Posts tagged ‘lifestyle’

Farmers Market Finds

Farmers Markets were not something I frequented while living in Boston. While there were some great ones to choose from, I was intimidated by the crowds and the price tag. Since moving, however, Dan and I have become major converts to all of the fun, fresh, local ingredients that you can find at the market. While certain items can still be pricey, there can be some great deals on seasonal fruits and vegetables that all begged to be picked at once. We have also learned that there are some things that are worth the extra dollar or two! The best part is getting to know the vendors and supporting local business. We are on first name basis now with “The Egg Lady” and know who has the best tasting tomatoes or the best prices on lettuce. We go every weekend that I have off for some staples (eggs, seasonal vegetables, and occasionally some local berries or peaches) and allow ourselves one splurge per visit (usually locally-raised meat, fancy cheese, a bottle of local wine, etc.)

Here are some of the things we have found lately!

Staples: Seasonal Green Vegetables

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One of my menu planning strategies is to not plan my vegetable sides. Why? This allows me to look for deals on what looks best or has the best price at the market. I am able to make a list generated by the main component of the meal for the grocery store, and then make sure I pick up 4-5 varieties of vegetables to accompany my meals for the week! Some of my farmers market favorites are zucchini, sweet corn, and lettuce, as these are low-fuss to prepare during the week and are usually abundant. The most notable find, however, was this gigantic bunch of kale grown by the local middle school gardening club that I picked up for just $2!

Worth it: Eggs

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Farm fresh eggs are worth every extra penny, in our opinion. Not only do the chickens that lay them live a happier and healthier life, but the resultant quality of the eggs is incomparable to anything you could get in the grocery store. Not a believer at first, my husband directly compared a cage free, organic egg from Trader Joe’s to one from our favorite vendor at the Delmar Farmer’s Market. While the egg at Trader Joe’s was sunshine yellow, there was no comparison to the golden yolk that came from the farm fresh egg. The egg whites are also less runny, which means that our fried eggs are much easier to cook perfectly. He is now such a convert that we are now on first name basis with the egg vendor, and may even head to their farm one weekend to meet the chickens and pick our own dozen!

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Not convinced? Here is a picture of our typical Sunday morning breakfast. Drool.

Treat yourself: Flowers

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For weeks, I had been eyeing the gorgeous zinnias and dahlias, lusting after the gorgeous colors. While flowers are never cheap, some farmers market bunches can run upwards of $10 for a small bouquet. Since they are not a necessity in our weekly budget, I held out for the perfect occasion to splurge on these beauties. Finally getting the new table that my sister and brother-in-law hand-crafted for me seemed like the perfect occasion!

Putting it all Together: My Favorite Meal

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One of my favorite meals from the summer is actually one of our simplest. We put together a salad from the bounty we had picked up at the market the day before, and boy was it good! The base was a baby lettuce blend with arugula, topped off with cucumbers, local aged goat-milk cheese, and a poached egg. I also threw in a handful of sweet strawberries that we picked ourselves at a local farm, and finished the salad with a simple balsamic vinegar reduction. I wish salads always tasted this good!

Question: Are you a farmers market fan? Share some tips and favorite finds below!

August 23, 2014 at 4:07 pm Leave a comment

Meal Planning

Hello Friends! I am proud to announce that I survived my first week of residency! After finally feeling adjusted to life in our new house as newlyweds, we are going through another series of changes with the start of my intern year. I am starting off on one of my more taxing inpatient rotations, which means long hours and 1-day weekends. My husband has been very helpful with pitching in to do some cooking and general house up-keep, but being in the kitchen is still very therapeutic when I have the time! We have started loosely planning our meals for the next week on Saturday or Sunday to help us stay within our food budget and waste less food. This also helps guide us when we are grocery shopping! We have been doing this for a month now with great success, so I wanted to share some tips that have really helped us. If there are any veteran meal planners out there, I would love to know some tips that help you stay on track!

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1. Write it out
We use two chalkboard canvases (leftover from our wedding) to catalogue what our plans for the week are, what meats/staples we have in the freezer, and what homemade meals we have frozen away for really busy nights! They hang right next to the fridge so that we always know what we have around.
2. Plan for the main dish, but keep a loose idea of the sides
We tend to plan only the main theme, or central dish. For example, I will plan to make marinated chicken, but will decide on the vegetable to serve on the side when I get to the farmer’s market or grocery store and see what looks freshest or on sale. This way, my grocery list ends up being staples (meat, beans, lemons, eggs, grains) plus 5-6 vegetables and 2-3 fruits.
3. Pick seasonal meals
This sort of goes with what I mentioned above, but you can save money and get better tasting ingredients if you plan your meals in concordance with the season. For example, my husband loves this Israeli Cous Cous salad, but we only make it in the spring and summer when squash and cherry tomatoes are in abundance. In contrast, hearty chilis and bean soups simmer and heat up the house while cooking on a hot summer day.
4. Plan with ingredients that you can buy/prepare in bulk.
For example, we are big brown rice eaters. At least 2-3 of our meals per week will be served with brown rice. Instead of making rice every night, we make it once and then keep it in our rice cooker for the next few days. In order for the rice to stay fresh, we try to plan to have the meals that go best with rice in a row.
5. Always buy salad greens.
As a veggie advocate, having fresh lettuce on hand for quick salads is the best way to ensure that something fresh and green makes it to the table on even the busiest of nights. Even with the best pre-planning, life happens and salads are the easiest, albeit not always the most exciting, way to get your veggies in.
6. Plan at least one meal with lunch leftovers.
We are lucky enough as a family of two to often get lunch leftovers out of most of our dinners. If your family is larger, though, plan for one meal that makes great leftovers. Vegetarian bean dishes, lentil salads, pasta salads, and curries tend to be our favorite to eat the next day!
7. Be flexible.
If you know that things frequently come up in your week or you often find yourself with unused ingredients in the fridge by Friday, build in some wiggle room. For example, we always plan for a date night, and frequently leave one more night “unplanned,” leaving room for impromptu dinners with friends or pantry creations.

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This is some of what we have learned so far. Any other thoughts or things that you have found to work for your family or lifestyle? Share in the comments section!

July 6, 2014 at 1:42 pm 2 comments

Sister Sister

My sister is my best friend. Always has been always will be. We have been through everything together.  From the day I was born, my sister was my watcher, my guardian.  She thought I was her own personal baby doll that our parents created special for her to play with. My sister was my influence, whether it getting into trouble eating mom’s spices or playing “IFF” in the bathroom mixing chemicals, or my inspiration to do the best I can in school and life. My sister is the strongest woman I know. She was born with a one in a million birth defect leaving her to endure an absurd amount of surgeries. Despite the struggles and scars on her face, my sister has never thought of herself as different.  Our mom tells a story about after one of Jen’s surgeries Jen looked into the mirror and saw her bruised and scarred face, which would have scared most children. Jen, always sunny and sparkling, smiled and said, “Mommy said it would be ok, it will all be better soon” and went on playing. She developed into a woman with not only a beautiful soul, but a beautiful exterior as well.  My sister has taught me some of the most important lessons in my life. She has encouraged me to be a strong independent woman.  She taught me how to be serious and determined, but also how to be the silliest person and let my freak flag fly.  We have gone through everything together, and it is no surprise that we are now planning our weddings together! She has demonstrated her incredible faith in God through every challenge in her life, and also through every celebration.  She is my constant reminder that nothing life throws at you is big enough to stop you.  With faith in God and a strong supportive family, nothing can stop you. My sister is my best friend and my inspiration.

Me and my beautiful sister

Me and my beautiful sister

If you haven’t noticed yet, this isn’t Jen, this is her little sister and biggest admirer, Chelsea. As you can imagine, Jen is phenomenally busy keeping up with her 4th year of medical school, going to residency interviews (because of course everyone wants her so she has like 20 in the next few months) and planning a wedding with the love of her life.  As I said, Jen has always been my biggest influence and inspiration.  While most people say their mom and grandmother taught them to cook, I really credit my sister for teaching me to cook.  Sure my mom taught me the basics, but my sister showed me the excitement and creativity in cooking.  I remember when she came to visit me my sophomore year of college when I finally had a tiny kitchenette.  We trudged over to the local grocery store and collected food to make a vegetable primavera dish.  The space was so small, we had to cut the vegetables up on a cutting board set on a chair.  We made a make shift table in the center of the tiny room and enjoyed our dinner together. The food was delicious, but more importantly, this was the turning point in when I discovered the fun in cooking. This has spurred me to believe I am always on “Chopped” and have fun creating all sorts of different creations, many from Jen’s blog. Since Jen is so busy and doesn’t have the time right now, I thought it might be fun to post a few posts for her.

Our makeshift dorm room dining table and delicious meal

Our makeshift dorm room dining table and delicious meal

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Look how cute she is!

So you know my sister, and have read some stories about me, but I figured I’d tell a little about myself. Recently I discovered I have an under-active thyroid.  This has contributed to a large decrease in energy, and also some weight gain.  My sister has been my biggest advocate in seeking proper treatment and also my coach in making healthy decisions to help keep my energy up and my weight down. I am proud to say that in the past 3 weeks, I have lost 3 pounds.  Now this doesn’t sound like a huge accomplishment to most, but to me it is the world.  After gaining nearly 25 pounds in 6 months without altering my lifestyle, I am happy my weight is going anywhere but up. And if it is a pound a week, I will be back to my slim happy self by the time my beautiful sister gets married.  I also just recently graduated college at the end of August and passed my board certification exam to become a music therapist at the end of September.  So I am now patiently (not really, but trying) waiting for the right job to come along, while embracing my lifestyle of being a housewife to my wonderful fiance, Mike, and raising my adorable puppy, Archer. I am not a vegetarian like my sister, so most of my dishes posted will probably contain meat.  But right now, my focus is on healthy, low fat foods.  I have a rehearsal dinner to attend tonight, so you can look for my first food post tomorrow.  I’m excited to be apart of Jen’s blog, which has inspired me and many for years, and I do hope to be able to keep up with the high level of cuisine that she has previously posted!

Me and my fiance, admittedly quite a bit more country than Jen

Me and my fiance, admittedly quite a bit more country than Jen

My little boy!!

My little boy!!

I have also never blogged and am admittedly not the most tech savvy person.  I prefer to stick to my acoustic guitar and piano. This being said, bear with me as I figure out this blogging thing.

October 24, 2013 at 11:05 am 3 comments

WIAW Green Edition

In honor of the last What I Ate Wednesday in March, I decided to green my meals for the day! Despite a day of studying hematology, I still managed to sneak in some fun, healthy meals and a quick run. Since I have to get back to the books, I will let the pictures do the talking! They are also the links to the original recipes, if you are interested in trying something out for yourself!

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Breakfast, 8:30am: Angela's Green Monster Overnight Oats. Not as good as the smoothie, but it definitely kept me full all morning!

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Lunch, 1:30pm: Impromptu diner visit with a friend led to a delicious lunch of root vegetable hash hidden by two eggs over a bed of mixed greens. Delicious!

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Dinner, 7:30pm: What I packed for lunch became dinner. Leftover Great Grains Salad over lettuce with an orange for dessert.

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Study snacks, 9pm: Yes, this is a recycled picture, but the scene looked almost exactly the same! A bowl of popcorn sprinkled with nutritional yeast and a piece of toast got me through the rest of the evening.

3/3 of my meals had a green veggie base – that is what I call a WIAW gone green success! To make things even greener, my roommate and I started composting yesterday! Since we are city folk with no yard, we never thought this would be an option for us. However, friends told us about Boostrap Composting, which delivers compost buckets to your door, and picks them up on a schedule. If you compost enough, you can get some of your own homemade fertilizer back! We are excited to venture into this new world of waste, and would love to hear more about your experiences if anyone has composted before!

Question: How do you go green?

March 28, 2012 at 1:16 pm 1 comment

Mom’s Reflections on the Vegan Challenge

You have seen my progress in the Vegan Challenge, and have occasionally heard from my parents and friend, but I thought I would give them a chance to share about their experience in their own words! One of the highlights of the month for me was recipe swapping with my mom. She taught me the basics of cooking and shared her passion of good food with me at a young age. I was excited to be able to share some of the tips I have picked up along the way with her, and am amazed by her creativity with vegan cooking! I hope you are as inspired by my mom as I am!

Somehow my daughter was able to talk my husband into going vegan for the month of January.  I don’t think he really had any idea of what he was agreeing too, but I had wanted to try going vegan for some time.  Some of my friends had done the Daniel Fast, a “spiritual fast” based on the book of Daniel in the Bible in which he ate only vegetables, fruits, and drank only water.  A “side effect” of their fasting was weight loss.  So needing to shed some pounds and really cleanse my body and mind, I thought, “Why not join him in this challenge?!”  So during the Christmas holidays, with help from my already vegetarian daughter, I prepared both my mind and my kitchen for the challenge.  She gave me tips on how to incorporate protein into each of our meals so that we wouldn’t go hungry.  I stocked my kitchen cabinets with beans, quinoa, and rice and my refrigerator with fresh vegetables and fruits.  I had recently started getting a weekly delivery of organic fruits and vegetables which proved to be a huge help during the challenge.  She took me to Whole Foods and taught me how to read labels to find all those hidden sources of off limit ingredients and introduced me to tofu and tempeh.  I replaced cow’s milk with almond milk–which I now absolutely love and will not go back to milk.  We even found some different coconut creamers for my husband’s coffee in the morning.

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Spaghetti Squash with Delicata Squash, mushrooms and tomatoes. One of my first dinners on the Vegan Challenge.

For breakfast, I made oatmeal with a variety of different fruit mixed in.  I took Jen’s advice and made sure to add either almond milk or sometimes peanut butter to give the oatmeal some protein.  On the weekends, when I would normally have loved scrambled eggs, I began making hash brown potatoes, something I learned from my younger daughter.  On a recent Saturday morning, I shredded some sweet potatoes I had gotten in my organics box, added some onions and black beans, and fried them in olive oil for a delicious and filling breakfast!  I discovered a love for hummus at lunchtime, which also helped to keep me full.  My favorite quick lunch is spread some hummus on a wrap, add some mixed salad greens and diced cucumbers or any leftover grilled vegetables.  Fabulous!  I had a lot of fun finding new recipes and enjoying all the things that I could eat.  That was the best advice that Jen gave me at the start of the challenge.  It was never about what I couldn’t have but making the most of what I could have.  I made homemade pizza with caramelized onions, roasted artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers for a topping—I didn’t even miss the cheese.  I made chili with sweet potatoes instead of meat.  I even made a vegan macaroni and cheese using butternut squash and some nutritional yeast to make the “cheese sauce”.

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Thai Fried Rice with sautéed Bok Choy, onions, broccoli and ginger. My last dinner on the Vegan Challenge.

So, after my thirty days as a vegan, I definitely feel better and lost 12 pounds in the process.  I learned a lot about healthy eating and filling my body with good food.  It definitely takes a bit more planning and preparation to be vegan and social settings are definitely hard.  I had friends over for dinner during the challenge and fearing that they would have to be satisfied with a weird vegan dinner, the men all admitted to having eaten meat or chicken BEFORE they came over to eat my vegan food.  So I do agree with Jen, being Vegan with Benefits is much easier.  That’s pretty much what I have been doing (significantly reducing my meat and dairy intake) since the challenge ended as well and plan to continue doing, although I do admit to having some pepperoni pizza while cheering the Giants to victory over the Patriots in the Superbowl this past weekend!  So thanks, Jen, for the encouragement and support in helping me succeed in this challenge!

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Sweet Potato Chili with brown rice and Daiya cheese sprinkles

The question still remains: how did Dad fare? Well, he has been busy with a snowmobiling and business trip, but I will try to wrangle a paragraph or two of thoughts from him as soon as I can! Looking at the pictures of what my mom cooked throughout the month, I can assure you he didn’t starve!

February 9, 2012 at 4:00 pm 2 comments

WIAW as a Vegan with Benefits

I like Miss Smart’s term: Vegan with Benefits, because that best describes how I have been eating for the past week! Now that the vegan challenge is over, I am still eating pretty much the same at home. However, I am enjoying not having so many restritctions on friends and families, and the easier ordering process at restaurants. I enjoyed a Greek salad wrap for my first non-vegan meal, and loved it. Oh how I missed feta! The other half sandwich I ate at the catered lunch meeting, however, was not as satisfying and I actually picked the cheese off! Granted, it was fake American cheese slices, but it definitely surprised me how little cheese I crave anymore!

My food today was random and on a weird schedule, which I blame on cravings, a weird class schedule, and my evening yoga class. WIAW isn’t about presenting your perfect day, though, so here is a peak into my eats! In keeping with Jenn’s theme for this month, let me restate how much I really do love veggies. Despite being all over the place, I did a decent job of getting my greens. One way to get extra veggies is to incorporate them into snacks (I am not a fan of raw veggies, so like to roast broccoli or snap peas or Brussels sprouts first), add them to your sandwich (like the lettuce leaf over my hummus crackers), make up a quick side salad with dinner, or enjoy a huge stir fry. Join us for the month to try and get more veggies in your daily meals!

6:45am

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Because food never looks great at the crack of dawn, a picture of the original.

I finally obeyed my alarm clock and got up before the sun to get some work done. Lately, I have been able to get an hour of studying done before getting hungry for breakfast, but not this morning. That meant a really early breakfast of a pumpkin muffin with a bit of peanut butter, kept on the lighter side in case I decided to go out for a quick run. The other weird occurrence: I didn’t have coffee! I slept a lot this weekend, so my body hasn’t craved its caffeine jump start the past two mornings! Doubt that will last long…

11am

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Someone was a little heavy handed with the spicy stuff

After getting bogged down by work, a phone call, and a few distractions, my run never happened. I snacked on half an apple to tide me over, but needless to say I was starving by lunch! I heated up some leftovers: Mama Pea’s Thai Fried Quinoa (my 2nd time making the recipe!) made with edamame instead of peas and topped with a few peanuts and Sriracha. Still hungry, I munched on a handful of peanuts, and then heated up the other half of my apple with some local honey, cinnamon and almond butter.

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The best thing I ate all day

4:30pm

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I walked over to campus for a long afternoon of cancer screening seminars. My body responded to all of the information being thrown at me with a few loud stomach growls. I responded with dinner part 1: caramelized Brussels sprouts leftover from the other night, and a big juicy orange.

8pm

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After a hard yoga class, I was about to gnaw my arm off. I turned to the quickest dinner part 2 possible: hummus on rice cakes with a lettuce leaf ripped over top, with some Veggie Chips from Trader Joe’s on the side. Those were promptly inhaled before I even reached the table… Still hungry after dinner, I roasted up half a crown of broccoli. Normal people crave broccoli for dessert, right? Regardless of what meal category this fits into, roasted broccoli with BBQ sauce hit the spot! Real dessert, 2 squares of dark chocolate, followed to end my random day!

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Just your average dessert craving...

Question: Do you ever have random food days?

February 8, 2012 at 7:41 am 10 comments

Vegan Entertaining

The biggest roadblock for me over the past few weeks as a vegan has been community. I feel awkward accepting dinner invitations, hesitant to ask for restrictions on what my friends can cook but also unable to eat what I am served without question. Dining out can be difficult, depending on the menu. Hosting should feel like the easiest option, but I get nervous about my friends reactions to my “weird vegan food.” However, sharing meals with friends is an important part of my life, and I needed to face my fears of communal vegan eating head on this weekend.

I met up with friends for lunch and was terrified of not being able to order anything at the tiny diner we ducked out of the snow into. I scanned the menu, seeing fancy omelettes, pancakes, homemade muffins… and I panicked. But then I saw the life-saving asterisk: for vegans/vegetarians, all eggs can be replaced with tofu or tempeh. At no extra charge, this was a miracle! I got to enjoy  tempeh with home fries and veggies, which was a really filling and satisfying lunch! As my friend said, “only in JP,” commenting on the characteristic residents of this notoriously hippie Boston neighborhood. Not all restaurants are so vegan friendly, but I was happy to have a small hurdle to conquer my fear!

My evening was spent catching up with a few friends from school over dinner, so I got to conquer my fear of serving friends “weird vegan food” as well. It was also an easy hurdle, since four of them were independently doing their own vegan challenge, and one was a former vegan. We laughed about experiences with friends, family, and servers; commiserated over the questioning of preparation methods and scanning of ingredients lists; and swapped recipes and new foods to try. It was such a great night, and the food was a hit!

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Original photo from Mama Pea's Thai Fried Quinoa

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Original photo of Sesame Kale Chips from Whole Living

To avoid the, “Um, what did you say that is?” reaction, I wanted to find a recipe recreation that would be familiar to people’s taste buds. I chose Mama Pea’s Thai Fried Quinoa, since it harkens Thai pineapple fried rice and can be customized with various toppings. It was a huge hit and definitely a recipe I will make again! On the side, I made Sesame Kale Chips. Kale is a veggie-lovers green, but I have never met someone who could turn down a crispy kale chip. Even my Dad loves kale this way, despite his usual turned up nose when it appears in soups and stews! I omitted the lemon juice, used a little less oil, and added a dash of ginger. I will definitely be playing with different seasonings for my kale chips from now on, since these were so flavorful and not just overly salty! The green stuff went faster than the main dish, which I think speaks volumes!

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Original picture of Victoria's Peanut Butter Cup Hippiecakes

Vegan desserts on their own can be tricky, but another wrench was thrown in – my friends were also not eating any added sugar! Good thing I had these muffins on hand! A friend and I baked on Friday night, and certainly got our peanut butter and chocolate fix with these. I put out the rest of the muffins for dessert, and my friends were so excited to be able to enjoy a sweet treat at the end of the meal! You can’t go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate, and the natural sweetness comes from the dates. They are even healthy enough to fill the role of an on-the-go breakfast, making these another make again recipe!

What I learned from my Saturday: don’t let fear hold you back! It might take a little more creativity, planning and thought, but you can enjoy communal meals and laughter with friends, no matter what your current food lifestyle choices are!

Question: Have you ever been afraid of friends reactions to food you serve?

January 21, 2012 at 10:56 pm 5 comments

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