Kale Caesar Salad with Pan-Seared Shrimp

Back in 2010, I made a personal vow to focus on healthy eating (read all about it here). This was a challenge for me, the girl who considers bread, brie, and wine a square meal, so I started with small things, like packing a homemade lunch each day, instead of relying on Lean Cuisines and fast food. Slowly, I established a routine of making healthy choices whenever I was the one in control of the preparation (well, MOST of the time, anyway), which lets me enjoy eating at restaurants without worrying quite so much about all the salt and the butter and delightful carbohydrates I’m consuming.

One of my healthy eating goals for 2014 is to incorporate more kale into my diet, as part of the Kale Up campaign.  Kale is a green I’ve shied away from in the past, other than occasionally tossing a few handfuls into a nice bean soup. Kale is a very hearty green — you don’t have to worry about it going limp or getting soggy. I often find kale salads are even better when the kale has a bit of time to “marinate” in the dressing.

kale Caesar salad with shrimp

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‘Twas my birthday.

A few nights ago, the BF and I were discussing my upcoming birthday, and we realized that neither of us were quite sure how old I was going to be.  Apparently, he bases his age off of how old I am, which I attribute to his burning desire to draw frequent attention to the fact that I am six months his senior and thus a cradle robbing cougar.  Rawwwrrrrrrrrr! Cat face

Anyway… after several rounds of bantering back and forth, we came to an agreement.

I was officially turning 27.

Twenty-seven years ripe.

Twenty-seven years seasoned.

Twenty-seven years matured, if you will.

I’m pretty sure you’re officially “old” when you can’t remember how old you actually are.

So there I was, about to turn 27, in a new city, with no one to keep me company but a crappy (albeit tasty) tuna sandwich and a crap load of work to get done.

As fabulous as this sounded, I decided to be proactive with my Ladies who Lunch goal, and invite a few ladies in the area to lunch.  Was it a longshot to invite a bunch of ladies I barely know to have lunch with me on my birthday?  Perhaps.  Was it awkward to put myself out there?  Slightly.  Did I send that email anyway?  You’re darn tootin I did!

One short email followed by four quick responses and I was headed to Savor Café and Catering to have lunch with four fabulous blogging ladies:  Jamie (Bibliophiled Away), Vanessa (Life Undeveloped), Julie (Willow Bird Baking), and Katie (Sweet Tater Blog).

I don’t know what came over me, but I hardly took any pictures during lunch!  All I can say is the interior of Savor was eclectic and slightly rustic.  The restaurant was small and cozy, with super tall ceilings, and exposed brick walls.   Lucky for us we got there before the lunch rush because that line was out the door!


For those who were curious, yesterday’s post about the best birthday present ever came from Jamie.  Seriously, how perfect?!


What’s not perfect is how much my hair hates NC weather!  Also, thanks Vanessa for the pic!

Savor had quite a few options on the menu that sounded worthy of a birthday lunch, but  since I had plans to end my big day with an Italian feast I decided to stick with the Savor Salad.  It had mixed greens, tomatoes, carrots, chickpeas, and cucumbers plus some tasty grilled chicken on top:


The balsamic vinaigrette was so thick, I literally had to slather it on my salad.  It was fabulous.

The ladies:  Julie (Willow Bird Baking), Vanessa (Life Undeveloped), Katie (Sweet Tater Blog), MOI!, and Jamie (Bibliophiled Away).DSCF6801

Savor Cafe and Catering on Urbanspoon

When I got back to work, I had a little surprise waiting:


A birthday treat from the mama Smile


P.S., chocolate covered apples are AMAZING.  Who knew?!

My mailman also brought me a card from my dad Smile


Like father, like daughter?  Perhaps.

And my friend Tracy sent me a big ass tub of Frank’s Red Hot:


You may be wondering what the heck I am going to do with 756 servings of Frank’s Red Hot.  To that I say don’t you worry Smile

< Insert 6 or so more hours of work here >

And it was time for dinna with the Man Candy Open-mouthed smile

We haven’t had an Italian dinner in quite a while, so my pick of the evening was Villa Antonio in Ballantyne.

I was so surprised by how fancy schmancy the restaurant was.


Even though the restaurant was very formal, it was by no means uninviting.  Jarrod and I perused the menu, and were brought *free* bruschetta to munch on while we decided.


At this point I was pretty much in love with the place.  Who doesn’t love free?!

Once we ordered, we were brought *ahem* *FREE* house bread and dipping oil:


Did I mention I love this place?

I wish every meal started off with two courses of bread Winking smile

While I sipped on a glass of Banfi Col di Sasso (a Sangiovese/Cabernet blend), we dug into our sausage and pepper appetizer:


Everything about this dish was perfect.  The sausage was slightly spicy, the marinara sauce was deep and garlicky, the roasted peppers were sweet, and the cheese was melty heaven.  This alone could have been a delicious entre…  but ‘twas my birthday, so we certainly did not stop there!

After the appetizer, we were brought *FREE!!!!* lemon sorbetto to cleanse the palate. At this point I audibly exclaimed “I LOVE THIS PLACE!”.  I can be slightly embarrassing when it comes to food.


For the entre, we decided to split a chicken and gnocchi dish.  Half of the entre was the PERFECT serving size:


The chicken was layered with garlic, pomodoro, goat cheese, spinach, and mozzarella.  And as if that weren’t enough cheesy goodness, the gnocchi was covered in a creamy gorgonzola sauce.


Absolutely divine.

Surmounted only by this large slice of chocolate peanut butter cake that followed:


Villa Antonio Ballantyne on Urbanspoon

Two happy diners:


Thanks everyone for the b-day wishes!


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Run and done(ish)

The low down:  This week marks week four of my self-proclaimed Kick the Knee Pain running program.  I started off this new program with intervals of 2 minutes walking 1 minute running, and each day I run I bump my run interval time up by 1 minute.  Sunday I completed 3 intervals of 8 minutes running and 1 minute walking.

Status:  Other than some mild tightness in my knees, I haven’t had any knee issues so far!

Contributing “Success” Factors:

  1. Buying new running shoes BEFORE starting to run.
  2. Running primarily on softer surfaces (trails, paths, etc.)
  3. NOT running every day and giving my knees a chance to recuperate
  4. Being conscious of my natural tendency to heel-strike and focusing on NOT
  5. Strength training.  Building up the muscles in my legs and my core supposedly takes stress of the knees.

Conclusion:  Boo ya.

*Note that stretching is not on the list above…  feel free to leave angry comments about the importance of stretching.  Maybe that will get it through my stubborn brain.

Short-Term Goal:  Be at 30-minute running only intervals (i.e., no walking) with no knee pain by August 15th.

And now on to more exciting things… like this lovely tuna wrap I had for dinner Smile


Isn’t it perdy?  This was a quick hodgpodge I threw together after work and consisted of:

  • 1 can chunk tuna in water, drained
  • 1 tbsp light HELMANS mayo (none of that miracle whip crap Steaming mad)
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 small dill pickle, chopped
  • Handful of romaine lettuce
  • Handful of grape tomatoes
  • S&P
  • Dried Dill
  • 1 light Italian Flat-out wrap


This made for one gynormous wrap, that I basically inhaled.  Along with some cucumber salad:


This should be called the Lazy Girl Salad.  It consisted of 1 sliced cucumber, some white vinegar, and some dried dill.  Easy peasy!


Tomorrow is Wednesday!  And for the 92nd week in a row, I’m going to attempt to NOT forget it’s What-I-Ate-Wednesday.  I even put a reminder in my phone Smile

Question of the evening:  How do we feel about my giant head on the right hand side of the page?


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The first time I saw Nix, I got the vibe that it was some crazy heavy metal bar.  A biker bar perhaps.  Well, at least a place where short skirts and sleazy guys might hang out.

I mean, they DO have FLAMES in their logo:


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Friday eats

Sooooooo… it has been FOR-EV-ER since I last posted about workday breakfast-breakfast-lunch.  I guess I just got bored posting about the same things over and over again.  But today, I figured what the heck.  It’s Friday.  Let’s do this.

Breakfast #1

Mary’s oh-so-special eggs!

 photo (10)

I absolutely adore this B#1 every day!  Sausage, eggs, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, spinach, and garlic?  Come on!

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Don’t forget the dollop of ketchup of course 🙂

 Stats on 1 Servings of my Special Eggs (sans ketchup):  189 Calories,  9g carbs,  9g fat, 23g protein, 1g fiber



Breakfast #2


photo (12) photo (13)

I was in the grocery store the other day and ALMOST bought some strawberries so I could make overnight oats… But it’s so stinkin cold outside that I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  Man I miss them 🙁   So for today, it was standard microwaved quick oats with cinnamon and brown sugar… maybe my OO’s will make a return next week!

 Stats on 1 Servings of oats:  165 Calories,  31g carbs,  3g fat, 5g protein, 4g fiber


And that brings us to LUNCH.  Mini cheesy meat loaf and a yumlicious side salad with Newman’s Light balsamic dressing:

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Maybe it’s a midwest thing….. but I seriously adore meatloaf. 

It’s comforting. 

It’s meaty. 

It brings me unfettered joy. 

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Stats on 1 mini cheesy meatloaf:  350 calories, 19g carbs, 17g fat (red meat, folks), 29g protein, 1g fiber

So what’s on everyone’s agenda this weekend?  Here’s what I’ll be up to:

  • Eyebrow wax this evening (fun Friday night activity, no?)
  • Clean.my.house.  Seriously.  I’m living in filth.
  • Work.
  • Get some of my friends and family tax returns done… oh the joys of being a tax accountant
  • Buy the BF a bday present… I’m thinking outlet mall!
  • Possibly venturing out on a Luna Bar quest.  Must find the new flavors STAT!
  • Super Bowl of course!  Bring on the cheese!



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10-Minute Taco Salad for One

When I was a kid, there were a few dinners that I got off the charts excited about.  Spaghetti, Meatloaf, Stuffed Cabbages, Steaaaaaak, anything involving potatoes, Paella, Hamburgers, Pizza, Macaroni and Cheese… ok maybe there were more than a few….  But one of the ULTIMATES was Taco Salad Night.  Just thinking about it makes my tummy rumble!

Last night, in anticipation of my very own Taco Salad Night, I pulled 4 ounces of 93% fat free turkey breast from the freezer to defrost.  I swear, freezing individually portioned meats (and meals) never ceases to bring me joy!

Four ounces of love:


All I could think about ALL DAY at work was TACO SALAD!  I’m talking a serious unable-to-computate-numbers craving.  I could barely make it til 5.  Thankfully, my tasty taco salad for one cooks up in ten minutes flat—sooooo, I didn’t have too long to wait once I finally arrived at home.

Feast yo’ eyes!


First up, I seasoned the defrosted turkey breast up with a little salt and pepper and cooked in a sauté pan until no longer pink.  Then I sprinkled on 1 tbsp of McCormick’s taco seasoning blend and a 1/4 cup a water, reduced the heat, and let the turkey simmer away until the liquid thickened.


Meanwhile, I put 1/2 a bag of romaine lettuce on a plate and topped with some chopped tomato, onion, banana peppers, 2 tbsp fat free sour cream, and the secret ingredient:  10 smashed up baked nacho cheese Doritos.

10 minutes to tasty!


When the hot meat hits the smashed Doritos and mixes in with the sour cream you get this deliciously cheesy slightly spicy oh-so-creamy sauce. 


LOVE this taco salad!

Stats on the taco salad:  368 calories, 34g carbs, 11g fat, 26g protein, 8g fiber



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Some like it hot

There is a small portion of the population out there that crave heat in their food.  These are the people who actually enjoy the runny nose you inevitably get when eating something hot.  The people who know when others say something is “hot” it won’t even phase them because of their extreme tolerance for heat.  The people who’ve contemplated carrying around a bottle of hot sauce in their purse/bookbag/car.  The people who have found a way to incorporate buffalo sauce in to breakfast, lunch, AND dinner.  The people who constantly get asked “you put hot sauce on that?!”

You know who you are.

This recipe is for you.

I bring you slow-cooked buffalo chicken sandwiches:


When I first stumbled upon this recipe, I KNEW it was destiny.  Buffalo chicken dip is a staple in my circle of friends and family, so how could a buffalo chicken sandwich NOT be amazing?

Simple answer.  If you like hot food, you will love this sandwich.

The recipe was very easy to throw together. 

Throw the following into a plastic baggie to marinate overnight:

  • 4 raw skinless boneless chicken breasts
  • 3/4 of a Quart (24 ounces) buffalo wing sauce (use your favorite brand–we used Gionino’s, of course)
  • 1 package dry ranch salad dressing mix

The next morning toss the marinated chicken into a crockpot, and cook on low for 6 hours.  Once the chicken is cooked, pull the breasts out of the crockpot and shred them up with two forks.  Toss the meat back in and then add:

  •  2 tablespoons butter
  • 8 ounces of buffalo wing sauce (which is the remainder of the quart)

Cook for one hour more, and then serve on top of a toasted kaiser roll. 


To make the sandwich even more amazing, add some pepper jack cheese. 

Awwwwww yeeahhhhhhh.


WARNING:  Things may get a little sloppy.  But true hot sauce lovers like to become one with their food, am I right? 😀

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Sausage & Caramelized Onion Pita Pizza

Last weekend, I caught 5 minutes or so of Giada’s cooking show on the Food Network on which she made a sausage and caramelized onion calzone.  Are you drooling yet?  Ever since then, I’ve had this image of sausage and caramelized onions floating around in my head, beckoning to me.  I just so happened to have a leftover sausage from last Sunday’s cookfest, so I decided to put it to use today:


YUMMMMM…..  I haven’t made a pita pizza in AGES!  Jennie O’s mom and pop would be so darn proud! 😀 

First up, I cranked the heat on the oven to 350 degrees, sprayed a small skillet with cooking spray, and placed it over medium high heat.  Once the skillet was hot, I added:

  • 1/4 cup sliced white onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced


Onions & garlic.  Anytime you start a recipe off with these two ingredients, there’s an unwritten guarantee it’s going to be delicious.  Didn’t you know??

I reduced the heat slightly at this point just to make sure I didn’t burn the garlic or onion.  Then I just let the onions do their thing, stirring them occasionally. 

Meanwhile, I topped a Joseph’s low-carb pita with 1/4 cup Classico Fire Roasted Tomato & Garlic Sauce and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes. 


Once the onions were soft and a nice light brown color, I added them on top of the pita along with 1/2 a link of pre-cooked & chopped up Jennie O’ Hot Turkey Sausage.


I cut up a light Sargento Mozzarella string cheese into small sticks and tossed those on top then seasoned with a sprinkle of dried oregano and some black pepper:


Then I popped this beauty into the oven for 10 minutes, until everything was heated through and the cheese was melty:


I also fixed up a small side salad, which consisted of romaine lettuce, 1/2 a roma tomato, some chopped red onion, and 2 tbsp Ken’s Steakhouse lite Caesar dressing: DSCF3454

I REALLY like Ken’s Lite Caeser by the way.

Nom nom nom!


Sometimes the simplest of ingredients combine to make the most amazing meals.  It is the best of both worlds! 

Ingredients List:  Sausage & Caramelized Onion Pita Pizza 

  • 1/4 cup sliced white onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Joseph’s low-carb pita with flax
  • 1/4 cup Classico Fire Roasted Tomato & Garlic Sauce
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1/2 link Jennie O’ Hot Turkey Sausage
  • 1 light Sargento Mozzarella string cheese
  • Dried Oregano
  • Black Pepper


Stats on my pita pizza:  236 calories, 17g carbs, 11g fat, 22g protein, 6g fiber

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Back to the normal routine

Even with the big tax deadline behind me, my schedule is crazy hectic.  What’s up with that???  Wednesday for instance is a VERY busy day for me because I go straight from the office to the university for the class I teach.  This requires ample food-planning on Tuesday nights because I have to pack 6 meals.  6 meals?!?  Yes 6.  Take today for instance, here’s what I packed last night for the day ahead:

  • B#1:  Scrambled eggs & roasted broccoli
  • B#2:  Overnight oats + chopped strawberries + blueberries
  • Lunch:  Big ole Salad + Jennie O’ Turkey Sausage
  • Snack:  Granny smith apple
  • Dinner:  Chicken & hummus wrap + cucumber salad
  • Snack: 1/2 of an 18 Rabbits granola bar

I like to travel with food apparently 🙂

One thing I’ve been craving the past few weeks is getting back to my normal foods routine! 

You know what that means:


EGGS for breakfast #1!

Last night, I cooked up a batch of my scrambled eggs:


I also roasted up some broccoli which I enjoyed at 8am at my desk with a dollop o’ heaven Ketchup:


Of course, this was followed up 2 hours later by none other than my overnight oats for B#2:



My lunch salad consisted of romaine lettuce, 1/2 a large cucumber, 1 baby roma tomato, some red onion, banana pepper and Ken’s steakhouse Lite Italian Romano dressing:

I also had a Jennie O’ turkey sausage on the side…

Is it just me, or does that sausage look really sad?! … A sausage with no bun is like a bird with no wings eggs with no ketchup!  Luckily I had a monster Italian sausage sandwich over the weekend 😀

After the 2PM doldrums pass, it’s time for a snack!  My usual afternoon snack is a granny smith apple:

Usually my snacks go unpictured.  But today, I’m snapping everything that goes into my mouth 🙂 Uh oh. 

Fun fact about me and apples:  I REFUSE to buy an apple unless the stem is still attached.  An apple sans stem is a clear indicator that a worm has crawled inside…. I’m pretty sure my sister told me that as a child, and it has stuck with me through the years.  I may look funny in the produce aisle as I pick up one apple after another to find one that still has the stem attached, but guess who WON’T be looking funny when they bite into a worm?  It won’t be me, that’s for darn sure!  😉

For dinner, I packed some cucumber salad:

And also a La Tortilla low-carb wrap consisting of 2 ounces grilled chicken, onion, and 1 tbsp Trader Joe’s original hummus:

Come to think of it, I probably should have avoided so many onions right before class… Oh well, they don’t call me the Onion Lady for nothin’. :mrgreen:


Last my not least, I packed 1/2 of an 18 Rabbits granola bar (thanks Dorry!) for my late-night snack:

Whew!  That’s a lot of food! 

Happy Eating and Happy Hump Day!

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Chicken and Barley Salad

School is back in session – which means it is officially the end of summer in my book.  In honor of this self-declared change in seasons, I decided to make one last summer salad for dinner Monday night. 

The January 2010 issue of Cooking Light featured a recipe for Greek Chicken and Barley salad which was my inspiration and starting point to my dinner. 

First up, I seasoned a few chicken breasts with McCormick’s Montreal Chicken Seasoning and tossed them on to the George Foreman grill.  I only used 4 ounces of chicken in this recipe, but grill once eat thrice I always say. 

When the chicken was done grilling, I roughly shred four ounces of it:


Meanwhile I brought 1 cup of Nature’s Basket Free Range Chicken Broth (fat-free and low sodium) to a boil, then tossed in 1/2 cup Quaker’s Quick Barley and cooked according to the package instructions. 


Next I got to choppin the veggies.  For this salad I used:

  • 1 roma tomato
  • 1 large cucumber, seeded
  • 1/2 a yellow bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup of reduced fat Atheno’s feta cheese


In a small bowl, I mixed together a yummy dressing for the salad:

  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1/8 tsp each salt, black pepper, ground thyme
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil

Once the chicken and barley were cooled off, I added them to my veggies and feta, added the dressing, and tossed to combine. 


I put the salad in the fridge to let the flavors merry while I cleaned up the inevitable disaster I created in my kitchen.

Dinner time!


This salad was light and the veggies were so crisp.  I really REALLY like the dressing, and I had forgotten how yummy barley is.  I will miss you summer salads… but I won’t lie.  I’m looking forward to some dinner SOUPS!!



Chicken & Barley Salad Ingredient List (makes two servings):

  • 4 ounces grilled chicken
  • 1 cup Nature’s Basket Free Range Chicken Broth
  • 1/2 cup Quaker’s Quick Barley
  • 1 roma tomato
  • 1 large cucumber, seeded (or 1 seedless cucumeber)
  • 1/2 a yellow bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup Athenos reduced fat feta
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1/8 tsp each salt, black pepper, ground thyme
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil

Myfitnesspal stats on one serving:  309 calories, 37g carbs, 5g fat, 26g protein, 6g fiber


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