April Showers Bring May Flowers and Another Foodie Pen Pal Package

Since I had such a great experience participating in Lean Green Bean’s Foodie Pen Pal program, I jumped at the opportunity to participate again this month, further connect with other food-obsessed individuals, and try some new (hopefullly tasty) treats.  April did not disappoint.

I was paired with a total sweetheart named Shreya M.  Here’s a little bit of what she told me about herself:

I am not a blogger but like reading them. I am an electrical engineer by profession. I like adventure sports, and like running. I have done 2 half marathons and 1 marathon (all this year). I am hoping to do a half iron man in October. Hopefully an ironman next yer. We will see about that.

I love to travel. I haven’t traveled a lot but have visited France, Costa Rica, and Toronto. I am from Mumbai, India and live in a Houston suburb (Sugar Land) now. I went to School at Syracuse University and of course bleed orange.

Just the mere thought of two-half marathons and a marathon in the same year makes me sleepy and my IT band ache.  Iron m(e)n? THUD <– The sound of me collapsing in disbelief.

Not only did her athletic feats leave me in awe, her very, very generous pen pal package left me with a very, very happy tummy.

Apple Banana Crisps: Dehydrated strawberries and bananas. It tasted a bit like space ice cream which made me nostalgic for grade school planetarium field trips. I could imagine these tasting great slightly reconstituted in cereal.

Artisana 100% Organic Raw Walnut Butter: I was so excited to receive the walnut butter. Last year, I unsuccessfully searched far and wide for walnut butter and, when I couldn’t find it, I ventured into the world of homemade nut butters and made it myself.  The concoction from my kitchen was good, albeit heavy. With the addition of the cashews, Artisana’s blend was a bit lighter and very delicious. I ate it on a baked sweet potato.

Apricot Green Tea Gummy Pandas: These are so good. I chilled these in the refrigerator to give them a little more bite. Kurt really liked these.

Banana Walnut Bites: Remember last week when I admitted to eating an obscene quantity of walnuts? No? Ok, I probably wouldn’t remember either. Well, anyways, I failed to mention that said walnuts were these amazing banana walnut bites. They are flavored with real banana so there’s none of that awkward fauxnana flavor. I ate them by themselves but next time I buy a bag you can bet that they will find themselves atop oatmeal and, if I get bit by the baking bug, inside a cookie.

Hail Merry Raw Vegan Gluten-free Macaroons: In my very humble opinion, coconuts were made for chocolate. These macaroons were not too sweet and very much yummy.

Picky Bars (Smooth Caffeinator & Lauren’s Mega Nuts) and Orange Peel in Dark Chocolate: Admittedly, I only tried the Smooth Caffeinator Picky Bar. Call me a sucker for Sade references, coffee and hazelnuts.

Fredericksburg Farms Peach Salsa (and a sincere apology): This salsa is homegrown on a farm in my pen pal Shreya’s home state of Texas. Am I the only one who is imagining a “salsa tree.” (Yerp.) Regretfully, I haven’t yet tried it for no particular reason because I love salsa. In fact, I am no stranger to poor man’s gazpacho (salsa + spoon).  I promise to try this soon and report back.

Shreya, thank you so much for so many great treats, and best of luck with the Iron M(e)n training.

What I Wish I Ate Wednesday

While most Wednesdays I participate in What I Ate Wednesdays (WIAW), where blogger’s gather at Jenn’s Peas & Crayons and post photographs of the previous days’ meals, I’ve opted to share what I wish I ate instead.*

A few weekends ago, Kurt and I visited Long Island for two nights to outlet shop and tour wineries. En route to the hotel, a stop at Angelo’s in Carle Place for a slice was non-negotiatiable. A while back, Kurt discovered the joint in an unassuming strip mall during a workday break and it blew the pizza aficionado’s mind. He made me a believer last summer when he brought home a par-cooked margherita pie that we finished cooking in the oven. Up until our recent sojourn, I had yet to experience a straight-from-the-brick-oven slice. Everyone knows pizza loses a certain je ne sais quoi upon hitting the box.

What ensues upon the first bite of Angelo’s margherita can only be described as a religious experience. The crust is thin, the crushed tomatoes are robust, and most importantly, the mozzerella is house-made, fresh, and encapsulates the creaminess and ever-so-slight brininess that’s characteristic of a high quality mutz.

If you’d like to get in on the action, you can find Angelo’s at

215 Glen Cove Rd Ste D
Carle Place, NY 11514

*In case you are wondering: yesterday, I had a two-egg omlette with Lisanatti’s almond cheddar cheese (the cheddar is far inferior to the pepper jack… sigh), an apple with a blob of almond butter for lunch,  an obscene amount of walnuts throughout the day, and for dinner, I had grilled chicken thighs dipped in cacik (turkish chilled yogurt, cucumber, and dill soup — recipe can be found here).

Marry Me

A year ago today, the sweetest man asked me to marry him.  He took me to the overlook in Weehawken on a sunny Sunday afternoon. As we enjoyed the view of the New York City skyline and talked about our future together, I was surprised by an acoustic serenade of Train’s “Marry me.” The crooner was Kurt’s very talented friend and beside him sat his then-girlfriend, now-fiance with a video camera.  Kurt dropped to his knee, presented me with a gorgeous cushion cut solitaire, and asked me the easiest question I ever answered, “Will you marry me?”  Through my uncontrollable giggles, I said “Yes… Yes…”

The whirlwind year that followed will forever be a reminder that with love the sum is greater than its parts.

I love you, Kurt.

Stress Gives You Wrinkles

“We often hear of people breaking down from overwork, but in nine out of ten they are really suffering from worry or anxiety.” -John Lubbock

Just when the hibernators come out to play, FreshMutz went into hibernation. By “hibernation,” I mean cooped up beside a desk littered with to-do lists dying to be done. I spent the little free time that I’ve had enjoying the sunshine with my sweetheart and friends. Prone to anxiety, I’ve found that these tips allow me to tackle the to-dos without overdoing the stress.

           1.     Prioritize. Sometimes, I have to accept that Rome wasn’t built in a day and, likewise, lesser feats can’t be accomplished in a workday. Every morning, I spend the first few minutes when I get into the office determining my order of operations for the day.  I also decide what needs to be done that day and what can be held off for the next.

            2.     Exercise. If you have a few minutes, spend it moving and get those feel-good chemicals going. I can’t think of better stress-relief than jumping on my mini-trampoline or a quick jog. However, don’t fret if you can’t squeeze it in. I’ve had bouts of obsessing over my daily cardio and found myself, at times, squeezing it in at midnight which is admittedly wacky.  Truthfully, I began to stress when I couldn’t find the time to workout which was counter-productive.

           3.     Meal Plan. It goes without saying in these parts, I make sure to fuel my body with the right balance of complex carbs, fruits and vegetables and proteins. With proper planning, a delicious meal can be assembled in a few minutes. When an extra-busy week is on the horizon, I’ll make a soup, a whole chicken, and a weeks worth of rice or quinoa. I’ll also be sure to stock up on pre-washed baby spinach for swift lunch salad preparation.

           4.     Take a break. When you know you’re in it for the long haul and facing a 12 + hour day, be sure to take a few ten minute breaks. Read an article, peruse the internet, go for a coffee run; whatever floats your boat but whatever you do, step away from the work. I’ve found that this really helps to break up my day so that I don’t feel chained to my desk.

           5.     Plan something fun. If you’re in the middle of an especially arduous project, give yourself something to look forward to when your project is completed. A few weeks ago, I faced back-to-back all-nighters. I booked a massage and facial for the weekend and, when the going got tough, I had my eye on the prize.

… and when all else fails, take a look at this:

 

 

I can’t look at this photo without getting giddy. Kid’s got swagger.

Tell me, how do you tackle lengthy to-dos?

Easter Feast-er

“Marriage is to family what legs are to a table.” -Betty Jane WylieFamily: An Exploration

Buona Pasqua blog friends! Happiest Easter and/or Passover for all those celebrating. I’d be lying if I said today wasn’t bittersweet. Things for the past few months have not been quiet on the home front, but if I’ve learned anything, I’ve learned that family is where the heart is and today my heart was warmed by the kindness and love of my new husband and in-loves, Baba and Mom. Truth is, love is all you need and it was in abundance today… and so was the food. Mom made a feast fit for kings.

We started off with nuts, olives, chips, crackers, hummus, a dip made with ajvar which is a relish consisting of red peppers, eggplant, garlic and chili peppers, and baba ganoush.  Admittedly, I arrived famished and over-did it on the appetizers. I had little appetite left for the main event.

Lamb, salad, artichoke hearts, asparagus, rice, beans, and borek… oh my. While I may not have been hungry, I am no stranger to eating for pure enjoyment and I enjoyed every single morsel. I especially enjoyed the lamb, which was made in Baba’s new favorite gadget: The NuWave Oven.

Kurt and I scoffed at the notion that our lamb would be prepared by this as-seen-on-tv contraption. Yet, we swallowed our snickers upon the first delicious, tender bite. It was perfect. Baba knows best.

peep show

For me, Easter isn’t an Easter without Peeps. I can’t even say that these little chickies are tasty. In fact, I think they are sickeningly sweet. Yet, this is a fact I’ll overlook as they are too cute and too fluffy. I love them. I love them more when they’re stale and I always eat the heads first.

Dessert was peanut butter pecan ice cream, chocolate pudding, cookies and a rouge peep. It was the perfect ending to a perfect meal. As it is often the case on holidays, dessert was followed by a serious food coma.  Had I not had so much tea there would have been a nap, too… like this sleeping beauty.

Question

What’s your favorite easter candy? Aside from peeps, I love jelly beans. 

Fabulous Favor and Other Things I’m Loving Right Now

Yesterday, I had the chance to shower a very special woman with plenty of happiness. Linda is Kurt’s friend from college and boy does he know how to pick them. She’s bubbly, fun, and oh-so-stylish. Even better, she is marrying Kurt’s other college buddy, Steve.  In fact, Kurt introduced the happy couple, so we’re taking their engagement, wedding, and everything in between very seriously.

What made the shower extra-special was that it was at the restaurant where Linda worked in high school as a hostess. It was her very first job and her family is close friends with the owners. Good thing I have nothing but great things to say about the food… and there was plenty of it. I present to you Chinese deliciousness:

What made the shower extra-extra-special was the favor: A book of all recipes near and dear to Linda’s family from Aunt Carole’s Crisp Sugar Cookies to Nanny’s Banana Bread (courtesy of Cousin Johanna).

Feat. A Beauteous Photo of 7-Year-Old Linda

What a great idea! Congrats, Linda! I can’t wait to try the recipes and really, really can’t wait to see you walk down the aisle!

Here are some other things that I’m loving right now:

Sinful Colors Nail Polish

I bought this color only because it's called "Unicorn"

Nobody puts hot pink nails in the corner. (RIPPS #sadface)

A gagillion gorgeous colors and $1.99 a bottle? Yes! Lasts for a week without chipping? You have to be kidding me! You’re not? Ok, I’ll obsessively purchase every color including two blues that are so similar but one has a hint of sparkle and the other does not but I can buy both anyways because it’s less than two bucks a bottle. Run-on sentences aside, I am obsessed.

Yes, that is Dirty Dancing in the background. It’s my favorite movie. I can recite the whole thing start to finish. My freshman year of college I didn’t have cable (or basic cable). I had a TV and a DVD player and a very limited supply of DVDs. Consequentially, I watched Dirty Dancing more than a few times a week, and was A OK with that.

High Waisted Jeans

I bought these from the Victoria’s Secrets catalogue. I think they are very flattering but I am still trying to figure out what tops with which to wear them. I have a black cropped tie-front, button-down blouse that works. I’ll probably also wear this with solid tanks tucked-in. I don’t love the shirt the model is wearing. I mean she looks great (because she is a model) but it’s just not my style. Any suggestions?

Chicken Rice with Garlic Yogurt

chicken with rice makes a boring picture so here's some bunny and puppy cuteness. collective awwww.

Since poor Kurt was sick last week it was Nurse FreshMutz to the rescue. On his wish-list were Mom’s chicken soup (chicken broth and vermicelli) and chicken rice with garlic yogurt. This dish is super simple and super scrummy. Boiled chicken pieces, buttered rice, topped with yogurt mixed with minced garlic. The first night we had it, we didn’t have yogurt and used goat’s milk kefir instead, which was also great.

My New Glasses

I saw. I loved. I bought. That’s the glorious bride-to-be, Linda, beside yours truly. On another note: I barely wear my hair up because I have a wacky hair line. I’ll deal with it. Back to the glasses: “Don’t they make me look smarter?” (“Nah, we can still see your face.”) Name that movie quote: Grease. That’s my second-favorite movie. When I was a tyke, it was my first favorite movie and I rented it so often that the movie rental guy gave it to me. Joy!!!

So tell me: What are you loving right now?

With Love, Your Foodie Pen Pal

My discovery of healthy living blogs was fueled by an obsession with stirring peanut butter into my oatmeal.  One morning I woke up and said, “Self, since you like peanut butter so much why don’t you put some in your morning oatmeal,” and I happily obliged.  I became obsessed with the end result: thick creamy peanut buttery oatmeal.  I believed myself to be a breakfast genius and told anyone who would half-listen about my creation but I came to find that most people were not as intrigued or impressed as they should have been.  Then one day, by the forces that may be, I was compelled to google “oatmeal with peanut butter” and landed upon Elise’s blog Hungry Hungry Hippie. Would you know, Elise put peanut butter in her oatmeal, too, and loved it so much that she shared it with the whole world wide web!!! How fan-freaking-tastic!!!! I was not alone in my obsession, and a blog reader was born.

I began FreshMutz as a way to further connect with other (more often than not healthy) food obsessesed individuals, so naturally I jumped at the chance to partake in the Lean Green Bean’s Foodie Pen Pal program.

Miss Kath at The Nut Kase was assigned to send me a package of yumminess. Let me tell you, I was super excited to receive something in my mailbox last week other than bills.  Before I reveal the goods, I’ll share a little bit about Kath because she rocks and her blog is fabulous. Kath is a senior at UNC Chapel Hill and is from Charlotte, NC. These facts alone already endeared me to her because my cousin was a Tar Heel and, having often visited family in Charlotte, I love the place. Point 1 for Kath! Further, I was very impressed that she committed herself to healthy living in college. Needless to say my college eats were not of the wholesome variety. Once for three weeks my senior year, I barely strayed from buffalo wings and cheese fries.  Sure I made it to the gym four or five times a week, but in hindsight my diet was gross/awesome/still sort of gross. Point 2 for Kath! Kath loves creative writing and wants to write children’s books. Ummm, can we say kindred spirits? I, too, would like to write a children’s book and have a top secret story in mind. Point 3, 4, 5 . . . . 1,000,000 for Kath! So please check out her blog.

Now onto the serious noms.

Yerba Mate. Kath hit the nail on the head with this one. Contrary to last week’s Starbuckets regression, I prefer tea over coffee. Since I was subjected to back to back all nighters last week, this could  not have come at a better time.

More tea! A girl after my own heart! This Organic Ginger Pear Tea from Trader Joe’s served as a lovely, refreshing digestif.

She must read my mind, because Think Thin bars are my second favorite protein bars and second only because I try to avoid soy protein thanks to a wonky thyroid. I think they are the best tasting bars and they are gluten free. Brownie crunch is super and so is White Chocolate and Peanut Butter if you’d like to give them a whirl, and you should. She also sent over a Cranberry Almond Kind Bar. I love Kind Bars but saving this one for a rainy day. I will likely crumble it into a mug of kefir.

Trader Joe’s Marcona Almonds with Rosemary. I’ve never had Marcona Almonds before and learned that they are fried in olive oil.  These were so delicious, but I have a weird OCD disdain for greasy fingers (this developed post-buffalo wing craze). Eating these puppies went a bit like this: Eat a biteful, wipe my hands, eat another biteful, and wipe my hands. Eventually, I just used a spoon. While I had these plain, I can see them being great in a salad or pilaf.

Just like Vanessa Williams, I “Saved the Best For Last.” Chili Spiced Dried Mango. Oh. My. Goodness. I was more than estactic to receive this package. What Kath didn’t know is that I love to sprinkle cayenne pepper on mango. While studying for the bar exam back in the summer of 2009, I read that mango helps improve memory so naturally I ate one everyday doused in cayenne. Like peanut butter oatmeal, I loved this combination to the point of obsession. Accordingly, I absolutely adored this package of deliciousness. I loved it so much, I was a little sad when I had the last bite which was not too long after I had the first. 

So there you have it. Thank you so much Kath for an amazing package and best of luck finishing up school!!!

If you’d like to read about what I sent to my pairing Mrs. Kiri, check out her beautiful, informative food and travel infused blog Healthy Foodie Travels .

If you are interested in participating in the Food Pen Pals program (no blog necessary) read all about it here.

WIAW- Gone Green

I must apologize to my blog readers in advance. I’ve been holding out on you guys and failed to mention that for the month of March, WIAW (What I Ate Wednesday), founded by Jenn at Peas & Crayons, went green. By “green,” I meant that us bloggers were challenged to add more green vegetables to our diets.  So in celebration of the last WIAW of the month, I made a conscious effort yesterday to go green.

I started the day off with a smoothie. Do not be fooled by its lavender hue, there was plenty of green in this blueberry and goat kefir concoction in the form of two heaping handfuls of baby spinach. I read that Lady Gaga adds spinach to her smoothies and have seen other bloggers do it, so like a little lemming, I joined the club.  The sweetness of the blueberries with the tang of the kefir masked the flavor of the spinach. Bottomline: Breakfast was a delight.

Lunch was courtesy (i.e. $5.99 down the drain) of Whole foods. I saw this Tangerine Detox Salad Monday evening and decided to outsource lunch for a change. I can’t remember everything that was in the salad but I know that it included tangerine (duh!), mango, cabbage, pepitas, and something green. It was good but not great.

Snack(ish): Since my lunch wasn’t very substantial, I had my snack immediately after. Hummus and a sliced (green) cucumber. It was a match made in heaven.

Mid-afternoon, I found my mind wandering. As much as I’m trying to kick the Starbucks habit, I couldn’t resist an opportunity to get out and get caffeinated. One grande soy latte and an extra shot of expresso in a cup featuring a GREEN nymph(???) coming right up! And I went on with my bad self.

If you’ve been following the blog (bless you!), you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t posted a recipe in awhile. Kurt was away on business last week and I’ve been swamped at the office so I thought it a good reason as any to take a break from cooking. Last night, I planned on making shrimp for me and Kurt, but when he texted that he’d be home late, I nuked this little guy instead:  Two Dr. Praeger’s California veggie burgers with melted jalapeno almond cheese topped with garlic hummus and spicy thai chili sauce. It may not sound very appetizing or be very pretty but it was good. In fact, it was really really good. I am a bit obsessed with this combination.  Eye roll? Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.

Dinner was followed by two dark chocolate Toblerone triangles and a diet pepsi. I rarely drink soda but I had a little craving for caffeinated bubbles. Plus, we’re out of bottled water. For me, the Brita filter is for tea and other hot beverages.

And as this WAIW post comes to an end, I will leave you with the following questions:

1. Honestly, what do you think of my dinner choice? Considering that I was a bit defensive about it, I won’t be surprised if you shook your head at it. C’Mon, don’t yuck my yum!

2. Do you drink Brita water? I used to, but I don’t like the taste of the water in my new town even post-Brita.

3. Lady Gaga: Love her or hate her? Love her.

Old Habits Don’t Die So Hard

I must confess that lately, at the very least once a day, my newlywed bliss is disrupted by a tiny oversight that really grinds Kurt’s gears: Lifted toilet lids. From the time we moved into our house up until a few months ago, our toilets were plagued with unsightly rings of scum. Despite our repeated, vigorous attempts to  remove the rings with the scrubber brush, they would not budge . . . . until Kurt had the brilliant idea to attack them with fine-grained sandpaper. Since then, and thanks to google, we’ve learned that closing the toilet lid prevents formation of the formidable scum.  Naturally, we vowed to never leave the toilet lid ajar ‘til death do us part.  Ever since, Kurt has remained true to his vow. And moi? Not really. I chalk it up to 28 (minus 2) years of rote “business” making. The thoughts of it go unthunk including thoughts of lid placement.  I guess you really can’t teach a (not that) old dog new tricks.

bucket of buckets

I tell you this story because last week another old habit reared its ugly head: The Star-“buckets” meal replacement.   Back up about three and a half year ago before I made a commitment to nourishing myself with healthy and whole foods, I was a second year law student who subsisted primarily on hot pockets, gummy peach candy, and buckets but mostly the buckets. More often than I’d like to admit, I’d have buckets for one or two of my meals especially during the stress of finals.  This was before I appreciated how a healthy body better copes with stressful situations (fortunately I learned that in time for the bar exam).  Yet, last week I found myself calling upon iced venti skinny vanilla lattes (gasp! fake sugar!) and not much else to get me through rough, very long (20 hour back-to-back) workdays.  Sure, I’m a bit disappointed in myself, but it is what it is. It was a rough week. While this habit has been dead for so long… it didn’t die so hard, and I am ok with that every now and then.

WIAW: Spring has Sprung

Well, hello there summer spring so nice to see you again! What is this you say? You’d like to drag me away from this pile of work and force me to enjoy a cocktail outside? Well, if you say so.

… and that is pretty much how yesterday went.  So in the spirit of What I Ate Wednesday (founded by Jenn at Peas & Crayons), I present the following photographic documentation of yesterday’s eats.

Breakfast

Since we had an early afternoon appointment with the accountant to prepare our dreaded taxes, Kurt and I both worked from home.  I had a research memo to finish before the meeting so I hurriedly made and ate a brown rice quesadilla with jalapeno almond cheese, hummus and spinach.

Lunch

I was running late for our meeting around lunch time, so I scarfed down a Quest Bar and goat’s milk kefir. Quest Bars are my new favorite protein bar and I promise a full review. When we returned from the meeting, I snacked on dry roasted chickpeas while I resumed working.

Dinner

In light of the amazing weather we had yesterday, Kurt and I treated ourselves to an outdoor sushi date night. We started off with sushi pizza (spicy tuna, mango, avocado, crunchy scallion tobiko, and eel sauce) and edamame, and then split naruto and a red dragon roll (spicy tuna topped with tuna) and washed it all down with SkinnyGirl Margarita. Of everything we ordered, the sushi pizza stood out. The sweetness of the mango with the spicy tuna and heaviness of the fried crust with the lightness of the raw fish made for very tasty balanced bites.

So tell me: What’s on your plate?