pop-in post: 2 minute healthy chocolate mug cake

Healthy chocolate cake? Say what?! We all have cravings for chocolate and sweets sometimes, and this 2-minute mug cake is a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth without derailing your healthy diet. And it's not just an empty-calorie "skinny version" of a real mug cake... it's actually a relatively healthy and nutritious snack (made with real foods) with a nice balance of carbs, protein, healthy fat, and fiber. Oh, and antioxidants from the dark chocolate. Obviously important. So go ahead, treat yourself after dinner! Or have it for breakfast, like I may or may not have done this morning...

Just a few ingredients are needed, which you probably already have in your kitchen.


meatloaf with a spicy ketchup glaze

When you hear "meatloaf," what comes to mind? Maybe an image of some gray-ish blob of questionable meat product slapped onto a plastic white plate by a lunch lady in a hairnet? I mean, it kind of gets a bad rap, right? And maybe, in part, deservedly so -- because meatloaf can certainly be terrible. That may be why I thought that I didn't like it until just a couple of years ago. But in my newly-reformed humble opinion, meatloaf does NOT deserve this low regard... if done right.

Meatloaf is made of delicious ingredients... it should be delicious! And it really can be. I've been refining this meatloaf recipe over the past year or so (with my boyfriend's taste-testing help), and it's finally perfect. I think the actual meat mixture is a pretty basic/classic combo, except that it's made a bit healthier by using wheat bread and lean beef. It's the spicy ketchup sauce (with 2 secret ingredients!) poured over top that brings it to another level. So. Good. I now make this meatloaf pretty regularly. It's cheap, easy, and tasty -- always a good combo for a busy grad student. Mix everything together in 10 minutes, throw it in the oven, walk away and be productive for an hour, then sit down to a delicious meal.

So... want to know how to make it?


almond-crusted tilapia with mango salsa

 I'm clearly a little seasonally-challenged this year, as you first saw with my spring wreath, and now you'll see with this white fish and summery mango salsa that I made.

 I mean, there is snow on the ground here. It's freezing.

I should probably be making evergreen wreaths and hearty beef stew. But honestly, if this crispy, almond-crusted tilapia with fresh lime mango salsa is wrong... I don't want to be right. It was one of those meals that you can't eat quietly - - Ryan and I were constantly letting out "mmmm's" and "oh my god this is so good's" as we ate it. The flavors are complex and dynamic, and it's like it just gets better and better as you eat it.

And, while I LOVE this mango salsa, the tilapia on its own is flavorful and delicious. I've also topped it with a cajun remoulade, had it plain, and eaten it over mixed greens. I have to say though, the mango salsa has to be my fave. Plus, the whole dish takes under 30 minutes to make.


gorgonzola herb baked chicken

Now, I know that I said I eat my simple but good and healthy spiced chicken very regularly, and that's true, but... I also have to change it up pretty often. Especially for dinner. I have a few additional chicken dishes that are in my regular rotation for quick and delicious dinners, and this is one of them. It's ready in under 30 minutes, and it comes out super juicy and flavorful. If you don't like gorgonzola, you could substitute blue cheese, goat cheese, or even feta. You could substitute in some basil or thyme instead of parsley. You could even add some pesto in place of the yogurt mix. Basically... it's quite versatile. 

I guess you could say that this dish started from this recipe, which uses the strange-but-good idea of adding mayonnaise to chicken before cooking to make it moist. I've made the original recipe before, and it's good, but unnecessarily covered in too much mayo and bread crumbs. And it needs a little something extra. So, I've re-worked it in several ways, such as by adding greek yogurt to replace most of the mayo, replacing most of the parmesan with more flavorful gorgonzola, skipping the breadcrumbs, and adding in some extra herbs. So... pretty much a different dish, but that was the inspiration!


pop-in post: avocado, edamame & tuna salad

When I made this salad for lunch, I wasn't at all planning on blogging the recipe (I didn't even know exactly what I was making until I started throwing it all together). But it turned out so good that I figured I'd share!

I eat salads pretty frequently for lunch, and they always include 3 things: veggies (duh), a protein, and some healthy fat. Knowing this equation makes it easy to prepare a quick lunch - just find something in the kitchen within each of those categories and put it all together.

To be honest, tuna is usually what I reach for as my protein when I have nothing better (like chicken, steak, or hard-boiled eggs). I don't dislike tuna or anything, it's just...okay. But on this salad, it was perfect. The combination of ingredients might sound a little strange, but somehow it works and turns into a nutritional, tasty power-salad.

Avocado, Edamame, & Tuna Salad with a Honey Lime Vinaigrette

For 2 salads
-4 cups arugula (or spinach)
-1 avocado, cut into bite-sized squares
-1 cup frozen edamame
-1 can tuna, drained well
-2 tbsp sunflower seeds
-1.5 tbsp olive oil
-juice of 1/2 lime
-1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
-1 tbsp honey

-Place frozen edamame in a microwave-safe bowl with 1 tbsp water; cover and microwave for about 2 minutes. Remove and let cool.
-Meanwhile, prepare dressing: whisk together olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, and honey.
-Assemble salads: top arugula with the avocado, edamame, tuna, and sunflower seeds. Drizzle dressing on top and finish with plenty of cracked pepper.



crockpot Indian butter chicken

The first time I made this butter chicken, I was right out of college and just beginning my cooking adventures. Well, I still am a beginner, in the scheme of things, but I was really a beginner at that point. I followed the original recipe pretty closely that first time, still unsure of how to experiment with different flavors and substitutions (especially with Indian food). It was amazing. When I tasted it for the first time, I actually couldn't believe that I had made something so delicious.

Since then, I've done a little tweaking to the recipe to fit my tastes and preferences, and it is still one of my very favorite meals to make. The way it smells when it's cooking... the complex Indian flavors... the fact that the crockpot does a lot of the work... so much to love! It's a recipe that makes you want to share it with others and make it for guests. While it's really quite easy to make, it tastes like you must have slaved in the kitchen.

Impress someone (and yourself)!


DIY spring wreath

January, February, and March easily make up the worst quarter of the year. Not to be a debbie downer or anything, but this stretch of winter just doesn't have all that much to offer - the fun of the holidays is over, and we're left with nothing but freezing days, long weeks, and a sun that goes down at 5pm. Oh, and no sign of vacation until summer. Woof. So I don't know about you, but I eagerly await everything spring has to offer... blooming flowers, warmer weather, grilling out, dresses, sandals, spring vegetables, eating dinner on the patio. And maybe I'm a little too eager for spring... this could explain why I already changed out our holiday greenery wreath to this bright spring-y one.

Too soon?

Maybe. But that's okay. It makes me happy.

This wreath was a simple, inexpensive DIY project that's easily customizable -- any colors or flowers could work. I'm sure you already know that wreaths like this are all over pinterest. I was first inspired by this one two summers ago:


saturday dinner: lamb burgers with tzatziki

Lamb burgers feel like a perfect Saturday night meal to me.

 I don't think this makes me unique, but Saturdays are my favorite day of the week. By far. Mine usually involve a balanced combination of productivity and total relaxation, which is just how I prefer it. Today was no exception. Woke up around 8 am, which, for me, is late enough to feel like I'm sleeping in but early enough to feel like I can take advantage of the whole day. Had a cup of coffee and breakfast while I watched the Today show, then went for a quick run and did some yoga. Walked to the grocery store and grabbed another coffee at Starbucks (I was passing by, soo...). Being able to walk to do my errands is one of my favorite things about living in the city. I mean, how fortunate am I to be able to stop for these views on my way to grab some groceries?! I love Baltimore.

The afternoon involved lunch out with my love and some shopping/errands around town. Oh, and the weather was sunny and beautiful. Basically, it was pretty perfect.

And it became even more perfect when I made one of my favorites for dinner: lamb burgers. I didn't actually realize that I liked lamb until a couple of years ago at an Indian restaurant. Indian cuisine does lamb right, right?! Ever since I had the most tender, delicious lamb vindaloo of my life, I've sought out any opportunity to eat lamb. And now I like it many ways - not just Indian :) 

One of my favorite ways? As a burger. With feta cheese and homemade tzatziki. And a bottle of red. Ohhh yes. 


fake confidence & sautéed shrimp

Last summer, I began my first clinical placement in my graduate program. Before seeing my very first real-live patients, I remembering feeling so nervous that I felt sick to my stomach. Who put the trust in me to do this?! I don't know what I'm doing! What am I going to say?! Will they know that I've never done this before?

That first night was a bit of a blur due to my nervousness, but I know that I walked in trying to appear 100x more confident than I was. Later, I relayed how nervous I was to my more experienced coworker, who was working alongside me that day. Her response? "I had no idea you were nervous at all!" She told me that, in fact, she was shocked at how calm I was for my first day. In turn, I was surprised, thinking that my nerves had to have been palpable. 

I realized that my strategy of at least trying to appear confident had worked! I think this is something I do more often than I even realize. In both my current and previous research positions, I am often in meetings with *important* people (at least, in our field), and inside, I'm usually feeling like an idiot -- worrying about saying something stupid, not understanding what someone is talking about... I'm not the only one, right? But, I have realized that if I just pretend that I'm feeling totally comfortable and at-home, it just might make others believe it! Now, that doesn't mean pretending that you know what you're talking about when you don't (that will just get you into trouble) -- it's just about showing a bit more certainty than you really feel. You may not be an expert, but you did something to be where you are - just be cool! Fake it 'til you make it! 

I do the same thing in the kitchen. I'll throw in a little bit of this, a pinch of that - never mind if those flavors are "supposed" go together. If it sounds good, chances are, it might be! I don't use recipes very often, and that's not because I'm an expert chef - it's because I'd rather figure it out as I go. Just acting like I know what I'm doing, even if I don't really know how it's going to turn out, makes for more exciting and rewarding cooking experiences. The worst thing that can happen is that it won't work - and that's okay. But sometimes it turns out great! Like this dish. 


I'll call it...Cajun Shrimp & Vegetable Sauté. It came together out of nowhere, based on what caught my eye in the fridge. The shrimp is coated in Cajun seasoning and Old Bay, then tossed with rich caramelized onions, garlic, juicy grape tomatoes, & peppery arugula. Do all of these ingredients go together traditionally? I don't know! But it tasted freakin' awesome, that's for sure. It comes together quickly, and can be served with toasty bread or over cheesy grits. Check out the recipe after the jump.


my go-to spiced chicken

Is it weird to credit weight loss to food? Really though, if someone made me pick one specific thing that has helped me become healthier and stronger, it would be this chicken! Or, more generally, it would be clean eating.

I've always thought of myself as a pretty healthy eater, at least most of the time. But "eating healthy" used to mean lean cuisines, low-fat cheese, 100-calorie packs, and weight watcher desserts... none of which I'd be inclined to go near now. I may do a post on the specifics of the diet and exercise changes I've made, if anyone is interested, but the bottom line is - real food is the trick! Real food like chicken, and real food like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, eggs, and nuts. And that doesn't have to mean cutting out everything you love (I will not divorce chocolate!) or that you can't "splurge" sometimes, but even eating this way most of the time can make a huge difference.

I eat this chicken nearly every day. That might sound crazy, but it's not as boring as it seems. I typically make 7-8 of these chicken breasts at the beginning of the week, sometimes more, then eat it throughout the week on salads, on its own, or in dinner recipes. I bring it for lunch several days a week with some type of vegetable and maybe some brown rice or a sweet potato. And honestly, I don't get sick of it! This is some flavorful, moist chicken.


almond butter & berry french toast sandwiches

I made these french toast sandwiches for breakfast this morning and just could not wait to share the recipe. OMG! They're amazing. Even my boyfriend, who prefers something like bacon and eggs for breakfast over something sweet (and who claims to not like almond butter), LOVED this. So, I decided to pop on over to share the recipe real quick. Please make. You won't regret it.

Almond Butter & Berry French Toast Sandwiches
Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine

For 2 french toast sandwiches
-1.5 cups fresh blueberries (or blackberries or strawberries, or a mix; frozen could work too)
-2 tbsp sugar
-1/4 cup water
-2 eggs
-3/4 cup milk
-4 slices good quality white bread (this is important... plain old sandwich bread won't cut it)
-4 tbsp almond butter
-2 tbsp strawberry, blackberry, or other berry jam
-1 tbsp butter
-2 tbsp sliced almonds, for garnish


grandma's crabcakes

It didn't take me long to decide what would be the first recipe I'd share. Since moving to Maryland, we've had a lot of fantastic crabcakes. They're the best when made from primarily jumbo lump meat, fresh from the Chesapeake bay, held together with very little filling. In Virginia they're just not the same, but I was fortunate to grow up with exposure to the real thing. My mom is from Maryland, and most of her family still lives here. My grandma passed down this crabcake recipe to my mom, who then shared it with me. These are simple, but awesome. In the original recipe, they're fried to a golden brown in vegetable oil, but they're also delicious (and healthier) broiled, as I did in the picture below. These crabcakes are just as good as the delicious crabcakes we eat in Baltimore restaurants, and just one of my grandma's wonderful legacies. Try them!

Grandma's Crabcakes

For 4 large crabcakes
-1 lb jumbo lump crab meat (no exceptions!)
-1 cup crushed saltine crackers
-1 large egg
-1/4 cup mayo
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp pepper
-1 tsp worchestershire
-1 tsp dry mustard
-vegetable oil (if frying)

-Mix together everything except the crab
-Gently add in crab meat; mix until just combined
-Form into cakes
-If possible, refrigerate for 30-60 minutes (this is especially important if frying)
-If broiling: Turn broiler to high. Place crabcakes on a nonstick pan. Broil until heated through and browned on top, about 10 minutes.
-If frying: Heat about 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Add crab cakes (being careful not to overcrowd; may have to cook in batches) and fry until browned, about 5 minutes/side.


post numero uno

Welcome to the blog that I've finally gotten around to creating! I've tossed around the idea of starting a blog for some time now, but it took a while to actually take the leap for several reasons. And since I'm a freak who loves lists (might as well throw that out there at the beginning), here's the pros and cons list I've been juggling:

Reasons for starting a blog:
1) I love to write! Always have, always will.
2) I think I have unique things to share - when I get comments on my Instagram pictures (@taylor_beee) requesting recipes (when I usually don't cook from a recipe), it really makes me want to have a place to share.
3) I love reading blogs, and it would be nice to become *one of them*
4) I'm sure it will be a nice distraction from things like work & studying :)
5) I live in a different state than many of my family and friends, so it's a good way too keep them updated (hi mom!)

Reasons against starting a blog:
1) Time! As it is, I juggle a lot too much and usually work 50-60 hours/week between grad school, my research job, my clinical job, homework, my own research, etc... so do I want to add something else? I really didn't want to start a blog unless I was sure I could keep up with it, so this was a tough one.
2) Do I really have unique things to share? There are millions of blogs out there, and it's hard to know whether mine will really add anything special to the blogiverse.
3) I take my photos with an iPhone - - So, while I admire blogs with great photography, I just have to accept that I won't be one of them.
4) On the same line as #2, does anyone really want to read what I have to say? I am sure this is a fear that many new bloggers have, and I still don't have an answer. I have no plans to become a super popular blogger, and that's really not important to me. But... it would be nice to be speaking to someone :)

So, although there were hesitations, it's clear which side I ended up on, right? It's official. Welcome to taylor made! I'm excited to share recipes, tips for juggling a hectic schedule, DIY projects, cooking tips, stories, pictures, healthy-living ideas, and whatever else comes to mind/y'all want to hear! Please don't be shy about requesting posts or recipes, or just letting me know you're there.


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