Monthly Archives: January 2013

Healthy & Hearty Winter Ragout

Sausage, kale, mushrooms, kidney beans, cannelini beans, and tomatoes.

You may recall about a month ago, while watching the Bachelorette wedding, my cable completely went out. It turns out the cable box had a heart attack and we didn’t get a new one for about 2.5 weeks. I can’t even begin to describe the positive impact going without TV (we couldn’t even get the basic channels) had on me during that time–and since.

Robert happened to be traveling for work during those weeks (otherwise it probably would’ve been fixed sooner) so I was left to my own devices to entertain myself. What I discovered: Life without TV in the evening frees up an enormous amount of time. It’s awesome. In fact, some nights I got into bed by about 8:30pm because I wasn’t really sure what else to do. Bonus: I finished a few books way more quickly than I usually do.

Now, don’t get me wrong I love TV. A lot. Often, it’s not what’s on TV as much as how relaxed and zoned out I feel while watching it. Plus, I love getting completely engrossed in shows (Homeland and Downton Abbey are some of our recent faves). And I can pretty much guarantee we’ll have a few Dexter marathons this weekend (we just started watching the first season).

However, those 2.5 weeks were enough to break me of a habit: Eating dinner and watching TV every night until it’s time to go to bed. Lately, I’ve been cooking meals that take just a little bit more time to make (still, not more than 30 or 40 minutes on week nights). More importantly, I’ve really been able to enjoy the process more than ever because I’m not rushing through cooking so I can plop down on the couch ASAP to watch whatever’s on the DVR. If I make it there, great; if I don’t, well that’s great too.

Ingredients. Ready to party.

This was one of those meals that I truly loved cooking. I was able to take my time and when I realized I didn’t have any of the usual suspects with which to deglaze the pan after browning the chicken/turkey sausage (such as white wine or chicken broth) I realized beer would be a stand-up stand-in. Oh my, was I right. I also used some of the beer to steam the kale and I actually can’t imagine this recipe without the depth of flavor thanks to the brew (Boulevard, no less, for you Kansas City folks.)

The result, as Robert summed up in seven words: “This tastes like winter in a bowl!”

Score!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Thank you for reading!

Winter in a bowl.

Winter in a bowl.

Healthy & Hearty Winter Ragout

Serves 4

Ingredients 

Olive oil

12 oz chicken/turkey sausage, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1/4 cup shallot, minced (about 2 shallots)

2 gloves garlic, peeled and minced

8 oz sliced mushrooms

1 bottle beer

2 (14.5 oz) cans of no salt added beans such as kidney and cannellini (FYI: I found them in BPA-free boxes at Whole Foods, which were each 13.4 oz.), drained and rinsed

14.5 oz can diced no-salt added tomatoes

1 bunch kale (about 6 cups), stems removed and chopped

Salt & pepper

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Preparation

Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add sausage and saute until browned on both sides, about 5-8 minutes. Remove sausage. Add minced shallot, garlic, and mushrooms to pan. Saute about 2 minutes. Pour about 1/4 cup beer into pan and use a wooden spoon to remove brown bits left from the sausage. Cook until mushrooms soften, about 5 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, and kale. Pour in 1/2 cup of beer. Cover and cook until kale wilts, about 5-10 minutes. Using the back of a wooden spoon, mash some of the beans to create a thicker consistency. Add sausage back into the pan and continue cooking until heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and serve immediately.

Adapted from Cooking Light

Red Lentil Curry

super simple to make: red lentils, scallions, carrots, potato & curry powder

Serve with brown jasmine rice and whole wheat naan (found at Whole Foods)

Oh my, was this ever good.

The meal came at a very much needed moment in my week. I’d had one of those days where I plugged away at my computer for eight or nine hours, yet hadn’t crossed a single thing off of my To Do list for work. (And I’m someone who puts items like “shower” and “eat lunch” on her list.) Still: Nada. Zilch. I’d shuttled off countless e-mails, yet no one responded. I left dozens of voicemails. No answers. I searched endlessly online for studies that I needed to no avail. It felt like I hit a dead end every time I attempted to inch forward in some way.

What’s that? You know exactly what I’m talking about? The funny thing is, Robert came home from work that same evening saying he felt like he’d accomplished absolutely nothing that day. It’s a universal experience, right? And there’s something about a lack of momentum that can be exhausting.

After yoga, I really just wanted to curl up on the couch until it was time to walk the dogs. Then I could crawl into bed at an hour that would only be acceptable for an infant or an 80 year old and try again tomorrow. But something deep inside propelled me into the kitchen to cook. Thankfully, I listened. Because when this meal was done not only had I made something absolutely delicious to eat, I felt a genuine sense of accomplishment. Progress. Success.

So with a full belly and a peaceful mind, I finally slipped into bed knowing deep down that the hard work I put in that day would somehow make a difference the next.

Satisfaction on so many levels.

Satisfaction on so many levels.

Red Lentil Curry 

Serves 4

Ingredients

Olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

8 green onions, sliced, separate white and green parts (keep all white parts, only keep green parts from 4 green onions)

1 1/2 Tbsp curry powder

5 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 russet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 cup dry red lentils (no need to soak)

4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

Salt and black pepper

For garnish: 1 lime, cut into wedges and naan bread

Preparation

[Note: It’s very helpful to cut all ingredients–garlic, green onions, carrots, and potato before you start cooking.]

Heat oil in large sauce pan over medium high heat. Add garlic and scallions. Saute until softened, about 3 minutes. Add curry powder, stir until color darkens slightly, about 1 minute. Add carrots, potato, lentils, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes, until vegetables are tender and lentils are cooked.

Serve over brown jasmine rice. Garnish with scallion greens, lime wedges, and naan.

Slightly Adapted from Real Simple

Penne with Shrimp & Sun Dried Tomatoes

Whole wheat penne, sun dried tomatoes, and greens in a white wine garlic sauce

Whole wheat penne, sun dried tomatoes, and greens in a white wine garlic sauce

You may have noticed that pasta recipes don’t show up around here very often. There are two reasons for that. 1. I don’t have  a drop of Italian in my DNA, which means I didn’t grow up eating lots of pasta and it’s not something I have tons of experience with. 2. Truth be told, I’m a bottomless pit for pasta (and pizza, by the way). So, much to my pasta-loving fiance’s chagrin, I don’t cook it that often.

Fortunately, I exhibited just enough restraint this Sunday to pull off this recipe without nursing a bellyache afterward. And you know what? It may be one of the best things I’ve ever made. Like, ever ever. For the first time in my life the words, “this tastes like it’s from a restaurant!” spilled out of my mouth regarding something I made. It was the first time I ever tried to pull off a white wine garlic sauce, which is one of my most favorite things ever. And it’s so easy! Any time I’m in a restaurant and I see the words “white wine garlic sauce” you can almost always bet that’s what I’m getting.

If I’m keeping it real around here I have to admit this meal almost didn’t happen. It was on the verge of being a complete fail. You see, I had the bright idea to add just a little bit of cream to the sauce. But, trying to make it a little healthier, I picked up half-and-half at the store instead of cream. When I added the half-and-half to the sauce when it was done…it curdled! (A quick Google search has me thinking it’s either due to the lower fat content of half-and-half vs. cream or it’s because the liquid was cold when I added it to the hot sauce.) I won’t go into detail about how gross curdling is because I want you to think positively about this sauce and love it as much as I do.  I had a solid three minute freak out until I realized I had just enough ingredients left to give it another go. So I tossed out the first batch of sauce (luckily, I hadn’t added the shrimp, greens, or penne yet) and started from scratch–omitting the half-and-half this time, which was definitely the way to go all along.

This meal hit all of the right notes for this time of year. It’s light and healthy, featuring whole wheat fiber-rich penne, protein-packed shrimp, and nutrient-rich greens. At the same time, it’s warm and comforting–just what the doctor ordered in early January.

Action shot!

Sunday (or any day) supper is served

Penne with Shrimp & Sun Dried Tomatoes 

Serves 2 (with leftovers)

Ingredients

2 cups uncooked whole wheat penne

1 shallot, minced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

Olive oil

Salt & pepper

1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (thawed if frozen)

6 sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, chopped (FYI: I used sun dried tomatoes in olive oil from Trader Joe’s that were julienned. If you buy this kind use 2 heaping Tbsp and chop them.)

1 cup white wine (Chardonnay works great)

2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

5 oz baby greens such as spinach or arugula. (I used Power to the Greens from Trader Joe’s, which includes baby kale, baby chard, and baby spinach.)

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Preparation

Cook penne according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add shallot and garlic. Saute until fragrant – about 1 minute. Add shrimp and saute until cooked through. Remove shrimp to a plate.

Add sundried tomatoes to the pan. Saute for about a minute or two. Add the wine and broth and bring to a simmer. Continue simmering liquid for about 12-15 minutes. (If you like, cut tails off of shrimp while you wait for the liquid to simmer – though it’s not necessary.) Add the greens and red pepper flakes and cook until greens are wilted. Add shrimp and penne to the pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until shrimp are heated through.

Adapted from Eat, Live, Run

Sculpting a New Beginning

If you told me just three months ago that in 19 days I’d be starting Yoga Sculpt teacher training I’d tell you that you were off your rocker. There’s absolutely no way. You’re crazy.

But I am.

For those who’ve never heard of Yoga Sculpt before, it’s heated power yoga with weights and it’s just as intense as it sounds. Each class includes strength-training exercises such as squats, lunges, bicep and tricep curls while you’re in yoga poses (such as Warrior II or Chair) as well as cardio, plyometrics, and lots of other components I’ll learn about very soon.

You want to know the truth? I can hardly make it through a single Sculpt class without stopping to catch my breath. At least once per class (and frequently more often than that) I have to put down the weights and do the exercises without them.

It’s humbling and challenging and sometimes the most difficult thing I do in a day and that’s exactly why I want to teach it.

Hello frenemies: Let's do this! (Usually they're stacked more neatly, but I snapped this right after a Sculpt class.)

Hello frenemies. Let’s do this! 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past few years it’s that change and growth happen when I challenge myself. Like so many other humans I’m a creature of habit and feel most comfortable when I’m doing things I know I’m good at. But true joy, true reward, and true balance, I’ve learned, come from those experiences where I step outside my comfort zone, try something new, push myself, and make mistakes. (Nowhere is this more evident in my every day life than when I cook.) I also experience all of these things in every single Sculpt class. Even when it feels like I’m the only one gasping for air or moving without weights in a class packed with 30 other sweaty bodies I never feel defeated. Because for the first time in my life I truly feel like the only person I’m competing against is myself.

I’ve also learned there’s something so deeply rewarding about noticing real, tangible progress in some aspect of your life. For me, Sculpt isn’t about sculpting a certain kind of body. It’s about becoming stronger physically, cardiovascularly (is that a word?), and mentally. I may not notice a change every time I step on my mat. If there’s anything I’ve learned from yoga (without weights) it’s that every day is different and some days I may feel stronger or weaker than others. But over time, with practice, patience, and focus, change will happen inside and out.

Of course, I could continue being solely a Sculpt student, but I love teaching yoga so much and I can’t wait to learn more about this puzzling practice and share the yoga love. I also want to help students see the bigger picture like I have: it’s not about the immediate physical changes. It’s about the long-term rewards that come from dedication, progress, and lots of sweaty fun along the way.

Chicken with Tomatoes & Mushrooms

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Happy New Year, friends!

I hardly know where to begin. Is it really 2013? For the first time in my life I was really sad to see the year come to an end. It was without question the very best year of my life. The funny thing is when I think about all of the wonderful things that happened in 2012, it seems like they occurred within the span of a single week: I moved into a new apartment with Robert, I passed my yoga audition and officially became a yoga instructor at CorePower Yoga, I learned a book I ghost wrote was accepted by the publisher, and I got engaged! (Read the full recap of that unbelievable week here.)

But the truth is although these mega life events came to fruition within a single week in August, I had been planting the seeds all year long and even before 2012: I took the leap and signed up for yoga Teacher Training early in the year; I scored the writing contract at the end of 2011 and pushed my writing limits throughout most of 2012; and Robert and I had been building the foundation of our relationship since the day we met in 2010 (though I had no idea he would ask for forever in 2012). When I look back at the magical milestones that occurred in 2012, they’re a great reminder of just how far hard work, dedication, and following my heart can take me in my life. They’re also a great reminder for those moments, down the road, whenever I feel stuck that when I keep pushing forward, stay focused, and challenge myself in new ways marvelous things can happen.

Of course there were countless highlights that occurred outside of that week including a few trips to California (L.A., Carmel by the Sea, San Francisco, and Sonoma), New York, Vermont, Kansas City, Michigan, Florida, FRANCE, and a Christmas cruise with Robert’s family.

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Merry Christmas from a Caribbean Cruise

When the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve I knew there were so many wonderful things waiting for me on the other side of 2013 and I’m ready to dive in. Of course there’s our wedding in September (!!!) and a honeymoon after that (no idea where we’ll be going yet – happily, Robert’s in charge of that!) We’ll also be celebrating lots of other friends who are getting hitched this year all across the country. Hopefully we can plan another trip for the end of Robert’s busy season (though I’m not sure it’ll be quite as fancy as France). And when it comes to work, well, who knows what the future holds! Every year has been dramatically different from the one before it with new and ever-changing opportunities. So I’ll continue plugging along with my magazine and custom publishing writing and the rest is an open book (PUN!) I also want to continue pushing the limits right here with cooking and blogging. I have big ideas in store for this lil’ blog that could. Thank you so, so much for taking this journey with me : )

For now, I thought I’d kick off the year with a super simple, super delicious, and super healthy home-cooked meal: Chicken with tomatoes and mushrooms. It doesn’t get any simpler than this, folks. Just three ingredients (four if you count the two cloves of garlic (not pictured)…five if you count dried oregano…). Point is: that’s it! With so few basic and inexpensive ingredients it’s a great step toward my eco friendly and budget conscious goals for 2013.

Mushrooms, Chicken, and Tomatoes. (Four ingredients if you count the two cloves of garlic.)

Mushrooms, Chicken, and Tomatoes

It kind of tasted like a stripped down chicken cacciatore. At one point I contemplated adding some onion or even a little red wine, but I wanted to see what would happen if I kept things as simple as possible. I’m so glad I did–it was the kind of soul-warming food you want in early January, took less than 30 minutes to prepare, and created very little mess to clean up (it’s a one-pot meal). I served it over brown rice with a simple salad of arugula, fresh navel orange, toasted blanched almonds, and a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. In a word: success.

Chicken with mushrooms & arugula salad

 Arugula salad & chicken with tomatoes and mushrooms 

Chicken with Tomatoes & Mushrooms

Serves 4

Ingredients

1.5 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts

Olive oil

Salt & pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

16 oz sliced baby bella mushrooms (or any kind)

1 (14.5 oz) can diced & fire roasted tomatoes with green chiles (or any kind of tomatoes you like)

1/2 tsp dried oregano

Preparation

Cut chicken into 1 inch cubes. Heat olive oil in large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add chicken to pot. Season with salt and pepper. Cook chicken, turning to cook all sides, until cooked through. Transfer chicken to plate, cover with foil. Add minced garlic to pot and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and oregano. Cook, covered, until tomatoes break down, about 10 minutes. Add chicken and any accumulated juices back to the pot. Toss to coat and cover until chicken is heated through.

Adapted from Martha Stewart