Inspired Motivation

My fellow classmates and I have just met the “two months until summer” mark, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. The first year of medical school has been and interesting journey, and just when we think we’ve had about enough, they hit us with one more class. Neurobiology. It’s rumored to be one of the, if not THE, most difficult class of our first year. We will also be in psychiatry and nerophysiology, but neurobiology will be taking up the bulk of our time and effort. So, where do we find the motivation to make it through these last two months when the weather is just starting to warm up? I found a little bit of motivation this weekend at the Jackson Free Clinic. The free clinic is run by the medical students at UMMC for patients without insurance. I went to volunteer this Saturday, and had the best day. Two of our three patients had been working to lose weight and be healthy, and it was working for them! One women came to the realization about a year ago that she simply had to lose some weight; she started dieting and exercising and she’s now lost almost 50 pounds. She talked about what a struggle it has been because it’s often painful for her to exercise due to osteoarthritis, but she said she isn’t going to let that stop her and she’s going to keep it up as long as she can. Our other patient was diagnosed with diabetes not too long ago. He has cut out sweets and carbs and started making sure he exercises at least 30 minutes to an hour everyday. Both patients are doing great, and did I mention, they aren’t eating fried foods either.  All they had to do was change their diet and exercise. That’s the key to this whole being healthy thing. Leaving the clinic, I was overjoyed that I had seen two patients change themselves for the better. It gives me a little motivation to push through these next two months knowing that one day, I’ll be able to help people like them reach their goals. All some people need is a little push in the right direction, and that’s just the push I need to kick of neurobiology. Here’s what I’ve tried this week, shrimp for everyone!

Shrimp Tacos
I’m not exactly sure where I got this recipe. I think it might have been from Cooking Light, but I can’t find it on their website anywhere, so I’ll include the recipe at the bottom. It comes in at about 225 calories and 6.4 g fat for half a cup of shrimp mixture. This is a great recipe to toss together the night before or 20 minutes before you’re ready to eat. It has several of my favorite things in it, shrimp, avocado, and of course cilantro. I used my mini tortillas again, so I had two tacos and an orange to go along with it. It’s pretty filling, so you could serve it with a small salad or a small portion of whole wheat chips and salsa. I used frozen shrimp and served it cold, but I’ve also had these warm before with fresh cooked shrimp. I think I prefer them to be chilled, so if you cook raw shrimp, I’d let it chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Overall, I think it took about 5-6 minutes to defrost the shrimp under cold running water, and about 5 minutes to chop up the other ingredients, which you can do while the shrimp defrost. Pretty quick and pretty simple if you ask me. The leftovers keep well for a few days also.

Lemon Pepper Shrimp Scampi
I got this recipe in my email this week and figured I’d give it a try since I already had some shrimp in the freezer. I changed a couple things though. Since I was only making this for myself, I measured out the proper serving size of orzo pasta according to the package directions, it was 2 ounces for the brand I used. I also didn’t use as much butter as the recipe calls for. I used a sliver of butter (about 1/4 tablespoon) to sauté the garlic than I added my defrosted shrimp sprinkled with pepper to warm them up. Instead of having asparagus as the side, which I had planned to do, I decided to add a 1/4 cup of frozen peas into my cooking pasta. My thought was that I didn’t really feel like cooking a vegetable separately, but I really wanted some sort of vegetable. I guess it’s kind of similar to the idea of a pasta primavera, it was really great though. I added lemon juice as the recipe indicates and a little bit of parmesan cheese on top. I’ll definitely be making this one again. I think it would be especially good for having company over for dinner. Click here for the recipe.

Turkey Avocado Wrap
Yesterday, I wasn’t sure what I wanted for lunch, so I took a look in my fridge and came up with a turkey avocado wrap. I used a whole wheat tortilla, a little mesquite smoked sandwich turkey meat, half an avocado that was left over from my shrimp tacos, and a some field salad greens. I don’t eat sandwiches much, but sometimes I keep a sandwich meat around if I need to make a quick meal. This one just came together in my head as I looked around my fridge. I love avocados, whether they’re plain, in guacamole, or on a sandwich I think they add such great flavor. While they do contain fat, it’s the good kind, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much. I also added a little of my italian salad dressing to give a little extra flavor. I would try to use vinaigrette type dressings for sandwiches and wraps like this and avoid using mayonnaise and heavy ranch dressings. This would be great to pack and take to school, work, or a picnic, or if you’re in a rush and need to throw something together while you run out the door. It’s always good to keep in mind what you have in your freezer or fridge. A lot of people forget about having half an avocado or half a red onion left over after making something. Chances are, if you’re buying healthy food then you’ll have several things in your fridge that you can use to make something totally new. Also, the weather is close to perfect for growing herbs, so start thinking about doing that. I’ll try to do some research and report back about what things are easy/good to grow in the spring and summer.

Shrimp Taco Recipe

3 Limes                            1 cup medium tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
1 cup diced avocado      1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3/4 teaspoon salt          1/4 teaspoon black pepper
6 tortillas                         1 1/2 pounds cooked peeled medium shrimp


Finely grate rind from limes to measure 1 tablespoon; juice limes to measure 1/4 cup. Place rind and juice in a large bowl. Add tomato and remaining ingredients except tortillas; toss well to combine. Cover and chill for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Heat tortillas according to package directions. Spoon about 1/2 cup shrimp mixture down center of each tortilla; fold in half. Serve immediately. Serves 6 people

The Good Stuff

Since I was out of town last week on spring break, I didn’t try any new recipes. We just made some spaghetti, chicken fajitas, and fish throughout the week. I figured since I don’t have any new ones to share, I’d throw out some of my old favorites. I’m not prepared to say these are the most healthy recipes you’ll ever make, but I don’t think they are the worst. I googled a calorie calculator for recipes so I could get a feel for where these stood on the scale of health. I found, which seems to be a pretty cool website.  I haven’t had time to really see what the site has to offer, but from what I can tell, you can use it to keep track of what you eat and set goals for yourself. You can also sign up for memberships that give you access to a registered dietician. If you’re having trouble keeping track on your own, check it out and let me know what you think. I’m planning to use it for calculating the nutritional values in foods and recipes that I don’t get from Cooking Light. I just included the fat and calorie content here, but you can calculate the whole nutritional label on the site. Remember to watch out for sodium in dressings, seasonings, and cheeses. Without further adieu, here are some of my favorite go-to recipes from the cookbook at home. I’ll list the recipes at the bottom.

Greek Salad
If you have learned anything about me from reading this blog, it’s probably that I like salads. I have salad pretty much every day for lunch and sometimes I have one for or with dinner. I think this is a fortunate obsession though, since salad is so good for you (when you don’t douse it with fatty dressing). My family and I discovered this greek salad dressing in the Joy of Cooking Cookbook a few years ago, and we make it anytime we eat together. It makes a great side salad and a great meal on its own, my mouth is watering just thinking about it. I’m not sure what a traditional greek salad from Greece consists of, but here in America, I think they have become known to contain feta cheese, kalamata olives, tomatoes and a greek vinaigrette dressing. This dressing on its own has 147 calories and about 16 g fat for a two tablespoon serving. Adding about 2 tablespoons feta, 2 tablespoons kalamata olives, a few croutons, and the lettuce (which I don’t really count) per side salad serving, bumps it up to 234 calories and about 22 g fat. Two tablespoons of feta is probably a little much for a side salad portion, but I really like feta. Just remember, when cheese is involved, less is probably better for you. Whenever I make this salad to have as a meal, I basically cut the recipe for the dressing in half. If you make it a few times you can play around with the amounts and make it how you like it.

Peanut Thai Noodles
This recipe is AWESOME. I got it from one of my advisors in college, Dr. Darby Ray. She was our advisor for canterbury club and would make the best vegetarian meals for us. This one is favored by many. I figured out that it has 448 calories 17 g fat for 6, 190 g servings. The peanut butter and peanuts give it a good amount of protein and the fresh cilantro and ginger give it the absolute best flavor. I’ve never been able to find the hot chili oil in the grocery store, so I leave it out and think it tastes about the same. This is a great recipe to have with guests, it’s super easy and you don’t really need anything to go with it, except maybe a salad. I desperately crave this recipe sometimes, so I probably make it at least once a month if not more. It makes for great comfort food, especially if I’ve had a long week of studying and tests to deal with. I wish I had a picture of it, I’ll have to post one the next time I make it. Thanks Darby!

Chicken Parmesan
This is not your traditional chicken parmesan made with breaded chicken and marinara over a pile of pasta. It’s a simple baked chicken topped with a parmesan cheese mixture, my dinner for this evening actually! The “less healthy” part of this recipe is that it contains mayonnaise. However, if you eat the appropriate 4 ounce portion of chicken it comes out to less than 300 calories. It has 294 calories and 14.5 grams of fat to be exact. My suggestions for making it an okay option are to use reduced fat mayo and reduced fat parmesan cheese. It  doesn’t take that much of the cheese mix to make this tasty, so don’t pile it on too heavy. This is a great meal to make because it goes well with any type of vegetable (lima beans tonight) and a salad. I wouldn’t pair it with bread or carbs though because you’re already spending those splurge points on the cheese and mayonnaise. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that a normal serving size of chicken (or any meat for that matter) is only about 4 ounces. That’s equal to the size of the palm of your hand. Most restaurants serve way more than that, and chicken breasts from the grocery store are huge. This makes us think one person needs a whole chicken breast, which is not the case. Tonight, I’m going to bake a whole breast but only use half for my dinner tonight. I’ll keep the rest in the fridge and put it on a salad later this week. Since I’m only using half a breast, I mixed about 2 tablespoons of parmesan with about 1 tablespoon of mayo.

Fresh Marinara
I think my mom and I found this recipe on the back of a pasta package. It’s a really good summer recipe that you can make over the weekend and munch on during the week. It would also be really great to take to a potluck dinner or picnic. Pasta is not the best thing to eat all the time, but in moderation, you should be okay. I really enjoy this pasta salad because it has so many fresh ingredients in it. Basil, which is one of my favorites, is easy to find and grow in the summer, if I’m not mistaken. I can’t wait for the weather to get a little bit warmer so I can start growing my own herbs. Growing your own herbs and vegetables if you have time, makes your grocery bill a little cheaper, but also makes it easy to throw things together at home. I can’t wait to try it! The calorie calculator told me this recipe has 224 calories 9.9 g fat for one serving (serves 6-8, one serving is 106 g). I would recommend this recipe for a lunch on it’s own, or a cold side salad to go with dinner at a summer cook out. Mmmmm, I’m going to have to make this one soon, hopefully I can post a picture of it also.

Here are the recipes for all of these yummy, healthy but not too healthy, recipes. Enjoy 🙂

Peanut Thai Noodles

6 Cloves Garlic               1 bunch cilantro
2 tbsp. fresh ginger       2 tbsp.  peanut oil
1 tbsp. sesame oil          1 tbsp. hot chili oil
½ cup peanut butter     ½ cup soy sauce
3 tbsp. sugar                   3 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 lb. linguine                  6 green onions chopped
Roasted peanuts

In food processor, blend garlic, cilantro, and ginger. Then add oils, peanut butter, soy sauce , vinegar and sugar and blend. Pour over linguine and top with green onions and peanuts.  Can make sauce a day in advance. Just make noodles and microwave the sauce enough to take the chill off, and mix. When reheating, drizzle water over the noodles to add moisture and microwave.

Fresh Marinara

12 oz Shell Pasta                                                ¼ cup olive oil
¾ cup mozzarella, diced (or shredded)     2 tbsp. lemon juice
¼ onion, diced                                                 1 clove garlic, minced
8 fresh basil leaves, torn/chopped             ½ tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. salt                                                         ¼ tsp pepper
2 cups ripe tomatoes, diced

Combine olive oil, mozzarella cheese, lemon juice and toss. Add onions, garlic, basil, oregano, salt and pepper and toss again. Add tomatoes and let stand for 15 minutes. While mixture marinates, cook pasta. Add pasta to mixture. Chill and serve. Serves 6-8.

Greek Salad Dressing

6 tbsp. olive oil                                      3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. minced garlic                              1 tsp. dried oregano
10 turns salt and pepper, to taste

Wisk together in bowl and pour over salad and toss with black olives, tomatoes, croutons and feta cheese.

Chicken Parmesan

Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts              About 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Mayonaise                                                           Lawry’s Season Salt

Bake chicken at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until juices run clear. While chicken bakes, mix parmesan and just enough mayonnaise to get the cheese to hold together. Add a little season salt to flavor the cheese mix. Hot sauce may also be used, if you like. Once chicken is close to done, remove from oven and top with cheese mixture, then bake until it is slightly browned, about 5-8 minutes. One serving is about 4 ounces of chicken with one large tablespoon of cheese mix, which is about 2 tablespoons per chicken breast.

On the Road

Fortunately, during the first two years of medical school, we get a spring break. Even though I have two finals and a board exam next week, I decided to take one last spring break trip with my family. We decided to go snow skiing in Colorado, and yes, we drove the entire way. I think it turned out to be about a 20 hour trip, which we spread out over two days. While thinking about what I wanted to blog about this week, I decided that I would challenge myself to eating no fast food along the way. The easy thing to do when you’re on a road trip is stop at some fast food chain off the interstate and stuff yourself with french fries and a hamburger, not the healthiest option, right? So, I decided to change it up by not eating any fast food, the whole way out. My dad and boyfriend also suggested that I find some healthy options that you can pick up at a gas station or fast food place when you need to. So, I’ve thought of a few things that you can take along from home and a few things that you can pick up on the road.

My Challenge I was successful with my challenge, I didn’t eat one fast food item the entire road trip out to Colorado. My family didn’t either, except for one dinner at Applebee’s once we hit the midway point in our trip (I refrained and had a turkey sandwich instead). But, I rubbed off on them a little bit, which is great. For a two day trip, I needed meals for 2 lunches, 1 dinner, and 1 breakfast. For my first lunch, I had my typical lunch that I pack everyday. It consisted of a salad with tuna, a snack pack of goldfish, and an apple for dessert. This was pretty easy to bring along, I had the lettuce leftover from my week of lunches and didn’t want it to go to waste, so I just packed it like I normally pack my lunch. For my first dinner, I had a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with mustard only and about 3/4 cup of my quinoa tabouleh (recipe in Miniatures and Repeats post). For breakfast the next day, I couldn’t resist finishing off the last 1/4 of my sister’s waffle from the continental breakfast and then I had some carb-masters yogurt that I brought as well. My lunch on day two was another sandwich, ham this time, with baby carrots to go along. We made it to our destination, Brenckenridege, CO, around 4:00 the second day of our road trip.

My Suggestions for Meals
I was a little surprised at how easy it was for me to stick to my plan. Packing a few things in advance was easy to do and I’m sure much cheaper than getting fast food for the whole family. Having a loaf of bread with sandwich meat or peanut butter and jelly makes having a quick sandwich easy, no matter if you make it at home before you leave or if you take a quick pit stop at a rest area and make them there. A tortilla wrap instead of a sandwich would be a great idea also. Make sure you leave the mayonnaise out though! Salad was a pretty easy option also. All you have to do is pack the salad and dressing in separate plastic tupperware containers and toss it in a cooler. Other things that would be easy to share and toss in a cooler are things like pasta salad, tabulloeh, or anything that makes like a chilled salad. Just make sure you take along a few plastic forks and cups to eat it out of. As for meals that come from a fast food restaurant, I don’t know that there are any healthy options. You can make healthIER options though if you end up having to stop at one. Salads are always a pretty safe option, be careful of the salad dressings though, make sure to ask for low fat. Most places have started doing snack wraps, which I think are pretty good if you ask for grilled chicken. The same goes for sandwiches, get grilled chicken instead of fried chicken or a burger. Most fast food places also have fruit as an option instead of fries; as tempting as the fries are, I say go with the fruit. You can also always get a kid’s meal, which is a more appropriate portion size.

My Suggestions for Snacking
Snacking is a hard thing to avoid when you’re stuck in the car and you’ve brought lots of yummy treats. The key to overcoming this obstacle is bringing things that are healthier. I would suggest taking fruits, vegetables,  nuts, trail mix, and maybe some 100 calorie snack packs. Things like apples, bananas, and oranges are easy to eat on the go and they don’t require a cooler. Vegetables might need a little more thought becuase most require a cooler, but taking a bag of mini carrots or celery wont’ take up a lot of space. Fruits and vegetables are great snacks because they are healthy and usually satisfy your mid afternoon hunger pains. Nuts and trail mix are easy options that you can find in a gas station along the way. Just be sure to avoid nuts with salt and trailmix that has a lot of chocolate or sugary add ins. These two options require a little self control. It’s easy to grab a bag of trailmix or nuts and eat the whole thing pretty quickly, but remember that most containers that are sold in stores contain more than one serving size, so watch out for that. Taking some crackers and peanut butter are also good snack options, but remember to watch how many you eat, 4-5 should be plenty. Just try to avoid buying a huge bag of chips and a couple candy bars, that’s no good. Also, drink water, soft drinks are just another unhealthy addition to your diet, even if they classify themselves as diet. If you aren’t a big fan of water, take some crystal light packs to mix in.

On Vacation
I must say that I think vacations are a time to take a break from real life, including dieting. I don’t think every meal needs to be eaten out or that you should just absolutely loose control, but a few nights out won’t kill you. I think a balance between eating out and cooking (if you have the accommodations to do so) saves money and helps you stay relatively in check while vacationing. Plus, if you make healthy options on the road, you have more room to treat yourself once you make it to your destination. What we’ve tried to do on this vacation is eat breakfast and lunch on our own. We have bagels and cereal to use for breakfast, and sandwich and salad fixins’ for lunch. We also have fruit, veggies, crackers, trail mix, etc. to snack on when we need it (skiing takes a lot of energy you know). For dinner this week, we’ve planned on making spaghetti one night and chicken fajitias another. We attempted baked fish last night, but something went wrong. I don’t know if it’s the altitude or if it was the fish, but we ended up having to order in. I had a greek salad and some bruschetta, in an attempt to keep it healthy.

So, there are my tips for taking a road trip and vacationing, take a break every once and a while, but remember to get back on track when your vacation is over and don’t go too far overboard while you’re away!

One Last Quick Tip– If you’re in a hurry one night and not in the mood to cook, grab a ready to bake potato at the store and pair it with a small side salad. The potatoes are shrink wrapped and take less than ten minutes to make in the microwave. You can find them next to the regular potatoes. Go easy on the butter and cheese, a little should be fine though. Also, eat the skins of your potato, it’s packed with fiber and improves the glycemic index of a normal potato.

Week Seven

This is post number seven. I can’t believe I’ve been blogging for seven weeks, it’s still new to me but I’ve enjoyed it thus far. Hopefully some of you people that have been reading it are enjoying it too, and maybe you’ve even tried some recipes. I hope so! Last week was another busy week and I didn’t do much in the way of cooking until the weekend. I must say that it’s been harder to keep up with this since my schedule has gotten busier, but, in a way, I think it’s a good thing. Committing to write a new post every week has held me accountable for staying healthy, even when I may not have time. I’ve had to make time, which is great because I can make myself take a break and do something I enjoy for an hour. Keeping a journal or writing down your nutritional information for the day would be a good way to keep yourself accountable too (if you’re not the blogging type). Try it out, and see if it helps you stay on track. Here are my weekly recipe attempts, both courtesy of Cooking Light.

Baked Salmon With Dill
Two things I like in one recipe title means I’m definitely giving it a try. I really enjoy eating dill, I think it’s such a fresh and flavorful herb, and it just adds the perfect kick to most foods. Try it with your scrambled eggs, its delicious! I guess it’s typically associated with summer flavors; it’s March though and that’s close enough for me, especially in Mississippi. Basically all this recipe calls for is salmon, dill, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. And I’m sure you can guess all you have to do is sprinkle them all on top of the fish and bake it. Yep, it’s as easy as that! I thought this dinner turned out great, the dill didn’t have as much flavor with the salmon as I thought it would, but it was definitely still there and I really liked it. I pan sauteed asparagus with a little olive oil and garlic for about 10 minutes to go along with it. I think any green vegetable goes great with salmon, green beans, broccoli, zucchini, etc. You can also always have a salad, which I added also. My portion size was a little too big, as you can see in the photo, and I couldn’t quite make a clean plate. That’s okay though! I think many people are used to not wanting to leave any food on their plate, which is great, unless you have too much food on your plate and then you end up overeating. So, keep that in mind, if you feel full, stop eating and save the rest for tomorrow’s lunch. Click here for the recipe.

Shrimp and Sausage Stew
This was a surprisingly good dinner. I was a little skeptical of using the Rotel canned tomatoes, but I think they give this stew/soup the perfect amount of spicy. I’m not particularly a fan of eating super spicy foods, so if you like your food spicy, I would suggest having some hot sauce on hand. I used the original Rotel tomatoes, so I guess you could just get a can with more spice in it too. I chose to serve this one over some brown rice, but had it last night as leftovers with no rice and liked it just the same. When having soup, stew, or any kind of gumbo, it’s important to realize they are usually more filling than they seem. That means you need to be careful what you pair it with, if anything. I had a salad as you can see, but I could have had nothing to go along with it and been just fine. If you have bread, be careful how many pieces you use to sop up the good stuff at the bottom of the bowl. Other than that, I think that’s everything I can think of to go along with that recipe. It was pretty easy and I stuck to the recipe. Click here for the recipe.

Something I’ve Learned
So, who would have thought that people actually need aprons in the kitchen? I never really thought they were necessary until I started cooking more. I have learned through several experiences that when you pan sautee any thing with any kind of oil or water or possibly nothing else in the pan, it makes a mess. Oil, water, and juices pop from the pan all over the place, including whatever shirt you have on. So, I invested in an apron. I like it so much I just thought I would share it with everyone. Perfect for the medical student in me, haha.