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First Stop: Luquillo, Puerto Rico!

1/31/2013 *Sara-Marie* 1 Comments

As many of you know, last week we took our anniversary trip to Puerto Rico! Even though we've been together for 6 years, this was our first REAL vacation together and first flight anywhere together! It was very exciting. 

We had an AMAZING time and can't wait to go back. I took over 500 pictures, so I'm hoping to share a few in a series of posts.

Our first stop was Luquillo, home of one of the island's most beautiful beaches. Now we had the best/worst idea in that we left on Sunday night on a red eye and landed in Puerto Rico at 4:45am on Monday morning. The idea was the be able to spend as much time on the beach as possible before checking into our hotel room. 

The good news? We got to see the most amazing sunrise in Luquillo:
Luquillo beach known as "La Pared" - crazy waves, great for surfing. This was just before the sun stated rising.

The sunrise was amazing and I was so glad that how we spent our first couple hours on the island. 

The bad news? We were dead tired and couldn't check in until 2pm. As beautiful as the beach was, we desperately wanted a bed. 

Luckily, our bed and breakfast, Luquillo Sunrise, was right across the street from La Pared and the innkeeper was so kind to us. She gave us complimentary beach towels and beach chairs so we could enjoy the beach while our room was ready. Around 11:30-12pm, we were able to check in early and we were SOOO GRATEFUL!

I would absolutely recommend this bed and breakfast. The rooms were clean, had spectacular views, and the hospitality was second to none. The only downside, which we quickly got over, is that unfortunately there are a lot of abandoned beach houses on this street. It's actually quite sad. Some have experienced vandalism and makes you wonder what kind of neighborhood you were staying in. However, we always felt safe, Luquillo Sunrise was amazing, and it isn't touristy. Just living the island life - like the locals. We will definitely return. 

I mean, could you ask for a better location?
View from our private balcony
Around dusk
As I mentioned earlier, the beach directly across from our bed and breakfast was not really good for swimming because of the waves. However, just down the shoreline was a much calmer beach known as Luquillo Balneario. It was PERFECTO! 

So beautiful, calm waves,  just wonderful.
Panoramic view: El Yunque Rainforest on one side, Luquillo Balneario on the other

If you're ever in Puerto Rico, I would highly recommend making a day trip to visit Luquillo Balneario. Parking cost $5, $1 to use the bathhouse all day, and there are 60 food stands (kioskos) within walking distance where you can enjoy all of the wonderful, traditional Puerto Rican foods!
 Stay tuned for an upcoming post on our hike to the peak of El Yunque Rainforest, our historic trip to Old San Juan, and of course a special post on all of the delicious food we enjoyed!!!

My late grandfather gave me this towel many years ago - it came in handy, Abuelito! Love you!



1/19/2013 *Sara-Marie* 1 Comments

Vacation Time!!!


Leftovers - One of my Secrets to Success!

1/14/2013 *Sara-Marie* 2 Comments

How do you feel about leftovers?

Depending on who you talk to, people typically either hate them or love them. I'm of the kind that absolutely loves having yummy leftovers in the fridge.

Especially when you're trying to eat healthier, I find it's especially important to always have something quick and easy to eat on those busy days. Before I cut out processed foods, I would always turn to a granola bar or a microwaveable meal to get me through those times - but not anymore! So no matter how small the leftovers are, I always throw them in a glass container and refrigerate. Let me tell you, even the smallest bite of chicken or couple spoonfuls of vegetables could be the difference between you staying on track or running to the secret stash of pretzels you have at the back of the cabinet. It can be a game-changer.

I also enjoy having leftovers around because I can easily turn those leftovers into a new dish in half of the normal prepping time. That's another game-changer when you're contemplating take out because you just "don't have any time."

Plus - has anyone else realized that food tastes better the next day, anyway? Take advantage of those developed flavors! 

Today, I used some sort of leftovers for all three of my meals - which actually inspired this post!

For breakfast, I made a beautiful and delicious frittata with the leftover Roasted Vegetable Medley with Chorizo Pork Sausage from last night.

 To make the frittata, first I took out my leftovers and chopped up the chorizo into smaller, bite sized pieces:

 Then I scrambled six eggs with salt, pepper, and fresh italian parsley:

Once my cast-iron skillet was hot, I added some ghee, poured my eggs and sprinkled my chorizo and veggie leftovers:
 After the edges were starting to set, I placed the whole skillet into the oven and broiled the frittata for about 5 minutes on high. The end result was very yummy and colorful, as you already saw in the first picture above.

For lunch, I found half of a butternut squash in the fridge that I had wrapped in plastic wrap to use for another time. Well another time was today! I chopped that baby up, added a sweet potato and some onions and roasted according to this recipe. (I just omitted the carrots this time).

 To go along with my orange vegetables, I make some garlicky boneless chicken thighs on the stove top:
 Between Mark and I, we finished the chicken during lunch time but I had at least two cups left of the roasted butternut squash and sweet potatoes. As I do, I saved them in Pyrex and used them up during dinner!

Now, sometimes you have to be a little creative and allow yourself to step out of the culinary box when it comes to recreating meals with leftovers. The leftover veggies from earlier were seasoned with rosemary which is a strong flavor. But that didn't stop me from combining the veggies with my carne molida - Puerto Rican style ground beef. This ground beef has cilantro, onions, peppers, tomato sauce, oregano, olives, etc and at first thought - doesn't appear to go well with butternut squash and dried rosemary. But let me tell you - the combo was AMAZING.

 Oh and did I mention that I also roasted the seeds from the butternut squash for a nice salty and crunchy snack tomorrow?
 So today, utilizing the leftovers in my fridge, I created three new delicious meals in 30 minutes or less and a snack for tomorrow.  That's how leftovers save the day on a daily basis in our household!

To recap, here are my tips for using leftovers:

1.) Make sure to have leftovers - make a little extra of whatever you're making or even double the recipe.

2.) Save every morsel of leftovers - even if it doesn't seem like a lot, it will be worth it.

3.) Always have eggs handy - you can make a frittata or omelet with ANY type of leftovers

4.) Be creative - take a chance and add your leftovers to new dishes even if you're not sure the flavors will go well together. Most of the time, you'll just create a very delicious dish with complex flavors!

5.) Use glass containers to store leftovers - not only does the glass not absorb flavors like plastic does, but it also makes it easier for you to see what leftovers you have in your fridge. You're more likely to use it before it goes bad if you can quickly recognize what's in the container!

Hope this was helpful!



Quick & Easy Meal - Roasted Vegetable Medley with Chorizo Pork Sausage

1/13/2013 *Sara-Marie* 0 Comments

Tonight I came home starving from a long day and needed food fast! I would be lying if I didn't contemplate eating something "off-plan" so I knew I had to stuff good, healthy food in my mouth as soon as possible.

Without putting any more thought to the idea of take-out, I preheated the oven and started chopping all of the vegetables I had in my fridge. I started making my typical roasted vegetable dish (find recipe here) and then started thinking about what protein I would make alongside my veggies.

After staring in the fridge for a few minutes, I picked up a package of all natural chorizo sausage that I found in Wegman's this week.
I love finding minimally processed foods with an ingredient list I can pronounce!
Since the chorizo was fully cooked, I knew it didn't need much time in the oven to heat through. I quickly chopped the chorizo and added the pieces to the vegetables for the last 15 minutes of roasting.
Before joining the roasting veggies
The end product was not only delicious, but very satisfying and incredibly easy. In less than 40 minutes, I had a healthy and guilt-free meal in front of me that I thoroughly enjoyed.


Roasted Vegetable Medley with Chorizo Pork Sausage

Recipe Ingredients

  • 1 zucchini
  • 2 bell peppers, any color
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 cup of Brussels sprouts 
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp of herbes de Provence
  • 1 12oz package of all natural chorizo pork sausage   
Recipe Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Dice all vegetables so that they are all around the same size and place in a large baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle enough extra-virgin olive oil so that  all vegetables are coated.
  4. Generously add salt, pepper and herbes de Provence.
  5. Roast for 15 minutes.
  6. While vegetables are roasting during their first 15 minutes, slice chorizo and then toss with vegetables.
  7. Roast for another 15 minutes. 
  8. Toss again, taste test, add more salt/pepper if needed.
  9. Enjoy!


The Last Week - Good Food Recap

1/11/2013 *Sara-Marie* 2 Comments

So this week was pretty busy as I planned for another business trip to Boston, stayed for 3 days and then made my way back to PA on Thursday night. While I was away, I didn't have a chance to blog every morsel of food that went into my mouth but I did take pictures along the way! Below are a few collages of the yummy and nutritious food I enjoyed this week. Enjoy!

Top Left: Tostones (Mark's favorite) - green plantains fried in olive oil
Top Right: Organic chicken thighs, seared on a cast-iron skillet & finished off in the oven for 30 mins
Bottom Left: Hearty lunch - 3 fried eggs, 1/2 avocado, 3 all natural sausage links
Bottom Right: Roasted veggies before hitting the hot oven - aren't these veggies so pretty?!

Top Left: Roasted balsamic chicken - prepared by my mother-in-law while I was up in Boston
Top Right: The full plate of roasted balsamic chicken and roasted veggies
Bottom Left: Roasted Veggie Egg Muffins & Sweet Potato Hash with Sausage
Bottom Right: Pollo guisao (like a Puerto Rican chicken stew)

Then there was taco night at my in-laws! I made my salsa and guacamole to top our grass fed beef, which I stuffed all into pepper halves!

A special thank you to my mother-in-law for always supporting my healthy eating initiatives! 

When I finally made it back home, I came home to find my super-cute husband making bacon-wrapped steak. I'm so proud of him for starting to learn how to cook!

Can you believe we are leaving on our anniversary trip in just 9 days?! Yikes! Time to start packing!


Roasted Veggie Egg Muffins Recipe

1/07/2013 *Sara-Marie* 6 Comments

I was inspired to create this recipe by three things:
  1. Pinterest
  2. Upcoming business trip
  3. My friend, A'sha
I've seen many different variations of egg muffins on Pinterest and it's been on my to-do list to give them a try. Since a lot of them include ingredients I don't eat any more (cheese, milk, etc), I knew I would have to come up with my own recipe. With an upcoming business trip this week, I figured it would be a great opportunity to pack myself an easy, quick, affordable, and nutritious meal option while away from home. Lastly, while one of my best friends, A'sha visited me this weekend, she was continuously asking me how she, a future doctor, could eat healthy on-the-go. I encouraged her that it was possible, but the key was preparation. (See: My 5 Tips for Eating Clean)

This egg muffin recipe is not only nutritious and delicious, but very easy to prepare on a Sunday night before a hectic work week, and reheated in the microwave for a few seconds on your way out the door. With a quick punch of protein and vegetables, you'll be sure to stay full all morning.

You could also make this into a quick lunch. Pair two of these egg muffins with a side salad and some avocado slices for a completely satisfying meal. Yum.

Now, onto the recipe!

Roasted Veggie Egg Muffins Recipe

Recipe Ingredients*
  • 9 large eggs
  • roasted vegetables, leftovers or freshly roasted (see my recipe here) 
  • handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • olive oil, to grease the muffin pan
* Feel free to add any ingredients into your muffins - just like you would an omelet or frittata

Recipe Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2. Grease a 12 count muffin pan with olive oil, butter or cooking spray
3. Scramble the eggs in a large bowl. Add salt, pepper and chopped fresh parsley

4. Fill each, already greased, muffin cavity about half way with the already roasted vegetables.
5. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, fill each cavity with your scrambled eggs.


 6. Bake for 13-15 minutes and then broil on high for 1-2 minutes. My batch needed the broiling to make the tops nice and golden brown.

7. Eat right away if making for breakfast at home or pack away in a glass dish for easy retrieval throughout the week. I ended up keeping 6 in the fridge and freezing 6 for use next week.



Roasted Vegetable Medley Recipe

1/07/2013 *Sara-Marie* 0 Comments

I make some variation of this roasted vegetable medley at least once a week. It's so easy and nutritious I began to wonder why I hadn't posted the recipe yet! I was first inspired to make this dish by my mother-in-law. In fact the biggest picture above is from when she made it for me when we were visiting during my first Whole30.

This recipe really is so simple. Gather whatever vegetables you have in your fridge, toss with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and some dried herbs. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Toss again and consume!

As you can tell from the pictures above, my roasted vegetable medleys are hardly ever exactly the same. The ingredient list below includes all of the vegetables I would love to always have on hand and include in this recipe, but feel free to add or eliminate any vegetables based on your preferences and/or what you have available.

Roasted Vegetable Medley Recipe

Recipe Ingredients
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 1 zucchini
  • 2 bell peppers, any color
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1-2 cups of Brussels sprouts 
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp of herbes de Provence 
Recipe Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Dice all vegetables so that they are all around the same size and place in a large baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle enough extra-virgin olive oil so that  all vegetables are coated.
  4. Generously add salt, pepper and herbes de Provence.
  5. Roast for 30 minutes.
  6. Toss again, taste test, add more salt/pepper if needed.
  7. Enjoy!


Whole21* - Day 6 & A'sha's Visit Continues!

1/06/2013 *Sara-Marie* 2 Comments

The picture to the left is so ME. I am truly at my happiest when I'm in the kitchen, my hands covered in spices that will soon make my meal so delicious, and wearing a "Wild Woman" apron. What could get better?

My sister took this picture last night as I was excitingly making dinner for both her and my friend A'sha who was spending the weekend with me. It was a REALLY good time, but I'll get into more detail about that a little later on. 

Whole21* Eats - Day 6
Meal 1: We slept in on Saturday morning so I decided to make a large brunch when we finally woke up. We were ravenous. I made sweet potato hash with sausage and topped with avocado and fresh cilantro - along with some fried eggs. It was so satiating.

Over breakfast, Mark and I shared with A'sha our new approach to eating and tried to explain some of the key learnings from the book "It Starts With Food". As a medical student, she was very intrigued but had a lot of questions. I encouraged her to read the book for herself. When A'sha's parents called to check in, A'sha started telling them about what we were discussing and they became interested too! Now they all want to try a Whole30! I love it. Spreading the good food word.

A'sha excited to start eating her brunch!

After talking all afternoon about nutrition, we decided to do some shopping! My sister works at the nearby outlets, so when we went to visit her, we made plans to all hang out for dinner.

I LOVE to cook for others and it brings me so much joy to see people enjoy my food creations, so I was very excited to put together a great dinner meal.

Meal 2: As you can tell from the picture above, I decided to season a whole chicken with my typical roasted chicken recipe. It's how my mother taught me how to make pollo al horno (chicken in the oven) with some additional tweaks I've made over the years of cooking on my own.

There's plenty of garlic, oregano, parsley and some Puerto Rican spices. This chicken is what Mark's family just lovingly calls "Sara's Chicken". I don't really measure anything when I make this chicken (or when I cook in general), so one day I'll have to try to really observe what I do so I can share this recipe with all of you!
What can I say, I'm a hands-on cook!
Upclose & personal, just before going into a 375 degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes

The final plate
I paired the chicken with mashed cauliflower and my roasted butternut squash recipe. The girls really loved it and I was thrilled to see them practically lick their plates and go up for seconds. There's no better compliment than that. 

We spent the rest of the night sharing stories, laughing uncontrollably, and showing my sister some of my crazy dance moves. Not that she doesn't know - but I like to remind her that her big sister still got it!


*We are following the Whole30 program for only 21 days since 1) we've done it completely before and 2) we're just trying to clean up our habits before going on our anniversary trip on 1/20/13


Whole21* - Day 5 & A'sha Comes to Visit!

1/05/2013 *Sara-Marie* 0 Comments

Today was an eventful day!

Whole21* Eats - Day 5

Meal 1: I woke up a little late and work was busy first thing, so I only had a banana and a tablespoon of cashew butter for breakfast. I don't even have a picture because I had no time!

Meal 2: Lunchtime was a much more filling meal! We had 3 scrambled eggs, steak bites and lots of salsa. I think I made up for the protein I lacked in the morning!
Then, one of my dearest best friends from college decided to come visit me! It's been almost a year since I've seen A'sha, when she was a bridesmaid in my wedding last January. She's been busy becoming a doctor! Very proud of her. Her most recent rotation brought her within 3 hours of me, so she decided to come visit. Lucky me!

When she arrived, we got dolled up and went to a new tapas place in my area. It was really cute and the food was delicious!
S & A - All grown up :)

We talked for hours about everything and anything and it was so nice to catch up. In college, we were actually a trio - with my other best friend Stephanie. Wish she could have joined the fun!

Back when we were babies - Spring Break - Miami - 2005
Also Spring Break 2005 - it was a fun time! :)
There we are again - all grown up, getting married and stuff.
Okay, back to the food!

Meal 3: Asian pear salad and filet mignon. I tried to pick the safest meal options I could find on the menu, but I'm sure I consumed something technically not Whole30 compliant. It's just one of the risk of not preparing your own meal. But it was delicious and it was worth spending the time with my future doctor!

I'm excited to spend the rest of my weekend with A'sha. I think shopping and pedicures are in the near future!


*We are following the Whole30 program for only 21 days since 1) we've done it completely before and 2) we're just trying to clean up our habits before going on our anniversary trip on 1/20/13