Feelin’ Saucy

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Yeah, I know, enough with the food puns already, A.K.! 😉

I’m in between binges of Dance Moms, but I’ve been itching to pop in and blog about a little trick I devised for those of us who live alone. For those of you ladies or gents who are married, cohabitating, or have roommates, this trick might not be of use to you. Nevertheless, sometimes it’s hard for anyone to use an entire jar of spaghetti sauce.

[Side note: my favorite clean spaghetti sauce involves a homemade concoction of EVOO, fresh garlic, sautéed yellow onion, diced tomatoes, Italian blend seasoning, and parsley. When I don’t have the time or energy to do homemade, I opt for a sauce that is low on sugar, packed with veggies, and has as many whole ingredients as possible. Prego Chunky Garden Tomato, Onion and Garlic is my favorite sauce du jour.]

No matter what variety of sauce I’m using, it’s rare for me to be able to cater the amount of sauce to a meal for one. I’m still learning just as much as I am experimenting! That said, I never know what to do with the other three-quarters of a jar of sauce. Finally, last week when I was craving no-yolk noodles, burger crumbles, and spaghetti sauce, I had a revelation: Why not freeze the leftover sauce in individual portions?! Ta daaaaa!

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I kept out the sauce I needed for the evening’s meal, froze one portion in the jar, and poured the rest into this muffin tin. I figure two cups’ worth of sauce will suffice for each spaghetti meal, and I won’t have to worry about cramming in meals to finish the jar of sauce before it goes bad.

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And voilà! Frozen spaghetti sauce, prepped and ready for a meal anytime.

I’m sincerely hoping that each cup of sauce will pop right out as easily as I’m imagining… I guess I’ll find out in the next week or so!

If you’ve ever frozen sauce in a manner like this, I’d love any tips or tricks you have for guaranteeing that the sauce will come right out of its container for heating. 

Have a saucy evening, blends! 😉

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Lettuce Talk Greens

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If you’re like me, you can kill a batch of salad faster than you can say, “What happened…?” If you’re not like me, then just go the hell away and eat your perfectly fresh salad.

I kid! Kind of…

In my perpetual quest for foodie knowledge, I’ve read a plethora of blog posts and helpful sites recently that detail how to maintain fresh greens — IF you have a salad spinner. I’m a broke, old-school grad student, so salad spinner goes on my list of priorities right behind BMW and David Beckham. (In other snarky words, I do a lot by hand.)

Here is how I keep salad greens fresh for the long haul (i.e. more than three or four days):

First, break apart individual leaves from a head of Iceberg lettuce or a bunch of leaf lettuce.

If the leaves are a little wilted, fill the sink with cold water and soak the leaves for about 30 minutes. You’ll be surprised how much they perk right up!

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When the leaves have finished their bath, rinse each leaf under cold water, then shake it gently to remove excess water. Spread out several paper towels and place leaves individually on the towels to dry.

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I sometimes put another paper towel over top of the leaves to hasten the drying process. When the leaves are almost completely dry, arrange them as you want to use them on a clean, dry paper towel.

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Layer the leaves from first to be used on top to to-be-used-last on the bottom. Sandwich the leaves between clean, dry paper towels to soak up any remaining water.

Lastly, store the lettuce in a Ziploc bag or other airtight container, and be sure to squeeze out any air pockets before refrigerating.

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Your lettuce should be good to go for a couple of weeks!

I wanted to share this information with you because after years of magically transforming crisp greens into limp, slimy piles of earthy-smelling mush I call salads, I have finally found a system that works. Yes, it’s much more time-consuming than simply throwing a cheap bag of greens into my fridge and calling it a day. Spending the extra time on food preparation and storage has allowed me more budgetary freedom to purchase the organic goods I crave less frequently than I was buying (and throwing away) the prepackaged stuff.

If you have any tips or suggestions about rinsing or storing greens, I’m all ears! Salad greens seem to be the produce item I waste most frequently via improper care and storage.

Sorry I’m getting this post out so late. I meant to write yesterday, but it’s been another one of those go-go-go weekends! Enjoy what’s left of your Saturday, blends!

Thirty-Day Zero Negativity Challenge

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Well, folks, today’s the day that I will discuss the results of Ian’s and my 30-day Zero Negativity Challenge, which concluded yesterday. For the record, I didn’t debate much about how much or how little to post. While I don’t believe in airing my dirty laundry on the Internet, I do believe in being honest with myself and with y’all. Without further ado, let’s get right into it!

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I implemented the challenge August 5. I loosely based the idea on a newspaper article I’d read about negativity that may exist between couples without their conscious awareness. I don’t think Ian and I were unaware of the negativity that occurs between us, but I do think we were on different pages with what constitutes negativity.

Some days, I would let him know, “Okay, I’m marking down negativity for today,” and he would be like, “Really?! When?” On the one hand, I learned that Ian doesn’t sense negativity in our relationship as I do. On the other hand, I learned that Ian doesn’t sense negativity in our relationship as I do…

All told, I marked down 20 days of Zero Negativity out of 30! The days I marked on my calendar as “negative” were not typically due to actual arguments or serious fights, but more like sarcasm, nit-picking, snide comments, or off-handed remarks that bothered one of us more than they should have.

Let me just add here that I absolutely believe couples should joke, laugh, and be playful with one another, even if a couple’s style includes play-fighting, sarcasm, or playfully picking on each other. After all, if you can’t laugh together, what is all this for? However, there’s a difference between silliness or playful jabs, and comments or actions that take things to the next level and can be hurtful.

Let me also add that I did not mark down the person(s) behind the negativity for any given day. It wasn’t something I thought about until just now, likely because “negativity” is subject to interpretation (in this case, by the calendar-creator). I also don’t see it as necessarily relevant to be specific about who initiated instances of negativity.

The only pattern I saw emerging from this challenge was poor communication, which was always due to one of two things: being pushed for time to talk and having two hours between us.

Overall, I’d say 20 days out of 30 free of negativity of any sort is satisfactory. If I had to assign it a grade, I’d give it a B. I’d like to see us at an A+, but as with anything, making improvements in a relationship takes time. Perhaps this challenge is something we’d like to continue… what say you, Ian? 😉 Maybe it’s the Psychology nerd in me, but I’d be interested to see whether extraneous variables (e.g. the month of August having contained Ian’s first day of class, a wedding, my first day of class, my CPCE, etc.) affected the number of days of negativity. Would a month like, for example, November have fewer days of negativity?

We learned a lot about ourselves, about each other, and about our personal definitions of “negativity.” This challenge was, ironically, a positive experience for us, particularly as we were mindful about how we treated each other and about our honesty with recording. Y’all know I love a good challenge!

P.S. Is this something you would ever consider doing with your significant other? If so, would you publicize the outcome? Just curious!

The Battle of Hormone Hill

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As a blogger, I made a promise to myself when I began this little adventure December 29, 2011, that I would always blog with integrity and be honest with my readers — even if my parents were it! While I have not always been as up-front with you as I would have liked, I have always been honest. Today, I’m gonna be both.

This weekend was a nightmare little rough. It all started on Friday evening when Ian arrived. Bless his heart, he bears the brunt of… well, me. We had planned to see his cousin Bryce play in a Labor Day soccer tournament in Richmond Saturday afternoon. We had also planned to tailgate and attend the University of Richmond vs. VMI football game with my parents. After some careful consideration on his own, Ian determined that our best course of action would be to see Bryce play in the 9:00 game on Saturday instead of the 2:00 game; we needed to leave for UR by 3:30 to allow ourselves ample time for set-up and tailgating. He announced this shortly after arriving at my house for dinner, unbeknownst to both of us that hanger was setting in and that it would effectively pit my parents against me. I know that my family would never intentionally gang up on me, but the combination of low blood sugar, fatigue, OCD, and the sudden change in plans threw me for a loop — causing me to act like a completely immature, whiny bitch for the rest of the night. All of a sudden, I did not want to get up at 8:00 on a Saturday morning, I did not want to sit in the heat to watch a soccer game, and I did not want my parents to agree with Ian that the change in schedule would be best for everyone.

[Please believe me when I say that unlike when I was 14, I do not enjoy arguing with Ian or feeling resentful toward my family.]

Essentially, I punished him for the rest of the evening. I made snide comments under my breath throughout dinner. (There went “zero negativity” for August 30.) I declared that the movie du jour was my choice: Paranormal Activity 4. I set up my own bribe, determining that Ian “owed” me Starbuck’s in the morning and a four-pack of Fox Barrel for the tailgate; he agreed to both. Thus, I went to bed earlier than I would have liked, in a foul mood and with a lot of regret.

I woke up before my alarm on Saturday, so I utilized my extra time to my advantage. I showered and got ready for the day, still in a stormy mood. Before she hastily cleared out of the kitchen, my mom asked, “Are you going to punish him all day?”

I didn’t have much to say as we ate breakfast and headed out the door, Ian dutifully plugging the address of the nearest Starbuck’s into his Garmin. I brought my purse in because I wasn’t entirely sure he was going to pay for my drink, but he whipped out his debit card before my foggy brain had a chance to register the barista saying, “That’ll be two dollars.”

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After more than 12 hours of bitterness, I finally felt bad enough to apologize for my frostiness, as my family refers to it, and my behavior. He excused it as no big deal, and he apologized for changing the plans without notice. Even though the switch had been difficult to wrap my brain around, the 9:00 game was a good decision: it was much cooler at 9:00 than it was at 2:00, Ian’s uncle Wayne treated us to lunch after the game so we could have more time to visit, and I even had time for a nap once we got home.

…or so I thought.

Different people traipsed up and down the stairs of the basement, where “we” were watching “the game,” so I didn’t get much of a nap. Ergo, the bitch emerged again, this time fueled by the heat, irritability over the nap, and being rushed to get out the door on time. The bitch went away after a beer or two and some tailgate munchies, but in truth she was just lying in wait. The first half of the game was unbearably hot, and I had chosen to wear a silky top and dark jeans like an idiot.

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Just as halftime ended and the players returned to the field, the referees announced a 30-minute delay due to lightning sighted in the area. The delay ended up lasting more than an hour, with kickoff finally scheduled for 9:15. When we returned to our seats, they were wet from the lightning-ensuing drizzle. The Bitch was not a happy camper, but she clutched her purse, sipped her Diet Coke, and sucked it up.

We finally had to move at the start of the fourth quarter when the little sprinkle became full-blown rain. Richmond was up 34-0, and they were maintaining the shutout. We called it a night with about 8 minutes left in the game. Bitch was giddy with relief about getting out of the rain and out of wet jeans, but that didn’t last long. Ian wanted to watch the tail end and the highlights from some other game, while I thought he was on his way in to watch Safety Not Guaranteed with me. I eventually fell asleep with the lights on waiting for him, which only sparked a snappy argument when he came in to say goodnight and turn the lights off. I flatly refused to let him go to sleep until we “talked it out” — which accomplished absolutely nothing.

When I awoke on Sunday, I lounged for about 90 minutes before he woke up. If you can believe it, Bitch was still at it, and she didn’t want much to do with Ian. As we ate breakfast and I sipped my coffee, we slowly unwound the weekend and analyzed what had gone wrong. Ian kept apologizing for things he thought he had done, when in reality, I was the one who owed him a gigantic “I’M SORRY!” We were able to part company on good terms, he headed downtown and I headed here.

I had a two-hour drive to think over the weekend and why it had been so sour. It finally occurred to me that Ian had mentioned in passing that about once a month, this theme of irreconcilable differences emerges. Know what else happens once a month?

Yeahhhhhhh. That.

We discussed it last night and determined jointly that my hormones and the BC I’m on may be out of whack. It’s possible that I suffer from some serious PMS (i.e. Prepare to Meet Satan) or possibly PMDD. Either way, it’s something to discuss with my OB/GYN before I require an exorcism.

I am in no way excusing my behavior, my poor attitude, my bitterness, or my seeming inability to perk up. I am merely wondering aloud whether there is a medical explanation behind this repeated event. I’ll keep ya posted, and in the meantime, say a little prayer for Ian’s sanity! 😉

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This Week’s Small Haul

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Happiest of Fridays to you, blends! The reason I’m so peppy this morning is because (1) I get to see my handsome fiancé tonight, and (2) I completed — and absolutely loved — my first full week of Internship and third-year classes!

In the midst of all the hubbub this week, I still needed to replenish a few grocery items. I’ve decided that I really like doing these line-item grocery haul posts, so indulge me! 😉

From the produce section, I didn’t need much. In fact, I’m glad I remembered to only get two bananas, since I like them “crunchy,” as my mom says. I’m leaving for Richmond this morning and won’t be back until Sunday evening. By then, any leftover bananas wouldn’t be A.K.-approved.

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Kroger brand bananas, $0.59

As far as “splurge” purchases go, I had a few of those today. As soon as I left my apartment, I could feel my blood sugar dropping. I still needed to run to the post office, which was in the opposite direction of Kroger. I loathe grocery-shopping on an empty stomach, but I couldn’t understand why I felt so yucky after a leftovers lunch of brown rice and chicken stir fry. I grabbed the first thing I saw, and the natural sugar brought me right back up!

$1.99

$1.99

As I was perusing the mixed-up aisles of Kroger (which is being heavily renovated), I happened across these beauties. I liked their ingredient lists, and they were on sale, so into the cart they went! I also picked up an impromptu sandwich for dinner, since I have class from 4:30-9:30 on Thursdays.

London Broil and leaf lettuce on focaccia, $5.29; Quaker single-serving oatmeal, $1.67 each

London Broil and leaf lettuce on focaccia, $5.29; Quaker single-serving oatmeal, $1.67 each

The purchase I was most excited about? Cho, of course! 😉

Chobani Flip and Chobani 2% Greek yogurt, 10/$10

Chobani Flip and Chobani 2% Greek yogurt, 10/$10

As far as dairy products and breakfast go, I didn’t need much. I found that I really like Simple Truth organic milk because of the size and because of the reeeeally long expiration date (October 12 on this carton). I also decided to try buying brown eggs for the first time.

Simple Truth organic milk carton, $3.49; Kroger brand brown eggs, $1.99/dozen; Morningstar Farms vegetarian bacon, $3.99

Simple Truth organic milk carton, $3.49; Kroger brand brown eggs, $1.99/dozen; Morningstar Farms vegetarian bacon, $3.99

Lastly, I needed just a few household items. Normally, I don’t purchase school supplies at the grocery store because they are much cheaper elsewhere. Being that the kids in this area have already started school, most of the school supplies had been marked way down.

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Kroger brand kitchen trash bags, $5.99/50; small spiral notebook, $2.99; Huggies baby wipes, $1.99

When my mom came with me to the ‘Burg a few weeks ago to check on my apartment and to conduct some pre-Internship housekeeping business, she insisted that I have a few Kroger grocery bags. Today was the first opportunity I’ve had to use them, and let me tell you — they are absolutely wonderful. I’m completely unashamed to admit that I use Kroger grocery bags to line my bathroom, bedroom, and laundry room trash cans, so I’m always happy to have an endless supply. However, I hate when my groceries roll around in the back of my car, spill out of those flimsy bags, and when my groceries take up approximately 546 bags that I must carry up a flight of stairs. My haul today only required two of these bags, as opposed to probably eight plastic bags.

Now I have four of them, and I plan to use them every time I run to Kroger!

Now I have four of them, and I plan to use them every time I run to Kroger!

Mom, when you read this, feel free to cheer aloud and dance around and pump your arms in the air, but don’t feel obligated to text me, “See?!?!” 😉

This week’s total haul: $49.24

Have a wonderful day, blends!

P.S. Do you carry reusable bags to the grocery store, or do you prefer paper/plastic? I’m on the campaign trail to recruit more reusable bag buddies!

The “H” Word

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Fair warning: This morning’s topic is something I’ve been needing to get off my chest, so today’s post will be much more soapbox-y than most. Caveat emptor! 😉

Maybe it’s just me, but have you noticed recently that HEALTHY has become an ugly buzzword? People toss it around to mean anything they want it to mean: low-fat, low-carb, fat-free, “diet,” “light,” sugar-free, “all-natural,” etc.

Don’t get me wrong: I believe that every single person on this planet has the right to decide what is “healthy” for his or her diet (i.e. food and nutritional plan of action) and lifestyle. Conversely, I also believe that there are loose standards of health and nutrition that the vast majority of people don’t meet. Frankly, I don’t think Americans in general know that — barring special circumstances, such as lactose intolerance or severe allergies — their nutritional needs can be met through nature’s abundance. That is to say, a well-balanced diet and regular exercise can maintain health and longevity for most people.* Of course, there are people who can’t get everything they need from nature, and require non-natural, synthesized medicines; for example, I take an anticonvulsant twice a day to prevent grand mal seizures.

Anyway, I digress. The point of today’s post is to discuss how misshapen the word “healthy” has become. I see people all around me on the daily posting photos on Instagram and Twitter of their so-called healthy meals. Most of the time, these meals consist of bite-sized portions of something green, a mouse’s fair share of a protein source, and absolutely nothing with carbs. The caption will usually read something along the lines of, “Tonight’s healthy dinner!!” followed by twenty or thirty obnoxious hashtags: #food #healthy #eathealthy #eatclean #cleaneating #getfit #mydinner #myhealthylife #weightloss #fatfree #under300calories #lowcarb #foodporn #imstarving #helpme

#YouGetTheIdea

Now, let me just add this caveat to my bitching: I am absolutely just as guilty as these offenders of posting pictures of far too many meals with said hashtags adorning them. I fully realized when I brainstormed this post that I would probably come off sounding like the biggest hypocrite.

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I didn’t know I was going to eat my own words for breakfast!

What bothers me about people’s Instagrams and tweets is not the picture itself, or even the pious words beneath: it’s the fact that many of the women I know personally and follow on social media are either proud of or unaware of the fact that they may be depriving themselves of what their bodies need in the pursuit of being “healthy.”

Now hear this, ladies: “Healthy” does not always equate with fat-free, low-fat, or low-carb. While humans’ bodies can sustain themselves on fats and proteins and the body does not actually need carbohydrates to function, those who exercise frequently will require carbs. Weight loss has to come from somewhere, and that usually means converting whatever the body has taken in into energy: burned calories. If all I had eaten today was a piece of toast, yogurt, and a salad, I wouldn’t wonder why I felt weak and exhausted after a 45-minute cardio workout. Add some damn carbs to that plate!

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No matter who you are and no matter your choice of lifestyle or diet, the human body requires sufficient energy to do the work you ask of it. If inadequately fueled, the body will conserve its fat reserves and its energy sources instead of burning them off or converting fat to muscle. If the body is repeatedly deprived of sufficient fuel, it will begin to weaken and break down significant muscles and tissues, such as the heart.

I’m all for weight-loss programs and true clean-eating. I’m all for prominently displaying results and lifestyle changes. I’m all for self-pride and the acceptance that no matter how hard I work, there will be someone else out there who is doing it faster, harder, and more diligently. I’m okay with all of this, because I’m okay with who I am, how I choose to live, and the lifestyle I believe to be healthy for me.

It may seem as if I’m ranting and raving because I’m subconsciously insecure about my eating habits, or I feel overshadowed by others’ weight loss successes, or because I’m a tremendously snooty know-it-all, or some other Freudian interpretation. Quite the contrary, my blends. I am more secure in my body, in my lifestyle, and in my personal choices than I have ever been. I feel just as comfortable concocting a quinoa bowl as I do in chowing down on some Coldstone. I feel every bit as secure eating a gigantic salad as I do munching on kettle corn or Red Hot Blues and guac.

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My overarching point is this: To each her/his own. With my blog, my social media outlets, and my soapboxes about “healthy” eating, I never mean to cause anyone discomfort or make people feel bad about how they treat their bodies. My personal belief is simply as God has instructed me: my body is a temple. I am to worship it and to treat it with the utmost respect, because it’s the only physical vehicle I’m going to get on this earth. If it’s well-rested, properly fueled, and exercised appropriately, that’s about the best I can do by the old bod.

If I’m making those around me feel as agitated and turned-off as some of these “health” nuts have made me feel recently, then I am more committed than ever to leading by example and to not thrusting my beliefs in people’s faces. I aspire to inspire. My mantra regarding social media is this, and to this end I do lead by example: if you don’t like what I have to say, don’t follow me. It’s as simple as that!

All that said, I truly welcome your comments, questions, suggestions, and even challenges on today’s (and any) post!

*****

(*I am not a Registered Dietitian, personal trainer, life coach, prophet, or Omniscient Eye. All opinions stated in this blog are strictly my own and are based on personal experiences and research. For complete dietary intake, nutritional, and supplementary needs, you should consult a physician or other professional.)

594.25 To Go!

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It’s official: I SURVIVED THE FIRST DAY OF MY INTERNSHIP!

For obvious reasons, I won’t go into details about what I am doing, but I can tell you that I am interning at a hospital rotating among three different units.

Most of my first day involved observation of clinicians and fellow interns, but I was also afforded the opportunity to participate somewhat. Me. On the verge of conducting actual counseling.

As I have mentioned in prior posts, I have really been working this year on stepping outside of my comfort zone. In 2013 alone, I may have leaped outside of my comfort zone more times than in my entire life! This experience is by far the biggest leap I have taken.

I was beyond nervous this weekend, but I was able to pick a fellow intern’s brain about random questions most normal people probably wouldn’t dream of. Nevertheless, with a little bit of prayer and a lot of preparation, I made it through. Whew!

There may be 594.25 hours to go, but what matters right now is that I dove head-first into the experience and came out alive! 😉 I am so blessed to have been accepted as an intern at this hospital, and I am truly looking forward to the learning experiences and opportunities this internship will afford me.

Well, I’m off to bed, as I have my first group supervision experience tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. sharp! I just wanted to keep up my resolve of posting at least every other day. Ta ta!

P.S. What was the last thing you did that really pushed you outside of your comfort zone?