Foodie Friday – Skillet green beans

My family had a big dinner together on Christmas Eve since my brother had to fly back home to San Francisco the next day. I got up early that morning to put some marinara sauce in the slow cooker for a vegetarian lasagna, but then there were side dishes to consider. We had a few options after going to the grocery store the day before, but ultimately I decided to try a recipe for stir-fried green beans. I’d never simply cooked green beans in the skillet, but one of my co-workers brought something similar to our annual holiday potluck and they were delicious. I cooked them in olive oil rather than bacon fat like she did because my brother is a vegetarian, but they were still amazing. These green beans couldn’t be easier to make and they turn out crispy and flavorful. They were perfect for a Christmas dinner side dish.

INGREDIENTS:
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
12 oz green beans, ends snapped
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder

DIRECTIONS:
In a large nonstick skillet heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the green beans and stir to coat with oil. Add the salt, pepper, and garlic powder and stir to coat. I didn’t really measure the spices, but just sprinkled each one over the green beans a couple of times. I don’t think you can go wrong, no matter how much of each you use. Cook the green beans, stirring occasionally for about 8-10 minutes. Be careful not to burn and make sure not to over cook them if you want the beans to still be a bit crispy (i.e., not mushy). Enjoy!

Based on She Wears Many Hats’ Sautéed Green Beans.

Business trip almost over

It’s Thursday and I’ve been away from home for six days now. This is about the time during a trip that I start getting seriously homesick, and this one is no exception. I am longing for my California apartment and all of the comforts of home. Not that I haven’t been enjoying myself on the East Coast, but I’d much rather not be staying in a hotel, driving a rental car, and living out of a suitcase. I’m very excited to go home on Sunday. In the meantime, I have another little adventure planned for Saturday, but I’ll write more about that afterwards. For now I can only report on what I’ve been up to over the last few days. To begin with, I’ve been working a lot. Definitely more than I’d like, but it’s been necessary. It’s a good thing I love my job. And my co-workers. Speaking of my co-workers, I used my extremely limited resources to whip up a batch of my mom’s famous peanut butter bars to take to work tomorrow. I had to improvise a bit, but luckily I only needed a microwave for these delicious treats so they turned out great. My co-workers are going to be very happy. My biggest problem is going to be keeping myself from eating a ton of them. They’re unbelievably addictive, but the last thing I want to do is negate all of the hard work I’ve been doing with diet and exercise. As of last weekend I’ve lost three pounds in 2014 which makes me very happy. It doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re small like me, every pound counts. And to help maintain these healthy habits I started running again this week after a two-month hiatus due to ankle problems in January and y surgery in February. I only managed a very pathetic four miles on the treadmill on Monday night (I couldn’t run outside because of the snow), but at least I took the first step. Literally. I ran again last night and did five miles (at a slower pace) with much less difficulty. This is encouraging, at least. I’m planning to run again tomorrow night so hopefully I can continue the trend. With the Seal Beach 10K two weeks from Saturday I don’t have much more time to prepare! But now it’s time for me to go to sleep. I’ve got one more day of work before the end of this trip and then Saturday to myself before flying back to California on Sunday. It’s going to be a very busy three days. Good night!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! It’s been a strange day for me with all the snow in DC (more on that later), but I did remember to wear a green shirt to work today. Not that there were many people there because the office was technically closed due to the weather. But a few of us still worked a full day so that we won’t be scrambling tomorrow morning. My St. Patrick’s Day celebration this evening consisted of sweeping about 6 inches of snow off my car, going to the grocery store, and eating a Quizno’s sandwich for dinner. Not very glamorous! And I didn’t even get to wear my St. Patrick’s Day Hello Kitty shirt! I bought it, along with a couple of others, at Old Navy last month, but then I managed to be out of town on St. Patrick’s Day. Nice planning, huh? I’ll make sure to wear each of them at least once before putting them away for a year. They will make excellent shirts for running when I get back to California and there isn’t snow on the ground. So I didn’t really honor my Irish heritage today, but I think a subdued evening was justified by the weather. I’ll make sure to go a little crazy when I get back to LA next weekend to make up for it.

2014 Resolution #5

New Year’s Resolution #5: Visit as many new states as possible

I consider myself fairly well-traveled within the United States thanks to many family trips when I was a kid, but last month when I used the Visited States Map website to figure out just how many states I’ve been to (see the picture above) I was dismayed! I’ve only visited 27 states! I’m was conservative during this determination since I didn’t count states where I’ve only been in an airport – like New Jersey (Newark), Kentucky (Cincinnati), Missouri (St. Louis), and Minnesota (Minneapolis). Catching a connecting flight doesn’t really equate to actually being there, I decided. As a side note, how is South Carolina such a gaping hole in my map? I can’t believe that while growing up in the South (I didn’t leave until I was 23) I never made it to South Carolina. It makes me feel like a traitor to my home region. But back to the issue at hand. Since one of my goals in life is to visit all 50 states (Alaska is going to be the toughest, I think), I figured 2014 was as good a time as any to get started on increasing my number. Believe it or not, this business trip to DC has helped out quite a bit already. Of course I’ve been to Virginia and Maryland a number of times before, but there are other states not far away that I’ve never set foot in. Like West Virginia. And since I can’t imagine I’ll have any other opportunity to go there in the future, when I landed at Dulles yesterday I picked up my rental car and headed west! I booked a hotel room in Morgantown, WV (home of West Virginia University) for the night and it took me about four hours to get there. During my little adventure I learned two things – 1) Morgantown is a lot farther from DC than I thought, and 2) My rental car is terrible for road trips. Holy back pain! But it was a beautiful drive and I really enjoyed it. I’ll write more about my trip in another post, but as of this morning I’ve now visited 29 states! This resolution is going to be an easy one to keep.

Saturday in-flight

I just wanted to let you know that I’m still alive. This past week was absolutely insane at work and I had no energy to do anything else when I got home each night. It was terrible. Right now I’m sitting on my flight to Dulles and going through the list of everything I didn’t accomplish before leaving on my business trip. I hate when my to do list is mostly undone. For example, the glass on my iPhone shattered last Sunday and I still haven’t gotten it fixed. I set it down on something in Target and someone else bumped it off. It hit the tile floor on a corner and smashed. That’ll teach me to not have a case on my phone! It still works and the screen is still mostly readable, which is good, but I didn’t have the time or the drive to get it fixed yet. I’ll try to find some place that replaces iPhone glass while I’m in DC this week. (Although I’m planning to get an iPhone 6 when they are available I’d rather not replace my phone just yet.) I’ll be working a lot of hours, but since I’m away from home I should have a little more free time than I usually do (i.e., no cooking, dishes, or laundry). Plus, I’m not going in to work today when I arrive. Not that I’ll get my phone fixed today, but at least I’ll be able to relax a little. I have a bit of a plan that I’ve set in motion for my off days on this trip, but I’ll write more about that tomorrow. After my first little adventure I will have to go to work tomorrow, though. All of the work items I planned to complete before this business trip fell by the wayside when something more important came up this week. But I’ll manage. Life has been stressful since my surgery and I haven’t enjoyed it very much. That has got to change. I have so many things on my calendar for the rest of the year and I plan to have as much fun as possible in my current circumstances. Starting today.

Grocery store story #2

Remember grocery store story #1 from a couple of weeks ago? Well, here’s my second installment!

In an effort to improve my diet this year I’ve been doing my best to avoid buying unhealthy foods when I’m at the store. And despite my ridiculously overdeveloped sweet tooth, it’s actually been working! After a few weeks of healthy purchases it’s become a game of sorts to see if I can walk out of the grocery store or Target or drug store without any sort of junk food. Sometimes this is easy, namely when I’m shopping right after a meal (like my trip to Trader Joe’s tonight after dinner), but often it is extremely difficult. If I’m hungry or tired or stressed my willpower is put to the test. I don’t know why my brain tells me that bingeing on M&Ms or Swiss Cake Rolls or Cadbury Crème Eggs will make me feel better when I’m upset, but it does. Not giving in to my fairly constant craving for snacks loaded with sugar is hard, but now that I’m in the habit it’s getting easier. Like this morning when I went to the grocery store to stock up on some items. I really, really wanted some sort of Little Debbie product. The urge to buy some Oatmeal Cream Pies was very strong, and a box of them even found its way into my basket at one point, but they didn’t make it home with me. I didn’t want to throw all of my recent progress out the window. Instead I got oranges, apples, bananas, frozen raspberries, Greek yogurt, almond milk, and oatmeal. All good things, especially if you ignore the 5 lb bag of sugar and 1 lb of bacon I bought for some baking projects later this week. I felt great taking that bag of groceries home! It was like a “no junk food” high. I just have to remember that feeling every time I buy groceries. Healthy = happy!

Foodie Friday – Roasted baby carrots

I’ve never been a big fan of carrots. I’ll eat raw carrots in a salad, but I don’t choose raw carrot sticks as a snack or anything. And cooked carrots have always been really unappealing to me. With a few exceptions (I had some glazed carrots at Lucques in West Hollywood once that I couldn’t stop eating) I’m afraid I’ve always just had mushy, boiled or steamed carrots. Yuck. But I wasn’t ready to give up on carrots yet. When I was in Tallahassee at Christmas I tried a couple of new vegetable side dish recipes and one of them was these roasted baby carrots. Holy cow, they are amazing! I couldn’t get enough of these simple, yet unbelievably delicious carrots. Even if you don’t like carrots, especially if you don’t like them, please give roasted carrots a try. They don’t taste the same as with any other preparation. I couldn’t believe how much I loved them. I will be making these often.

INGREDIENTS:
2 c baby carrots
1 Tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Throw the carrots into a bowl, drizzle with melted butter and olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. I used my hands to make sure everything mixed well. Spread the carrots onto a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan lined with aluminum foil (for easy clean up) and coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400 deg for about 35 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the carrots are tender. Enjoy!

Based on Cooking Light’s Butter-Roasted Carrots.