Monthly Archives: February 2012

See you later, long hair!

About six years ago, during a routine haircut, my hairdresser Sarah said, “You know, your hair is long enough to donate to Locks of Love – you should really think about it.” I contemplated this idea, immediately flashing back to my most traumatic haircuts on record – both of which explain why I had long hair in the first place.

  1. The first was a haircut I decided to give to myself back in the late 80s when I was four years old. I distinctly remember, in a rare unsupervised moment, taking the orange-handled Fiskar’s scissors out of the drawer in the kitchen, cutting a chunk of my hair off, and throwing it in the trash. It was very impulsive, haphazard, and I immediately knew that I was going to be in trouble. I slipped the scissors back in the drawer and went about my business, racked with guilt. Later that night, we went to my grandparent’s house and my mom’s father, Pop Pop, immediately noticed something was off. Stationed in his recliner, he barked, “Suzie, get over here! Something looks weird with your hair!” I stayed an arm’s length away but he immediately found me out and my parents were not very pleased. There was no choice but to get it fixed by a real hairdresser. I was relieved that I didn’t have to hide my handiwork any longer, but it did end up being my first (and second, I suppose) truly memorable haircut.
  2. Cut to 1997, when I was 12 years old. My mom and I went to the hairdresser together – he cut her hair, and when it was my turn I asked him to take a couple of inches off. He must have thought I said, “Please, cut all my hair off and make me look like a boy!” because moments later, half of it was gone and there was nothing I could do. I should mention that last thing I wanted, on the cusp of teenage-hood when there were plenty of other physical changes to deal with, was to look like a boy.  He calmly apologized and finished butchering while I sat weeping in the chair, reminded every time I looked in the wall-to-wall mirrors that not only was the haircut unflattering, but crying was generally not a good look for me, either. When he was done, he made the mistake of hesitantly asking me what I thought.  I escalated from weeping to sobbing and he had his answer. My mother looked on from the reception area, in what I can only assume was complete horror, and ushered me out of the salon as quickly as possible. When we got home, she noticed that her haircut was way off also, suggested that perhaps he had been under the influence, and we never went back.

OK, back to 2006. My hair was long, and I liked it that way – cutting my hair short had not crossed my mind for almost a decade. But Sarah had got me thinking – maybe I was being a bit selfish about this whole hair thing. After all, there were a lot of people out there who can’t grow their own hair and were fighting bigger battles than I was on a daily basis. Why shouldn’t I donate it? And with that, I gave up control and agreed to let Sarah chop all of my hair off. I even told her to do whatever she wanted with what was left. Take that, Type A personality!

Since then, I’ve made been regularly donating my hair to Locks of Love and most recently, to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths program (thanks for the tip, Liz!). I’ve come to feel quite strongly about this – it’s no secret in our society that appearances matter and I can’t even begin to imagine the emotional and physical toll that patients undergoing cancer treatments experience. If I can help make even the slightest bit of difference for someone who has lost their hair and help others find better balance, I want to. It helps to put a lot of things in perspective – in retrospect, throwing a hissy fit about a bad haircut seems pretty immature.

My recent hair donation to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths program

How to help

Donating anything you have more than enough of is always appreciated by someone. If you’re not ready to undergo a drastic haircut, there are plenty of other ways to help those in need.

  • Check out your local American Red Cross chapter and donate blood or volunteer at your next local blood drive – there is always a need for blood donations to help during surgeries, after accidents, or more.
  • Bring canned or dry goods to your local food bank – there may be something in your pantry that you could spare, or consider buying double of whatever canned goods you usually purchase and donating half.
  • Donate school supplies to local schools – teachers are always reaching into their own pockets to buy supplies. Look around your house or office – extra binders, pens, paper, and craft supplies can go a long way.
  • Volunteer your time – there are lots of ways to find opportunities – check out serve.gov or Volunteer Match for places near you.
Advertisements

Clean Eating Baked Ravioli

I always look forward to finding the latest issue of Clean Eating magazine in the mailbox, and March 2012’s issue did not disappoint! I was immediately drawn to Julie O’Hara’s “Classics, Only Cleaner” column featuring her “not-so” fried ravioli. Any cleaned-up bar food favorite is sure to be a hit with me and I couldn’t wait to try this one out. 

I picked up the ravioli at Fairway and made these on a Friday after work. They only took about half an hour to make, from start to finish, which makes this recipe even more delightful. The final result was a deliciously cheesy, crispy bite-sized appetizer that hit the spot at a fraction of the calories of its fried counterpart. They could even be a stand-in for mozzarella sticks when the craving strikes!

I’ve included the recipe for the ravioli from the magazine below (but I ended up using pre-made marinara sauce to save some time and keep things simple). Enjoy!

Clean baked ravioli

Ingredients

  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 2 egg whites
  • ¼ tsp seal salt, divided
  • 1/8 tsp. plus ¼ tsp. fresh ground black pepper, divided
  • ½ cup fine whole-wheat bread crumbs*
  • ¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (1 oz)
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • Dash ground cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1 9-oz package bite-sized whole wheat cheese ravioli
  • Marinara sauce

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Coat a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. In a shallow bowl, combine egg whites and 1/8 tsp. each salt and 1/8 tsp. black pepper.
  3. In a separate shallow bowl, combine bread crumbs, remaining 1/8 tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. black pepper, Parmigiano-Reggiano, 1 tsp. dried oregano, 1 tsp. thyme and cayenne.
  4. Dip ravioli into egg mixture and then bread mixture, shaking off excess.
  5. Transfer to baking sheet.
  6. Repeat with remaining ravioli, adding to sheet in a single layer.
  7. Bake, turning once, until lightly browned (or 12-16 minutes).
  8. Serve with marinara sauce.

*Fine whole-wheat bread crumbs do work best, but I didn’t have any so I took regular whole-wheat bread crumbs and ground them a bit with the pestle & mortar.

Tagged , , , , ,

Sweet Potato Chili

We had some friends over for dinner the other night and I had fun planning a menu for a mixed audience of vegetarians and meat-eaters. I wanted to please everyone, so I decided to put together a vegetarian main entrée, asked Chris to barbecue some chicken, and made a batch of cornbread. I also asked each couple to bring a dish – an appetizer and a desert – freeing me up to focus on picking out the main meal.

After digging through my recipes, I came across this Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Chili with Sweet Potatoes from Real Simple. I took a few liberties with the original recipe (which you can find here) to suit our party of six (RS’s version is for four). We already had a lot of the ingredients, so I just picked up a couple of things from the store and got to work. The longest part of prep for me was chopping everything up, particularly the onion. One slice in and I was crying like a baby and then I saw my swim goggles sitting on the counter. Problem solved – no more onion tears! I crossed my fingers that no one (read: Chris or Cooper) discovered me in my exercise-turned-cooking gear but given that it was 8am on a Sunday, I knew they were both asleep for at least another two hours.

Warning: the quantities below will make way more than six servings. In hindsight, I was probably OK going with the original but thought it better to have more than less!

Sweet potato chili, topped with scallions

Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Chili with Sweet Potatoes 

Ingredients

  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 3 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 3 15.5-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 15.5-oz can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 15.5-oz can dark red kidney beans, rinsed
  • 1 15.5-oz can red kidney beans, rinsed
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes (about 8 ounces), peeled and cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces
  • sour cream, sliced scallions, and tortilla chips (for serving)

Directions

  1. In a large slow cooker, combine the onion, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, cocoa, cinnamon, 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Add the tomatoes (and their liquid), beans, sweet potatoes, and 1 1/2 cup water.
  2. Cover and cook until the sweet potatoes are tender and the chili has thickened, on low for 8 to 9 hours or on high for 5 to 6 hours.
  3. Serve the chili with the sour cream, scallions, and tortilla chips.
Tagged , , , ,

Sweet tooth

I really don’t like going a day without having some chocolate. I know I could, but that’s not realistic for a chocoholic like me. It’s no secret that sweets can ruin a healthy regimen, so I usually only allow myself a couple pieces of RitterSport dark chocolate each night.

Every once in a while I treat myself to something a little more decadent… and today was one of those days. I stopped by The Little Chocolate Company, a locally-owned chocolate shop, to pick up a couple of small gifts for friends and a few little treats for myself.

I spent a good 10 minutes jumping between the two main display cases – one full of milk chocolates, the other dark – trying to decide what to choose. The truffles from TLCC are heavenly – just one bite is rich and delicious which helps me avoid that “I-have-to-eat-this-whole-candy-bar-to-feel-satisfied” feeling.

If you’re in the Fairfield/Westchester area, stop in to check out the shop (or order online) and pick up a treat for your Valentine this week!

The Little Chocolate Company
99 Mill Street
Greenwich, CT 06830

A few treats from The Little Chocolate Company - a raspberry dark chocolate truffle and white chocolate with vanilla bean - almost too pretty to eat!

Tagged , , ,

Change is more than good

I’ve been feeling really crunched for time lately, no matter if it’s feeling behind on work, or laundry, or sorting obnoxious piles of mail that never, ever seems to shrink. I’ve always considered myself a pretty efficient person, but recently I’ve felt like I have less and less downtime. I’ve made a couple of adjustments in the past week in hopes that it helps me get a handle on my schedule.  

The most exciting change is that I bit the bullet and joined Equinox, a gym that’s closer to home. It was a difficult decision leaving NYSC (I love the women I work out with and had been a member for almost five years), but I also realized that I was spending a lot of time in transit and not using the full range of amenities at my old gym. Switching over is a great opportunity to challenge my body in a new environment.

Bonus? A whole group of ex-NYSC’ers made the switch at the same time, making it all a bit easier. This morning, we took over the weight floor and group exercise room – it was nothing short of amazing! I texted the group afterwards, mentioning how sore I’m feeling right now, and my friend Veronica wrote back reminding me, “Change is GOOD.” She’s right, it is! 

Changing my workout routine will have a ripple effect – I will have to reprioritize my schedule for most days of the week including my weekly errands, like grocery shopping at the Fairway near my old gym. This weekly shopping trip is a lifeline to healthy eating for me, so I will have to find another way to make it work.

To be honest, it makes me a little nervous to totally recalibrate my weeks – I’m a planner, dammit, and I like to know what comes next! Maybe floating around out there without an established schedule will be good for me.

Our workout group from this morning's session!

The other thing I’ve done has been much less drastic, but it’s working. I turned the desktop notification about new emails off on my work computer. No longer do I see that little Outlook envelope pop up next to the clock on my desktop, or the auto-preview flash and interrupt my work in another program. Over the last week, I’ve been able to work for longer uninterrupted periods of time, complete some major tasks that were hanging over my head, and feel very much in control of my to-do list. If someone desperately needs me, it’s likely that they’ll pick up the phone. Otherwise, responding to emails can wait a bit!

It’s about finding balance, embracing change, and facing new challenges. After writing this, I’m even starting to feel ready to tackle the household chores next – starting with that silly pile of mail. What are your tried and true techniques for managing your time and staying sane?

Tagged , , , , ,

Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Stew

In addition for my delirious obsession with chicken wings, I also have a thing for Mexican food. Unfortunately, as with wings, some of my favorite dishes are also the least healthy: fried and smothered with cheese. During my quest to find healthy takes on Mexican food, I stumbled upon this chicken taco stew. It’s flavorful and full of protein. Plus, the recipe below makes about 12 servings – more than enough to save some leftovers and freeze lunch-sized portions for busy weeks.

And, maybe the best part: this crowd-pleasing recipe is so foolproof that I made it while I was sleeping. I put everything in the slow cooker before I went to bed, and when I woke up it was done. What a dream for this busy life! 

Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Stew

Chicken taco stew - ready to eat!

Ingredients
1 onion, chopped
1 16-oz can black beans, rinsed
1 16-oz can kidney beans, rinsed
1 16-oz can corn, drained
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes w/chilies
1 1.25-oz packet taco seasoning (or make your own)
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Greek yogurt

I love all the colors!

Directions

  1. Mix the beans, corn, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and taco seasoning in slow cooker.
  2. Place chicken on top of mixture and cover.
  3. Cook on low for 6-8 hours (or on high for 3-4 hours*).
  4. Remove chicken 30 minutes before serving and shred.
  5. Return chicken to slow cooker and stir in.
  6. Serve with tortilla chips (I highly recommend the Food Should Taste Good sweet potato tortillas) or brown rice; top with Greek yogurt.

*I usually cook the stew for 7-8 hours on low; I’ve tried the shorter cooking time and it’s just not the same.

Tagged , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: