a bucket of flowers.

It doesn’t happen all too often.

But every once in a great while, I get this sudden itch to take out a shovel and dig up some dirt.

I find that the older I get, the more I enjoy the simple things of life. ¬†Like taking my time in selecting just the right flowers for just the right arrangement. ¬†Not caring if something was “right” or “wrong” or what Martha Stewart might think, might do.

None of that.

No primping or prepping (or obsessive Type A planning!)  This afternoon, I plunged my hands into the damp, earthy soil and found myself elbow deep in the most incredibly simplistic joy of flowers.

Of course, you should know, this is a yearly tradition of mine, of dad’s. ¬†Every mother’s day.

We briefly look over the pre-planted buckets of flowers in the florist shops, as if observing our yearly competition. ¬†It doesn’t matter if each and every pot looks beyond perfect (because, you know, they usually do.) ¬†We have other ideas and plans, and we always find ourselves patiently foraging our way through each and every individual plant.

I used to be of the opinion that flowers served no purpose (you can at least, after all, eat a vegetable!)

But then.

Flowers make me smile.

And I have a (not so secret) obsession with quaint little florist shops.

AND, this is the one time I have a good excuse to get my hands dirty.

The secret to putting together your own arrangement is to choose the flowers that make you smile the most.

Throw together a wide selection of flowers with varying colors, sizes and attitude (yes, flowers have attitude!)

And then, as with cooking, just have fun with it.

 

smushed up lentils.

It doesn’t matter what you do.

It doesn’t matter if you’re granted the beauty of natural lighting or if you’re stuck with nothing but orange infused¬†incandescent.

It doesn’t matter.

Smashed up lentils will never look pretty.

HOWEVER!!!

Smashed up lentils can (and should!) taste delicious.

Especially when they’re mixed with Indian spices, caramelized onions and crunchy walnuts (yes, you heard me right!)

I’m obsessed with these tasty¬†burgers.

I love how quick they are to throw together.

And they freeze really nice too, which means you can have lunch or dinner within seconds for those times when time is not an option.

(Warning: some carnivorous cats may try to eat them, unaware that tonight’s dinner is completely vegan…sorry, Humphrey!)

 Indian Spiced Lentil Walnut Burgers

This recipe was adapted from Mollie Katzen’s lentil burgers in her Moosewood Cookbook. ¬†I like making them with the addition of some common Indian spices, which are tasty as well as beneficial. ¬†Spices such as turmeric are known for their antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.

For leftovers, freeze each patty individually and take out when you want a quick ‘n’ easy meal. ¬†Enjoy!

  • 3/4 cup dry lentils
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced very thin
  • 1/2 cup very finely minced walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup crushed flax seed
  • optional:¬†serve with avocado, sweet vidalia onion slices, spicy salsa, and/or sliced tomatoes
  1. Place lentils and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 20 minutes, or until the lentils are soft and the liquid is mostly gone.  Drain any remaining liquid.  Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and add vinegar.
  2. Heat the oil in a medium-sized skillet. Add onion and sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients except the flax seed, and sauté 5 to 10 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender. Add the sautéed mixture and flax seed to the lentils and mix well. Chill for about 1 hour before forming patties.
  3. Form 4-inch diameter patties by grabbing a handful and gently forming into a round ball; smush lightly into a patty (patty will be fragile.)  Heat a small amount of olive oil in a skillet or spray with cooking spray, and sauté the patties on both sides until heated through and crispy. You can also just broil them for about 5 to 8 minutes on each side.  Enjoy!

stepping away from the sneakers.

Cooking isn’t the only thing that flew south over these past two months…

Running.

Running slowly but surely transitioned from a typical 15 mile week to a 10 mile week to a 6 mile week. ¬†I became solely focused on afternoon walks and a twice weekly yoga session (kitty play time doesn’t count, even while I *am* the one who does most of the running.)

I did just enough to make me feel energized, healthy, fit.

Despite having my own personal hangups with taking a hiatus or a cut in mileage, I’m actually a really big supporter of resting. ¬†Many trainers send their best runners into a hiatus during the holiday months, as a way for them to both physically and most importantly¬†mentally¬†take a break from the regime of running.

Anyone who loves running will tell you that a good run makes them feel on top of the world (the legendary “runner’s high.”) ¬†But running can and does become exhausting. ¬†It’s important to know yourself; to know when you need to step away.

 

Returning to running after a complete hiatus or a drastic cut in mileage doesn’t have to feel like the end of the world, by the way.

I’ll admit that my fitness level did deteriorate some, but not a¬†lot. ¬†I continued running, just not nearly as much, which kept me in the groove. ¬†And while I’m not exactly ready to go out and run a marathon anytime soon, I can still keep a pretty steady pace for my typical 3-5 mile loop. ¬†The body can retain its fitness. as long as it’s continuously moving along with some form of cardio.

If you find it difficult to rest, like I often do, it’s important not to lose sight of what fitness is really all about. ¬†Health. ¬†And sometimes being healthy means taking a step back, lowering the intensity of the workout, and just enjoying the very movement and strength that your body possesses.

Sometimes, it’s okay to say cut back, which in the end helps us to move forward.

Sometimes, resting is a very good thing.

QUESTION: Do you have a favorite “high intensity workout”? ¬†Do you take regular breaks/hiatuses or do you stick with your regime? ¬†

returning to the keyboard.

Having been away for a little over 2 months, I have to be honest.  It feels a little awkward coming back.

My blog has always felt a lot like home to me, mostly because I like to invite all of you into my own personal life. ¬†Only right now, it doesn’t feel as much like home, mostly because I haven’t been here in such a long time. ¬† I don’t even know, really, where to start.

I guess I should just start with the reason why I left in the first place.

I grew tired of cooking.

There.

I said it.

Years and years of throwing together meals, indulging myself in fabulous new cuisines and breathing in the fresh aromas that encapsulated me in my tiny little kitchen.  How, you ask, could I grow tired of that?

Last week I got together with a group of college buddies, only to hear one of my foodie friends state that she too had grown tired of cooking. ¬†That at the end of the day, the last thing she wanted to do was to even think of preparing dinner. ¬†I suddenly realized that I wasn’t alone.

It happens to all of us. ¬†We grow tired of the things that we love. ¬†And sometimes we have to step far away. ¬†But usually, more often than not, we walk on back. ¬†Because it’s in us. ¬†Those intricate little things that make us who we are.

And that is the plain and simple story of why I left. ¬†There are no other dramatic stories to tell, and I’m truly sorry if I worried some of you with my unexpected leave! ¬†I haven’t yet fallen off the planet. ūüėČ

There are so many things that I can’t wait to catch all of you up on. ¬†Life is exciting and a lot has happened over the past two months.

(Nicole, by the way, deserves credit for getting me started again, after routinely asking me when I’m going to start blogging…thanks, Nicole!) :mrgreen:

I’ll save most of what I have to share for the upcoming weeks, but I do want to introduce you all to Humphrey.

I’m a self reported dog lover. ¬†Dog¬†behavior¬†and training fascinates me. ¬†I’m obsessed with big black labs and drooly, snoring bulldogs. ¬†Always have been, always will be.

But then I met Humphrey (formerly known as Digger) at a cat shelter.

I fell in love with him as soon as he crawled up into my lap.  While the other cats could care less of my very presence, Humphrey purred and kneaded his way deep into my heart.

He’s turned out to be a little handful of love mixed with mischief mixed with “cat”titude. ¬†He knows what he likes and he’ll let you know if he doesn’t. ¬†He loves to climb and knock things over. ¬†Most of all, he loves to be brushed and snuggled and fed (organic beef and liver is his fave.)

I’ll share lots more about him in the coming weeks!

Well.

As awkward as it feels to just come walking right back in, as if nothing has changed—no time has elapsed–it still feels really good to be here once again.

Home always makes sense.

Besides, I’ve honest to goodness missed all of you. ¬†It feels really good to be back. ūüėÄ

QUESTION: What is the most exciting thing that has happened to you in the past 2 months? ¬†Haha!…Apparently, I have a LOT to catch up on. ūüėČ

apple smothered pork chops.

The simplest pork chop begins with a couple of apples, a dash of cinnamon, a bit of brown sugar, and one onion.

Cooked, cooked, cooked.

Until you spot that fine balance, where the apples are forced into a decision of either holding together or falling delicately apart.  All smokey and steamy and oozing with spicy-sweet aroma.

Meanwhile.

In another pan.

The pork chops are browning.

Just as they are.  With just a drizzle of oil to prevent any unwanted sticking.

And before you know it...voila!

You just scoop the apples on top and pretend that you slaved away all day.

When really?

All you did was stand in the kitchen, watching a few apples and pork chops cook.

And that, my friends, is the simplest pork chop.

Apple Smothered Pork Chops
(Serves 4) 

  • 4 bone-in, center-cut pork loin chops
  • 2 tablespoons¬†olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 large tart apples, sliced
  • 1/2 cup¬†sliced onion
  • sprinkle of cinnamon
  1. In a large skillet, brown pork chops in oil. ¬†Cover and cook for 7-8 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 145¬į.
  2. Meanwhile, in small non-stick skillet, cook the apples, onion, cinnamon and brown sugar over medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until apples are softened. Smother pork chops with apples and serve. 
QUESTION: What is your “simplest” tried and true, no-fail recipe? ¬†Baked beans! ¬†Aside from the waiting time, they’re ridiculously easy to whip together. ¬†A sure crowd pleaser. ūüėÄ

Dining Out At Panera Bread.

I decided to add a new page to the blog’s headline.

Introducing: “Dining Out”

I love eating out and trying new foods. ¬†I also love that it’s completely possible to eat well at many restaurants, with new menu items popping up all.of.the.time. ¬†From chain restaurants to the small ma and pa cafe’s, I thought it would be fun to include some of the healthy options/requests/orders that are available out there.

Today, I stopped in at Panera Bread, which is one of my favorite places to eat when I’m out and about.

U-Pick-2 Option: ¬†Black Bean Soup. ¬†Classic Salad. ¬†Whole Grain Baguette (that’s a special request, as the order will automatically deliver a white baguette unless you ask.)

It’s delicious. ¬†Filling. ¬†Soul satisfying.

I only wish I knew what the secret was to their black bean soup (there’s cumin, red onions and black beans in there, and that is all I know!)

When I’m dining out, I like to include some protein (i.e., black bean soup), vegetables (i.e., salad) and a whole grain if possible (i.e., whole grain baguette.) ¬†These three combined, along with a little fat (i.e., fat used in making soup and/or salad dressing) keeps me deliciously full for hours.

It also gives me plenty of energy to shop, shop, shop. ¬†Which is exactly what I did all day. ūüėÄ

QUESTION: What is your favorite “chain restaurant”? ¬†I’m a big fan of Panera and the Cheesecake Factory.

lunch break.

You know what I love about lunch?

It gives me the chance to break away from the day’s routine. ¬†No matter how dull, unorganized, crazy busy, boring, exciting, routine, ________ (fill in the blank) the day is, lunch is that pivotal point that can instantly turn the day around.

It takes just one hunk of dark chocolate.  Or a yogurt parfait.  Or a hunk of your favorite bread.

And there you go. ¬†You’ve just turned the day around.

Just like a day old bologna sandwich with half melted cheese can ruin a perfectly fine day…

…a bowl of vegetable soup, a hunk of whole grain bread smeared in avocado, and freshly cracked black pepper (here, there, everywhere) can instantly put a smile on your face.

(FYI, I still have nightmares of that bologna sandwich from long ago…true story.)

I like to make lunch all about the vegetables.

So that at the end of the day, if there’s a sudden shift in plans (to the pizza barn we go!) or I randomly don’t feel like cooking (cold cereal!), I already have a nice big bundle of fiber-rich vegetables under my belt. ¬†Already consumed. ¬†Fueling me through the afternoon. ¬†Filling me up with all kinds of nutrients.

It just feels good.

Sometimes (most times) that means a really large salad.  Never made the same way twice because there are so many options to be had!

Some days, this means a nice big bowl of leftover vegetable soup.

Or an open faced sandwich with hummus and plenty of shredded veggies on top.

Really.  However you look at it.  Lunch has the full potential to completely turn your day around.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Garden Minestrone Soup–slightly modified from the original version seen previously on The Flying Onion.

(serves 8)

Serve hot in the winter and chilled in the summer!

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tsp fresh oregano
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups chopped yellow squash
  • 3 cups chopped zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (or frozen)
  • 2 (15 oz) cans diced tomatoes with basil, oregano, garlic (or plain)
  • 3 (14 oz) cans vegetable broth
  • 2 (15.5 oz) can white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (12oz) package frozen spinach
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add onion to pan; saute 3 minutes or until softened.  Add oregano and garlic, saute 1 minute.  Stir in squash, zucchini, carrot and corn; saute 5 minutes or until veggies are tender.
  2. Stir in tomatoes and broth; bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.
  3. Add beans and spinach to pan.  Season with pepper and salt to taste.  Serve and enjoy!

¬†QUESTION: What are your favorite lunches for work/school or when you’re at home?

Job Interview Snippets and Tips

I’ve applied to well over 20 jobs.

I’ve had a total of 5 interviews.

There’s no question that it’s a tough job market out there right now for almost everyone…in almost every field.

Obviously, I’m still looking for another part-time or full-time job in addition to my current part-time job. ¬†And I wish I would have had someone share their job interview experience with me at the very beginning to save me a lot of mistakes and mishaps. ¬†Which is why I decided to share¬†my own¬†personal experiences with all of you fellow job-seekers out there!

SARAH’S LIST OF INTERVIEW DO’S and DON’TS

1. Buy a nice suit.

Or at least a nice outfit, depending on how formal your job interview is expected to be. ¬†This is for several reasons: (a) You want to walk in feeling confident and looking your best. ¬†Feeling confident will show in your attitude, demeanor and voice. ¬†Also, (b) if you’re neck and neck with a fellow contender, they’re going to choose the person who looked the part. ¬†Lastly, (c) it’s always expected that you’re going to dress DOWN from the interview on. ¬†So don’t show up in sloppy attire, because to them, that just means you’ll look¬†really¬†bad once you’re actually working. ūüėČ

2. Print extra copies of your resume and reference letters.

After each and every interview, I’ve had someone ask me for an extra resume which they forgot to print. ¬†One time, HR didn’t have a copy of my reference letters and asked for this as well. ¬†You never want to show up looking unprepared!

3. Research the company.

First of all, I know how¬†desperate¬†the job hunt can be. ¬†But you have to convince yourself not to take any job that you feel uncomfortable with. ¬†Really. ¬†You want to find out if you’ll fit in with the company’s policies, ideas, beliefs. ¬†Is the company expanding? ¬†Can you grow there? ¬†Is there room for development and growth? ¬†Look at the company website, facebook, news articles, etc.

And, of course, it’s good to know where the company is heading. ¬†You want to show them that if they hire you, you can help them reach their goals!

4. Know thyself.

In other words, spend a day or two just going through your past experiences.  A former professor gave me this advice, and I can not express how important this is.

You’ll never know all the questions that will be asked on interview day. ¬†But remembering that time when you had a conflict with a coworker and how you dealt with it, or that day when you had a super busy/stressful day and how you dealt with that, will serve you well. ¬†You can bring in your personal experiences with most of the questions that will be asked. ¬†And, you’ll feel prepared.

5. Have a strong resume.

Keep it organized and straightforward.  Read through it time and time again.  Have good, honest people look it over for you as well and ask them what they think (would they hire you?)

6. Be yourself.

The best interviews that I’ve had were the ones when I convinced myself to just relax and be myself. ¬†These are the ones when I was told by the hiring managers that I was an extremely close contender. ¬†Relax. ¬†Breathe. ¬†Don’t be afraid to show them your personality!

7. Think of something that makes you stand out.

Food blogger?  Active in the community?  Author of a newsletter?  Involved in leadership positions?  Active at your church?  Experience working with various age groups/personalities?

Think of the things that really make you pop out from other people so that they’ll remember you come decision day!

8. Don’t talk too much.

I have this problem. ¬†Big time. ¬†The worst interviews I’ve had have been the ones where I gab on and on about myself, only to realize that I’ve been side tracked from the original question (gulp!…never a good thing!) ¬†People want straight forward answers. ¬†Keep it simple and be specific!

9. Review popular questions.

Google “popular job interview questions” and spend some time thinking them over. ¬†You’ll go to your interview feeling prepared.

10. Shake off excess energy.

I’m always a bundle of nerves before an interview. ¬†Going for a run or a long walk beforehand really calms me down and brings everything into perspective.

11. Give yourself a pat on the back.

Give yourself a pat on the back for doing your best.

We all have good interview and bad interview experiences (trust me on that one!)  Give yourself permission to cry a little or to vent to a friend or to get upset for an hour or two.  But then pick yourself back up, shake off the dirt, and carry on.  It takes one YES to make this all worth it.  Keep plugging away.  Learn from your mistakes.

And then, move forward.


QUESTION: What are your top interview do’s and don’ts?

dressed up pollock.

I went for a nice long walk around the nearby lake today, and I experienced this vivid flashback of when I used to go fishing with my dad.

Floating on trusty ol’¬†Rita–our big green canoe–we would paddle our way to the middle of some lake and¬†then we’d just sit there. ¬†We’d sit there for hours and hours with our fishing rods, waiting patiently until we felt the gentle tug of a fish.

(or a floating piece of seaweedoops!)

We’d spend the day swatting at pesky mosquitoes and talking about nothing and everything all at once. ¬†We’d watch dragon flies skim above the mirrored sheets of water, the sun reflecting colorful sparkles off of their shimmery wings.

As a 10 year old girl hanging out with her dad, I was convinced that each delicious moment was just a tiny speck of what heaven would someday feel like.  The perfect time of day.  Feeling nothing but happiness.  And, probably, spending time talking to God about nothing and everything all at once.

Heaven.

And really, at the end of the day, it didn’t really matter if dad and I went home with trout or without. ¬†

It was the experience.

It was delicious.

And it had (absolutely) nothing to do with the fish.

Fast forward 14 years.  I became a dietitian, promoting fish and all of its health benefits and how delicious it can be and so on and so forth.

But, well, here’s the clinker…

I don’t really like fish very much.

Wild caught salmon, yes.  I could eat that every single day of my life and never grow tired of it.*

*this is not at all an exaggeration

But all the other fish, like halibut and haddock and cod and pollock?

Meh…

(unless it’s fried, but what *doesn’t* taste good when it’s been batter dipped and deep fried? ¬†Honestly?)

Maybe you’re like me. ¬†You could take fish or leave it, but you’d still like to make it a bigger part of your diet.

Or maybe you love all fish.  Any fish.

Whatever the case may be, let’s all admit that salsa makes everything better. ūüėČ

You could¬†just douse your fish in butter and breadcrumbs, but that sort of negates the whole “heart healthy” point of eating more fish. ¬†Better saved for those special occasions, “once in a whiles,” or eating out.

Salsa and avocado, however, add flavor AND health benefits.  An easy way to sneak in that extra dose of veggies and some heart healthy fats.

I really do find most white fish to be lacking in flavor, which is just one of the reasons why I lean more towards cooking with salmon.

Add a zing of fresh salsa and avocado (and maybe a splash of lime!), however, and tada! 

Dinner becomes delicious.

Most grocery stores carry the fresh salsas like this one in the refrigerated cases of the produce department.  Nestled deep somewhere between the tofu and the alfalfa sprouts, and sometimes near the refrigerated salad dressings.

And since you can recreate almost any meal with nothing but a scoop of fresh salsa, I’d say it’s worth seeking out.

Salsa and Avocado 
(Serves 2) 

Pollock fillets were on sale this past week, and it just so happens that I had a tub of salsa to use up.  Perfecto!

This super simple salsa, however, also goes well on marinated tofu steaks, grilled chicken breasts and thin slices of lean steak.  Or, you could just serve it with some black beans and tortilla chips for a tasty afternoon snack.  Enjoy!

  • 1/3 cup fresh salsa
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • fresh lemon juice
  • black pepper
  • cilantro (optional)
  1. Combine ingredients together.  Serve immediately.
QUESTION: Do you eat much fish on a regular basis? ¬†What are you favorite kinds/recipes? ¬†I’m not a big fish person, but I do love fish tacos, wild caught salmon and manhattan styled fish chowders. ūüėÄ