Get widget

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The End of 2016

In a world and US news and politics capacity, 2016 has been an absolute travesty. We are watching as an inexperienced, incompetent, narcissistic low level tyrant put in place misogynist, climate-change-deniers and frauds on his cabinet, in an effort to for some reason actively work against any change or progress we've made. He openly admits his lies from the campaign trail and people still seem to believe him. We've watched as his foundation and university are proven to be fraudulent, as he refuses to show tax returns, as he has contradicted himself under oath, as his family refuses to live in the White House, causing tax dollars to be used on rent and security.

There have been additional uprisings, terrorist attacks, and gun violence this year. We've lost Princess Leia and Prince, and a host of others.

This has been, without a doubt, the worst year I have lived.

However, this has also been unequivocally the best year I have lived.  

In 2016, I opened the year by getting married to my favorite person, got into the Huffington Post in the summer, and turned 30. In September I quit smoking cigarettes after spending half my life as a smoker, in October I went low carb and have lost almost 20 pounds since, and on 10/31/2016, I decided to truly pursue freelance writing and open a business. In November I officially filed as an LLC, and in December I went to my annual physical where my doctor told me I am the healthiest I've ever been.

I have literally never been happier in my personal or professional life, and I have never been healthier or had as much good energy. I love my life and my cat more every day.

Turning 30 has been wonderful. I had a great run in my 20s, making mistakes and falling down, but always getting back up and pushing forward. I grew as a person more in my mid-20s than I ever could have imagined, and I started taking my health more seriously. I built my career, I grew as a professional in so many ways. And turning 30 helped me clarify what is important to me.

It took turning 30 before I took the risk of starting a business, of putting myself out there and risking failure. It took turning 30 to take a serious look at my health and my goals and stop smoking for real, and think about kids and the future.

Like I said, worst year ever and am genuinely scared about the claims of a Muslim Registry (sound familiar? Possibly like the Jewish registry in 1930s Germany?), about Trump, Pence, and his cabinet's history of anti-LGBTQ stances, about his abject disrespect and dismissal of women. I am honestly afraid of Trump and what he will do over the next four years and how long it will take to undo.

But I am also happier, healthier, wealthier, energetic, and have never looked this good.

It's been a weird year.

Monday, December 19, 2016

All I Want For Xmas Is Food (Another amazing parody)

Weird Al, I am waiting on my phone call to get the rights to this and of course the majestic "You Need to Shower" based from the Backstreet Boys song. Here we go, a song about the financial security of being a millennial.


I don’t want a lot for Christmas
Here’s a list of what I need
I don’t want any gift cards
Just fill my fridge please

I just want it for my own
Brisket, pasta, a pot roast
Make my wish come true
Baby all I want for Christmas is food.

Oooh feed me! *jazz hands*

I don't want a lot of Christmas
Just a few things that I need, and I
Could use some new tube socks
In a package of three.

I love getting a stocking
Full of practicality
You could really make me happy
With work pants or new undies. 

I just want it for my own
Financial security
I'm a millennial
I'll take an IRA for Christmas.

I don't ask for much for Christmas
I never have once wished for snow.
I just want to buy a house
While working just one job.

I will make a list and give it
To you with my biggest wish
I'll even find out what's on sale
Couponing is my life.

I just want more of that meal
Leftovers or raw is good
Make my wish come trueeee
Baby, all I want for Christmas is food

Oooooh feed me!
Oooooh thanks, Mom!

I don't want a lot for Christmas
Socks and pens and cheese
I just want to have snacks
And money in my bank account.

I just want it for my own
Brisket, pasta, a pot roast
Make my wish come true
Baby all I want for Christmas is food.

Oooooh feed me!

All I want for Christmas is fooooooooood. 

Oooooh feed me!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Netflix Original Series

Can we all just pause and take a moment to appreciate the nostalgia, and the time, money and effort that have come together to bring a bunch of older shows into the new millenium?

Netflix is KILLING IT with original series. Gilmore Girls: A Year In the Life and Fuller House are my two best examples right now, but seriously their original series in general are why I don't miss cable.

Fuller House and Gilmore Girls made me feel like a kid again, and reminded me about watching TGIF with my mom and brother on Friday nights when I was in elementary school, and of watching GG every Tuesday night with my mom in high school, wishing we had that Lorelai-Rory relationship. Like every girl I knew back then!

Netflix's most well-known hits right now are House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and most recently, Stranger Things. These shows are amazingly well told stories with characters you feel invested in and beautiful cinematic worlds. House of Cards is like watching a movie, and Kevin Spacey is amazing. OITNB is an ensemble cast, where over the seasons I have cared less and less about the main character and more about the rest of them. The way they focus on other character's backstories and motivation, and humanize them, is gorgeous. It's not really Piper's story anymore, it's about all of them. And last season broke my heart! The emotional investment is real.

Stranger Things genuinely creeped me out, and I can't even watch Sense8! Netflix is doing such a great job on original content, and I can only hope they continue to not only do what they are already doing, but hopefully will also continue this interesting and nostalgic walk down memory lane.

And it's not just original or renewing ideas from 90s and early 2000s programming. Netflix is doing a series of shows in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), with Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and the upcoming Iron Fist, which have been amazing! I hope they end up reviving Agent Carter, which was canceled after two seasons by ABC, though they of course still have the successful Agents of Shield.

It would be pretty cool if Netflix revived Global GUTS or Double Dare or (please please please) Firefly, but I certainly can't find fault with the lineup they have. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is hilarious, Aziz Ansari's Master of None is great, and they've done a lot of kids and animated stuff, too.

I was really nervous about canceling cable in April 2015. What if I can't pick anything to watch? I like flipping through channels! But the cost was so jacked up, so crazy, that I figured I would just read more.

Surprisingly, between Hulu, Netflix, and the occasional temporary HBONow subscription, there is always something to watch.

I know I sound like a TV-crazy person, and maybe I am. But I love a great story on TV the same way I love a good book. It is about the story, the people, and I enjoy it.

But seriously, Fuller House season 2 was so cute! She-wolfpack!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Gilmore Girls: A Year In the Life Review!

Basically, I forgot it was Black Friday and just aggressively watched Gilmore Girls all the way through. I did order a pair of workout pants online when I remembered, near midnight, so there’s that!

We had friends over Friday evening, and I watched the first 2 episodes before they got there and then stayed up until 3 am to watch the last 2 episodes after they all left.

Those final four words:
So, Amy Sherman-Palladino has always known what the last four words of the series was supposed to be, and because she wasn’t involved in the oft-lamented 7th season of GG, she didn’t get to use them. Thanks to Netflix and fans around the world, GG has been brought back with the original cast, and we got to see how everything turned out years later.

Personally, I think those last four words were inevitable. It brings the show full circle, and continues the parallel of Lorelei’s life, though Rory is older and has more support than Lorelei had. She will of course, have a little girl who is surrounded by the best women in the world, will be disastrous at relationships, and have a mom-best friend.

Rory Gilmore:
At the end of the original GG, Rory was a Yale graduate ready to take on the world, and heading off to cover the Obama campaign as a journalist. In the revival, we see Rory at 32, working as a freelance journalist and trying to find steady work. She is unsure of her career path, she is unhappy trying to write a book with a crazy person, and she is mostly unemployed and bouncing from couch to couch while she travels and writes.

This feels so quintessentially real. So many of my peers, so many millennials share her crisis of career faith, feel rootless (though maybe not so literally), and struggle with freelancing and working for themselves. Rory feels a bit more relatable in this new iteration, but she also feels somewhat wrong. I was aghast at her on-and-off Huntzberger affair. Rory wouldn’t do that! Not with an engaged man! She is clearly somewhat conflicted about it, and she does eventually end it after a grand adventure with the Life and Death Brigade, which was a very fun tribute, but it felt so wrong.

But what of Rory’s big dreams and go-getter attitude? Why isn't she a successful New York Times writer? I don't know. But we have seen her insecurity before, with quitting Yale and questioning herself, and we’ve seen her make bad choices, like her night with Dean.

So maybe it isn’t that it’s out of character, and more that it’s simply not up to MY expectations of Rory’s behavior, the Rory I believe she is in my head. Either way, it’s impeccably done, very nostalgic, and seems to make sense with Rory’s story and her place in life.

Lorelei Gilmore:
To me, Lorelei is exactly where she should be. Still with Luke, still having a great relationship with her kid, and running the Dragonfly Inn. She questions, she has her own crisis of conscious, and she is attempting to deal with the loss of her father.

In terms of her character, Lorelei seems to be the most true to the original story, with her quick wit, pop culture references, self-deprecating love of coffee and junk food, and her love of life. Her relationship with Luke is strong, and her Wild (the book) adventure somehow still seems in keeping with her character.

And we finally got our Luke & Lorelei happy ending. Which I cannot express enough how much I loved. I think Luke is the early version of Ron Swanson, and I loved his portrayal in this revival. Very true to who he has always been, and watching the way he interacted with Emily made me laugh and felt real.

Lorelei is still snarky, still attempting to navigate a better relationship with her mom, and still worries more about the people around her than herself. She seems to feel things deeply and love her small town, and I can't imagine a Stars Hollow without Lorelei Gilmore.

Emily Gilmore:
Of all of the characters and stories told in this revival, I loved Emily the most. In the original series, she came off as harsh, cold, overly caring of other people’s opinions and expectations (sometimes to her detriment), with only flashes of warmth and emotion for her daughter and granddaughter.

Kelly Bishop’s Emily Gilmore in the revival was at once nostalgic and heartbreaking. Her husband dying has changed the way she looks at the world, and it so clearly changed her relationship with Lorelei and Rory, and even her maid. She is vulnerable, caring, scared, and still somewhat snooty. Her reaction to realizing she is wearing jeans made me laugh, immediately after how she tries to get rid of everything in her house in a wave of change made me tear up.

Emily’s story and her changes are so real and believable. She manipulates Lorelei into going to therapy with her, then refuses to utter a word in front of the therapist - what might she think of them? Then she sits in a DAR meeting, bored out of her mind, suddenly over it all, and jumps in with a rambling rant against the DAR and their ridiculous expectations and protocols, and against the poor hapless trophy wife trying to get into the group. It feels very Mean Girls-esque and you want to cringe and laugh at the same time.  

The most entertaining arc in this revival is Emily’s maid Berta and her entire family moving into Emily’s house and taking over her life, while not being able to communicate with each other. Berta clearly cares about Emily, and Emily grows to care for Berta and her family as well. Much better than the revolving door of those poor maids in the original!

While some might say Emily changed too much from her original character, I think the way it was done was a beautiful progression from being “Richard’s wife” to her own person.

For me, I loved this revival. I don’t need to agree with every decision they make, and I can't rail too much against what may or may not be out of character. I enjoyed watching it, I laughed, cried, cringed, and cheered. I felt incredibly nostalgic and smiled, remembering how my mom and I watched it together every week, loving the Rory-Lorelei relationship.

Is it perfect? No. As much as I love Sutton Foster, that super long scene with the whole darn musical was beating a dead horse, so cringey, and way too long. Paris Gellar seems even more stiff and unyielding than ever, and I would have thought marriage and motherhood would have relaxed her some, and I hate that she and Doyle aren’t together. The Dean run-in felt forced and unnecessary. The Chilton story was weird. Why was she suddenly doing a career day there? Why bother setting up and offering her a position that Rory didn’t even consider? It seemed off base for the story. Laine Kim didn't get to realize her rockstar dreams, and after all her thoughts of adventure and getting away from her mom, she is working in her mom's store for some reason? That didn't make sense to me.

And why isn’t it Jess and Rory? I was never on Team Jess back in the day, but I did love his support and how he is in the new iteration. And I can’t get enough of him on This Is Us, which I’m also currently watching, so that might be shading my view.

This was a fun look into the possible future of Lorelei and Rory, and I think it stayed pretty true to these characters, in a way that moved the story forward and updated it. I would watch more in a heartbeat. I also love that the entire case felt so good about what they did in the original and their characters and castmates, that they came back to do this. It just wouldn’t have been the same without Michel and Gypsy and Doose!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Oodles of zoodles this week! (keto)

I know, I've been posting a lot of food. I can't help it! I don't typically like to preach about diets or lifestyle changes, or whatever. In fact, I've always been a staunch proponent of not dieting, just enjoying things in moderation. I have generally maintained my weight, so I was fine with that.

I'm also a gymgoer. I enjoy going to the gym and typically go about 4 times per week. Usually a bit of weights or resistance and about 2.5 miles on the elliptical. I'm dedicated about going, too! Once, after happy hour with friends, I had my backpack with me and went to the gym on my way home almost without even realizing it, and suddenly found myself drunkenly jogging on an elliptical machine. Hey, at least I go!

But I had some life changes lately. The biggest thing is that I quit smoking cigarettes. After being a smoker almost exactly half my life, I finally quit. And while it felt really good, I immediately and without noticing it, started eating everything in my reach. I munched on snacks at home, I grazed and snacked all day long at work, and I barely noticed myself doing it!

I immediately put on about 10 pounds. I was not happy with this situation. And I definitely could stand to lose more than 10, but I hadn't been focusing on that. With the weight gain and the quitting smoking, something needed to change. I did research, and I found keto. Keto is a low carb-high fat diet, with also a decently high goal of daily protein. It cuts out all pasta and bread, as well as grains and starches. Your diet consists mostly of meat, vegetables, dairy, and eggs. It sounds restrictive, but honestly, it doesn't feel that way most of the time.

Fairly quickly after starting, I had more energy and felt really good. I started losing weight immediately. It's been about a month now and I'm down 13 pounds! I feel great on it, and the weight loss just keeps me motivated to stay on it. And I don't crave the bread and pasta like I thought I would!

On to the food! That's why you're here, I know it.

I did a shrimp scampi recently with Brussels sprouts, and it was really great. The discovery that I like sprouts has opened up my culinary world. Every since I went on the keto diet, I've been trying all sorts of vegetables that I didn't like as kid. I was a pretty picky eater, and with a diet that has cut out carbs - including starches and grains - I really needed to make sure I have options!

Zucchini was one of those vegetables. I have always hated zucchini and yellow squash. I only realized I liked butternut squash a year or so ago, and I tried it after I found out I like sweet potatoes, since the color and texture seemed similar.

About 2 weeks ago, I went ahead and sliced a zucchini thin and sauteed it, and then I ate it. It was ok. I didn't love it, and I didn't hate it. My husband was excited, as I am the one whoo cooks and since I hated it, we just didn't eat that particular veggie.

But guess what, guys?? I BOUGHT A SPIRALIZER!
And then I immediately bought a carrot and three zucchinis. I figured the carrot would work well with zucchini, get a little sweetness.
I spiralized them ALL! Just standing in my kitchen spiralizing the heck out of everything! Also my thumb. I got a little too close and nicked myself, of course.
It turned out a lot more noodles than I expected! But hey, it looked like noodles and was the right size. I made some shrimp in just butter, with salt and pepper, some garlic. Super simple.
After I took the cooked shrimp out, it was in with the zoodles! They got tossed with the butter and garlic leftovers, and then onto a plate. I'd heard prosciutto or bacon would be great with these flavors, so I did throw some on, but the dish was so simple and delicious, it really didn't need the prosciutto at all! I do love prosciutto though, so it's not like it was wasted.

End result was great! The texture of the zoodle was smooth and really good, and it soaked up a lot of the butter and the shrimpy flavors. The carrot was a nice addition, and I'm really excited to have yet another new veggie I enjoy. Still a hard no on mushrooms, though. Hard nope.

Since I discovered my love of zoodles, I decided to change up my meal prep.

On Sunday afternoons, I cook for a couple hours and make breakfasts and lunches for the whole week. The breakfasts are for both my husband and I, and the lunches just for me, as he doesn't like taking lunch to work. For the last 3 weeks or so, I have made the same chicken and broccoli casserole for lunch, and taken that with roasted Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. The casserole is great, and I've made some adaptations, like adding kale and ricotta cheese and using thighs, but I was getting a bit bored of it.

This week, I went with zoodles!! I made two different zoodle recipes, a Lo Mein version which is really only sesame oil, soy sauce, and some spices, and a zoodles in peanut sauce from this recipe!
I followed the recipe and only substituted peanut butter for the almond butter. My husband and I love peanut sauce from Chinese food places, and this was really, really good. He even asked for leftovers to be packed up for a lunch!
Lo mein style zoodles
Peanut sauce smothered zoodles
Lo mein and peanut sauce zoodles with chicken for lunch! How awesome is that! And of course I had enough for us to eat them for dinner tonight, too! The lo mein is ok. It's good but it feels like it's missing something, but I'm not sure what. However, the peanut sauce is fantastic! Just 4 thumbs up from the Schwartzes over here. The sauce is mostly peanut butter, soy sauce, and hoisin sauce, which is a bit carby, but the one serving of it was enough in the one batch of sauce to cover 4 meals' worth of the peanut sauce zoodles, with some left over for munching as I was making and tasting.

The sauce is super thick and then you pour it on the hot zoodles and it's just perfect. The only thing I changed about the recipe was to cook the zoodles in a bit of coconut oil instead of olive oil. It's not a nutty flavor, really, but one that goes well with Asian style peanut sauce.

Go forth and zoodle! I told 2 of my girl friends about how I was getting a spiralizer and BOTH of them have bought one, too. I cannot tell you how many random texts I have gotten with pictures of spiral vegetables.

Besides feeling good and having more energy, the biggest and best thing that being on keto has done for me is re-inspired my love of cooking. I have always enjoyed cooking, but I had to be in the mood for it, and we ordered takeout most nights. About once a week, I would make a healthy dinner, and husband and I would eat it and have usually one more night for leftovers. They were always good, I'm a decent cook with a great imagination and a penchant for experimentation!

Since being on keto, we have ordered takeout MAYBE once a week. I have rediscovered my love of cooking and experimenting, and it has continued my journey of trying new foods. Husband has been loving the homecooked meals and has also lost some weight, as he is low carb by association when we're at home.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Writer for Hire

I have been a writer since before I knew what that meant.

I made up my own lyrics and songs as a child, I wrote stories about my imaginary friends, I kept a journal starting when I was about 4. I actually still have all those journals. There is a shelf in my house dedicated to the 12 or so journals I've kept since childhood. While I don't update daily like a diary, I always jot down lyrics, poems, a good turn of phrase, and I update the journal on major changes or achievements in my life.

Writing is both a creative outlet and a necessity to me.

I have lists of tasks, things to do, groceries to buy, reminders, etc. I understand things best and will remember it if I wrote it down. When I was in high school and college, I had very poor study habits because I would take very diligent handwritten notes in class. Once I write it down, I pretty much just remember it, so I didn't need to learn the best ways to study. When I did eventually learn good study habits, I was able to learn even more effectively!

I write down dates, and I remember people's birthdays, doctor appointments, and the number of every credit card I've ever owned. I know everyone's phone numbers and never use my contact list to call immediate family members and close friends.

I write for fun, making up silly stories and songs for my nieces and nephews, or writing out a silly comic to make my husband laugh.

I write for myself, like with this blog. This ridiculous, random, variety-filled blog that makes me happy. Everything from rants, fun facts, political essays, comics, to recipes, how to articles, advice, and more.

I write for real. I contribute articles to Huffington Post, Lifehack, Artnoize, and more. I write professional articles and put them on LinkedIn, to grow my network and build a community. I write for exposure, and because I want to entertain, educate, and make people read.

I write.

That's it. I am a writer. I am a weirdo, a cat lover, an optimist, a sister, daughter, wife, and a writer.

I have finally taken the leap of seeing if people want to pay for my words. Awesomely enough, it turns out some do. I am now a paid writer of all different kinds of things. Website content, ad copy, blog posts, press releases, email templates, sales scripts, essays, and more.

It is probably the most exciting and terrifying thing I have ever done in my whole life. I am learning on the fly about invoicing and pricing (lots of research on this one!), 1099s, what to do about taxes, how to incorporate, and more. It is extremely stressful and scary, but at the same time is also satisfying in a way I was genuinely hoping it would be. Pieces of me shall adorn all sorts of businesses!

Day job is awesome, side job is awesome, and I am busy all the time!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Ricotta Pancakes with Sausage & Kale (keto, low carb)

Completely by accident today, I stumbled upon a simple and delicious looking recipe for Ricotta Fritters, over on The Iron You. I had all the ingredients, and it seemed simple enough.
The first thing I want to say is that right off the bat, I planned to add some shredded mozzarella cheese to the fritters, not use nutmeg, and planned to use Rao's marinara sauce instead of making my own. In addition, as my husband and I like meat with dinner, I wanted to do sausage and a veggie, and I had half a head of kale in my fridge.

Mozzarella cheese and ricotta cheese have always gone well together. That combination is in the greatest of all pastas: stuffed shells, and also in manicotti, and most Italian foods like baked ziti, too. So the taste combination is there. Also, I added seasoning to my ricotta mixture with oregano, garlic salt, pepper, and coriander and cumin.

Then I was continuing to make the fritters according to instructions, and they just were not working. So, I decided to bake them in the oven and see if it worked out, and I ended up with perfectly cooked ricotta pancakes!

I did try to make the fritters in a skillet, and each pan-full (3 fritters) was taking 20 minutes or more! They were very difficult to flip, and were coming apart. I was not able to tell when they were really ready to be flipped, resulting in a mess. But, when they did eventually finish, they were yummy but messy. The oven-baked version were more evenly cooked, easier to make, and more uniform at the end.
End result! Sauteed sausage and kale with oven-baked ricotta pancakes!
My thin ricotta pancakes made a great little taco wrap for the rest of my meal, too.
I use Rao's homemade marinara sauce, and I put it in individual ramekins instead of smothering the meal, so that I could portion is as I wanted, and mostly because I love dipping. OK, for the food:
I sautéed my kale on medium heat with a bit of olive oil, adobo seasoning, garlic, and onion powders. Once it was wilted down about halfway, I added sliced up sausage (I used Aidells Roasted Garlic & Gruyere Cheese Smoked Chicken sausage, which is 0g net carbs) to the pan. The sausages were precooked, so I just wanted to heat them up and sear them a bit.
Mixing together all of the pancake ingredients.
Following instructions, I dolloped the mixture down into a greased pan on medium heat. I covered and waited 3 minutes-ish.
I checked, they were definitely not ready for flipping and were still VERY wet and runny.
Left is the pan cooked way in the original recipe, right is my oven-baked version.
After about a solid 11 minutes on one side, the pancakes started to look less wet, had thinned out, and when I checked the bottom, had started to brown. With difficulty and several falling apart, I flipped them. They ended up needing to be on the other side for several more minutes. All together, the above pancakes (on the left in the above pic) were in the pan for almost 20 minutes.

The second pan batch, I added more oil. I was thinking maybe I misunderstood the recipe and that it was more of a pan-frying, like with potato pancakes. I was definitely wrong and they were more wet and sizzling and took just as long but were greasier. I needed a better way!
So, I had the idea of baking the pancakes. I preheated the oven to 425, and added smaller dollops of the ricotta mixture onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
After about 8-9 minutes at 425, they had spread out a bit, and had started going nice and brown around the edges. The above picture is after I used a spatula and carefully flipped each of them over, and out of their original positions.
I love parchment paper!
Final result! After I flipped them, I let them bake for another 5-6 or so minutes, checking on them every 2-3 minutes. Once they were baked-looking, I pulled them out. They looked like small naan breads at that point.

This meal ended up being delicious. What I ended up with is definitely not fritters, but are certainly based off of the recipe from The Iron You, which I believe he adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe. So, we each have taken this recipe and put our own spin on it!

If you make them, let me know. My conclusion is that trying to pan cook them took me forever and was not nearly as successful as baking them.

With the now-baked pancakes, I can put the ricotta pancakes in the oven first, and be able to cook all of the kale and meat while they bake. This first try may have taken a while, but the next time will be about 20 minutes from start to finish!

Makes about 8-12 pancakes depending on size!

Ricotta Pancake Ingredients:
-1 large egg
-2 cups ricotta cheese
-Some lemon zest (to taste)
-1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
-1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
-1 tablespoon almond flour
-1/4 teaspoon each of ground coriander and cumin, dash of oregano  
-1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Non-Pancake Ingredients:
-Your preferred sausage (I used Aidells Roasted Garlic & Gruyere Cheese Smoked Chicken sausage)
-Abut half a head of kale (or any leafy green! This would be awesome with collards or spinach too)
-Marinara sauce of your choosing (I used Rao's)

Preheat oven to 425.
1. Mix all pancake ingredients together in one bowl. Mix well and taste it, and add any spicing you like. It will be we, not as smooth as a batter, not thick like a dough. Mostly the texture of stirred ricotta cheese.
2. On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, use a spoon to dollop the mixture onto the sheet. I had mine several inches apart because of how much they spread in the pan when cooking, but on the cookie sheet, they spread less. Still some, but not as much. Set your timer for about 7 minutes, and then check on them every minute from there until you see the edges get brown and crispy looking.
3. Add kale to a pan with a bit of olive oil in it, over medium heat. Remember to remove kale leaf from kale stalk. Season however you like your kale (I like mine garlic-y). While the kale starts to cook, slice up your sausage into thin slices. Leaving casing on.
4. When the kale is half wilted, add the sausage to the same pan. Stir occasionally. When done, remove from heat.
5. Once the edges of the ricotta pancakes look crispy, use a spatula to gently turn them over. They will still be a bit floppy, but are definitely flippable.
6. Bake for an additional 5-7 minutes, checking on them after 5 for doneness. They are done with they start to brown and look a little like tiny naan breads.
7. Plate up and eat! I heated up my marinara in the microwave, and everything was really good! I used the small flat pancakes as tiny tacos! I spread some marinara on them, then added the kale and sausage, and dipped into the remaining sauce.

This was yummy, and earned praise from my non-keto husband, so that is always great. They did not in any way feel like fritters, but I do like what I ended up with. I can see using these as taco shells, as personal pizzas, as pancakes, and changing the seasonings.

I know I kind of made it sound complicated, but in the end it really wasn't. My first attempt was time consuming, but the experiment worked better the next time around and was much more successful, easier, and took a lot less time!

Nutritional Info:
For Ricotta Pancakes only, per pancake if you make 10.
151 calories
2g net carbs (The bulk of carbs come from the ricotta cheese itself)
11.5g protein

For the rest:
-Aidells Sausage is 0g net carbs, and all 4 links were about 4 servings as part of this meal.
-Rao's homemade marinara is 1.5g net carbs (I used it for dipping and used approximately half a serving per person)
-Leafy greens will change depending on what you use: Kale = Approx. 3g net carbs per cup.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Is the US the Best at Anything?

I didn't care about politics much when I was in college, or in my early 20s. That carryover "I know everything, I'm all set" feeling from teenager-hood came with me for a bit. Doing well in college, having fun, no rules, and parties, made it all the easier to stay wrapped up in my middle-class college student bubble.

I graduated from UF in 2007 and started working at a publishing company in town. I ended up staying there for 3 years. Every year, my group of friend would shrink or change altogether as the transient nature of the town shined through.

In 2010, I was able to find a (terrible) job in New York City and lived every suburban middle-class Jewish girls dream of leaving Florida and moving to the big city. In New York, I could be whoever I wanted. I was no longer the only Jewish kid in my grade, and I was ready to start the rest of my life. At 23, I felt like I was on top of the world.

NYC is many things. It's beautiful, interesting, a melting pot, diverse, boasts amazing food, millions upon millions of people, things for any interest, 24/7 delis, and more.

In 2010, in NYC, I was lonely, broke, and bored.

I didn't know anyone and definitely did not realize how difficult it would be to make new friends in a new city, I didn't realize the job I'd gotten from back home was a scam, would only last 7 weeks, and I would end up unemployed while frantically searching for a new position before completely running out of money.

I was on a precipice, a life-changing experience was happening to me, and I grew up.

I spent all day long in a public library searching for jobs. Not because of the free wifi, but because I had a horrific roommate who refused to give me a key and I had to leave when she left and come home after she got there in order to get in and out. She would arbitrarily "decorate" my room for me, by going in without my permission and putting ugly stuff on top of my TV. She ended up stealing my security deposit and refusing to give it back with no reason. Honestly, she was a huge jerk and I hated her a lot. The one time she saw my boyfriend when he was picking me up and I was running late, she made sure to stomp around for a week yelling about how I wasn't allowed to have guests over. This lasted 6 months before I moved out and never looked back (BTW, Amanda, if you are ever reading this: still hate you, what you did was theft, and I think you are a terrible person.).

All day long I was scouring job boards, trying to tweak my cover letter and resume, and applying for anything and everything. In the end, I was unemployed for almost 6 weeks. Which may not sound like long, but I had only been in NYC less than 4 months, and was only 3 weeks out from not being able to pay rent and having to move back home to Florida.

During those less than 4 months, I had wracked up almost $5000 in credit card debt, and my savings account was completely wiped out. I finally had stable work and a paycheck and was able to breathe.

At this point, I met the man who would later become my husband. But this is not that story, this is different.

Being unemployed is always difficult. Being unemployed in an expensive city where I don't have any friends and no one to talk to about my problems, well it forced me to finally and truly grow up.

I learned to cook more and better and why fresh ingredients matter. I was manic about saving money so that situation couldn't happen to me again. I started taking a far more serious interest in the world around me, the news, and politics. Politics opened up a whole new side of life for me. I became even more passionate about certain issues, I learned where different candidates stood on issues. I got involved in debates, I actually watch the televised debates. I get angry, frustrated, sometimes all I can do is laugh. But I learned.

I started caring more about the world as a whole and less about the area that immediately surrounded me. I became appalled at the state of our two-party system and how it specifically cultivates a divided mentality. I started learning about what other countries do and how they work, and why. I started questioning why the US can't implement certain things. I started to get frustrated and disillusioned by our system.  We talk about being the greatest country on Earth, the last remaining superpower. But are we?
Robert Quigley discusses this infographic: "The USA may still lead the world in GDP and rank highly in such stats as population and human development index, but its lag in other key categories is alarming. You’ve heard about the education gap, but did you know that U.S. students’ math scores are among the lowest in the developed world? Charles M. Blow and the New York Times put together this infographic comparing the U.S. to other countries by 9 key metrics: The U.S. comes in at “worst of the worst” in four categories and “worst” in two more, with zero “best” rankings."

Looking at this, can you truly claim we are the best of the best? People shout "USA! USA!" But what ideals, what freedoms are we shouting for? A black man quietly protesting has been condemned in the news and by the people, despite the fact that his right to protest is what our soldiers fight for.  We glorify our soldiers, instead of condemning why we even need them.

I still believe that you cannot complain about the state of our country if you won't go out and vote and be informed and at least try to make a difference, but I also sometimes wonder if I'm making any difference at all.

It is frustrating to be a voter in this country, at least right now. Feeling like none of the nominees represent me. Something I'm hearing more and more often is "I can't vote for either of them!" or "Well, she is the lesser of two evils."

And in the end, that is what the choice this year has come down to. Someone who isn't as bad as the other, terrible candidate, but still isn't that great and doesn't truly represent me.

How incredibly sad.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Keto Shrimp Scampi with Brussels Sprouts

A friend of mine at work, Susan, told me that she sometimes does sprouts in her scampi. This sounded amazing, and I immediately bought some shrimp so I could make this at home. This was completely surprising, I had never thought to add sprouts to scampi! It's keto friendly and low carb, though Brussels sprouts do have some carbs.

Fun fact: They are actually called Brussels sprouts, not "brussel sprouts" as they are incredibly popular in in Brussels, Belgium, and may have originated and gained its name there. The predecessor to modern Brussels sprouts were likely cultivated in Ancient Rome, and the first written reference dates back to 1587!

Another fun fact: As a child, I was a very picky eater, and I carried that into adulthood. Once I was in my mid-20s, I started trying a bunch of foods that I either had never eaten, or hadn't had since I decided I hated them as a kid. I have expanded my horizons A TON and in fact, only tried Brussel sprouts for the first time 2 weeks ago and am now obsessed. Also, almonds. I only discovered I like almonds after I started the keto/low carb lifestyle, when I was in search for new snacks.

This recipe turned out to be incredibly delicious and filling, without feeling heavy at all. For those who don't know, the keto diet is a low carb/high fat diet (LCHF) in which you attempt to stay under 20 grams of net carbs per day. So you basically are cutting out not only breads, but starches like potatoes, and grains like rice. Some people have a hard time with what to eat, at first.

But basically, you eat meats, most veggies, cheese, and eggs. I love eggs, so I am 100% fine with this. Also cheese is basically my main food group. Bacon is highly encouraged (fat AND protein!) and full-fat butter is the way to go on this food journey! For me, it's not as much about weight loss (which is heavily documented and proven on a low carb diet), but is more about being healthy. Both of my bio parents have diabetes, and my dad was originally diagnosed when he wasn't much older than I am now. I want to be healthy and diabetes-free for as long as possible. In fact, my diabetic parents are both on a similar diet to this, as well! Though theirs is more regulated, as they are testing their sugars and I am not.

On to the recipe! I love cooking, so I kind of just threw together stuff that I knew make up a scampi-like sauce, and tasted as we went along. The amounts are approximate, so taste as you go!
That thing at the top is not a cookie, it is low carb tahini bread from:
Recipe: Shrimp Scampi with Brussels Sprouts
Author: Jyssica Schwartz
Makes about 3-4 servings, depending on how much you eat!

-1 pound cleaned, peeled, and de-veined shrimp.
-2 cups raw Brussels sprouts
-2-4 tbsp butter
-1-2 tbsp heavy cream
-2-3 tbsp white wine (cooking wine has very few carbs!)
-1 tsp lemon juice (to taste)
-salt, pepper, garlic

1. Over medium heat, put 2 tablespoons of butter into a pan, allow it to melt down and start to bubble, then add your clean shrimp. They cook super super fast, so go ahead and immediately season them.

2. While your shrimp are cooking, add the white wine and lemon juice, add butter as needed/wanted (I added about another tablespoon of butter at this point, to add to the sauce and melt in). I find lemon juice to sometimes be overwhelming, so I used probably right at or less than a teaspoon.

3. Add in the cream last, start with 1 tablespoon, and mix, as the cream will thicken the scampi sauce a bit and will also add to the richness of the dish. You can add additional cream to your taste. I ended up adding a bit more after the shrimp was out and the Brussels sprouts were in.

4. Once shrimp is pink all the way through, usually 2-3 minutes, they are done. Remove from the heat and leave the sauce in the pan. Taste a shrimp (important! Chef's prerogative).

5. Add chopped raw Brussels sprouts to the pan and sauce. For the sprouts, I chopped off the ends and removed yellow leaves (as always), then cute them in half and chopped each half the small chunks. It is a bit time intensive and it has been suggested by a commenter who made the dish that a food processor would be a lot easier and faster!

6. Salt, pepper, garlic to taste. The Brussels sprouts will soak up most of the sauce, so if they are dry, add more butter/wine/cream. Taste the sprouts and remove from heat when done. They took about 4 minutes for me, over medium heat, and I cut mine in fairly small chunks, though not shredded.

Serve and eat happily! I sprinkled some parmigiano on top. :)

Nutritional Info (based on 4 servings):
223 calories
3.28 g net carbs (mostly from the Brussels sprouts!)
28.21 g protein

A Reddit commenter, r/Sloth_speed made this recipe after I posted it, and his came out awesome!
Here is a pic! They also sautéed some baby bella mushrooms and half an onion in butter and topped it with that and the Parmesan cheese. I love it when people make a recipe their own!

Sorry I don't have more pics, I wasn't documenting it for a recipe post, it was just something thrown together. But it turned out so delicious, and then the reddit commenters liked it so much, that I had to post!