Meatless Monday

I don’t typically participate in Meatless Monday on purpose, but in an effort to evict these last five pounds from my hiney, I’m going meatless on a Monday.

Tonight, I’m making pasta primavera with a lemon caper sauce…because I’m not afraid of carbs. Everything in moderation, right?! Okay then! I found tonight’s recipe here. I looooove capers! They are highly underutilized if you ask me. After a quick stroll through Trader Joe’s, I was all set for my vegetable frenzy. I picked up a bag of baby spinach, yellow squash, sugar plum tomatoes and some shaved parmesan and asiago cheese.

I am a huge fan of going a little rogue on recipes and this one was no exception. I decided to forego the frozen peas and carrots and I substituted the asparagus for brussels sprouts, since I had some in the fridge. Veggies chopped, I was on my way! I sautéed the onion in a little olive oil for a few minutes and then added the squash and brussies while my pasta water boiled.

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I love watching them turn that bold green color! I started on the sauce, which I was a little nervous about since I usually just go with olive oil or a little lemon juice. This sauce, however, was fairly easy and only took a few minutes once it started to boil. It called for chicken stock, which I don’t use, so I swapped that out for veggie stock…easy peasy. I added the juice from half a lemon and the capers and watched it thicken. It smelled sooo good!

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For once, I timed everything perfectly! Hallelujah! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to let my vegetables sit (for too long) while my pasta cooked and then I would have to frantically make some kind of dressing and put it all together before the pasta got cold or became mush. Needless to say, I was patting myself on the back for this one! I topped it with halved sugar plum tomatoes and a little shaved cheese and it all came together nicely, if I do say so myself!

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Of course, no Meatless Monday would be complete without a glass of my favorite $5 bottle of vino from Trader Joe’s. Nothing says bye-bye Monday like a little Chariot!

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Cheers to what is sure to be a great week! Salute!

Eating on the Go Go Go!

If you’re anything like me, weekday mornings can get a little crazy. Getting up a 5am to get a workout in is no easy feat and having to come home and get ready for work leaves little to no time for actually making anything healthy. Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts and Dutch Bros. have only proven to be counterproductive in the battle of the bulge. Steel cut oats are a pain (unless I make them the night before) because I actually have to pay attention to them…umm, no thanks. I’m not even sure I’m awake yet. So, what’s a girl to do? An easy option is always a protein shake, or a super frothy protein latte like this one…doesn’t it look tasty?!

Frothy Protein Latte

I made that using regular coffee (you can use any coffee you like, really) and the best tasting chocolate protein powder I’ve found…Optimum Nutrition Platinum Hydrowhey in Turbo Chocolate. You can purchase it here! Pour it into your blender and let it swirl for about 30 seconds and BAM! Delicious, frothy protein latte goodness ready to be sipped…because it’s still hot coffee…but I digress. Moving on!

I figured I’d better use the egg whites I had in the fridge before they go bad, so tonight I made egg white bites! Some people call them mini crustless quiches, others call them egg white muffins…whatever you want to call them, they are really easy to make and keep well in the fridge, making them the perfect on-the-go breakfast for busy people with busy mornings. They are great with just about any greens or vegetables you have on hand and can be made with or without cheese.

Last time I made these, I used red and green bell peppers and feta cheese (which I love because it’s just salty enough), but I decided to switch it up this time. For this batch, I used All Whites egg whites, mushrooms, onion and a little bit of “taco blend” shredded cheese (yes, I changed the name to something a little more PC).

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About ten minutes and a little knife magic later, while the oven was making its steady climb to 350, the onion and mushrooms were diced and ready.

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Those bowls are pretty amazing, by the way. I found the set at Ross and they are perfect for preparing meals…various sizes for different ingredients. They aren’t fancy, but they get the job done. I use them for cooking and baking all the time! Side note: my “garbage” bowl was left out of the picture…who really wants to see that anyway, right? I’m a huge fan of the garbage bowl…I picked up that idea (as well as a few others) from a cooking demonstration I attended last year. If you are looking to take a cooking class or set up a super fun group date, check out Whisked Away!

Okay, enough with the distractions, let’s get back to why we’re here. I sprayed my mini muffin pan with olive oil cooking spray and then added the onions, mushrooms and cheese before adding the liquid egg whites. Once the egg whites were added, I topped with a few leaves of cilantro…because, who doesn’t love cilantro? Oh, you don’t? I don’t know if we can be friends…at least not the dinner party variety.

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I popped them in the oven for 20 minutes…the perfect amount of time to finish my glass of Syrah! Simpatico! When they came out, they whispered sweet nothings in my ear…wait, that was the wine. They did look pretty darn mouth-watering though, don’t you think?

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I took them out of the muffin pan and let them cool for about 15 minutes. You can place them on a cooling rack or, if you’re like me and don’t own one (don’t judge!), a simple sheet of parchment paper or aluminum foil will do. Once they are cool, you can put them in the fridge…they keep for up to 4 or 5 days! I like to put a few in a snack size ziploc bag and take them with me to work…so easy and can be eaten warm or cold, depending on your preference. You can also top with avocado or salsa for a little something extra. However you decide to dress them up, they are sure to become a go-to! Enjoy! 🙂

What a Crock of…Soup

In the past several months, I have developed a newfound curiosity for all things culinary…on a very small scale. I can’t express the excitement I feel when I come across a new recipe that includes a vegetable I’ve never cooked with or, in some cases, have never eaten. I don’t want to call it a passion, but I do love browsing the internet based on one ingredient, finding new recipes and trying them out on my friends. They are an endless supply of recipes and ideas! I’m making it a goal to try at least one new recipe a month for the rest of 2015. Bring on the guinea pigs! I mean, who better than your nearest and dearest friends, right?

Last week, I had a few girlfriends over to indulge in one of my childhood favorites, albeit a grown-up version. I made a roasted garlic tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons. I found the tomato soup recipe here and got the idea for the grilled cheese “croutons” from the Food Network’s Ina Garten (better known as the Barefoot Contessa). You can find her original recipe here. I could not wait to get home and sample the soup before the ladies showed up. To my surprise, after I added the cream and hit it with the emulsion blender, it became this beautiful carrot color and tasted absolutely divine. I literally sat on my hands until the girls got there so I could make the grilled cheese sandwiches on the panini press. Haha, just kidding. I poured myself a glass of wine to keep me busy. 

Finally, FINALLY it was time to get this dinner party going! I turned on my brand-spankin-new panini press to make the grilled cheese sandwiches. These were definitely not the same as when I was a kid. No Wonder Bread. No Kraft singles. Oh no. The grown up version was more magical than I could have imagined. I made Sourdough grilled cheese with smoked Gouda. Man oh man, my mouth is watering at the memory of the crunchy, creamy deliciousness of this “gourmet” grilled cheese. Just as Ina did, I cut up one of the grilled cheese into squares to use as “croutons.” The other one, however, I cut into strips to use as “dippers” for the soup. GENIUS. Instead of scraping my spoon against the bowl (one of the most annoying sounds in the world!), I was able to soak up the soup with my little dipper (no pun intended) and get every last drop! Just look at it…so glorious…

Roasted Garlic Tomato Soup w Grilled Cheese

The soup was creamy and delicious, with just enough kick to keep you coming back for more! I would highly recommend this crockpot roasted tomato soup recipe from A Duck’s Oven. Do yourself a favor and try it out!

Being Mindful

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of reading on Buddhist practices and mindfulness. Buddhism speaks to me in a way no other practice ever has. There’s something to be said for living in the present and creating a life you genuinely enjoy. These days, it’s easy to get caught up in a negative mindset, so I have to put in a conscious effort to change the way I think. Your thoughts become your beliefs and will eventually turn into your actions. These everyday actions affect all aspects of your life – home, work, friends and family are so tightly woven together, so to stay positive and mindful about the kind of life you want is only going to prove to be beneficial for everyone involved.

It’s pretty elementary when you break it down; Treat people how you want to be treated. Simple as that. Show respect, be kind and patient, lend a hand or an ear when needed and be present for those you care about. Negativity breeds negativity. Conversely, positivity only breeds positivity. Surround yourself with people who make you a better YOU. Life is far too short to feel bad about past mistakes (believe me, I’ve made more than my fair share!) or to worry about the future. Stay positive and in the now and you’ll find an abundance of light and love at every turn.

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Just in the past year, I’ve found that because I’m more positive and confident, people are more drawn to me and invite me to come around more. The bonds I have with my friends, both new and old, are much stronger because the relationships are being nurtured in such an amazing light. If someone in your life is negative or brings your mood down, whether they are family or friend, take a step back to reevaluate and gain some perspective. If you find that this person no longer lifts you up or enriches your life, make the decision to walk away from them. Free yourself from the weight of that relationship and give yourself time to heal. Make room for those who make you buzz with happiness. That being said, it takes some life experience to come to a point where others’ negativity no longer creeps in and violates the deepest personal space in your mind.

Too often, we fail to create a culture of love and respect and instead wind up creating, and subsequently cultivating, debilitating insecurities that take way too long to overcome. My family was definitely among the latter. Growing up, I was all to familiar with those insecurities. A common “teasing” phrase at holiday dinners was “In through the lips and on to the hips!.” This is not something any young girl wants to hear! Countless pictures were taken of me with my mouth open and fork in hand and it became a joke to try to get the most. Until one day, when I was in my early twenties, I kind of snapped. My aunt, who is only four years older than I am, got a lengthy email detailing all of the ways she tormented me growing up. Oh boy, did I let her have it. I stopped attending family functions because I couldn’t deal with the “doom and gloom” atmosphere. I would much rather spend my Thanksgiving with friends who, let’s be honest, are more like family. Friends who make me laugh and push me to be a better person without tearing me apart. It took me a long time to forgive my family and accept that I can’t change who they are or the words they choose to use. I can only control who I am, what I choose to say and do and how I let others affect me. It wasn’t until I chose to be grateful for the people in my life that DO lift me up and make me happy that I was able to be around my family without that “doom and gloom” feeling. Now that I’ve let go of the feelings from all those years ago, I can just be with my family, accept who they are and enjoy the time I do spend with them.

Finding yourself feeling gratitude, you can live more gratefully. Finding yourself feeling love, you can live more lovingly. Living more lovingly should, most importantly, lead with loving yourself. This self love seeps out of our pores and can then be shared with our friends, family and even strangers. In a sense, we are paying it forward. While it can be one of the hardest things we do in life, it can also the most cathartic. It’s incredibly liberating to let go of not feeling good/smart/pretty/funny enough and just BE. Be yourself, LOVE yourself and absorb the good that comes your way.

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Welp…Here Goes Nothing!

I’ve done it. I’ve finally started a blog I’ve been thinking about for a long time. Although I’m a bit behind, I’m still jumping on this bandwagon and I’m going to put myself and my life, however boring, out there for the world to see. I don’t yet know where this will go, but I am scared and nervous and excited all at once! I’m ready to let my nerd flag fly free!

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What can we expect from Water and Sunshine, you ask? A little bit of everything. I have rekindled my passion for writing, so why not let everyone share in my trial-and-error approach to life and blogging?! Be prepared for mischief among friends, fashion fiascos, dating (and diet) disasters and crafty kitchen experiments! I probably could have fit in ONE more alliteration back there, but I’d better quit while I’m ahead…or not too far behind. I’ll also throw in a few introspectives for the deep-thinkers, because like I said, I’m letting my nerd flag fly free. Introspectives? Is that a word? Whatever. It should be. I am charging full steam ahead, boundaries be damned! Ok…maybe a few boundaries, but no promises.

Essentially, I’m going to put you in my pocket and take you with me on all my adventures (and misadventures) as I navigate my way through the ups and downs of fitness, friendships, fashion, and the all-too-familiar jungle that is dating in your thirties (EEK!)…you might want to buckle up for that last one, it’s a jungle out there! In case you missed it, that was another alliteration. I’m not even sorry.

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This blog is my newborn baby. I’m going to nurture it, water it, watch it grow and hope it doesn’t spit up on me. Stay tuned!