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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Breakfast Hash with Eggs



Today I have for you a very breakfast-like dinner. For me, it’s a wee heavy for breakfast, but it makes for a fabulous dinner. It’ll leave you feeling healthy-full instead of heavy-full. You know what I’m talking about.
Every bite of this meal has plenty of spice and hint of heat, and the egg really helps mellow the dish and balance all the flavors. I always try to keep my food even while I eat so with this meal I made sure to have some breakfast hash and a bit of egg in every bite. I realize that’s pretty weird, but it ensures every last bite is just as good as the first. There is a method to my madness. Go ahead, try it.
It’s been almost 11 months since Steve and I ate meat, but we have found that we don’t miss it one bit because of meals like this breakfast hash. It’s a completely healthy alternative to a meat-heavy dinner. Meat really just weighed us down—figuratively and literally—but this is a meal that filled us up without weighing us down. Flavorful and healthy?! That’s a win-win if you ask me.
I made a few biscuits to go along with this meal and they were delicious. It was my first time using store-bought baking mix, and I was pretty pleased with the results. We decided on semi-homemade biscuits instead of canned to help keep with our healthy theme. Don’t get me wrong, canned biscuits are buttery and luscious, but healthful biscuits have their place too.

Steve assured me that leftovers make for a great breakfast, so if you’re into a hearty breakfast you’ll love having leftovers. Dig in and enjoy!

Breakfast Hash
Yields 6 Servings (more if you’re a dainty eater!)

Ingredients

For the sweet potatoes
Non-stick spray
3 lbs. sweet potatoes—peeled and cubed
2 tbsp. canola oil
salt

For the hash
1 tbsp. canola oil
1 onion—diced
3-4 cloves garlic—minced
Baked sweet potatoes cubes (directions above)
3 cups black beans (homemade or canned)
1 (16 oz) bag frozen corn
2-3 tsp. chili powder (I used 3 tsp.)
2 tsp. cumin
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
¾-1 tsp. salt (personal preference)
1-2 tbsp. water
Eggs (salt and pepper)

Directions

For the sweet potatoes
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a foil-lined baking sheet with non-stick spray. Toss the diced potatoes with the canola oil. Spread evenly on baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 20 minutes. Toss and bake for 20-25 additional minutes, or until soft.

For the hash
Heat canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and cook 1 additional minute. Add the baked sweet potatoes cubes, black beans, corn, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, salt and water and gently stir to combine. Cover and let cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes—stirring often.

While the hash is heating through, heat a large frying pan over medium heat and spray with non-stick spray. Gently crack 3 eggs into the pan, sprinkle with salt/pepper and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Very gently flip the eggs with a spatula and cook an additional 30 seconds. Repeat until you have the desired amount of eggs. You don’t want runny eggs, but you do still want a runny yolk. I’ve mastered this method over the years—feel free to use your preferred method for over easy eggs.

Spoon some breakfast hash onto a plate and top with an egg or two. Serve immediately.

Note: For the biscuits mentioned in the post, I used 2¼ cup store-bought baking mix and 2/3 cup milk. Mix with metal spoon to combine (the dough is very sticky). Drop biscuits by the spoonful (about ¼ cup each) onto a foil-lined baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake at 425 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Yields 6 biscuits.

Source
Slightly adapted from Eat, Live, Run

Friday, April 18, 2014

"The Time of My Life" by Cecelia Ahern


Smooth jazz is so incredibly relaxing! I've been listening to it for the last hour or so and I could totally go for a nap right now. It’s like a breath of fresh air because it allows my brain to focus on the music, instead of other thoughts.  
Speaking of thoughts, back in February I wrote a post titled Thoughts. It was about there being more to life than just working and looking forward to relaxing at the end of a long day, which leads me to the book I just finished reading—The Time of My Life by Cecelia Ahern.
The book is about Lucy, a 29 year old who is unhappily stumbling through life. She begins receiving letters from Life—her life. Now before you think I've lost my mind, you should know that all of Cecelia Ahern’s books have a whimsical element. Anyway, she receives letter after letter, but she ignores them all…until she can’t ignore them any longer.
She meets with her Life at his office, which is as dreary as he is. He is dressed in a crumpled suit and looks exhausted and worn out—disheveled, if you will. What I love about this is that Lucy is seeing her Life right before her eyes. Meaning, his appearance is a direct reflection of her everyday life.   
Take a moment to think about that. What would your Life look like if you were able to actually meet your life face-to-face? I think my Life would look quite tired and frankly a little bored—perplexed and wondering what’s next. I also think my Life would look me in the eye and ask why I don’t get out and enjoy life more. Take, for example, this quote from the book:
Someone once said, the world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.
Hello! What an eye opener for me. I do believe that those who are well-traveled have a better outlook on life and are more cheery. One day Steve and I will get out there and travel the world…just as soon as our debt isn't holding us back. Ugh, darn debt.
Anyway, Lucy and her Life journey on together and eventually her Life starts to look sharper and more handsome, which can only mean one thing—Lucy’s life has improved. She’s a better person and happier because of it.
Another quote I loved from the book:
As long as you’re around, your life is too. So just as you shower love and affection and attention on the husbands, wives, parents, children and forever friends who surround you, you have to do so equally with your life, because it’s yours, it’s you, and it’s always there rooting for you, cheering you on, even when you feel like you can’t do it.
For me, this quote holds so much meaning. I’m always so focused on taking care of other people that oftentimes I neglect to take care of myself—my life. That’s a hard pill to swallow. This book made me realize that I need to stop everything, take care of myself—physically, emotionally, mentally—and rethink the road I've been traveling. It’s not selfish to take care of myself and think for a while about what makes me truly happy in life. I think sometimes it’s easy for us all to forget that we get 1 life. There are no re-dos, but we can make changes to live a better life moving forward.

At the end of The Time of My Life, there are a few questions we should all sit quietly and answer. Here goes:
1. Which one key event made you re-evaluate your life?
2. When you’re lost, how do you find yourself?
If you've read this book, I’d love for you to leave a comment with your thoughts. Even if you've yet to read this book, you can still give all this some thought and answer the questions above. The take-home message here...don't let life pass you by. 

The days are long, but the years are short —Gretchen Rubin

Monday, April 14, 2014

New Series: Money Monday



Happy Monday morning to you! Let’s talk money today. Money Monday—has a nice ring to it. I’m always mentioning that Steve (My Love) and I are on a strict budget, so it’s about time I tell you what led to our strict ways. 

I’ll start by saying we were young and foolish. We both went to undergraduate and graduate school and we both borrowed too much money in student loans. The loans—that’s the foolish part. I think, like most, we assumed it’d be no big deal to pay back the money we borrowed. We didn't take into consideration the amount we were borrowing, the interest rate, or that repaying the loans would consume most all of our money. We all-around didn't consider any of this. We just moved through life with blinders. 
After I graduated from undergraduate school, my parent PLUS loan went into repayment. I moved to Brooklyn, NY two months after graduation to start graduate school, and I didn't work, so I had to put my parent PLUS loan on forbearance. The interest continued to accrue making the loan balloon. Again, I just turned a blind eye and kept on taking out loans to pay for my education. All the while, Steve was accruing debt while making his way through a Ph.D. program. This was on top of the debt he already had from undergrad—his loans and his parent PLUS loan. Unbeknownst to us, we were digging a huge hole we were going to have to climb out of.
Steve and I aren't city people, so it was very difficult for us to live in Brooklyn. This played into our next unwise decisionunwise at that time anyway. We visited Washington, DC in April 2009, and when it came time for me to search for a job, we decided it’d be a good idea to search in the DC area. I did just that and by the end of July 2009 we were living in Maryland. I started my first real job, and Steve was in the 3rd year of his Ph.D. program and working on his dissertation. Needless to say, we moved having only 1 minuscule income.
In order to increase our income a bit, Steve began working. More money = more problems. We moved from Brooklyn to Maryland without a car because we didn't have one, nor did we need one in the city. Wait, I lied—we would've given anything to have a car in Brooklyn, but neither of us brought our car along when we moved. So, my parents very generously let us borrow their car for a few months when we first moved to Maryland. We really, really wanted cars of our own though. Sooo…you guessed it! We went and made another foolish decision. Um, 2 actually. We bought 2 BRAND NEW cars. Once we added up all of our expenses for the month we had only $200 leftover and somehow we didn't see that as a problem.
I know this may all sound so normal, but it’s not our normal anymore. We've drastically changed our ways, which I will continue to discuss in future Money Monday posts.

Tell me, what’s your normal? 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spicy Southwest Pasta



Another busy work week flew right on by, so I’m using today to relax and unwind. Definitely been feeling a bit exhausted lately—like real physical exhaustion. The good news is that I’m still keeping up with my workouts, and I've been making an effort to read more these last few days. Speaking of, I just sat and read lots of pages while a lovely breeze floated through the window. Hello spring!! I am flying right through my book! Love when that happens.
Since I always know my weeks will be busy, I make sure to keep meals easy-breezy during the week. So it’s a good thing we love pasta because it’s a typical go-to meal for us. I made this pasta meal in a short amount of time just a few days ago. I typically rush home from work, rush to make dinner, and then run out the door to pick-up My Love at the metro. Go, go, go!
This Spicy Southwest Pasta was packed full of flavor! Angel hair pasta slathered in a spicy tomato sauce packed with creamy black beans, diced tomatoes, and sweet corn. Did I mention there is orange in the sauce?! It thinned the sauce a bit and added a layer or sweetness that worked well with the sweet corn bits.
Sometimes I go a little heavy on the red pepper flakes, but this time I got it just right. I did end up adding a touch too much of cumin for my taste, but it added another level of spice that really stood out. Next time, I’d probably toss in a bit of chili powder, but I didn’t have any when I made this, so I can’t speak for how it’d taste. Good though, I’m guessing! Thinking of chili powder makes me miss having a warm bowl of Vegetarian Chili. Is it fall yet?! :o) Uh huh, I'm one of those people.
Go on and enjoy a bowl of this pasta out on the balcony while soaking in the lovely spring air. I’ll have to get outside and enjoy it myself before summer sets in…which is any day now around here.

Spicy Southwest Pasta
Yields 4-5 servings (we’re big pasta eaters!)

Ingredients

1 lb. pasta (I used angel hair)
2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. canola oil
1 small red onion—diced
4 cloves garlic—minced
32 oz. tomato sauce (I used homemade)
¾ cup orange juice
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
1½ - 2 tsp. cumin (I originally used 1 tbsp. which was too much)
1 tbsp. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
1 (15 oz.) can black beans—drained and rinsed
1 (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes—drained
2 cups frozen corn

Directions

Bring a pot of water to a boil over high-heat. Carefully break the pasta strands in half, if desired. 

While the water boils, heat a large pan over medium heat. Add the canola oil and diced red onion and cook until translucent. Add the minced garlic and cook 1 additional minute. Add in the tomato sauce, orange juice, red pepper flakes, cumin, sugar, and salt and stir to combine. Cover and let simmer over medium-low heat for 5 minutes—stirring occasionally.

The water should be boiling by now, so add the 2 tsp. salt and the pasta and stir to combine. Cook according to package directions (angel hair only takes 5 minutes).

To the simmering sauce, add the black beans, diced tomatoes, and frozen corn and stir to combine. Cover and let simmer for another 5 minutes.

Drain the pasta in a colander and add it back to the same pot. Carefully pour the sauce over the pasta and gently stir to combine. Serve warm.

Source
Adapted from Food.com