Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I'm back!

Wow... I was absent for the whooole month of April. I am really sorry about that, readers! It was a doozy of a month for sure! Some of the things that went down while I've been away from the blog:
  • I was a guest co-host on the Low Carb Conversations podcast with Dietitian Cassie and some awesome fellow nutrition enthusiasts! Check it out here. It was my first podcast experience, so... I have not listened to it yet. Maybe I will in a few years when I'm adequately prepared to deal with the double-whammy of my country bumpkin accent + how nervous I was!
  • I took my comprehensive exams, and passed! Woohoo!
  • My fiance moved into our new home on the coast. He brought along his dog Oscar, and we added my dog Sophie to the bunch as well. They are one big happy family now, and I can't wait to join them in a little over two months!!!
  • I finished my thesis! What a relief!
  • Now here is where it gets really doozy-ish... my dad went to a doctor's appointment, where he was told he needed heart surgery and he needed it now. It was scheduled for two weeks later. About a week before the surgery, my mom got a really severe case of pneumonia... but she pressed on like the trooper she is! The weeks leading up to the surgery and Dad's time at the hospital were really really stressful for all of us. However, Dad's surgery went really well and he recovered just fine, and now he is back home and doing awesome. I don't think my family could have made it through that long 3 weeks without the amazing support system we have. Friends, family, church family, and everyone who prayed for my parents and gave so generously... we love you and we are so thankful for you!
  • I've been knee-deep in the interview process for a really promising job or two for the past few weeks... :)
  • I graduated with my Master's degree! Yay! Even better, it was two weeks after my dad's surgery and he was able to make it down for the ceremony. I know it probably wasn't very comfortable for him, but it was really awesome to have my parents there, along with my amazing fiance, my Pops, and Ms. Pat! I love you all very much.
  • Let's see... some other highlights: planted a garden at the new house, got to go home for Mother's Day (which was basically a victory party for my family for surviving the past few weeks!), I ordered the wedding invitations (which are on their way to me as of today), and SUMMER'S HERE!! I am working for the university until the wedding, and I adore the campus in the summertime. It's so quiet and peaceful and pretty... and I got myself a nice tan started. :)
Well it was nice to get that out! As you can see... there has not been much time for cooking, philosophizing about health and nutrition, or blogging. As fun as it is to take mediocre pictures of my cooking and share them with y'all, the blog is just a hobby! I do want to work on improving the quality and frequency of my posts, though, now that things aren't quite so crazy. I can't do anything about the photos, because that requires an investment in a better camera (which is a no-go, sorry foodies--cameras are expensive!). However, I do want to shift my focus a bit more towards nutrition  so that the site is a little more balanced... instead of recipe after recipe after recipe.

Anyways, I just wanted to pop in and let y'all know that I'm still kickin'! I made some awesome food yesterday, and boy it felt good to get back in the kitchen. :D

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Chicken and cauliflower fried rice

So, now that my thesis has been submitted for the first round of formatting revisions, I have found myself with significantly more free time than usual. Although my comps are next Friday, I'm not a studying kind of person. I can study for an hour a day, max, before I just really don't care anymore. Model student right here! So, I decided to cook something a little fancy tonight. With a well-stocked freezer and some fresh eggs that my sweet friend Rebecca gave me, I have all of the fixings for some chicken and cauliflower fried rice!

I'm going for full-on cheap Chinese buffet-style fried cauli-rice here, y'all. I mean... greasy, hot, flavorful, and guilt-inducing (except this one's made with cauliflower and butter instead of rice and veg oil so it's totally guilt free ;D).

In other news, I am presenting my thesis tomorrow at my university's Graduate Symposium and it will be the last presentation I make as a student... ever. I think tomorrow it's really gonna start feeling real--I'm turning into a grown up! I'm getting married to an amazingly wonderful manly man in four short months, and we've got ourselves a cute little house to live in after the wedding, and I'm finally going to not be in school.

This meal is so ugly I don't even wanna post a picture of it... but my goodness, it is delicious.... and so deceitfully healthy!! Now there is a bit of prep work required, so make sure you have some time on hand when you cook this.

I actually felt a chill when I thought about how much good nutrition was packed into this recipe. You might be a dietitian when...

Chicken and Cauliflower Fried "Rice"
Serves 2-3
Cook/prep time: 2 hours

What You'll Need:
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cooked (I sauteed mine in the skillet in a bit of butter)
  • 2 c cauliflower, cut into small pieces (if from frozen, roasted in the oven until a bit crispy on the edges)
  • 4 baby carrots, roasted
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp bacon grease
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp soy sauce (or tamari/coconut aminos)
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp chili paste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
So, before you can start assembling the fried rice, there's a lot of prep work to do... there's chicken to be cooked and (if you used frozen vegetables, like I did) vegetables to be roasted. Oh and feel free to add more carrots; that's just what I happened to have on hand.

After the chicken is cooked, set it aside and allow it to cool. If you used fresh cauliflower, chop it into small pieces and run it through the food processor until the pieces are approximately "rice" sized. If you used frozen cauliflower, use a potato masher or one of these handy choppers (pictured below) to "rice" your cauliflower. Chop the carrots as well.

After the chicken cools, chop it into small pieces. Over medium heat, melt butter and bacon grease in a skillet. Add the garlic and cook until it's fragrant. Add the chicken, cauliflower and carrots, soy sauce, ginger, chili paste, salt, and pepper, and cook this mixture until heated through.

Slowly pour the beaten eggs into the skillet, stirring until the eggs are cooked through. And voila! Serve with sesame seeds.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Spring forward with the sunshine vitamin!

Hello, everyone! I want to direct you all to an Expert Advice column I just wrote for a non-profit organization called Diabetes Sisters: Spring Forward with the Sunshine Vitamin!

It's a brief introduction to a few of the lesser-known benefits of Vitamin D, my most favorite micronutrient in the whole world! Yup, I'm one of those people... I believe the RDA for Vitamin D is set far too low and that getting enough of it can work miracles for your health! The summer of my dietetic internship, I attended a summer camp for children with Type 1 diabetes. While there, I had the privilege of meeting an elderly endocrinologist who had spent his entire career studying Vitamin D. He pulled me and my partner away from the kids almost every day to lecture us about Vitamin D, and I gotta say he won me over. He recommended 1000 IU per day across the board, for absolutely everyone. He made a pretty good case for it, as a man in his late 80's, in perfect health, keeping up with kids and teenagers running around all over a hot summer camp!

So I started supplementing Vitamin D probably a little over a year ago, and I really have noticed a difference. Throughout the winter, I took 5000 IU per day. If I felt a cold coming on or even a slight sniffle, I'd knock back 25000 IU... which always nipped it right in the bud. I've made it through this colder-than-usual winter without the slightest hint of sickness, which is unusual for me. I can only chalk it up to improving my diet and supplementing Vitamin D.

I'm definitely a fan of the sunshine vitamin. So please give my article a read, and let me know if you learned anything new from it!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Quick 'n easy roasted sausage and frozen veggies

Life: still busy, still good, still getting better! Nate and I went fishing over the weekend. We didn't catch anything, but the weather was gorgeous and it was so nice to get outside after this long, arduous, bitterly cold and snowy winter (yes, 2 inches of snow for 3 days is a snowy winter down here). I'm so glad it's spring!!! I'm slowly getting things checked off the to-do list, and I've gotten back into my healthy routine. I feel like a butterfly emerging from its (very cold) cocoon.

I've got a long evening ahead, so in addition to my night coffee (totally healthy wink wink) I made something quick, easy, and filling for dinner: roasted sausage and veggies! I used some frozen vegetables because that's all I had handy. And yes, they roast perfectly! No thawing necessary!

I used parsley and rosemary to season this dish, but there's lots of wiggle room in this recipe for whatever you want to season with. And it's so pretty and colorful!!

Roasted Sausage and Vegetables
Serves 1
Prep/cook time: 45 min

What You'll Need:
  • 2 oz. sausage, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup frozen vegetables (I used mixed string beans and carrots)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, and other seasonings to taste (I used parsley and rosemary)
 First, preheat your oven to 375F. Toss the veggies and sausage in olive oil in a large bowl until all of the pieces are coated. Spread everything out on a cookie sheet and sprinkle salt, pepper, and other seasonings on.

Bake for about 25 minutes or until the edges are getting nice and crispy. Then give everything a good flip, and bake for about another 10 minutes. If you like extra crispy, then cut the broiler on for a few minutes.  And voila! Dinner is done~!

The carrots were perfectly sweet and some of the beans were super crunchy like fries. The meal is also super filling but not in a yuck way. Definitely a success!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

It's a wonderful life! (An update)

Oh, y'all. Life just keeps getting better and better and crazier and crazier and busier and busier. Here's a snapshot of what's going on in my life for the next few weeks:
  • DiabetesSisters.org article being published this week
  • Thesis presentation next Tuesday to the group that funded the project
  • Hard copy of my thesis due next Tuesday
  • Thesis presentation next Friday at my university's Graduate Symposium
  • Guest hosting the Low Carb Conversations podcast with Dietitian Cassie on April 1st
  • College of Health awards banquet at my university on April 1st
  • Comprehensive exams on April 4th (topics to be covered: medical nutrition therapy, food service management, research methods, and my thesis... eek, maybe I should start studying!)
  • We are also getting the keys to our new house (yes, we got it!) on April 4th... we'll be spending the weekend moving all of Nate's things in, and I'll be moving in after the wedding!
I have really really been blessed these past few weeks. Nate and I got our house, and it is just perfect. I have been fantasizing about the flower bed in the front yard all week. My thesis is wrapping up, and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. My family and Nate's family (and Nate! And our church! And our friends!) have been amazingly supportive as we've been planning our wedding and getting ready for this BIG life change. I just can't wait to marry that guy! He's awesome!

However, my diet has been slipping. I haven't had time to cook like I usually do, and so I've been replacing a lot of meals with snacky type foods like Larabars (high quality but sugar bombs), pepperonis, and pork rinds (low carb but not particularly healthy)... drinking more coffee than usual... and eating on the road a lot too. I have also not worked out at all for the past couple of days! It's having an effect on me, definitely! I just feel... blah! I'm tired and bloated and yucky feeling. So it's time to reign my nutrition and fitness back in. It's funny... when life is busiest is when you most need good nutrition, and also when it's the hardest to get good nutrition. Put me alone in my apartment with lots of free time and I will eat flawlessly... but, thankfully, my life is not lived alone in my apartment with lots of free time! I just have to learn to plan ahead so that I don't end up making bad choices just because I'm busy.

So today I'm starting off right. I had some bulletproof coffee this morning (that's coffee with butter... don't knock it til you try it!), and I'm gonna be revitalizing this soup that I made a few weeks ago (stuck some of it in the freezer) with sausage and okra to make it more of a gumbo.

I put the soup in the fridge to thaw earlier this week, and when I got some out for my lunch yesterday there was a nice layer of hardened fat on top and the soup itself was perfectly gelatinous (I made it using a chicken bone broth base). Both of those things used to seriously gross me out, but now they just make me happy! That's tons of nutrition.... but I got sick of eating it, so I dressed it up a little bit!

Also, I just did a 4-min tabata squat/squat jump interval... I can't lift my legs. Feels good, man.

And I'm going to end this post with some inspiration. I have made so many mistakes in my life and I mess up each and every day, but God has been so good to me. I know I don't deserve the life that I've been given, and I just want to share that all of the wonderful things that are happening in my life right now are because of His goodness alone.

First off, every time I listen to the song "No Regrets" by Lecrae I start crying because it really just hits me hard. It's a Christian rap song, so feel free to pass this by if it's not your thing. But anyways, I wanted to share some of the lyrics.
I'm not livin for today cause tomorrows looking pleasant
And the future is a gift even though this is the present
Yea I do believe in heaven but my actions ain't the key
Them gates remain locked if everything follow me

So let em know that when I come to the end of my road
And they ask me was it worth it
The hurting, the pain, and the life I chose
I'll do it again in a heartbeat
I'll tell 'em I'll do it again in a heartbeat
And I'd die with no regrets
And also a Bible verse that is really encouraging:
For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.
Isaiah 64:4
 We'll be back to your regularly scheduled recipes soon! Maybe even from the new kitchen!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Literal banana pancakes (easy & only 2 ingredients!)

So, first off, I want to apologize for disappearing for a couple of weeks with no updates. I had big plans for March to be this amazing, totally laid-back month in which I could really sink some time into getting this blog where I want it to be as far as content and layout. Well... God had other plans. March has been busy, busy, busy (but good). I have barely had time to think, it seems like. I defended my thesis (and passed!). I went home for Spring Break, where my family and I really started checking things off of the wedding to-do list. I'm in the midst of making a few final edits to my thesis, and I've been applying for dietitian jobs here and there on the coast. Nate and I have also started seriously shopping around for a rental home. We found an adorable one that's just perfect, plenty of space and only a few minutes from his work, and we applied for it. We are hoping and praying to hear some good news from the realtor this week. Nate may be moving into our new house as soon as April 1st! More good news: Kroger had Larabars on clearance a couple of days ago... I bought approximately fifteen of them. No regrets.

Anyways, while I was home for Spring Break, my parents made these amazing, two-ingredient pancakes that I had seen circulating on Facebook and Pinterest. I was super-skeptical, but oh... my... goodness! They look and taste just like regular pancakes, and they only have TWO ingredients: bananas and eggs!

When I got back to my apartment, I figured I'd have to whip up a batch for my fiance. I always have eggs and butter handy, so we just went out and bought some syrup and bananas. OH. I also need to mention this: I HATE bananas. The taste and the texture of a raw banana just nauseates me, but these pancakes have a very subtle banana taste and a pancake-y texture. They're awesome!

Before starting this recipe, please set the above song on repeat (for ambiance).

Banana Pancakes (Literally)
Serves 2-3
Prep/cook time: 30 minutes

What You'll Need:
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 4 eggs
  • Butter and syrup/molasses, for serving
First, peel your bananas and chop them up into small pieces.

Transfer them to a large bowl and mash them with a potato masher. If you don't have a potato masher handy (me), wash those hands and do it the old-fashioned way! After they're mashed to your liking, add in your eggs and combine everything well.

On a hot, greased griddle over medium heat (use your fat of choice), pour 1/4 cup of the mixture to form one pancake. You can put as many pancakes as will comfortably fit on your griddle at once.

When the bottom side is browned to your liking, flip!

Repeat until all of your batter is gone!

Serve them with butter and maple syrup or molasses! They're just as tasty as pancakes, but much lighter and healthier! (Think about it: about two eggs and a banana per person.) I gave Nate the bigger portion, but they were so dense that he couldn't finish!

I think next time I'm gonna try to get them a little fluffier (per Nate's request)! I'm super glad that we've found a healthy pancake recipe though! Thanks Mom and Dad! :D

Monday, March 3, 2014

Creole chicken paprikash soup

During my dietetic internship (just last year... it seems so long ago), I was placed at the university cafeteria here at my university for my management rotation. The first time I ever had chicken paprikash was in that cafeteria, and my life was changed the very day I took the first bite. Tender chicken, creamy sauce, mild spices... a hard-to-beat combination, for sure.

Once again, I wanted to make a big batch of something that I could eat on all week. I have been on a serious soup kick lately. And luckily, I happened to have all of the ingredients necessary to make my own spin on chicken paprikash! This morning, before heading out to work, I put a few chicken drumstricks in the crockpot with water, salt, pepper, vinegar, rosemary, bay leaf, and parsley. When I got home... voila! The chicken was cooked and ready to go, and I had a delicious homemade chicken bone broth to use for this recipe.

I also happened to have a bag of frozen "creole seasoning blend" in the freezer. It's super good stuff, and it only costs about $1.50 for a bag. It contains chopped onions, green and red peppers, celery, and parsley. Super convenient!

So I decided to make some Creole-Hungarian fusion. Paprikash with a bit of Louisiana thrown in for fun. And sriracha, which I put in pretty much everything nowadays.

And one more note before I share the recipe! As I was cooking, it was looking and smelling really good. I mean... really good. And then I decided to add a big dollop of bacon grease because... duh? And let me tell you, it added something wonderful. Smoky, rich goodness. So... know that the bacon grease is optional, but highly highly highly recommended. :)

Creole Chicken Paprikash Soup
Serves 4
Prep/cook time: 8-10 hours

What You'll Need (for the chicken and broth):
  • 5-6 chicken drumsticks
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp parsley
  •  1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 c water
Place the drumsticks in a crockpot with vinegar and all spices. Cover with water and allow to cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Turn the crockpot off and remove the drumsticks. When they are cool, remove the skin and separate the meat from the bones. If you have one handy, run the broth through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth.

Now we're ready to start the soup!

What You'll Need (for the soup):
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 c creole seasoning blend (can sub with 1 onion, chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 4 c chicken broth
  • 1 14 oz. can tomatoes (I used stewed)
  • Meat from 5-6 chicken drumsticks (can sub with 4 or so servings of any cooked chicken, skin and bones removed)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp bacon grease (optional but highly recommended) ;)
  • A few shakes of Worcestershire sauce
  • Sriracha or hot sauce to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sour cream (for serving)
In a large pot on medium heat, melt the butter and add the creole seasoning blend and garlic. Cook until they are soft, then add the paprika, chicken broth, tomatoes, chicken, bacon grease, Worcestershire sauce, sriracha, salt, and pepper.

Mix well and bring the pot to a low boil for 5-7 minutes. Then allow the soup to simmer for 1-2 hours.

Serve with sour cream.

A couple of servings divvied up to take to work for lunch this week, and the rest for dinners at home!