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The Realistic Dietitian #17: Late Night Eats

The Realistic Dietitian #17: Late Night Eats

I don’t know about you, but later weeknight meals are very common in our household. Busy schedules mean we don’t often have time to sit down and eat dinner before 8pm. Late night meals are not ideal because you have less time to burn off the calories before you go to bed, but you also do not want to skip dinner entirely. So what do you do? Stick to lean proteins and veggies, smaller portions, and less carbohydrates and fat. Carbohydrates are essential for energy and brain function, but you need less of them if your bedtime is going to be about two hours after dinner (it’s a good rule of thumb to stop eating about two hours before bedtime). Smaller portions of whole grains or starchy vegetables are fine, but limit carb-centric meals, simple carbohydrates like processed white bread, and meals/snacks high in sugar. Healthy fats are also essential, but greasy, cheesy, heavy fats right before bed will make your digestive system work overtime when it should be relaxing and settling down for the evening. Not to mention large, high-fat meals right before bed will likely leave you feeling sluggish and blah (technical term) in the morning. Go at http://www.thewheelhousereview.com to see more about this.

So to summarize, focus on a smaller portion of lean proteins, veggies, and fruits, and stay away from larger meals higher in fat, calories, and simple carbohydrates. The meals below are good options for late night eats. These recipes for Grilled Chicken with Tomato-Avocado Salad, Crustless Broccoli Cheddar Quiche, and Lightened-up Curried Chicken Salad are all good high protein, low/moderate carbohydrate, and low fat meal options.

Grilled Chicken with Tomato-Avocado-Corn Salad

This meal is summer on a plate! Find a farmers market near you to pick up some fresh corn and tomatoes and this dish will be even more amazing.

Grilled chicken with tomato, corn, avocado saladServings: 4

Time: 30 minutes

Serving Size: 1 6oz chicken breast or 1/4 block tofu, 2 slices of tomato, 1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, 1 cup mixed greens, 1/2 oz goat cheese, 1/4th of an avocado, 1/2 ear of corn, 1 1/2 Tbsp buttermilk dressing

Ingredients

1/4 cup nonfat buttermilk (or make your own with 1/4 cup nonfat milk plus 1/4 Tbsp lemon juice –combine and let sit for 5 minutes)
3 Tbsp fat free plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
1 Tbsp shallots, minced
1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
1 tsp cider vinegar
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1 garlic clove, minced
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breasts (or 1 block tofu, cut in fourths lengthwise and pressed)
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp onion powder
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp chile powder
2 ears yellow corn, shucked
1 yellow heirloom tomatoes, cut into 4 slices
1 red heirloom tomatoes, cut into 4 slices
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 sliced peeled ripe avocado
4 cups mixed Greens
2 oz goat cheese, crumbled

Directions

  1. Preheat grill (or griddler/Foreman grill) to high heat. If using Griddler or Foreman, spray well with cooking spray.
  2. Combine first 9 ingredients in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Chill buttermilk mixture until ready to serve.
  3. Combine oil, onion powder, cumin, 1/4 tsp salt, and chipotle; rub evenly over chicken (or tofu). Coat corn and onion with cooking spray. Arrange chicken and corn on grill rack; grill 8 minutes or until done, turning chicken once and corn occasionally. Remove from grill; let stand 5 minutes. Cut corn kernels from cobs.
  4. Slice chicken. Arrange 1 breast on each of 4 plates. Arrange 1 yellow and 1 red tomato slices on each plate. Top each serving with 1/4 cup cherry tomatoes. Divide mixed greens, corn and avocado evenly among plates. Drizzle about 1 1/2 Tbsp dressing over each salad and sprinkle with goat cheese.

Nutrition Facts (with chicken): 375 calories, 16g fat, 105mg cholesterol, 468mg sodium, 24g carbs, 6g fiber, 44g protein, 7g sugar

Nutrition Facts (with tofu): 310 calories, 18g fat, 7mg cholesterol, 288mg sodium, 7g fiber, 20g protein, 7g sugar

*Adapted from My Recipes

Crustless Broccoli Cheddar Quiche

Broccoli cheddar crustless quicheThis recipe was so simple. I came home from work and literally threw the ingredients in the pan within five minutes of walking in the door, threw it in the oven, got my workout in, and dinner was served within an hour. Easy peasy and a great option for a post workout meal. I chose to use egg whites for this dish, but you could also do eight whole eggs. OR you could do four whole eggs and one cup egg whites to keep some of the egg yolk flavor, but cut some fat, cholesterol, and calories. And don’t be afraid of the cottage cheese. It makes it creamy, increases the protein, and is completely undetectable once it’s all cooked.

Serves: 4

Time: 50 minutes (only about 5 minutes hands on time)

Serving Size: 1/4th of the Quiche

Ingredients

1 cup 2% cottage cheese
2 cups liquid egg whites (cage free!)
1 cup broccoli florets, chopped
1/2 cup reduced-fat cheddar cheese, plus 2 Tbsp to sprinkle on top
1/4 tsp black pepper 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl to combine
  3. Pour mixture into a 9 inch pie dish, sprayed with nonstick cooking spray
  4. Bake for 45 minutes or until the center is set
  5. Heat the broiler and sprinkle remaining 2 Tbsp of cheese over top. Place dish under broiler and cook for about 1 minute to let it crisp.
  6. Cut into fourths and enjoy!

Slice of Crustless Quiche

Nutrition Facts: 175 calories, 5g fat, 9.5mg cholesterol, 529mg sodium, 5g carbs, 1g fiber, 25g protein, 2g sugar

*Adapted from Skinny Mom

Lightened-up Curried Chicken Salad

(With a delicious vegetarian version)

This picture shows the vegetarian version.

This picture shows the vegetarian version.

This recipe goes out to my momma who asked for a healthier chicken salad option. Here you go mom! This can be served over a green salad, on wheat bread, or stuffed in a wheat pita, liked I did. This lighter version is about 200 calories and 20g fat less than a traditional, heavy chicken salad!

Serves: 4

Time: 15 minutes

Serving Size: About 1 cup of mixture

Ingredients

(For both versions)

4 Tbsp fat free plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp light mayonnaise (olive or canola oil based)
2 Tbsp mango chutney (like Patak’s Sweet Mango Chutney –found in the Indian food section of the grocery store)
1/4 tsp salt
Black pepper, to taste
1 cup red grapes, sliced in half
1/2 cup sliced scallions
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Chicken version

2 (4oz) chicken breasts cooked (grilled or baked) and chopped or shredded

Vegetarian Version

1 14oz package extra-firm tofu, drained and crumbled

Directions

Wisk yogurt, mayonnaise, chutney, curry powder, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Stir in tofu or chicken, grapes, scallions, and walnuts. And serve!

Nutrition Facts (with chicken): 193 calories, 8g fat, 35mg cholesterol, 409mg sodium, 17g carbs, 1g fiber, 15g protein, 14g sugar

Nutrition Facts (with tofu): 216 calories, 11g fat, 3mg cholesterol, 383mg sodium, 19g carbs, 1g fiber, 12g protein, 14g sugar

*Adapted from Eating Well

Sleep well my friends! See you next week.

The Ghetto Monk from Baltimore

The Ghetto Monk from Baltimore

This past weekend I went up to Baltimore with friends. We went on Saturday, May 2 which on social media was being called #BlackSpring, for a big gathering and protest at Baltimore City Hall. When we arrived, we went down to the Inner Harbor to relax a bit before the afternoon. But standing around the touristy part of the city were dozens of National Guard members and police in military gear, holding assault rifles, hopping in and out of armored cars, and generally acting like they were in a war zone. TWH

We went because our friend Ryan Herring, who I worked with for a year at Sojourners, was coming home to Baltimore for the weekend and he invited us to join the protest and march. Ryan grew up in Baltimore, and since his year at Sojourners ended he’s been (from my perspective) all over the country, in the thick of the #BlackLivesMatter movement – in Ferguson, in Louisville, and on occasion, he graces us with his presence in DC. The last time he was in the District a dozen of us met at a friend’s house to get updates from the road and ask him about the movement.

Ryan has taught me two basic takeaways from what’s going on these days (well, other things too but I’ll start off simple): one, there is a movement, and it’s being led by young black Americans like Ryan. Two, Twitter is, in Ryan’s words, integral.

Those of us who came up to Baltimore from DC met Ryan in the crowd in front of City Hall, where I felt a part of a rally more sincere and urgent than any I’ve been to in DC. People talked of justice for Freddie Gray, of backing up State Attorney Marilyn Mosby (who delivered an indictment for the six officers implicated in Gray’s death), of not necessarily condoning destruction of property but declaring that without the “riots” on April 27th,the indictment would not have happened and national attention wouldn’t have been paid. Young people kept jostling onto stage to take the mic – many of them more profound than the adults who’d held the mic – and told us they were people, not thugs, and they love their city. A woman grabbed the mic and emotionally declared we didn’t have time for the patriarchy, and named some of the women who have also been killed by police, like Rekia Boyd. People also called for the release of the kids who were arrested (with egregiously higher bail than the police officers who killed a man) for smashing police car windows one night. And for real solutions, and for the community to not be satisfied with an indictment, because a conviction and punishment still need to happen, and the community needs investment.

After about three hours of speakers and chants, we marched. Cars beeped at us, people on the sidewalks waved and cheered, and after many, many protests in DC, this was the “realest” any march has ever felt to me.

We hugged Ryan goodbye around 6pm so we could catch the MARC train back to DC. I caught up with Ryan this week, to ask him about the city where he grew up, the rest of the day’s protest, and more.

Courtesy of Liz Schmitt

Courtesy of Liz Schmitt

Liz: Tell me about growing up in Baltimore. What neighborhood were you in? Whats it like?

Ryan: I grew up on the Northeast side of Baltimore in a middle class neighborhood. The Northeast district is now the most violent part of Baltimore. Growing up it wasnt as violent but I still had friends that were victims of gun violence, went to sleep to gunshots and sirens, and witnessed plenty of drug activity. Gentrification has transformed the city today but when I was growing up there really wasnt a nice part of Baltimore city. As someone who has lived in cities where the racial makeup is majority white, Im thankful that I had the opportunity to grow up surrounded by my people and my culture. I absolutely love my city. Like the public benches say it is, “The Greatest City in America.”

Liz: Has any of this surprised you? Freddie Grays death and the reaction to it?

Ryan: Neither Freddie Grays death nor the reaction to it surprises me. I’ve been aware of police brutality in Baltimore practically my entire life. In 1997 James Quarles was shot and killed by police officer Charles Smothers in front of Lexington Market, a popular shopping center downtown. The incident was caught on videotape. In 2002 a neighborhood friend of mine Samuel Fitzgerald (14 years old) was shot and killed by Officer Marlon Lynch. Anyone that lives in the inner city feels the constant tension between the community and law enforcement. It was only a matter of time before the people of Baltimore said enough is enough, especially considering the current social climate.

Liz: What do you think of the medias coverage of Baltimore these past weeks?

Ryan: Honestly, when it comes to coverage of police involved shootings and community responses to them I dont pay much mind to mainstream media. They have proven to not be interested in reporting with integrity and telling the truth.

Liz: Whats a better way to explain things? What do you wish they had covered, who do you wish they had interviewed, what words should they fix in their vocabulary?

Ryan: The discussion itself needs to be reframed. As DeRay said on CNN some people, media included, have placed broken windows above broken spines, meaning property is more valuable than people. The destruction of a CVS is more important than the destruction of black life. If we are going to have a discussion about violence it should never start with the reaction of a grieving community. It must start with the violence that created the circumstances that made protest and riot necessary.

Liz: What happened after we parted ways in the march on Saturday?

Ryan: After you left we continued to march to North and Penn where it pretty much turned into a block party. It was one of the best experiences of the weekend for me. It showed the resilience of black people. You can break our bodies but you cant break our spirits. It was something the community needed. Something that black folk have always done in traumatic times. There’s a lot of healing in song and dance. It’s therapeutic.

Liz: So if people want to know whats really going on, where should we look for information?

Ryan: Social media has sparked this movement and it has sustained this movement. Malcolm X once said that truth is on the side of the oppressed. Twitter in particular is where you will find that truth. You have raw and unfiltered on-the-ground eyewitness accounts, live streamers, independent journalists. Mainstream media is focused on controlling a narrative that supports dominant culture. It will expose some injustice but it never tells the full story. Thats what you find on twitter. The whole truth.

Speaking of Twitter, Ryan tweets with the handle @infiniteideal. And the New York Times Magazine recently did a great profile on two of the biggest tweeters/activists in this movement, Deray McKesson (@deray) and Johnetta Elzie (@nettaaaaaaaa).

Ryan also blogs at The Ghetto Monk, and his most recent post talks about his upcoming book, The Revolutionary’s Little Book of Hope.

Next week will be the final installment in Race to the Finish before my half marathon! I’m so grateful to have had everyone’s support, not only reading my very long posts and sharing your thoughts, but also supporting Puncture the Silence Cleveland! We’ve raised over $750 for them so far, which makes us SO CLOSE to the $1,000 goal! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Next week, I’ll share my interview with some of the members of Puncture The Silence. And then I’ll get to meet them in Cleveland! I’ll share details from that too. Thank you so much to those of you who have supported them, and to those who are about to do so by clicking here! Remember, we have not one but two supporters lined up to cover the website fees so you don’t need to pay those, and every dime of your donation will go to this grassroots group.

Parenting for Introverts

Parenting for Introverts

There was a time in my life when I wondered if I would be alone forever. Now, as a mother of two, I am assured daily that I will never, ever be alone. Ever. From showering with an audience to washing dishes with a kid hanging off my leg to viewing Downton Abbey while nursing an infant, life has been a group venture lately. And while I’ve been able to handle the logistics of this setup so far (haven’t ever forgotten to pick up my kid from preschoolSelf High-Five!), the implications of it escaped meuntil recently. You see, I had an epiphany of sorts. As much of an epiphany as a woman operating on minimal sleep and brain function can (picture less light bulb, more flickering candle). That epiphany had to do with an aspect of my personality that I am just beginning to understand, thanks to Susan Cain’s research and my own extensive writing on the subject. http://www.thewheelhousereview.com

Every new mother has been warned about the possibility of post-partum depression. The obstetrician asks barely-veiled questions about whether we have a hard time getting out of bed (seriously? Because the answer is yes, always) just before giving us the green-light to engage in the activity that got us here in the first place. Rather than declaring our lady parts to be game-day ready, maybe OBs need to do a personality screening for their patients. Because I have it on good authority (mine) that introverts such as myself are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to adjusting to life with kids.

If introverts draw energy from time spent alone, then the math works out like this: introverted mom + dependent and ever-present children = one drained woman. It took awhile for me to admit this was happening in my own life because, come onam I such a jerk that my introversion applies even when it’s just my family around, and that family has needs? (And by needs, I mean turn the TV on or remove a now-disgusting but once favorite food from a dinner plate). Then I noticed my short fuse, my constantly flagging energy (even once I started getting sleep), and a nagging sense of despair coupled with a need to escapeand it all felt really familiar. Like a party I had attended too long that was too loud and too crowded.

I needed space.

And I came to accept that this need did not make me an ass, just a true introvert (which some extroverts consider one and the same, but that’s only because we left their party early). Being a better mom actually involves recognizing my own limits. In fact, seeing them clearly helped to decompress some of the frustration I was experiencing: there was a reason for it, and I wasn’t going crazy. Yet. So instead of giving in to my urge to jump in the car and drive far, far away, I came up with a plan of action. And I’m sharing it with you now. You’re welcome.

  • Identify your safe space. Plenty of people will advise you to get out of the house, then suggest activities for you. Activities that invariably involve being aroundyou guessed itother people. Sure, getting away on a solo run to Target can be productive. But you know who’s always at Target? OTHER PEOPLE. So for me, nothing’s better than time all. by. myself. Be it throwing on some Kenny G and taking a bath, or just driving around aimlessly for an hour, I feel most rejuvenated when I stay away from all other forms of life, then return to my family ready to be manhandled by a preschooler and willing to be groped by a baby. 

  • Draw boundaries. Moms are asked to share everything: their space, their boobs, their food. Have areas that are off-limits to everyone but mom. A friend of mine says that when she and her family host guests, she refers to the master bedroom as her “apartment.” No one is allowed into the apartment when the door is shut. I feel that way about my bathroom: don’t you even think about touching my fancy, special-occasion shampoo. The lavatory is sacred space when the door is shut and locked and chained and guarded by an alarmrespect this, and any other area I cordon off with police tape. This goes for anyone who makes it past the armed guard at our front door, which brings me to my next point.
  • No means no. Our neighbor is very kind and sweet and occasionally DRIVES ME INSANE. He considers the vintage act of doorbell-ringing to be acceptable in today’s world and for me it is so not. I’m of the mind that, between texting and emailing, there’s really no reason people have to actually see or talk to each other anymore, but if you must, then leave me a voicemail but do not venture onto my porch. After our local Mr. Rogers knocked on the front door three times and rang the bell twice one afternoon during prime infant sleeping hours, I finally gave in and answered just to find out he wanted to borrow a recycling bag. Guess what, neighbor? You just lost your LA privileges. From now on, I grant myself the right to draw the blinds, turn off the lights, and never answer the door again if that’s the difference between me and Mommie Dearest.

  • Fear the reaper. Or recognize your personal signs of social claustrophobia. What brings it on most? For me, an afternoon of nursing one kid while the other climbs me like a set of monkey bars pretty much does it: there’s not enough oxygen, I can’t appreciate life, and my children take on the appearance of tiny soul-suckers. It’s not Pinterest, people, but it’s real. When these symptoms arise, I think ahead to the next time I’ll get some space. It may be several hours away, but knowing that Kenny G and a bath are waiting gives me endurance in the present moment and, sometimes, keeps me from locking myself up in my sacred space ahead of schedule.
  • Don’t lose your voice. I have become more fluent in baby-talk than I ever thought possible, but enough syrupy sweetness and I go into a diabetic coma. I figure my kids are going to learn sarcasm as a second language sooner or later by living with me, so I’m done trying to be someone I’m not. My son has heard all about the plot holes on the most recent episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and when they mentioned the triangle bush with the red button in the middle, you can bet he heard me snicker. Tacky? Maybe. Me? You know it.

Being a parent is tough enough without attempting a personality change alongside its demands. I love my kids more than I ever thought possibleand that love does not exclude the need for breaks from them. We’re allowed to be more than one thing, ladies! And a mother’s love is big enough to withstand some separation. So the next time my bathroom door is shut and you hear Kenny G playing, just keep on walking. When I come out, I’ll be a new person. Just the same new person.

I Want to Kill My Best Friend (and Other Complications of Parenting)

I Want to Kill My Best Friend (and Other Complications of Parenting)

I don’t remember the first time he said it. But I do remember how enraged I felt as the baby was screaming, our sanity was departing, and my husband uttered the following words:

“Maybe he’s hungry.” T. W. H.

I wasn’t holding anything sharp at the time, which is obvious because I am not writing this from a women’s penitentiary. But I unleashed a verbal barrage, of this I am sure. My well-meaning partner was just looking for a solution, as men do; he’s a problem-solver. But the solution he offered were my boobs, and I was all, “My body, my choice! P.S. I’m going to KILL YOU.” To him, my fury was an overreaction. To me, in my hormone- and exhaustion-addled state, it made perfect sense. After all, with three words my best friend had just attacked my intelligence (Thank you! My tiny little woman brain never even thought about hunger!) and my love for our child (I thought about hunger and decided I’d rather let him starve). It’s the Stevie Wonder of insults, doled out as advice by people who are blind to its infuriating qualitieslike those who ask me, the now-mother of two, if I’m going to “try for a girl.” Because my life will just be forever incomplete if I only get to buy tampons for myself from now on.

“You have no idea the damage that having a kid did to my marriage,” a friend confided over brunch and Bloody Marys recently, and I was all, “<glug glug glug> YA HEARD?” Because my husband, whom I do consider my best friend (who else watches the same shows I do, laughs at all the same things, and sleeps in the same bed?) and I took a hit during those newborn weeks the first time around, and we’re still recovering (and, apparently, are gluttons for punishment, since we welcomed #2 last month). Physical and mental and emotional depletion, combined with a healthy dose of feeling completely incompetent, have a way of not highlighting each other’s good qualities. And whether it was my tears-out-of-nowhere, my threats of suicide, or my kicking of random inanimate objects around the house, my BFF had plenty of reasons to return my frustration with him right back to me.

This desire to maim the person you love most is just one of the inherent contradictions that accompanies becoming a parent. Here are a few more.

I want to leave. But I can’t leave.

If you’re a woman who has decided to nurse her baby, you find out that the designation of “24-Hour Milk Buffet” carries with it an entire luggage set worth of baggage. There are the hormones that accompany this endeavor and render you a victim of emotional roulette. There is the physical exhaustion (boo!) that comes with burning calories (yay!). There is the weight of being the sole provider of the material that keeps your child alive. There is the fact that your husband doesn’t have milk-boobs and you resent him for this. The buck stops with you, is what I’m saying, and it stops every two to three hours (give or takesee below). Your chest is now connected via a biological thread to your child, and like an ankle bracelet on a Hollywood starlet, it renders you only able to go so far. Your sense of independence feels like it just endured an attack from Kathy Bates in Misery. And, just when you started to lose that pregnancy weight, none of your damn shirts fit because you’re now Dolly Parton minus the hair and talent.

And when I do leave…

I granted myself the gift of a solo Target trip recently (a.k.a. my husband pushed me out the back door and encouraged me to “take my timeplease”). And where do you think I went as soon as I got there? My tired feet and barely-there-brain propelled me to the baby section, where I mooned over newborn clothing and pictured it on my month-old son. After a minute or so of this, I began to wonder if he was okay. I meanmaybe he was hungry. Then my boobs started to hurt, and the people around me were annoying by being sothere, and I wondered why I ever left the house in the first place. Welcome to Parenthoodthese constantly-conflicting emotions (see also: rage and guilt; love and resentment) will be your companions THE ENTIRE TIME YOU ARE HERE.

 The rules areTHERE ARE NO RULES.

Allow me to share with you a fun fact from one of the baby websites I’ve been obsessing over recently. It concerns the phenomenon of growth spurts, which occur at intervals in a child’s life and, in the newborn phase, require an increase in frequency of feedings. THAT MEANS STEP IN LINE, MILK BUFFET!

 Common times for growth spurts are during the first few days at home and around 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, 4-6 weeks, 3 months, 4 months, 6 months and 9 months (more or less). Babies don’t read calendars, however, so your baby may do things differently. (thanks, kellymom.com! THANKS FOR NOTHING.)

 Did you catch that verbal tomfoolery, reader? The near-overlapping of those numbers and the reminder that BABIES DON’T READ CALENDARS, which may just as well be followed by, “So good luck figuring that out, mother f***ers!” This kind of uncertaintyfrom the experts, no lessonly feeds the natural self-doubt that plagues all parents when it comes to how good a job they’re doing. Allow that self-doubt to take a seat beside the conflicting emotions mentioned abovewe’re all going to be here awhile.

In parenting as in drag racing

I’m only getting started here, and feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments. But what I’m saying is that parenthood is not for the faint of heart. It is an emotional roller coaster through some rough terrain that can leave you questioning your choices and identity on a daily basis. But by far the biggest contradiction of the endeavor, and the part science has not yet explained, is how a process that involves so much emptying outof time, energy, resources, attentioncan, when you least expect it, be so fulfilling. There you are, eyes barely open at the end of another long day (though the years are short, I hear), and you catch a glance of your offspring regarding you with a beatific smile and something that looks like love in his eyes. And just like that, the universe slides into place and everything makes sense. In fact, everything feels even worthwhile. You begin to understand how servanthood can lead to freedom and frustration can give way to love and how the life you led beforethe one that was so fun, undemanding, full of optionswas so small compared to this new, fixed, and tethered one. And in that moment, being a walking contradiction doesn’t seem so bad when you’ve got a tiny hand holding yours for the journey.

Adventures in Amanda-land: Yes. Yes, I do skateboard. What? Why are you looking at me like that?

Adventures in Amanda-land: Yes. Yes, I do skateboard. What? Why are you looking at me like that?

If there is one area of my life that consistently evokes double-takes from strangers and friends alike, it is definitely my affinity for skateboarding. I suppose it is a logical response, given that I completely lack an edgy personality, youthfulness, manhood, and basic coordination, all of which seem to be highly correlated with standing on a moving wooden oblong with wheels on it. But alas, my love of things with wheels supersedes my fear of death and/or being a public spectacle, and so every so often you will find me merrily cruising along the Hudson river on my Earthwing longboard, trailed by the stares of strangers and the confused howling of dogs. (Dogs, for some reason, seem to be universally freaked out by humans on skateboards. Something about it blows their furry little minds, and they, without fail, snap into an angry + noisy chase as soon as they see me. I have not yet been caught, but I have almost died of surprise several times.)

http://www.thewheelhousereview.com

Due to the aforementioned lack of friendship between my brain and limbs, I cant do any of the cool things you think of when you picture skateboarding—there are definitely no wheelies, ollies, or kickflips going on here—but I can maneuver the thing over some distance and around curves on relatively flat surfaces without incurring significant hospital bills. I initially learned in college from my awesome boarding-friend Janelle, but I didnt get good (I use that term loosely) until I moved to NYC and my bike got stolen. I needed something to get me out of the tiny, dark, mushroom-infested box I was living in at the time, and my adventures, filled with a lot of falling and then furiously chasing my board so it wouldnt roll off the ledge and into the river, provided me with a hobby that I still enjoy quite a bit.

Adventures in Amanda-land: UNICOW!*

Adventures in Amanda-land: UNICOW!*

* Unicow: a mutant mythical creature born when the overwhelming desire to draw a unicorn mates with an even stronger desire to avoid figuring out how to draw a horse. Revered in the middle ages as a symbol of laziness. Eats grass, poops rainbows and sparkles. Capable of flight, but at sub-unicorn speeds. Its legendary horn contains the power to heal sickness, end wars, and increase internet download speeds, but the docile animal is also commonly raised as livestock for its cereal flavored milk and happiness flavored hamburgers.

http://www.thewheelhousereview.com

Confessions of a Former Door-to-Door Salesperson (Part 2)

Confessions of a Former Door-to-Door Salesperson (Part 2)

When last we checked in with 19 year old bookgirl Alison Lytton, she was about to knock on her first door as a door-to-door book salesperson in Arlington, TX.

http://www.thewheelhousereview.com/

I knocked twice on the door of the small suburban brick home, stepped back, and waited. No answer. I knocked again: nothing. Alright. First door down; who’s next, who’s next? I picked up my bag and ran to the next house. Nobody home either. By my third house, the nerves had settled a bit. But when someone finally answered the door, it was Mister Jones, not Mrs, and he was on the phone. I was not prepared for this scenario! “Hi, uh, I’m Alison, and, uh” “Hold on just a secondwhat do you want? I’m on my way to work.” “Oh I’ll just come by later!” I responded chipperly, sprinting next door. That wasn’t so bad. He didn’t slam the door. Maybe I didn’t even tell him what I was doing, but in the metrics we were instructed to meticulously track, talking to a human being who could conceivably be a parent was considered a “call”. I’d made my first sales call! This was going to be a great summer!

The rest of the morning was much the same. Knock, knock: nobody home. One important part of our sales cycle was “pre-approach”, ie finding out which families on the block had kids and which houses were childless, so we wouldn’t waste time. Although it sounds like a creepy thing to ask, most people are pretty forthcoming about their neighbors, even to a sweaty, overwhelmed-looking college student. I also spent a lot of time analyzing yards to look for signs of toys. The key was remembering which houses were which, so I drew a detailed map on my notepad with identifying markers. The idea was to come back to houses with kids in the evening when people were home.

By midday, I had marked up dozens of calls, but only a couple demos. Or “demos”, rather, as by now the sales presentation had entirely fled my mind, and the demonstration consisted of Mrs Jones slowly closing the door on me while I flailed about, waving the book around on the front steps. In my defense, at least one of the times I managed to actually open the book before she closed the door.

Finally, I found a house where the mom was not only home, but interested! Not interested enough to let me in the door, but interested enough to listen to my garbled sales presentation on her front steps and take a quick look through the Student Handbook. “This looks great for our daughter, she’s really struggling in school,” she confessed. What luck! A need! I didn’t even have to find it! “Let me see it,” she said, grabbing it from me and causing me to commit my first sales error: letting the customer look through the sample book rather than me highlighting key parts. “How much is it?” she asked, and I committed my second error: telling the price too soon. You see, the canned sales presentation was more than just a memorization challenge; there was actually a logic to it: approach, build rapport, ask questions, find the need, fill the need, answer objections up front, close and THEN give the price. If you did the steps out of order or skipped a step, you were much less likely to be successful at making the sale. “Oh, that’s too much,” responded Mrs Jones when I told her the price, “I’ll have to ask my husband when he gets home.” Wherein I committed the third error, and the cardinal sin of bookselling: never go back after you tell them the price. If they aren’t going to buy it then, they aren’t going to buy it ever. Come back later to talk to dad, but don’t tell mom the price first. Never go back. Never ever. But desperate bookgirl that I was, I told her, she declined, I promised to come back and then slogged around the neighborhood for a couple more hours (the time of enthusiastically running between houses was long gone) while the fear of having my first day be a zero sales day became more and more real.

When dinner-time came, I ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my car and reviewed my maps, which were completely illegible. I had no memory whatsoever of the hours between 9am and 2 pm. So I started on new streets, wasting time with grandmas and single folks and empty nesters before heading back over to the Mrs Jones I’d told the price to. Going against everything my Southwestern sales trainers had told me, this time Mrs Jones let me into the kitchen and we walked through the sales presentation with Mr Jones from start to finish. Their daughter came in toward the end, and unfortunately she seemed well past the point when any book could interest her enough to help her. But her parents were desperate, I was desperate and we all wanted to see someone succeed that day. So they bought Student Handbooks 1 & 2, and I had my first sale. It was the only sale I made that day, followed by zero sales the next day, but it was a sale. Introverted, English major Alison had done the impossible and made a sale!

At 9:31 pm, I knocked on my last house and then fled, exhausted, to my car. One day down, 64 sales days to go. I picked up my roommates from their territories. Julie was enthusiastic, and although we werent supposed to share stats with one another, I garnered that shed made three sales. Crystal sat in the backseat in a cloud of sullenness that could only be understood as a zero day. We went home, called in our stats to our student manager, and went to bed to sleep the sleep of the dead. Until the 6am alarm went off and we were at it again.

I don’t think I cried until my third week. Id been trucking along, focusing on work habits, not sales. Our sales manager and the student managers emphasized the work rather than the money. Its a numbers game, theyd tell us. If you got in 30 demos a day, an average of three people would buy. All you needed was three for a $10,000 summer. Even the Estonian exchange students whod come over to sell books were able to hit this goal, and they barely spoke English. But by week three, even three sales a day seemed optimistic. I was averaging one to two a day, literally pounding the pavement. This day a Wednesday, I think was one of the first really hot Texan summer days. Out of pride, I was still wearing jeans, sweating like crazy by 10 am. No one was home in a particularly barren and treeless neighborhood. I finally found a house to ask to refill my water bottle. Rather than take it inside to refill it, as most moms did, she pointed me to her garden hose. The warm, metallic water and the moms scorn didnt help my attitude, and Id stopped repeating the positive affirmations Id learned at sales school.

By 2pm, it was 90 degrees, Id eaten all the food Id packed for the day and had zero sales and only a few real demos. I sat down on the curb, feeling like I was going to pass out, and thought of my family, the nine long weeks ahead and the deep failure I would feel when I returned home. I thought about air conditioning and swimming pools. I thought of the cool Kunming summers and my favorite Chinese food. And I started crying bitter tears about the horrible situation Id gotten myself into and the horrible days ahead.

It felt hopeless. What were my options? Crawl home, a quitter, as my roommate Crystal had done the week before? Work hard and fail hard while my remaining roommate Julie became a top first year? Keep my commitment to myself and my student manager not to quit?

The pleasures of self-pity are many, but they do grow old, as sidewalk curbs grow uncomfortable in 90 degree heat. I finally got up, resigned to a summer of failure, and started knocking on doors again. Theyd told us stories like this in sales school, when a student would hit the wall and go on to have their best day ever. I was not this story. It continued to be very hot, people in that neighborhood continued to be grouchy (in fairness, so did I) and one dad even mansplained in great detail to me how I was wasting my time with such a terrible summer job. I did not make a sale that day, another big fat goose egg of a day.

But although it didnt feel like it at the time, that day was something of a turning point. I bought some cheap boys athletic shorts at Wal-Mart, a lifesaver as the temperature creeped up to 105 degrees. I learned that at 105 degrees, even my elbows would drip sweat on Mrs Jones front stoop. And Mrs Jones started listening to the perky, sweaty book girl, would even let her inside the house, give her ice water while listening to her demo and then write her a check for an order. The checks got bigger, as I started selling the full five handbook set, the full kids book set and on the rare happy occasion, the whole book bag. The 50% deposit on an order like that was something around $300, a shocking amount to me at the time.

Our weekly Sunday meetings became more enjoyable too. Julie and I would still wake up at 6am (before the alarm, by this point), stop at Krispy Kreme for half a dozen donuts and drive a couple hours to somewhere on the other side of Dallas. Our meetings were always in conference rooms at Radissons or Courtyard Suites; wed do recognition of the students with the top work stats (one amazing Sunday I was the top first year in our group), then finish up our weekly reports while listening to additional sales training. Wed head off to a group activity for lunch, usually along the lines of mini golf but on one exciting Sunday, horse riding on a ranch and one SUPER exciting Sunday to a water park where we displayed appalling farmer tans. At some point during the day wed each have a 1:1 with a student manager to discuss our goals for the week and how we were going to meet them.

A portrait of the writer as a young bookgirl.

A portrait of the writer as a young bookgirl.

It was a great chance to share stories: the ridiculous objections Mrs Jones would give us, the occasional cool dad who would give us a beer at the end of a Saturday night, the older lady who opened the door to me completely naked, the numerous dog and trailer related stories the guys selling in the country had. It was also the only chance we had to feel like we were normal people having a fun summer. Youd feel a little wistful, particularly when people were having pool parties and setting off fireworks for the 4th of July. And it was a little embarrassing when youd accidentally knock on a house without kids and a college student your age would open the door, just waking up at noon, looking you up and down with your positive attitude, goofy polo shirt and sales case.

But for the most part, as the weeks went on, the more badass we all felt about ourselves and what we were doing. Technically, we were running our own businesses, tracking expenses, putting in orders, running credit card checks, getting the occasional dreaded stop payment on customers deposit checks. We were working crazy hours, making sales, getting better every day. Many days still sucked, dont get me wrong. The great fear was getting off schedule, and more than once I gave into the temptation to take a break during the hot, dead quiet hours after lunch, sneaking off to Walgreens to read a magazine and buy a Luna bar until the guilty feeling of not working was a sick knot in my stomach (a 15-20min process). But aside from the occasional side trip, each day was exactly the same and somehow totally different. Knocking on doors, getting quick door demos, getting longer sitdown demos, getting sales. The families who bought werent always cool. Youd get an awesome connection every once in a while, but we were encouraged to stay no longer than 20 minutes at a house, and I typically stuck to that rule. The best was when the kids were there, as they were always thrilled to have an enthusiastic, sweaty college student come by, and 95% of the time, when you asked them during the demo if theyd use the books, they swore up and down that they would.

I also learned a lot of other things, seeing house after house and family after family. It was amazing how much time people spent on lawn care. It was amazing how many women had to ask their husbands to spend more than $100 on a purchase. So many beautiful, big, new brick houses were half empty inside, with families unable to afford furniture to fill them. I hated the monotony of the suburbs, promising myself to never live in neighborhoods like that.

Soon, though, it was August, and the sales season was over. A truck delivered a couple pallets of the books my customers had purchased and I cleaned up my paperwork: it was delivery time! Door to door knocking was done, but selling wasnt completely over; most customers were excited for me to deliver their books and show the kids how to use them, but a few had conveniently forgotten. I quickly learned why the student managers loved full down deposits as the next week became a blur of dropping off books and trying to track down customers who were never home and still owed half. My roommate and I stopped meeting for our daily Waffle House breakfast and were out the door by 620am, loading up our cars with books to deliver until 1030pm or later. At some point during the long, long week, our landlady got mad after we left the garage door open and kicked us out, so we moved to a motel for the final couple days of deliveries. 99% delivered to 300ish customers each, only a few post-dated customer checks in hand, we were finished!

We drove up to the country north of Dallas to pick up a couple teammates to drive back to Nashville. While they emptied the last few book boxes out of their storage unit, I was so tired I laid down in the August sun on the concrete outside the storage unit and fell asleep for a good thirty minutes. As we drove through east Texas, up through Arkansas and into Nashville, the naive Alison of three months before seemed like an entirely different person. “We’ll never be the same again!” my roommate and I chirped to one another. Seven of us checked into a motel room and then headed to the Southwestern headquarters to fill out paperwork and get our final “big checks” for the summer.

After hours of wrangling with stats sheets, cashiers checks and a calculator, I had the final tally: just under $8000 gross revenue with a check cut to me of just under $5000 net, after all expenses. The blood, sweat and tears had paid off: I was an average first year salesperson!

That sweet smell of sales success lured me back for the next few summers, in rural Michigan, rural Ohio Amish country and the East Bay in Northern California (Ohio was my favorite summer). I became a student manager myself, training and coaching first year students to work hard and stay positive. Every summer was difficult, every summer I cried more than once, but it was never as bad as the first. Although I never became a top salesperson, I learned to work hard, face failure and keep going no matter how awful things got. They weren’t the most fun summers of my life, and in some ways they were the worst. But somehow they’re also the best.

Person of Interest: Takeshi Yamada

Person of Interest: Takeshi Yamada

This past weekend, my friend bursts into the room, breathless and a little sweaty. “Sorry I’m late, but you guys won’t believe what I saw on the subway on the way over here!” She then proceeds to show us the following photo:

http://www.thewheelhousereview.com

It’s a sea rabbit. She described how its little webbed feet were moving while she took photos, barely believing what she was seeing. She had spoken to the man who was holding it. According to this man, the animal was no longer found in the wild, but a group of conservationists were breeding them in captivity, hoping to reach a critical mass and then reintroduce them to nature. Needless to say, this was quite an interesting sightingeven for the subway in New York Cityand made quite an impression on all of us. (More photos of her subway sighting can be seen on my friend’s flicker account.)

Later that evening, I received an email with the subject line: “Sea Rabbits are not real.” The animal she saw on the subway was apparently part of an exhibit by Japanese artist Takeshi Yamada, known as a “rogue taxidermist.” Yamada takes real parts from different animals (and some unnatural materials as well), and creates fake creatures, the sea rabbit being one of the more popular ones. According to an article in The Village Voice, Yamada’s other creations include a two-headed baby, Fiji mermaids, a seven-fingered hand and six-foot long deathworms. This blog post has pictures of many of his works, but be forewarned, some of the images are NSFW and are definitely not for the faint of heart!

When asked in the Village Voice article why he chooses to create such stunning and surprising works of art, Yamada answered, “The freakish is not a bad thing. It can represent the mystery of the universe. An expression of divinity. A blessing. By combining ordinary objects and creatures and producing something that is so shocking, Yamada is showing just how fragile our perception of normal is, and that the line between this world and the abnormal is very small indeed.

Not surprisingly, Yamada’s exhibit that housed all the incredible things described above ran for 5 years at the Coney Island Library and Museum, a place renowned for its celebration of the extraordinary. But my friend’s recent sighting means Yamada is on the move again. As you can tell from the photo, it was actually him, walking around NYC with a sea rabbit tucked under his arm. I for one am looking forward to seeing where his pieces of art show up next. And if you see him on the subway carrying a sea rabbit, have fun pretending it’s real.

The Realistic Dietitian #3: Getting Spicy!

The Realistic Dietitian #3: Getting Spicy!

Welcome back, readers! This week I added some non-soy based protein to my vegetarian meals, made a yummy salad and stuffed some things. See the recipes below for curried-lentil-stuffed acorn squash, black-bean-stuffed sweet potatoes, Island Pork Tenderloin salad, and honey-lime fajita chicken/bean/tofu rice bowls.

http://www.thewheelhousereview.com

Before I get to the recipes, I should point out that a lot of my cost calculations do not include the spices because I have most of these on hand. Adding spices to foods helps decrease the need for added salt, without sacrificing flavor. Americans eat WAY more sodium than we should each day. The average American consumes around 3,400mg per day, more than twice the American Heart Association’s recommendation of 1,500mg. An excess of salt in the diet can lead to high blood pressure, which is frequently called the “silent killer” because it has few signs or symptoms but can lead to heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. I often hear people say “but I don’t add salt to my food.” That’s great, but approximately 75% of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods. Eating fewer processed foods, and cooking more meals at home can help to drastically reduce your sodium intake. Keep reading my column (shameless plug) and I’ll show you healthier ways to add flavor to your meals!

So in general, it’s a good idea to stock up on some essential spices. Here are some spices that I recommend always having on hand: dried basil, cayenne pepper, chili powder, ground cinnamon, ground cumin, garlic powder, ground ginger, oregano, crushed red pepper, rosemary, thyme and kosher salt. If you don’t have a lot of these, you can purchase great starter spice racks for around $20-$30. It works out to be a lot cheaper than purchasing them individually at the grocery store. And don’t forget about extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, white-wine vinegar, and honey (from bees, of course).

Now to the food!

Curried Lentil Stuffed Acorn Squash

IMG_0753Serves: 4
Total Time: 1 hr 15 min
Active time: ½ hr
Cost: $3 per serving

I have had this recipe cut out for over a year and finally decided to make it! When a reader requested that I make a vegetarian dish without tofu or soy protein, I realized this dish would be perfect. And it was worth the wait! It definitely is a bit more time-consuming, so I would call this more of a weekend meal. But it’s only about a half-hour of active time, so if you roast the squash (and maybe even make the filling) ahead of time, it could work on a weekday. I served this with steamed green beans (with garlic powder, lemon juice and black pepper)

Ingredients:

2 small acorn squash
1 Tbsp butter (or Smart Balance Light), melted
2 tsp honey
1 tsp Garam Masala spice (Note: This can be expensive. If you don’t have it, combine 1/4 tsp ginger, 1/8 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1/4 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp ground coriander, 1/8 tsp nutmeg, 1/8 tsp cloves. BUT if you like Indian food and make it a lot, garam masala is worth the investment!)
1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup lentils
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 large leek, chopped (white and light green parts only)
2 carrots, finely diced
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
2 jalapenos, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup jarred roasted red peppers, sliced
1 tsp ground pepper, or to taste
1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1/4 tsp curry powder (optional)

To prepare the squash:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Halve the squash through the stem end and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash, cut-side up, on a rimmed baking sheet. To keep it laying flat, and so it doesn’t wiggle, cut a small slice off of the bottom to create a sturdy base. Combine the melted butter, honey, Garam Masala, and 1/4 tsp salt in a small bowl; brush all over the cut sides of the squash.
  3. Bake the squash for 10 minutes. Brush again to redistribute the butter. Continue to bake until the squash is tender, 30 to 35 minutes more. When done, turn off the oven, cover the squash with foil, and keep it in the warm oven until the filling is ready.

To prepare the filling:

  1. Bring the water and lentils to a boil in a medium saucepan. Lightly boil for 7-8 minutes. Drain, saving the lentil-cooking liquid; set the lentils and liquid aside.
  2. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add 2 Tbsp olive oil and cumin and cook, stirring until fragrant (around 1 minute). Stir in leeks, carrots, shallots, and ginger. Cover and cook on low-medium, stirring occasionally, until the carrots begin to soften (about 5 minutes). Stir in jalapeños, coriander and turmeric and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Stir in tomatoes and 1 cup of the reserved cooking liquid (if there isn’t enough, make up the difference with water). Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, then cook for 5 minutes. Stir in lentils and simmer until they are soft and tender but not falling apart (3 to 5 minutes). If the mixture seems dry, add more cooking liquid (or water). Stir in roasted peppers. Season with the remaining 1 tsp pepper. Divide the lentil stuffing among the squash (1 cup per half). Combine curry powder with yogurt, and add a dollop to the squash.

Yum, lentils! Maybe not an expression you hear a lot, but they are delicious, nutritious, and very filling. Even my omnivorous husband thinks so! I geeked out on chickpeas last week, so this week it’s the lentil’s turn. Here’s what’s great about lentils: They’re really cheap (around $1.50 for a large bag), and can be used to make a hearty stew, veggie burgers, or delicious Indian meals. They’re very easy to cook and don’t require lengthy soaking times like other beans. Lentils have a nice nutty flavor and give vegetarian dishes a more “meaty” texture. They’re also extremely filling, thanks to their high fiber content (not to mention potassium, calcium, zinc, niacin and vitamin K). One cup contains around 16g of fiber, which is about 60% of your daily needs. Lentils, and other legumes, are also a great source of protein, with about 18g per cup. And of course, you may recall from grade school that lentils, like all beans, are a “magic fruit.” Just make sure to enjoy some extra water and you’ll be fine on that front J

Nutrition Facts (1/2 squash with 1 cup filling): 355 Calories, 9g fat, 0mg cholesterol, 226mg sodium, 57g carbs, 18g fiber, 15g protein, 9g sugar

*Adapted from Eating Well

Honey-Lime Chicken, Beans and Veggie Fajita Bowls with Chipotle Cream

IMG_0700Serves: 4
Prep Time: 2 hours 15 minutes (marinating time)
Active Time: 30 minutes
Cost: With chicken, about $3-$4 per serving; with tofu or just beans, about $2-$3 per serving

This meal looks like it has a lot of ingredients and takes a lot of time, but I promise it doesn’t (especially if you keep some standard spices on hand and do some prep work ahead of time). I recommend making the marinade and chopping the veggies the night before. Then you can have dinner ready in about ½ when you get home from work.

Ingredients

Chicken Marinate:

12 chicken-breast tenders/ OR 1 block tofu
3 Tbsp lime juice
1 1/2 Tbsp honey
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp white vinegar
2 tsp reduced sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
3/4 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

 

Fajita Veggies:

1/2 of marinade mixture
2 Tbsp honey
1/2 red onion, cut into strips
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 green bell pepper, cut into strips
3/4 cup frozen corn or 1 ear of corn

 

Lime Rice with Black Beans (remember, beans and rice make a complete protein!)

2 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 cups brown minute rice
3 cups water
1 can (15oz) low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp lime juice
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped, if desired

Chipotle Lime Cream Sauce

3/4 cup fat free Greek yogurt
1 1/2 Tbsp lime juice
1 tsp sauce from a can of chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp cumin
Top with cheese, salsa or guacamole as desired

Directions:

  1. For the marinade: If using tofu, cut block into 4 equal pieces, lengthwise. Place between two sheets of paper towels and put a plate on top. (This will “press” the tofu and remove extra moisture.) Let sit for about 15 minutes. Place chicken/tofu in a large Ziploc bag. Mix the marinade ingredients together, and pour HALF of the marinade mixture into the Ziploc bag with the chicken/tofu.
  2. Add chopped vegetables to a large Ziploc bag or Tupperware.
  3. Take the remaining half of the marinade, whisk in 2 Tbsp honey, and pour the marinade into the bag with the vegetables. If you have time, let the veggies marinate for 2 hours. (If you don’t have time, everything will still be delicious—just not as moist and soaked through).
  4. For the rice and beans: Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cumin; stir for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the rice and sauté for a few more minutes to toast. Stir in black beans and water; bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low, simmer, covered according to package directions. Remove from heat and add lime juice and cilantro, if desired.
  5. For chipotle lime cream: While the rice cooks, mix together the Greek yogurt, lime juice, cumin, honey, and adobo sauce. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  6. Chicken/Tofu: Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken/tofu and discard the marinade. Cook for 3 minutes, flip, and cook for an additional 5 minutes or until cooked through.
  7. While chicken/tofu finishes cooking, add 1 Tbsp olive oil to a skillet over medium heat. Add the marinated veggies to the hot skillet and sauté, stirring occasionally, 4-5 minutes.
  8. Put it all together, any top with chipotle lime cream and any other desired topping.

 

Nutrition facts

With Chicken: 470 calories, 13g fat, 66mg cholesterol, 467mg sodium, 60g carbs, 8g fiber, 34g protein, 20g sugar

With tofu: 440 calories, 14g fat, 1mg cholesterol, 382mg sodium, 62g carbs, 8g fiber, 20g protein, 20g sugar

Just veggies, rice and beans: 364 calories, 10g fat, 1mg cholesterol, 348mg sodium, 60g carbs, 8g fiber, 11g protein, 20g sugar

 

Adapted from Tastes Better from Scratch

 

Black Bean (and Sausage) Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Avocado Cream

IMG_0726Serves: 4
Time: 20 minutes
Cost: About $2-$3 per serving

 

Incredibly fast meal! I was rushing and short on time when I made this. I think we made and ate this dish within 30 minutes. Plus, I already had a lot of ingredients from the honey-lime fajita bowls, so it was very cheap. And of course, it’s also healthy! I served this with green beans.

 

Ingredients:

1 medium sweet potato
2 chicken breasts or sausage links (if you’re into that)
1 cup frozen corn (thawed)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup fresh salsa, such as Pico de Gallo
1/2 cup 2% shredded Mexican Cheese Blend

 

Avocado Cream
1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and seeded
1/4 cup fat free, plain Greek Yogurt
2 Tsbp lime juice (from about 1 lime)
1/4 tsp cumin
Splash of milk or almond milk, if necessary
cilantro, optional for garnish

Directions:

  1. Bake the potato, or microwave it if you’re short on time (that’s what I did). If baking, go for about 45 minutes (or until soft) at 375F. If microwaving, pierce the potato with a fork a few times before cooking it on high power for about 7 minutes (medium size) to 10 minutes (large). You can cook up to 2 potatoes in the microwave at one time; for 2 potatoes, just increase the time to 10-13 minutes.
  2. After baking (or while the potato is microwaving), preheat the oven to broiler setting.
  3. If you are serving with sausage, crumble the sausage and sauté in olive or canola oil for 5-6 minutes.
  4. Mix together the corn, black beans and Pico de Gallo. I suggested portions, but you really can use whatever proportions you like!
  5. Make the avocado cream by adding all of the cream ingredients into a food processor, blender or just a bowl. If it’s too thick and not very smooth, add a splash of milk.
  6. When the potato is ready, slice it in half lengthwise and hollow out a center column of each half with a spoon. I dont remove any of the skins and keep some potato in the middle. You’re just making room for the filling. Place on a non-stick baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  7. Evenly divide the corn and bean salsa between each potato half, and top each half with about 2 Tbsp cheese, and sausage if you’re using it.
  8. Broil for about 1-2 minutes, or just until the cheese bubbles and begins to melt. I think closer to one minute is best; any longer risks burning.
  9. Garnish with avocado cream, and optional cilantro.

Adapted from Averie Cooks

Nutrition Facts

Potato with filling and cheese, without sausage: 288 calories, 9g fat, 0mg cholesterol, 385mg, 45g carbs, 7g fiber, 9g protein, 7g sugar
Potato with filling and cheese, with sausage: 358 calories, 13g fat, 25mg cholesterol, 600mg, 45g carbs, 16g protein, 7g sugar

 

 

P90x Island Pork Tenderloin Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette

IMG_0740Serves: 4
Time: 20 minutes
Cost: $5 with pork (organic pork) or $3 with tofu

This salad came from the meal plan offered with the P90X workout program, and was our favorite dish. It’s also a great workout, of course. It was how I got in wedding shape! (The workout, not just the salad.) I adapted this a bit to fit my tastes and nutritional needs.

 

Ingredients:

Pork/Tofu:
16oz pork tenderloin (or tofu for my veggies out there)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp chile powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp hot sauce or Sriracha

 

Salad:

8 cups mixed greens
2 oranges
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1/4 cup raisins
1 cup red cabbage
1/4 cup chopped almonds

 

Cumin Vinaigrette:

1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp orange juice
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Stir together salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, and cinnamon. Coat the pork/tofu with spice rub.
  3. Heat oil in a cast-iron skillet: medium-to-high for pork; medium-to-low for tofu. (You can also use a regular skillet. If you go that route, you will transfer the pork/tofu into a roasting pan after browning.)
  4. Cook pork/tofu for 4 minutes, each side.
  5. Stir together brown sugar, garlic, and hot sauce. Pat onto top of tenderloin/tofu. Place cast-iron skillet in oven and cook for 20 minutes.
  6. While the pork/tofu cooks, make the salad and divide it up between your plates.
  7. Make the dressing by adding all the ingredients into a bowl or jar.
  8. Put everything together and enjoy!

 

Nutrition facts

Salad with pork: 400 calories, 12g fat, 75mg cholesterol, 430 mg sodium, 47g carbs, 4g fiber, 34g protein, 25g sugar
Salad with tofu: 319 calories, 13g fat, 1mg cholesterol, 390mg sodium, 49g carbs, 4g fiber, 14g protein, 25g sugar