big goals.

Small, short-term goals are always on my mind. And on my to-do list. Finish that paper; research that topic; email my landlord; call the bridal store; read that chapter; make that appointment. Each small goal gets a little check mark next to it when it's been accomplished.

Small goals are important. They get us where we need to be. But what about our big goals? Goals that may never actually be checked off, because we'll constantly strive for them? These are the goals that I've been thinking of lately.

It's easy to get sucked into day-to-day busy-ness and kind of, sort of forget that you're living this one life you get now. But we are! Every day. That's all we get. It's important to remember how we are trying to live. Not just the next item on the to-do list. 

I'm pretty good at certain things. I'm also not so good at certain things. This doesn't make me unique. We all have strengths, and we all have things we need to work on in order to be a better person. These are our big goals. The goals that bring us closer to our values and who we want to be. 

Here are my big goals that I've been thinking of and working on lately:

1) Move beyond feeling compassion to showing compassion.

2) Stop being lazy about the small things. I'm kind of paradoxical in this way -- I get all of my work done with time to spare, I'll wake up at the crack of dawn to be productive, and I can work hours on end without stopping -- yet, I'm lazy about little things. Taking the empty toilet paper roll off but not replacing it; not getting gas until I really-absolutely-seriously need to; leaving my shoes by the door instead of taking them upstairs (until there's a monstrous pile); not getting up to grab my computer charger until my laptop is holding onto power for dear life. I need to work on it.

3) Continuously remember to feel gratitude for everything I have. Because it's a lot. 

4) Rely less on technology. Spend less time on my iPhone. When sitting and waiting for a friend, choose to pay attention to what's going on around me -- the sights, smells, thoughts in my head, sensations in my body -- rather than immediately reaching for my phone. When I get into bed at night, don't give in to the urge to check updates one more time. Don't let my virtual mailbox be the first sight I see when my eyes open in the morning. Spend less time on social media. I don't really need to see what that random person I went to high school with is doing these days. I really, truly don't need to see everything posted on my Instagram feed today. Nothing will change if I don't.

5) Meditate regularly. Even when I don't feel like it. Become disciplined in this practice. 

6) Live in the present moment, especially when I'm doing the things I enjoy. Focus less on the past and the future, and more on the now.  

7) Know and accept myself, while also striving to grow. As is human nature, I find myself coveting traits of others that I don't have myself. For example, I tend to be reserved, calm and quiet; I sometimes wish I could be more energetic, outgoing, and charismatic like others I see. There is a balance here: I want to accept myself for who I am and value the positive traits I do have, while also knowing that I can push my boundaries and step outside of my comfort zone in order to grow. 

So. What are your big goals? I think it's important to, at the very least, think about them. Even better, write them down and check up on yourself every now and then. Or, share them on the world wide web like me :)


healthy dessert idea: cinnamon & honey roasted plums with yogurt & almonds

I'm not one to sacrifice dessert when the craving hits. We only get one life to eat dessert, right?!

Even better when the dessert is not only sweet, delicious, and satisfying, but HEALTHY. Like....totally healthy. Nutritious, clean, low calorie... that kind of healthy. These roasted plums fit the bill. 

A good friend of mine called me specifically to let me know about this "recipe." The recipe was simple: roast plums. Eat. She said I had to try it, that they are so surprisingly delicious that I just might fall in love and want to blog about it afterwards. She was right! I spiced it up a bit by coating the plums in cinnamon and drizzling them with honey before roasting them, then topping them with plain greek yogurt and toasted sliced almonds afterwards. Amazing. 

Do I always have fruit for dessert? No. Check out my dessert from my birthday dinner the other night:

If you can't tell, this is a cookie dough ice cream sundae filled with pieces of brownies AND blondies, caramel, hot fudge, and whipped cream. I only shared a couple of bites with Ryan. And it was amazing. He took me to Woodberry Kitchen for my birthday, and it was one of the best restaurant experiences I've had EVER. For one thing, their food is wonderful: all local, sustainable, organic. Farm to table. Unique and full of flavor. Then, there's the actual restaurant. The architecture is super cool and the ambiance is comforting and charming. While it's an upscale restaurant in terms of food (and prices), it feels casual and laid-back. There's even a wood-burning fire pit and outdoor bar to hang by while you wait for your table. 

While I very rarely order cocktails (I'm a beer and wine kinda gal), I was told it was a must here, and I am so glad for that. I tried two different vodka (organic, of course) cocktails that were SO unique and amazing. 

All in all, it was a wonderful birthday experience. To make it even better, the restaurant was hosting a charity event, Dining Out For Life, the night we went and they were donating 100% -- yes, 100% -- of their proceeds to Moveable Feast, an organization that provides healthy meals (and nutritional counseling) to people living with HIV, AIDS, and other illnesses. How cool?! I felt great about ordering five courses :)

I'd recommend Woodberry Kitchen to anyone that lives in or travels to Baltimore. SO worth checking out! 

Now... back to these plums. They do not taste like a cookie dough ice cream sunday, I must admit. However, for a regular 'ol Tuesday night, this is a fantastic dessert idea: easy, fast, healthy, and delicious. Try them, and I bet you'll be surprised at just how tasty these things are. 

Here's how:


crockpot red wine beef & onions over brown rice

The crockpot is basically my saving grace when I'm way too busy and my days are way too long -- and thus, I'm way too exhausted to cook dinner when I get home. Throw the ingredients in the crockpot in the morning, turn it on, go to work, come home and eat dinner.


My work/class schedule is cruel and unusual right now -- as in, totally unnatural and not okay. Two 13 hour days in a row, plus not getting home until 8 or 9 pm three nights out of the week. UGH. I keep reminding myself that it's only 3 months... that soon enough my schedule will change again, and it won't be this bad. One of the hardest parts about having this schedule, though, is needing to plan nearly all of my meals in advance. I pack my lunch every day and also have to pack dinner when I'm gone until 9. For days when I get home by 7 or 8, I either have something for dinner ready to go (i.e., in the fridge already cooked or in the crockpot), or Ryan will grill burgers or chicken. It takes a lot of planning ahead! 

This meal is the perfect solution when I want something ready right when I get home. It's a total no-fuss crockpot meal -- no browning the meat first, not too many ingredients. And it's totally delicious! 

I usually cook up a big pot of brown rice for lunches and dinners on Sundays (or, I just use Trader Joe's frozen brown rice!), so all I have to do is heat up the rice in the microwave. By the way, I'm assuming I'm not the only one who has a hard time cooking brown rice perfectly -- it often either turns out overcooked and mushy or undercooked and hard. Yuck. But I have discovered the best method for cooking perfect brown rice every time. Check it out if you are slightly rice-challenged as I am.

This meal is simple and uncomplicated: not the most beautiful plate of food you've ever seen, and certainly not fancy. However, it's comforting, filling, tasty, and easy. Serve it with a green salad for a complete, delicious meal that takes nearly no effort. Here's how:


grillin' sides: foil packet cheesy red potatoes & grilled romaine with balsamic reduction

For me, one of the hardest things about cooking is multitasking. Keeping an eye on several things at once; making sure the bread doesn't burn while constantly stirring the sauce; running between salad-making and meat slicing. Not to mention trying to time everything correctly so that each piece of the meal is ready at once: the beef has rested for an appropriate 10 minutes, the vegetables are perfectly hot and the pasta is just al dente.

This can be further complicated if you're running between the grill outside and the oven or stove inside. Impossible! Now, all is fine when my fiancĂ© is doing the grilling outside and I'm doing the sides inside... but sometimes I like to get my grill on as well! This past weekend, I wanted to cook up a *perfect* Friday dinner: juicy steaks on the grill with delectable side dishes. How would I watch the steaks grill to a perfect medium rare outside while also cooking my sides, though?!

Lightbulb! I'll grill all of my sides as well!

An entire dinner made on the grill: filet mignon with a browned butter red wine sauce, foil packet cheesy red potatoes, and grilled romaine with tomatoes and balsamic reduction. 

Y'all. I am STILL thinking about this meal. It was honestly one of the best dinners I've cooked EVER! Don't believe me? 

I literally floored Ryan. Yep, he was on the ground, paralyzed in pure ecstasy after we ate.

I'm going to tell you exactly how to make a delicious steak dinner with grilled sides -- and make it look EASY. Because it is! The trick is preparing everything that needs to be done inside first. That way, there's no running between the stove and the grill. You can just hang outside, watch the steaks, and enjoy an ice cold beer. 

Wait 'til you try these sides. 

Foil packet red potatoes couldn't be simpler. Chop up some potatoes, toss them in olive oil and spices, throw them in some foil, close it up, and put 'em on the grill. A few minutes before they're done, top with hand-grated cheddar cheese and sliced green onions. It will melt into a packet of delicious, cheesy goodness. 

Also delicious? Grilled romaine! Who knew?! This was my first time grilling lettuce.... which, I know, sounds a little weird. Ryan was a bit skeptical. But seriously... it's amazing! The romaine gets a bit charred and there's this awesome, unique grilled flavor to your salad. Top it with diced summer tomatoes and balsamic reduction and you've got the perfect salad. Side note: have you made your own balsamic reduction yet? Don't tell me you've bought it pre-made at the store. It's as easy as pouring some balsamic vinegar into a pot and turning on the heat. That's. It. Perfectly thick, sweet, amazing balsamic reduction in just a few minutes. Do it. 

This is the meal dreams are made of. 

Ready to make it? Here's how:


crunchy thai quinoa salad

I love potlucks, but I always have a hard time deciding what to bring. I'm not really a dessert baker, so that's not usually in the cards. Making an entree -- such as chicken or barbecue or pasta -- never feels like a good option (too much pressure?). Then in general I worry about making something that's supposed to be served hot -- will there be an oven or microwave available? A socket to plug my crockpot into? Yet at the same time, I don't really want to bring something that has to stay cold in case it's being served outside (fruit salad baking in the sun, anyone?) or the food is perishable. Never know how long potluck food will be sitting out. Dishes served at room temperature seem to be the best option, but who wants to bring another bowl of pasta salad or chips and guacamole?

Okay, am I the only one that puts this much thought into my potluck dish?

The good news is: I have found the perfect thing to bring. Crunchy thai quinoa salad.

Please allow me to sing this dish's praises and explain why it's the perfect potluck dish. One: it's great served room temperature (but is also yummy leftover either straight out of the fridge or heated up). Two: it's vegetarian and easily made gluten free and/or vegan, to satisfy all of your guests. Three: it's flavorful and unique without being too polarizing (e.g., not super spicy and no super "weird" ingredients). Four: it's easy and quick -- whip it up in half an hour either right before you leave or hours in advance. Five: it makes a ton, so you can sneak away with the leftovers (if there are any!) and enjoy the rest for yourself. Six: it's healthy and nutritious, which others might appreciate in a sea of cookies and cheese dip. Seven: it's colorful and beautiful... they will be impressed! And Eight: it's amazingly DELICIOUS! 

Is that enough reasoning for ya? But, while I'm convinced that this is the BEST POTLUCK DISH EVER.... it's not just for potlucks! Cut the recipe in half and make it for a light lunch or serve it with grilled chicken or shrimp for dinner. You can't go wrong. Even my cat was into it. 

Do yourself a favor and make this stuff. You'll be addicted. 

Here's how to make it:


open-faced grilled honey lime chicken sandwiches with avocado lime cream sauce

I didn't grow up eating super healthy. Don't get me wrong, my parents fed us well, cooked us balanced dinners, and we were certainly never hungry -- but they came from the school of, "eat what you want when you're old enough to make the choice." And what do kids and teenagers want? Or at least what did I want as a kid and teenager? Cinnamon toast crunch or mini muffins (chocolate chip, of course) for breakfast, Little Debbie everything for snacks (my favorites were the honey buns, oatmeal cream pies, and nutty bars... every day... seriously), sandwiches and chips for lunch (plus some fries from the cafeteria... dipped in mayo), burger king chicken tenders when I had some cash, oreos dipped in peanut butter for dessert... yeah. For real. Fortunately, I also liked fruit and veggies to balance it out, but I basically ate whatever sounded delicious. I was a naturally skinny kid with a lightning fast metabolism, so I ate this way without gaining an ounce.

My parents both cooked, but they weren't health freaks by any stretch of the imagination. Dinners were spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, cheeseburgers, steak and potatoes, tacos. And I loved it! I don't think there's anything wrong with the way I grew up eating, per se. I was a happy, healthy kid who played lots of sports and ran around outside rather than watching TV after school; I never over-thought food and what it meant; I had a healthy, positive body image that I learned from my mom; I was never told I couldn't eat something because it was "fattening".... and I turned out just fine, if I do say so myself. I simply learned to make my own food choices; and while it took me a while (around college time) to actually start making primarily healthy choices, I got there eventually. I know lots of parents today are more mindful of what they feed their children -- and there's certainly nothing wrong with that -- but I think there's something to be said for just... not making food a huge deal for kids.

I'm sharing an adaptation of one of my favorite recipes of my mom's today. A healthier version, but still delicious. My mom still isn't a health freak. She's fit and thin -- she plays tennis nearly every day, walks 5 miles most days, and looks (and feels) awesome. But she falls more into the "eat what you want in moderation" category -- chips, white bread, half and half in her coffee every morning -- and I've certainly never seen her go near kale or quinoa or a green smoothie, that's for sure. This works for her and she's a *pro* at moderation (which I can't always say for myself). She has some super delicious recipes, too!

I remember eating her chicken sandwiches with lime mayo growing up and *loving* them. For hers, she'd rub fajita seasoning on the chicken and cook it in oil, then serve it on white buns with a lime mayonnaise. Delicious! While there's nothing wrong with her sandwiches... when I got a craving for them, I decided to make them a littttle bit healthier. Marinating the chicken and grilling it, serving it on an open-faced sandwich, and making the lime "mayo" with avocado and greek yogurt, to be specific. While I don't see my mom switching recipes any time soon, I think you all will love it. This creamy lime sauce is AWESOME!

The chicken is marinated overnight then thrown on the grill. So juicy and flavorful. I also grilled up some summer veggies -- yum. The lime sauce is the perfect tangy accompaniment to the chicken. I couldn't get enough -- and neither could Ryan! He actually thought there had to be mayonnaise in it, it's so creamy. That's the beauty of avocados! 

As I've gotten older, I'm happy to have learned that eating healthy doesn't have to mean no longer enjoying delicious foods. I'll take this over a Little Debbie snack any day! ;) 

These chicken sandwiches make for a perfect end-of-summer dinner to serve up. Here's how to make them:


homemade clean & healthy raspberry vinaigrette

Another homemade salad dressing to add to our list: raspberry vinaigrette. And this is one of the best, simplest dressings I've ever made... like, ever.

On Sunday afternoon, after a pretty indulgent holiday weekend, Ryan and I were craving fresh, healthy salads. I started rummaging through the fridge and Ryan suddenly declared that he was craving raspberry vinaigrette. He doesn't request specific things like that often (especially something as random as raspberry vinaigrette -- I didn't even know he liked it!), so I wanted to fulfill.... but we didn't have any bottles of raspberry vinaigrette. And we didn't have any raspberries. "Sorry, babe... no can do."

But then I remembered that we had a big bag of frozen mixed berries in the freezer. Why not pick the raspberries out and create a raspberry vinaigrette from scratch? Yep, I think I deserve a "fiancĂ© of the year" award for this one.  

I made enough dressing for 2 salads on Sunday. Yesterday, we both wanted more. That good. So I doubled the recipe. And we can't wait to have it again tonight!

This stuff is so tasty -- not to mention easy! It takes 3 minutes. Okay, 5 if you have to pick through mixed berries like me. The berries give the dressing such a vibrant red color and sweetness that perfectly complements the acidity from the vinegar and citrus. Mmmm.

Here's how to whip it up!


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