Family Quirks + the BEST salad dressing recipe

Since going away to college and then living away from home, I have come to realize some odd quirks/habits my family has. Sometimes it takes a little time apart to see things from a different perspective. Some examples…..

  • We refer to all beverages that we drink as “drink.” For example, if my mom wants someone to pass her the iced tea during dinner she will say, “Can I have the drink.” Or in general, if someone is thirsty, they will say, “I need drink.” I feel like this is odd….
  • We have “clothes parties” at my house, meaning, my mom wants us to come downstairs and help her fold the laundry and take it upstairs. These “parties” started when I was about 10 in order for my parents to inspire my sisters and I to help with the laundry, but my mom still implements the term (even though I am 23 and do my own laundry…). The “parties” usually only revolve around towels these days….
  • We always have this one homemade dressing that is always made/kept in the house. We refer to it as “house dressing” (like Italian restaurants do), and you can always find it in our pantry. It is my FAVORITE kind of dressing, but I will only eat it at home. It is so simple to make, but it doesn’t taste the same unless my mom makes it….

I am sure we have plenty more “quirks,” but I’ll leave it at that for now…. Any weird habit/quirks that you/your family have and/or participate in? I know I am not the only one!

Since the “house dressing” I mentioned above is so delicious and so amazing, I thought I’d share the recipe. I just watched my mom make a fresh batch yesterday, so I took note of the ingredients. You probably already have most of the ingredients in your house already, so go make this ASAP! It’s so good!

My lunch from yesterday using said dressing... so good

“House Dressing”

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp minced garlic

Directions:

Whisk all ingredients together in small bowl until blended together. Store in any type or resealable bottle and/or tupperware container. Pour on any type of vegetable and enjoy!

Have a nice day everyone!

What odd quirks does your family have?

What is your favorite type of salad dressing (homemade or  purchased)? Please share!

A healthy habit to keep in mind…

Hi there, hope you are having a good morning!

So I wanted to bring up a topic today that is near and dear to my heart when it comes to living an all around, healthy lifestyle: the topic of awareness and/or the act of paying attention when it comes to food/eating.

The act of paying attention is one of the best “lessons” I learned when I crossed over to the “healthy living lifestyle” (clean, whole foods most of the time, focusing on whole grains, veggies, etc…). It is one thing that I NEVER used to do or even thought to do when eating/cooking, but now it is something I keep in mind all.the.time. and  is something I try to practice as much as possible.

I actually learned this tip from Bethenny Frankel in her book, Naturally Thin (I love this book, by the way), and I really feel it is SO IMPORTANT in regard to healthy living/living a healthy life in general. It’s like a light bulb went off in my head when I realized how interconnected this act is to so many aspects of life. Paying attention seems to be obvious task, but it can be really eye-opening if it’s not something you’re used to doing.

Paying attention can mean A LOT of things, but in regard to food, a few things that make up the concept include:

  • tasting your food! (aka not shoving it in your mouth or zoning out when eating)
  • recognizing when it is time for a meal – and stopping other activities
  • making a meal an ‘event’ (food presentation, making food look “pretty“) – you eat with your eyes first!
  • being aware of flavors/food combination, textures, food temperature….

When I started adopting this habit into my life (which was HARD at first…. mindless eating is often very second nature and NOT paying attention is much easier to do), I started to become more aware of when I was hungry and when I was full. I started to notice when foods didn’t taste so great (which is surprisingly hard to tell when you shovel food into your mouth… who would have thought?), started eating more slowly, and started to care more about what my food actually looked like. Food became more about quality and less about quantity. The “art” of food and the act of sitting down to a meal became more important to me.

Basically, the simple act of paying attention to what I was eating changed how I viewed food and the act of eating.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that I sit in silence every time I eat and savor each and every morsel that goes into my mouth. Sometimes I eat in front of my computer or in front of the TV. Sometimes I have to eat quickly or have to throw dinner together in five minutes. Last week, for example, I had to eat dinner in my car (eating a kale and cucumber wrap out of a Tupperware container is an interesting obstacle, by the way). I understand that it is not always possible to completely unplug and give all your attention to a meal.

While paying attention can be mean various things to different people, to me, it is not about analyzing your food or making food more than it needs to be (like spending hours preparing it or making sure to taste every bite that you take), it’s about refocusing your attention to the present and unplugging from life.

I felt the need to bring this up since it is something that I have been trying to do, even when I am super busy and have to eat on the go. I feel like there is always some way to refocus yourself when busy or stressed (even if it’s just for 5 minutes!), and for me, enjoying a meal – even if its something simple –  is a built-in window of opportunity in which to do so. I refuse to let my busy schedule get in the way of my ability to disconnect for just a bit.

I hope I don’t sound crazy, but I truly believe that the simple act of paying attention to a meal (focusing on who your with, what your favorite part of your lunch is, what tastes the best/worst, etc.) can be a great way to refocus a moment or day. We eat at least 3x a day, why not take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy ourselves? It’s a great way to refocus and truly live in the present moment.

Do you think paying attention when eating is important/do you pay attention to it?

How do you refocus yourself when stressed/busy? How do you “live in the moment?”



In my perfect food/healthy living world….

1. It would be common knowledge that vegetables are not only good for you but also delicious (and fun!)

2. Kombucha  would be on tap at every restaurant/bar (I recently found out that it’s on tap in some bars!) and flavored seltzer would be available in every fountain drink machine

3. Kale chips would be a side option in every sandwich shop (potato chips are overrated….)

4. Fugi and Pink Lady apples would be a popular vending machines option…..

 

source

5. Every salad bar would be like Whole Foods’ salad bar

5. Almond milk and Stevia would be options in every coffee shop

6. Every restaurant would offer multiple vegetarian meal options  (that didn’t include pasta and/or heavy cream-based sauces…)

7. I would have an endless supply of nut butters (Sunbutter, Justin’s, PB & Co……) and Larabar/KIND bars….

 What would be required in your “perfect food and/or healthy living world?”

Scenes from the weekend + a fun snack idea

Hi! How was your weekend? Do anything fun?

I didn’t do anything super exciting and was rather low key, but it was exactly what I needed. I basically just ran errands and got some work done, but I really enjoyed myself. Sometimes its nice to just recharge. Some  of my more notable moments of the weekend….

I ate a delicious lunch at Whole Foods

I had to work Saturday morning so I rewarded myself when I was finished with with a delicious Whole Foods lunch…. I especially enjoyed the vegetarian Waldorf salad made with kale on the bottom right corner…. (I am pretty mad at myself for not looking how they made it…). Anyone know whats in it?

I ran 5 miles at the gym on Saturday!

Even though I have been running for over 2 years now, and have completed multiple races, I still get excited every time I run more than 2 miles…. maybe its my former nonathletic/uncoordinated adolescent self congratulating me? I was pretty pleased with myself for 1. getting to the gym on a Saturday afternoon and 2. running more than 3 miles (my original plan)

I tried a new-to-me beer

I went to Jon‘s friends house last night and enjoyed a couple of beers (including the Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale that I previously wrote about!).  The Old Brown Dog Ale tasted exactly how Runner’s World described it and was deliciously malty/caramel-y. I also had a Flying Dog  In Heat Wheat Hefeweizen that was pretty good.

I saw the biggest yam I have ever seen….

This is random, but I saw this at the store today and felt the need to share. It was HUGE!

I ate a delicious snack

I just ate this, and since it was pretty good, I felt the need to share. I always love having something sweet at night, and I like to try to think of healthier alternatives to enjoy when I am not in the mood to eat something super indulgent.

I was in the mood for something warm/comforting, but I also wanted an apple. To satisfy both moods I made some cinnamon pumpkin peanut butter dip that I could dip some apple slices into. To make the dip I combined:

  • 2 tbsp pumpkin (approx)
  • 1 tsp  peanut butter (approx)

I heated the mixture in the microwave for 15 seconds than stirred in some cinnamon.

This was such a fun snack, and I loved dipping the cold/crisp apples slices into the warm  peanut butter and pumpkin combo. YUM!

What the highlight/best part of your weekend?

Staying sane on busy days

Good morning. How are you doing today?

breakfast - greek yogurt, quinoa, banana, strawberries, pb

So yesterday was a long day. I have decided that  Wednesdays are definitely the toughest day of the week for me to get through. Between  8 hours of work + 90 minutes of Bio lecture + 2 (or more) hours of Bio lab, I always feel exhausted by the end of the day. While I usually try to make the best of it and not complain (I know we all have busy days), I have found that some weeks/days are just easier than others. Yesterday was one of the more rough days.

Anyway, instead of going over why I was it was hard day or why I didn’t have as much energy, etc., I’d rather move forward and discuss strategy. I have realized that I employ a few tactics every week to keep my spirits up. Since I am not one to dwell on a negative mood for long and am a  firm believer that the little things in life are what make you the happiest, I guess it comes to no surprise that I’d try to make the most of my more stressful days. Why be happy tomorrow or “when I have accomplished _____” when you can be happy right now (even at times when you are learning about entropy and enzymes)? Life if happening everyday so why not enjoy it (even if it’s the little moments….)?

So on that note, I thought I’d share some things that I do to attempt to stay positive/remain optimistic when days are long or stressful or feel never-ending  (and then maybe you can share some of your strategies? I’m always looking for new tips…):

I pack/plan to eat “fun food” and/or make eating an “event”

This probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but food makes me really happy. I love looking forward to a meal and love to plan fun (and healthy(!)) meals for myself on days when I am stressed or busy or blah. A good meal just lifts my spirits (and keeps me well fueled!). I legitimately get excited to dig into my packed dinners before class on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Even on super busy days when I rely on granola bars and trail mix to keep my energy up, I try to take the time to just slow down and enjoy them. Food doesn’t need to be fancy to be special. Meals (for me at least) not only serve as good “fuel” but always create a time/space where I can tell myself to just STOP and enjoy the moment. I love how food has the power to create such a space. You have to eat at least 3 times a day, so why not use the time to enjoy yourself?

I believe that food should always be “fun” and should never be an afterthought. It’s important! Even a snack of a granola bar or a dinner of a pb&j can be exciting if you focus on it.

Use my commute time as “me” time

It can be really hard to travel to school from work and come home at the end of the day feeling like I haven’t stopped moving for 14+ hours. I am the type of person that needs time to myself to just relax. I usually do this by running or at night by just unwinding, but my current schedule doesn’t allow as much time for this (I need to sleep too!).

I have found that my car ride to and from school is a great time for me to unwind and just relax. My activities range from belting out songs (I am really liking Kelly Clarkson’s new song for this… is that embarrassing?) to pondering life, to completely zoning out (while watching the road, of course). Whatever the activity though, I realize that these rides are definitely beneficial to let me just be.

Repeat positive mantras and try to learn fun facts

When all else fails and I feel super exhausted or would rather do anything than go to class or measure 2 mL of water into 15 different beakers during lab, I either repeat positive mantras in my head or try to extract fun facts from class to keep myself motivated. Basic biology can be much more fun when you are trying to learn something new and exciting at every moment.

I find myself doing this at work too when things are especially slow or stressful. It’s never to late to learn something new (I got to learn all about assessment of nonverbal children with autism yesterday….). I had a professor once that always said, “It’s not for school but for life we learn…” so maybe that’s where I learned this little tactic?

My go-to mantras:

  • “This will be worth it….. This will be worth it”
  • “You can do this. You are smart. You are going to be someone someday”
  • If you focus on the moment/be present… time will go faster (and you actually may gain something from this)… which is usually always true

Fun Facts:

  • Penicillin was discovered by accident
  • It is NOT fun to make “onion water” (not a fun fact but is the truth)….yesterday was more of a positive mantra day than a learn fun facts kind of day

So these are just a few things that I try to keep in mind when stressed/busy.  Even when days are hard and life is overwhelming, I like to think there is something I can do to change it (or at least make it a bit more enjoyable).

How do you stay sane when life is crazy? Do you have any suggestions/tips? I’d love to hear some!

Have a great day everyone!

Things I’ve learned this weekend…

1. Three  years can go by really fast….

My boyfriend, Jon, and I celebrated our 3 year anniversary yesterday. I honestly can’t  believe it has been that long…. I feel like we just met next to the keg in the basement of that lovely college apartment where neither of us knew anyone…

While our relationship has evolved quite a bit over the years, he still makes me laugh everyday, is always my #1 fan, and I love him now more than ever. I don’t know what I’d do without him.

I love you Jon! Happy 3 years!

2. I want to be Ina Garten

Yesterday afternoon, Sami (my sister) and I made and brought lunch over to our friend Erin’s house to have a lunch/homework “party” (Hi Erin and Erin!). From reading my blog(!) and seeing Sami’s lunches during breaks from class (Erin is in Sami’s grad program), she was interested in having a Dana/Sami-inspired salad. I, of course, was happy to bring over some healthy and delicious food for us to enjoy (since I do want to start a lunch-packing service), and packed us some Asian-themed salads.

Asian-themed salads with edamame, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, snap peas, teriakyi tofu, brown rice, sesame seeds....

I felt a lot like Ina Garten, since she always seems to be whipping up and packing food to-go for special occasions. I won’t lie, I am a big fan of hers, and I kind of liked channeling my inner Barefoot Contessa yesterday. I love packing lunches for myself and for others, and if it were possible for me to make a living traveling around and making people healthy/colorful/delicious lunches and snacks, I totally would do it.

I need Ina to come give me some tips….

3. Bulgur wheat is a delicious oatmeal alternative

1/4 c bulgur, 1/4 c oats, 1 c almond milk, 1/2 banana, big scoop pb

Yesterday morning, I tweaked my normal oatmeal/banana/peanut butter breakfast by replacing a 1/4 cup of my normal oatmeal serving with a 1/4 cup of some bulgur wheat (that I got in the bulk bins at Whole Foods).  I first read about this grain over at Carrots ‘n Cake, and it is a great grain to enjoy for breakfast (here is some info about it if you’re interested). It is a bit chewier than rolled oats, but I find that combining it with oats creates a great combination of texture. It is a great way to switch up breakfast and  incorporate fun, new, and healthy grains into your diet! I really enjoyed this breakfast yesterday. (Note to self: eat more bulgur for breakfast!)

I  hope you are having a great weekend!

Anything you have “learned this weekend?”

Any types of grains you like to enjoy for breakfast other than oatmeal? I have tried using barley and quinoa as alternative breakfast grains before, and I know Bethenny has a brown rice breakfast that I tried a few years ago…

Sunday thoughts

  • As much as I love creating healthy meals and working out on a daily basis, I love sitting on my butt, watching girly movies (anyone else watch Bring It On today?), eating leftovers and consuming way too much chocolate just as much sometimes….

notice the unopened books and notebooks...

  • The second half of the last statement might be due to the fact that I drank one too many beers last night (and maybe that kamikaze shot poured into my mouth wasn’t the best idea on second thought?). Lets just say I am not feeling my best at the moment…
  • I am amazed that I was physically able to go out every weekend in college (which was only one year ago, mind you) and still be productive on Sundays. How did I do it?? I NEED to study for my Bio test today… but my pounding headache and craving for carbs keeps getting in my way. I feel old.
  • I made Anne’s Sweet Potato and Black Bean Veggie Enchiladas last night with Jon (my boyfriend), and they were SO delicious.  We were both very big fans, and I highly suggest you make them (FYI they also taste delicious reheated and serve as a great healthy alternative to the  more heavy/calorie laden Mexican foods out there).  They taste super indulgent but they are filled with spinach, sweet potato and veggies… you can’t go wrong with them.
  • Speaking of Mexican food, I also made a Mexican inspired salad for lunch yesterday that was pretty delicious:

It contained:

    • spinach/romaine (would have been better with all romaine… I like the crunchiness of it in taco salads)
    • red pepper
    • corn
    • avocado
    • carrot
    • salsa
    • plain greek yogurt
    • chili spiced beans (from a can)
    • cilantro
    • tortilla “chips” (I toasted a whole wheat tortilla in the toaster oven until it became crispy… they are fun to scoop up the salad with
  • Is it wrong that I get more excited looking up super bowl snacks and eating super bowl snack than watching the game? I want to like football but I just…. don’t. No matter how hard I try, I always end up zoning out and staring blankly at the screen. I do love party snacks though and if I were going to a party I would want to make:

Angela’s Black Bean Chili DipJessica’s Creamy Feta Dip with Jalapenos

Or….Jessica’s Toasted Almond Parmesan Dip (YUM) Anyone doing anything fun for the game (or making anything delicious)?

On that note, I think I need to start studying and stop thinking about food (why do I always have this problem?). I hope you are having a great weekend!

Things I’m Loving Right Now (Take 2)

In case you missed my first installment: Things I’m Loving Right Now (Part 1)

1.Clif Mojo bars (Mountain Mix flavor)

I usually don’t eat a lot of granola bars, but given my busier schedule these days, they have become quite a convenient snack. I was just talking about how much I enjoy the sweet/salty combo… and this flavor is the PERFECT mix. so.good.

  • salty = peanuts, almonds pretzels
  • sweet = raisins, cranberries, chocolate chips

2. Belting out Taylor in the car

Since starting night classes, I have a 20-30 minute commute to and from school every week, 3x a week (sometimes longer with traffic). I thought I would hate these drives, but I have actually been enjoying the extra thinking time and more so, the ability to belt out some Taylor Swift and dance like a complete  idiot in my car (thank god its dark outside when I drive home….). I have been especially liking Mean, Ours, and Mine (if you were curious).

3. My new Pilot G2 07 pens

I recently got an assorted pack of these pens and I love them. They make me want to write things down and take notes, and I swear they make me write neater. They are slightly gelly (I think I just made that word up?), but don’t bleed/smear like other gel-type pens I’ve tried. I hope I don’t sound like a loser for getting so excited over pens… but I can’t help it. When you do a lot of writing every day, a good pen is completely necessary.

4. Bethenny is getting her own talk show!

This is not exactly a “thing” I’ve been loving, but I had to share this. I just heard about it on Tuesday (from Twitter… which I am very new at and very confused about, by the way), and I am so excited. I am a HUGE Bethenny fan. I find her very inspiring and motivating, and I love how blunt/real she is. I also love Skinnygirl Margaritas, Bethenny Ever After, and I am a big supporter of Bethenny’s views on health/fitness/wellness in general (her book Naturally Thin is actually what initially got me interested in living a more healthy/balanced lifestyle).

I know a lot of people hate on Bethenny, but I am a big supporter and will always be a  fan.

I hear her show will be on FOX this summer and I.am.so.excited…. anyone else a Bethenny fan?

5. Kale

Well, I usually always am a big kale fan, but I recently bought it at the grocery store and have been enjoying it in many  lunches and dinners this past week. I have been loving it raw in salads and sandwiches, as well as steamed/sautéed in various stir-frys. Not only is it super cheap (I think its  .99 cents/lb. at my local grocery store which can get you A LOT of kale and, it’s SO light!), but it is so good for you! I always love it when foods that are good (as in delicious) are also good for me. It’s a win-win.

If you’ve never had it, I recommend making kale chips (tear the kale into pieces and bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes (approx.), flipping once). They are really addicting and especially good with ketchup.

Anything you’ve been loving recently?

Recipe for a good weekend

1.Delicious food… check

Breakfast on Saturday: yogurt with oatmeal, banana, strawberries and peanut butter

2. A fun outing… check

Jared's lovely work

My sister and I went to an ice festival on Saturday (my sister’s boyfriend, Jared,  is an ice sculptor and does a lot of festivals on the weekends). We showed our support by taking random pictures and trying not to complain about our frozen fingers and toes (which I am pretty sure we failed at… sorry Jared).

Note to self: when you KNOW you will be standing outside in 30 degree weather for 2 hours, wear warm socks.

3. A good workout(s)…check

I took a BodyAttack class this morning. A new release comes out next week… so excited!

4.Eating at a new/fun/delicious restaurant…. check

I went out to dinner at Church Brew Works with this guy last night….

Jon making his debut on the blog...

Drank some of this…
 and ate some delicious food…

Crispy polenta with zucchini, mushrooms, and roasted tomatoes in a goat cheese truffle sauce

So it was a fun and delicious dining experience.
5. A fun outing/night with friends with fun drinks…. check

Mad Mex margarita... always delicious

I went to Mad Mex (one of my favorite Mexican restaurants) last night with Jon, my sister, Sami, and her boyfriend, Jared. We met up with a few friends later in the night,(Hi Erin, Erin, and Allison!) so it was a successful/fun night. Plus, you can never go wrong with margaritas…

6.Productivity… (in progress)

I love when I am productive over the weekend (usually on Sundays) and feel ready to tackle the upcoming week.

So far I have gone grocery shopping,  but I plan to finish a lab report, read in my Bio book, organize my room and do my laundry today as well …. so I will be productive, later.

On that note, I better go work on #6…

I hope you are having a great Sunday/weekend!

What is your “recipe” for a good weekend?

Best part of my day today (January 17, 2012)…

Ive mentioned before that I like to reflect back on my day and think about “the best thing that happened.” I thought I’d share mine for today. Sometimes I can be indecisive so I picked two….

1. Getting an unexpected phone call/voicemail from my cousin Nikki.

She lives in Philly (where I am originally from), while I currently live in Pittsburgh,  so I do not get to see her or talk to her as much as I’d like. It was such a nice surprise to hear from her today (love you Nikki)!

2. My BodyAttack class tonight

It.was.so.hard. but I loved every minute of it. I love when a class pushes me past my limits and makes me realize I can push myself harder than I thought. This class did just that annnd my legs may be a bit sore tomorrow.

What was the best part of you day today?