dating

A Few Random Things for Sunday

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1.) Last week at work I spent almost an entire day on orientation computer modules. The more fire safety education I do, the more random information my brain retains about the nature of fire. This particular time, I was most struck by all the different Classes of Fire. Why is this not a Buzzfeed personality quiz yet? I’m totally a D (combustible metal). Or maybe a C (electrical)?

2.) The other night, whilst assembling furniture and drinking bourbon, I found myself thinking of a favorite quote from Gloria Steinem, on women becoming the men we wanted to marry. Not that all men—or only men—assemble furniture and drink brown liquor, but in some settings that are not my apartment, this Friday night home-improvement might garner a raised eyebrow. When I told my mother about it the next day, she laughed and said, “I love that, becoming the men we wanted to marry—someone has to do it.” Seriously.

Another old photo I couldn't part with
Another old photo I couldn’t part with

3.) The cleaning jag continues. In an effort to free up space on my computer, I trashed a bunch of old photos and music files. Like that EP from that awful guy in that awful band circa 2006 or 7? Why was that even still there? Please don’t ask me which awful guy or which awful band…

4.) This book. If you just got engaged or just a signed a lease with your boyfriend/girlfriend, you probably shouldn’t read it unless you’re prepared for some deep thoughts to wake up your morning commute, but if you’re game for a little positive reinforcement about enjoying and appreciating your independence, you’ll enjoy it. Love the NYPL for making e-books so easy to borrow. 

5.) Elaborate Valentines Day dishes? Meh. Who needs to wait until February 14th to make this chocolate soufflé? I love how sane Mark Bittman’s recipes are. I also can’t believe this one is from 5 years ago. Of course, 5 years ago I was shacked up with someone who hated eggs so much he felt compelled to make gagging sounds when I fried one up for myself, which explains why it wasn’t on my radar. Live and learn.

So…which class of fire are you? What was the last book you read? Do you like chocolate soufflés? 

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10 Ways to Love Yourself this February

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follow your dreams Because Valentines Day falls right in the middle of February, love is a big theme of the month. As I mentioned a few days ago, it’s important to remember other kinds of love besides romantic love. This post is all about self-love. It’s not even just about dating yourself—though that’s a good one too. I mean in the most basic sense. I always like to go back to the fact that on airplanes, you’re instructed to put on your own oxygen mask before helping those around you. In a culture that puts a lot of emphasis on workaholism a strong work ethic and selflessness, it can be hard to remember that we really do need to help ourselves before we can help others.

1.) Cook yourself something nice. It could be something simple as a fancier-than normal breakfast instead of cold cereal or a beautiful fresh piece of fish at dinner. What would you make for company but not think to fuss over for yourself? Give yourself permission to tune out distractions like the computer, chop the hell out of some veggies, and enjoy. Wine (or mimosa, if it’s brunch) totally optional.

2.) Prioritize sleep. No apologizing, no excuses. You deserve a good night’s rest. If you have a hard time settling down, write your thoughts in a journal or make a to-do list for the next day to clear your head before it hits the pillow.

3.) Be physically active. Whether you hit the gym, the slopes, or simply walk around your neighborhood, enjoy the endorphin boost and the just-flew-in-from-somewhere-awesome glow.

4.) Treat yourself to a massage, manicure, or some other pampering that makes you feel relaxed. 

5.) Buy yourself flowers. Even the $2.99 arrangements from the grocery store count.

6.) Write yourself a thank-you note for all the good work. If you have to, pretend you’re writing to your best friend or a beloved family member. Set it aside to open at a later date when you’re in need of some encouragement.

7.) Give yourself permission to let something go.  Be it a toxic friend or lover, an old idea that doesn’t serve you well anymore, or even a to-do list item that really doesn’t need to be done—say goodbye and don’t look back.

8.) Hydrate! It’s easy to forget to drink enough water when it’s freezing cold out, your body needs enough H2O to do its job. Bring your own bottle and keep it by your desk or somewhere else you’ll see it throughout the say as a reminder to drink up.

9.) Try a probiotic. Invite the good bacteria to the party to help ward off illness and GI upset. You can also make a conscious effort to consume more yogurt, kimchee or try kombucha, a fermented tea drink. My favorite flavor is ginger.

10.) Choose your own adventure. Whatever it is you’re thinking of, go do it!

How do you show yourself love? 

February and a few funny things

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So wow. February. That happened quickly. Any exciting plans for the month? I have a conference coming up that I’m super-excited about! #nerdalert

As far as non-work things go, I’m mostly looking forward to catching up with some friends. Oh—and cashing in a gift card for a much-needed massage. In a month that’s so focused on romantic love, it’s important to remember that there are many other types of love: family, friends, self-love…

Though this is the shortest month of winter, it’s still winter (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere), which may leave you feeling more inclined to want to drink wine and sleep than to do, well, anything. Aside from the usual happy/healthy cocktail of exercise, adequate sleep, and vitamin D supplementation to help you cope with the dark days and cold temps, a few good laughs go a long way too!

A few things that cracked me up recently:

*This text from my sister. That she felt compelled to send me a gif of Kramer on a random night is probably the funniest part:

Kramer

In 2012 I briefly dated a guy who had never seen Seinfeld. Maybe I judged him a little, but at the same time, it was a great excuse to re-watch the series from the beginning. Or at least the first season, given the brevity of the aforementioned dating situation. This is back when I had a TV and DVD player. Strange days indeed.

*A kid on the bus the other day singing a song about how “God made a poo-poo.” The song turned into a talking blues about Star Wars—more specifically, about the relationship between Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. It was pretty epic.

*A mostly toothless old lady playing Naughty Sudoku.

*My attempt at following painting directions. paint nite

For the uninitiated, check out Paint Nite.

*My favorite sausage joke. The other day in a Pilates class, the instructor asked if anyone knew any good jokes. Of course I did.

What made you laugh recently? 

Q/A with LBT Author Lauren Slayton

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LBT Hope you’re having a wonderful new-moon week. Now that we’re in the final days of January, do you feel like you’ve had a chance to settle in to your 2014 routine? Maybe you’ve started to get an idea of what’s working and not working with your resolutions, be they health-related or something else entirely.

Those of you who’ve been reading this blog a while will not be surprised when I tell you that one of my pet peeves is when someone tells me, “I decided I need to lose weight, so I bought this book…” Basically, I just want to hit that person over the head with said book because nine times out of ten, said book is written by someone without any actual health credentials.

Once in a while, though, an exception graces the shelves. Enter the Little Book of Thin (aka LBT) by Lauren Slayton, MS, RD, founder of the NYC nutrition practice, Foodtrainers. Not only is this slim volume packed with practical advice on how to “plan it to lose it,” it’s a fun read, showcasing the sharp wit and no-drama approach to healthful eating that’s made me a longtime fan of the Foodtrainers blog.  You’ll also love the LBT cheat sheets and No-Roll-Odex of healthy products!

Lauren was kind enough to engage in a little Q&A about the book and share some of her favorite NYC restaurant eats.

Jess: Thanks for being game to do a little Q/A, Lauren. Can you tell us a little about the inspiration behind LBT?

Lauren Slayton: I opened my practice Foodtrainers in 2001. While my sessions are 1 on 1, there is so much when it comes to situations (socializing, traveling, work life, family life) that’s universal. I wanted to distill what I’ve learned into one little book. It was very important to me that I wrote the book myself and that it was a good read.

J: I love your section on being “choosy” with your foods when it comes to dating—what are some of the most common mistakes you see your single clients making?

LS: Whether it’s dating or simply socializing there’s a lot of posing when it comes to our food (an Elle magazine article where even women who diet are embarrassed to admit it comes to mind). Either women or men eat in the way they feel they are expected to eat OR they come on too strongly as the “diet chick.” Healthy isn’t shameful, right?

J: You talk a lot about planning ahead in LBT—your Food First Aid Kit for travel is brilliant. For a slightly shorter trip (say, a marathon day of jetting about town between appointments), what are a few of your favorite purse-friendly foods?

LS: I am a bit of a tea freak- currently toting pukka tea bags everywhere (cleanse is a favorite). I fill my Foodtrainers Nutcase daily with a different nut or seed. Hail Merry rosemary pecans, KOPALI superfood mix with cacao and mulberries are great. Bars work well too.

J: Which weight-loss myths annoy you the most?

LS: Either “everything in moderation” which often leaves us feeling only moderately well OR calories in versus calories out which ignores the quality of the calories and the timing of our food both subtleties that can affect our health and size.

 J: You talk a bit about healthy restaurant options in LBT—what’s one of your favorite restaurant meals lately?

LS: Ooh if I’m being honest I’ve been on planet book and haven’t been out a ton but I adore Green Square Tavern—chef John Marsh made chia shrimp for my book signing, and I am hounding him for that recipe. The scallop crudo at ABC kitchen and the warm Brussels sprout salad (and polenta fries, yes) at Candle 79 make me happy. How great is it that restaurant eating is no longer synonymous with unhealthy?

J:What surprised you most about the process of writing/publishing a book? Any advice for aspiring writers out there? 

LS: Yes, talk to anyone you know who has written a book because there’s so much that’s untold. Mark Ellwood (Bargain Fever) Rachel Hofstetter (Cooking up a Business) and Aidan Donnelley Rowley (Life After Yes) each pulled me aside and said “make sure you do this”. In turn, I’d be happy to do the same for anyone in the writing process.

You can get your copy of LBT here.

What are some of your pet peeves when it comes to weight loss and diet myths? What are your favorite busy-day snacks? Do you eat differently on dates? What are some of your favorite restaurant meals of late? 

Thursday Things

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1.) The other day I overheard a patient say, “I just need a pina colada—something to help me sleep at night!” The person they were talking with suggested a hot toddy.

Though I like the concept of a hot toddy, in practice, it doesn’t work so well—the alcohol may put you to sleep quickly, but it’s usually a fitful sleep full of disruptions. You might even say that the relationship between alcohol and sleep is a tricky friends-with-benefits setup that doesn’t actually benefit the sleeper in the long run. Call me old fashioned, but I like real, secure sleep that leaves me feeling refreshed and energized rather than sheepish and shaky the next day. And still wanting more (sleep). Of course, were it not for a period in college where I had terrible insomnia winter and only slept once every three days, I might not appreciate an honest night’s sleep quite as much. We all learn things the way we learn them.

2.) When it comes to sleep aids, I like melatonin, which can be helpful in establishing a sleep cycle (as opposed to knocking you out). It’s actually the only hormone that can be sold without a prescription in the U.S., mainly because it’s present in some foods and can be considered a dietary supplement, weird as that sounds.  It’s generally considered safe with few documented side effects. However, I’ve noticed I have especially trippy dreams when I take it. Case in point: the other night, I dreamt about participating in an art class that took place in a hot tub. Everyone had to bring a bouquet of flowers, and I was really concerned about how much space my arrangement took up. We turned on music and painted along, though a lot of folks wrote with the paint. I can’t remember what I made, but the guy next to me wrote someone’s biography in black paint on a purple background.

3.) It snowed the other day. Holy hell. I had to bust out my down-filled people costume:Photo on 1-21-14 at 3.35 PM #2

4.) Caramelized onions are my new favorite food—I could eat this by the bowlful. However, to avoid appearing conspicuous, I have instead been enjoying them in things like salad and stir-fry. Also amazing in omelets. Jan 20 salad

My favorite description of caramelization comes from Wikipedia, and actually makes it sound a lot like love: “Caramelization is a complex, poorly understood process that produces hundreds of chemical products.”

5.) Speaking of love, I need to stop listening to this song before my neighbors stage an intervention. Of note: You could probably create a drinking game around how many times a Lumineers song includes the line, “When we were young” or makes reference to being younger/getting older. Basically, you could just drink your way through the album. Not that you should. See #1 above.

What are your things for this Thursday? Do you have a favorite sleep aid? Caramelized onions—yay or nay? What song are you hooked on lately?

Sausage and Kale Soup and Why I need a new pasta shape

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One of my favorite jokes of all time goes something like this:

Two sausages were sizzling in a frying pan. One sausage said to the other, “It sure is hot in here!”

The other sausage said, “Oh my god, it’s a talking sausage!”

Anyway.

No matter how old I get, the word “sausage” will probably always make me giggle a little bit—for obvious reasons. There’s really no way around it. I have accepted this about myself.

sausage and kale pastaI first got the idea for this soup from a recipe I saw on How Sweet It Is, which calls for spicy Italian sausage and whole wheat orecchiette. However, instead of pasta, I decided to use up some brown rice that had been in my cupboard for well over a year.

I actually decided to throw out the orecchiette in there because it finally dawned on me that almost all of the not very many relationships I’ve had in the past few years ended within days of sharing a meal that contained said orecchiette, and well, f*** that. It’s 2014. I need a new pasta shape in my life. Energetically speaking, I’m sure there’s something not good about eating pasta that looks like ears, maybe to do with hearing/listening/being heard. I don’t know—I’m over-thinking this, clearly. Let’s just say I’m ready to actually learn from my mistakes by not making bad-karma-pasta anymore. Maybe I also should enforce a new rule about not making pasta too early in a relationship, since the one that did not end with orecchiette ended with ravioli.

But back to the soup…To up the fiber content, I added some green lentils and used less sausage. Speaking of sausage (let’s see how many times I can say “sausage” in one post), I went with a couple Trader Joe’s roasted garlic chicken sausages for this recipe, but you can use whatever kind you want. Turkey sausage, beef sausage, pork sausage, mystery sausage…

You can also play around with using different greens if kale’s not your thing or if you got spooked by that article you read a few weeks ago.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup cooked lentils
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 2 cooked sausages, cut into half-moon shapes
  • ~8 cups water or broth
  • 1 bunch kale or other greens

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large stock pot. add garlic, onion, celery, carrot, and leek. Cook until onion is translucent and veggies begin to soften.
  2. Stir in spices, lentils, rice, and sausage. Cook another minute or two before adding liquid.
  3. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and stir in kale. Allow to simmer ~30 minutes.

What’s your favorite joke? Does “sausage” make you giggle? Which pasta shape should I try next? 

Cook and Go

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On Saturday night, I used a Groupon to check out a class at Cook & Go, a culinary studio that started in France and found its way to the US a few years ago. The concept is that you cook the food in class and then take it home to reheat and eat. In the warmer months, they offer picnic-themed classes, too. Most of the food is actually prepared in foil carryout containers, which makes it so easy! Another plus: free wine for evening classes.

I did the Healthy Living menu, which included

  • Roasted eggplant with tomato and goat cheese relish
  • Apricot chicken with rice
  • Flourless chocolate cake with chantilly cream and berry coulis

What was neat was that each person made their own meal (aka no strangers touching your meat). The instructor passed ingredients around along with spoons we used to add the amount needed for one portion. It was very informal and low-stress. The recipes are very simple, so you can feel good about eating mostly whole foods and can use as little or as much salt as you like. The only thing I didn’t love was that we used Splenda in the chocolate cakes, but in the grand scheme of things, a couple teaspoons of the stuff isn’t a deal breaker for me.

One thing that I find odd about cooking classes, though, is that I’m usually the only person flying solo. Maybe I didn’t get the memo that cooking classes were a couples-only thing? Whoops. Not like that would stop me. Of course, there are those occasional funny/awkward moments. This class was no exception. It started in the first two minutes:

Instructor (to Jess, motioning to the empty space next to her): Are you waiting for someone?
Jess: (turns and waves to other 24 students) I’ll be your token bachelor for this evening
(room laughs)
Instructor: Don’t worry, there’s always someone like that. 

Hm. “Someone like that?” What does that even mean?

Throughout the class, we were instructed to share things like stalks of fresh herbs with our “partner.”  Several times I had to raise my hand to ask questions like, “What should we do if don’t have a partner to, uh, share an eggplant with?”

Share an eggplant. I guess that’s what the kids are calling it these days?

Anyway, my classmates actually were really nice and a fun bunch of work with—there was a lot of laughing. I also left with a pretty nice spread to enjoy at home: IMG_4581
Because I had enjoyed some wine at class, I ditched the rice, since I don’t really care about white rice, and I enjoyed the eggplant salad over some greens I needed to use up. Just to be fancy, I served the chicken in a fancy little cup, like, so: IMG_4580

There was nothing fancy about the cake. I just reheated it in the oven at 350 until it was warm and enjoyed it while catching up on the morning’s Times, like the eccentric middle-aged couple I am.

I heard that we’re getting some low, low temps in the U.S. Coldest in decades. Guess I’d better get on that whole “someone to share an eggplant with” thing, if only for the body heat. Or I could just keep hamming it up in cooking classes and blogging about it and just, you know, wear a lot of sweaters.

Have you ever taken a cooking class? Does your partner like eggplant?