My New Year’s Resolutions and the Universe’s Swift Response

Happy New Year friends! I hope your year is off to a good start. Mine sure is because it started with my all-time favorite thing: making my New Year’s resolutions! I LOVE resolutions! Creating them reminds me that anything is possible (even discovering a mosquito filled with dino blood that allows me to create Jurassic Park for REAL). This year, I made 25 resolutions. You may think that is too many and you’re probably right, but should we meet face to face, I will stubbornly fight you on it. Last year I made 20 resolutions and while I accomplished a lot, there was certainly some rollover when creating my list this year. I won’t bore you with all 25, but here’s a short selection of the big ones.

  • Post on this blog at least once a month
  • Start an Instagram account for my blog and post each month
  • Work out 5-6 days a week and lose [CENSORED] pounds
  • Practice yoga or meditate once a week
  • Get back into onscreen acting (for those of you who don’t remember or are just joining us, in addition to being a fitness guru I am also an actor and comedian. I know—it’s impressive.)
  • Do one thing each month that makes me uncomfortable
  • Start my own business as a freelance copywriter and marketer

As I looked at what might keep me from achieving these resolutions—or what has kept me from achieving them in the past—it came down to two things: lack of time and the fear of taking a leap of faith. No doubt you’ve encountered a similar realization when looking at previous years’ failed resolutions. (Don’t pretend like you haven’t failed on a resolution. Did you really read 64 books last year?)

The story I’m about to share might not help you personally, but it may provide some inspiration or at least a sense of schadenfreude. (If you don’t know what “schadenfreude” is, either learn to speak German or listen to the Avenue Q soundtrack.) After making my resolutions this year, the universe responded by looking me right in the eye, knocking me off my feet and saying, “prove it.” i.e. – I lost my full-time job.

The tech start-up I worked for had the third RIF in two years, and this time, I was not spared. Now, you might be thinking, “what kind of person stays at a company after two massive RIFs?” This guy with two thumbs. Now, before you start sobbing or get out your digital phones to text me that this is a blessing in disguise, I will say this. It wasn’t a blessing in disguise. It was as if a blessing walked up to me wearing Groucho glasses and a t-shirt that says “I’m a blessing.”

I now have all the time I need to accomplish my lofty resolutions!!! And I no longer need to take a leap of faith, because the universe pushed me off the ledge. Let me also tell you what I’ve done in the two days since losing my job. I’ve picked up and worked for my first clients, worked out 4 times (with one day to go), started and posted to my new Instagram account (@jmitch416), and I got an agent, auditioned for a national commercial and am shooting a short film next week. I didn’t do any yoga this week, but I’ve sure as hell done some meditating and I certainly did something that made me uncomfortable.

Now, some of you might be thinking, “I thought this was a health and fitness blog with a comedic twist, but it seems like you’re just ranting in a NOT funny way! I want my money back!” First of all, you did not give me any money, and second of all, that’s fair. So here’s a kale salad recipe I made with my free time this week and some free advice:  Make time for your New Year’s resolutions this year or the universe will do it for you.

As if that’s not enough for you to digest, I have one last announcement for you. When I woke up on the morning I was let go, the first thought that popped into my head was, “I hope I don’t get fired today.” I honestly have no idea why that happened. I also felt super nauseous that morning. I assumed it was due to the outrageous amount of Bugles I ate the night before, but I think it was a premonition. These two things made me realize something that I’m sure you’re all picking up on—I’m a psychic. Or a medium at minimum! So, in addition to offering copywriting, content creation, social media and general marketing services in my new business, I will also predict your future or talk to your deceased grandma. Unless she is a Sox fan, in which case I’ll get her attention then blast “Go Cubs Go” for an hour.

So if you or someone you know is in need of any of these services, please let me know. Seriously. Let me know. I’m unemployed.

I Hate Thanksgiving Foods

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I know everyone is probably preparing the same way I am: looking for a nice pair of expandable maternity pants for your post-dinner distended stomach and setting aside a soft, cool towel for when the meat sweats begin.

Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year. It kicks off the holiday season, is an opportunity to see your friends and family, it’s the first day I’m allowed to eat chocolate chip coffeecake again and, most importantly, it’s a holiday dedicated entirely to eating. I challenge you to come up with a better day.

And although I’ve been known to stuff my face on Thanksgiving in a way that makes those around me wish I had attended charm school, I have a confession to make: I hate Thanksgiving foods. It’s true. I will, however, eat the traditional Thanksgiving foods because despite what my maturity level says, I am an adult.

Lucky for me, I have been incredibly lucky in years past. That is because literally everything that comes out of my in-law’s kitchen tastes like a piece of heaven, and my own parents are patient and kind enough to prepare the foods I demand on Thanksgiving, which typically include toasted marshmallows, green Jello, white bread and summer sausage. And I go to town on these foods. (Somewhere around my 25th year, my parents suggested we nix the green Jello and replace it with something more sophisticated, and I ran away for three days. Unfortunately, I was no longer living at my parent’s house at the time, so they had no idea anything was awry.)

If you’re anything like me and would like to change up your Thanksgiving game this year, here are some recipes that have no business being at the Thanksgiving table.

As you all know, Thanksgiving is a traditional American holiday where we vaguely celebrate our country’s beginnings. So naturally, I decided to bring a traditional Iranian dish to Thanksgiving last year. This chunky dip is a specialty in the Gilan province of Northern Iran. I hope you enjoy this green olive, walnut and pomegranate dip from Woman’s Day. (See how I Americanized this dish by saying it’s from Women’s Day and not Iran?)

Or, if you’d like to slap the host right across the face, bring this sweet potato and goat cheese dish from Food 52. It’s unbelievably delicious and uses a traditional Thanksgiving food (chickpeas obviously), but it’s a full-blown meal! Nothing says I don’t care for your cooking like bringing your own dinner!

Or, if you want something that’s seemingly appropriate, but matches NONE of the other flavors in the meal, try this recipe I invented myself. It’s delicious, healthy and one of my favorites!

Jennifer’s Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients

1 bag of Brussels sprouts

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon chili powder

½ teaspoon Garlic Salt

Jalapeño flavoring, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Chop bottoms off Brussels sprouts and chop each sprout in half. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Then pour onto baking sheet covered with tin foil and PAM. Cook for 30-40 minutes, checking at 20 minutes. Serve once blackened and crispy on the outside and soft in the middle.

I hope you all have a safe, gluttonous and happy Thanksgiving! And let’s not forget to take a moment to remember the true hero of the day: Beyoncé. Because, let’s face it, she’s the hero of every day.

Recipes I’m Thankful For

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I’ve been thinking a lot about the things I am grateful for. Of course, this isn’t exclusive to this time of year—I’m not a monster. In fact, I make it a point every day to write down two things I’m grateful for and I would strongly encourage you to do the same. Here, I’ll help you get started. Grab a pen and paper and write, “I’m grateful that Jennifer started this amazing blog that’s both witty and informative. She has brought light to my life and I’m better today because of her.” There. Now you only have to come up with one new thing for today.

For those of you thinking, “I write down 10 things I’m grateful for every day.” Good for you. Stop showing off.

I’m sharing this advice with you because many people in my life have described me as being “saint-like” or “angelic” or “better than Mother Theresa.” (I obviously can’t share their names because, as I’ve written many times before, I don’t believe in publishing personal information on the internet. Come on people, pay attention!) So I hope my gratitude guidance touches your soul and brings you peace and joy.

I also want to share recipes I’m thankful for because they’re quick, easy, healthy and delicious! You may notice that many of these dishes have a Mexican flare, which can be explained by my Irish heritage. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do, and perhaps one of these will make an appearance in your gratitude journal.

Quinoa Avocado Jalapeno Bowls

  • 1 cup cooked white quinoa
  • 3 cups corn
  • ½ jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1 handful cilantro, chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons cotija
  • Chili powder to taste
  • ¼ cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
  • 2 avocados
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the quinoa and corn according to packaging. Cut the avocado in half and remove the skin and pit. Dump the avocado into a large bowl and mash. Then add jalapeño, green onions, cilantro, lime juice, cotija cheese, chili powder, shredded jack, salt and pepper. Add the quinoa and corn to a large mixing bowl. Toss to combine.

Tex Mex Lettuce Wraps

  • ½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 tablespoon salt-free seasoning
  • ½ cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 ½ cups pre-cooked brown rice
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 can sliced black olives
  • 1 cup corn
  • 2 ¾ cups water
  • ½ lime juiced
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • Full leaf Romaine lettuce

Cook rice with water according to package directions. Once cooked, set aside to cool slightly. Whisk together mustard, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt-free seasoning and lime juice. Gently combine sauce, vegetables and cheese with rice. Serve as a lettuce wrap.

Shrimp Fajitas

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 pound cooked shrimp, tails removed
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeño, minced
  • ½ red onion, sliced thin
  • Fajita-sized flour tortillas

In a medium bowl, whisk together chili powder, garlic salt, oil and lime juice. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Let marinate for 10 minutes. Heat a large greased skillet over medium-high heat. Add peppers and onions. Sauté until tender (about 7-8 minutes). Add shrimp and cook for 2 minutes, flipping the shrimp. Remove from heat and serve in tortillas.

So there you have it. Three recipes you can now be grateful to own. Be sure to come back next week for my post about recipes that are wildly inappropriate to bring to Thanksgiving.

Planning a healthy vacation

I recently went on an anniversary trip to the Pacific Northwest with my husband, Schmon. I can’t tell you which anniversary we were celebrating because I don’t believe in putting information about my personal life online. That would be insane. But it was while we were whale watching off the coast of Seattle that I noticed everyone in the boat kept looking and pointing at me. Like many people, I tend to put on a few extra pounds when on vacation. Now I don’t mean to complain, much of this was my fault. For instance, I have been known to set “vacation goals” such as napping for more hours than I am awake or eating my weight in food over the course of a week. But still, it was upsetting.

Look at all the whales!

Regardless of your vacation style, it’s easy to skip your workouts, splurge on calories and gain a few extra pounds. In a study by a University of Georgia faculty member, it was found that adults going on a one- to three-week vacation gained an average of one pound during their trip. I find this very hard to believe, as my “vacation bonus” tends to come in closer to 10-15 pounds, but whatever. The study also concluded that it might take up to six weeks to lose your vacation weight. It should be noted that if you’re stressing out for six weeks about losing ONE pound, I’m not interested in speaking to you ever again.

But for those of you who attempt to skip the vacation jiggles altogether, here are a few excellent tips for planning a healthy vacation that I always consider, but never follow.

Roll your clothes

Packing workout clothes for every day of your vacation means you’re packing double the clothes. So roll your clothes rather than folding them. They’ll take up less room and they won’t get as wrinkled. You may also want to consider packing cotton tees to wear to bed AND your morning workout. You won’t get to show off that sick Nike tank you love, but it will save you one item per day.

Pack breakfasts

If you’re anything like me, you can’t wait to make out with the continental breakfast pancakes, cinnamon rolls and muffins. But it’s not the best idea to start your day with one million empty calories…or make out with your food. Consider packing some oatmeal packets (if your room has a microwave), fruit that won’t spoil (I’m looking at you apples) or healthy protein bars for your breakfasts. Make some coffee in your room, enjoy your breakfast and walk confidently past that smug continental breakfast like Carrie Bradshaw right before she gets soaked by that bus. The feeling of accomplishment so early in the day will also help you make healthier choices the rest of the day.

Find active transportation

Not every vacation involves rock climbing or canoeing, but you can still make small active choices through out the day. Thinking of exploring a new area? See if the neighborhood has a bike rental or bike sharing program—or steal a bike (what?)—then bike from location to location. There’s no need to kick it into high gear and race your vacation buddies, but biking will be better for you and cheaper than opting for a hop-on-hop-off bus—plus, you’ll look like less of a dummy. If you don’t know how to ride a bike, consider walking from spot to spot. Then as soon as you get home, learn how to ride a bike. While a 1.5 mile walk to work or the grocery store might seem long, time is on your side when vacationing. Plus you might discover a new restaurant that you might not have seen otherwise.

Plan ahead

Finally, it’s important to plan ahead. Check to see if your hotel has a gym or if they offer Beachbody On Demand. If not, look up some exercises that you can do in the room—SparkPeople.com has tons of great exercises and videos. Then buy your travel buddies earplugs, so they can sleep while you jump, grunt and breathe heavily 3½ feet away. Also be sure to look at menus or download an app like HealthyOut to find a few restaurants that offer healthy options.

Or you can just do what I do and wait until you get to your destination, open up the “near me” section of Google Maps and type in “bacon”. Your choice. Either way, I hope you enjoy your next vacation and I also hope I’m invited. You know where to find me…locked in a closet with some pancakes and cinnamon rolls.

Attack the snack attack in a way that the snack attack can’t attack back

If you’re anything like me, your healthy lifestyle comes to a screeching halt around 3p.m. when the little voice inside your head starts screaming for some nachos. You’re deaf to anything but that voice and convinced that you’ll starving to death unless you immediately down a bag of nacho cheese Doritos from the office snack closet. Besides, one of the perks of your job is getting an all-access pass to the snack closet, so you’d have to be a moron to not partake. It’s basically like turning down a portion of your salary! So you saunter over to the kitchen (or walk if you’re lame) and chow down on some cheesy goodness. And then, an odd bit of magic happens. The second you swallow that last bite of Doritos, your euphoria turns to dread as you realize you’ve just consumed 6,000 calories and you’re still not satiated.

Have no fear—you’re not alone. Snacking is easily my biggest weakness as anyone who’s seen me with a bag of Doritos can attest. And no article about deep breathing has successfully broken my habit of stress eating. There are, however, a few recipes for healthy snacks for adults that are savory and satisfying. Hopefully these can keep you from grabbing the processed garbage that stares you down every time you walk by the snack closet.

Apple rings

An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but it’s also boring as hell. Spice things up by coring an apple and cutting it into rings (this tricks your brain in to thinking you’re eating a cookie or a chip and not an apple*). Spread a small amount of peanut butter onto each ring, and use the full fat stuff, not the “low fat” version that’s chock-full of sugar. Then sprinkle a small amount of granola on each ring. Careful, that stuff is fattening, but the crunchy goodness will again trick your brain into thinking you’re eating chips or crackers.** Bring back to your desk and enjoy!

*Based on absolutely no scientific evidence.

**Again, not based on any scientific evidence.

Banana bites

Anyone who’s seen the hit film “Honey We Shrunk Ourselves” knows that bananas are an excellent source of potassium. They help reduce your risk of strokes, lower your blood pressure and help clean out your gut. This snack is super filling, a little on the sweeter side and looks “fun” according to my co-workers. Take a Maria and Ricardo Sprouted Grain tortilla (it has a nice flavor that complements the banana), and spread peanut butter on it—again, use full fat PB, not pretend PB. Sprinkle a little bit of cinnamon on the peanut butter then place the banana on one edge. Roll the banana in the wrap and slice into bit-sized pieces. And BAM! You have a delicious snack.

Grown-up ants on a log

This is for all you adults that want to seem sophisticated while still eating a child’s snack. Mix a 4oz. of low fat cream cheese with two tablespoons of Greek yogurt. Chop up roughly 20 green olives stuffed with pimentos and mix that in. Then add a ¼ cup of chopped walnuts to the concoction. When you’re ready to eat, spread your treat onto some celery and crunch away.

So there you have it. Healthy snacks for adults–more or less. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do! And if you don’t, blog about it.

Magical Meatless BBQs

Hello friends! Sorry for the extended hiatus. That first post really wore me out. I’ve also been quite busy moving into my new condo! vegetarian BBQDoesn’t it look beautiful? As you can see, we hired some painters that didn’t really know how to paint, so fixing that has taken up much of my time.

At this point, I’d like to offer a piece of unsolicited advice and tell you to never try to move yourself. Especially when there are only two of you and one of you maxes out at lifting 60 pounds. Needless to say, my husband and I will die in this condo because we’re never moving again.

But you clicked on a link to read about vegetarian BBQ food, not my moving woes, so that’s enough of that! For those of you who want to enjoy a fun summer BBQ, but don’t enjoy the meat sweats, this one’s for you. I’m sure you’re familiar with the eye rolls and the jabs about being “un-American” any time you ask about the vegetarian option on Memorial Day, 4th of July or Labor Day. So I’ve stopped asking and started bringing my own meal to the hosts’ house, which has ALWAYS gotten a GREAT response! The grill master just LOVES when you push him or her aside to fire up your quinoa patties.

The key to success, of course, is to bring enough to share—or host your own damn BBQ. Here are two recipes that, in my experience, have impressed even the most carnivorous dinos.

The first is a quinoa burger from How Sweet It Is. Note: if you’re thinking you can just throw some tin foil on the grill and cook these bad boys on there, the answer is no, no you can’t. Learn from my mistakes and cook them in a skillet like the recipe says.

The other recipe is for a beet burger from MyFitnessPal, which has sadly been taken down from the World Wide Web. Luckily, the geniuses at the tech company where I work taught me how to go back in time and rescue an old webpage. Needless to say, I’ll be using this trick to go back and read the deleted Xanga and LiveJournal accounts of all my friends. But for now, you can read the recipe below.

I have to admit, it took some convincing before my T-Rexes would try the beet burger, but when they did, boy did they love it! I hope you enjoy them as much as my family did at our 4th of July celebration. Look how happy they look!

vegetarian BBQ

*I had to blur their faces for anonymity. But I promise, they’re all smiling.

So there you have it! Vegetarians are no longer limited to sides and dessert at BBQs. All it takes is a great vegetarian BBQ recipe and a total disregard for proper party etiquette.

Stay tuned for my next post, which at the rate I’m going will be right around Thanksgiving. But to all my T-Rexes out there, I promise it won’t be about tofu turkey.

Beet Burgers

Ingredients

  • 1 pound raw beets
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup minced onion
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha (or chili paste of choice)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 6 hamburger buns (optional, not included in nutrition)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Poke the sweet potato with a fork and cook in the microwave until tender, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
  • Peel the beets and shred them with a box grater. Place shredded beets into a large mixing bowl.
  • Grind walnuts in a food processor (or clean coffee grinder) until fine, about the texture of couscous.
  • Peel the skin off the sweet potato and mash in a small bowl with a fork. Toss into the mixing bowl with the beets. Add egg, onion, paprika, garlic, vinegar, Worcestershire, and ground walnuts to the beets. Stir well.
  • Form into 6 patties and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until they beginto darken in color.
  • Meanwhile, assemble the aioli by mixing the mayonnaise, vinegar, Sriracha and garlic until well blended.
  • Top burgers with 1 tablespoon of aioli and serve on a whole-wheat bun or over a plate of baby greens.

Nutrition Information

Serves: 6 | Serving Size: 1 beet burger + 1 tablespoon aioli (bun not included)

Per serving: Calories: 282; Total Fat: 23g; Saturated Fat: 3g; Cholesterol: 40mg; Sodium: 252mg; Carbohydrate: 17g; Dietary Fiber: 4g; Sugar: 8g; Protein: 6g

Nutrition Bonus: Potassium: 428mg; Vitamin A: 67%; Vitamin C: 9%; Iron: 10%; Calcium: 4%

Hi, I’m Jennifer

Hi, my name is Jennifer and this is my blog. I’d ask what your name is, but this medium doesn’t really allow for that. So I’ll just drop in a “choose-your-own-small-talk” intro and we can go from there. What’s your name? [INSERT YOUR NAME HERE] Wow, that’s a beautiful/unique/hilarious name. I work as a copywriter at a tech start-up, which basically means I work for snacks*. At night, I spend my time doing sketch comedy and improv, where I am, again, paid in snacks—and occasionally beer. What do you do? [INSERT PROFESSION or HOBBY THAT YOU PRETEND IS YOUR PROFESSION] Awesome! That’s interesting/brave/what my uncle does.

Now that we’ve gotten acquainted, I’d like to tell you about my blog. It’s what we in the blog-o-sphere call a “lifestyle” blog. It’s kind of complicated to explain, but it’s basically like every blog you’ve ever read. I love to cook, particularly healthy foods or foods that involve bacon, but never both as they don’t frequently overlap. I’d draw you a Venn diagram, but I’m a writer, not a graphic designer, so please STOP ASKING ME FOR ARTWORK! I’m very close with my family, let’s call them Schmim, Schmaurie and SchmeeJay, and my husband who we’ll call Schmohn. Obviously, I needed to change their names to protect their privacy—I hope you understand.

According to the families on my block growing up, my family is comprised of “weirdoes” and we sometimes have “weird” traditions when it comes to food. We operate much like Orthodox Jews if leavened bread was chocolate chip coffee cake and Sabbath was the months of January through October. For those of you who don’t follow: we eat chocolate chip coffee cake religiously but only in the months of November and December.

My friends and co-workers often comment on my food choices saying that they are interesting (read: weird), and they’ve encouraged me to start a blog. I’m very easily swayed, so here I am.

I’m also into exercise, so I’ll occasionally write about that too. And because I’m very wise and I have life totally figured out—aka I’m constantly re-evaluating life choices, drowning in a sea of self-doubt—I’ll be happy to share life advice along the way.

Well, that’s me in a nutshell. Thanks for tuning in and I’ll see you next time.

*Just in case my boss is reading this, they do in fact pay me a salary. It is part American dollars, part Cheez-its.