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A Small Collection of Joyous Things: Labor Day Weekend

Happy Sunday! Welcome to another Small Collection, a series I started to help me focus on the things that bring me joy. 

Can you believe it’s Labor Day weekend? That also means it’s the unofficial End of Summer. Cue the violins. Back when I started this weekly gratitude list right after Memorial Day, I was planning to do it just for the summer, as an experiment of sorts. I’ve come to enjoy it so much, though, that I’m going to continue into fall. Taking a few moments each week to note a few things that made me happy.

Here’s a list from this past week:

1.) Friends reunion on Jimmy Kimmel — sort of.

2.) Roasted figs with Greek fro-yo.

roasted figs with froyo

3.) No longer able to resist the siren call of the Vegetti, I broke down and bought on the other day while I was at Bed, Bath & Beyond. Oh dear. It is awesome. #gratuitouspaleohashtagveggetti pasta

4.) Oysters and wine with my mom the other night. Is #MotherDaughterHappyHour a thing yet?


5.) I kind of can’t stand the cuteness when Eli brings his toys onto his bed. It’s kind of a recent thing—I wonder if it’s because I bring a few toys onto my bed at night so he has something to do if he wakes up. As opposed to trying to play with me while I’m trying to sleep, of course. Does anyone else do this or am I just weird/prone to over-thinking these things? Eli and toys

Anyways, cheers to a great summer!

What’s brought you joy recently? 

Product Review: Oats ‘N Vites

Though I don’t eat them for breakfast every damn day anymore, it’s no secret I’m a big fan of oats in the morning. When the folks at Intelligent Formulas sent me some of their  Oats ‘N Vites to try, I was intrigued.

Back when I worked in long term care, we were always on the lookout for ways to add extra nutrients into our residents’ foods—fortified hot cereal was a no-brainer. However, the important question to ask is what you’re going to fortify a product with. In that setting, your main focus tends to be adequacy: adequate protein, calories, and vitamins/minerals. Budget determines a lot about the how those needs are met. It makes me cringe sometimes to think of the crap that goes into a lot of so-called nourishing products.

Even for well individuals,  ”healthy” breakfast cereals, bars, and the like are often just glorified sugar bombs with added buzz-words (vitamins! fiber!) to make the consumer feel they’re winning at nutrition by purchasing these things.  In actuality, you’d do just as well (often better) sticking with real, whole foods.

OatsNVites nutrition I tend to be skeptical of anything that comes in a packet and is, like, “Oh hey, I’m a product that’s going to do great things for you.”

(This is probably why I found online dating disappointing at best, but that’s a post for another blog)

However, this nutrient-packed hot cereal seemed different from the others. Here’s a brief (and abbreviated*) list of what it has going for it:

  • Whole Oats
  • Flax and chia seeds
  • Protein (mostly whey), plus additional amino acids
  • Spinach; broccoli sprouts; carrots
  • 23 vitamins and minerals
  • No added sugars
  • Real fruits
  • High in fiber

So I gave it a try. This oatmeal comes in Apple Cinnamon and Strawberry Banana. All you do is add a little hot water and microwave until the liquid’s been absorbed. Mine was ready in about a minute-and-a-half. Because I’ve been let down in the past by similar items, I really wasn’t expecting much. To my surprise, though, both flavors were delicious without being too sweet, and the texture was hearty and satisfying. Though microwaved oatmeal isn’t the best in photographs, I tried to pretty mine up a little. This here is a shot of the apple cinnamon with some sliced roasted fig and peanut butter. OatsnVites cooked

With 5 grams of fiber and 15 grams of protein per packet (without any add-ons), both varieties kept me full about 4 hours until lunchtime with no issues. As a busy New Yorker, this is no small feat in my world. I could certainly see recommending this to patients looking to add a nutrient boost to their morning meal without piling on the sugar or creepy modifiers. At about $2 per serving (~$10 per box of 5 packets), it’s not the cheapest product out there, but definitely a great option.

*Though Intelligent Formulas did provide me with samples, a review was not required and my opinions are my own. For more details about Oats ‘n Vites, visit the Intelligent Formulas website.

Do you buy flavored oatmeal? What are your thoughts on fortified foods? 

Thinking Out Loud: 5 reasons to have a salad for lunch today

Welcome to another Running with Spoons Thinking Out Loud link party where stream-of-consciousness is the name of the game! Thanks to Amanda for hosting!

We just had a big new moon the other day.

panera power bowl A new moon is a great time to start a new positive habit. One of my favorite food-related habits is having a big salad for lunch. I start with a bed of greens, add a bunch of veggies, some sort of protein, and a little healthy fat in the form of avocado or olive oil.

Here are a few good reasons to try this one at home: 

1.) You can get a big dose of veggies in one go. Regardless of what you eat the rest of the day, you at least know you’ve gotten your greens in.

2.) A mix of fiber, protein, and healthy fat helps you recharge and feel energized—and satisfied—throughout your day.

3.) The high water content in greens and other veggies helps you stay hydrated.

4.) Salads take a long time to eat—great chance to make yourself sit down and chill the f*** out for a few.

5.) Pretty colors refresh the mind.

What are some of your favorite habits? 

What I Ate Wednesday #177

What I Ate Wednesday, we meet again. Hope your week is off to a good start. Amanda was musing the other day about how our concept of a weekend changes as we get older and swap cartoons for errands and to-do lists. For those of us who work on the weekends, it can further complicate our sense of what day it is—not to mention what the name of a day really means. 

Between Back-to-School ads and the upcoming 10-year reunion I am mostly likely not going to, I’ve been thinking  about my high school classes lately. Creative Writing was always my favorite, and I got a lot out of English. My sophomore year, we did our Existentialism unit in late winter/early spring, which is basically the most depressing time of the year. All I really remember was that my main takeaway was, “Well, if this is all meaningless and arbitrary, may as well make the best of it?”

Anyway, I kind of feel that way now about days of the week—at least as this point in my life and career. A day is a day is a day. Maybe one day I’ll remember  what a weekend is supposed to feel like, but it’s been a while.

This past Saturday was spent working at the hospital. I actually don’t mind the weekends because it’s quieter and easier to get everything done. I also find patients are really chatty, which can be hilarious. My favorite from that day was when a patient told me that husbands are like pancakes: You usually have to throw the first one out.

I usually pack a lot of good food to get me through the day. Here’s what was on the menu this week:

WIAW 177

  • Breakfast: Greek yogurt with blueberries, coconut flour, and flax with a little cereal on the side for crunch.
  • Lunch: Salad with sardines.
  • Snacks: An unpictured apple; a new-to-me Gnu bar flavor; Dunkin Donuts coffee; a sweet potato with chocolate goat cheese and raspberry jam when I got home (oh, PMS cravings—the weirdness never ceases to amaze me)

sweet potato with chocolate goat cheese

Dinner was a bowl of chili I’d made the day before that was based off this recipe, only I used red kidney beans instead of red lentils and added some black garlic pulled pork.

pulled pork bourbon chili

Before bed, I had a sliced banana with a little peanut butter. Never gets old.

Look out for the grain police!

What was your favorite (or least favorite) class in high school? What are your weekends like now? 

To see more WIAW from other bloggers, visit Jenn’s blog Peas & Crayons.

Crust-less Quiche

quicheI eat eggs in some way, shape, or form almost every day. Though they’re great at breakfast time, I have them for lunch and dinner not infrequently. You can call this recipe a crust-less quiche, a frittata, or a glorified egg bake. Whichever route you go, it’s a great way to fill up on veggies and protein—not to mention flavor. My favorite way to enjoy this is with a salad and a glass of wine.


  •  1 tsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 16-oz package baby zucchini or 4 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 8-oz package white mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tbsp white wine (optional)
  • 3 cups kale, trimmed
  • ¾ c skim milk (or other milk of choice)
  • 2/3 c goat cheese, crumbled
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup liquid egg whites
  • salt & pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Sautee shallots and all vegetables except kale in olive oil. Add wine and turn heat up so liquid boils. Cook down for a few minutes and then add kale. Stir until kale is wilted. Pour into a pie plate or skillet (whatever you plan to bake in).
  3. Mix cheese, milk, and eggs. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Pour egg mixture over vegetables.
  5. Bake the quiche for 45 mins. Allow to sit 10 minutes before slicing.

What’s your favorite time of day to eat eggs? 

A Small Collection of Joyous Things: Late August

Happy Sunday! Welcome to another Small Collection, a series I started to help me focus on the things that bring me joy. 

pumpkin pancakes

Pumpkin pancakes with sliced plum & cinnamon ricotta

So wow—late August, hello. Who’s ready for this weeks’s descent into Pumpkin Spice Land?

1.) Though I’m not a huge fan of the syrupy sweet drinks that are about to start cropping up all over the place, I do love eating real pumpkin. Here are a few of my favorites:

My palms are turning orange just thinking about all that beta-carotene deliciousness…

2.) Just thinking about September and all the business ahead has me in my weird version of nesting mode. I was working from home Thursday and Friday/trying to pretend it was the weekend, as I was on the hospital schedule for the weekend, so in addition to cleaning, running errands, and doing laundry, I made my first batch of fall-ready soup. Freezer=stocked. I made something very similar to this (minus the pumpkin/squash), mostly so I could clear my freezer of frozen veggies. august soup

I also made black garlic pulled pork chili that did have pumpkin in it. And bourbon. Lots of bourbon. That went straight into the freezer too.

3.) For now, though, berries are still in season!ricotta with berries

4.) Unrelated: I made eggplant dip twice this past week. This is a super-simple version where you just slice an eggplant lengthwise and bake, cut side down, at 400 for 20-30 minutes or until soft. Then you scoop out the insides and blend in a food processor with some garlic and olive oil until smooth. You could also add tahini, paprika, lemon, and/or liquid smoke for something a little richer. I was just being lazy. eggplant dip

In non-food things that have made me happy this week, we have Eli, pondering the universe. Eli, universe

5.) I found out that the song I’ve been singing him to help him wind down is the same song my mom used to sing to me when I was in utero. I find this creepy, weird, and awesome all at the same time.

6.) I love the way Patrick Stewart handled the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

I try not to talk about my day to day work too much on the blog for confidentiality reasons, but I actually work with ALS patients one day a week in an outpatient setting. The same people wondering “how” and “why” I worked with HIV patients when I was a student are the same people asking me about my ALS work—those who know me well just know that when something feels right, I don’t shy away from it. For whatever reason, I always seem to find my way to working with individuals living with illnesses for which there is no known cure. It’s sort of related to what I was talking about last week, having a willingness to “go there” and feel the feelings. Though I wouldn’t say it’s all sunshine and rainbows, working with this population helps me tune in to the beautiful little things in life and appreciate what I have around me.

What’s brought you joy this week? 


Purse-Friendly Snacks

Life is busy—you’re gonna need some snacks to get you through. This week, I have a post over on Fit-Bottomed Eats about healthy eats you can throw in your purse. Hop on over there to check it outhotel yogurt messWhat are your favorite purse-friendly  snacks? 

Thinking Out Loud: Crazy Dog Lady

Welcome to another Running with Spoons Thinking Out Loud link party where stream-of-consciousness is the name of the game! Thanks to Amanda for hosting!

I refer to the summer of 2013 as Cicada Summer. In part, it’s because the cicadas were here. It was also because at the end of it, I was left feeling kind of like, “Well goddamn—after all that noise, all I’m left with is a bunch of bug husks?”

(The alternate title of this post is “That time I decided to take a break from dating and got a dog.)Eli morning

Summer 2014 has been the summer of iced coffee and puppies. I have to say, this summer has kicked last summer’s ass a hundred times, and it’s not even over. Being a crazy dog lady is awesome.

While I was in Boston last weekend, Eli was living it up at my parents’ house with their dogs. My mom sent me lots of cute photos over the weekend to let me know the little dude was fine and well. Here are a few of my favorites: Eli and the Goldens

He and the big boy golden retriever, Satch, were BFFs almost instantly. Lady Jane was not so convinced about this puppy thing bouncing around, but she tolerated him. boys and toys

The boys just so happened to have identical pigs (except Eli’s is much smaller). Apparently, they are very good at sharing. I thought this photo was staged, but not so, as per my dad.


Okay okay okay. For a few non-dog things for this day-o-randomness…

* Chickens! The farm I went to on Sunday had a bunch of chickens. We thought they were roosters but maybe not all of them? I just couldn’t get over the feed buckets (presumably from Home Depot): chickens

*Speaking of chickens, I hate how much I love the spinach & feta & egg white wrap from Starbucks. The nutrition stats are actually pretty decent, save for the sodium. Though I wouldn’t make it a habit, I kind of want to eat this every day. Sorry I’m not sorry. starbucks spinach wrap

* Is Trader Joe’s giving away these fruit bars or something? I had no memory of throwing one in my basket, and it wasn’t on my receipt, but there it was in my bag when I got home. It’s not really my thing, but I guess it will be interesting to try.

fruit bar

* Jenny Lewis has a new album out. Anyone else obsessed with The Voyager yet? 

So. Thinking Out Loud. What’s on your mind today? 

What I Ate Wednesday #176: Boston Visit

Athleta August 17 2014Happy What I Ate Wednesday! How’s your week going?

I just got back to NYC on Monday afternoon after a weekend in Boston for an event Sunday morning at the Newbury Street Athleta store. It was a great time! After a yoga class, participants enjoyed a breakfast bar featuring mostly local vendors. It was fun to share some of my favorite ideas for Greek yogurt toppings after talking about healthy breakfast ideas for hectic mornings.

Thanks to Sophia’s Greek Pantry, Teddie Peanut Butter, TastyMakes, and Bonnie’s Jams for making the event possible. My friend Lauren, who works for Bonnie’s, was really awesome about answering the group’s questions about the company’s old-school methods that allow them to use less sugar and focus on the natural beauty of the fruit. Of the flavors we tried on Sunday, I think my favorite was the fig jam (surprise, surprise), though I also liked the Black & Blue (blackberry + blueberry=delish).

I also want to give a little shout out to Chex for sharing some of my favorite instant oats and beautiful recipe cards! Thank you to Athleta for hosting and to Jocelyn for teaching a great yoga class!

I wasn’t in town for very long, but I had a great time. Since I haven’t taken a “real” vacation in a long time, I decided to make a mini-trip of this and found a Living Social deal for a hotel room. Sunday morning, I was up early, so I enjoyed a workout—aka reading Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch on the elliptical—and room service.

I’m kind of obsessed with frittatas lately, so this egg-white version with tomatoes, avocado, and turkey sausage was right up my alley. I may have also consumed an entire small pot of Starbucks coffee…room service

I’m glad I had a full breakfast before the event—by the time it was all over, I had only a few bites of what was left after everyone was gone. I was so happy the breakfast bar had been a success! I snagged a salad from nearby SweetGreen and wandered back to my hotel room to relax a bit before heading to an event hosted by Slow Food BostonSweetGreen August salad

This was freaking glorious: mixed greens, mesclun, basil, peaches, shrimp, and ginger goat cheese (!!!) all tossed with balsamic vinegar. I may or may not have eaten this two days in a row.

The event that I went to was on Allandale Farm in Chestnut Hill. We were seated near the flower field—it was absolutely gorgeous weather! It was fun to meet so many new people and hear everyone’s thoughts on food, cooking, and community.  Slow Food Boston Aug 18 2014

The food was provided by a local Italian restaurant, La Morra. If I lived in the area, I would probably go there all the time. The various appetizers we enjoyed were fantastic. I think my absolute favorite was the tuna & butter wrapped in roasted pepper, but I also loved the fig with gorgonzola & prosciutto, and the farm’s heirloom tomatoes were perfectly showcased in a tomato confit that was served over homemade stracciatella and bread. Oh, and there were big platters of sliced tomatoes just out on the table to enjoy. We must have tried six or seven different things—if not more. It was practically a meal in and of itself, and gave me tons of ideas for things to try to recreate at home.With our food, we enjoyed an Aperol spritz. I’d never tried this orange liquor before, so it was a really neat change of pace. I really, really, really want to go back to Italy. Slow Food 8 18 14 food

That said, by the time Lauren dropped me back at my hotel, I was starting to get hungry again, so I popped in a nearby grocery store to pick up some (what else?) Greek yogurt. After making a little yogurt mess of my own, I totally face-planted into my gorgeous, giant hotel bed. Heaven. hotel yogurt mess

What’s one of your favorite breakfasts? Have you ever been to a food event where you tasted lots of different things? 

To see more WIAW from other bloggers, visit Jenn’s blog Peas & Crayons.

Music Monday with Philip Mandel

Welcome to another Music Monday! In each installment, I’ll be bringing you a different artist talking about how they stay healthy on the road. This series is part of a larger project I am working on in conjunction with the nonprofit, WhyHunger, which works to fight hunger and poverty by connecting people to nutritious, affordable food and by supporting grassroots solutions that inspire self-reliance and community empowerment. If you have the time, take a look at their site, and please feel free to share this with your social networks, especially with your music-loving friends!

Welcome to another Music Monday-today’s a special Family Edition. Though not a “road-bound” musician like his brother Alan, communication and stress management expert Philip Mandel actually turned his healthy living “wake-up call” into a second career.

Philip Mandel

After watching a friend lose 35 pounds through a program called Take Shape For Life, Mandel was inspired to shave 25 pounds off his own six-foot frame. “He went to a gazelle on the tennis court,” says Mandel, recalling his friend’s success. “At that time, his extended family had already lost nearly 1,000 pounds. I saw him slim down. Then he joined [TSFL] as a Health Coach, and I followed him.” Since then, Mandel has maintained his weight around 170 pounds by eating 6-7 times per day, drinking lots of water, and making healthy choices.

Being in good shape enables him to enjoy his favorite pastimes, including playing music at weddings, holiday parties, or at home. “I prefer to play classical music, but when you play parties, you gotta play what they wanna hear, so I play it all! Old standards, light jazz, tunes from musicals, a few pop tunes…”

“The best decisions I ever made were to lose my excess weight and to join the company as a Health Coach,” Mandel says. “I have physical, mental, and financial freedom I never had before. My life is filled with my clients’ success stories.” 

If you or anyone you know would like to be featured on Music Monday, get at me! KeepingItRealFood(at)gmail(dot)com

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