best of taylor made 2013

Hi, blog friends! Long time, no see! As you may have noticed (or not), I've neglected the blog over the past couple of weeks in favor of holiday traveling, downtime, and spending time with family and friends. Hope you didn't miss me too much! And I hope everyone is enjoying a holiday season as wonderful as mine :) While I decided to take a break from the daily grind -- not just work and school, but also blogging and social media -- I'm ready to jump right back into it all better than ever. I feel refreshed and rejuvenated after this little break -- I got rest from lounging, energy from being around those I love, and replenished motivation from putting away the laptop. Bring it on, 2014!

I have to say, 2013 was a year for the books... a year that I'll look back on in many years with a full heart and smiling eyes. I got engaged to marry my favorite person ever, I traveled to places I've never been, I saw relatives I hadn't seen in too many years, I defended my thesis and got a master's degree, I passed qualifying exams and became a doctoral candidate, I started a new clinical placement where I've learned so much, and, last but not least, I turned my passion for cooking and health into a hobby by starting this little blog. This year hasn't been without its challenges and stressors, but all in all, it's been one of the most eventful, exciting years of my life. I've become healthier and stronger, I've grown professionally and I've grown personally. I've taken strides toward figuring out the type of life I want to live and the type of person I want to be. What more could I ask for, really?

I started this blog at the beginning of 2013 -- nearly one year ago! -- and it's grown into more than I imagined it would. I'm overwhelmed by the number of people who view the blog daily, the pinterest traffic for my site, the sweet comments and messages I get... basically, the fact that people actually stop by my little corner of the internet, read my posts, and make my recipes! And LIKE my recipes! How cool?! Taylor made remains a *little blog* in the scheme of things -- it's not meant to be a big famous food blog (unfortunately, among many other reasons, I don't have time for that!), I can't post every day (or even close), my circle of "blogger friends" isn't as big as I'd like (while I follow WAY more blogs than they me, I do have some, and I can't thank each of you enough!), I don't do many giveaways or sponsored posts or anything like that -- it's just a small space where I can share my ideas, recipes, thoughts, workouts, and anything else that I think *just might* help someone else become a healthier, stronger, happier person. Will it always be this way? Hard to say, but right now I'm pretty content with my direction and purpose. I get so much joy out of blogging!

Now, to celebrate the end of the 2013, here are my TOP viewed blog posts of the year (and thus, ever!): 

(*Secondary award: Most pinned recipe!)

(one of my earliest recipes -- and still a favorite!)

(not even a recipe and unlike any of my other posts -- who would'a thought it? and how should I interpret that? :)

So, there you have it! The top 5 posts of 2013. What will 2014 bring for taylor made? Hard to say exactly, but I at least some great healthy recipes planned for the next few weeks. Aside from that, I'd love to hear from you -- yes YOU -- the one reading right now -- what you'd like to see on the blog. More workouts? More tips? More easy recipes? More unique recipes? More salads? More pasta? Less of anything? Leave a comment, send a message, facebook me. I'd love to hear from you :)

Thank you so much for reading my blog during its first year. I couldn't have done it without you!


{healthy!} 60 second deep dish gooey chocolate chip cookie

Who wants a warm, gooey, melty, chocolate-y, sweet, decadent chocolate chip cookie? Anyone? I can't be the only one.

What about one that's nutritious and made in 60 seconds in the microwave?

Sometimes after dinner, you just want a chocolate chip cookie. This recipe is your answer. The tollhouse cookie dough in the back of your fridge is not. This "cookie" is NOT made of empty calories... it's made of oatmeal and nutrient-rich ingredients like coconut oil and apple sauce. Plus some dark chocolate (for its antioxidants, clearly) and a bit of brown sugar for good measure. It tastes decadent -- and it IS a bit of a treat -- but it's not bad for you! And it's made with real ingredients. Each "cookie" has 225 calories, 10 g fat, 3 g fiber, 3.5 g protein, and 18 g sugar -- and is more than enough to satisfy your sweet tooth. 

If you love chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven when they're still melty and gooey -- almost still cookie-dough-ish -- then you'll love this. I won't even judge you if you eat if for breakfast this weekend. Hey, it has oats... it works!

Got a craving? Here's the recipe:

60 Second Deep Dish Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookie
For 1 serving

-1 tsp coconut oil
-2 tsp brown sugar
-1 packet truvia, stevia, or other sweetener of your choice
-1/4 cup old-fashioned oats, or 1/4 cup prepared oat flour
-1 tbsp unsweetened apple sauce
-2 tbsp vanilla (or plain) almond milk (or milk of your choice)
-1 tbsp dark chocolate chips, plus a few more for sprinkling on top
-1/8 tsp baking powder
-Drop vanilla extract
-Pinch sea salt

-Melt the coconut oil in a bowl for 30 seconds.
-Mix the brown sugar and sweetener into the melted coconut oil until the oil is mostly absorbed.
-If you don't have prepared oat flour, make it yourself: place oats in a food processor and grind until fine. You're looking for a sawdust-like consistency (should take about 30-60 seconds).
-To the bowl with the coconut oil and sugars, add the oats, apple sauce, baking powder, milk, vanilla, and salt. Mix to combine well. Add the chocolate chips and gently stir in.
-Spoon mixture into a ramekin or small microwave-safe bowl. Top with a couple more chocolate chips. Microwave for 60 seconds (or until desired gooey-ness is reached). Let sit for at least 1 minute.
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healthy beef & spinach meatballs for make-ahead lunches

Prepping lunches before the week starts (or on Monday or Tuesday -- better late than never!) has probably been the single most influential factor in my becoming healthier. Even if the rest of my food intake during the week isn't ideal, at least I can count on super nutritious and natural lunches. Preparing several clean meals ahead of time is so much better than trying to scramble to find something each morning like I used to do, which led to lots of lean cuisines (ugh!). Just cutting frozen meals out of my diet made such a huge difference. While calorie intake is probably similar, eating real, natural food makes my body so much happier.

My make-ahead lunches are almost always spiced chicken or rotisserie chicken with veggies and brown rice, plus some fruit. Or sometimes it's a southwest mix of chicken with brown rice, salsa, black beans, and cheese. Occasionally I switch it up and have tuna wraps, chili, steak, fish, or shrimp. Usually though... it's chicken. I eat a whooooole lot of chicken. While I enjoy my poultry lunches, sometimes I just have to switch it up. This week, I was craving something different: meatballs!

These meatballs are perfect to make on a Sunday afternoon to last you throughout the week. They're great served over spaghetti squash with your favorite marinara sauce, or for my make-ahead lunches, I switched it up and served them over steamed cabbage.

Yum! Or, enjoy them right away for dinner. Ryan loved them over pasta.

However you eat them... they're good.

I was actually craving meatballs for about a week before I made these, so I started brainstorming ways to make them healthy and nutritious (i.e., without the white breadcrumbs and loads of fat). And... success! This recipe only includes healthy, natural, nutritious ingredients: lean beef, spinach, oats (yep - ground oats instead of the breadcrumbs), eggs, onion and garlic, and a bit of milk and parmesan.

The recipe makes 24 medium-sized meatballs, each of which has about 95 calories, 5 g fat, and 6 g protein. Have 4 for lunch with veggies and you have a filling, healthy meal. And they only take about 45 minutes to make from start to finish.

Here's how to make them:


staying (or getting back) on track during the holidays

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving, if you celebrated! If you're anything like me, the holiday involved family, football, and food... LOTS of food. And not just one meal. So. Many. Leftovers.

It was pretty awesome, right? I definitely enjoyed my share (okay, more than my share) of delicious food. Mac 'n' cheese, stuffing, turkey and mashed potatoes with gravy, chocolate pie... Oh yes.

Something you've probably already noticed, though: I try to focus on balance. I made sure I was ALSO getting the nutrition my body needs. I ate a spinach salad after eating my (very) full plate of leftovers (when I was so not hungry). I got back to my regular healthy packed lunches on Monday. I even made it to the gym after eating a meal that I had no CHANCE of burning off. 

Why? Because our health is just as important in December as it is in June or September or any other month. It doesn't matter if we're more hidden under baggy sweaters and leggings -- it's about health. Don't get me wrong: there's no 100% healthy for me. I enjoy the holidays to the fullest, and that includes making (and eating) Christmas cookies, partaking in big family holiday dinners, snacking on treats my coworkers bring in, etc. I don't think I'll ever miss out on all the wonderful foods available around this time of year, because I LOVE it! However... I don't overdo it to the point of getting sucked into a black hole of binging that is so, so difficult to crawl out of (we've all been there). 

How? Here are a few of my tips for staying on track (or getting back on track) during the holidays:

1) Don't think that one unhealthy meal equals one unhealthy day. 

Don't let your mind play these tricks on you. So you ate a biiiiggg lunch during a holiday potluck with coworkers. Do you then think, "Welp, this day is shot. Might as well pig out on ramen noodles and Oreos for dinner"? Don't! It's just one meal. One meal is no big deal. Just get back to regular, healthy eating for the rest of the day. No need to starve yourself after that, either! It won't help anything. Just return to normal programming and let it go. 

2) Stick to healthy, basic, clean meals in between the celebrations.

So you have a work potluck on Monday, dinner out on Wednesday, a holiday party with friends on Friday night, a cooking-making party on Saturday.... great! Enjoy all of those events. Eat the deliciousness and be okay with it. In between all of the celebration, though... stay on track. Pack healthy lunches. Eat nutritious breakfasts. Just work on balance.

3)  Go to the gym. And not just to burn off a meal or fit into your New Years dress. 

Working out is hard in the winter. I know. It's cold, your house is warm,  and it's just so tempting to avoid the gym for a few weeks (or months). Again, though, it's JUST as important for your health during the winter as it is in the summer! Maybe even more important if you're partaking in quite a few holiday celebrations. And I know how going to the gym can feel after overdoing it a bit -- "there is no WAY I will burn this off, so why try? I just ate 2000 calories! I'd have to run a marathon!"

Don't think of it that way. Try not to think of working out as just a way to counteract food intake or look good. Yes... that's all part of it. But exercising has so many important benefits that have nothing to do with these things. It makes you a healthier, stronger, happier person!

I particularly love (and enthusiastically agree with) this woman's take on it.

4)  When all else fails... SMOOTHIES. 

If you consume a fair share (understatement?) of food that isn't quite so nutritious (*ahem* white cheddar and gruyere mac n cheese and sausage stuffing... I'm looking at you), it's so important to make sure that you are ALSO getting the healthy stuff in. So you've already eaten a lot today... if you haven't gotten your fruit and veggies in, it doesn't matter: keep going. Your body needs its nutrients. The easiest way to do this? Make a smoothie! Throw in some frozen berries and some greens and you've just exponentially improved your health for the day.

These are my tips for staying healthy during the holidays. What are yours? How do you avoid a two-month binge-fest that then leads to a failed New Years resolution? Because we so don't want to be that person.  :)


thai red curry stew with chicken, kale, & sweet potatoes

I don't know what it is about Thai food lately, but I can't get enough. It's so comforting and cozy at this time of year! I already shared a recipe for peanutty pad thai, which I THOUGHT was about as good as Thai could get in my kitchen. I have to tell you though, this one might take the cake. Thai red curry stew with chicken, kale, and sweet potatoes.

Oh my goodness. This is a new favorite. So flavorful, chock full of nutritious ingredients, and it warms your entire body. This is the type of recipe that I would LOVE for someone who follows my blog to try to make -- even if you've never made Thai food before -- and then let me know how it turns out. It's so much easier than it may seem... you will really surprise yourself! 

I've mentioned before that while I eat kale fairly often, it's not my favorite veggie ever. In this though, it's perfect. No, kale in Thai curry isn't traditional, but bok choy is... and kale is pretty similar! Then the sweet potatoes add sustenance and a delicious sweetness, along with the chicken. The flavors in this are seriously dynamic -- sweet, spicy, rich. Yum. Scoop a big heap over some brown jasmine rice, pour a glass of wine, and enjoy a perfect weeknight meal!

The whole dish takes about 45 minutes from start to finish. It's really not difficult at all! And it makes a good amount so you'll have leftovers.... which make for pretty much the best lunch ever the following day. I think it might have gotten even better over time!

Ready to give it a try? Here's how:

Chop your veggies -- 2 sweet potatoes, a small sweet onion, a red bell pepper, and a bunch of kale. Gather your main additional ingredients -- unsweetened coconut milk (not light), thai red curry paste, fish sauce, ginger (jarred or fresh), chicken broth, and brown jasmine rice for serving. You'll also need about a pound of diced raw chicken breast, coconut oil, a lime, sriracha, cornstarch, and sugar. All of these ingredients should be available in a regular grocery store in the international aisle.

Heat 1 tbsp of coconut oil over medium heat in a heavy bottomed pot or deep skillet. Add a teaspoon of ginger and 2 to 4 ounces (4 to 8 tbsp) of red curry paste. I know that's a big range for the curry paste, but it is really dependent on your heat tolerance and preference for flavor. I went with the entire 4 ounces (a whole little jar) and didn't think it was too spicy in all -- I thought that was perfect! But if you're sensitive to heat, you may want to start with half a jar. If you're not sure, start with 2 and add some more a little later -- you can always stir in another tablespoon! 

Sauté the ginger and curry paste for about 1 minute, until fragrant. Add your onion and pepper and sauté for another 4-5 minutes, until onion is becoming translucent. 

Add in your diced chicken. 

Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, until it's starting to get some color. It doesn't need to cook all the way through right now.

Now: add your can of coconut milk, about 1.5 cups of the chicken broth, 2 tsp fish sauce, kale, salt, the juice of half a lime, 1.5 tsp sugar (optional), and a tbsp of sriracha (optional - for more heat). 

Turn the heat to medium high. Stir constantly as the kale begins to wilt into the sauce. Add the sweet potatoes.

For a slightly thicker/creamier texture, add in 1-2 tsp of cornstarch mix into 3 tsp of cold water. Mix well then pour into the stew. 

Bring to a boil. Then, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. 

My dinner date was late from work so when it was ready I just turned off the heat and let it sit on the stove for about 20 more minutes, cooling off. Then, when he got home, I just turned the heat back on and let it get warm again -- and actually, it became even more flavorful and thick over that time! So no worries if you're not quite ready to eat (or your rice isn't ready yet!) when this is done. 


Thai Red Curry Stew with Chicken, Kale, & Sweet Potatoes
Inspired by Eat, Live, Run
For about 4 servings

-2 to 4 raw chicken breasts (about 1 lb), diced
-2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
-1 red bell pepper, diced
-1 big bunch kale, torn from stems (discard stems) into small pieces (you should have approximately 4 cups of the torn kale)
-1 small sweet onion, diced
-2 to 4 ounces (4 to 8 tbsp) thai red curry paste (add full amount unless you're quite sensitive to heat)
-1 tbsp coconut oil
-1 tsp jarred or fresh ginger
-1 can unsweetened coconut milk (not light)
-1.5 cups low sodium chicken broth
-2 tsp fish sauce
-1 tsp salt
-Juice of 1/2 lime (optional)*
-1.5 tsp sugar (optional)*
-1 tbsp sriracha (optional)*
-2 tsp cornstarch mixed into 3-4 tsp cold water (optional)*
-Cooked and warm brown jasmine rice for serving
*I recommend including all of the optional ingredients, but they aren't necessary.

-Heat coconut oil over medium heat in a heavy bottomed pot or deep skillet.
-Add ginger and red curry paste. Sauté for about 1 minute, until fragrant.
-Add your onion and pepper and sauté for another 4-5 minutes, until onion is becoming translucent.
-Add the chicken. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, until it's starting to get some color.
-Add the coconut milk, chicken broth, fish sauce, kale, salt, lime juice, sugar, and sriracha. Turn the heat to medium high. Stir constantly as the kale begins to wilt into the sauce. Add in the sweet potatoes. For a slightly thicker/creamier texture, add in the cornstarch mixed into water.
-Bring to a boil. Then, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes.
-Serve over brown jasmine rice.
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thanksgiving recipes.

Sooo... I LOVE THANKSGIVING. That's no  surprise, right? I love food! And that's basically what it's all about. Well, that and bourbon cider cocktails and watching football and magical leftover concoctions 3 hours after dinner (turkey and stuffing sandwich, anyone?). Oh yeah, and spending time with family and giving thanks -- I'm always on board for that.

Last year was my first time cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Ryan had to work on the Friday after Thanksgiving so we decided not to travel home to Richmond -- instead, my brother came up from Virginia and I cooked a full-on Turkey Day meal for the two guys and me. My mom and stepdad also traveled up here later in the evening after another Thanksgiving meal for leftovers and continued celebration. So, I cooked for 3 immediately and 5 total. And let's just say I went all out for my first Thanksgiving meal -- it was WAY too much food and it was AWESOME. 

I start drooling when I revisit those old pics. And lucky for us, Thanksgiving has arrived again (2 more weeks!!) and we have the same plan this year: I'm cooking! And I'm planning another epic meal. Oh, and we should get this out of the way up front: I don't cook light or clean or healthy on Thanksgiving. I go all out. I probably go through more butter cooking on Thanksgiving than I do in 3 months around here normally. Because I can and because I want to! There's plenty of time for healthy recipes when it's not Thanksgiving... at least, that's my opinion and I'm sticking to it :)

I thought I would share my favorite recipes from last year's Thanksgiving dinner -- the ones that were so good I plan to make them again! And actually, I plan to cook several of the same dishes again this year... because this meal turned out even better than I expected and I've been waiting a whole year to eat this stuff again! I'm sharing the recipes now, a full 2 weeks in advance, in case you're also planning for your Turkey Day -- these are highly recommended and were SERIOUS crowd-pleasers all around. 

2012 Thanksgiving Dishes that will also be 2013 Thanksgiving Dishes:
(Full recipes at end of post)

1) Brined & Roasted Citrus and Herb Turkey (and Homemade Turkey Gravy)

I was admittedly very intimidated by cooking a huge turkey last year -- I had never done it! I researched lots and lots of methods for getting a perfectly flavorful and juicy bird, and I have to say... I was SHOCKED at how well the one I chose turned out. I'm usually the one at the Thanksgiving table with a plate full of sides and just a bit of turkey... it always seems so boring to me in comparison to everything else! Not this one though. I couldn't get enough! Yes, it involves brining a huge bird in your vegetable crisper drawer overnight, which was a new cooking adventure, but it's totally worth it. I know I'm bragging, but this was definitely one of the best turkeys I've ever had.

2) White Cheddar and Gruyere Mac 'N' Cheese

Ummmmm yeah. Do you need to read the name of this dish again? How could that NOT be amazing? This has my pick for the best dish on the Thanksgiving table. I know there's some controversy over whether macaroni and cheese is a true Thanksgiving side dish, but in my book, it definitely deserves to be there! Any excuse to eat this is okay, to be honest. I adapted it from Beecher's mac 'n' cheese recipe, which is already the best recipe ever... or so I thought... then I added white cheddar cheese and gruyere. It's just too good for words. There's nothing else to say. Except make it. Please. 

3) Stuffing with Sausage, Craisins, Walnuts, and Herbs

Stuffing is another one of my Thanksgiving favorites. I think part of it is that I never eat stuffing unless it's Thanksgiving... it's such a splurge! And so freaking delicious and carb-y and awesome! Finding a stuffing recipe I was happy with last year was a bit of a challenge -- I couldn't find one that fit everything I was looking for in a perfect Thanksgiving stuffing. I knew I wanted it to have sausage and craisins and nuts, so I ended up adapting an already-delicious sausage bread filling recipe to include everything I was imagining. It turned out great! Exactly what I was looking for, and it will definitely be on the table again this year. 

4) Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

I'm a little picky about mashed potatoes. I often find other people's potatoes too whipped and creamy -- I prefer a simpler and more "rustic" mash. The kind you get from mashing with a big fork or potato masher... NOT a blender. I also don't think some of the add-ins people use, like sour cream or cream cheese, are necessary. All I want in my mashed potatoes: potatoes (obviously), butter (obviously), half and half (or heavy cream if you're feeling particularly devilish), salt and pepper... and ROASTED GARLIC. This obviously elevates them to another level. To me, these are the perfect mashed potatoes. Add on some of the homemade turkey gravy and it's basically heaven in your mouth. You won't find another mashed potatoes recipe on my table! 

That's it. Those are the dishes worthy of returning. I also made a chocolate pie but I'm not sure it was worth the effort (and I can't get Eat Live Run's chocolate bourbon pecan pie out of my head -- that just might be my pie's replacement). Lastly, I made green beans, but I think I'll do some different veggies this year. My lemon, garlic, and basil green beans were good but perhaps not "special" enough for Turkey Day. Any ideas for delicious veggie side dishes? 

I can't WAIT to make this meal again! Yes, it's hours and hours of cooking, but I have to say -- I loved every minute of it. What's not to love? It's a day at home with my love and my brother on a weekday, candles burning, football in the background, and amazing food aromas filling the house while I leisurely prepare an epic meal of 974673 calories. It's a once-a-year event! 

Want to give any of these a try? You totally should! Recipes below!


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