe avocado
- 1/2 cup low-fat milk
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup pure clove honey
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup coconut flour
- 1/2 cup almond meal/flour
- 1/2 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
For the topping:
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 – 4 tablespoons sugar
- Fresh strawberries for garnish
- Melted chocolate for additional garnish
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 x 8 circle baking dish with parchment paper. Spray with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
- In a large Blentec blender, add the avocado, milk, eggs, brown sugar, honey and vanilla. Pulse on high until smooth and creamy. Pour into a large mixing bowl.
- Add the coconut flour, almond meal, all-purpose flour, cocoa flour, baking soda and chocolate chips. Stir until the mixture is thick and creamy. If too thick, add 1 – 2 tablespoons of additional milk or water.
- Pour the mixture into a cake pan. Don’t worry if it seems thick, it’s supposed to be. Using a lightly floured spatula, smooth the top of the cake into the cake pan.
- Bake for about 35 – 42 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes and then remove (with the parchment paper) and place on a wire cooling rack. Let cool fully before adding topping (about 1 hour).
- While cake cools, preparing the topping. In a chilled mixing bowl, beat the heavy whipping cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread the whipped cream over the cake and garnish with strawberries. Drizzle with melted chocolate chips or additional chocolate.
Nutritional information per serving (one slice):
Fat: 14.3 grams
Carbohydrates: 29.5 grams
Fiber: 2.4 grams
Protein: 7.7 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 7