Monthly Archives: April 2013

Homemade Hashbrowns

Yesterday was a dreary day in DC. Rainy, a little cold (especially for April!) and there wasn’t the slightest hint of blue sky or sunlight all day long. On top of all this, it was a Monday. And I was exhausted. This weekend, I went to visit my parents in my hometown of Chesapeake, VA (and had a wonderful time) which meant that I also had the pleasure of traveling up and down I-95. Why, oh why, is I-95 such a mess? First off, anyone traveling from anywhere north of DC to anywhere south of DC along the east coast (and vice versa) has to use 95. There’s just no other way to go. So it’s always packed full of people, and always slow. It took me 5 hours to get there on Friday afternoon (it should be a little over a 3 hour trip) and 4 and a half to get back on Sunday. And driving wears me out like nothing else. I find it to be a very stressful experience.

I was also exhausted because I had an action-packed weekend. My mom and I got up early on Saturday to go to yoga class together. And my mom bought me a beautiful yoga mat and carrying bag so now I look like a yoga professional 🙂 – she’s the best! Then we went to a local festival where they race rubber ducks in the river (oh small town amusements) and then to a friend’s kid’s birthday party and then out to dinner and drinks with my friends. Then up early again on Sunday for brunch at a wonderful local restaurant, Cotton Southern Bistro which serves farm-to-table locally sourced foods. I’m so proud of all the wonderful food options that are popping up in my hometown! When I got home on Sunday around 5 pm, I made a quick run to the grocery store and unpacked the groceries at home before sitting on the couch to hang out with my cats for a few minutes. The next thing I knew it was 7:30 at night and I was waking up on the couch. That’s when you truly know you’re an adult – when you fall asleep on the couch, and you wake up on the couch. Gone are the days when a parent magically whisked you off to bed. It’s needless to say, Sunday afternoon/evening was not a productive time for me.

So on this [meatless] Monday evening, I was in need of some good old fashioned comfort food. I had planned on just having some spaghetti with marinara but halfway through my work day I remembered I had some potatoes that needed to be used up. One of the side effects of living alone is that there is always something that needs to be “used up” before it goes bad – so that dictates a lot of my cooking decisions. So an epiphany struck me – I could make some homemade hash browns and a fried egg. Breakfast for dinner! Boy that sounded delicious the minute I thought of it! And what’s more comforting than that? So, with the knowledge that I had breakfast for dinner, and a new episode of Game of Thrones waiting for me when I got home, I made myself go to the gym for a run. And let me tell you I did not feel like it. I was exhausted, and I had so much to do around the house. In fact – I had a million canned excuses ready to go about why I couldn’t go for a run. But I made myself do it anyway. I knew that if I let myself get off the hook this time, it would lead to snowballing excuses not to exercise on other days. I just kept saying to myself: “someone busier than you is running right now.”

But once I finished a short 1.5 miles, and at a new record pace for myself, there was cooking to do! I decided to make a straightforward just-potatoes version of hashbrowns but you could easily sauté up other root vegetables with this same recipe: sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, even beets would all be delicious. However, on this dreary Monday – simplicity (and less chopping!) was the name of the game.

Homemade Hashbrowns
Serves two

    – 3-4 small potatoes (I use Yukon gold) or 2 large baking potatoes, cubed
    – 1-2 tablespoons olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan)
    – 2 teaspoons garlic powder
    – 2 teaspoons granulated onion
    – Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Cut whatever potatoes you’re using into small cubes (I actually think cubed potatoes like this are technically called homefries but I’ve always referred to them as hashbrowns) and dry on a paper towel. It’s important to pat the potatoes dry so that they just nice and crispy on the outside! 🙂

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When the oil is hot (it should look like it’s rippling slightly), place the potatoes in the oil and season with garlic powder, granulated onion, salt and pepper. Alternatively, you could use chopped onion and garlic. Sauté the potatoes for 10-15 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until the potatoes are brown and crispy.

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I fried the egg in the same pan I had cooked the potatoes in (once the potatoes were finished) to save on dishes.

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Now this isn’t exactly the most veggie-rich dinner in the world but it was exactly what I needed – comfort food! To up the veggies, you could sauté in other root vegetables, or even mix in some fresh spinach or other greens. Enjoy! 🙂

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Make Sure Your Snacks Are Healthy … Not “Healthy”

This couldn’t be more true! I can’t tell you how often I have this conversation with family, friends and co-workers. Organic, whole foods are the way to go – not processed, packaged foods that are trying to lure you into thinking they’re healthy with marketing!

Strong-Fit-Beautiful

I feel like I’m constantly having the conversation with my parents about foods being actually healthy, or just appearing that way. My dad is usually the main offender – he’ll be convinced something is “healthy” because the front label is screaming “low fat” or “only XX calories.” What I always need to explain is that low fat doesn’t necessarily equal healthy … especially when there is extra sugar and empty carbs used to make up for the taste.

Keep in mind that a little fat is not bad for you – as long as it’s the good kind of fat – and that sugar (often used to replace the fat to keep taste), though naturally fat-free, is like any other calorie – if it doesn’t get used, it will be converted to fat. And let’s be honest … as a society, we eat WAY more sugar than we should (and…

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How to Clean Your Dishwasher!

The other night when I was emptying the dishwasher, I noticed that my dishwasher was looking a little, well, disgusting. There was definitely a “not-clean” feeling going on with it. I think it has something to do with all the smoothie cups/mugs/etc. that I wash out on a weekly basis and smoothie bits do not clean up easy, let me tell you. Whatever the cause – it was time to clean the dishwasher!

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Yes, that’s right, clean the thing that cleans things. It sort of reminds me of that episode of Friends where Monica used the handheld vacuum to vacuum the normal-sized vacuum and then makes the comment: “If only there were a smaller one to clean this one!” I did always feel a kinship with Monica.

So I made a plan to clean the dishwasher. A combination of vinegar and baking soda is my favorite way to clean most things so I thought it would work for this occasion – but I knew better than to put them both in the dishwasher at the same time. That would result in a flood of suds in my kitchen. Actually, I will still nervous about my approach of running two cycles – the first with vinegar and the second with baking soda – but it worked out! And it worked brilliantly! My dishwasher is sparkly clean now.

So step one, empty the dishwasher and remove any food debris or other items that may have accumulated around the drain. Place a large bowl (I used a glass mixing bowl) of vinegar (I used about 3 cups…I didn’t measure but that’s pretty close) on the bottom rack and run through a full cycle. When the cycle is over, remove the bowl and scatter a cup or so of baking soda in the bottom of the dishwasher, then close the door and immediately run it through a second full cycle. Voilà! Clean dishwasher! 🙂

Workout Playlist

Like most everyone – I have a workout playlist on my iPhone that I use when I go running. Mine is called “Workin’ on My Fitness” and it is a continually growing and changing list of songs that motivate me in one way or another. Some songs are included because of the lyrics – and some because they have the right beat (beats per minute) to keep me in rhythm on my run. Sometimes a song comes on at the perfect moment that just pushes you to keep going – and do better than you have before – so I love reading other people’s playlists and constantly gathering new ideas. In this spirit, I wanted to share with you ten of my current favorites. 🙂 Please feel free to share your favorite songs in the comments! I’m always looking for more!

10 Workout Playlist Favorites

1. Kayne West “Stronger”

This song has a great beat, not to mention great lyrics! Actually, probably the only thing I like about Kayne West is this song. Key lyrics: “Now that that don’t kill me/Can only make me stronger/Work it harder/Make it Better”

2. Orianthia “According to You”

Overall great beat for running. Also, generally an uplifting message about being better than your ex thinks you are.

3. David Guetta ft. Akon “Sexy Chick”

I included this one for the beat, and it doesn’t hurt to have someone singing “Damn, you’s a sexy chick” to you while you run! Thanks Akon!

4. Christina Auguilera “Fighter”

I actually use the Glee cover by Darren Criss of this song in my playlist – but either version has a great beat. Key lyrics: “Makes me that much stronger/Makes me work a little bit harder/It makes me that much wiser/Thanks for making me a fighter”

5. Uncle Kracker ft. Kid Rock “Good to Be Me”

This is seriously my #1 all-time jam out. I dance in a crazy over-the-moon-happy, attracts the attention of other drivers fashion when this song comes on my radio. I just love it. Key lyrics: “Damn, I got it all figured out/I got no worries that I’m worried about/It’s like I caught some crazy, happy disease/Damn, it feels good to be me”

6. The Proclaimers “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”

This is seriously classic song. Plus an obvious reference to running a long distance (hey – the song says walking but I’m going to allow for a little artistic license :-)).

7. Muse “Uprising”

It seems a little slow for a running song – it’s actually one of the key songs that plays when I weight-lift but I love the lyrics. Key lyrics: “They will not control us/We will be victorious”

8. Ellie Goulding “Lights”

Another very catchy tune that results in me dancing around in my car while driving. I should probably stop pretending I don’t dance around my car to just about any song that comes on. Key lyrics: “And so I tell myself that I’ll be strong/and dreaming when they’re gone”

9. B.o.B. ft. Rivers Cuomo “Magic”

Hello great beat! Key lyrics “I got the magic in me!”

10. Woodkid “Run Boy Run”

Very alternative song – and at points in it, it doesn’t have the best beat for running but I think a good set of lyrics overcomes that. Key lyrics: “Run boy run/The world is not made for you/Run boy run/They’re trying to catch you/Run boy run/Running is a victory/Run boy run/Beauty lays behind the hills/But now it’s time to run, it’s time to run!”

What are your favorite workout songs?

Cease and Desist, Dentists!

I have taken great steps in my life to try to cut down on negativity and be a more positive person. And I generally reserve this blog for helpful (and healthful!) tips and tricks. But there is one thing I have to share with you – I hate the dentist. I usually try to avoid the word hate as it represents such an active production of negative energy, but in this case it’s appropriate. I loathe, I detest, I hate the dentist.

And yesterday after work I had a dentist appointment. Is there anyone out there who actually likes going to the dentist? No offense if you’re a dentist, or dental hygienist, but I bet even you don’t like going to the dentist. I don’t know what this medieval torture chamber is doing in modern day life.

First off, they sit you down and scrape your teeth with that metal pointy stick. As you can see, we’re using the technical terms here. Maybe I’m particularly sensitive, but this process feels like “fingernails on a chalkboard” going on inside my mouth. I find it nearly unbearable. And while I’m sitting there trying to “woosah” myself to a place of internal peace, I can taste my gums as they start bleeding and the hygienist inevitably says “we have a little bleeding going on here – you should floss more regularly.” Bah! I do floss. And brush. And I’ve never had a cavity and every stinking time I go to the dentist I get an excellent bill of health; therefore, the reason my gums are bleeding is (the much more logical answer of) you poking them with that pointy metal stick. Let’s just agree that I’ll stop bleeding when you stop poking me.

Next, they insist on talking to you while they have their hands in your mouth. This is awkward and inconvenient. And I, being an already stellarly awkward person, always find a way to make it worse. What am I supposed to do – nod? That’s weird because then I’m moving around the thing you’re trying to work in. Or if I try to shrug/laugh/mutter something/talk/etc. it’s usually in the way as well. Let’s do us both a favor and skip the small talk.

Finally, the dentist takes pictures of your teeth and then he shows them to you. I’m like “Yep, that’s some nice shots you got there Doc.” Does this step need to be shared with me? Just like the aforementioned small talk, all this step in the process does is prolong my stay. And then you get to come back in six months – why? Because they tell you to! At the end of the appointment they’re like “see you in six months” and I’m like “well, okay.” And I leave the office clutching a tooth-shaped piece of paper listing the date and time of my day of suffering, six months hence. Oh joy.

At the end of this little torture session, they give me a gift bag with a new toothbrush, tiny toothpaste and floss. I do appreciate that I don’t have to buy these things, but I’m not a big fan of leaving the dentist holding this tiny celebratory bag like I just came from forced attendance at a child’s birthday party. My teeth literally ache after visiting the dentist – and I swear nothing tastes right for the next 12 hours. Just a little parting gift for our cherished time together.

Please note that I don’t go to a bad dentist – I actually go to a wonderful dentist that consistently wins awards year after year for being one of the best in the DC area – but it doesn’t matter. They’re all the same. You could be the kindest, funniest person in the world (and I may even like you) – but the minute you start putting your hands in my mouth we just aren’t friends anymore.

Anyone else hate the dentist this much? Or is there another “mandatory” health activity in your life that you just can’t stand?

“Knock-Off” Carabbas Italian Seasoning Blend

So last week when I made Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce for dinner, I had a craving for what we refer to in my family as “dippy bread.” For slightly more mature people, this is a seasoning mixture in a shallow dish with olive oil (and sometimes vinegar) that you dip slices of nice, crusty bread in and eat. This practice is frequently seen at Italian restaurant chains such as Carrabba’s and Macaroni Grill. And it’s delicious.

We went through a phase when I lived at home with my parents where he ate this with dinner almost every night. It effectively replaced bread and butter as a side dish for us. In recent years, I haven’t eaten this much anymore. I’m not sure of the reason, maybe because it’s just me in the house or maybe because I frankly don’t eat bread that much anymore. But last week when I made that pasta, I was craving some dippy bread! I picked up a loaf of fresh-baked bread at the bakery, and then set about to making a spice mixture.

Well let me back up a step, first I got home and dug through my spice cabinet and found the ubiquitous seasoning container that I used to use that has four sections labeled with things like “Sicilian blend” and “Rosemary and Garlic.” I haven’t used this seasoning a quite a while (frankly it was probably old enough that it needed to be thrown out anyway), so I checked the ingredients list and was shocked at what I found. First of all, one of the first ingredients was salt but then I saw something even worse – one of the ingredients on each of the four varieties was “partially hydrogenated oil”. Blah! What are trans fats doing in my seasoning blend? No sir – that seasoning went straight into the trash.

Now we’re back on track. I knew I could make a tasty seasoning blend all on my own based on spices I already have in my cabinet. Making my own seasoning blends is sort of a habit of mine so I was happy to undertake this task. After a few tastings, I landed on the mix below. I’m going to give you two recipes – one for a “single serving” which would be a dish that approximately 4 people could dip bread into with their dinner and one for a whole container of the seasoning. As I live alone (which I’m starting to think I mention too often!), it’s easier for me to make a big batch of seasoning and then portion out a tablespoon or so of the pre-mixed batch for my dinner. Plus I always have these plastic containers around to re-purpose!

Without further ado…

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“Knock-Off” Carabbas’ Seasoning Blend (dinner serving – approx. 4 servings)


    – 2 teaspoons basil, dried
    – 2 teaspoons parsley, dried
    – 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
    – 1 teaspoon dried thyme
    – 1 teaspoon dried oregano (or marjoram)
    – 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
    – 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    – 1/2 teaspoon rosemary, dried
    – 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    – 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
    – 2-3 tablespoons olive oil (I do this by sight – just fill the dish enough to dip in, and you can always add more!)

”Knock-Off” Carrabbas’ Seasoning Blend (large serving – to store in the spice cabinet)


    – 1/4 cup granulated garlic
    – 1/4 cup dried basil
    – 1/4 cup dried parsley
    – 1 tablespoon dried thyme
    – 1 tablespoon dried oregano (or majoram)
    – 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
    – 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    – 1 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
    – 1 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flake


Mix all ingredients together in an air-tight container and store. To serve, mix a tablespoon of the seasoning with a few drops of lemon juice and a few tablespoons of olive oil (for one bread-loving person, or two normal people) and serve with crusty bread. You can also mix the seasoning with just olive oil, or with oil and vinegar – all these combinations are equally delicious! And if you have “Italian Seasoning” in your cabinet – it usually contains some combination of basil, parsley, thyme and oregano so you can substitute that for several of the above ingredients.

Enjoy! 🙂

Raw, Vegan, Gluten-Free Brownies

A while back, a friend of mine who follows the Paleo diet let me try a bite of her Larabar that she was snacking on. Delicious! But when I checked it out at the store, those little bars are anywhere from $1.00-$2.50 each. Holy cow! I thought to myself – “I’m not paying that!” So I decided to figure out how to make them instead.

After searching through various Pinterest recipes, I noticed a basic trend to the recipe for making these bars. Then I found this post with a recipe for ‘Raw, Vegan Brownies’ which is basically the same recipe formula as the larabars. You’re just making a chocolatey, nutty, Larabar! The concept of these raw brownies appealed to me the most, so that’s what I decided to try first. When I embarked on this recipe, I did not, I repeat – did not expect these to taste like brownies. I was fully prepared for them to taste good, like chocolate snack bars – but not like brownies. But I was shocked to find that they actually do taste like brownies! Moist, delicious, chewy brownies! Yum! 🙂

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Raw, Vegan (Gluten-Free!) Brownies


    – 1 cup dates, pitted
    – 1 cup nuts (I used pecans because it’s what I had, but walnuts would also be delicious!)
    – ¼ cup cocoa powder

Place all ingredients in the food processor and process until combined (it will be a pretty sticky ball – I had to push it back down near the blades at least twice with a spoon – with the processor off of course!). This was yet another project I undertook during my Sunday food processor extravaganza! When finished, push the ball into a small glass container and spread into a smooth layer. Freeze for 1 hour and then cut into squares or bars. I wrapped my finished squares in little squares of wax paper and then stored them all together in a ziplock bag.

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Tips for this Recipe
The date mixture is super sticky and (I’ll be honest) not a lot of fun to try to manipulate! But I did pick a few tips for working with it. Get whatever you’re working with wet with a little water (i.e. hands, spatula, knife when you’re cutting) and the dates mixture won’t stick to your hands as much. Also, I didn’t line my glass pan and then it took quite a bit of effort to cut/lift out the brownies so in the future I’ll probably line the pan with parchment paper or wax paper so they are easier to remove. And when cutting the “brownies”, I dipped the knife in a little hot water and it definitely helped cut the squares!

I hope you’ll give this recipe a try – it really is super delicious! 🙂