How do you find time amidst the chaos?

Successful workaholics know exactly what company to keep on a hectic Tuesday afternoon…

Duncan at Home

Question to the workaholics out there –  how do you get back on track when you are completely consumed by work and personal commitments?

More to come on managing the chaos the Spring/Summer seems to bring…this workaholic fell off the balance bandwagon for about week and is hastily attempting to get back on track

Take a Chill Pill – For breakfast

With a steady pace of sunny, warm days, it is time to switch up the breakfast routine—because sometimes you need a kick in the rear even if the sun is coming up a little earlier these days. For those of you looking for either a small or large step outside of the breakfast comfort zone, why not try a smoothie?

The last few weeks have been a mix of hectic work deliverables, family parties and our house officially under agreement/dreading the prospect of being homeless in less than 1 month—after a couple of mornings of either skipping breakfast or grabbing the Starbucks special, I put my foot down and started experimenting with some genius smoothie recipes found via my favorite go-to foodie site—FoodGawker.com.

SmoothiesSmoothies are not a breakthrough idea for a boring breakfast routine, but the term is pretty broad and contains a large spectrum of delicious recipes from entry-level to borderline mind-blowing.

Equipment and Prep
So you want to dabble in the smoothie endeavor for breakfast – just know that preparation and equipment do make a difference:

Blender Perfection – while we all do not want to invest the $600 for a fancy VitamixNinja Blender blender, there are suitable alternatives that provide great power and consistency:
o Ninja Blenders (Found here on                                 Amazon.com)
o Nutri Bullet (Found here on Amazon.com)

Prep Work – have some spare bananas lying around the kitchen looking a little brown? Why not chop them up into 1-2 inch slices and store in freezer safe bags in the freezer until you’re ready for a smoothie?
o Prepping your fruits and veggies ahead of time makes for a much smoother prep time –             pun intended
o Buying frozen fruit also speeds up prep time and they contain just as many nutrients as               the fresh fruit—there’s no shame in buying the Wyman’s frozen blueberries from your                   grocer’s freezer section

Give it a Whirl
Here a few recipes, from the entry-level strawberry key-lime smoothie to a sneaky vegetable-packed smoothie:

Recipe #1 Strawberry Key-Lime
Adapted from: Carlsbadcravings.com
Serves: 2

Ingredients
1-2 scoops of vanilla or strawberry whey protein powder
1 ½ cups unsweetened almond milk
1 5.3 oz. Stonyfield plain non-fat Greek yogurt
1 frozen banana, in 1-2 inch slices
Zest of 1 lime
1 cup frozen strawberries

Combine all ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth – enjoy with a slice of lime or strawberries on top

Recipe #2 Good-for-you Green Smoothie
Adapted from: BeyondSweetAndSavory.com
Serves: 2

Ingredients
½ cup of kale
½ cup of spinach
1 cup frozen mango, or even pineapple
1 banana, fresh or frozen, cut into 1-2 inch slices
1 ripe avocado
1 cup almond milk
1 tsp chia seeds (optional – I opted out the first few times because of the texture)

Combine all ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth.

Recipe #3 Sneaky Veggie Smoothie
Adapted from: JustPutzing.com
Serves: 1

Ingredients
1/2 cup fresh or frozen mango
1/2 cup fresh or frozen pineapple, chunks
1/2 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt (Stonyfield is my yogurt of choice)
1/3 cup carrots, grated
1/2 cup orange juice or pineapple juice
1/4 cup water, tap or even coconut water

Combine all ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth.

Cramping Cured by Chocolate—and banana

As I lay down after another tough crossfit workout, that all-too familiar cramping begins from my feet slowly creeping up to my calves. Now what? Reaching for a banana may not help you in this very moment, but it may certainly serve to prevent cramping if incorporated as part of your regular diet.

The banana’s sweet secret? Potassium.

Key Potassium Facts
Required daily intake: 4,700 milligrams (1 banana contains approximately 420 milligrams, or 10% of your daily intake)
Claim to Fame: this vitamin helps process and utilize carbohydrates; it is both an essential vitamin and electrolyte
Other Sources of Potassium: potatoes, oranges, spinach, tomatoes and avocadoes

Bananas curing muscle cramps is not a new concept/fad/treatment—however this tried and true treatment could use a little facelift—after all, while bananas are one of the most popular fruits in the US, according to the Centers of Disease Control, finding new and inventive ways to satisfy your daily potassium requirements can sometimes be a challenge.

Here are a few ideas…

Green Monster Chicken Sandwich
Cook time: 15 minutes
Prep time: 10 minutes
Serves: 2

Chicken Sandwich Ingredients:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
½ cup green pepper, dicedAvocado Mayo 1
3 tablespoons chives, finely diced
1 cup avocado mayo (see recipe below)
¼ cup pickles, diced (optional)

Avocado Mayo Ingredients:
1 avocado, very ripe and diced
2 tablespoons avocado oil, or olive oil
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt

Remove chicken breasts from package, pat dry and season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat small amount (1-2 tablespoons) olive oil over medium-high heat in a non-stick skillet. Place seasoned Avocado Mayo 2chicken breast in skillet and cook approximately 5 minutes each side, or until chicken registers 165 degrees F.

Let chicken cool and while cooling, prepare the mayo. Combine all mayo ingredients in a small blender or food processor and blend until smooth (1-2 minutes). Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and combine with mayo, green pepper, chives and even some pickles. Serve by itself, in a wrap, or on some freshly sliced bread and enjoy!

Banana Boat Treats
Cook time: 15 minutes
Prep time: 5 minutes
Serves: 2

Ingredients:
2 medium to large-sized bananas
Choice of toppings (examples: mini chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, Reese’s pieces, butterscotch chips, whatever your fancy)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F or heat your grill until it registers 350 degrees F

Using a paring knife, cut the banana (enough Banana Boatsto break the skin) length-wise down the banana peel. Pull the peel open and lightly cut slits in banana. Fill the banana boat with all the toppings you like.

Wrap the filled bananas in aluminum foil, being careful not to let them tip over (my first attempt – I had to refill my boats twice because they tipped a few times). Place bananas in oven or on grill for about 15 minutes, until marshmallows begin to melt and brown. Serve immediately and enjoy!

A Case of the Mondays: Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner

Middle management can sometimes get the best of even the most seasoned workaholic—can’t win with upper management and can’t win with your direct reports—stuck between a rock and a hard place was a term coined from the experiences of a middle manager—if it’s not, it sure feels that way.

Now we all know that when you come home, work needs to stay at work—do not make a habit of bringing your work drama home—well today I brought it all home (thankfully it was just the dogs and I—my boyfriend happens to be half a world away in Beijing for work).

Despite getting home at 4:15 pm (hooray), I sat outside with the pups and reflected upon a turbulent day filled with plenty of double-dealing, hidden agendas and general craziness—typical case of the Mondays in Office Space speak—but instead of reaching for a bottle of vino or continuing the vicious cycle of negativity propagated by one disgruntled employee, I chose to channel the energy into cooking.Chicken 1

Why not eat your feelings right?

After cruising through Foodgawker.com and feeling less than inspired, I decided to play with some oven-fried chicken—why not cook it out in order to thicken my professional skin—the results—skinless Mexican-inspired oven-fried chicken with a cool ranch dipping sauce.

Spicy Oven-Fried Chicken with Cool Ranch Dipping Sauce
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Serves: 2
Ingredients
2 chicken breasts, patted dry
½ cup flour
2 eggs whites
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon chili powder

For Cool Ranch Dipping Sauce
1 cup reduced fat sour cream
1-2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash Traditional Seasoning

Directions
Preheat oven to 415 degrees F and spray with baking dish with nonstick spray

Set out 3 bowls—1 with flour, 1 with egg whites and 1 with panko bread crumbs combined with black pepper, cumin, turmeric and chili powder. Take dry chicken breast and dredge in flour, making sure to get in the crevasses, gently brush off any loose flour before dredging in the egg white mixture. Cover the chicken in the egg white mixture and finally dredge in the panko bread crumbs—making sure to get in the crevasses again. Place on baking dish, being careful not to crowd the chicken.

Bake 20 minutes, or until internal temperature registers 165 degrees F, and let rest 5 minutes before serving

Chicken 2While the chicken is baking, combine the sour cream, chives, garlic, black pepper and Mrs. Dash seasoning in a small bowl, let stand until chicken is ready

Hopefully this boneless, skinless chicken recipe is enough to thicken your skin after a tough day as a middle management workaholic—so pull up your chair, enjoy dinner and let the haters be silenced.

Happy Monday workaholics and keep your heads up!

How unglamorous was your weekend?

As much of a cliché spring cleaning can be, there’s nothing more satisfying (and often unglamorous) than a freshly cleaned house, with everything put in its place and smell of Windex—yes Windex.

I vividly remember reading a chapter in Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, where she The Happiness Projectdescribed the decluttering process and how integral it was to have at least one empty shelf, closet or cabinet in your home. This empty space will become a shrine to all things organized and serve as goal to keep clutter at bay. Gretchen’s conversational and narrative style made for a quick and enjoyable read—and if, after hours of spring cleaning, you want to decompress—check out her book here on Amazon: The Happiness Project

As part of my own seasonal decluttering, this weekend was dedicated to the cleaning gods; every surface received the royal treatment, from the windows to the couches and even those high maintenance fabric lamp shades.  Glamorous right?

As a self-proclaimed clean freak, who some have accused of being slightly OCD, I am always on the hunt for a few tips in the art of cleaning—and was frankly shocked/intrigued by some of the guidance I stumbled upon from Real Simple magazine:

Couches –
Step 1: Review the tags—often found under the cushions on the base of the couch—ensure the tag reads “W”, which essentially means you can “wash”/treat the couch yourself. Any special wash instructions should be followed closely in order to avoid a costly sofa snafu
Step 2: Dilute 1 cap full of Woolite into a bucket of cool water. Using a wrung-out sponge dipped in the solution, wipe down each cushion/arm/etc.
Step 3: Let all cushions and couch pieces dry completely before reassembling—be sure to warn those around you that the sofa will be out of commission for a few hours—although it is slightly amusing when someone sits down only to realize their backside is now wet—but I digress

Kitchen/Bathroom cabinets—
Step 1: Empty contents of cabinets and dust off individually – for those kitchen contents, why not utilize the dishwasher and save yourself some elbow grease?
Step 2: Using a microfiber or electrostatic cloth, wipe down the cabinet surfaces, making sure to get into the far reaches of the cabinet corners
Step 3: Using dish soap and water or even some Windex—soak a cloth and wipe down the cabinet surfaces, including the walls, tops and bottomsWindex
Step 4: Want to prevent scouring every small item inside your cabinets until next spring? Why not try storing those items in large Ziploc bags, because let’s face it, who can actually see the tippetty top shelf in your kitchen cabinets?

Coffee Maker—
Step 1: Fill the carafe with 3 cups of water and the same amount of white vinegar and pour into the water chamber –turn switch on to brew
Step 2: Part way through the brew cycle switch off and let the solution sit for about an hour –turn the coffee maker back on and finish the remainder of the solution
Step 3: Refill the carafe and run at least one cycle of clean water through the coffee maker to ensure your coffee doesn’t have a certain tang the next morning

Ready to geek out with some additional cleaning tips? Check out many of Real Simple’s tips via this link: Real Simple Link

DuncanNow not everyone found Real Simple’s tips helpful—our dog Duncan refused to remove himself from the sofa after the cleaning commenced; however, with a little bribery, via cookies or even dog treats, you could be living in hygienic bliss on your freshly cleaned surfaces.

To crossfit or not to crossfit

Life is about taking chances and putting yourself out there—I know I’m a little late to the game, but the question I’ll be asking myself over the next few weeks—to crossfit or not to crossfit?

crossfitWe are all abundantly aware of some the cultural stereotypes around this latest fitness craze, everything from the “cultish” following to the strange names for workouts (i.e. Hero, Murph, and Fran)—but you may be surprised to hear:

1. Crossfit is actually more popular amongst women—approximately 60% of the crossfitters out there are women
2. Crossfit will not bulk you up like a body builder—well for the ladies out there, it’s near impossible unless you start supplementing with testosterone
3. Crossfit is not as pricey as you think—prices range based on your location and box (the term for the gym)—the reality is that it allows for near-one-on-one training (generally a 8-10 to 1 ratio, students to trainers) and it is much cheaper than person training, which can run upwards of $350 per month

I currently live in a divided household—divided in our respective calorie-burning methodologies. The difference—I’m a yoga, treadmill, former collegiate athlete kind of gal, as opposed to my significant other who is a weight lifting, adult-league soccer and gym rat kind of guy—until he started down the crossfit path a little over 3 months ago.

After seeing 3 months of significant progress in my boyfriend’s physical appearance and reading all sorts of articles – I decided to take the leap and see what the fuss was all about. Now we are not talking the full blown $150 per month experience, but I’ve started the 2-week crossfit introductory course—which not only introduces you to the crossfit routine, but ensures that each participant is safely performing each workout in order to prevent the stereotypical crossfit injuries.

Keep in mind that any credible crossfit establishment will take the time to instruct, observe and critique your form to ensure you do not cause serious harm to yourself. They won’t be able to help you with the soreness you feel the morning after—everything below my hair hurt after the first workout—but they will provide valuable advice on surviving and perfecting each workout of the day (known as a WOD).

What I have found in only a short period of time—the folks at crossfit are some of the most positive and supportive individuals I have ever worked out with. I felt welcomed in the first few minutes and supported throughout the entire 55 minute workout.

I can see how this outlet may be misconstrued as cultish, however, after being on the yoga bandwagon for the last 7 years, I can easily say that all the yogis out there could be accused of fostering a similar environment—but let’s face it—there’s nothing cultish about individuals who are there to better their bodies and build meaningful friendships with one another.

My goal over the next 2 weeks is immerse myself in the WODs every other day, learning everything from burpees to filthy fifties to snatches—all terms that still carry a scary connotation, but I’ve been assured that these military-like terms are all moves achiecrossfit 2vable by even the most novice of crossfit newbies.

So here goes nothing! I’m eager to see what the next few weeks bring in terms of progress, aches, meeting new people and trying to push myself harder than any workout before—well I’m not sure it’ll necessarily compare to some of the lacrosse workouts in college but we’ll see!

When all else fails, get the heck out of dodge

“A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you have been taking.” – Earl Wilson

 

What’s your last resort when you are in need of a break?  How about a little vacation–preferably somewhere sunny and warm after over 100 inches of snow in the last month

The miracle of this mini 5-day family-filled vacation for this workaholic is the fact that at this very moment, all real connections to work are approximately 2,000 miles north in my home office.  Goodbye laptop, goodbye daily status meetings, goodbye babysitting and hello freedom.

Sometimes no matter how you try and put a bandaid on the stresses of work, the only way to really hit the reset button–or sometimes feels like the panic button–is to pack your bags and get the heck out of dodge.  Out of sight, out of mind–out of luck unless you can truly unplug from the constant borage of emails, phone calls, meetings and multitasking.

Setting boundaries with bosses, coworkers and even loved ones may feel a little awkward for some workaholics and control freaks–like yours truly–but something as small as an out of office reply for your work email can help those needy worker bees self soothe in your absence but can also put your mind at rest.  I liken my out of office reply to a formal disclaimer—“expect delays” or even “I will return all emails upon my return” are glorious phrases that can send a clear signal to most professionals and while they may be envious, ultimately we all recognize the importance of a vacation.

The other key to cutting the cord with work–back up plans–while we all know we are entitled to utilize our allotted vacation time, sometimes it can be hard to imagine our team members providing guidance in our absence.  The truth- with so much red tape at work, the obvious fact you must realize: nothing will burn to the ground and people will survive.

My challenge over the last few months at a new company has been consistency and structure and somehow I felt this pit feeling in my stomach at the very thought of asking for time off, but the company survived pre-April and can certainly survive sans April for 3 working days. Luckily, I have a very supportive boss who recognizes that burn out is a real possibility without ample breaks from the organized chaos–and after working 80 hour weeks for several months while trying to balance a personal life, my burn out point was becoming visible on the near horizon.

If you are also a workaholic, do you have enough self awareness to identify the factors that contribute to or can see your burn out point?  A serious question you have to ask yourself before you come home one night from work and binge on ice cream, wine or chocolate and wake up feeling completely unrested and restless.

So you’re at the same juncture of being burnt out–now what?

Well luckily the Internet is full of wonderful outlets for vacation planning and deals, in addition to stay-cation ideas:

1. Cheap Carribean — yes I realize this sounds like an Internet scam, but after hearing stories from close friends who have taken the leap, I’m a believer (Website)

2. Trip Advisor– my vacation website staple for things from restaurants to the real scoop on hotels in every locale under the sun.  It may even be a great resource for stay-cation ideas in and around your area–new neighborhood gems pop up everyday

3. Why not try a blog for additional ideas?  Beats the office on WordPress is one of my favorites and why notj just take a look right? (Beats the Office website)

So let’s do this–I’m off to Florida for some family time and rest from my professional life–what are you waiting for?

In the words of Winnie the Pooh– TTFN

Not Your Momma’s Oatmeal

Another day, another snow storm—this New England winter does not seem to be lightening up on us anytime soon. Over the past several weeks, we have become accustomed to hunkering down at home during each storm—which means forging for breakfast on your own.

After seeing this week’s snowfall forecast, it became apparent there was a need for a warm, filing and nutritious breakfast—somehow I rationalized that a great breakfast would provide enough motivation to start shoveling at dawn–that’s for another blog post.

I spent an hour or two cruising through my usual inspirational websites—from Foodgawker.com to Food & Wine—and finally stumbled upon something deceivingly simplistic—overnight oatmeal. Now I have never been a huge fan of oatmeal—there’s always been a somewhat lackluster allure for this breakfast staple, but perhaps this recipe was enough to make me a believer.

Oatmeal ItemsPreparation took about 5 minutes to assemble, pour and shake—then into the refrigerator it went. When we woke up to another 14 inches of snow on Sunday morning, we simply took the jars of oatmeal out and popped them (sans the metal tops) into the microwave for a few minutes—and voila, a tasty oatmeal concoction and the hint of lemon, combined with the cinnamon and brown sugar blended perfectly–and was anything but simplistic tasting.

Food & Wine made me a believer when it comes to oatmeal and this breakfast idea will come in handy for the additional storms forecasted this week.  The cooler version of this recipe (everything sans the microwave) will taste refreshing when the warm weather eventually returns to New England—which might be June at this rate.

For those interested in a tasty, quick and hearty breakfast here’s the recipe:

Overnight Oatmeal (as adapted from Food & Wine)
Ingredients:
½ cup steel cut oats
¾ cup milk
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon of vanilla extract
½ cup of blueberries, or any berries you have on hand (fresh or frozen)
3 tablespoons brown sugar

Combine all ingredients in a glass jar—I used a glass mason jar—shake the jar and place in the refrigerator for 6 hours to overnight. Top with some slivered almonds, real maple syrup or additional brown sugar and enjoy!

For a warmer version—take metal top off of mason jar and place in the microwave for 1.5 – 2 minutes.

Note: In terms of milk, I have used both dairy and almond milks, both have worked great.

Oatmeal

Cozy Couple’s Carb-Free Dinner

SteakWhile our house tends to be divided on the frequency of carbs in our dinner schedule, I found a way to sneak in a hearty, warm and satisfying dinner without the usual pasta or bread. I am by no means on the anti-carb bandwagon; however, I think we need to scale back on our consumption of these delectable items from time to time—especially with a trip to Florida in the near future.

What really makes this meal so appealing is just how quickly it can all be pulled together—great for those hectic weeknights or even a Valentine’s Day dinner plagued by shoveling and frigid temperatures.

Some items you should already have or run out to purchase:
Meat thermometer Meat thermometer—and trust me when I say, this is one of the key tools in my entire kitchen and not just for cooking meat. After last week’s baking class, I learned it is even useful for gauging the perfect doneness of breads (an optimal 200 degrees F for perfect bread). Here’s a link to the one purchased on Amazon that I swear by: Meat Thermometer on Amazon

Oven thermometerOven thermometer—if nothing more, this $10 item will provide at least a few hours of entertainment when you finally fire up your oven and see just how inaccurate it may actually be—our 2-year-old oven is approximately 8 degrees F off (up to 350 degrees F) and then 12 degrees off ( >350 degrees F). This gadget may solve a number of baking-related frustrations. Here’s a link to the one I purchased on Amazon (but available locally at your Bed Bath and Beyond, etc.): Oven Thermometer on Amazon

For a cozy carb-free couple’s dinner, simply follow these relatively simple steps:

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: Approx. 20 minutes

Ingredients:
For the Steaks
• 2 8-oz filet mignon steaks
• 2 tablespoons of olive oil
• 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
• 2 tablespoons of fresh thyme, finely chopped
• Salt and pepper

For the Red Wine Reduction
• 1/2 cup of beef broth
• 1 cup of red wine—preferably cabernet sauvignon
• 1 cup of baby bella mushrooms—be sure to dust off any dirt
• 1 tablespoon of butter
• Salt and pepper

For the Broccoli Side
• 2 cups of broccoli, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces
• 2 tablespoons of butter
• Salt and pepper

Remove steaks from the refrigerator and marinate with plenty of salt and pepper on both sides. Leave marinated steaks on the counter for 30 minutes. Allowing the steak to come to room temperature will provide a better sear.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees

In an oven-safe pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat. Place the steaks on the heated pan for 3-4 minutes – do not touch the steaks or even take a peek. After 3-4 minutes, flip the steaks over and wait another 3-4 minutes, being careful not to move them on the pan.

Remove steaks from stovetop and place oven-safe pan in the oven—set the timer for 5-8 minutes and check the steaks’ temperature periodically. Timing will depend on the desired level of doneness via a meat thermometer. Here are the approximate temperatures/doneness:
• Rare – 123 degrees F
• Medium Rare – 130 degrees F
• Medium – 137 degrees F
• Medium Well – 150 degrees F
• Well – 160 degrees F

After steaks reach desired temperature, remove from oven and let rest covered loosely by tinfoil for 10 minutes.

While the steaks are searing, heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a nonstick fry pan on medium heat. Place a baby bella mushrooms in and coat in butter –stirring for 1-2 minutes. Add the beef broth and red wine. Turn the heat up to medium high and let the mixture reduce by ½–approximately 10 minutes.

Fill medium saucepan with 1 cup of water and drop bite-sized broccoli in. Heat pan over medium heat until steamed—about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add butter, salt and pepper.

Assemble steak with wine reduction and broccoli on plate and serve with remaining cabernet sauvignon.

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