this little piggy was honest
February 14, 2018
I recently shared something with y’all on Instagram: I don’t love the slow cooker. On the other hand, one thing I truly love within my relationship with Justin is our ability to be honest with each other. We have no issue calling out one another’s bullshit or giving our opinion, and I think it has helped to establish a strong foundation. It has been—so refreshing— and this way since day 1 and it continues to grow.
Where am I going with this? Justin called me out. “You don’t like the slow cooker because it’s boring to you. It’s not challenging, so you don’t like it and you avoid it.”
Well I’ll be [insert knee jerk slap]. “You’re right.” And UGH, wouldn’t we all rather receive those two-and-a-half words instead of dole them out ourselves? Who likes to admit they are wrong? I guessss there’s strength in admitting you’re wrong….
The second Hemsley + Hemsley cookbook has been on my shelf for over a year, and I believe, as pathetic as it is, this is the first recipe I have made from their sophomore debut. With a little creativity, the pork lasted two solid dinners, and one lunch.
The first night we enjoyed as prepared, and I added roasted brussel sprouts, parsnips, and turnips. The next night, we created carnitas nachos for J and a burrito bowl of sorts for me. J finished the pork for lunch over rice the next day.
With work travel schedules, we don’t always find ourselves home on a Sunday to enjoy a home cooked meal, but this particular Sunday, as un-challenging as it was to not stand in the kitchen for 2 hours, it was just as challenging to sit still on the couch, but it was amazing! I felt like I had all of the time. So maybe, just those things that don’t seemingly upfront challenge us, should be welcomed as, you guessed it, a challenge. And the challenge is accepting the unchallenging aspects of life.
Smoky Slow Cooked Pork
*Adapted from Hemsley + Hemsley’s “Good + Simple,” and https://themindfuleater.ca/slow-cooked-pork/
Small Bowl with mixing spoon
2 lb. boneless pork shoulder
3 bay leaves
4 Tbl. Apple Cider Vinegar
3 medium apples, cored and chopped into chunks
3 garlic cloves, crushed
½ Tbl. Ground black pepper
½ Tbl. Fennel seeds or ground fennel
1 Tbl. Sweet smoked paprika
½ Tbl. Cumin
2 Tsp. ground Cinnamon (I have to admit, we didn’t have it and omitted it and I am so sad! I think it would have really elevated the flavor, but Justin definitely didn’t notice)
½ - ¾ Tsp. chili flakes
1 Tbl. Sea salt
Combine all the spices together in the bowl.
Put the remaining ingredients (apples, bay leaves, ACV) in a slow cooker, give them a mix, and place the meat on top. With a sharp knife, score the pork all over and then rub the spice mixture well into the meat.
Cover with the lid and cook on low for 8 hours (or on high for 4-5 hours if you don’t have the time). Alternatively, place in an ovenproof casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid and cook in the oven (preheated to 325 degrees F) for 6–8 hours.
At the end of the cooking time, place the meat in a dish (or just keep in slow cooker) and use two forks to shred it. Remove the bay leaves. Place the pulled pork back into the slow cooker or casserole dish and toss in the smoky apple sauce. Switch to "warm" (or turn the oven temperature down lower) and keep covered until ready to serve.
Make Ahead Options
As I mentioned this tasted great warmed up the next day. By day 3 it was not the greatest anymore, but prepping one day ahead and reheating would work just fine. Alternatively, I’d be interested in scoring the meat all over and letting the rub sit for 24+hours prior to slow-cooking.
Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Little did Justin know that since we started dating (he has now since caught onto this) I have been secretly imposing #sundaysupper into our weeks. Our first-weekend-date even ended with an “I know this sounds crazy, but do you want to come over for dinner tonight?” text message which was, you guessed it, on a Sunday.
He didn’t quite catch onto this effort of mine until late, and he wasn’t convinced about my theory of how it sets the tone for the week, until he started to really look forward to the moments on Sunday when we choose a protein, head to the farmers market, settle into coziness, and cook while listening to music (okay, or really, watching sports).
I had sort of lost some of this #sundaysupper mojo, slightly blaming work travel schedules, lack of planning, exhaustion, and the like, but after a weekend or two with consistency, I was back on the train, and loving every moment—okay, and so was Justin, because what man doesn’t want a warm, nourishing meal? Especially with us both on the road often, we usually find ourselves with food of less flavor, more sodium, and more fat.
After flipping through some cookbook inspo I came across this Food & Wine magazine that I had saved and thought, “You know what, I save all of these articles, and rarely find myself going back to them, so let’s try this one.” And enter our little faux-getaway to Spain.
These albóndigas were full of flavor, cooked in a delicious broth and finished with shimmering mushrooms, and for the man, a hearty crusty end of bread to sop up the goodness.
I loved the make-ahead aspect to the meat, and while it required a little bit of extra effort, it was nice to come back to them after a little afternoon delight (read: cocktail), to have supper on the table in no time.
So while the weather still calls for something hearty, go on, take a trip to Spain.
Albóndigas with Mushrooms
Adapted from http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/albondigas-mushrooms
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dredging*
1/2 cup milk*see note
1 pound ground chuck
1/2 pound ground pork
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons minced parsley
1 tablespoons white Rioja or other dry white wine*
1 large garlic clove, grated
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil*see note
2 medium tomatoes, halved crosswise
1/2 cup minced onion
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour*see note
1/2 cup white Rioja or other dry white wine*see note
3 tablespoons brandy or dry sherry
2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound mixed wild mushrooms, such as cremini, oyster and chanterelle, cut into 1-inch pieces
Large saucepan/dutch oven
Large saucepan/dutch oven
Make the meatballs In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour; cook over moderate heat, whisking, until a thick paste forms, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk and cook until thick, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape into a large bowl and let cool slightly. Add the chuck, pork, eggs, parsley, wine, garlic, paprika, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper; mix well. Cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours. (***hence when we went for our afternoon delight.. Let's be honest, I probably would have never actually let them sit)
Form the meat mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls. In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Dredge half the meatballs in flour. Cook over moderately high heat, turning, until browned all over, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and meatballs; don’t wipe out the pan.
Make the sauce Grate the tomato halves on the large holes of a box grater set in a bowl until only the skins remain; discard the skins. *see note
Add the onion, carrot, garlic and a generous pinch of salt to the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until just starting to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and paprika and simmer over moderate heat until slightly reduced, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the flour, then stir in the wine and brandy and simmer until barely thickened, 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree until very smooth. Return to the saucepan, whisk in the stock and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the meatballs to the sauce, cover and simmer over moderately low heat until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Uncover and simmer until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley, cover and keep warm over very low heat.
Meanwhile, make the mushrooms In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Add half the mushrooms; season with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining oil and mushrooms.
Spoon the meatballs and sauce into bowls, top with the mushrooms and serve.
Make Ahead Options
1. The meatballs can be refrigerated in the sauce for up to 2 days. Reheat gently and stir in the parsley before serving.
2. I froze these for Justin and he reheated them up. They were still a bit frozen and he broke them up to make them a little mushier but they were still in tact when he took from freezer.
1. I made this GF and DF adaptable. You don’t have to! I think almond flour might work well also. The meatballs had a tough time staying put together but if you work carefully with the coconut flour, they will.
2. Rose all day, baby! I only had Rose and pinot noir on-hand, so guess what I used? No need to open a new bottle here.
3. I definitely did not use a box grater because until all of my kitchen supplies make their way to the boy's, i had to make do with old school squeeeeze method.
4.I did not use 1/4 cup of oil in the places it called for that much.
#healthhacks pt. 3: road prep
January 7, 2018
My first work trip of the year was cancelled, which def bummed me out as I truly enjoy being on the road in work mode. I looked at this extra week-ish as an opportunity to spend some QT in the kitchen, get back on my clean eats wagon and I’ve got to be honest—I have truly enjoyed getting back in my groove, letting my creative juices flow, and my mood dictate flavors and menu. I have cooked more in the past week than in the past month. Plus, I don’t think that Justin is complaining!
The extra week also allowed us some more time to…make space for me! Yes! I am moving in with him. And that kitchen space needed some work (I love you babe, but basketballs in the cabinets).
In preparation of my work trip slated for the end of the month, I have another set of #healthhacks for when you find yourself hitting the road. While the holidays are over, we know that wedding season is about to be in full swing which usually means travel…
wip it good, wip it real good
December 17, 2017
Justin and I woke up one morning to a work conversation. As I write this, I realize work-talk first thing in the morning doesn’t sound sexy…but hear me out.
“I have a project that’s a WIP.” I stared at him, puzzled.
“Babe, what’s a WIP?” [pronounced WHIP] “You know, a ‘work in progress.’”
A lightbulb switched on instantaneously.
As we wrap 2017 with 2018 on the horizon, I couldn’t help but gently remind myself how we are all a “WIP.”
Every action we take, whether it be a step forward, a thoughtful conversation, a challenge, requires work, and it propels us closer—we hope—to our goals.
Sometimes, the work isn’t simple or the action we want; the plan is met with tiny steps backwards, hard conversations, or hurdles that aren’t welcomed with a smile, but met with a good cry, a middle finger, or a rant.
It’s not news that social media is a highlight reel. This holiday season, I want to remind you, behind that post, is a WIP. Someone like you. Someone like me. Everyone is a work in progress. We don’t always share the struggles, though we try—me included—to keep it real.
But maybe, perhaps we can switch from self-deprecation and comparisons with the “likes,” and instead have it assist with an inventory and help take an honest look at not only who we are but WHERE we are. What is that person doing to create a moment of envy? What sacrifices did they make? What excuses are they not making? We all have the same amount of hours: how did you use them in 2017?
I hope you’ll take some time to meditate and reflect on 2017 and embrace what 2018 will hold and what you aim to create. I plan to do this soon, and I’ll share…of course. And then perhaps we can change it from the highlight reel, to the highlight REAL, because that’s what I’ll continue to try to do here, and everywhere.
the gratitude run
November 16, 2017
The past May, I signed up for a June 5k. I hear the haters: “What a bitch you just went out and ran a 5k?” Mostly…you see, I had an excellent treadmill-sprint one day and decided to find a race. Two weeks later, I ran my heart out.
It was my first race since Thanksgiving 2014. Between injury years and other classes, running was on hold.
After working out regularly and frequenting my chiropractor, I was feeling, well, strong.
Needless to say, race morning came and like a child on Christmas, I was almost irritable that I had to wait until 9:00 a.m.
My manageable goal—break 26:00. 2014’s PR was 24:16/7:49 on a DC full-flat that I was super trained up for so I thought breaking 26:00 was fair since I hadn’t been consistently running.
I told my motivator—my-then-I’m-not-sure-what-we-are-but-we-just-started-talking-sort-of-dating-I-know-what-I-want-us-to-become-man—my goal. I honestly didn’t think he’d show. But there he was when I clocked in at 24:51/8:00, +:35 from my PR…um, excuse me? 6th in my age group?
Come September, Justin, still, my motivator (more than ever) and I decided to race together. I started running more, continued MADabolic, and set another goal—top 5 in my age group.
The last stretch of the race I was beat. Then it struck me—I couldn’t do this one, or even two years ago. Had I started to take movement for granted? I wouldn’t let that happen. I dug up some gratitude and powered through. Breathless, I watched Justin cross the finish line, which is to date, one of my favorite memories. Overwhelmed with love and joy for having him by my side again, this time as a participant instead of a spectator, we walked to the results…3rd in my age group. Couldn’t be. Logged out. And back in. Confirmed.
And as I stood there, filled with all-of-the-emotions along with an incredible man, who achieved a goal he set, and I realized did too…we did it…all I could think of was, thank you.
November 10, 2017
*Thank you to all of our Military Veterans for their service!
Words: 348...I also broke my 333 rule here, too....WHOOPS
I’m not a celebrity-gossip guru. I don’t watch television. But I read. Recently we went on an old-school movie-date to the Glass Castle, an enthralling memoir I read years ago.
The dad, Rex, said something that hit me:
“You learn from living. Everything else is a lie.”
I grabbed my phone…blasphemy…to take note.
I find myself learning from living every day. A trial and error lesson. A lesson from a someone a stranger or a familiar face. Perhaps a lesson from reading.
How open are you to learning?
I must say, in the literal sense, I wasn’t very open growing up. Learning didn’t come easy. I didn’t love school. (Or because I was “bad” at it, those tendencies to avoid something because we don’t think we are good enough?) I did okay because I showed up. How often do we need to do just that?
As an adult, I don’t know if I find myself yearning to return to an academic setting, but I find myself eager to learn from living. To expand my brain. Who or what can challenge my thoughts? My patterns? What can I read to expand my vocabulary? What can I listen to that sounds different from my usual channels? What am I going to come up against today and how can or will I react? How should I react? What do I need to take note of, so it is a lesson learned and doesn’t repeat?
Maybe I wasn’t open to learning academically because I thought it was a damn lie. I’d rather you throw a wrench in my day; watch me pull it out. With, or without help. It’s not always going to be easy or fun, these lessons. Lots will suck. Many will be great. And combined, make us stronger.
As a person of routine this takes a lot to say out loud. It’s scary. It’s unknown. But the fact that we are continuously learning by experience--as long as we show up—is a gift. Do we view it as such? If we don’t, I think damn well we should.
Nothing Rhymes with Orange Pt. 3
October 29, 2017
To recap part 1 and part 3. Lack of energy, space, good organization/variations of exercises but also a surprise when you walked in the door.
And to that point, I sometimes felt like I was being rushed through an hour of hard work. Get in. Work. Get out. And when if you left with fewer than 12 points it was like you had failed for the day…
I’ve written about metrics before, and somehow I don’t know why I thought my type-a personality would look at OTF differently. Now, I did in the beginning, but I was wrong in the long run. I found the competition started not only within me but with others. Now, please, I can be very competitive, and not everyone is, and that is a-okay. Sometimes classes focused on competition and sometimes they didn’t. Additionally, while I had great caloric burn, I felt like I was getting a little bulky. PLEASE at this point, if you are still reading, remember this is MY experience. And my honest opinion.
I have actually found that I am not alone in my aversion for OTF. Before I explain, I want to mention that I think there is GREAT potential for studios like this. It’s an incredible place for someone looking to work out for the first time. It’s accessible. It can teach anyone, a lot about fitness and training. After talking with people here, there, and everywhere (remember I am on the road a lot) the reviews were always mixed. For some of the monotonous reason I found people generally had the same feelings as I did.
But here is the bottom line: OTF, I respect the hell out of what you have created. But it’s not for me. Just like how not to take things personally with people… You aren’t for everyone and everyone isn’t for you. OTF you aren’t my workout, and I’m not your client.
nothing rhymes with orange pt. 2
October 24, 2017
Part 1 recap: lack of energy from members, crammed space. Now, lets get to the guts—the actual workout. It’s an hour long, [usually] split into three areas: row, treadmill, and floor (weights). It combines interval training and lifting and because I’m not a total asshole critic, I decided to break each down into what I liked and didn’t like.
Nothing rhymes with orange pt.1
October 18, 2017.
Words: 433...100 over. I dare you not to read the whole thing , though.
This a peek into my honest look at what led to my cancellation at Orange Theory Factory. Oops did I say that out loud? I meant Orange Theory Fitness.
I first tried OTF in November 2016 during my blog-workout hiatus. Desperate to breathe again in a familiar space, I took a free class and thought it would be something I’d enjoy. The class kicked my ass, and I liked it, but since I was *technically* unemployed, I really couldn’t afford it.
Fast forward to now, and parts of me were still curious as to why I was spending $69 on 4 classes (in addition to ClassPass++) that, here is the kicker…I dreaded attending.
I thought I’d visit OTF when traveling, and complete workouts that I knew I wouldn’t really do by myself while on the road. But then I found the workouts to be just fine…energizing sometimes…but just fine and a little mundane. It literally, as I mentioned in the first sentence, felt like a factory.
The environment in my “home studio” was lackluster. You had regulars with rapport with coaches, which is great, but I’m not around all the time to do this. Members were mostly 80s/90s kids like me (refuse to reference our nickname) and the energy of the studio was borderline “here to impress,” or, “here because I have to be.” And let me tell you what, a lot of the latter was evident when we lined up at the door, no one looked excited to be there.
I can be pretty energetic. Crazy at times, I’m completely self-aware of this, and I accept this. I think the world needs it because we help make it go round. But if I’m running late to another boutique studio, I am freaking out because I’m excited to be there. And I can tell my fellow-classmates are, too.
The energy of any fitness facility, must, come from a combined effort of the class members and the instructors. Now, I did experience positive energy when I visited another studio, further north, as well as one back in my home state of VA, that I found to be more encouraging, and more open, with a better environment. So, for some of my remaining sessions, I drove out of the way, to try to enjoy something I dreaded.
On top of the lack of energy was lack of space. Maybe people didn’t have enough space to keep their energy levels up. The machines were jammed into a small space, like a factory, to accommodate a large group, and it sort of felt sterile.
More to come…
#healthhacks Pt. 2: Good-Better-Best
September 12, 2017
Words: 364...I know, I know
It’s currently 6:35 a.m. and I’m about to board a flight: CLT-PHX-LAS. I haven’t completed a workout, but I’ve at least, showered.
I’m pumped for Vegas as I genuinely enjoy being on-site. With the challenge of something new everyday, interacting with a multitude of different people, it is exciting and I feel #blessed with a job I enjoy.
The next 35ish days will be, however, extra challenging in ways of sleep and food. And I write this post to go eyes wide open. I’ll be on PST for the next 7 days. EST the 5 following. MST for the next 6. And then after 2 weeks home, I’ll be back in Vegas for 5.
I mentioned in my previous #healthhack post that the food-exercise balance thing can be difficult. When the ego of the “who-what-where-when-how” sneaks its way in, I’ve found the best way to navigate the shit-storm is to first, of course, be kind to yourself. Breathe. And interrupt the pattern using the good-better-best scale. Something a doctor mentioned to me years ago.
How can you do the best you can, with what you’ve got?
Good is a baseline. Maybe it’s choosing Gatorade over soda. The better option is unsweet tea over Gatorade. The best option is water.
We can’t always strive to be perfect, but we can strive to be best and choose what serves us…best. I hope you’ll be with me this next month to keep me accountable!
Alas, here is my next set of #healthhacks:
p.s. if you want to try WelleCo, let me know and I can send over a discount code!
The fear we put in comfort zones
August 17, 2017
So this morning, I did a thing. Not like a huge thing, but for me, it kind of was.
I worked out in a sports bra and leggings.
A week ago, I was getting dressed to run and I was challenged with the question of why I wasn’t wearing just a bra and shorts to run. UM, I am going on a run...in public. “Lots of people run in a bra and shorts, you should.” He continued. While blushing, laughing out loud, and rolling my eyes, I could only think about my D chest flaring about on the very-public trail and people looking at me. And then my stomach (!) far from perfectly flat, completely bare. Yeah, no chance.
And then this morning, I was getting dressed for spin…I slipped into high rise Lulus. I threw on a bra. And I got sidetracked brushing my teeth while wearing just the bra and leggings. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and thought, “Damn, I’m kind of feeling myself right now.” The cherry on that sundae is that I accepted monthly bloat that visits once a month. Okay twice sometimes if I eat something bad, or drink too much, but this wasn’t food related.
It was right then, mouth full of toothpaste that I decided to take my spin class, in NYC of all places, with no a shirt on.
And I did.
Now, I did put a shirt on for the walk to class, but as soon as I mounted the bike, it came off.
I felt free. And I think I even worked harder. Sure, I had moments of “Thank goodness it’s dark and these are high rise leggings,” but it wasn’t as uncomfortable as my brain feared it to be.
Sometimes we need to give ourselves credit (and thank those who challenge our thinking), because deep down, I felt it wasn’t just those leggings, I work hard…not just to feel good, but dammit, to try to look good, too.
Dear Charlotte. One Year Later.
July 21, 2017
One year ago, my happy ass drove down to you, alone, and it’s been a ride ever since.
The past 365 days have been filled with experiences that were scary, joyous, exhilarating, fun, and also, exhausting.
It’s incredible to look back and think that this time has really flown and yet I still have to wonder. Why the hell am I here? What am I actually doing here? Is this a stop gap? Is this the permanent location that I had fixated my mind on for years on end?
Now please, do not get me wrong here, I love Charlotte, I really do, but my mind has been expanded tenfold over the course of the year and I'm curious. I never expected this. Perhaps my ability to work from wherever [yes, a true blessing] has made my mind wander. What else can I experience? Where else can I go? What can I learn?
I’ve met some incredible people since I landed in the Queen City last summer. And I know a few will be around for life. I’m forever grateful for the community and the camaraderie that surrounds me daily…even on days I am traveling.
Like, ironically, today, as I find myself back in my home area, in the city I used to work. And I look out into the skyline at something familiar, yet so unfamiliar. Which shows me that I do have a lot of love and pride for the QC. The pace. The town. The people. Are we missing things here and there? Of course. Are we a little behind on the food-times and trends? Uh, yes. Does it sometimes feel very small? There are moments.
But, as to why it actually worked out for me to land in the 704 , I guess will find out, seeing as I just re-signed my lease.
do you believe in magic?
Alexandra is in her late-twenties and believes in being well-rounded. She has adopted a gluten-free diet and has a complicated relationship with dairy. She is often found in the kitchen, whipping up something lean, clean and green....
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