Challenges and Mushrooms: Part Three

My dear friends and readers, I apologize for the neglect and keeping you waiting. I hope you haven’t missed me too badly. Over the past few weeks I have been undergoing what you might call a Spring Cleaning of the attitude. This meaning that I have been challenging myself with setting goals and a steady routine. Let me elaborate by saying that I am an extremely goal oriented person. I was born with an ambitious mind that loved to see gold stars on my papers and my report card on the fridge. Even as a grown-up I love to see my hard work and steadiness turn into something I can be proud of. That being said, you would think that I am very organized and keep a planner on my person night and day…well sorry to disappoint you but that is not true. In fact, I am terrible at keeping a routine or schedule. I’m honestly not sure why this is. It just doesn’t come naturally to me. So in an effort to become more organized, I challenged myself these past few weeks with setting a weekly general plan. I mapped out what my week would look like as far as appointments, dates, chores, etc. and set a daily routine to accomplish all the small tasks I needed to complete. I even drew up a two-week Menu plan, (which is something I never do) in hopes to create some Zen in my kitchen. This has actually helped boost some creativity with my meals and allowed me to try out some new recipes without having to stress over the one ingredient I forgot to buy. (Don’t you just hate when that happens?!)

Two weeks ago, I also accepted the challenge from Sarah Mae’s blog “Like a Warm Cup of Coffee”. She encouraged women to dump their sweatpants and frumpy clothes for a week and join her in a week of getting dressed completely (plus hair and makeup) by 8am. Being a lover of yoga pants and challenges I rose to the occasion. This required a bit of planning, but I passed with flying colors. It was actually kind of fun to dress up and be creative with accessories. I think I’m going to continue this. That challenge was a catalyst to my new fitness routine. Last week I began devoting at least 30 minutes a day to exercise. In addition to the 30 minutes of exercise, my husband and I are now going to the gym three times a week. Let me just say that without his support and accountability I could not keep this up…and vice versa.

This week I guess it’s safe to say that I am trying to stay afloat with all of my new-found habits and routines. I’ve been indulging in some guilt-free reading time thanks to a special Library date with my hubby (book reviews coming soon!). I have also been spending more time with friends and family, which makes everything worthwhile. So the past few weeks I have had a bit of an attitude and life overhaul, and I must admit it’s actually been very rewarding. And so to keep my promise of the three-part mushroom series, I give you the delicious baby bok choy& mushroom stir-fry. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Baby Bok Choy& Mushroom Stir-fry

2 Chicken Breasts
2 Baby Bok Choy heads, ribs and leaves included
Raw Almonds, 1 oz. or less
Portobello Mushrooms, approx. 1 cup or more (about 3-4 whole)
1-2 tsp. Fresh Garlic, minced
Soy Sauce

1. Slice the chicken breasts in 1″ thick strips then set aside in a small bowl or dish.

2. On a separate chopping mat or clean board, chop the baby bok choy leaves and all at an angle in approx. 1/4″ pieces, coarsely chop the raw almonds, remove the tops and dice the mushrooms at a medium dice.

3. Pan sear the chicken slices until golden brown in a skillet with a bit of good quality oil.

4. Add the baby bok choy ribs and the almonds and mix in stir-fry fashion. After a minute of cooking the bok choy ribs, add in the mushrooms and continue to stir-fry. Next, add in the minced garlic.

5. When the bok choy and mushrooms are almost fully cooked, stir in the bok choy leaves and drizzle a little soy sauce over the chicken and vegetables. Continue to stir-fry until the bok choy leaves are slightly wilted. Taste and adjust garlic and soy sauce if needed.

*Serve immediately over steamed brown rice or quinoa

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Mushrooms: Part Two

It’s amazing to me sometimes how quickly time flies. Before you know it you’re another year older, and hopefully wiser. Last weekend I celebrated my 22nd Birthday. I had a wonderful birthday weekend full of surprises and lots of  fun, family, and food…all of my very favorite things in life! I will elaborate a little more about my birthday and Easter adventures in a future post, but for now I will share with you one of my cooking secrets. This recipe is one that has been frequenting my kitchen in many variations. The premise of this recipe is that food doesn’t necessarily have to be complicated or require a long list of ingredients to be full of flavor. All you really need is to start with a strong base, add some fresh nourishing  ingredients that have a nice texture, and season well with a balance of flavored oils, fresh herbs or spices. With these components in mind, you have a non-fussy delicious meal. This one pot recipe is certainly a simple one. It only requires 8 ingredients and can be completed in about  15 minutes. In continuum with our mushroom series, this dish features the Portobello mushroom and is perfect for a healthful last-minute dinner. Feel free to use this as a springboard for your next meal.

Spinach &Mushroom Rigatoni

Whole Wheat Rigatoni pasta, 2 generous handfuls
Fresh Raw Spinach, 1 1/2 cup
Baby Portobello Mushroom caps, 1-2 cups chopped
Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil Vinaigrette made from equal parts: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, fresh Lemon juice, and fresh Garlic
Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1. Cook the pasta al dente in a medium-large pot. Once the pasta is done, drain and return to pot.

While the water is boiling, gather the spinach in tight bundles and slice in thin ribbons. Repeat this step until all the spinach is chopped, and then dice the mushrooms.

2.  In a small bowl, whisk together the Olive Oil, Lemon juice and Garlic.

3. Finally, add Spinach ribbons and mushroom to the pasta pot. Drizzle with Balsamic Vinegar according to your preference, and then add the Olive Oil Vinaigrette. Turn the heat up to med-high, and stir to combine ingredients. When the spinach and mushrooms are slightly cooked and wilted, remove from heat. Top with Parmesan cheese and serve.

*Please Note: This recipe serves about two people, but it can be easily doubled, due to the flexibility of the ingredients. Simply adjust pasta and vegetable amounts.

Feel free to add extra ingredients to round it out, such as grilled steak strips, toasted pine nuts or almonds, extra vegetables, tomatoes etc.