Month: June 2017

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?

Friday Five: Catch-Up Edition

Since it’s been a while, thought I’d catch you guys up on what’s been going on lately. Without further ado…

Life

Overall, life is really good! I’m still living in DC and have now been in the same building for almost 6 years now, though I moved from a studio to a one-bedroom back in 2013 so it’s been just over 3 years in my current apartment. I do live downtown, though most of my friends have ventured further out as they’ve bought houses and realized how insanely expensive it is to buy real estate the closer in you are. For the record, it’s still pretty crazy in the DC area even when you venture out a bit, but a bit less so. In the next yearish, I’m hoping to make a similar move and plan to document the home buying process on here when that time comes.

Love

So back when I started this blog, I was in a pretty serious relationship that lasted about 4 years, 2 of which we lived together for, and when that ended, I wrote about the shift to singledom here. After that, I tried my hand at online dating and went out with a LOT of interesting characters — and even wrote about a handful of the experiences on a different website – Date ‘N Tell. (The 5 stories are still up there if you’re interested in a good laugh and/or to feel sorry for me.) A little over two years ago, one of those online dates turned into something more substantial… Meet John.

As for some random facts, our first date was on April 4, 2015, he is super tall (6’7″, and before you ask, yes, he played football!), he really loves Stella (it’s a bit of a love triangle if I’m being honest), and he grew up in the country in southern VA. He’s much more relaxed and easy going than me (tho it’s hard not to be!) and it’s awesome to have someone who tells me to slow down (sometimes, ha) and balances me out.

Health

Since John moved in last year, I’ve gotten much more into the habit of cooking dinner on a regular basis. His family is super into healthy living, especially into the fitness side of things since they’re all athletes, and are also into supplements (vitamins and minerals, not weird stuff). So, I’ve been taking vitamins on a regular basis for the first time in my life, which is great. Fitness wise I’ve dabbled here and there, but I’ve had trouble sticking to something and am still on the hunt for a workout I love and can commit to (though trust me I know that a huge part of the battle is convincing yourself you like it at the beginning), and for the past couple months, my back has been acting up again. For some of the longtime readers, you may remember That Time I Had Emergency Back Surgery (plus Part Two and Part Three) and since the surgery in 2006, I’d been totally pain free, until a few months ago. In April, it started hurting a bit with waves of pain that would come and go, and it’s stuck around since. I tried going to the chiropractor and also to a physical therapist but it’s still been lingering, so yesterday I went to my primary care doctor, and she wants me to get an MRI, so I’m scheduling that for next week hopefully. This is all to say that the back issues have made it tough to get into a good exercise regimen recently, but I’m hoping to figure out what’s going on there soon.

Weight

Ahh, my formerly favorite topic. 😉 Long story short, I’m not where I want to be, but I’m also not where I once was. I’ll dive in deeper another day, but I do plan to focus on losing weight again at some point, but right now there are lots of other things taking precedence right now, including…

Career

Over the last few years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my professional life and what I want out of my career. I’ve tried to think beyond just what I’m good at or what my experience is in, and instead to focus on where I’d like to see myself in a few years, not just what the easiest next step is. So in search of that, I made a few job changes and recently found myself in not one, but two jobs back-to-back that weren’t a good fit. And it’s forced me to pause, take a step back, and really think through the best direction to go from here.

Shifting Focus

Knock knock… is anybody there?

So let’s just get right into it, shall we? I started Beth’s Journey back in 2010, and it’s crazy to think that that was seven (SEVEN!) years ago. I’d lost a bunch of weight after a lifelong struggle, and remember reading so many blogs at the time and not seeing too many popular ones from people who’d lost a substantial amount of weight. I remember feeling like it was impossible to relate to someone who only had 5 or 10 pounds to lose, when I had the tall task of losing a whole person (a small one, but still) in front of me. It wasn’t until I went through the process of losing that last 5 or 10 pounds that I realized how much more difficult and frustrating those last pounds were so there was in fact a lot to relate on, but regardless, I saw a need at the time for a voice like mine in the healthy living/weight loss space, so I stepped into it and embraced it fully.

And, for the first several years, I really loved it. I would live and breathe Beth’s Journey, talk about it to anyone who would listen, brainstorm post ideas ALL THE TIME, keep drafts in my email of different posts or quotes or articles to share, keep up with social media, read and comment on so many other blogs, attend conferences, speak at conferences, brainstorm recipes, photograph everything I’d eat or do… you get the picture (no pun intended). And I don’t regret it for a second. I learned a lot about myself throughout those few years and discovered my voice with writing. I had a lot of incredible experiences, made friends and connected with people from all over the world, and even made some money doing it.

But once I got into my later 20s (and now almost mid-30s… eek!) and took on a more demanding day job, the blogging stuff started to feel more like a chore than anything else. I would pressure myself into writing a certain number of times a week, would be disappointed when I didn’t meet those benchmarks, and then would let emails and comments pile up so it all felt overwhelming and more like something I dreaded than wanted in my life. It didn’t help that my attention had also shifted away from healthy living and weight loss as I started focusing on other more grown-up things like my career and being in a serious relationship, so I felt guilty at the idea of writing about something I wasn’t myself doing. So, I popped in here and there and have written a handful of posts (literally, a handful) over the last few years, but it’s been pretty clear to all involved that my heart hasn’t been in it for a while.

So… What Am I Getting At?

With all that said, over those few years, I’ve started writing posts at least a thousand times, but have always stopped short because I had such a hard time knowing where to start or what to say. I loved having the creative outlet and found writing the posts themselves to be the most effortless part of the whole thing, but struggled with how to broach the subject. So what this all brings me to realize is that it was more the subject matter of Beth’s Journey than anything else that kept me away from the blog, and that I’ve really, really missed writing.

Also, now more than ever, I’m happy with my choice in a blog name because despite the acronym, life is a journey with lots of twists and turns and not all of them are about weight loss. I currently find myself on the brink of starting yet a new chapter in my life, so I’m going to seize the opportunity to shift the focus of Beth’s Journey to topics that I’m more excited about at the moment than weight loss (though I imagine I’ll still touch on it at least sometimes). So, if you’re up for it, I’d love to catch you up on what’s been going on and bring you along for this next phase of my journey as I try to figure out where to go from here. More to come…