10 Healthy & Easy Recipe Ideas Using Canned Black Beans

Canned black beans are one of my favorite pantry ingredients because they’re delicious, healthy, and versatile. Since I’m always experimenting with them, I thought I’d put together a list of quick, healthy, and easy recipe ideas to keep from get bored with this pantry staple. You’ll see that a lot of these call on the same flavor combinations, which is the way I like to approach cooking — by learning key flavors that work together and then using them in different combinations to keep it interesting. Let’s dive right in – my 10 favorite ways to use black beans. Enjoy!

1.) Sweet Potato Black Bean Burger – Veggie burgers are one of my favorites, and while I still like to buy the frozen kind, making them at home is super simple too. One of my favorites involves just 3 ingredients – cooked sweet potato, black beans, and bread crumbs. You can experiment with the ratios here but I like to do 1/4 cup black beans, 1/4 cup sweet potato, and 1 tbsp bread crumbs per patty, which works out to be 4 SmartPoints. These also freeze really well!

2.) Roasted Black Beans – By now, everyone has heard of roasted chickpeas, right? Did you know you can do the same thing with a can of black beans? Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, drain, rinse, and dry off the beans, then drizzle some olive oil and spices over them and bake for 20 minutes until they start to pop, stirring half way through. My favorite spice combo with these is chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, salt and pepper.

3.) Black Bean Soup – This is a super quick and easy weeknight meal, or great for lunches during the week. I’ll use 2 cans of black beans (not drained), 1 cup of veggie stock, and 1 can of diced tomatoes with chiles (Rotel). Combine everything in a pot and bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer for 10 minutes. Once finished cooking, use an immersion blender or a regular blender until desired consistency.

4.) Black Bean Dip – I’ve been using this Weight Watchers recipe for years, and it’s super simple with just canned black beans, salsa, yogurt, cilantro, cumin & salt. The hardest part of this recipe is a tie between opening the can of beans and then cleaning whatever you use to combine the ingredients. This is great with veggies and/or tortilla chips, and if you have any leftover, you can use it in place of mayo/mustard on a sandwich and it adds great flavor!

5.) Black Beans & Rice – A lot of times I’ll cook rice according to package directions, and then stir a can of rinsed and dried black beans directly into it. If I’m feeling fancy, I’ll also stir sauteed onion, cilantro, and lime juice into the mix (plus salt and pepper, always!). This is great on it’s own, or over salad, or topped with a fried egg, salsa, and/or chopped avocado.

6.) Chilled Black Bean Salad – Combine rinsed and drained black beans with chopped veggies of choice – my favs are tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, corn and cilantro (which is an herb not a veggie but hey) – plus a squeeze of fresh lime and salt. You can also add in olive oil if you like, or any cooked grain (like rice, couscous or quinoa) to round it out.

7.) Black Bean Pizza – For a quick lunch or dinner, I’ll mash up black beans with salt and lime and use it in place of sauce on a homemade pizza. I’ll usually do it on a tortilla or an english muffin, but you can use regular pizza crust too. Then I’ll add diced tomatoes, corn, red onion, and chicken, before sprinkling shredded cheese (cheddar or mozz for me!) over the top and baking or toasting.

8.) Black Beans over Sweet Potato – This is one of my favorite combinations and something so easy to throw together, especially if you have leftover sweet potatoes. If not, you can poke a few holes in the sweet potato with a fork and microwave on high for 10ish minutes until it’s cooked through. You can use the black beans as is out of the can, or you can mix them with tomatoes, cumin and salt. Garnish with sour cream and/or cilantro if you want to take it up a notch!

9.) Mexican Egg MuffinsFull recipe here, but these are delicious egg muffins filled with with black beans, pepper and onions, salsa and cheese. Made with the exact quanities in the posted recipe, this works out to 2 SmartPoints per egg muffin, which is a steal with how much flavor these have.

10.) Black Bean Tacos – I use 1 can of black beans, red onion, cilantro, cumin, and salt and mash it together with a fork or spoon for the taco filling. I’ll heat corn tortillas in a pan and add the black bean filling, and then top it with shredded cheese, tomatoes, salsa, and/or sour cream. So good and easy. This is great to bring as a vegetarian option alongside ground beef or turkey on a DIY taco spread.

Two Weeks on SmartPoints: Takeaways & A Gain

I may have been stretching the truth when I said I was just looking to maintain this week after having such a big loss my first week following Weight Watchers’ SmartPoints. Truth be told, I was obviously hoping to lose again, so when I went in yesterday to step on the scale, I was pretty disappointed to see that I’d gained .8 pounds. I started to pout, but forced myself to stop when I looked down and saw that I’ve still lost 6 pounds total from the start, which averages to 3 pounds a week, aka more than I should get used to losing. And, before stepping on the scale, I’d walked in feeling pretty good about the week. So, rather than mope, I thought I’d share some takeaways from my first two weeks back on SmartPoints.

  1. Losing weight is hard! Even though I’m more familiar with this concept than I’d like to be, switching back into weight loss mode these past few weeks has reminded me just how hard it is. Every single day I’ve found myself having to make unexpected food-related decisions, like whether to take the free sample of fried chicken at the food truck (I did, and it was delicious for 1 SP which maybe should have been 2) or a treat from the tray that was passed around at a work meeting (I didn’t, and kept picturing everyone’s dirty hands all over them any time I considered going back on that). It’s just in your face all the time, and makes it much harder to stick with your plan than if there weren’t temptations at every turn.
  2. It really is a good idea to look up the SmartPoints value before I eat something, just so I know. Especially as I’m adjusting to the new system, seeing the high SP value of certain foods (ahem, anything with sugar) really makes me consider if it’s worth it when I do it on the front end.
  3. If I know I’m going to have something pretty point-y (see #2), adding it to the day before so it comes out of my weeklies instead of out of my dailies helps me stay on track. There’s something disheartening about seeing your daily SmartPoints dwindle, especially if you have a treat earlier in the day. I’ve found that even though it doesn’t make a difference except in my head, I’m able to stay on track after the “treat” better when it hasn’t blown my whole day of SmartPoints.
  4. Social gatherings and weekends are still my biggest challenges. I am really good and on track during the week, but having less structure on the weekends and alcohol during social gatherings, definitely makes it harder for me to stay on track. One thing I used to do that I’ve considered reintroducing, is dedicating my weeklies to the weekend in chunks. So, since I get 42 weeklies, I’d give myself 20 extra for Friday night (or Thursday night, or whichever other night I had something coming up) and 20 extra for Saturday, which made it feel like I still had some flexibility to indulge but gave me a good framework to limit myself. Again, just a mind trick, but whatever works, right?
  5. I don’t mind having the same few things for breakfast every day. I’ve found myself having the same two things for breakfast almost every day — either eggs or oatmeal — and I don’t get tired of it. I usually have hard boiled or fried eggs with veggies and toast, or steel cut oatmeal with cottage cheese and fruit, or with spinach, cheese, and egg for something savory. I look forward to those same things each morning and don’t mind having the same exact variation day after day.
  6. I do mind when it comes to lunch (and dinner). I’ve gone two days in a row having leftovers for lunch and can barely make it through the second day (third serving). I’m trying to overcome this without having to go crazy cooking by rotating what I’m having for lunch so I don’t have the same leftovers more than two days in a row. It seems to be working!
  7. “Free” fruits and veggies definitely makes me eat more of them than I would otherwise. Shifting into the SmartPoints budget mindset makes fruits and veggies being 0 SPs that much more appealing. I’ve found myself eating 2-3 servings of fruit and 4-6 servings of veggies most days, which is much more than I’d been having pre-recommitting to WW. I’ve been eating lots of frozen berries and bananas from the grocery store, plus honeycrisp apples, baby spinach, onions, cherry tomatoes, and broccoli from the farmer’s market.
  8. There’s something refreshing about seeing my renewed daily SmartPoints budget at the top of the WW app each morning. You always hear “everyday is a new day!” but those refreshed dailies really drive home that point, especially if I’ve gone a little overboard the day before.
  9. Even just weeks committed to a new regimen can make a big difference in how you feel. I’m sure there’s a bunch of factors contributing to this (see you Saturday, Antigua!), but I definitely feel GOOD and like I’ve had extra pep in my step these last couple weeks.

Since I leave for vacation on Saturday, I won’t weigh in again until I’m back from the trip. My plan is to enjoy my vacation and not be obsessive about WW or let it prevent me from enjoying myself, but I do want to try to be mindful about what I’m eating and make an effort to be active. In an ideal world, I’d see a loss on the scale, but I realize it’s pretty ambitious since I’ll be traveling, so I won’t beat myself up if that doesn’t happen. Onto the next!

A Day of Eats: What 31 SmartPoints Looks Like

I thought it’d be fun to share what 31 SmartPoints (SPs) looks like spread throughout the day, since I’m always curious myself to see how other people eat. After having such a great first week on the program, the only downside is that I went from 32 SPs down to 31. Luckily, 30 SPs is the lowest anyone gets in a day, so I shouldn’t have to cut down too much more from here. Without further ado, here’s my full day of eats!

9AM: 2 scrambled eggs (4 SPs) with cherry tomatoes (0 SPs) from the farmer’s market.

I’ll usually have an english muffin or toast on the side, but yesterday I didn’t so I had a small snack at 11am of 2 mandarins and 10 almonds (2 SPs), plus an apricot LaCroix (my FAVORITE), bringing the day’s total up to 6 SPs.Around 1:30pm I had leftovers for lunch, which was spaghetti squash (0 SPs) with turkey bolognese (4 SPs) and shredded mozzarella (2 SPs), adding up to 12 SPs for the day so far.Around 4pm I had another snack consisting of 1/2 cup of Cheerios (1 SP) and 1/2 cup 2% plain greek yogurt (2 SPs) plus blueberries (0 SPs), bringing the day to 15 SPs.

Dinner was at 7 and started with a cup of Potato Leek Soup (4 SPs)

And rounded out with 4 oz sockeye salmon (2 SPs), roasted broccoli (0 SP), and a medium baked potato (5 SPs) with 2 tablespoons light sour cream (2 SPs), bringing the day to 28  SPs.

I always like to have a little something sweet to end the day, and this week I’ve been slicing and freezing bananas (0 SP), and then drizzling 1 tablespoon of melted semisweet chocolate chips (3 SPs) over it. I like to use the mini semisweet chips if I can find ’em because I get more bang for my buck that way!

And that, my friends, is what 31 SmartPoints looks like!

A Week on SmartPoints: The Good, The Bad & The Weigh-In

Yesterday marked my first full week on the Weight Watchers Beyond the Scale plan, and overall I’m really digging SmartPoints (SP). I’ve written about several of the Weight Watchers plans over the years, including:

But since rumor on the street has it that a new plan will be rolling out in the next few weeks (rumors are discussed here), rather than go into the nitty gritty details, I’ll just share five things that stuck out to me from this first week.

  1. SmartPoints seems more in line with the latest nutritional research, steering us towards foods lower in sugar and higher in protein. It seems like it’s a lot harder to “cheat the system” that it has been on earlier iterations of WW.
  2. I love that there’s a focus… beyond the scale, including thinking about (& writing down!) why you’re trying to lose weight at the beginning and setting non-scale related goals for yourself in addition to weight goals as you go along.
  3. I really miss the Healthy Living Guidelines tracker. I used to love checking off each cup of water and fruit and veggie as I ate it. (Can you tell I’m Type A much??) I’m not sure why they removed this feature, perhaps to simplify the program and not overwhelm those of us who don’t like having to check boxes, but I wish it was an option because I miss it!
  4. I’m a lot less impressed with the format for the Weight Watchers Weekly. It seems like there’s a lot less information and a lot of repetition from week to week. For example, each week uses a full page to talk about reframing your thinking, and the examples they give are just… dumb. This week’s topic was “Use Your Beans” and it did include one recipe, but it seemed like the rest of it was trying to convince me that beans are a good source of protein and alternative to meat… I’m convinced, now give me something useful!
  5. I love that fruits and veggies are still no points, and that they figured out how to tweak the Recipe Builder so that when you create recipes, fruits and veggies aren’t counting against you like they did before.

So, there’s definitely more things I like about SmartPoints than I dislike, and overall my first week went really well! I get 32 SmartPoints per day and 42 per week, and this first week I ate them ALL. I am actually really enjoying tracking again and have gone to town with the scanner at the grocery store. The week itself was pretty low key and easy to be on plan since I was mostly cooking at home, but then I had a bunch of social stuff over the weekend which is always more challenging. But, I tracked everything I ate, tried to make good decisions for the most part, and felt pretty in control.

So, when I went in yesterday for my weigh in, I was feeling pretty confident that I’d lost, but wasn’t sure what to expect numbers wise. I was quite pleased when I stepped up on the scale and was down 6.8 pounds!! I am obviously SUPER happy with this result, but I know most of it is probably water weight, so my goal for next week is to just maintain the loss from this week. Onwards!

One of the things I am excited to dive into this week is Connect on the WW app! For those on WW, any tips or insights on how best to use it?

The Real Reasons Why

For a good part of the last year or so, I’ve been wanting to focus on getting healthier and losing weight, but with so many changes and health issues along the way, I just haven’t made progress in the ways I was hoping to by now. And somehow, it’s already November and 2017 is almost behind us (thank GOD for that though), which is really hard to believe. Since I feel like I’ve stepped out of the fog hanging over the last several months, rather than letting a few more slip away with no progress, this week, I decided to rejoin Weight Watchers. And while I’ve joined a few times over the last couple years here and there, this time it feels different. I think I’m just ready to commit to making my health a priority again, and have the bandwidth to focus on it for the first time in a while.

One of the things I love about the Beyond the Scale Weight Watchers program is the whole “beyond the scale” part. At the beginning when you sign up and weigh in for the first time, they have you to take a few minutes to write why you want to lose weight. The receptionist actually had me write something down right then, which I think is good because it forces you to think about it. They say the more specific and detailed you can be the better because then you can start to visualize it, which can be pretty powerful, especially in moments of weakness.

After leaving the meeting, I’ve been thinking more about all the whys – why do I want to lose weight in general, why Weight Watchers again, why right now – and thought I’d share what I came up with. It’s really easy to list off surface level reasons, so I forced myself to dig a bit deeper with each.

  1. I don’t want to be back to the “before” and I’m terrified that’s the direction I’m heading if I don’t make some changes.
  2. Weight loss is mostly related to what I put into my body, which is something that’s totally within my control. Lately, so many things have felt outside my control, especially related to my back issues, so I’m looking forward to focusing on something where the outcome is completely up to me.
  3. I want to get excited when I see someone has tagged a picture of me on social media, rather than be filled with dread for how bad I might look in the picture.
  4. I’m currently a size 12, which is towards the top end of the range of sizes regular clothing stores carry. I want to be able to shop at regular stores, not have to go to the back of the rack to pick the biggest size they carry, and to feel good when I try on the clothes.
  5. I want to feel proud of my body again. I worked so hard to lose all the weight last time, and I’m ashamed I’ve gained some of it back, especially after undergoing plastic surgery to memorialize my hard work.
  6. I want to wear a bikini with confidence again. I vividly remember the first time I ever wore a bikini in my entire life by myself at a public pool in DC, and how liberating it felt. I truly believe that people should wear whatever they’re comfortable in, and I’m at the point where I don’t feel comfortable bearing my stomach.
  7. I want to be comfortable changing in a locker room or in front of friends again, instead of turning towards a wall and doing it quickly in a panic or going into a private bathroom stall.
  8. My parents have a long list of health issues related to being overweight, and I’m at the age where those things aren’t too far off if I don’t get it under control. My dad had a heart attack at age 40 (!) and both my parents have struggled with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and being prediabetic/Type II diabetes. I don’t want the same fate.
  9. Holidays are a really tough time to lose or maintain weight, so rather than let myself spiral out of control these next few months, I want to focus on taking care of myself and get a head start. Time goes by so fast, especially as we get older (it’s science!) so rather than let a few more weeks turn into a few more months, I’m starting now.

Facing My Fears: What’s Been Holding Me Back from Blogging

The other day, I came across an article about self-sabotage when it comes to weight loss and it basically said that often times, we have underlying fears that get in the way of accomplishing what we want. Because we’re worried about those things, either consciously or subconsciously, it creates inner turmoil that can lead to inaction rather than facing those fears head on. It can be really painful and difficult to pinpoint what those reasons are and to sit in the discomfort of confronting them because you have to dig deep and be vulnerable, even if just to yourself.

While this self-sabotage can apply to many areas of my life, it got me thinking a lot about what’s been holding me back from blogging again, even though I’ve been wanting to for some time and have dipped my toe in here and there over the last few years. I’m an expert excuse-maker, so I’ve come up with many surface reasons as to why – I need a new blog name, I need new content to focus on, I need to have it all figured out before wanting to share my life with the world again – but I’ve avoided confronting some of those deeper, more painful reasons because, well, it’s uncomfortable.

But I realized that not facing those fears is exactly what’s been standing in the way of starting to blog again, and I finally took some time to address them head on so I can stop with the inaction. Here’s what I came up with:

  1. People will judge me for not being the “after” anymore. When you write a blog about weight loss, there is a tremendous amount of pressure that’s hard to explain because I think ultimately it ends up being self-imposed, but it feels external. When you step away, it’s really hard to come back without addressing the weight situation head on, and to be honest with you, I don’t think I’ve been ready to until now. While I’m not back to where I started, I have gained some weight, and I’ve struggled with making healthy living a priority in the last couple years. Even now when I go to my Facebook page and see some of my before and after photos, it makes me cringe and feel like an imposter.
  2. People from my current/professional life will see some of the very personal things I’ve shared here and judge me. I’ve changed a lot in the 7.5 years since this blog began, and while I’m proud of a lot of the content, there are some deeply personal things on here that make me pretty anxious to think about everyone in my current life knowing and seeing. I briefly thought about removing some of that more sensitive content, like my plastic surgery documentation, but on further reflection, I realized I’m not even sure what I’m afraid of. Someone seeing it and knowing I had surgery? Someone seeing it and making fun of me for having surgery? And then I realized it’s because of an all-too-familiar judgement that I myself have been guilty of before I knew any better. I am afraid people are going to see the deepest parts of my weight loss journey and wonder how I could possibly let myself gain back any of the weight I’d worked so hard to lose.
  3. Even though I love to write, I am not a gifted photographer, so my blog can’t ever be great. This one may fall more into the surface level excuse category, but not take great photos is something that makes me anxious whenever I think about getting back into blogging, especially since a lot has changed in the last few years and things have gone more digital. I know that some of my content would be stronger if I had great photos to go with it, but good content with crappy pictures is better than no content and no pictures. And, this is something I can work on.
  4. I won’t be able to keep it up and will disappoint everyone, myself included. I think this one stems from trying to come back so many times over the last few years and not being able to stick with it. But, since I’d never taken the time to think through the bigger, underlying fears (see #1 and #2), I self-sabotaged like woah to avoid having to.

It’s pretty eye opening to reflect on these reasons and see that even though all of these stem from a fear of being judged by others, the only thing standing in the way of overcoming any of them is me.

Stepping Out of the Fog

The last few months have been quite a whirlwind. You know how they say “When it rains, it pours”? Turns out that’s true.

I alluded to this vaguely, but back in June my career took an unexpected turn when I found out that the job I’d been at for just under a year wasn’t going to work out longterm. It was a very humbling experience that made me do quite a bit of digging and soul searching, which I’m still knee- (elbow-?) deep in at the moment. In some ways, it’s hard to believe it was already almost 5 months ago (!), but in other ways it feels like it was just yesterday that I still had an office job.

That change in and of itself has been a lot to navigate, but I’ve also been dealing with some health issues, which you may have caught wind of if you follow my Facebook page. Long story short, back in April (so two months before the career shift) my back started acting up again for the first time since having Emergency Back Surgery in 2006 (part 1, part 2, and part 3 of that story), and it really, really messed with me after being pain free for 11 years. I tried to do everything in my power to avoid having back surgery again, including making some pretty dramatic dietary changes that seemed to make a significant impact.

I was trucking along and feeling like I was almost out of the woods with my back (and ready to refocus on the next step in my career!), when seemingly out of nowhere, I started having pretty severe abdominal pain on September 20. I tried to suck it up but after it didn’t go away for over 12 hours I went to the hospital, and I ended up needing emergency gall bladder removal surgery that day. (PS: My first emergency surgery was at 22, my second at 33… let’s hope this trend is over and I don’t have to think about what’s next at 44!)

The surgery itself was pretty uneventful and I was released the next day and sent home to recover. At 10 days post op, I went in for a follow up and everything was looking awesome, and the surgeon decided to put new steristrips and adhesive over the incisions to help it heal even better. When it started itching a bit the next day I assumed it was just from healing, but then it started getting itchier and redder and I realized I was having an allergic reaction to whatever they’d administered. I had to go back in and once they removed the steristrips it was INTENSE to look at the reaction. Since I’d recently had the surgery, I couldn’t use anything topical to treat the reaction and instead had to take steroids, and after being put on the wrong type and then the wrong dose over the next 10 days by the surgeon’s office, I went to see my PCP and got put on the right dose of steroids and at long last, the reaction started to dissipate. That was 2 weeks ago today that I got put on the right dose of steroids and finally, finally, finally I feel like I’m stepping out of the fog of these last few months and can start to shift my focus back to the bigger question of where to go from here.

Since I’ve laid out the crappy stuff that has happened over the last few months, let me end on a positive note and also share some of the highlights:

  1. I formed an LLC to do consulting work and landed a client almost immediately who I’ve been working for on a part-time basis since! I had been thinking about starting my own company for some time and knew that there was never a better time to try, so I did.
  2. I traveled a bunch – including to Charleston for my birthday week in July, Jamaica for a destination wedding in August, and New Orleans for a friend’s birthday last weekend. (Check out my Instagram if you wanna see pics!) Up next: family vacation in Antigua over Thanksgiving in November for my dad’s 70th birthday!
  3. We made an offer on a house that got accepted, but then we backed out. I list this in the positives because while that particular house didn’t work out, it was very helpful to see the homebuying process and looking at houses is really exciting (albeit depressing with the cost of real estate in DC).
  4. I’ve been looking for a volunteer opportunity to weave into my schedule, and decided on Reading Partners, where I’ll work with a student for an hour a week to help with their reading for the whole school year. I had to get a TB test, fingerprints and a background check to be able to volunteer since it’s in DC Public Schools, and I have my orientation tomorrow and am SO excited to start!

I’m planning to expand on a bunch of the topics mentioned in this post, but let me know if you have specific questions or anything you’d like me to address. I’ll be back soon!

Friday Five: My 5 Favorite Food Prep Hacks

Happy Friday! One of the things I have a knack for is figuring out the most efficient ways to do things, both inside and outside the kitchen. While I generally enjoy cooking and meal prep, I’m usually working against the clock (and/or my hunger pangs) with getting dinner made, or am prepping a bunch of things for the week ahead and like to streamline the process as much as possible. Through all of my experimenting in the kitchen, I’ve discovered some hacks that make the process a little bit quicker and/or a little more hands off, and wanted to share some of my favorites with you. Here we go!

1.) Preheat your baking sheet.

Did you know that if you preheat your baking sheet along with your oven when roasting veggies, you dont have to flip them half-way through? While this doesn’t time since it still takes the same amount to roast, it does save you from having to pull them out and flip them halfway through.

2.) Chop bell peppers with four cuts from the top down.

Here’s a video I shared on Facebook a few months ago demonstrating this method for cutting bell peppers. Saves a ton of time, especially if you’re chopping a few!

3.) Peel ginger with a spoon instead.

I used to spend so.much.time. trying to use a paring knife to peel ginger, and would end up cutting so much of the ginger itself away instead of just the peel. And then, I discovered that you can peel the skin off ginger by scraping it with a spoon, and only the peel comes off, none of the ginger flesh. Try it!

4.) Hands off hard-boiled eggs.

In general I’m not big of a fan of kitchen tools that just serve one function, but this Go Dash Rapid Egg Cooker was some of the best $20 I ever spent and one that I swear by. I love hard boiled eggs but somehow always managed to mess the timing up when cooking them in a regular pan, either from different sized eggs or user error with the timer. I got the egg cooker about a year ago and use it at least once a week if not more. It makes 6 hard boiled eggs at a time, and there are also options to make omelets, poached, or soft or medium boiled eggs, though I mostly stick with the hard boiled. It’s super simple to use and the eggs cook perfectly every time. I fill the water level to just below where it says “hard boiled” – which leaves the middle of the yolk ever so slightly undercooked and is exactly how I like them.

5.) Heat ‘N Eat Steel Cut Oats.

I wrote a post about the technique way back in 2010 (!), but I love having oatmeal as a breakfast option, and really like steel cut oats, but hate that they take 45 minutes to cook. This method takes a little bit of foresight because you have to get it together the night before, but basically you use a 1:4 ratio of oats to water (so 1 cup oats:4 cups water for 4 servings), bring it to a boil for one minute, and then keep it covered off the heat overnight. In the morning, you just give it a stir and the oats are cooked through and ready to be topped however you like ’em. You can also freeze these cooked oats into individual servings if you want to make a bigger batch (or can’t eat all you made in a few days).

What’s your favorite trick to save time (or effort) in the kitchen?

New Recipe: Lazy (Wo)man’s Chicken Cordon Bleu Stacks

You know those recipes that say they only take 20 minutes, but then you look through them and realize you have to chop, dice, and mince so many things that there’s no chance you’ll be done with the prep in 20 minutes, let alone the dish itself?

Spoiler alert: this is not one of those kinds of recipes, as this was born out of sheer laziness.

I always loved Chicken Cordon Bleu, and have experimented with several versions, most of which take a good amount of time as you pound out the chicken, roll it up with ham and swiss cheese, and then coat it in egg and breadcrumbs carefully before baking. While that version isn’t even that intense in the scheme of things, sometimes there are nights when the last thing I want to do is add another dirty dish to the pile or spend time getting the elements ready for an egg wash and dip in breadcrumbs.

Enter: Lazy (Wo)man’s Chicken Cordon Bleu Stacks

For this dish, it literally takes less than 2 minutes to prep and will only dirty one thing in the process – your baking sheet (and perhaps your hands). It’s hard to even call this a recipe because it’s so simple, but it’s one I put into my rotation at least once a month, so without further ado…

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 pounds of thin sliced chicken breast
  • 1 package sliced ham
  • 1 package swiss cheese
  • salt & pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Lay your thin sliced chicken breasts out on a baking sheet with foil or a nonstick baking sheet (this is the one I have and LOVE)

3. Season with salt and pepper on both sides of the chicken breast

4. Place a slice or two of ham over each chicken breast

5. Place a slice of swiss cheese over each chicken and ham

6. Place in preheated oven for 18 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through

And that’s it! I usually have one or two pieces of chicken over a salad or with some kind of veggie and/or rice/potato on the side. I’ve also been known to eat leftovers cold/straight from the fridge (am I supposed to admit that?) or on a sandwich. Super simple, quick, and tasty!

What’s your go-to recipe for a quick & easy weeknight meal?

My Career Journey: Part One

When I was little, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, hands down, I’d tell you a talk show host. If probed further about who I wanted to emulate, I’d tell you Ricky Lake. These days, I may be more inclined to go with Ellen DeGeneres, though I don’t quite have dance moves even close to what she can do, so I’d have to leave that part out. But my point is, being a talk show host always felt like a far-fetched dream career that, while appealing, was just not realistic.

So after graduating high school, I went to college at GWU without too much certainty around what I wanted to do for a career. I applied as a math major, but after toying with Calculus and realizing I was more into adding and multiplying rather than the complexities of advanced math, I switched to psychology, and I loved it. I found it so fascinating to study the human mind and to have context for so many things I’d observed in my interactions with others throughout my life. I remember being particularly impressed with abnormal psych and subsequently being able to “diagnose” people in my life who dealt with various abnormalities we studied in the class. But, I never dug deeper and thought, “What do I want to DO with my psych degree?” or “How should I make a career out of this?”

Instead, after graduating, I just sort of stumbled into my first job, which I’d applied to to through Craig’s List for a position as an administrative assistant at a professional sports association. When I arrived for the interview, I was really confused because I didn’t appear to be at a professional sports association, but after asking some questions, I realized I was at a boutique staffing firm that placed people at various positions, including the one I’d applied for. At the time, I had no idea what a staffing firm was or that they even existed, but long story short, I ended up hitting it off with my interviewer and got hired to work at the staffing firm as a recruiter.

And, I loved it. I spent my days running job ads, interviewing people over the phone and in person, administering tests, submitting candidates for jobs, working with clients for new job orders, and feeling really satisfied when I placed someone at a client who hired them for a permanent position. That experience helped me with every step of my career since, and my boss from that job has became not only my career mentor, but a close friend over the years since then.

After two years in that position, one of our clients had an opening for a sponsorship associate, and it was a step up in pay as well as working for a client that many of our candidates loved working for. So, I threw myself into the mix and got hired in my first position doing event sponsorship and exhibit sales. I ended up learning a lot about events, sponsorship, and exhibits, and exceeded my goals with revenue for each event and loved the people I worked with. I ended up staying there for over 3 years, during which time I got promoted and discovered how much I loved the relationship management aspect of sponsorship. I wrote about my last work trip with that job in this post – The End of an Era. (And, my favorite line from that post: “With that said, this new opportunity was one I couldn’t walk away from. It’s a huge step up professionally and is making me feel like a real grown up, even if I have technically been one for some time.” #truethat.)

After 3ish years in that role, I ended up taking a new job in the event sponsorship/exhibit world, but this time with a big step up to Director (I posted about my first day here) and also with some flexibility in my schedule with working from home a few days a week. I stayed there for almost 4 years and really grew up, both professionally and otherwise, though in the back of my mind, was questioning whether event sponsorship was really what I wanted to be doing with my life. At the same time, I’d been doing it for almost 7 years and wasn’t sure there was a way to change career paths laterally, and I wasn’t comfortable taking a step back in responsibility or in salary. So, I tried to mute those lingering questions in the back of my mind and stay focused on the career path I found myself on.

I’m curious – were you intentional with your first few jobs, or were they more random like mine?

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