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Black bean brownies

2014 March 14
by Laura

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Black bean brownies, what? Ew, right? NOPE.

Delicious. No butter. No flour. Amazing.

Someone said, “These taste so good. Why does anyone ever make brownies without black beans?”

Head to Skinnytaste for the recipe. You won’t be sorry!

(Modification note: I’m adding more coffee grounds next time, but the rest of the recipe should remain as is. There’s gotta be a reason for that balsamic thing, and you can’t taste it in the final product, I swear!)

The best invention to happen to early mornings since coffee

2014 March 7
by Laura

I have this weird thing.

When I have to wake up before say, 5:30 a.m., I get really nauseated. I’m talking sour stomach, extra acid production, heartburn, the worst. The thought of food makes me want to throw up, and I worry I might do just that for the entirety of the morning. This happens about 1/10 early mornings (which stinks, hi nursing!), and until I just started to accept it, I was pretty miserable.

(This may sound weird to you if you’ve never heard of this, but I’m not alone! It’s pretty common, and lots of my early-rising nursey friends also experience this, which makes me feel slightly better about the affliction!) 

So what do I do about it? On bad mornings, I skip the coffee, make a smoothie for the road, eat 4 Tums, and then thank the lord I found “Baked Oatmeal to Go” and have a stockpile of it in the freezer!

I made a big batch of these a few weeks ago and after eating one almost every morning, it’s time to make more! It’s perfect for that moment at 8:30 a.m. when the oatmeal has left my stomach long ago and I get hit with that hypoglycemic STARVING feeling.

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Part of what makes them so fun—in addition to the portability or the convenience factor (take one out of the freezer and it’s good to go 2 hours later)—is the customizability! I made a few with cranberries, some with almonds; some have chocolate chips or raisins. It’s low fat, low cal, low, sugar, and gluten free. It’s kind of a moist little oatmeal muffin — way more of a muffin than a granola bar. I sprinkled a little more brown sugar on the top of the “muffins” because I like them just a weeeeeeee bit sweeter than they come out using only honey.

These are perfect for the mornings when you’re a hungry hippo, running late, nauseated, or any day at all. (I’ve had them as an afternoon snack with coffee, too, also delicious.) Make and enjoy!

A Friday Recap List

2014 March 7
by Laura

1. Hi, friends! Last week I started working full-time again, and since then I haven’t had much time to breathe, sleep, eat, exercise, think, relax, watch TV, read the Internet, or blog. But! The beauty of the nursing life is working an insane amount of hours just 3-4 days a week, so here I am with a Friday off (don’t get too jealous, because I have to work tomorrow) and time to write to you.

celebratory first week of work dinner with Someone

celebratory first week of work dinner with Someone

2. I am loving this post about how life is a picture, but each today is only a pixel of it. It’s an excellent and thought-provoking look at why living in the future isn’t making us happy, and how hard it is to remember to look down at what we have and realize it’s what we once wanted quite badly. Gratitude, for the win.

3. On Monday it snowed (in MARCH, ugh) and I still had to show up to work on time. Nurses don’t get snow days??? Let’s hope that was the last time this year I have to commute to the hospital in the ice and wind! The Metro was empty c/o federal government closures, and the roads around me never got plowed. It was the last time I’d like to feel quite so cold, wet, and miserable for at least 9 more months. Is it summer yet?

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I feel like we need this.

4. Someone and I saw Kings of Leon the other day at the Verizon Center and it was fantastic.

Supersoaker.

Supersoaker.

Here’s one of my favorites, “Temple.”

5. TGIF to all of you (and even to those of us working tomorrow). One week of March down, one week closer to summer. Don’t forget to turn those clocks forward, even though it feels ludicrous to do so!

Cook once, eat thrice

2014 February 25
by Laura

This Greek chicken salad is a great recipe and, as I found out last night, easily adapts to other forms for longevity in your fridge and meal plan. We are all about convenience in this busy nursing life of mine, so the less I have to cook and the more I can eat the fruits of the labor, the better! (Added bonus: the less often I have to eat a crappy sandwich for lunch, the happier I am!)

I bought a cooked rotisserie chicken on Sunday and was able to use it in three meals this week PLUS freeze some shredded chicken for a future busy Laura evening. I don’t know why more people don’t pick those up and use them to their home-cooking advantage — $5 for that much chicken and it’s already cooked for me? Yes, please.

So to make a salad and a pasta salad simultaneously: Set a pot on the stove to boil and cook about half a box of elbows. While you’re doing your prep for the Romaine salad, put half of all your ingredients into a tupperware for a pasta salad version of the same dish. You’ve got a salad for dinner tonight and a pasta salad for lunch tomorrow (and the next day).

  • Bag romaine lettuce
  • 1 purchased rotisserie chicken, meat removed and shredded (about 1/4 cup for the salad and 1/2 cup for the pasta salad, saving and freezing any additional leftover meat)
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large cucumber, sliced and halved
  • kalamata olives, sliced
  • 6-8 thin slices of red onion, chopped into about 1-inch pieces
  • feta cheese (amount as desired)
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Greek salad dressing (I used Ken’s)
  • GF or regular elbow pasta, cooked, and drained (half a box)

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Make an entree salad by placing romaine in a bowl and layering all other ingredients, chicken last. Drizzle with feta cheese and Greek dressing. Finish by grating fresh pepper over top.

Make the pasta salad by assembling all ingredients in a container, topping with pasta and drizzling with about 2 tbsp Greek salad dressing. Finish by grating fresh pepper over top.

And so we begin

2014 February 24
by Laura

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Two big happy letters that somehow represent all the hard work over the past two years. Horray! In three weeks I get a paycheck and then life will be so grand.

Ta ta to the life of stay-at-home girlfriend, who cooked, cleaned, exercised, and looked forward to retirement. Hello 12- (read: 13.5) hour shifts, aching feet and back, emotionally gripping and physically demanding work, and the career of my dreams.

The best guac ever

2014 February 21
by Laura

I’m serious, guys, this guac is really, really, really good. Many of you might think ,”What? You don’t even need a recipe for guac.” But trust me — you do. And the recipe you need is Alton Brown’s (modified slightly by moi).

This dip is better than any table-side guac that has ever been prepared for me, and of that I’ve had a lot. In fact, the reason the picture is so blurry is because I was fighting Someone tooth and nail, chip for chip, to get this guac into my mouth. YEAH.

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(Someday I will get married and will register for this and this and THIS and I will have guac and marg parties all the time. You’ll all be invited, don’t worry.)

You need:

3 ripe Haas avocados, halved, seeded and peeled*
The juice from 1 lime, cut in half (see below)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (for this recipe I would really do the kosher thing)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (add more if you like it spicy)
1/2 medium onion, diced (the smaller the dice, the better)
1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced (omit for a more mild guac)
2 plum tomatoes, or 1 vine tomato, diced
2 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tbsp feta or cotija cheese

*To easily handle avocados, slice them in half longways and then use a spoon to scoop the flesh out of the skin. Drop the halves in a bowl after removing the giant boulder inside them.

Place the scooped avocado halves in a large bowl. Squeeze the juice from half a lime over the avocados, toss to coat all sides of everybody in the bowl. Drain the excess lime juice. Add the salt, cumin, and cayenne and mash with a fork. Then, fold in the onions, jalapeño, tomatoes, cilantro, and garlic. Add 1 tablespoon of lime juice from the other half of the lime. Sprinkle with cheese. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour and then serve.

If you have any leftover, squeeze more lime juice over the top to prevent browning and cover with saran wrap in the fridge.

Enjoy with a marg.

Oh my GOD these fish tacos

2014 February 20
by Laura

Holy cow were these fish tacos delicious. Cooking Light knows what’s up, and they nailed it with these Fish Tacos with Cilantro Lime Crema. I made a few changes that I think were good ones, but please trust me and make these sometime in the next week. So springy, EASY, light, and fantastic. I served with corn/veggies and refried beans.

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Crema:

  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup fat-free mayonnaise
  • 1/4  cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons grated lime rind
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Tacos:

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 pounds red snapper fillets (I used haddock, any white fish would work)
  • Cooking spray
  • 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas (I used crunchy ones)
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage (I bought the package of Cole Slaw mix in the bagged lettuce section)

Prepare the crema a bit ahead of time: mix the first 8 ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate until serving.

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix cumin and next 5 ingredients (through garlic powder) in a small bowl; sprinkle spice mixture evenly over both sides of fish. Place fish on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 9 minutes or until fish flakes easily. Place fish in a bowl; break into pieces with a fork.

Heat tortillas according to package directions. Divide fish evenly among tortillas; top each with 1/4 cup cabbage and 1 tablespoon crema.

Nashville

2014 February 20
by Laura

Nashville is in its second season, and I’ve been watching since the very beginning.

Let me set one thing straight: It’s not the best show on TV, by any means. It’s no Downton, it’s no OITNB (which comes back June 6th, btw, for the best birthday present a girl could ask for!), it’s no Friday Night Lights (even though Connie Britton is there…Hi, Tami Taylor!).

But it has enough soap-opera like story lines (kind of reminds me of The O.C. in that way) and lovable characters to get you involved. The real reason I watch every week, though, is because (and this is HUGE)… this show got me to like country music.

WHAT?! I know. But guys, listen to the harmonies. The original songs ABC is throwing into Nashville are just so gosh-durn catchy!

Deacon and Rayna, being magical together…

The Stella sisters, being amazing…

Deacon and Maddie, writing a song in 10 minutes together…

And Gunnar, Avery, and Zoey writing a song that’s been in my head for days…

Um, speaking of Avery, can we talk about Jonathan Jackson for a moment? You might have thought to yourself, “Hmm, that fellow looks a little familiar.” Wanna know where you know him from (if you’re a child of the early 90s, as I am)?

Why, he was Morris “Mud” Himmel in the 1994 classic Camp Nowhere!

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My brother and I watched this movie over and over again as children. As 90s kids, we did that thing where you go to the movie store every Friday night with your parents and each get to rent one movie. We would basically alternate between the same movies every few weeks: Camp Nowhere, BeethovenTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Angels in the Outfield, Three Ninjas, and the Mighty Ducks.

(We were seriously into ninjas back then. In fact, we “lost” the Three Ninjas VHS so we never had to return it and could secretly watch it day after day after day.)

Remember dreamy Andrew Keegan? He was in Camp Nowhere, too.

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ANYWAY! I have seriously digressed here.

The point of this post was “Watch Nashville!”

The End.

Valentine’s Day, winter weekend fun, and my last week of freedom

2014 February 18
by Laura

The first week of January and I didn’t get along very well. I was staring ahead into a period of unemployment (however temporary), the winter was all stupid and wintery (although we had it pretty easy back then and didn’t even know it), and my  holiday trips and plans and schemes were all coming to a close.

“What am I going to DO!?” I implored Someone and my family members.

“You’ll have so much fun doing nothing! You can do whatever you want! It will be the best two months of your life!” They said.

“No, you don’t understand. I can’t be alone doing nothing. I CAN’T. Time will drag. I will go crazy. This will kill me.”

But here I am, less than a week of freedom left, and I’m wondering where all that time went.

Time spent in PA in front of the fireplace with Riggins and the family; in Williamsburg with my love; in NYC to see Pippin and eat delicious gluten-free food; in Marco Island riding jet skis with dolphins; and in DC spending hours at the gym, in the kitchen, and doing a massive puzzle (see below) really added up. I’ve got several things left to accomplish in my 5 remaining days (Costco, haircut, pedicure, more kitchen-stock-up cooking, etc.) but the main thing is to get rested and get pumped for the next chapter of my life.

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hardest puzzle ever. 

What else to recap for you? Ah! Galentine’s Day and Valentine’s Day!

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My roommate and I invited our girls over for some chocolate-eating, classic rom-com-watching fun. And although I forgot to break out my Ryan Gosling coloring book….

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…we still had a great time!

The main event: my first REAL Valentine’s Day with someone special. MY Someone! A winter storm had dumped 12-inches of snow on us, but that didn’t keep Someone from getting my flowers to me on the day we were celebrating. He trudged through the snow to the metro and then through the snow again, both ways, to pick up my (beautiful, exactly the kind I love) flowers from the non-delivering-in-snow florist.

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I’m a lucky girl. After a dinner at the location of our first date (almost 10 months ago, what?!?!) we listened to a Spotify playlist of 90s Love Songs and smiled at each other all night. Pretty great evening, if you ask me.

From snowy DC we headed to the Eastern Shore in Delaware for a reunion weekend with my college loves. We drank beers, ate, talked, laughed, sang and danced, and reminisced. I taught everyone the Sentence Picture game with hilarious results, and we all remembered just how much we love and miss one another. It made me extremely excited to reunite for a few wedding celebrations this summer!

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Hope your President’s Day weekend of Love was fulfilling and relaxing. Only 5ish more weeks of winter…

Salmon Cakes, Tomatoes with Basil and Feta, and Cucumber Dill Salad

2014 February 12
by Laura

Winter? I. Am over. You. (For any Friends fanatics, I said that the way Rachel tells Ross she’s over him when she gets drunk and leaves him a voicemail.)

So what is a girl to do when the forecast calls for anywhere between 4-15 inches of snow? Whine, use the light box, and make a very summer-inspired menu for her man: salmon cakes, sautéed tomatoes with basil and feta, and a cucumber dill salad.

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Salmon Cakes! Maybe those words go together weird in your head, but think of more like a crab cake, and we’re good to go.

  • 3/4 cup GF panko or regular bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup nonfat sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg white, beaten
  • 1 14-oz can of salmon, drained, skin and bones removed, flaked*
  • 1 4.5 ounce can chopped green chiles, drained
  • jar of tartar sauce

In large bowl, mix all ingredients (except tartar sauce) with a fork until well combined. Cover and refrigerate for about 10 minutes or until the mixture is slightly firm.

Shape mixture into about 4 really big patties, about 3/4 inch thick. Spray a skillet with non-stick spray or lightly drizzle olive oil. Heat over medium-high heat and add patties. Cook about 5-7 minutes (I put a lid on the pan for added heat), turning once, until the cakes are golden brown and hot. Serve with tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, or horseradish sauce!

*I had never cooked with canned salmon before and I got scared when I took the lid off that can. Steel yourself, don’t think about it, and rinse the salmon in a colander. The skin and that gray part fall right off and any bones that are left in there easily rinse away. Fluff it up with a fork in the bowl and you’re on your way.

Easiest Summery Side Dish Ever: Tomatoes with Basil and Feta 

  • 1 pint of grape tomatoes, halved
  • fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 2 tbsp feta cheese
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Drizzle a small skillet with olive oil and add tomatoes and basil. Heat over medium-low for 3-5 minutes, stirring often, or until the tomatoes soften and get warm. Add feta cheese and stir around until it’s about as melty as feta ever gets (aka not that melty). Serve hot.

Cucumber Salad with Red Onions and Dill 

  • 5 cucumbers, sliced
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1.5 cups nonfat sour cream
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

Place cucumber slices in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Let sit about an hour until the liquid is pulled off the cukes. Rinse the salt off the cucumbers and pat dry.

In a large bowl, mix everything else together (except the red onion) with a whisk. Add in the cucumbers and red onion, and chill for about 1-2 hours before serving.