but you don’t have to wear pants!

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When someone asks me about my job, and I tell them what I do, generally, one of two things happens:

Thing 1: That someone utters some version of : “You work from home? Oh wow, that must be nice!”

–or–

Thing 2: That someone quickly regrets asking, evidenced by eyes glazing over and a nod that is half “uh-huh” and half desperate for me to stop trying to explain.

As a result of the latter reaction, I’ve revised my explanation, and I only elaborate when my brief synopsis is met with a follow-up question. As a result of the first reaction, I usually get a little angry. This wasn’t always my reaction, though. Over time, the glorious opportunity to work from home has worn on me.  If you also happen to be an overachiever trapped in a procrastinator’s body who works from home, you may be able to relate.

but you don't have to wear pants_12.3

Working from home sounds amazing, in theory. It may actually be a dream situation for many. The longer I do it, however, the more the challenges begin to overshadow the benefits.  Here are just a few examples of how theoretically awesome aspects of working from home have become problematic for me:

The Flexible Schedule. You can make your own schedule, with flexible hours. Awesome. Oh, wait…If there are no set hours for work, you have to hold yourself accountable to a schedule? Deadlines don’t disappear? You may slide down the slippery slope of working pretty much constantly, which for me means not very efficiently, or putting work off for just about anything else? Like laundry! Laundry’s so awesome!

You don’t have to wear pants. You can wear anything you please. In fact, clothing is entirely optional. Oh, wait…You mean if you don’t have to get dressed or shower, you won’t? Are you saying that sometimes days will go by between showers? That you may eventually find yourself feeling like putting “real” clothes on is THE. HARDEST. THING. EVER.

You can work anywhere.  You can stay on the couch with that laptop. You can set up a cozy little dedicated office space all your own. You don’t have to leave the house! You’re so lucky. Oh, wait…So you don’t leave the house? And you could set up a dedicated office space but you haven’t managed to tackle this obstacle successfully in the four years you’ve been doing your job? And spending all day every day alone in your house is slowly driving you crazy, isolating you from human beings, and even your dog might be sick of you?

What was once a super-exciting list of possibility related to an exclusively remote position has mutated into a list of reasons I have lost much of my ability to function like an actual grown up. My list of struggles gets extra long if you include the really good stuff– like the fact that I am technically a self-employed freelance contractor. No salary. No benefits. No predictable pay schedule. When I accidentally started doing this job during graduate school, I never thought that I would daydream of a salary paid at regular intervals, secretly wish that my taxes were being automatically deducted from my paychecks, or begin to romanticize retirement savings and other employee benefits. You live and you learn, I suppose.

I am thankful to be gainfully employed, believe me. I remind myself daily that things could be so much worse. I could be unemployed, uneducated, and far more broke. I have found success in working from coffee shops and at the kitchen tables of other friends who work from home. My dog requires exercise, so that, combined with a personal love of fitness (that includes running anywhere but on a treadmill) has forced me to leave the house (and occasionally shower). I know for certain that I could probably figure out a way to make my job work for a while longer, or even forever. It would be and ideal position when Rob and I get married and have babies. People stay in careers they hate for their entire lives, right? Not me, y’all. Not me.

Why not me? That’s easy: Unhappy does not look good on me (and I try not to make plans based on hypothetical children). These could be some of the reasons that I am always starting over. I may even have several more careers in my lifetime. Since becoming painfully aware that my current job just is not meant for me in the long term, or perhaps that I am not meant for it, I am working on making a change rather than only complaining while changing nothing. I’ve identified what it is that I want to do, perhaps for the first time in my life. If you haven’t already heard (read), I’m working towards becoming a registered nurse. The first steps towards making positive changes took overcoming some fears: because fear is a liar, and I’d like a do-over.

For now, my future holds prerequisite classes at the local community college, logging as many volunteer hours as possible at the hospital, applications, recommendations, official transcripts, and (fingers crossed) a spring 2016 matriculation into an accelerated bachelor of nursing program.

The present? Yoga pants. Dirty hair. Lots of hermit-like behavior.

And laundry.

(Just kidding. I did all the laundry yesterday.)

the dishes made me do it.

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muffin pans

Cooking and eating clean, hunting down new recipes, trying out healthier, cleaner twists on classics– these have become my hobbies (good thing exercise is my other hobby). In support of these hobbies, and in a seemingly natural transition that followed my departure from graduate school, the restaurant industry, and roommate living, my boyfriend and I have slowly begun to stock a kitchen full of gadgets and appliances (and a kick ass home gym). We add to our kitchen collection at just about any gift-giving opportunity and/or Tuesday afternoon when we discover a recipe for something that “requires” that we own a mandolin (ahem, zucchini & spinach lasagna). Somehow, though, we managed to go without a muffin tin, or much of anything baking related at all for going on 4 years. Perhaps this is why I ate so many vegan cookies from Whole Foods? Perhaps savory cooking took priority? Well, if clean and savory was my past, clean baking might be my future. And the dishes made me do it.

Not long after my mom brought the muffin form of pumpkin bread along for a visit to Winston-Salem, a visit during which I ate her muffins and then proceeded to say things like, “Man, I really need a muffin tin” (hint hint), something magical happened. And by magical, I mean my Momma sent a Temp-tations bakeware set right to my door. Now, I had a loaf pan, muffin pan, rolling pin, tart pan and bonus Texas-sized muffin pan– and a storage problem. Thank you, Momma and thank you QVC. 🙂

Well, now I had to make muffins. 

So I did. I started with banana chocolate chip muffins made with whole wheat flour and coconut oil.  Then, I made mini broccoli omelette muffins and whipped up  another batch of pumpkin bread, but as muffins this time. And now, because those poor muffin pans have laid empty too long (for 3 days!), I’m on to apple cinnamon muffins with coconut flour.

clean apple cinnamon muffins

12 muffins // 25 minutes // gluten-free //


what’s in it?

  • coconut oil spray
  • 1 c. unsweetened applesauce
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 1/4 c. coconut oil, melted
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1/2 c. coconut flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill Organic Coconut Flour, which I bought at Harris Teeter)
  • 2 t. cinnamon
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 T. chia seeds (optional)
  • 1/2 granny smith apple, diced (optional)
  • 1 oz dark chocolate chips (optional)

 


how to.

Preheat the oven to 350° and prepare a muffin tin (with liners or lightly spray with coconut coil spray). The rest is as easy as 1, 2, 3:

  1. Combine the apple sauce, eggs, coconut oil, vanilla, and honey in a medium bowl. Stir to combine, breaking up egg yolks.
  2. Add coconut flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt. Stir to combine. (Fold in apples, chia seeds, and chocolate here if you’re using them).
  3. Spoon into muffin pan, filling each well about 2/3 full.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until toothpick placed in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Makes 12 muffins (or 11, if you make a jumbo muffin for “quality control taste testing purposes). Serve ’em up warm with cup of tea; store in a resealable bag in the fridge for later. These are a great light treat to have with fresh fruit or alone– and even with chocolate and the extra apple added, thy are around 100 calories a piece (113 according to the recipe I plugged into MyFitnessPal).

 


paleo apple cinnamon muffins

The finished product! (We do not have pretty counter tops. I know.)

 


This was my first adventure with coconut flour and certainly won’t be my last. I’ve been reading the resources and information on Whole30 and found their grain- and legume-free explanations interesting. I’m not Whole30-in’ it up entirely, and this recipe technically falls outside the rules (see Sex With Your Pants On) but it did inspire me to look into all things Paleo, which I admit, I have been rather skeptical about.

  • Have you cooked or baked with coconut four?

  • If so, did you choose it for its flavor, its lack of gluten, or just because a recipe called for it?

  • What’d you make?

Recipe adapted from Paleogrubs.com

will run for muffins.

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will run for muffins nov 2 2014For roughly the past two years, I’ve set aside a few hours, usually on Sunday afternoon, to prep my meals for the week. While some food is best cooked to eat, and I still spend some time cooking during the week, on Sundays I prepare anything ahead of time that I can.

My reasoning is simple: I do better with a plan. I make smart choices for myself ahead of time and only keep good food in my house to make sure that I eat good food. Alas, sometimes having a plan is just not enough to keep my inner binge-eater at bay. I push it a little further with meal prep to make sure there is very little work involved in the plan’s execution. The truth is, when it actually comes time to eat, if there isn’t something healthy ready to go, I have been known to black out in a fit of hanger and eat all of the peanut butter for lunch. 


I get pretty bored eating the same thing over and over (except, it seems, if that thing is zucchini & spinach lasagna.. yum!). Disinterest in my prepped food can easily put me in my car on autopilot to Chick-fil-A if I’m not careful.

The struggle is real.

So, this week, a little burned out on my tried-and-true meal plans, I spent a little extra time on Saturday night hunting down new items for this week’s menu. (If you check out the “read this” menu at the right side of the page, you’ll see a list of sites I frequent when trolling the internet for clean, healthy recipes!) This week’s winning combinations include:

  • for the morning. coffee. always coffee. followed up by quick old fashioned rolled oats, 1/2 a diced granny smith apple, cinnamon, and a swirl of 100% maple syrup
  • around noontime. piles of fresh colorful produce and butternut squash soup
  • afternoon snack: the other half of my breakfast apple with these banana chocolate chip muffins
  • early evening. turkey meatloaf, steamed broccoli, and roasted garlic mashed cauliflower (…which will have to be the subject of another post soon!)
  • pm snack: Greek yogurt w/ blueberries and a sprinkle of Kashi GOLEAN Crunch!

Today, I took some time to portion out oatmeal, wash and portion out produce, slice and dice a few things, and to cook the meatloaf and the cauliflower mash. Then, I made muffins. I made 12 muffins.

What’s that you say? There aren’t 12 days in a week? Oh snap!

Even though they are low in calories, made with fruit and whole wheat flour, eating the “extra” (ahem, 5) today could have easily become an issue. So, I took a little Sunday run to get away from the muffins for a while and regroup. 5 miles and a little under 50 minutes later, all I wanted was a shower. It is dark now, and I am happy to report that there are still a dozen muffins in this house. But I bet I can convince Rob to knock it down to 10 for me before the day’s through. 🙂

Alright, let’s make muffins y’all. 


 what’s in it?

3  ripe medium bananas

1/3 c. unsweetened apple sauce

1 1/4 c. whole wheat flour 1

3/4 t. baking soda

1/4 t. salt

2 T. earth balance buttery spread

1/3 c. raw honey 2 or light brown sugar

whites of 2 large eggs

1/2 t. pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 oz mini chocolate chips or chocolate of your choice

coconut oil spray


how to.

First, preheat the oven to 325 degrees and prep a muffin tin (or loaf pan, etc. depending on your desired final product) with coconut oil spray.

Things to do, and set aside. Peel the bananas and mash them in a bowl with a fork or the wire beater attachment of your hand mixer.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt with a wire whisk. Set aside.

Getting so much closer to muffins now. In a large bowl, combine buttery spread, honey 3 , egg whites, bananas, apple sauce and vanilla. (If you’re using sugar, cream the butter and sugar together first, then add the rest. ) With a hand mixer, beat at medium speed until thick. Scrape down sides of the bowl.

Carefully add flour mixture to your wet ingredients and blend at low speed until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Avoid over mixing.


Bake at 325 on center oven rack for:

  • 25-30 minutes for muffins.
  • 50-60 minutes for a loaf pan.

Keep an eye on baking time since honey browns faster than sugar. When a toothpick comes out clean, you’re all set! Now, go run while they’re cooling! 🙂

I promise to start taking pictures of the cooking process!


enjoy!

recipe adapted from: skinnytaste.com

  1. White or brown. I’ve recently learned the difference. Thanks, Happy Herbivore
  2. The original recipe calls for 1/3 cup brown sugar, which I replaced with honey for a cleaner recipe. (Read more about clean baking substitutions at TheGraciousPantry.com
  3. When measuring honey, prep your cup first with water, a little oil, or egg to prevent it from sticking! 

zucchini & spinach lasagna.

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This lasagna is loaded with vegetables. It is not loaded with carbs, though–it has no noodles. I am willing to bet that you will not miss them.

After I first discovered this recipe, I made this dish every week for a month and a half. Over those six batches, I tweaked the recipe I’d started with to make it suit my needs 1 better. Tweaks included: using less cheese (8 oz versus the 16 oz the recipe called for), adding spinach to the ricotta mixture, swapping out beef for turkey, or leaving out meat entirely.

I ate it for lunch. I ate it for dinner. I fed it to my mom and dad, but only because it was pushing 4 days in the refrigerator and it would’ve gone to waste if I hadn’t shared. (I have since learned to freeze half of it so I don’t have to share it if I don’t manage to eat it all by myself.)

serves: 8   •   prep: 40-45 min   •   cook: 1 hour   •   and worth every minute


what’s in it?

  •  1 lb. 93% lean beef or lean turkey [^2]
  • [^2] : Or, leave out meat altogether for a vegetarian meal.
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 t. olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 T. fresh basil, chopped
  • 3-4 medium zucchini, sliced 1/8″ thick
  • 15 oz part-skim ricotta
  • 8 oz part-skin mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 c. Parmesan, grated
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 c. frozen spinach, thawed and cooled

 how to.

Let’s make sauce. In a medium sauce pan, brown your meat.  Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Drain browned meat remove any fat (a wire mesh colander works well here). Add olive oil to the pan and saute garlic and onions for about 2 minutes. Return the meat to the pan. Add tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. Simmer on low for at least 30-40 minutes, covered. Do not add extra water, the sauce should be thick.

While your sauce gets saucy, slice zucchini into 1/8″ thick slices. A mandoline comes in handy for uniform thickness. Lay your slices flat, lightly salt them, then set aside for 10 minutes to draw out moisture. Blot the excess moisture with a paper towel. Then, using a gas grill or a grill pan, grill zucchini on each side, until cooked, about 1-2 minutes per side. Place on paper towels to soak up excess moisture.


zucchini-sliced


Preheat oven to 350°.

Prepare the cheese mixture. In a medium bowl, mix ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, spinach, and egg. Stir well. (I’ve made this a few times and I’ve started to put all of this in a food processor to make it highly spreadable.)

Assemble. In a 9×12 casserole dish, spread enough sauce to thinly cover the bottom. Place a layer of sliced zucchini over the sauce. Spread the ricotta cheese mixture over the zucchini, then top with a thin layer of shredded mozzarella. Repeat these layers: zucchini, ricotta mix, shredded mozzarella. until you run out of ricotta mix. Top your final layer with the remaining sauce and a sprinkle of mozzarella.

Bake. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving.


 notes

Leftovers reheat nicely.

If you let it cool completely, this dish works well for portioning out for lunches/dinners throughout the week.

I highly recommend serving this with a salad of the Caesar persuasion. I like a heap of romaine tossed with Bolthouse Farms Caesar Parmigiano. This line of dressings is amazing). Since it is yogurt-based and naturally sweetened (with pineapple juice!) this Caesar is a low-calorie (45 calories per 2 Tbsp), low-sugar option that is tasty and won’t completely negate all of the vegetables you’re about to devour. Let the cheese do that.

enjoy!


 recipe adapted from skinnytaste.com

  1. I aim to eat as cleanly as possible. I limit my intake of dairy, animal sources of protein, added sugar, added sodium, and preservatives. 

pumpkin bread.

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    pumpkin bread
 This bread has become popular of late in this house. My parents came to visit us a few weeks back, and my mom brought the muffin version of this with her. I ate her muffins.
     Then, this Tuesday, Rob had all of his wisdom teeth out after two of them managed to land him in the emergency room on Saturday.  What do Rob’s teeth have to do with this recipe? Well, first because he couldn’t open his mouth more than about an inch, and then because he had surgery, Rob’s normal diet has been replaced with pain killers, antibiotics, and all things soft: pudding, jello, grits, soup, shakes, yogurt, and juices. Our fridge and pantry were fully stocked with this mushy menu after visits from both of Rob’s parents, who came bearing groceries. I usually prep my food for the week on Sunday, and I baked a loaf of this bread…for me. 
     Despite the fact that “all of Alex’s bread” was not an item on the “list of soft foods to try” provided with his post-op notes, over the course of the week, a certain wisdom-toothless little mouse who shall remain nameless finished off the entire loaf, nibble by nibble. (Okay, I had a few nibbles, too.)
     Moral of the story? This bread is extremely yummy, extremely moist, and pleasing to fully functional and challenged mouths alike. Also, I put chocolate in it, and that obviously made it irresistible. I am pretty much constantly thinking of other yummy things to add to this recipe. More incarnations to come.

what’s in it?

  • ¾ cup honey
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1⅔ c. whole wheat flour
  • ½ c. melted coconut oil
  • ¼ c. cold water
  • 1 c. pumpkin puree
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. cloves
  • ¼ c. dark chocolate chips*
  • ¼ c. blueberries*

* optional, but recommended. the possibilities are pretty much endless when it comes to what you could add to this bread.


how to assemble the deliciousness

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Lightly grease a loaf pan (or a muffin tin).
  3. Mix dry ingredients.
  4. Mix wet ingredients.
  5. Marry wet with dry.
  6. Fold in berries/chocolate chips (and/or nuts, dried fruit…).
  7. Pour into your prepared loaf pan or muffin tin.
  8. Bake at 325 degrees according to the times below.

baking times**

  • for bread (one loaf):  65-80 minutes
  • for muffins:
    • (12) = 35-40 minutes
    • (24 mini) = 25 minutes

 **honey browns faster than a batter made with sugar; for the bread, start on the low end of baking time and check the center with a toothpick/fork for done-ness.

yields: 12 muffins or 1 loaf (how many slices is up to you!)                                 prep time: ~5 minutes


 recipe adapted from kitchenstewardship.com

10.30 // i am always starting over.

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empty journal

I am in possession of more half-filled journals, diaries, and notebooks than I care to admit. Some are beautiful pages without lines, crafted by hand (usually by my sister). Others are simple, spiral bound notebooks (all of which are college ruled). Upon examination, the entries that (half) fill the pages appear to have been written by no less than a dozen different people–each with different handwriting–all of whom have an affinity for elaborately drawing song lyrics when it comes to conveying emotions.

This blog could easily become a digital addition to my pile of incomplete memoirs. In fact, I started a blog once before. It stopped feeling like it was mine and I decided to… start over. When I think about what this collection of pages means about me, I come up with this:

I like to write. It is quite possible that if you’d asked anyone I went to high school with what I would study in college or go on to do or be, they might mention writing, but almost certainly would not mention biology, which is what I majored in as an undergraduate (and was the subject area of my graduate degree, too). I especially like to write when something is bothering or challenging me. The journals tend to trail off when I am feeling content, which brings me to my next point.

I do not write consistently. Unless my planner, grocery lists, or to do lists count, I write rather infrequently. Sometimes, when I begin to write with a pen or pencil, I have to sort of warm up my handwriting in the margins, so as not to scrawl like a serial killer.

I am always starting over. Sometimes, when I decide to write, I feel the need to start fresh. (How can I possibly write as the person I am now among the Pearl Jam lyrics in a journal written by a 13 year old me?) In other news, which is possibly connected to this information, I have many empty notebooks, too. I have a penchant for pristine school supplies. Sometimes, I daydream about going back to school as a means to embark on a new career path…but mostly just to get new notebooks and Sharpies.

I am always starting over, or at least thinking about starting over. When life gets a little weird, I brainstorm solutions that involve my changing careers and/or returning to school (again) and/or maybe relocating someplace far, far away. I attempted this approach once. Though it took a little time to truly unravel, I eventually fell right down on my face–metaphorically speaking (kinda). Ever since this sub-par attempt to be adventurous and brave, I am, in many ways, a whole different person. Anxiety and fear were very foreign concepts to the person who changed careers and returned to school in a place far from home. In retrospect, I maybe could have picked one (max: two) of these life-altering things to do simultaneously. Either way, I made my choices. Some of my adventure was wonderful and exciting, eye opening and educational, beautiful and interesting. Other parts were dark, terrifying, and seemed inescapable. I remember the latter parts more. Or, actually, I feel the effects of those parts still.

When I look back, I wish I’d written about what was happening to me and around me while it was happening. When I think about it now, it can seem like I am recalling someone else’s life. As a result of examining some recent life challenges through writing, I have come to remember that writing has always been a useful way for me to organize my thoughts. To figure out what might actually be happening in my brain, I usually have to put a pen (or in this case, a laptop keyboard) in my hand. There is a good chance that if I don’t want to write about something, it is either a) not very important to me, or b) so very important to me that I am not ready to write about it, for fear of finding out how I really feel.

Perhaps this blog is an endeavor in self-discovery. Maybe this blog can help me to be more consistent with writing. Perhaps a new post can be just the fresh start I need.

I can always just start over.