Monday, February 24, 2014

Mason Jar Salads

Usually I am quite tired after a full day (or week) of work and even making a simple dinner (thank you frozen section at Costco!) is more than I want to handle.


Every once and awhile, I go in Mormon Mommy Blogger/Pinterest/Super Woman/Suzy Homemaker mode and find new powers for domestic success!

Last month I went a little crazy in my meal prep for the upcoming week. I was determined to find a low stress, affordable, and easy way to feed both myself and my even-busier resident husband a healthier diet, knowing we are both on-the-go with often little time to think about lunch beyond a granola bar or PB sandwich. I posted my first experiment on Instagram and have had so much interest/requests I figured I better do a post.

My husband and I try really hard to bring our lunches to work, mostly in an attempt to be frugal. It is usually a huge chore to realize late at night when it is already past your bedtime that you did not take the time to plan a lunch. I usually end up 1- stocking up on the carbs and packaged foods, 2-starve myself to save money (or simply because I don't have the time), or 3-cave and buy something ironically unhealthy at the hospital like a burger and fries.


I have also been striving to eat healthier--my main goal is incorporating more fruits, vegetables, and real foods into our diet. When I plan ahead I tend to do pretty well with this.

So, I decided to try the Mason Jar salad thing that seems to be trending on Pinterest and Facebook.

Since Costco is my friend (or maybe it is the other way around) I stocked up on a few staples:

Large (did I say large? I mean HUGE? 4 lbs is a lot) bag of pre-washed spinach
Container of grape tomatoes
Bag of mini bell peppers
Head of Red Cabbage

I tend to have a lot of dressings on hand already and things to supplement like eggs, cheese, craisins (Abe's favorite), nuts, tuna, grilled chicken, etc.

And then I started layering, mixing and matching as I went, using ideas I found on pinterest as a reference.

Here were my steps:
1. Salad dressing of your choice (I wasn't ever sure how much to add. If you are really a stickler, it could be helpful to measure as it was hard to judge). I used a range of creamy and vinegar based dressings to keep from getting bored.
2. Layer toppings in bite size pieces--I tried to layer things at the bottom I felt were less likely to get soggy: cheese, carrots, grape tomatoes (I felt these would hold up better than diced tomatoes, but I did cut them in half), chopped peppers, cabbage, etc, with cucumbers, eggs, and other more moist or potentially soggy items at the top.
3. Add greens. I was pleasantly surprised how much lettuce actually came out of the jars after I felt like I didn't leave much room for it.
4. Store (and admire your handiwork)--these easily stored for 1 week+
5. Grab and go!
6. Enjoy knowing you are being a little nicer to your body and feel clever doing it.

One week of lunches for two busy doctors on a diet, and a budget!

A few thoughts:

  • As far as eating them goes, I ate them straight out of the jar...or poured onto a plate (which was easier but required slightly more planning). They were large and filling salads!
  • They looked beautiful in my fridge and lasted for over one week, maybe even two (I went out of town before I had the chance to finish the last one towards the end of week two). The second week I noticed some wilting of the greens and I could tell the tomatoes were ripening, but they were still edible. This probably depends on the freshness of your produce of course!
  • You can mix and match for variety. I tried some more cobb-type salads with cabbage, tomatoes, eggs, cheese, more of a Caesar type salad with parmesan and creamy dressing, as well as a fruity vinaigrette with craisins, mandarin oranges, and almonds.
  • Adding a protein like tuna, eggs, grilled chicken helped me feel more full, made it more enjoyable, and kept fine.
  • Be aware people may give you weird looks, almost everyone will question what you are doing, and most will think you are a real Martha Stewart!
  • This was very affordable and a great way to get some extra veggies in to my day!
  • I read some people would place paper towels or crackers at the top of the jar to absorb moisture. I tried this in a few jars but found it unnecessary. It actually just made me paranoid, of eating the paper towel!
  • I would like to try more toppings and types of salads: southwest with avocado, corn, salsa, fajita meat; fruits like strawberries, blueberries with candied nuts; beans, feta cheese, quinoa, bacon, beets, etc.

 This is 1-2 weeks later. A little misty in there, but not bad!
And what to do with the 3.5 lbs of spinach you have left over?


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Our life looks pretty cool online!

Displaying photo.JPG

Time for the classic "make you jealous because my life looks really awesome when I post some parts of it online" (or simply, "vacation in winter") post. I've been a little deep or even melancholy in my posts lately. I'm certainly not pulling my weight in the make yourself feel bad compared to your online friends category. So here goes!

Abe and I recently arrived home from a wonderful week of vacation! I think this was our first full week off together this academic year. It feels like we have been go-go-go for months, being on-call a lot and through the holidays, recovering from our burglary, not seeing each other much, etc, so this was a much needed and appreciated vacation.
Displaying photo.JPG
(The other) Amber and Erin

We arrived in Baltimore on a Saturday. Strangely enough we realized we have a bunch of friends in Baltimore. My childhood friend Amber picked us up from the airport and we met her little (or not so little) kiddos and saw her husband Brett again. Amber is one of those friends who just feels like home. No matter how long (8 years?) it has been, it feels like we just pick up where we left off.

Displaying photo.JPG
Roof top deck: Do you think we could add one of these to our house in Iowa?
We stayed the night with our friends Kyle and Katie in their adorable row home in downtown Baltimore. The exposed brick, multiple levels, and rooftop deck made us wish a little bit we were living the exciting life in the city instead of our Iowa reality (but traffic and crime made me grateful for home). They were nice enough to chauffer us around and help us arrange a dinner with some other friends for Abe's birthday (the Londons and "Uncle" Sterling and his cute family).

Displaying photo.JPG
Who knew we had such a "crew" in Baltimore? It was great we could have a REAL party for Abe's birthday.

Displaying photo.JPG
"Fishing" with the girls at the Harbor

Then they said Bon Voyage as they dropped us off for our cruise.
Displaying photo.JPG
As if it wasn't enough food, I arranged to have more brought for a birthday surprise.

Displaying photo.JPG
Just getting on the ship and enjoying the best part right away: food!

Displaying photo.JPG
Wondering a bit if we were on a Titanic adventure, waiting in our room in the Harbor in Baltimore.

Displaying photo.JPG
A little windy but hey, no coats!

Yes, we left out of Baltimore, which was a little strange, I know, but actually pretty great. The Baltimore weather was in the 50s and overnight it was warm enough to swim out on deck. We didn't swim out to the deck (isn't that what that line sounded like?), but after walking, could swim on the deck if we wanted. After a few days at sea, we arrived in Florida.

Displaying photo.JPG
Feeling triumphant on the beach after receiving texts from home about the Iowa weather

We spent a day at Cocoa Beach. We laughed that we were swimming in the ocean when there was a 2 hour delay for cold and snow back home. What a wonderful break from winter!

Displaying photo.JPG

The next day, we arrived in Nassau, Bahama. We rented a scooter and braved the "wrong side" of the road driving to explore the island. We found a few quiet beaches and toured an historic fort. A lot of the people on our cruise said they liked our next stop, Freeport, Bahama better, but I really enjoyed Nassau. Maybe it was the freedom of driving a bike in the open air (it's been way too long since I've been on a motorcycle) next the sea with my honey close, but it was pretty great.

Displaying photo.JPG

Our third destination was Freeport, Bahama. We had no plan for the day but hoped to find a beach. When we got off the ship we noticed there wasn't a lot happening at this particular port. In fact, it was pretty industrial. We sat on a bench trying to decide what to do when a group from our ship came and asked us if we would like to join them on a private chartered trip to a local beach. Not having a better option, we said yes and hopped into a van with a dread-locked Bahaman and a group including a dopple-ganger (sp?) for the grandpa from Duck Dynasty. We got a tour of the island as we drove and sure enough, spent the morning on a very quiet, almost private white sand beach (the same beach as the house where Johnny Depp stayed while filming Pirates). The water was warm and clear and blue. We drank pineapple juice and enjoyed the sunshine until we had to make it back (way too early) to our ship.

Displaying photo.JPG

We enjoyed another afternoon in the sunshine on the deck as we headed back up the coast toward Baltimore. Unfortunately, the next day at sea was stormy and cold. We had really hoped for one more day of sun, but we were happy for what we got. We spent the day reading and napping and getting just a little fatter before getting ready to come home.

Displaying photo.JPG
Starting to get a little chilly for the swimsuit alone

What a great trip! I don't know if it was the vacation itself or the timing (man, we needed a vacation -- a break from work and winter, not to mention some time together!) but that was the best vacation I can remember.

Who wants to come with us next time?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

New Horizons

Displaying photo.JPG

Displaying photo.JPG
Feb 20 will mark the four month mark until I am finished with residency and become an Oral Maxillofacial Surgeon. Yesterday I had my last patient work-up for orthognathic (corrective jaw surgery) surgery. In a few short weeks I will be finished with my last month as "Clinic Chief," with only one month of "Trauma Chief" left for the rest of my residency. I am checking off the boxes in my to-do list before the end of residency, and as the checks are adding up, the list is getting shorter. So, life is pretty good.

But (oh the ever present but!) I do have a lot on my mind. I had hoped to be well settled into my plans for "next year" (which really just means my plans for after June 20, 2014, which as I said, is coming up!) by now. Instead, I am still weighing different options and mostly just waiting on additional information before I can make some decisions. I know I still have some time, but these things take time (I've been learning) and a lot of that doesn't seem to be up to me. So, I am trying to be patient before I have a freak out moment (I've been pretty good so far, surprisingly), and hoping that all of the players involved will have a time table that involves me having a job I am happy with come summer. I feel lucky I have options. I am blessed that my chosen career should lead to employment in hard economic times. And I am even more blessed and lucky that I should be well compensated doing a job I enjoy. So I'm not complaining. But I am a little stressed.

My biggest goals in the process are to find a job I will be happy doing (at least most days), pays fairly and comparably for the work I am doing (one of my biggest fears is that unfortunate reality that women still make 75 cents on the dollar to men for the same work), and will allow me to continue to build my skills as a surgeon and as a stepping stone for the rest of my career. Oh, and it has to be close enough for me to live with my husband.

So how about a few horizon, cloud pictures I found pretty to help you contemplate my proverbial new horizons...

And please let me know if you know the perfect OMS job in my area!

Displaying photo.JPG