We Can’t All Be Julia Child

Today’s Happy Note: Meeting my new students!  I volunteer with high schoolers in NYC public schools and love it.  Some of them told me that I have really strong arms and legs, randomly.  I guess all my strength training and running pay off (although in reality the benefit for me is mostly mental — I want to look fit, but I don’t have a pathological need to “look good” — I’m past that stage, thank God)!

Marathon Training: During my hilly 9-miler this morning, I realized that my half-marathon on Saturday is not gonna be easy.  I have already run 39 miles this week and will probably do 3 or so tomorrow.  Saturday will include the half-mary plus an extra 5 for a grand total of 18 and 60 for the whole week. Wow.  Holy crap.  That’s a lot of miles.

I need new shoes just thinking about it.

Today was another super busy day of running, classes, therapy, more classes, volunteering and….law school fair! This probably sounds really boring to you, but applying to law school is actually something I’m genuinely excited about. Every time I find a new school that seems fun and vibrant and has good programs in the areas I’m interested in, I add it to The List. The List is getting bigger every day.

I haven’t felt so thrilled about most big changes or decisions in my life.  But, like my decision to leave school in the second half of my sophomore year, this is just something that I feel clearly and simply right about. In my heart.

All this is to say that my life is crazy busy right now, just like so many of your lives!  And I want to share with you my favorite easy dinners (and easy dinner-making tips) for when life gets like this.

Sometimes I get home at 8 or 9 and I. Do. Not. Want. To. Cook.

Chopping vegetables and coming up with complicated fish marinades can be relaxing.  But not when you haven’t eaten in six hours and you’re ready to eat the damn non-stick pan you’re cooking with.

Speedy-but-healthy weeknight dinner tips:

  1. Do not fear the afternoon snack. I always have one between three and five.  Usually something relatively large.  A good afternoon snack means that you’ll have the time and energy to prepare a tasty, healthy dinner.
  2. If you can, prep your vegetables on the weekend.  I like to either make a giant stir-fry over the weekend or just cut up a few cups of sliced carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, zucchini, or whatever is in season and in my fridge!
  3. Simple does not necessarily mean bad.  When you’re pressed for time and money, fancy is rarely an option, in fact.  Pick simple proteins and fats. Don’t buy a live lobster or a 10 pound complicated rack of lamb.  Some of my favorite choices: eggs, hummus and cheese, salmon (cooks quickly!), natural/organic deli turkey, canned beans, canned tuna, quinoa, frozen pre-cooked shrimp, extra firm tofu, and nut butters, of course.  You can spice up a simple protein relatively easily and quickly.
  4. You don’t need a lot of equipment but the essentials are, well, essential.  A cutting board (or a very sturdy plastic plate that I may or may not use as a cutting board), a good knife, a measuring cup, a glass mixing bowl or two, a good spatula, a wooden spoon, a pot, and a non-stick pan.
  5. Invest in some spices and sauces that you can throw into a dish to take it to the next level: salsa, hummus, peanut vinaigrette, green chiles, lemon pepper, chili powder, cinnamon, seedy mustard, guacamole, etc.

And without further ado, easy weeknight dinners in pictures!

I tend to go for easy stir-fry comobs.  This was the one I mentioned yesterday — broccoli, onion, sweet potato, tofu, and peanut sauce.  I paired it with some TJ’s carrot ginger soup.  Soups, provided that they’re low in sodium and don’t have crazy ingredients, can be great sides or main dishes if you add in some fillers.

Sweet potatoes are really easy to steam in the microwave!  I topped mine with turkey here, but you can also use beans, greek yogurt, nut butter — whatever.  Paired with a side salad, dinner was good to go.

Sometimes you just need a Smoothie In A Bowl for dinner.  Throw on some granola and nuts for toppings to make it heartier.  And pair it with a side salad if you’re weird like I am and don’t mind veggies with your smoothie.

Omelets or egg scrambles are always a good choice! Tonight I had one stuffed with broccoli, green pepper, and cheddar, with a bowl of oatmeal on the side.  Breakfast for dinner is usually quick and always tasty!

These have all been dinners from just this week.  It’s easier than you think to be creative but tasty.  Inexpensive yet healthy.

Some of my other favorite weekday dinners include quinoa with beans mixed in, salmon baked up with soy sauce, ginger, maple and roasted veggies, whole grain pasta with marinara and local grass-fed ground beef, wraps with avocado, hummus, spinach, and tuna…the list goes one.

Your favorite quick and easy dinners?

Because let’s face it.  We can’t all be Julia Child all the time.

I have more exciting (and important) things to do than cook dinner.  BUT I still want to be nourished and satisfied. These tips and dinners fit the bill.

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Transition Stress/Long Run/Meat

Today’s Happy Note: My day involved plenty of chocolate.  Always a good thing.

Mental Health Note: Transitions, of any sort, are always stressful and tricky for me.  At this point in my life, I have come to accept that, and instead of trying to pretend that the stress isn’t there (and thereby making it much, much worse), I just acknowledge it and do my best to soothe myself.  I find moving around — which, unfortunately, happens a lot in college — not just physically exhausting, but emotionally draining as well.  I get attached to places.  I go back and forth between NYC and Michigan (and sometimes Canada) quite frequently.  I am in NYC right now, but have to move back into my dorm.  I’m also making a shift from full-time worker to full-time student and part-time worker.  My life patterns are not all that different during the school year, which helps to ease my mind.  I know that I will still eat oats with nut butter or smoothies for breakfast.  I know that I will find some time in the day to squeeze my run in and that I will make time for friends and life outside of school.

All this is to say that the stress is creeping up on me already — I can see and feel it. It sort of drapes its way around me and sits on my heart and body like a heavy scarf.  I move into my dorm room on Saturday and start classes Tuesday.  I have been mentally preparing myself.  One thing I find very helpful is finding room for extra sleep during my day/night.  Stress often leaves me sleepy-tired, and if I can either sleep 9 hours at night or 7-8 hours at night with a nap in the late afternoon, I am much happier and calmer.  Other things that help include lots of self-care (doing stuff like painting my nails, getting a massage, strolling in the park and looking at the flowers, etc.), reaching out to people I love, and eating delicious but clean foods.

How do you deal with life transitions — physically or emotionally or occupationally?  How do you relieve the stress/anxiety/tension? I love consistency, but I understand that, for the next few years, my life will not necessarily be straightforward.  I am learning how to find the excitement in this.

I got my run in this evening!  It was way too hot at the beginning, but eventually cooled down with a nice breeze. I did ten miles and actually felt really great during it.  I held about a 10 minute per mile pace, but was probably around 9:30 at some points.  I feel like I may finally be back up to pre-hospital strength!  Yay!  I also lifted weights for a quick 30 minutes.

Long run eats:

I’m not showing everything because I think it’s boring.  But I have done a good job keeping track.  And I don’t have a picture since I only just made it, but I am currently eating a delicious chocolate banana smoothie with TJ’s dark chocolate in a nut butter jar.  Nut butter jars make everything better. Seriously, I would be so thrilled if I got my Christmas and birthday presents in (clean) nut butter jars from now on.  It would be so cute!  I’m pretty sure my relatives already think I’m a weird foodie though, so I probably will go ahead and *not* make that request…

Lunch was kinda epic: steamed carrots/yellow squash, green grapes/cherry mix, and a turkey/cheddar/avocado wrap on a TJ’s multigrain tortilla.  I have a lunchtime sandwich fear, for some odd reason.  But on longer run days, I find it helpful to have a sandwich for the extra carbs/calories.  It works out perfectly fine because, when eating more earlier in the day, I eat less in the evenings.

Awesome new snack!  TJ’s (do you see a TJ’s them here?  Hmmmm….) peanut butter crunchy granola bar.  This was a tad sweet but definitely tasty.

Dinner involved more meat — apple chicken sausage, in honor of my sister (it’s one of her favorite foods, but I also really like it as well) with a GIANT salad of romaine, peppers, avocado, and TJ’s peanut vinaigrette (LOVE).  I had okra fries a la Meghann on the side.  They were actually really good.  When I cut up veggies like carrots, squash, or, in this case, okra, into fry form and bake them, I am not intending them as a fry replacement.  I just like roasted veggies.  But these were actually legitimately fry-like!  I coated them in salt, pepper, and EVOO and baked at 400 for about 30-ish (maybe 40?) minutes.  Okra=my new friend.  Oh, and if you are wondering why it’s dark in the above photo that’s because it’s purple okra!  I love veggies in fun colors.

Hello, okra.  You can come over for dinner anytime you want.  Have you had okra?  Do you like it?

Meaty talk:

I don’t eat a lot of meat.  But I think it can be a very healthy part of a diet and I will probably never go vegetarian. I do believe in ethical, moderate meat consumption.  I get as much of it as I can from the farmer’s market or other local, natural, and/or organic sources.  I just realized, while posting, that I had meat twice today! Turkey at lunch and chicken sausage at dinner.  And you know what?  I feel great. The protein and fat really work wonders for me.

I like all kinds of protein sources.  My favorites: salmon, shrimp, steak, turkey, tofu, lentils, black beans, tempeh, whole grains, greek yogurt, veggie burgers, cottage cheese, nut butters, and certain protein powders.

Your fave protein sources?

Bedtime for this stressed chica.  Goodnight friends! 🙂

Therapy Tuesday

Today’s Happy Note: Getting out of the city!  Got to go visit a college in PA with my babies (aka high school students I work with).  It showed me that I am a capable leader and mentor.  Plus, it was kinda nice driving through the Poconos.

This has gotta be a major quickie; I might just have the busiest day of my life tomorrow — including a sweet surprise that I promise to blog about (with pictorial evidence, of course)!

Yesterday workout: 6 miles (2 GP — general pace –, 2 tempo, 2 GP) plus four accidental walking miles.

Today was not the best day in terms of eating OR marathon training.  With the training, I was supposed to do an easy three miles with strides; I just decided to swap that out with Friday’s rest day.  I am so busy during the middle of the week.  Hopefully that settles down once school starts.  I walked a few miles and did some gentle stretching.  Eating: I did take pictures of everything, and most of it was relatively healthy, but it was too much.  I know I wasn’t hungry for all of it.  Do you ever just feel like you desperately need to eat even though you aren’t hungry? Oh well.  Tomorrow is a new day, and there are far worse things in life than consuming extra calories via almond butter, fruit, yogurt, and dark chocolate.

I am proud of myself because, even if my eating is still not perfect, I am beginning to recognize my patterns. I know Monica is working on this right now too and it is harder than it sounds.  Am I hungry?  Sad?  Ecstatic?  Confused?  Do I eat a lot in the evening?  Do I feel fuller when I have PB for dessert or cereal (PB!)?  Am I lonely?  Am I restricting and then overcompensating?  Am I eating enough to fuel me through a six or eight mile run — or am I using that as an excuse to eat too much?

I DON’T have all the answers, but I AM realizing that the journey is pretty fun.  I am learning so much about myself.  For example, I just noticed something important today: computer troubles=eating troubles para Caronae.  Nothing stresses me out quite like a computer problem — even if it’s something really small.  So I have noticed this, and I know that I have an arsenal of alternative tools (i.e., not emotional eating): beautifying myself (painting my nails, eyebrow plucking, doing my hair, getting a massage), and curling up with tea and a stack of magazines.  Those are just two little things that make me happy right now!

A few eats:

Bacon has been involved.

Yum!

Therapy Tuesday

Today was characterized by our shared laughter.   I don’t really know how this happened — certainly not everything I said (or L said) was funny — but it happened, and once we started finding humor or joy in things, we couldn’t stop.  It was lovely.  I had two main announcements to make (both of which you already know):

1. I am applying to law school in the fall and,

2. I am going to be running the marathon come November.

I honestly just haven’t had a chance to tell L either of these things yet.  I started with number one.  I was a little bit surprised by her reaction, which was not one of warmth, and undying support.  Looking back, I guess I didn’t really need that anyways.  Sometimes I feel like L knows what’s best for me even when I don’t know what’s best!  Anyways, she basically encouraged me, but also reminded me that I am young, that I can and should do more research, and that I should think about what exactly this means to me and what I want to do with my life.  These are big questions that I am not necessarily ready to tackle, but I am glad she reminded me that, at the very least, that can be floating around in the back of my head.  I was mildly annoyed at her because I sort of thought she was lecturing me and sounding exactly like my mom does about school stuff.  I felt as though she was telling me that I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m a baby and blah blah blah.  I told her this and she sort of gently pointed out what she really meant and noticed that I was doing a bit of projection of my mother onto her.  Point taken.

But I was feeling a bit wound up, unsettled, and anxious at this point.  But: I let her in.  I let L know about this, about the turmoil that was mounting inside me over such a small thing.  And one of the things she said actually comforted me quite a lot: I stated that when this happens — when I get anxious and panic in the moment of therapy — I feel like I’m wasting my(limited) time with her, and she said that this is my life; this is real and these are my feelings and what better thing than for them to happen in the moment with her, so that she can help me figure them out?  Brilliant!

She sort of walked me into talking about the marathon, even though I didn’t want to.  And guess what?  Again,  I ended up feeling better.  She is so damn smart sometimes it scares me.

L was happy for me about the marathon.  Sometimes I wish she could be more involved in my real life.  But it was nice today to have that brief moment where my real life and therapy sort of merged.  That was new.  And to have everything be sort of light — I actually don’t think I cried at all, which is highly unusual.  It was just like the littlest things about our relationship became humorous; like we know each other so well that we can laugh about each other, at each other.

So today was new.  Refreshing.  Intense but calming.  Funny, real, jarring.  Wonderful in many ways.

Green Things and Good Things

Today’s Happy Note: Green things!  Everything from tree buds to salads to green monsters and green dresses.  Green means spring and I like it!

Sorry for my unexpected absence last night friends!  I’m sure you can guess he culprit — schoolwork, obvs.  Icky, but has to be done.  Fortunately I did a much better job of planning my schedule today so I have time to blog!  I think taking one week night off seems to work well, but that night needs to shift around from week to week.  I like to shake things up!

Good news: I GOT A JOB WORKING FOR A NON-PROFIT I LOVE THIS SUMMER!!!!!  And it’s paid.  Just not a lot.  It’s a part-time/evening gig which means that I will be able to work other times at my current job and hopefully save a little bit of money.  I am quite excited about being in NYC over the summer; I love not having classes and homework and being able to plan out my day and my life the way I want to.  It makes me feel very adult 🙂

Exercise: I did an easy five miles yesterday.  I was going to take a rest day, but it was so nice out I just couldn’t.  I did a mini yoga sesh by myself afterwards.  I love tree pose so much right now!  Makes me feel calm and balanced but also strong.

Today I did seven and a half miles, definitely faster than yesterday.  It was about 58-60 degrees when I went (at 7 am) but it was unbelievably humid!  I was drenched when I got back and sucked down three full water bottles by nine.  Today’s run reminded me how ambivalent I am about summertime running.  It can just get so damn hot and humid that it’s unbearable.   I don’t think I could ever live in the South!

Hopefully my body adjusts a bit by the time June rolls around and it starts getting into the 80s and 90s!

Eats: Lots of random munchings lately — all of which have been good!  Here’s a sampling…

Multiple salads larger than my head 🙂

Green SIABs.

Oatmeal with melty nut butter and easter candy.

Random food thoughts, in list format because I love lists:

1. Lemon-lime twist zevia is the most disgusting drink I have ever had in my entire life.  When I was little I loved Sprite.  I dunno if I have just really come to dislike processed foods or what, but I think this stuff is actually worse than Sprite.  Please don’t buy it, please.  Has anyone tried the other zevia flavors?  I had black cherry steaz last week and it was really good; maybe it’s just this brand of stevia-sweetened drinks that’s gross.

2. Why does my soy milk have 12 g carbs and 3 g protein?  This is just wrong.  I am guessing it’s because it’s the chocolate kind, but still, that’s inappropriate.  Soy milk is supposed to be a protein, I’m pretty sure, not a carb.  I need to be a more diligent label reader, I guess.

3. In the last year as I’ve learned about processed foods, I have stopped wanting them!  Sure, I get the occasional TJ’s pre-made stuff (ahem, ginger cat cookies) and I’ll never totally break up with bars, but I would say a vast majority of my diet is made up of whole foods at this point.  No more yoplait light or 100 calorie goldfish packs.  Now that I know how awesome a cheesy veggie and egg scramble or a perfectly seasoned medium-rare steak is, I find myself craving those things instead.  This afternoon for my snack, I only wanted a plain turkey burger and some cashews!

4. Another thing I have gotten infinitely better at: self-regulating/moderation.  I was making cookies for a bake sale tonight and of course I had to snack on a bite of dough and a few of the m and m’s that I was adding in, but after a few bites I realized I didn’t want anymore!  I’d already had dessert and wasn’t in the mood for more sugar.  I love how my body is really getting better at listening to itself.

5. Why oh why is produce so expensive?  Sure, four dollars for a bag of spinach doesn’t seem so bad, but when a bag of spinach only lasts me four days, that’s eight dollars a week on spinach alone!  Grrrr.

Sorry this post is kind of all over the place.  Sometimes my brain works in spurts and my thoughts just aren’t coherent.  Meh.  Also sorry I haven’t been the best commenter/reader lately; busy busy week, but come Thursday and Friday I’ll be back.

Happy middle of the week everybody!

Easter Eater

Today’s Happy Note: There are so many!  Lying down in the park and enjoying the sun with friends was a highlight!

Yep, I said sun.  It was 72 degrees today!  This is quite nice for early April in New York City.  I like to think that the fact that this sunniness and warmth happened on my most favorite holiday means I’m a good person.  I don’t know how that’s logical, so don’t ask.  Even in the evening I didn’t need so much as a jacket.  Me likes.

I spent several hours in the afternoon with friends in Riverside Park.  It was plain old glorious.  I actually had spent most of the morning moping around because I was tired and none of my friends wanted to hide easter eggs; but I cheered up around one and went for a walk with some school books, snacks, and candy-filled eggs to give to people.  In the park I ended up running into some people from my floor and hung out with them and chatted, read, and munched.  Twas a very happy Easter afternoon, and I’m really happy that I was able to turn my day around like that!

After the park, I went to the most beautiful church in the world and marveled at how small, but also important, it made me feel.  It was a nice little spiritual moment.  I also read some psalms.

I strolled about two-ish miles in the park.  There is a really nice/rugged, but short, trail that I like.  I didn’t see any birds even though I was supposedly walking through a bird sanctuary.  Well, that’s a lie.  I did see obese pigeons and some scraggly sparrows.

Exercise: After my walk I came home and did schoolwork.  Eventually I went to the gym with my best friend Jonathon (the one who just started running outside with me!).  I got him to do intervals on the treadmill.  I wanted to do some HIIT, so here’s what mine looked like:

Minutes      Speed

1-10             6.0 mph

10-11          8.0 mph

11-12           6.0 mph

Repeat minutes 10-12 ten times (until you have reached thirty minutes).

This was perfectly tough!  This might sound weird, but sometimes I really like to count when I’m running, especially on the treadmill.  As a child, I used to count out loud during car trips, for hours at a time.  Then, when I was on 7342, for example, and someone else said something and distracted me I would get really angry.  But you already knew I was a weirdo…

I did about ten minutes of heavy arm lifting and them swam 3000 yards.  I used to be a serious swimmer in high school but don’t do it very often anymore.  It seems to loosen up my legs pretty nicely; I’d like to swim more frequently.

Eats: I took pictures of almost everything today, minus a few easter m and m’s or mini chocolates.  I had my share of sugar and chocolate and guess what?  It was so worth it.  And at the end of the day, when I tallied up my calories, I realized that I’d done a good job intuitively balancing things out with a smaller lunch and a produce-filled dinner.

Breakfast SIAB with mixed frozen berries, lite chocolate soymilk, acai protein powder, and spinach.  Topped with not-sweet-vanilla granola from galaxy granola and a few pastel peanut butter m and m’s for good measure!

Cadbury creme egg.  Tasty, but too sweet.  I would love it if they made a version with some real, dark chocolate.  Wow, I am officially not a kid anymore now that I have said cadbury creme eggs are too sweet…

Really random part 1 of lunch.

Slightly more random part 2 of lunch: small corn tortilla topped with Justin’s maple almond butter, mango butter, and a few spoonfuls of siggis blueberry yogurt (which works surprisingly well as a spread) and mini cadbury eggs.

Mini cinnamon roll.  First baked good I’ve had since before Lent!  I might have a cupcake or muffin tomorrow.

Easter Dinner!  It was quite simple, but I am really proud of it.  This is the first holiday meal I have ever done on my own.  I have helped my mom or other family members and cooked side dishes and whatnot plenty of times before, but this meal was all me!  I wouldn’t have served it to a table full of family members because it was so simple, but it was yummy and got the job done.  I would have liked to have another fun side, but didn’t want to have to cook and store four different dishes.

I made a massive side salad that probably would have served an ordinary family of four.  But they would have been veggie deprived, and I clearly wasn’t.  The salad had romaine, cucumbers, carrots, and Annie’s Goddess dressing.  Next up: plain steamed green beans.  The “main” dish: spicy turkey burgers!  With garlic hummus for dipping.  It was what I had on hand!

Easy 15 minute spicy turkey burgers

1 pound extra lean ground turkey (I used a hormone-free, free range 96/4)

1 large clove of garlic, chopped finely

1 tablespoon olive  oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon lemon pepper

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (and/or chili powder)

Combine the garlic, oil, and spices in a medium glass bowl.  Add turkey and mash it all together!  Easy peasy.  Make sure spices and oil are evenly distributed and that the mixture is soft-ish.  Shape into four patties; about 3/4 of an inch thick. Place on baking sheet.   Broil for five minutes per side.

I almost forgot to show you the contents of my Easter basket!

Obligatory toothbrush, eyeliner, more candy filled eggs (don’t worry, I gave most of the contents of the many eggs away), duck gel gem stickers, solid milk chocolate duck, ducky shower sponge, toffee dark chocolate bar.

The note says “please decorate Herbert’s window, ps you can hide [eggs] for your friends, love mom!”  How cute is she?

Herbert says he hopes you had a great Easter and a lovely weekend and a nice week too!

Goodnight friends!