Archive for October, 2011

Hey guys,

I ate a really good lunch today.

It was healthy, easy to make, portable, easy to re-heat, and exceedingly tasty.

But it isn’t fancy,

it doesn’t have much of a recipe,

no special ingredients or spices…

but who cares!

Eating well isn’t all about presentation, about spending a lot of time and effort on your meals, about trying a new recipe every night of the week. It’s about finding out what works for you – what motivates you to eat well, what foods have effects on your body and your well-being, what you like, what you hate, etc.

For me, learning to just eat whatever in my fridge/pantry instead of making a big production out of everything has been so helpful. If I don’t have “lunch foods,” or “dinner foods” I tend to get fussy and throw in the towel, and then I end up eating out… which always somehow involves a bag of chips and a large Diet Coke and sometimes a giant sandwich.

Stocking your pantries properly with simple, easy food and embracing it’s Food-i-ness instead of its Meal-i-ness? It’s a time saver, a money saver, and a health saver.

So here’s to you, old gross leftovers that probably taste fine!

Here’s to you, salad made of weird random vegetables and last night’s chicken!

Here’s to you, week-old rice and beans and ground beef! You were a great lunch – even the history prof from across the hall said your smell made him hungry! – and I don’t mind that you were not the prettiest lunch on the block because you gave me fuel and tasted delicious!

Jessica’s Ugly Burrito Bowl Non-recipe


Cook up your rice! I make 2-3 cups of uncooked rice, which is enough for dinner for 2 and then leftovers all week.


I’ve made this recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe a few times, but I usually buy dried beans from the bulk bins because they are cheaper. I cook them up and then sub them for the canned… but I usually make too many plain beans, and they sit in the fridge and look gross and boring… but GUESS WHAT! There’s enough going on with this lunch that using the plain, cooked beans is FINE. You just might want an extra sprinkle of salt!

Ground Beef

Brown up some ground beef. I do a pound of grass-fed, which yields 3-5 servings. Drain the beef a little if you want to, or don’t if you don’t. Add salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, and cumin to taste. Some people might call this “Taco Seasoning Mix.”


Put rice, beans, and meat in a bowl. Shred cheese of choice on top. Add salsa & sour cream, and whatever other taco-y things you have laying around. Green onion? Avocado? Be creative!

I would say that rice, beans, cheese, and salsa are all mandatory, but meat, sour cream, and other extras are all optional. But this is your meal! Please, don’t take MY word for it! Put peanut butter on top for all I care.

I just want you to be happy and fed and not feeling stressed in the kitchen, friends.


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No, this is not a Spooky Scary Halloween recipe to scare your friends at this year’s party.

This is just me,

working/homeworking from 8 to 5,

running 2 miles,

immediately entering the kitchen to make a delicious butternut squash,

and severely injuring myself TRYING TO OPEN A BOTTLE OF WINE.

No, I did not get any blood in my soup. That’s bacon.

But we did have to use cheesecloth to strain the bottle of wine in fear of broken glass.

Recipe from The Italian Dish.

I obviously subbed bacon for pancetta.

But kept the heavy cream.

(I love that this diet allows me to eat heavy cream)

And I made my boyfriend slice the squash. My roommate pitched in.

This was probably for the best.

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I worry that a lot of my side dishes gross people out with their Midwestern-ness. But those are the things I crave the most when I’ve been away from home for a while. They’re cheap, they’re tasty, they’re filling and I can usually make them a hair healthier. Plus, you know, vegetables (usually with a whole mess of cheese).

I’ve been hankerin’ for this broccoli slaw, aka ramen salad, for a few weeks. Trader Joe’s had broccoli slaw on sale this week, so I finally had the opportunity to get at it. Hooray!

You’ll need:

1 16-ounce bag of broccoli slaw

2 3-ounce packs of chicken flavored ramen noodles

1 bunch of green onions

1 C unsalted peanuts

1 C sunflower seeds

1/2 C white sugar (I used 1/4 C and it was fine)

1/4 C oil (I used Smart Balance omega-3 veggie oil)

1/3 C cider vinegar

So here’s what you’ll do:

Mix the slaw, crushed up ramen and green onions in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the sugar, oil, vinegar and ramen flavor packets. Pour that over the slaw. Mix together and refrigerate. Top with nuts and/or sunflower seeds before serving.

This goes with basically any barbecue or Asian dinner. I’m going to have it with pork and broccoli tomorrow night. You can have it whenever.


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Last time I posted I was about to embark on a week-long health kick. If I liked it, I was going to live it out for the rest of the month, evaluate, and maybe continue. If it was ridiculous and I was too cranky-hungry (“hangry,” we call it), it would be kaput after the first week. The rules, if you’ll recall: Two small breakfasts every day; gym in the morning before work, come home and cook every night.

The results are in. I did pretty well, and I am DEFINITELY continuing the pattern through at least the end of the month (minibreak for my mom’s visit next weekend)! My predictions of grumpy and hungry were pretty much wrong. I was never ravenous. I only made one run to the vending machines, and the Famous Amos cookies I picked up were less than satisfying. I did run the dishwasher two times, and it’s ready to go a third time now (I’m usually a three times over two weeks kind of girl) but I wasn’t overwhelmed by it. I made it to the gym every morning, Sunday through Thursday. Friday was my rest day, then I picked right back up. I had a bagel on Friday – not a really solid breakfast, I’m afraid. And on Tuesday I had a late meeting, so I ate a bowl of tomato soup there, but still came home and made enough chicken for lunch the next day.

And, the only gut freak-out I had was one morning when I ate two of these bad boys in a 30-minutes period.

Sorry for the fuzzy phone pic.

Yeah, that was 18 grams of fiber in half an hour. My body felt like it was dying. I’ll never do that again.

But other than that little hiccup, I think the meal planning went really well, and I was doing OK at the gym, too (I’m back up to a mile on the treadmill and I can already feel the shin splints returning). Plus, when you know what’s fresh in your fridge and cupboard, it’s easy to put together impromptu dinners. For instance, my lovely friend Maya stopped by last night, and I made a marinated Asian steak salad. Simple, tasty, perfect.

This week’s menu looks pretty good, too:

SUNDAY: Baked chicken, marinated green beans (from last week), rice. NDL: Asian steak salad with broccoli slaw

MONDAY: Chinese pork and broccoli, rice, broccoli slaw. NDL: Baked chicken, rice, broccoli slaw

TUESDAY: Steak, brussels sprouts, noodles. NDL: Steak salad with cold noodles and brussels sprouts.

WEDNESDAY: Falafel, tzatziki, naan, red bell pepper strips. NDL: Falafel salad with rice.

THURSDAY: Baked ahi tuna, marinated kale. NDL: Tuna, rice, kale chips.

Stay tuned: Broccoli slaw recipe is coming your way tonight!


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pecan pie conspiracy

Hi friends! Jessica here!

First off, everyone should make sure to read Lindsey’s post about her new healthy foodie goals.

I read it a few days ago and got kind of emotional.

I don’t know why… I mean, I have my suspicions (hormones, lack of proper carbohydrates), but I am just so impressed and awed when people are their authentic, awesome selves, flaws and all, but aren’t afraid to talk about their best intentions. And, as you might have gathered, I am all about uniting Great Health with Great Food. These things are NOT mutually exclusive, people! So, go, Lindsey, go! And congrats on your latest crust award!

I am having pie problems of my own.

Upon assuming this Crazy New Diet I’ve not only had to figure out how to cook meat, I’ve also had to assemble some new “go-to snacks.”

For reference, some previous go-to snacks of mine include:

  • Mass amounts of salty carbs dipped in hummus
  • Granola bars
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Toast with peanut butter + sweet things
  • Giant bowls of popcorn

I was in need a reliable, easy snack that provides some satiety in the late afternoon – when lunch happened a few eons ago and dinner is still 3 hours of class away.

Enter the Power Snack:

Slice o’ Lunchmeat

I buy Applegate Farms from Trader Joe’s because it is good quality meat, doesn’t have a ton of preservatives and other sugar-based ingredients, the company is fairly transparent about their farming conditions, and it is affordable.

Tiny Wheel o’ Cheese

I buy Babybel because when I was twelve, I took an all-day babysitting course with a friend and her mom packed us both lunches to take with us, and there was a Babybel cheese inside and I went “WOW! THIS IS THE MOST AMAZING/ADORABLE/FOREIGN OBJECT IN MY LUNCH BOX!” and I have been intermittently obsessed ever since.


And the final ingredient of this fine snack:

1/2 o’ Larabar

Larabars are delicious. They are made of dried dates, nuts, and random other actual foods that make them taste like whatever they are supposed to taste like.

They also contain no added sugar or other weirdness. Which makes them probably the only paleo-friendly bar on the market.

¬†They are kind of high in sugar (all the dates) and my body doesn’t like it when I eat too much food in bar-form, so I eat 1/2 with my snack and save the rest for the next day.

Flavors I like:

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Carrot Cake

Peanut Butter and Jelly

Chocolate Chip Brownie

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip

Key Lime

Coconut Cream Pie

So every week, I grab 2 that sound delicious. In my Whole Foods, the boxes are stacked fairly high, and for some flavors, I have to reach up and around and grab blindly for the bar of my choosing.

And every week for the past THREE WEEKS, I’ve arrived home and started to unpack my groceries, only to find that instead of a Carrot Cake, a PB & J, a Key Lime, I have

a Pecan Pie

I have nothing against Pecan Pie.¬† Especially ACTUAL pecan pie with chocolate chips and bourbon and heavy syrup and asdwe2@#$asdf….

But, when you are asking for Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough flavored dates and you get PECAN.PIE.AGAIN…

Mo’ pie, mo’ problems, yo.

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It’s not much, but I know I love bread, and I need to wean myself off of it.

Because besides the pies, this is what my diet looks like:

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Hi team,

Jessica’s done an amazing job holding down the fort and completely transforming her diet over the last few months. I’m totally impressed with her switcheroo, and her dedication to healthy eating. I’m also inspired.

You see, dear readers, I have not been as dedicated as my co-captain on this train to Delicious Station. I was training for the second DC State Fair pie contest. I placed in top three crusts, but did not bring home any glory this year with my rustic pear-ginger pie (recipe forthcoming), but I was still proud. After all, I am mostly a baker, not a real cook, and there is a science to baking I really find satisfying. I love to bake and share.

Training, however, leads to what I like to call “pie weight,” as I’m basically baking at least one, but usually several, pies per week. And while I try to give them away as quickly as possible… I have to taste them, you know?

That, coupled with my “nighttime gym routine” (read: I SAY I’m going to the gym in the evening, but then it’s bar trivia night, or the 9:30 Club has a string of really good concerts I must attend, or Thursday night TV gets really good again), led to an embarrassing trip to the scale at my annual checkup. Luckily, my doctor was really cool and approved of my New Get Healthy Plan, as opposed to the previous visit, in which the phrase “well I didn’t think you were THAT big” flew out of a nurse’s mouth. Thanks, lady.

So here’s the new plan, which I will road-test this week: I cook a real dinner every night. Not Chipotle take-out, not a TV dinner or nachoes, not a slice of pie. Real dinner, in two portions – the second one will be my lunch the next day. I will go to the gym before I go to work, and I’ll have two mini-breakfasts: one before the gym and one when I get to my desk.

  • I have a few predictions about this week:
  • I will do a lot of dishes, many more than usual. Dishes are my least favorite household chore.
  • I will be hungry the first few days, which means I’ll be grouchy. Then it’ll get better.
  • Thanks to my IBS, my guts will freak out at least one time, probably when I need to do an interview for work.
  • I will do at least one secret vending machine and/or fast food run at work.

I hope I’m wrong about my predictions. I know I am not about the dishes. But I think this will be kinder to my wallet, my waistline and my insides. I’ve given myself a few rules for shopping this week (sort of inspired by the Fed Up With Lunch blog):

  • Buy what’s fresh, looks good and is relatively cheap.
  • Don’t go crazy. Stick with stuff I like, and maybe branch out once or twice.
  • Keep it simple.

With all that in mind, I swooped into the farmer’s market and then Trader Joe’s with my good pal Kate to see what was up. With the loot I brought back from the store, plus what’s in my pantry, I devised a meal plan:

SUNDAY: Rib eye steak, rice, roasted brussels sprouts (Next Day’s Lunch: steak salad with a side of rice)

MONDAY: Sauted chicken with pasta and steamed broccoli, maybe topped with some cheese (NDL: a couple of baked redskin potatoes with broccoli and cheddar)

TUESDAY: Baked chicken with brussels sprouts and a baked potato (NDL: leftover chicken as a soup with either pasta or rice, whatever’s left)

WEDNESDAY: Falafel and tzaziki sauce with rice and marinated green beans (NDL: falafel salad with tzaziki sauce)

THURSDAY: Pan-fried turbot with salad and green beans (NDL: turbot on a salad, leftover beans)


Not bad, right? The turbot was an impulse buy – I saw it used on Chopped! – but only four bucks for a huge filet. The steak was big enough for two portions, grass-fed and five bucks. The chicken thighs were less than four dollars for three big ol’ portions – I should be set there, too! The falafel dinner is built-in as an easy-peasy heat-and-go dinner because I assume by Wednesday I’ll be grumbly about cooking a whole damn meal every night. I got raspberries, yogurt and oatmeal for breakfasts, and granola bars for a snack at my desk, as well as some dark chocolate (73 percent!) -covered almonds to curb any hormonal chocolate needs. Sorry, sometimes I’m a Cathy cartoon.

So tonight, I cooked up the first meal. It was tasty, though it didn’t quite match the government tasty plate thingie. Take a look:

Kind of tasty-looking, right? I felt pretty confident, despite having not cooked steak in a few years.

And I found that, much like when I’m baking a couple of pies and can just add in a small cake, etc., no problem, dessert came easily too. I chopped up a few apples, threw them in a frying pan with just enough butter to grease the pan (I think you could just use Pam if that was more up your alley), a literal pinch of brown sugar, a whole bunch of cinnamon and all my leftover walnuts. Saute that stuff until the apples start to caramelize a bit. Give it a quick hit of fresh lemon juice to brighten the whole thing.

It’ll look like this:

So that’s in the fridge, too, since I can’t bring myself to just bite into an apple every day. I recognize it’s not as healthy as a plain apple, but let’s not forget that the bulk of my fruit intake recently has had a pastry delivery system. So there’s that.

I’ll let you know how I progress.


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