Farmers Markets

How many of you take advantage of these gems in the summer? Did you know that some have already started up again in NJ?

I love farmers markets. There is nothing better than buying food directly from its source. Summer and fall are ideal times to shop for produce, naturally, but there are some really great buys that show up during the off season. They shouldn’t be overlooked.

In Denville, NJ, their farmers market brings quite a few artisan food makers. There’s a guy who makes gluten free and organic trail mix. Another who makes all different types of hummus. There’s the empanada lady. There’s Boboli- they make artisans cheeses (free samples!) and breads made from heirloom wheats and grains. There’s the pickle people, a truck that stretches FRESH MOZZARELLA! right in front of you and then there’s the pork farmer and the Mini Mac farm that does all meats and dairy.

So it’s pretty awesome- if you’re into all that. And yes, these things can get pricey.

But how many of you live near a local market that they call a ‘farmers market?’

I do. And I always forget to go in there. It’s what I think is an asian produce and seafood market. And for as much as forget to go there as often as I’d like, every time I do get to go I get so inspired!!!

First off, their seafood counter is fresh every other day, everything’s wild caught and about half the price of the supermarket. So good! Their produce is off the chain! I bought a guava today. Why? Just because I’ve never had one before… This is the kind of produce market that houses many of the crazy ingredients in the Chopped baskets!!!!

So after a trip there this evening, we are having sesame crusted seared tuna with julienned  carrots and jicama, avocado with wasabi mayo. Made that up as I browsed… I guess that’s what cooking is all about. Seeing what’s good and taking advantage of it.

So moral of the story: keep it fresh. Keep it local. And support your local farmers market if one’s nearby.

Coming Back

Two weeks ago I went back into my healthy eating regime. IT was an easy transition. Something I didn’t have to think about really….except when the girl scout cookies came!

But I never thought it would be as hard as it’s been getting back to the gym.

I really like my gym. I missed it the month I was gone. It’s a truly supportive community. My friends are the owners. It’s exactly what I need to stay motivated- because it take A LOT for me to stay motivated about working out. But coming back has been hard…emotionally. I’m sad that my body took such a wrong turn in such a quick time. And it makes me feel a little bit like I was robbed.

I was very hard on myself about it. And busy days didn’t help either…

But Thursday I felt good again. I had a good workout, and my trainer sent me a link to this blog:

Reading this really forced me to change my perspective on my situation. I can’t change it. I have to accept it and move on. And I should be proud of myself for going back in the first place, rather than beat myself up for not being in the place I was before. Shit- I cleaned 75 lbs. in my first lift since January! I should be proud of that! And the fact l did go back…I should really be proud of that!

Maybe someone is reading this is in a ‘back to the gym’ rut. Or maybe it’s not the gym, but a place in life you’d like to be. Please go back. Or just go if you need to and haven’t. It’s painful. It hurts. You will feel ashamed. But YOU WILL HAVE WENT BACK!



Comfort Food

FYI: This took a month to write…sorry for infrequent posting.

Often times we think of comfort food as a food we fondly remember eating as a child or a special dish we religiously make for a holiday. Grandpa’s ‘German’ potato salad at amBBQ…drool.

Sometimes it’s a dish a loved one makes you when you’re sick with a cold.

Or maybe a hot meal you share with your love on a snowy night.

But what role should food play when you’re going through something sad? I’m not going to lie, it’s been a really rough time for me lately. And one of the few things that has given me a ‘little’ bit of happiness in a very dark place has been food.

I have managed to continue to eat healthy much through the holidays and into the winter. But in a sad time, sometimes you just need ‘a glass of coca cola.’ Or some mac and cheese. Or some chocolate.

So yes, I’ve taken ‘comfort’ in some foods that aren’t the best for me. And yes, the scale has reflected that. But it was needed. And appreciated. And calming. And distracting. But this week I’m ‘back in the saddle again.’ And surprisingly it has been pretty easy, and ‘comforting,’ to eat the healthy way again.

Regardless, we all deal with pain differently. However, it isn’t safe to continue that pattern. I’m glad my brain has been rewired to acknowledge the difference.

Bigger and better places… :)

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Re-Invent

I have been doing a lot of cooking again now that the holidays are packed up for a year(well the tree is still up, but only because it literally has been to cold to walk it to the trash!). And last week, I was able to stretch one WHOLE ROASTER CHICKEN in to 4 separate meals. I’m pretty proud of that! Here’s how I did it:

1. I made this Moroccan roasted chicken from a Williams Sonoma Cookbook. All you do is make a paste with some olive oil and spices, and run it on the bird and bake it. We roasted the chicken with cauliflower, red onion and sweet potato. Seems like an old vegetable combo, but it works!!! Trust me!

2. We has so much left over chicken, and we also freeze that extra container of rice they give you with Chinese food, so I thawed on out, cut up the extra chicken, and made THE BEST chicken fried rice ever. I’ll post the recipe next blog.

3. Think again before throwing out that carcass- there’s chicken stock to be made! And this stock has the subtle flavor of the Moroccan spices in it, so there is a ton of depth. I used some of the broth for a butternut squash stuffing the recipe called for.

4. There was lots of stock left over. I could have frozen it for a later date, but the weather was sooooo cold, chicken soup was a must. I had baked some chicken breasts, and sautéed some veggies and in an hour- soup!

In the end, all of these dished took, at most, 30 minutes to prepare for. And many of the ingredients were basic staples in the home- garlic, onion, carrots, celery, salt, pepper, spices, etc. I won’t say this happens every week, and that a little thinking ahead didn’t happen, but this can work with all sorts of things- pasta, sauces, casseroles…endless possibilities! Here’s my advice- start with a dish you REALLY want…and then go from there. Satisfying the urge to eat what you really want first, so that everything else is like a bonus.

I have realized from my eating changes that when you force yourself to like something, you’ll never like it. So if it’s chicken park you want, make that sauce! But bread the chicken in almond flour, or even ground oats. USe spaghetti squash instead of pasta. The reason you like that dish so much anyway is the sauce- it’s the strongest flavor of the dish. So cut 500 calories out of the rest of it- I swear you won’t taste the difference!

“On an Island”

I was catching up on Top Chef last night, and all the contestants were killing the time by asking each other if they were on an island, “what three foods would you bring?’ It then led to a Bravo poll and the top choices were bread and cheese.  Bread and cheese???? I guess I could see that, but I was surprised no one chose anything sugary. Surprised in a good way.

What would you bring with you?

I always say it would be shrimp, eggs and avocado. Although if I’m on an island, I guess I could fish my own shrimp…

Moving Forward- Open Doors in 2014!

So I’m sorry I never finished my cookie countdown- I simply ran out of time. And I actually had posted double recipes in some posts, so I wouldn’t have made it to 15 days anyway…

I like to call today “Limbo Day.” It’s a day where everyone looks back at the past, while at the same time make promises for the future. I personally think this is a dangerous thing to do.

I know that’s a bold statement, but hear me out.

When we make goals based on past experiences, we lock ourselves in to only changing what we already know about ourselves. We keep the doors closed to ‘the unknown’ and we turn our backs on all the possibilities that are out there for us.

One year later, I launched a photography business with my husband, lost 30 lbs, became a VP of my local, am now a cross fit enthusiast,  and a unit leader for my group of teachers…and I didn’t plan for ANY of it. I never made any resolutions last year, I just kept the doors open for change. And change I got!

I can only dream of all things that await me in 2014! As long as I keep the door open, good things will come.

So if there’s something you want for 2014- make one resolution:

Open the door for change. It may not be exactly what you were expecting, but it may be something better!!!

PS- New Year’s is totally hyped up anyway to sell gym memberships and diet programs. Don’t fall for it…

Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 10: Festive Thumbprints

I do these every year now, I love them!!! This is what a Christmas cookie is all about. It the cookie that earns it right on the cover of a magazine.


Festive Thumbprint Cookies

2/3 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

2 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cup flour

3 dozen or so candy melts.

1. In a mixer, cream the butter for 30 seconds. Add sugar and cream together.

2. Add egg yolks and vanilla, scraping sides from time to time.

3. Add flour.

4. Chill dough for 1 hour.

5. Preheat oven to 375F. Roll dough into 1 inch balls. Roll dough balls into colored sugar and place on a greased cookie sheet.

6. Push thumb into dough to flatten and bake for 10-12 minutes.

7. Take out of oven and place colored candy melt into center. Put back in oven for 1 minute.

8. Use a toothpick to swirl melted chocolate.


Christmas Cookie Countdown- Day 9: Berry Sage Thumbprints

I don’t usually bake ‘fruity’ cookies. I’m not sure why…I guess I think of Christmas cookies as being sugary, chocolately, sprinklely and VERY naughty!!!!

Well these thumbprints are nice!

Berry Sage Thumbprints

(from the 2013 ’100 Best Cookies’ by Better Homes and Gardens)

2 C flour

2/3 C yellow cornmeal

1 1/2 tsp. dried sage, crushed

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1 C butter, softened

1 C packed brown sugar

2 egg yolks

2 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

1/4 C blackberry preserves

1. Preheat oven to 350F. In a medium bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together. Set aside.

2. In a mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Add the brown sugar, scraping the sides down occasionally. Add the egg yolks, lemon peel and the vanilla.

3. Add the flour and beat until completely combined.

4. Shape dough into 3/4″ balls and place 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Press thumbs into center of the balls. Spoon about 1/4 tsp. of the preserves in the ‘wells’ where you pressed with your thumbs.

5. Bake for 10 minutes or until edges become golden. Move to a wire rack and cool.


Christmas Cookie Countdown- Day 8: White Chocolate and Crème de Menthe Shortbread

I’m all about shortbread this Christmas. I think it’s because I don’t need any machinery to make it! You see, using a food processor or a kitchen aid mixer mean amore dishes. And as Christmas creeps closer, I try to limit as much ‘hassle’ as I can. It’s hard to do as an artist- the cookies should look perfect, the wrappings should look like they came from a magazine, all the ‘traditional’ foods are ready to be cooked. It’s much like a ‘nesting’ phase…

So these cookies kinda rock my world. And a cookie hasn’t down that to me in a really long time. I think the white clocolate glaze is what does it for me, but overall this is a great cookie!!!!

White Chocolate Crème de Menthe Shortbread

(from the 2013 Better Homes and Gardens 100 Best Cookies Magazine)

2 1/2 C flour

1/2 C sugar

1 cup butter, cut up

1 tbsp. green crème de menthe

6 oz. white chocolate baking chocolate

1 tbsp. shortning

1/4 tsp. mint extract

1. In a large bowl, add all dry ingredients together. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs and starts to cling. Using a fork, stir in crème de menthe. Form mixture into a ball and knead until smooth.

2. Divide dough in haif, shape each half in to a 6″ roll; turn roll, flattening each side. Wrap each roll in plastic wrap and freeze for 45-60 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 325F. Cut rolls into slices and place on an ungreaded cookie sheet. Slices should be 1/4″ thick and be placed 2 inches apart from each other on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and cool.

4. While cookies are cooling heat chocolate and stir in shortening once melted. Add mint extract and drizzle over cookies.

5. Allow chocolate to harden and store with a layer of waxed paper between each layer of cookies.