Making Time for the Good Stuff

Most of this past weekend was spent battling some sort of sore-throat-virus, as well as studying for my upcoming CSCS exam.

This was my entire Saturday. 

I know I underestimated the amount of studying I would be doing for this exam;  it’s starting to kick me in the butt, and I’m only a week in! My good friend Christina and I are taking it together, and got together last weekend to set up a study plan for the next 6 weeks before our December 1st D-Day exam date. Oh boy, was that a slap in the face, once we actually broke the book down into sections and made a timeline. At the time, covering the first 8 chapters in the first 2 weeks sounded like a great idea. Now, I’m one week and 4 chapters in, and I’m not sure I can keep up this pace for another 6 weeks!

I just have to keep reminding myself that I went through an entire Masters program just fine while working full time, so this should be no big deal, right? Except for the fact that I feel like I am doing more studying now than I ever did for my graduate work. Oops.

Any-hoo…

Even through all of this craziness with the upcoming exam and high amounts of work stress, it’s always important for me to make time for the things in life that really count: times spent with friends and loved ones.

A group of my girl friends gets together once every 1-2 months for a “girls night dinner”, a pot luck style event that always has a theme and always includes wine (obviously). The idea originally was to do it once a month, but really, when you’re trying to get about 8 women together who all have totally different careers, work schedules, and lifestyles, it can get a little bit difficult to coordinate something that works for the majority of us.  Even though we can only do these every 1-2 months, it’s so much fun to be able to get together, make (and eat) some great food, drink wine, and just catch up on each other’s busy busy lives.

And I am a strong believer that friendships need nurturing just like any other type of relationship does.  Making the time to get together in such a hectic world is so important, especially as you get older and it only gets harder to actually spend time with friends when you’ve all got so much going on in your own lives.

Besides, every girl needs a good girls night now and then, right?

This time, the theme was Halloween, for obvious reasons. Most of the time we end up with an even spread of apps and desserts, and although we’re a very health conscious group, at these dinners all of that tends to go right out the window.   So even though this blog usually deals with healthy eats, we’re just going to side-step that a little bit today. I know, I know, we could be healthy and have girl time, and sometimes we do, but just not this time. Oh well, a little indulgence is worth it sometimes!

Kel did a great job with the theme decorations! 

We had “Mummy Pizza Bagels”… that really did look like mummies before they were cooked. Afterward.. well… they tasted great! 

This was my contribution, Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed Shells. I followed this recipe, and I must say, they came out great! I highly recommend this as an alternative for your usual stuffed-shell recipe! 

A “Snake” Calzone… It was shaped like a snake before it was cut, complete with 2 green-olive “eyes”! This was delicious as well. 

Lets not forget about dessert! These brownies stole the show — they were adorable for the theme and also ridiculously tasty. We also had some white chocolate-dipped “ghost” strawberries and chocolate dipped pretzel “mummies” that I didn’t get a good picture of, unfortunately. 

And last but certainly not least… was Kelly’s homemade “blood” sangria. It was so good, and munching on all that fruit at the bottom wasn’t too bad either 🙂 

At the end of the night, I left there stuffed, exhausted, and happy! Making the time to see your friends and loved ones is so important to your overall well-being, and adding something fun like a theme only adds to the awesomeness.  So despite my sore throat, sniffles, and endless hours of studying, this weekend was huge success thanks to these girls and their great company!

Do you find it hard to schedule time with friends? Do you have any weekly or monthly traditions with friends? When you get together for group dinners, do your healthy habits tend to get a little bit more relaxed?

Boston Local Food Festival

Happy Columbus Day!

What a noble holiday, celebrating Christopher Columbus for being such a stand-up guy.

Wait, what? Whatever, I’m working anyway, so the holiday aint no thang for me, but what I am wondering is whether there are people out there who have actual Columbus Day celebrations? What a theme party that would be.

Anyway, on with the blog.

We had some friends in town this weekend, and we took advantage of the nice cool fall day to walk around downtown at the Boston Local Food Festival.

Of course coffee was my first stop at the festival! 

The festival was held on the newly renovated Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, which is basically a grassy knoll that winds through the busy streets of the Boston Waterfront, in  close proximity to Fanieul Hall. With no shortage of local farms, restaurants and small business offering food, as well as live music and several live food demonstrations, it was a great afternoon despite the crowds!

We tried out plenty of samples and goodies throughout the afternoon, starting with this Maine Sea Kelp Slaw, which I was a little iffy about but just had to try it. Hey, us Mainers have to stick together in the big city, you know?

It was actually pretty good, and was served with some sort of vinegrette on it which kind of cut the kelp taste out altogether. I did try a few pieces that did’t have any of the dressing on it, and it definitely had a hint of “ocean” taste to it. I’m not sure I would actually go out of my way to buy this stuff, but I’m glad I tried it!

We also tried a bunch of other morsels while walking around, including this delicious cashew butter, apple and parsnip soup, fresh tomatoes, and kale chips.

I ended up purchasing the cashew butter because I fell in love at first taste, and the soup, from Beacon Hill Bistro, was a little different but very tasty!  Will loved it; I only had one bite but was impressed with the complex flavors.

The food gem of the day, though, was definitely this smoked-pork flatbread sandwich we got from Blue Glass Cafe. With the meat being smoked directly in front of us, we couldn’t resist this for lunch, and it didn’t disappoint. Topped with kimchi, microgreens, and a mix of other flavors, it was delicious, and at only $5, quite a steal!

Smoking the meat, preparing the plates, and the finished product! A whole lotta yum.

After a bit more walking around, of course we had to also try some sweets (because what is a food festival without some home made baked goods?). We settled on The Everything Cookie from The Cookie Lady, accompanied by hot chocolate with a homemade marshmallow.

The cookie was so ridiculously good; it just might be one of the best cookies I’ve ever had. And the hot chocolate? Out of this world. It was so decadent though, it took 4 of us to finish that one small cup because it was so rich.  However, with the afternoon turning colder by that point, it was a nice ending point to our delicious day of treats.

Besides the food we devoured sampled, there were also some pretty awesome food demonstrations. One of which was an “iron chef” type of competition between two local chefs that I stuck around to watch for a few minutes.  I believe their “mystery fish” was Skate, but I didn’t stick around to see what they ended up coming up with. My bad!

Also, this last piece that I’m going to show you guys is not for those of you with a squeamish stomach. If you tend to get a little woozy when you walk into a butcher shop, I would just skip the end of this post altogether.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

One of the coolest (yet also pretty gross) demonstrations was about how to use the “whole pig”. This woman had an entire half of a pig laid out on the table, and went through a very detailed presentation about the different cuts of meat, what you can do with the different portions, how to butcher it, etc. I stuck around for a little while and then left to wander, but I was there long enough to snap a few pictures.

Seriously…if you don’t want to see this, close your eyes and scroll down for a second:

Take note of the hand saw especially… home girl really knew how to use those tools! Watching her saw through the bone was not the most pleasant part of the presentation, but the anatomy/science geek in me was kind of loving every second of it.

And there you have it! I’m so glad we found out about this festival beforehand, and I definitely hope to try it out again next year. I am a big believer in supporting local farms, farmers, small businesses and restaurants, so to spend an entire afternoon doing just that with some great friends was excellent! The yummy treats were just an added bonus.

How did you spend your weekend? Would you be grossed out or intrigued by the pig presentation? Do you try to buy local products/food?

Eating My Way Through NYC

Since I know some of you love looking at food pictures, I’ll indulge you a little bit today.

And when I say indulge, boy do I mean it.

As many of you know, I was in NYC with Will this past weekend visiting friends and enjoying life. Every time we go to NYC, I end up eating so much incredible food, and this trip was no different. I truly think that about 80% of my time in that city is spent eating. I just can’t help myself.

Unfortunately, there were certain times throughout the weekend where I either didn’t remember to take pictures, or just felt plain weird taking pictures of my food, so what I’m left with is just a portion of what was consumed. I also have to note that with these pictures and last week’s banana post, it seems likely that many of you probably think I exclusively eat desserts.

But as much as I would love a world full of just desserts, it’s not true. It just tends to be what I take pictures of, for no particular reason. Plus, it’s way  more fun to write about cupcakes than kale, don’t you think? (Although I do love me some kale).

And with that, I’ll shut up and get on with it! And since this is a post full of eats, I’ll link up to What I Ate Wednesday, hosted by Jenn over at Peas and Crayons. Enjoy!

It’s really unfortunate that I didn’t get a picture of my brunch on Saturday morning, but there’s nothing I can do about that. I will tell you though, it was a “Farmers Frittata”, with eggs, bacon, asparagus and potatoes, and it was simply divine.

That afternoon while walking around, Will and I stopped by the amazing cupcake joint, Baked By Melissa, for some of their delicious bite sized treats.

Pictured here are Mint Chocolate Chip, PB &J, Cookie Dough, and Peanut Butter Cup. OH. MY. GOD. I ate 2, but honestly could have polished off a dozen of these bad boys no problem. 

Later that afternoon, we stopped by the famous Russ And Daughters for a snack, since we wouldn’t be eating again until a late dinner.


If you’ve never had a R&D Bagel before, you’re missing out. I’m not even a huge bagel lover but these are amazing. This is Will’s, complete with Lox, but I just ate a few bites of the bagel/cream cheese to hold me over. 

Later that night, we had a dinner that was to die for. Truffle pizza and pumpkin filled Tortelli pasta, both of which I unfortunately did not photograph. I did remember to get dessert though!

Vanilla Gelato with Espresso poured on top. I can’t even tell you how good this was! 

Sunday morning, we headed over to the famous Clinton St. Bakery for brunch. This place has gotten so popular that we had to wake up early to wait in line to put our names on the list… and still had to wait 2 hours for a table! It’s worth it though, for these little slices of heaven:

These pancakes are without a doubt, the best pancakes I’ve ever had in my life. I’m not sure what they put in them, but they’re addictive! Will and I split the pancakes and the Spanish Scramble, complete with fresh tomatoes, spinach and chorizo. 

That afternoon before we got on our bus, we also stopped for one more mini meal. We went to a little tiny Venezuelan place called Caracas that we had been to before. If you’ve never tried Arepas before, I suggest you get on that. And if you’re going to try them, head to Caracas because this place does it best!

Look at all that goodness, including plantains. YUM! Definitely hit the spot. 

And with that, we were off. But let’s not forget all of the coffee I consumed over the weekend as well!  Here are a couple of my favorites:

Even at nice coffee shops, I almost always have to get my cappuccino in a to go cup, because it takes me so long to drink them. Although there’s nothing like a nice, ceramic coffee mug, sometimes you’ve just gotta get moving! 

And there you have it. Like I said, there were other things eaten over the weekend, meals that I really wish I had taken pictures of! But this is better than nothing.

Have you been to NYC? What are your favorite places to eat when you go there? Do you tend to go to little hole-in-the-wall places like Caracas or the more famous restaurants when you travel?

Extra! Extra! TOO Much Extra.

Howdy.

How was everybody’s weekend? Mine was pretty flipping fantastic. From snowboarding, to great times with friends, to fabulous food, this weekend had pretty much everything. Although, in the midst of all of this “everything”, I began to realize that there has been a little bit too much of “everything” lately. A few examples of recent awesomeness within the past couple of weeks…

Cappuccino and Berry Bread Pudding from Flour in Cambridge, MA. To die for.

Will came home with these one night from Berry Line, my favorite fro-yo place. How could I ever turn that down?

Not so much of an indulgence as a work of art. This was from our Friday night Sushi date at FuGaKyu in Brookline, MA, and was special made as an off-the-menu surprise!

Indulgence is not a bad thing, but overall my food intake has increased lately, for no good reason (And I’m not just talking about this weekend, this has been a noticeable trend as of late), my treats have become a little bit too frequent, my sleep patterns have been way off, and I’m starting to feel a little off because of all of this. So what can I do about it? And more importantly, what can you do about it if you’re in a similar position to me (whether now or in the future, because I’m pretty sure everyone goes through phases like this)?

Make like Christina Aguilera and…

Take it back to basics. 

I’m not saying to stop indulging all together, or to strip your diet down to spinach leaves and egg whites (the horror!), but I am saying that it’s helpful to take some time to take things down a notch. How?

  • Really work to be mindful of extra (nonsensical) snacking, whether that means leaving yourself post it notes around the house, keeping yourself otherwise occupied instead of meandering into the kitchen every 30 minutes, keeping a food journal, or whatever works best for you. Personally, I’m a creature of habit. For me, it’s all about creating patterns during my day, creating a new habit and forcing myself to stick with it for a few days. After that, it becomes natural.
  • Think about hunger vs. thirst vs. boredom vs. emotions. Sometimes these all can blur into one, and it can be difficult to distinguish why you’re reaching for that mid-day snack when you just at lunch an hour ago.  Keeping a food journal for a week or two might help you pinpoint things like this if you are having a hard time figuring out your patterns.
  • Remember that treats are treats. Treats do not need to be an every day occurrence (although try telling me that when I’ve got chocolate on the brain). The funny thing is, the more that you indulge in extras, the less satisfying they become, which leads to more, and more and more….. Keeping something as a true once-in-a-while indulgence makes it that much better when you do get to have it.
  • Decrease your added sugar intake. I try to watch this on a regular basis, but you’d be surprised at how often sugar is added to foods that you would never think of. And I’m not going to get into the physiological effect of too much sugar right now, but to make a long story short, the less sugar you eat, the less you crave. It’s pretty simple.
  • Keep it colorful. More than likely, the more colorful veggies and nutritious foods you’re eating, the less crap you’re eating.
Yes, this is all stuff you’ve heard before. But sometimes, doesn’t it help to just take it down to a basic level and start fresh?

For me specifically, I know that I go through these over-indulgent phases every once in a while, but I am also pretty good at realizing what is going on and stopping it before it gets out of control. I also know that for me, it usually stems from stress or another emotional place, so really keeping my stress levels in check is a way that I can keep the rest of me healthy as well.   Getting back on my normal track just takes a little self talk, a lot of self discipline, and the realization that I really do feel a whole heck of a lot better once I get through one of these patches.

So after this way-too-much-of-everything epiphany yesterday, I ate some great fresh whole foods and had an amazing (and ass-kicking) stadium run to clear my head. I prepped some delicious food for the week (which I will be showing you in a few days!), and after having refreshed over a long weekend I am more than ready to take on this week at work.  The most important thing is to not let this become yet another stressor. Just accept the fact that some changes need to be made, give it some thought, make a plan, and move on.

What about you guys? Do you ever go through phases where there’s just a little too much extra everything? What tools do you use to scale back and re-focus?