Thursday, March 26, 2015

Magical Healthy Alfredo Sauce

Hey All! This is going to be a quick little post because I just created a new recipe that I'm 100% stoked about, and I don't want to forget what I did! You know those foods that you just kinda have to give up completely when you commit to eating healthy? Well, one of those foods is Fettuccine Alfredo. Sorry to burst your bubble if you didn't know....but the traditional ingredients are butter, cream, cheese and salt. A restaurant style serving is about 1500 calories. Yikes!!

Anyway, this doesn't happen to me very often, but the idea for a recipe struck me; healthy Alfredo! I had begun to experiment with skim milk based cottage cheese blended up as a base for things, and I had heard that cashews can be used to make a cheese substitute. And the Wheels started turning. So, here it is:

1.5 cloves of fresh garlic ( I buy a big bag of the pre-peeled stuff each week)
1 cup cashews
2 cups water
3-4 tsp salt (salt to taste! I never measure this so its really hard to estimate)
2 tbsp fresh diced parsley
1 tbsp fresh diced chives
1 cup Nancy's organic low fat cottage cheese (this is the exact brand I used, organic makes a difference w/cottage cheese)
1 cup skim milk
3 tablespoons lemon juice(once again add to taste based on your preference)
1 tbsp. parmesan cheese (optional)
very small amount of olive or canola oil

1.) Turn on oven to 400 degrees.

2.) Combine 1 cup of cashews with 2 cups of water and two tsp of salt in a small pot. Turn burner on high and bring to a boil. Let boil for 1 minute and remove from heat. No need to waste time babysitting this as you're waiting for it to boil; start working on the rest of the sauce!

3.) After starting cashews on the stove, peel garlic. Set aside 3 pieces. Take the rest and very lightly coat them in oil. Put them on a baking sheet, and insert them into the oven. (no need to wait for it to fully preheat, this isn't a precision game!). The purpose of this step is to roast the garlic and give the sauce a sweeter, fuller garlic flavor. This takes approximately 10 minutes.

4.) Drain water from cashews, and dump cashews into blender. Add parsley, chives, raw garlic (3 pieces you set aside) and lemon juice to the blender. Blend until mixture is smooth

5.) Add 1 cup of cottage cheese. Blend.

6.) Add 1 cup of skim milk. Blend.

7.) Take garlic out of oven and add it to blender. (it should be starting to turn golden brown). Blend until smooth.

8.)Pour mixture from blender into saucepan on low heat. Gently stir for about 5 minutes. Add salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste. Add 1 tbsp of parmesan cheese if you feel so inclined.

9.) Serve the magic!!

If you are trying to keep you calories down, serve on spaghetti square, however, spinach fettuccine noodles are my absolute fav! Enjoy! Let me know what you think if you try it, and any suggestions to make it better :)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Operation: #NoMoreCheatDays

So here it is, the totally unpredictable post where I pledge to improve my fitness in 2015.  Here's the thing: I'm extremely optimistic and confident because I last year I learned what it took to be healthy AND look good.  I also learned how great it was to feel like a little hottie again ;) No shame here, peeps.

I always have some sort of phrase that keeps on playing over and over in my head.  Last March when I initially started the kick, it was #NoMoreCheatDays.  I literally would say to myself "HASHTAG no more cheat days!"

Although I still follow that general train of though (because I have to just to keep my "cheats" to a minimum, my new motto is "#Operation:SkinnyBitch2015."   I apologize in advance for using profanity, but for some reason I find it a little ironic and catchy, and it's what is sticking.  It makes me smile and not take myself to seriously, but is still keeping me motivated.

The key factor I found to work for me was to make an effort to eat really healthy. I haven't really bothered with calorie counting.  Instead I focus on finding meals that are high protein, and also eating lots of fruits/veggies.  I also try to choose the lower calorie option if I have a choice, but I don't count my total calories throughout the day.

I basically prepare all of my breakfasts, and 4 out of 5 dinners for the week.  I can never seem to get to all 5 - I always seem to have some social activity come up that prevents me.  Also - I gotta eat the leftovers!

So, without further ado, here is my meal plan for the week!

Alternate as preferred between these three:
1.) 1/4 -1/2 cup scrambled eggwhites with salsa (scramble the salsa into the eggwhites for full flavor)
2.) Old Fashioned oatmeal made with Almond Milk (add some Agave and cinnamon for flavor)
3.) Greek Yogurt Posicles
Source: Fruity Greek Yogurt Popsicles by

Note: My go-to is egg whites and salsa.  Egg whites are protein packed, and I prefer savory foods for breakfast!

Snacks: 1 snack between breakfast and lunch, 1 snack between lunch and dinner every day.
Pick your favorite!
1 serving of health nuts (I usually choose almonds or cashews)
1 serving of Edamame
1 Serving of fruit (apples slices, stawberries, or raspberries are my favorite)

1.) Stir fried broccoli beef with classic brown sauce
Source: America's Test Kitchen Comfort Food Makeovers page 52
2.) Beef Tataki 
Source: Beef Tataki Recipe
3.) Cashew Chicken
Source: America's Test Kitchen Comfort Food Makeovers page 37
4.) Spaghetti Squash Lasagna with Broccolini
Source: Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Recipe

A few notes on these dinners - these are all healthy spins on the classics.  You must follow the "healthy" version of the recipe or there is a good chance they won't actually be that healthy.  I am obsessed with my Comfort Food Makeovers book/magazine.  Its so awesome and so worth the money!  The recipes can't really be found online anywhere because America's Test Kitchen has done a good job locking down the content. is an awesome free resource, and one of my go-to's for recipe ideas and baselines.

Also for my vegetarian friends, recipes one and three can both have tofu, or fake meat in substitution for the animal meat.  Two is basically a no-go unless you are Carnivorous, but 4 is vegetarian!

Grocery List:
1 lb chicken breast
1 lb thinly sliced flank steak
1 lb top sirloin steak

1 small spaghetti squash
1 bunch broccolini
1 fresh ginger root
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup chopped scallions (can use green onions as substitute)
1 clove of garlic
3 red peppers
1 lb broccoli crowns
8 oz snow peas

8 0z water chestnuts
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
red pepper flakes
lemon juice
hoisin sauce
soy sauce
1/4 cup roasted cashews
Cooking Sherry or Chinese Rice Wine
corn starch
mozzarella cheese
parmesan cheese
italian seasoning
olive oil
salt and pepper

Hopefully I didn't forget anything! Wow that took a lot longer than I expected! I hope someone takes advantage of this :)
Don't forget your healthy breakfast and snack foods of choice!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Starting is the hardest part

On the last day before starting my new job I was eating lunch with a bunch of my old coworkers.  Amidst the excitement and congratulations, an older friend of mine pulled me aside.  The gist of his message was "you are at the top of your game here, you've invested time and learned the tricks of the trade.  When you start tomorrow, you will be at the bottom again. You won't know how to enter your time -let alone what you need to do to succeed.  Don't get discouraged; these things take time, and you will be better off in the end because of these growing pains."

And right he was.  I quickly learned that I had zero "technical expertise" in my new job - this was easy enough to fix.  I had a patient boss and Google at my finger tips.  What really came as a blow was having to start over with my team.  I had left co-workers who had felt like family, and now I felt like a foreigner intruding on someone else' family. 

I must admit, I gave in to my shy tendencies, and let myself be overwhelmed with feelings of awkwardness.  For months I came to work and watched others partake in team outings that I was not invited on, and i laughed at inside jokes that I was clueless about.  I tried being the nicest, most fun version of myself, but everyone can recognize someone who is "trying to hard," and not being authentic to themselves.

However, I also pushed through feeling uncomfortable and forced myself to ask coworkers to lunch.   It was a small step, but felt like a major victory to me.  Over time, I was able to build relationships with the coworkers I was compatible with, and before I knew it, the lunch invitations were reciprocated.  I slowly built up a new "work family" that I am happy to call both my coworkers and friends.

Now, over a year after I started my job, I am finishing this blog post that I started back when I was not exactly sure where I fit.  Although the process of fitting in was wildy uncomfortable at times, I am so grateful for the people I have gotten to know thus far.

The only regrets I have throughout this experience are related to not being strong enough to carry myself with confidence  while I was navigating the waters of a new work environment.  Even though I don't have a career move on the horizon right now, whenever it does happen I want to reread this blog post and remind myself to stay true to myself, and stay confident in who I am even if that means I won't make it into the "cool crowd" for a while.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Fitting in Fitness

Heads up Butter Cup - this blog has veered into the lifestyle realm of things :)

I have been extremely active my whole life.  On top of that, up until a couple years ago I was blessed with a fantastically fast metabolism that allowed me to eat whatever I wanted without my outward appearance taking a hit.  In fact, downing ridiculous amounts of food was actually something I took pride in.  Somehow, eating unhealthy made me feel "cool," and more accepted by my peers. 

I'm guessing you can see where this is going - in my early 20's reality hit.  I quit working out cold turkey to study for a certification exam for about 6 weeks. (terrible idea in hindsight) I gained 10ish lbs, which isn't drastic but was noticeable on my petite frame.  To be honest, I wasn't that worried about it - I figured I'd start working out again and bounce back to my college bod-no problem!. 

Psych! It took me almost 2 years to lose that weight I gained.  Here's a high level of my journey

1.) Got a personal trainer 1xweek (helped, but was too expensive to maintain)
2.) Got a new job that had a gym nearby and started working out at least 3x week
3.) Hopped on a scale-NO results, started to try to eat healthy for 2 out of 3 meals of the day
4.) Started seeing myself drop 2ish lbs throughout the week just to gain them back over the weekend (this lasted MONTHS! so frustrating)
5.) Yearning some structure for myself, Googled "1 week healthy eating plans," found one I liked on (free) and went for it.
6.) Continue to be strict about eating healthy, and started doing strength training (no longer just cardio)

At step 5, I took on a "No More Cheat Days" mentality.  When I hopped on the scale at the end of the week, I was so stoked! I weighed less than I had in over 2 years! It was only 4 lbs, but hey, 4 lbs in 6 days is something to celebrate.

The positive results kept me motivated to eat healthy, and my passion for eating delicious food has actually made this journey really fun. I am happy to say that I actually was back to the weight I was in high school. The whole experience has inspired me to start sharing some of my meals ideas in this blog - so this is your warning! I'm making a transition to more of a career/food/lifestyle blog.  It will be an interesting combo - bare with me.

Here's my theory - as professionals, we are judged on our outward appearance.  Even if we don't like to admit it, that's just a fact of life.  For me, feeling like I am at my best has ALWAYS been very closely linked to feeling like I'm looking my best.

So for others out there trying to fit in some fitness - I hope my story inspires you! Be patient! Be persistent! Be proud of accomplishing all you do each day :) 

Until next time


Wednesday, September 24, 2014


I had weekends booked up for a solid 8 weeks.

I took on the biggest project of my career at work.

I got engaged.

I bumped my workload up to managing 12 projects.

That not so unfamiliar feeling was coming back.  That "all these awesome things are happening and I don't want to miss out on any of them but I am on the edge of an emotional breakdown" feeling.

I am a constant offender of over-commitment. My parents have been hearing about how "busy" my schedule is since the second grade.  I would venture to say that my life up to 23 has led a pretty continuous cycle of "try to do everything, try to be good at everything, have fun, get overwhelmed, get frazzled, maintain an exhausted and overwhelmed state for given amount of time, admit that I am too busy and reassess, start over."

This worked okay for me until I took a step in the real world.  I learned it was a lot hard to start over, and that sometimes people take advantage of someone who is willing to try to do "everything."  I found myself incredibly unhappy, and once I got out of the situation, I took some time to do some serious self reflection.

Now that I am finding myself in the heart of a phase in life that could threaten to be overwhelming; focusing on the following has helped me to stay happy and relatively unfrazzled:

1.) Never lose site of the reason I'm so busy - if its work related it is most likely because of an opportunity I feel very lucky to have been given

2.) Focus on the good - on exceptionally bad days, I like take 5 minutes to write down a list of all the good things going on in my life

3.) Be self aware - knowing enough about myself to identify when I need to take things down a notch is critical

4.) Make the little things that make me happy a priority (staying in shape, watching my favorite shows, time with my hubbs)

5.) Taking time to make others happy (and making an effort not bring others down even when I am cranky and stressed)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Positive Reinforcement

I want to relish in this moment.  It is a small moment, and one I will most likely forget; which is why I want to capture it in text. 

Today I woke up at the crack of dawn (literally) so I could do something super amazing and cool....NOT.  I woke up early because I had a PowerPoint to create for a 1 PM meeting.  I had a piece of advice from a panel member at the latest "powerful women in IT event" fresh in my mind: "Make sure that when you are given an opportunity, you put in the preparation to be able to crush it."

So I rolled out of bed, got ready at lightning speed, chugged a ton of coffee and trudged into the office where I proceeded to battle Visio, Project, and my brain until I had a presentation that I felt confident about.  It included 2 process flow diagrams, a system ownership matrix, 2 mini project plans, some technical proposals, and a decision log.  (yes, I realize I'm bragging a little here, but HEY, it was a lot of work)

The meeting rolled around, and it went swimmingly.  I was able to lead excellent discussions with the executives in my department, and drive the decisions my team needed.  My boss and my boss's boss both took the time to personally compliment me on the presentation.

To put in the work, and then be recognized for it is a magnificently awesome feeling. Boom.

.......When I am a boss someday I want to make sure and remember how darn great it feels to have your boss give credit where credit is due, and I want to pass along that gift to my employees.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Unsolicited Advice

I do an excellent job hiding it most of the time; so, most people don't realize I'm a shy, awkward turtle at my core.  My brain tends to freeze in situations that require extended periods of small talk.

While I was in college I discovered a valuable lesson. People LOVE to give advice - like really love it.  As a naturally curious person, I found it easy to come up with question after question to ask professors, recruiters, etc.  As long as I was genuine and considerate, the information would just magically flow from their brain to mine.  Another magical result - people started  remembering me. Its much easier to remember the girl you gave life changing advice to vs. one person, among many to introduce themselves, make small talk, and move on.  

Enough about the benefits.  I want to spend this time to reflect upon the pieces of advice that have been the most valuable up to this point in my career.  Just to clarify for those of you who don't me, and see a blog riddled with a few typos; I have had a very successful career up to this point in time.  :)

1.) "It's not personal."  This phrase I find myself repeating over and over.  That person yelling at you in a meeting, who sent you an extremely snarky email, or who blew off your meeting all together - It is not a reflection of their personal opinion of your character; its just business.  It ALWAYS feels personal, but is almost always NOT personal.  Even if it is a personal insult to your character, if they are making work that personal, they are most definitely not worth the time you are going to spend fretting about it.

2.) "Be a sponge." Ask as many questions as possible, and listen to the answers. Really listen.  Google things you don't know but think you should, and don't be ashamed to utilize the crap out of Wikipedia.   Don't get overwhelmed by the fire hose of information being sprayed at you, instead, enjoy it. Take time to observe the coworkers you respect, and pick up the habits that make them successful. Be a sponge - absorb as much information as you can.

3.) If you have stopped learning and growing, its time to go.   If you are in a job where you have stopped growing, its time to start looking for a new one.  Staying in a job that is not satisfying will not only bring you down, but can bring the morale of the whole team down.

4.) Network, Network, Network.  Your network can never be too big.  You never know who will provide you that next opportunity,  offer invaluable piece of advice, or be your boss some day.