It's not what you think. Really.
I think the combination of work and wedding planning is starting to get to me and I'm getting a little punchy and I find everything really funny. Tonight's dinner was spaghetti made with crumbled deer burgers, but that's a mouthful. So naturally I shortened it, because that makes sense, right?
This is an incredibly easy recipe, since the deer burgers are already made...all you have to do is crumble them and stir them into your spaghetti sauce of choice. I usually have some homemade lurking in the freezer, but tonight we made do with the jarred stuff. Add a little fresh basil, and voila!
It's delicious, and it's an easy meal after spending an hour walking around downtown instead of going to the gym, since the weather is so nice. If you find yourself at a loss for what to serve for dinner, always think of spaghetti and deer balls.
Spaghetti and Deer Balls
3 deer burgers, crumbled
1/2 jar of pasta sauce (or however much you like)
spaghetti (or your pasta of choice)
shredded mozzarella cheese
Put deer burgers and pasta sauce in a saucepan on medium heat. Let simmer until sauce has thickened a little and the burgers are warmed.
Cook noodles according to package directions. Put sauce over noodles.
Top with fresh basil (be generous with this!) and mozzarella.
Make inappropriate jokes at your own discretion.
We'll get to the food in a minute, but first, I need to say just one thing:
GO HEELS! BEAT dook!
But I digress. Harvest salad - a must-make. Perfect for Tuesday Night Salad Night because it's filling but still light so as not to weigh me down after yoga. It's perfectly appropriate for regular-food-Thursdays. And it's man-approved. B really likes this salad. I think it's the bacon. How can you not love bacon?
This UNC alum has a game to watch, so I'll leave you here with the recipe (which is an adaptation of this). And I promised you a song, so I'll also leave you with this:
Hark the sound of Tar Heel voices
ringing clear and true,
singing Carolina's praises,
Hail to the brightest star of all,
clear its radiance shine
Carolina, priceless gem,
receive all praises thine.
I'm a Tar Heel born
I'm a Tar Heel bred
and when I die
I'm a Tar Heel dead
So it's rah-rah Caro-lina-lina
GO TO HELL, DOOK!
Harvest Moon Salad
Lettuce (we generally use mixed greens, or whatever's on hand)
grilled chicken, diced
1-2 fresh pears, chopped
chopped pecans (walnuts work well in a pinch)
bacon, cooked crispy and then crumbled
feta cheese (sometimes we use blue cheese, depending on what we've got)
Poppy seed salad dressing
Light balsamic vinaigrette dressing
Mix 1 part balsamic vinaigrette to 3 parts poppy seed dressing. Toss well with ingredients. Amount of ingredients can be left up to your tastes or to whatever you have around the house.
Cheer for the Tar Heels.
This is the recipe that launched a (relation)ship. B made me this when we first began dating, and it really impressed me - that he could make a recipe up (at that point, I couldn't even really follow one that someone had already written down). His creativity and taste won me over immediately.
So when he asked me what I wanted him to cook me for my birthday, I naturally said this: THE chicken pesto pasta business.
I know, I know. It's a week late. But we were so stuffed last week after all the good food from my parents and heavens, all the birthday and wedding cakes, that I didn't even WANT dinner last Sunday night, much less something this wonderful. So we held off.
It was better to wait. This meal is hearty, (presumably) healthy, and absolutely delicious. You want to be hungry when you eat it. Plus, it's easy and relatively quick. Make it for your love ASAP - or better yet, have him/her make it for YOU!
Chicken pesto pasta business
2 chicken breasts
1 red onion
marinated artichoke hearts (you can choose the amount)
pasta of choice (we use whole wheat rotini)
Slice red onion into 4-5 thick slices (depending on size of onion).
Brush onion slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper.
Grill chicken and onion slices until desired level of doneness (obviously with the chicken, you want that sucker fully cooked)
Cook pasta according to package directions.
Dice chicken and onion, along with marinated artichoke hearts.
Mix with cooked pasta, along with pesto sauce.
Feel free to play around with ingredients and amounts of each.
Last Saturday night, Brian and I cooked dinner for my parents. After dinner, there was a surprise birthday visit from some of my friends, but that's another story. To begin with, we cooked.
They're deceptively simple and impressive to serve. Even my picky mama loved them, and who can blame her? Potatoes, butter, olive oil, salt, pepper and sliced garlic. Can you go wrong? No, you can't.
Sliced Baked Potatoes
Baking potatoes (however many you want)
Sliced garlic (again - however much you want)
Olive oil (same)
Salt and pepper (same)
Wash and dry the potatoes thoroughly.
Place on a cutting board with a chopstick on each side of the potato.
Using a sharp knife, cut small slits all the way down the potato, stopping when you hit the chopsticks (so you don't cut all the way through).
Thinly slice garlic and scatter between the potato slices.
Thinly slice a few pieces of butter and also put between various potato slices.
Drizzle the top with a thin coating of olive oil.
Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper (and/or your seasonings of choice).
Bake at 425 degrees for 40 minutes.
Eat, and enjoy!
Yeah, yeah, I have a recipe for you, but can we first talk about the important things? Like snow? This is the view I had leaving work this afternoon at 4:30:
And there's supposed to be more coming tonight and/or tomorrow. Look at that up there. Isn't it pretty?! My little winter-loving, southern, introverted soul is absolutely dancing with glee. I LOVE SNOW.
You know what else I also love, especially in conjunction with snow? Soup. Seriously, there are a billion delicious kinds, and they're usually fairly healthy and contain a lot of veggies. You can never get bored of soup. One kind I love that I've been wanting to experiment with is French onion. So while I watched it snow out my boss's office window today, I got an idea...
...make French onion soup for dinner and share it with you all, of course!
I couldn't find a single recipe I liked, so I combined this one and this one. Even combined, the recipes were super easy. To begin, peel and slice 2 large sweet onions into 1/4-inch thick half-circles. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pot, then simmer the onions until tender, about 10 minutes or so. Add in garlic, salt and pepper for the last 1-2 minutes of cooking.
Pour in 4 cups of beef broth, 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Let simmer for 15 minutes. In retrospect, we think it could have even simmered longer to give it a richer flavor.
Once the soup has simmered to your satisfaction, ladle it into two ovenproof ramekins. Top with cubed bread - the original recipe called for ciabatta bread, but we used a sourdough baguette. Layer thin slices of fontina cheese on top of the baguette. Put the ramekins on a cookie sheet (trust me, it makes for easier removal), and pop in the broiler until the cheese is bubbly and melty, about 4 minutes.
And when it comes out, OMG. Just look at that.
Seriously, look at that crusty bread and melty cheese...and underneath it is a warm, hearty bowl of onion soup...
Maybe it was just the timing, what with the snow and everything, but this soup was great. Again, I think it could be a little richer, but overall it's fantastic. We had some extra onion soup part left over, so we'll probably freeze that. The next time we want French onion soup, all we'll have to do is thaw the soup, put it in a ramekin, add a little bread and cheese, and it'll be an easy weeknight meal. This is one of those things you can definitely prep ahead of time, if you're one of those people who likes freezer meals. I mean, the broiling part only takes 4-5 minutes.
If you're in the southeast United States, and I think most of my readers probably are, you're in for some snow/ice. If you have two onions, two cloves of garlic and some beef broth, you're won't go hungry.
HAPPY SNOW DAY #1, EVERYONE!
Ooh la la French Onion Soup
2 tablespoons butter
2 large sweet onions, sliced into half-moons
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups beef broth
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
a dash of Worcestershire sauce
hearty bread, cubed
fontina cheese, thinly sliced
Melt butter in a large pot. Saute onions until tender.
Add garlic, salt and pepper, and saute until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
Add the beef broth, rosemary and Worcestershire.
Let simmer, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes.
Pour onion broth into oven-safe ramekins.
Top with cubed bread. Layer fontina cheese on top of bread.
Broil for 4-5 minutes, or until cheese is browned and bubbly.
To be fair, the whole "bride" thing has kind of eclipsed the "30" thing. It definitely requires a lot more prep work. To turn 30, basically all I had to do was wake up this morning (or rather, wait until 8:45 tonight, which is when I was born).
30 By the Numbers
30 different beers I tried during the month of January 2014.
29: pairs of shoes I currently own (okay, more like 59, but I'm not that old yet)
28: pounds Luna thinks she weighs. Also, the number of times she licks me per minute (roughly).
27: the age at which my first book was published
26: the average dollar amount I spend per visit to Trader Joe's (YUM!)
25: minutes I can ride in a car before I fall asleep
24: the age at which I bought my own condo (which will be mine and B's first family home!)
23: the age at which I helped throw my mom an awesome surprise 50th birthday party
22 years (almost 23) I got to spend with my Mimi
21: the age at which I absolutely kicked ass in Media Law (an A-minus!)
20 miles round-trip to TR and back on the Swamp Rabbit Trail - my favorite exercise.
19 dollars for my favorite wine, La Crema Pinot Noir, at Costco
18: the age in which I met my two best friends, college roommates & Phi Beta Chi sisters
17 NEW books I read in 2013 (not re-reads)
16 times I've watched Love Actually, my second-favorite movie (first is Casablanca)
15 awesome in-laws I've gotten to know
14 days we fostered Luna in January 2013
13 (or '13): the year I said "YES!" to the man of my dreams
12 baby blankets I've crocheted for various friends' kids
11 visits to Seabrook Island and/or Charleston, the most beautiful places on earth
10 cups of coffee per week to maintain this sparkling personality you all know and love
9 days spent in France with my B in 2011
8 times I've read the Harry Potter series
7 seasons of Gilmore Girls I've watched with my mom
6 trips to NYC, my favorite city on earth
5 weeks spent studying abroad in Florence, Italy, in 2004
4 unbelievably great years at Chapel Hill
3 wonderful immediate family members
2 times cheering in the Dean Dome for my high school's girls basketball team
1 amazing fiance
To be honest, I don't care much for the Super Bowl. I just don't get pro football. Come on, I went to (the real) Carolina. I'd rather watch the NCAA basketball tournament (and have the same outcome as in 2005 and 2009...). But I can get behind any sporting event that calls for food and/or entertaining.
We only had a couple of friends over, but that's more than enough to make this wifey-to-be happy. I just love an excuse to set up a spread for a group of people - pretty sure "food" is my love language. I like to cook for my family and friends.
So we had:
Ruffles and French onion dip
Hummus with carrots and red, orange and yellow peppers
A nacho bar, with chips, queso, pintos, black beans, taco meat, olives, scallions, jalapenos, etc.
And my piece de resistance, chicken and waffles.
Thank you, Pinterest. Quartered Eggos and sliced crispy chicken tenders....add a little honey or Thai sweet chili sauce, and you're in business. B ate one while waiting on our guests to arrive, and it was all I could do to keep him from eating all the rest before they even got here. I did succeed, and once they got here they quickly echoed what he said: they were goooooood.
And our guests brought crack-like dip with sliced apples, and "slutty brownies." For the uninitiated, those involve a layer of cookie dough, an Oreo, then a layer of brownie batter, then baked. Holy sugar coma, Batman...can we talk about how good these were? We have the best friends ever (although the "slutty" part would probably have been more appropriate had Beyonce been doing the Super Bowl halftime show this year instead of Bruno Mars). ANYway. I had my first wedding dress fitting on Saturday...so much for not gaining or losing any weight until my second fitting (and, you know, the actual wedding!). Eek!
So the brownies definitely won the "Super Bowl Food Award," but the chicken and waffles came in a good, strong second. And for the main course/savory part, they definitely were first.
Sorry to be giving you the recipe AFTER the Super Bowl, but you know it'll be March Madness soon. Then, in addition to my chicken and waffles, I can drag out all my UNC serving platters and bowls. WIN.
Easy chicken and waffles
Eggo homestyle waffles (or Eggo minis if you can find them - we couldn't)
Frozen breaded chicken nuggets or breasts (we used the breasts and just cut them up)
Honey, syrup, or other dipping sauce
Bake chicken. Toast waffles. Layer.
Put on sauce.
If I say the word "yoga," what comes to mind?
If you're like most people, you probably think of some insufferably skinny blonde sorority chick doing the latest workout fad. Or some unbathed, unshaven, hippie-dippie dude wearing tie-dye. Or some deeply spiritual Hindi/Buddhist Eastern individual twisting himself into a pretzel.
I bet you don't think of a 50ish-year-old lawyer. Or a guy in his 60s whose friends come with him to yoga because he had a heart attack a couple of weeks ago and the doctor suggested yoga. Or a first-grade teacher. I bet you don't see a 30-year-old woman who started yoga almost 8 years ago because her job was about to give her a meltdown. I really bet you don't think the yoga instructor is a former Episcopal school teacher.
But if you show up at North Main Yoga on Tuesday night at 7:15, that's what you'll get (hint: I'm the 30-year-old woman). I've been doing yoga for what will be 8 years in April, and I have seen a crazy amount of variety when it comes to who takes my yoga class. There are men and women of all shapes, sizes, ages and races, with a variety of careers, hobbies and health concerns.
In other words, all of your preconceived notions about yoga are probably wrong.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone says to me, "Oh, I hate you, you're so skinny" (and I get this fairly regularly). When I then tell them what I do to stay healthy and I bring up yoga, there's invariably some argument. I'm not sure why everyone pooh-poohs yoga, but they do. So please, since this is my blog, allow me now to invalidate all the reasons why you think you can't do yoga.
"But I'm not flexible!"
This is definitely the most common argument I get. Now let me give you my rebuttal: IT DOESN'T MATTER.
Once more, with feeling: IT DOESN'T MATTER. The teacher is not going to make you turn yourself into a pretzel and then kick you out if you can't.
Let me tell you a little story. When I first began yoga nearly 8 years ago, I was obsessed with perfecting my downward-facing dog. If you're not familiar, it's the pose where your hands and feet are on the floor and your butt is in the air, kind of an upside-down "V." For me, there was just one problem: my heels didn't touch the floor. And so I worked and stretched obsessively, trying to be able to do DFD with straight knees and feet flat on the floor. I'm your standard type-A firstborn, after all, and I wanted to do it perfectly. I felt like my yoga was sub-par because I could not perfectly perform this basic pose.
But here's the thing: I don't HAVE to have my heels on the floor in order to stretch the things DFD is meant to stretch. I don't have to have straight knees in order to reap the benefits. The benefit of yoga is not in perfection, it is in the action of doing the poses and doing your best deep breathing while you do them. If you're aiming for perfection, you've already lost the main point of doing yoga.
So I have tight hamstrings and calves, the result of years of gymnastics and cheerleading. Guess what? I have an incredibly flexible spine and hips, also the result of gymnastics and cheerleading. My heels are still nowhere near the floor in downward-facing dog, but pigeon and cobbler's pose are ridiculously easy for me and I frequently do the level 3 versions of these poses or else I don't feel any stretch at all.
It doesn't matter what your yoga poses look like. As long as you are getting a good, healthy stretch (not pain!), then you're going to be perfect at yoga. And unless you're going to a really bad studio, no one is going to judge you. Everyone's body is different. Stretch what you've got, and don't look back.
"But I have to do cardio!"
Don't get me wrong, it's good to get your heart rate up. But I've read several articles that say long-term weight loss and maintenance is better served by weight training. And what better form of training than using your own body as the "weight"? Besides, I'm a little partial to this strategy because it's worked so well for me.
When you go all hardcore on the elliptical for an hour after work, my guess is that you're starving when you get home. Some of you may eat an appropriate portion of grilled chicken breast and steamed veggies, but I'm willing to bet that most of you eat more than you normally would because you're so hungry, and are more likely to crave fattier foods.
I know I eat ridiculously less food after yoga than after the gym. I'm usually not very hungry after yoga - that's how Tuesday Night Salad Night got started for B and me. I just don't want anything heavy. I want something light and healthy.
Yoga is also easier to stick with. For me, there's less dread in going to yoga than the gym. It's easier to maintain. And this is probably the most important thing I'll have to say about exercise: it's better to do something less intense you can stick with than something super-hard that you can only manage to do for two weeks. I'm not a runner. I never will be. I cannot stand it. But I love to bike. Maybe it doesn't burn as many calories as running, but if I can maintain it over a month, a year, a lifetime, then I'm better off than if I tried running and lasted a week. Yoga is easier to maintain.
Again, this is not to say I don't believe in any cardio. I do a half-hour on the elliptical or bike a couple of times a week at the gym. But adding yoga won't make you fat. Conversely, I think you'll find that over time you'll start making more mindful eating decisions.
And if you don't think yoga gets your heart rate up, try holding Dolphin pose for a while and then let's talk.
There are a couple of gyms that have decent yoga classes (SportsClub here in Greenville is one). But if your gym's yoga class is extremely fast-paced and focused mainly on the poses, with little to no attention paid to your breath, that's not a yoga class. I call it "yoga-robics," but whatever you want to call it, it's not what you should be doing.
Find a yoga studio that ONLY does yoga (the yoga/pilates combo places tend to be aerobic-focused, as well...that's where you tend to find the sorority chicks). Make sure your teacher has attended a reputable in-depth training program.
I'm a little spoiled - in fact, I don't think I'll ever be able to leave Greenville because I don't think I can ever find a better yoga studio anywhere on the planet. I've been going to the same class, with the same teacher, for almost 8 years. I have cried in yoga more times than I can count, and haven't felt a lick of self-consciousness while doing it. It's a fantastic, supportive community atmosphere. The teachers truly care about their students as individuals. There is no judgment. The focus is always on the breath.
That is not to say you'll instantly click with every teacher. I LOVE my teacher. I want to be her when I grow up. She and her husband own the studio. While he is a super teacher as well, his classes don't quite match up with my needs. If you go to a studio and don't like it, be sure to try several other classes and teachers. One bad teacher can ruin yoga for you.
If a studio is more concerned with your body than your overall well-being, get out. NOW. You can thank me later.
"But I go to yoga classes at my gym!"
"But yoga is anti-Christian."
Yes, I have actually been told this before. No, I don't know what the person who said it was smoking.
I don't know any other way to respond to this but to laugh. You are breathing and stretching. Yes, meditation is involved. No, meditation does not make you a Buddhist or Hindu. I like to ride bikes on the Swamp Rabbit Trail. This does not make me Lance Armstrong.
How yoga affects your mind and spirituality depends on where your mind and spirituality are before you get on the mat. You don't lie down on a rectangular piece of rubber, do some stretches, and then poof, suddenly you're a Buddhist. It just doesn't work like that.
I personally think yoga makes me a better Christian. During our final meditation in class, I often use that time to pray. More specifically, I use it as a time of thankfulness, to thank God for all I've been given. Yoga quiets the mind and minimizes the everyday stresses, and that helps cultivate gratitude. I have grown so much and become such a calmer, kinder person, and I think yoga has a lot to do with it.
I have also had the pleasure of meeting some of the kindest, considerate, friendly people I've ever met. When you're around positive, uplifting people, they make you want to be a better version of yourself, no matter your religion (or lack thereof, in some cases). And that is something worth celebrating.
"But, but, but..."
There are a thousand reasons not to do anything. It's scary trying something new for the first time. It's hard to take that first step.
If you're nervous about going somewhere new, bring a friend. That's what friends are for.
If you think you're too out of shape, take a beginner's class. Everyone starts somewhere.
If you're known for slacking off, buy some cute workout clothes and a nice mat. It's amazing what some new workout clothes did for my motivation.
Just try. Throw the excuses out the window and try. Imperfection is part of life, and it's also part of yoga. Embrace that, and get out there on the mat. I'll see you out there.