Friday, January 31, 2014

Quick & Crunchy Asian Slaw

Happy Friday everybody! This week has flown by for me, and I'm ready to power through this final work day and welcome the weekend with open arms. Hope it went by quickly for you too. Plans for the weekend here include:

- A trip to Trader Joe's tonight (I know, how fun, but we are seriously running low on a bunch of staples)
- Another baby shower tomorrow
- Superbowl Sunday! (Exclamation point on paper but not in heart, since the Pats are not playing ;)

I woke up this morning in the mood for a smoothie for breakfast. No surprise there since I've been drinking them almost daily for the last few weeks, but I was extra in the mood for it today since Matt reminded me last night that we had a full bag of frozen peaches hidden in the back of the freezer. Over the summer my MIL brought me a bunch of peaches she hand picked from a local farm, which I peeled, cut and froze, and then totally forgot about. Love peaches in my smoothies!

Into the blender went:

- About 2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
- About 1 cup frozen peaches
- 1/2 scoop raw protein powder
- 1/2 pouch Cocozia coconut water
- A small drizzle of raw honey (I don't usually put sweetener in my smoothies, but I realized after tasting it that the peaches were tart, which combined with plain yogurt made for a pretty mouth-puckering little drink. The honey evened everything out.)

A while back Cocozia sent me a case of their organic coconut water to try, and I've been enjoying it a lot. Coconut water is not sweet or thick like coconut milk, so it's perfect for hydration when you just need something other than water, like after the gym. I also like adding it to my smoothies rather than milk or plain water.

If you like coconut water, definitely give Cocozia a try. It's 100% organic and totally pure - it doesn't have any sugar or other additives like some mainstream varieties - and it has a nice fresh flavor. I like that the pouch also has a straw so it's easy to drink on the go. You can pick some up on Amazon here.

But the title of this post is "Quick & Crunchy Asian Slaw", so let's get to recipe sharing. Earlier this week I came home from a work day in the city to an awesome meal courtesy of Matt.

He had thawed some wild caught tuna steaks we had in the freezer and cooked them with black & white sesame seeds, virgin coconut oil and a splash of Bragg's Liquid Aminos. They were delicious (and huge - I could only muscle down half of that steak), but the real star was the slaw he made on the side. I literally could not stop eating it until it was all gone. When he told me he was making tuna steaks for dinner I suggested using up our Napa cabbage by making an Asian slaw on the side, but I honestly didn't expect it to taste this good.

It's slightly sweet, salty, crunchy - everything you need in a bite. I think it would even be good stuffed into pitas for Asian style fish tacos. Mmm. Maybe I'll make those this weekend.

Quick & Crunchy Asian Slaw

Serves 2

1/2 head Napa cabbage, shredded
2 carrots, shredded
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds (plus extra for garnish)
2-3 Tbsp. chopped scallion

Add everything to a large mixing bowl, and toss well until combined. Let sit for about an hour before serving.


Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Lindsay's Baby Shower

This past weekend was all about the babies. First we had our little gender reveal party on Saturday, and then Sunday was all about showering my good friend Lindsay and her baby boy who's due to arrive in March.

Some people say they don't like going to showers, but I love them. I love getting to spend the afternoon laughing and chatting with the girls, getting a little dressed up, eating lunch, having a mimosa or glass of wine (ok, not this time, but at least everyone else got to enjoy some wine), and getting a tad bit competitive over the games, mainly gift Bingo (I won a picture frame this time, which matches my living room perfectly!). 

I also just love the tradition of doting on the bride or mom-to-be, whichever the case, and making her feel loved and special at such an important time in her life.

And let's face it, I love the party details. So cute!

I knew I'd be eating whatever was on the menu at the shower, which was likely to not be super healthy, so I started the morning off with an un-typical Sunday breakfast for me. I made a yogurt bowl filled with plain Greek yogurt and topped with a medley of pears, maple syrup, walnuts and cinnamon, which I cooked for a few minutes so the pears would get soft and caramelized. It was the perfect combo of cold and warm, and was delicious.

I'm glad I ate a good breakfast because I definitely indulged in some appetizers when I got to the shower, including some warm bread, calamari, crab stuffed mushrooms and fried mozzarella. Yum. For lunch I had a salad followed by tilapia with tomatoes, olives and saffron rice.

I know tilapia is like the worst thing you can eat these days, but I had to choose between the vegetarian dish of penne vodka (carbs + heavy cream + parmesan cheese) or the fish dish (lean protein, but of the farm-raised, bad for the environment variety). I chose fish. And it was quite satisfying. ;)

I also ate an adorable and tasty little rubber ducky sugar cookie during the gift opening. Okay, one and a half cookies. Had to taste test the onesie one as well.

And thennn I ate a cupcake. I mean at this point I was all in. Can I blame pregnancy?

Good thing Monday came quickly and I'm back off the sugar. I was starting to feel a little sickly after eating so much cake this weekend.

I'm currently on the bus ride home from the city and Matt's in the kitchen whipping up some wild caught tuna with Asian style slaw, so I'm looking forward to a nice clean meal when I get home.

How was your weekend? Hope it was a good one!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sharing Some Big News

It's time to share some big news with you all that I've been wanting to share for a while now. It's been pretty hard to keep it a secret considering all the lifestyle changes I've had over the last few months, which you may have noticed. There have been fewer paleo dinners and more carbs appearing in my meals on a regular basis; there have been fewer workouts and more early bedtimes; and there have been no Friday night glasses of wine or weekend beers, even during big football games. If you haven't guessed it by now...

We're expecting Baby Baratta #2!

I'm 5 months pregnant now and can hardly believe that on or around June 10 (so soon!) we'll become a family of four. Eek! We are so happy and really looking forward to this next stage of our lives. Even Riker is excited - he can't wait to become a big brother. He is always asking to see my belly and "kiss the baby". Every time we sit next to each other on the couch he protectively keeps his hand on my tummy. Guh cuteness overload.

The first trimester was pretty rough, as it was with Riker too, in that I was exhausted all the time and plagued by morning sickness non-stop. I had tons of food aversions and could really only bear to eat plain toast, pasta or other carby foods with little flavor. It also didn't help that I was sick with a bad cold and bronchitis for almost two months, which lingered on since I couldn't take medication. But thankfully as soon as the second trimester came on, everything cleared right up. No more sickness, my energy came back and I've been able to work out again, and I don't have food aversions anymore so I can eat seafood and veggies again (woo!). I still need to eat more carbs than I normally do when I'm not pregnant - they seem to be the only thing that keeps me full and not on the verge of nausea - but hey, my motto is to listen to your body. And if the body says, feed me grains, I'm not going to object. ;)

So at 20 weeks something exciting happens. We finally learned the sex of the baby this weekend!

The "gender reveal party" trend didn't exist when we had Riker, so with him we found out the regular way at the ultrasound office. I'm glad we experienced it that way our first time, since we could have a private moment just the two of us to get all emotional and teary eyed when we found out it was a boy. But with our second one, I wanted to do a gender reveal and share the experience and excitement with our whole family.

We decided to keep it small and just have our immediate family, so I was really happy that all my out-of-town family was able to come. My mom, stepdad and grandma came down from Vermont on Friday night, and my sister Amanda and her boyfriend Justyn came in from Philly on Saturday. All of Matt's family arrived to our house around 6:00 last night and the party kicked into gear.

We had a simple spread of appetizers to start off - spinach dip, crackers with some fun cheeses (peperoncini asiago seemed to be the big hit), olives and roasted red peppers. I didn't snap any pictures of dinner, but we made citrus rosemary whole roasted chickens (I buy free range organic chickens, which not only are more humane and healthier, but apparently taste a lot better too), green beans almondine, mashed potatoes, salad and garlic bread. I made a piece of cedar plank salmon for my protein since I don't eat chicken. We had a bit of a snafu with the chicken cooking (it was my first time making whole roasted chicken...thank goodness my mom was here to help me!), but everything came out great eventually.

After dinner it was finally time to cut the cake and see if there was pink or blue inside. The anticipation was killing me!

Matt, Riker and I cut the cake together, and I really, really, REALLY expected to see blue frosting on the inside. It was a boy for sure. Except when I made the first cut and pulled the knife out...



It was PINK! A little baby girl is on the way. :) I actually squealed and jumped up and down like a little kid. While I loved the idea of having "my boys" and two little brothers to play with and torture each other, Matt and I both secretly wanted one of each. We feel so lucky to be able to raise both a boy and a girl. And for months Riker has been insisting that he wants a baby sister, so he's pretty excited to have gotten his wish. ;) The whole family is ecstatic. Time to redecorate the nursery!

So there you have the big news. I'm hoping the next few months are a smooth ride and before we know it our new little bundle will be here.

And with that, I'm off to get ready for another baby celebration. My friend Lindsay's baby shower is today, which means I get to spend the whole afternoon with my best girls and dote on the new mom-to-be. Can't wait!

Enjoy your Sunday. :)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Goat Cheese Pizza with Brussels Sprouts & Balsamic Reduction (Recipe ReDux)

It's pizza time...

I made this pizza a few weeks ago when we had friends over for football. I figured that was the perfect time to work up an idea for Recipe ReDux, since this month's theme is healthy pizza recipes.

Pizza inherently isn't healthy, with all the dough, cheese and potentially fatty toppings. So this challenge was a great one because I wanted to make a pizza that both tasted great and people wanted to eat, but that was also healthful. And that wasn't just the run-of-the-mill veggie pizza you can get from the local pizza spot.

I think I succeeded with this one.

So to start, I wanted to make a paleo crust that was totally grain-free to cut down on the carb factor in pizza, but I have to say I am a little sick of the cauliflower crust. Every time I make cauliflower crust it tastes good, but really doesn't taste like PIZZA. It doesn't fold right (I don't care what anyone says - and I've tried multiple recipes) and is more like polenta pie than pizza. So I dug around for other ideas and found this one by Zenbelly, which is a yeast base like traditional dough, but uses almond flour and tapioca starch instead of wheat flour. Not being a very adventurous baker, I followed the recipe exactly. I was skeptical, especially when I tried to roll the dough out and it was a sticky mess. But guess what? It WORKED.

It's like real pizza dough. You can even pick it up!

Definitely give this dough recipe a go if you're into low carb living.

So I will admit, this recipe is not 100% my own since I did borrow the dough, but you can choose to use whatever base you like - paleo, cauliflower, whole wheat, your own homemade or one you bought from the grocery store or pizza shop. The real stuff is the toppings.

I started with a base of ricotta cheese, then added a couple big spoonfuls of goat cheese for some tangy flavor. Add shredded Brussels sprouts, parmesan cheese and a drizzle of balsamic reduction, and you've got a flavor explosion. It's a really unique combo of tangy, salty and sweet. You don't really taste the sprouts, but they add a nice crunchy texture against the soft, creamy cheeses.

Note: I had a truffle balsamic reduction on hand since Matt gave me one in my Christmas stocking this year (does he know me, or what?) but if you don't have one in your pantry, you can just take some regular balsamic vinegar and boil it for 15-20 minutes until it reduces down to a thick syrup.

This pizza was a hit with our friends. I only made one, and then made a bunch of regular pies as well, and wish I had made more of this kind. I'll definitely be making it many times over again, probably on both paleo and un-paleo crusts. Maybe even for Superbowl Sunday?

Goat Cheese Pizza with Brussels Sprouts & Balsamic Reduction

Makes 1 pizza

1 pizza dough of your choice (I used this paleo crust)
4 Tbsp. whole milk ricotta cheese
4 oz. goat cheese
Approx. 8-10 fresh Brussels sprouts; halved, cores removed, and shredded
2 Tbsp. parmesan cheese
2-3 Tbsp. balsamic reduction

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. If using a pizza stone, heat the pizza stone as well.

Roll the dough out and place on baking sheet or pizza stone. Bake until almost done - slightly golden on the bottom but not quite cooked on top. Spread the ricotta cheese evenly over the dough; then break up the goat cheese with your fingers and scatter around. Top with shredded Brussels sprouts and parmesan cheese. Drizzle with balsamic reduction. Bake another 3-4 minutes until cheese is hot.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Taking Me Time

Morning friends! It's a beautiful one here today, with cold, crisp air, a soft peachy sunrise and an almost eerie glow to the sky, just ominous enough to let us know a storm is on the way. I was supposed to go into the city for work today and tomorrow, but they're calling for 8-12 inches of snow by us this afternoon and tonight, so I'm not really feeling a NYC commute home tonight. Instead, I'm hunkering down in my home office to work in my sweatpants and watch the snow fall outside. Not a bad way to spend the work day. To get it started, I brought back one of my summertime breakfast staples - the yogurt parfait in a jar. I've missed them!

So how was the rest of your weekend? A couple things characterized the mood around here...1) Riker was really sick on Saturday afternoon, 2) My lovely husband saw that I needed a little "me time" and sent me off on Sunday to do whatever I pleased, and 3) the Patriots lost the Championship game. Some ups and downs in there to be sure.

Let's start with this guy. Tell me that's not the saddest looking little toddler face.

Riker was a little fussy Saturday morning but nothing crazy, so I didn't think much of toting him off to the gym while Matt was at fishing club. Not 20 minutes into my treadmill workout did the gym daycare page me, saying Riker was hysterically crying and I had to take him home. :/ We spent the rest of the afternoon/evening cuddled up watching Monsters, Inc. and Sesame Street. Thankfully he started feeling much better around 8:00, ate a big dinner and slept peacefully through the night so no ER visits were had on Sunday.

Sunday morning began with a bang when Matt offered to make me this for breakfast.

A homemade crab cake (leftover from Christmas, which we had in the freezer) topped with a perfectly cooked fried egg, avocado and a squeeze of fresh lemon.

Sooo good!

After breakfast all I wanted to do was spend a little time working on the blog and doing some other things on my list, which I didn't get to Friday night since Matt went mountain biking and didn't do Saturday since Riker was sick. Well Sunday didn't go much better, because when Riker isn't sick, it's hard to get much down time. It's mostly "Mom! mom! mom! Play, play play!" all day long, which don't get me wrong, I love, but sometimes a mom needs a little "me time" too. Rather than voicing this, I started to get cranky. Matt noticed right away and told me I should get out of the house and go take some time for myself. It's often hard for me to do that - to recognize that I need time for myself and then not feel guilty about taking it (I even made it a New Year's Resolution last year) - so I'm really grateful for a husband that tells me it's okay to get away for a bit and encourages me to do so.

After he said that, I immediately went up and changed for the gym; there aren't many things better for curing a negative mood that getting those endorphins running! After a nice workout, I did a little shopping and then went down to my favorite new little coffee shop, Revolutionary Cafe. I've been waiting for such a place to open in Toms River! It has a cute atmosphere and serves fair trade coffees and lots of vegetarian dishes made with locally sourced ingredients. My kind of place.

I brought my laptop so I could get some posts written for Jersey Bites while I relaxed with a fun coffee drink and some lunch. Not only did I get all my posts written, I finally ordered thank you cards for Riker's birthday (I know, so late!) and got started on a Valentine's Day gift I'm making for Matt.

It's amazing what I can get done in an hour of quiet time to myself. ;) For lunch I ordered a lemon basil grilled tofu sandwich, served with mesclun greens on whole grain bread with homemade warm black pepper pita crisps on the side.

It was really good, but also really filling, so I only ate half and brought the rest home. It was such a great morning and I felt much more rested and relaxed when I got back home. Thanks babe for forcing me to take some "me time"!

The rest of Sunday afternoon/evening was spent watching the Patriots lose (boo) and then hosting a party for Matt's coworkers to come over and taste test his new beers during the Seahawks/49ers game. That was a much more exciting game than the Pats one, I'll tell ya.

And now we're back at the work week. Have a good one, and stay warm if you're in the eye of the storm like we are!

Tell me: What do you like to do when taking "me time" for yourself?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Food for the Busy Week

Thank goodness, it's the weekend.

I had quite the long work week this week, and was really thankful when Friday night rolled around. I'm basking in the relaxation of a Saturday morning at home, bumming around in sweatpants and enjoying a big old cup of home-brewed Starbucks coffee. Matt has a school fishing club event today, so it's just me and Riker for the day. For breakfast I made us each an organic waffle - Riker's with peanut butter, and mine with plain Greek yogurt, strawberries and Vermont maple syrup.

Yum. It should keep me full for a while before I pack us up and head to the gym.

So as I mentioned, this has been a really crazy week. Lots of meetings, some late nights, you get the idea. I had a meal plan in place, but didn't stick to it 100%. Still, we managed to get some kind of healthy meal on the table every night. A win!

Last Sunday was the only day I really "cooked", and it was to make a seafood gratin by Ina Garten I've had on the list for a while and have really been wanting to try. Matt gave me a jar of saffron in my Christmas stocking this year, and as soon as I pulled it out on Christmas morning I knew I was going to use it to make this gratin.

It.was.amazing. It was filled with seafood, leeks, carrots and a creamy sauce, and made enough for us to have dinner + lunch the next day.

I made some tweaks to the recipe, subbing out heavy cream for organic whole milk and using the homemade crab stock and seafood I had in the freezer - wild caught cod, shrimp and sea scallops.

Will definitely be making this again. Yum!

The rest of the week was not so fancy...

I promise, that tasted better than it looked. I picked up some whole wheat & flax seed pita pockets while grocery shopping, and they've pretty much been the go-to meal maker all week. One night we had wild caught salmon & caesar salad pita pockets one night, using the caesar dressing Matt made on Sunday.

Another night we had pockets filled with hummus, arugula and Cabot cheddar cheese, carrot sticks w/ extra hummus, and cups of Muir Glen organic vegetable soup. I mean, sometimes you just can't deal with cooking a real meal.

And still another night we had the pitas with avocados, black bean burgers, arugula and my new favorite salsa. Served with steamed green beans on the side. That was an interesting combination.

The one night I broke the mold of the pita addiction was to make whole wheat gnocchi with ricotta, parmesan, lemon, steamed broccoli and fresh parsley.

Another one of those "tasted better than it looks" meals. Riker loved this one, and although it only took about 20 minutes to make I at least felt like I was making a real dinner rather than just sandwiches.

Thankfully last night, despite the Friday night fatigue I usually have after a work week, I pulled together a meal that could actually be considered cooking. A much-needed comfort plate of comfort food!

These were similar to my Spicy Stuffed Poblano Peppers, but the nutrition value was much better. After re-reading that recipe, I realized I've learned a lot about grains, GMOs and pesticides in the last two years. These were stuffed with quinoa, zucchini, homemade spicy pickled peppers (made by a family friend), tomatoes, onions and garlic, then topped with Cabot extra sharp cheddar cheese. So good. And just one was plenty filling for both me and Matt, so we have another meal awaiting us in the fridge.

I'm hoping next week will be a little less crazy so I can do some more real cooking - and hopefully that's the case because I ran out of pita pockets. ;)

Enjoy your Saturday!