Health

New Year, New Goals II

Holy cow – it’s 2016. I know we’re two weeks in now, but it still hasn’t set in for me yet. Around this time last year I wrote a post called New Year, New Goals, and I thought it would be fun to look back on my goals from last year and set some new ones for this year. These were my goals from 2015 and how I did with them:

1. Floss. – Well, lets just say that I’m still on my dentist’s naughty list. This one is going back on the goal list for 2016.

2. Read more. – I read/listened to a lot of books this year! Some of my favorites were the Cormoran Strike novels by Robert Galbraith (AKA J.K. Rowling), Bossypants by Tina Fey, and Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.  This goal definitely help me rekindle my love of reading. Actually, I loved this goal so much that I’m keeping a version of it.

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3. Run in a few fun races. – Womp, womp. I did not run in any races this year! I walked in a turkey trot on Thanksgiving, but no running. I think this is a good example of not making my goal specific enough. This one is going back on the list, but I’ve made some progress already.

4. Clean for 20-30 minutes each day. – I would say I did OK with this goal. There’s room for improvement, but overall I did a better job of spreading out tasks so that I didn’t end up with a DEFCON 1 cleaning situation.

5. Be a supportive spouse. – Obviously, this is a goal that has no stopping point, but Derek and I feel great about the past year. It wasn’t the easiest year with him interviewing and me continuing to work a difficult job, but we both felt supported and happy with each other despite the craziness going on around us. It is such a blessing to know that whatever changes come our way this year, we’re in it together.

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And now for my updated goals for 2016 . . .

1. Floss. – I am determined to have amazing gums!! (<– This is an example of things I think to myself but perhaps shouldn’t blog to the world. Oh well.) I already ordered some floss picks to make it a little easier. (My teeth are REALLY close together.) I’ve flossed 4 times this week; I just need to keep it up!

2. Run the Tarheel 10 Miler in the spring and a half marathon in the fall. – I signed up for the 10 miler on New Year’s Day, and I have my training plan on the calendar. BOOM. DONE. Now I just have to actually train . . .

I’ll wait to sign up for a half once I know where I’m living in the fall. It’s weird to think that I could be signing up for a half marathon in New York or Ohio or Alabama. It will be a good way to get to know my new home if we end up moving this summer.

3. Read 4 nonfiction books. – As mentioned above, my reading goal from last year worked wonders. However, I ended up reading fiction books almost exclusively. I really enjoy nonfiction, so I want to incorporate more of that genre this year. I think my first pick will be Sisters in Law by Linda Hirshman. As mentioned previously on the BNP, I’m a fan of the Notorious RBG.

4. Say “yes” more. This is something I started working on a few months ago, and it’s gone well thus far. I have a tendency to be a bit of a homebody, especially since I started working. I’ve always been an introvert, but the addition of working with people all day, and most often people who are facing serious illness and major changes to their lives, made me want to spend more time alone at home. And sometimes, that’s what I need – but I started staying home too much and felt like I was missing out. I’ve found that if I push myself a bit, I end up having a lot fun. My mid-2os are the perfect time to work on self awareness and finding that delicate balance between having memorable experiences and knowing when I need downtime.

5. Stay flexible and open-minded. As I mentioned in my previous post, Derek and I are facing many changes this year, including the possibility of a long-distance move in June. I am a planner, and it’s hard not knowing much about our future. Instead of stressing out about the uncertainty, I want to reframe it as an opportunity to work on being more flexible and open-minded.

Thanks for reading about my goals. I’d love to hear about some of yours, too. I hope that everyone is in for a happy, healthy 2016!

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Lentil Stew with Spinach, Sausage, and Sweet Potatoes Recipe

Hello friends! Hope you’re all surviving the heat. Late July/early August is always rough here in North Carolina. With that said, you’re probably looking at the post title and thinking, Who makes stew in July? Well, I do. I was wishfully think about the crisp, cool days of fall, my favorite season, and I just happened to have a few random items to use up that worked for a stew. So I decided to pretend it was a beautiful fall day and ignore the oppressive heat outside. Besides, I’m one of those weirdos who has no qualms about eating soups and stews all year long. Anyway, hope you enjoy it!

*Apologies for my sad, dim photos. Hopefully I’ll have a kitchen with more natural light in the future!


Lentil Stew with Spinach Sausage, and Sweet Potatoes 

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 3/4 to 1 lb sausage of your choice
  • 1.5 medium onions, chopped
  • 2-3 tsp minced garlic
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 bag of spinach
  • 1 lb sweet potatoes cut into 1 in pieces
  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • salt and pepper to taste

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Quick note on ingredients: I used a mix of chicken stock and broth because I didn’t have enough broth, and it turned out fine. As far as sausage, I used Trader Joe’s Sun Dried Tomato Chicken Sausage, but whatever sausage you prefer or have on hand would work. Finally, I used spinach as my green because it’s what I had. Other greens would work just as well. Make it your own!

Instructions:

1. Heat oil in large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook for 8-10 minutes or until cooked through if you’re not using pre-cooked sausage.

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2. Add onions and cook 3-5 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add garlic during the last minute of cooking the onions.

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3. Add broth, sweet potatoes, lentils, salt, and pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered for about 25 minutes.

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4. Add spinach and continue simmering, partially covered, for 5-10 more minutes, or until the sweet potatoes and lentils are tender.

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5. Allow stew to cool for 5-10 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

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Daredevil, Farmers, and a Spy {Weekend Recap}

As it has been yet another month since my last post, it looks like I attempted my return to blogging a bit too soon. Womp, womp. I thought the worst was over after Derek’s surgery and internal medicine rotations, but then he was on the neuro ICU for a few weeks. It wasn’t as bad, but it still involved 60+ hour work weeks. Now Derek’s on his last rotation of third year. It’s outpatient medicine, which means normal hours! I’m pumped about it to say the least.  Anyway, suffice it to say that I’m back for real this time. On to a weekend recap!

I had a long, busy week at work so Friday evening was pretty low-key. We spent the night on the couch watching Daredevil on Netflix and drinking wine (me) and beer (Derek). If you haven’t watched Daredevil yet, I definitely recommend it. It’s fun and surprisingly well written.

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On Saturday morning I headed to the South Durham Farmers’ Market to stock up on fresh veggies.

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I’ll probably write a more detailed post on this later, but I’ve been making an effort to shop at farmers’ markets instead of the grocery store. I’m making the switch for environmental, economic, and nutritional reasons. Not to mention the food just plain tastes better than the grocery store!

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I grabbed an iced coffee on my way out. Such a treat.

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After my farmers’ market adventure, I stopped by the library to drop off a couple books.

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I recently finished the audio book version of Eleanor and Park.

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Yep. Totally snuck into the YA section to grab this one. It was worth it. I grabbed a couple of cookbooks for inspiration on my way out, too.

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Later in the afternoon, Derek and I headed to UNC to hang out at the pool. Warning: paleness ahead.

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The weather was perfect, and it was our first pool day of the year! After we got cleaned up, we went out for dinner at our local Mexican place and then headed to the movie theatre. We saw Spy on a whim and really enjoyed it. It certainly made me laugh, and I always appreciate a feminist storyline.

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Today we’ve catching up on a lot of things around the house. We did some serious cleaning and laundry, which was much needed, and I cleaned/chopped/peeled all of my farmers’ market purchases so they’re ready to use during the week. As tedious as taking care of the house can be, I love the feeling of having a clean and organized home.

I’m thankful for such a relaxing, restorative weekend. Here’s to hoping the week ahead is just as good!

Pros and Cons of Blue Apron

*Please note that I have no affiliation with Blue Apron, and I did not receive any gifts, money, or any other type of compensations for writing this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 


I recently tried out Blue Apron, a meal kit service that delivers ingredients and recipes to your house, and I wanted to share my experience. Fun fact according to their website: French apprentice chefs wear blue aprons, which have become “symbols of lifelong learning in cooking.” What a perfect name for the company! Anyway, on to the pros and cons of Blue Apron . . .

Pro: Delivery. I was a little worried about the meat, fish, and poultry staying at the correct temperature while it was sitting on my porch, but everything worked out well. The food arrived on time and was kept fresh in its packaging. Bonus points: you get to keep the super cold icepacks inside. I definitely plan on reusing those.

Con: Packaging. There was SO much packaging. If you’re environmentally conscious, be prepared for the amount of waste. Some of it is recyclable, but I still ended up throwing a lot wrappings in the trash.

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Pro: Less food waste. In contrast to concerns about the package, the ingredients are perfectly portioned so that you don’t end up throwing out a bunch of cilantro or something because the recipe called for a tiny amount.

Pro: Recipe cards. The recipes cards are great! They include a brief intro about the dish and list the ingredients, estimated calories, and estimated cooking time on the front.

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Pro: Recipe cards (continued). The back of the cards include step by step directions with pictures! I love having these cards so that I can make my favorite meals again.

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Pro: High quality, fresh ingredients. All of the ingredients I received for each meal were fresh and delicious. I was especially pleased with the quality of the proteins. The labeling was great too because I had never used some of the ingredients before.

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Con: Prep and cook time. The meals I received from Blue Apron took forever to prep and cook. Ok so by forever I mean about an hour. But I really don’t have an hour just to cook dinner during the week. The estimated cooking times are way off in my opinion (unless you’re a professional chef or something). It’s more of a weekend cooking project if you’re an amateur like me.

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Pro: Trying new things. The Blue Apron meals had me trying all sorts of new things. I tried recipes from different cultures and regions that I’ve ever cooked at home before such as the Southeast Asian dish featured in this post. I also tried new ingredients and cooking techniques. For example (see below) banana leaf-steaming cod. I never would have thought of that or tried it on my own if it wasn’t part of Blue Apron. 

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Pro: Presentation. The Blue Apron meals definitely consider presentation in addition to taste. The recipe cards include brief instructions on how to plate the meal. It was a fine dining experience here in the Pinkerton household.  🙂

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Banana Leaf-Steamed Cod with Spice Rice, Yu Choy & Coconut

Pro: Variety. I didn’t get pictures of every meal I tried for the few weeks I tested it out, but I wanted to share a couple more of the meals I made. Please see the meals below. It’s also important to note that you can specify what types of meals you do or don’t want in terms of dietary preferences. For example, you can let Blue Apron know that you don’t want any meals with red meat or you only want vegetarian dishes, etc. I didn’t put in any special restrictions because Derek and I eat a little bit of everything.

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Chicken Charlemagne with Roasted Root Vegetables & Parsnip-Potato Mash

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Shrimp & Pineapple Fried Rice

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Crispy Brown Butter Gnocchi with Meyer Lemon & Brussels Sprouts

Pro/Con: Price. The price issue depends on how you look at it. The 2-person plan costs about $60/week and includes 3 meals which comes out to $10/meal per person. Considering the quality of the ingredients and cost of delivery included in that price, it’s really not bad at all. It’s still cheaper than eating out for those meals. However, I suspect most people are like me and spend far less than $10/meal per person with grocery shopping and meal planning. I spend about $80-90/week on groceries to cover all of our meals except for the 2 that we eat out each week, so spending $60 on three dinners doesn’t make sense for us financially.

Con: Subscription. Word to the wise– Blue Apron is a subscription. They will automatically continue to send you food weekly unless you opt out, and you must opt out of the deliver at least 1 week in advance. This is how I ended up doing Blue Apron for 3 weeks instead of 1. It’s my fault for not checking into it more closely, but it can definitely be a little tricky. According to the website, you can go up to 6 weeks without a delivery.

Pro: Fun. If you like to cook, Blue Apron is really fun. I especially enjoyed cooking the meals on the weekends when I had more time. I loved trying out new foods and techniques, and it was exciting to receive everything you needed to cook without having to go grocery shopping.

Final Verdict

Though I truly enjoyed the experience, I will not be subscribing to Blue Apron. From a financial standpoint, it does not make sense for me to use the service often. I was also scared off by it being a subscription. I’m afraid I would forget to decline the meals and end up spending way more than I intended. I do, however, plan on reactivating my account every few months to try it out again for 1 week. The ingredients are seasonal, so I’d love to try it in the spring, summer, and fall; it’s just not something I want to have to do every 6 weeks.

Reader Question: Does anyone else have experience with Blue Apron or another meal kit delivery service? Is there a company that you like better? I’m always looking for new suggestions. 🙂

Tools That Will Help You Meet Your Health and Fitness Goals

I was introduced to Oscar Insurance, a health insurance provider in New Jersey and New York, to write a post about tools that help me reach my health and fitness goals. Oscar recently started providing their members with Misfit bands to help them reach fitness goals. According to the Oscar Health Insurance website, “Sync with the Oscar app to count your steps and earn $1 when you hit your daily goal. We’ll personalize your goal to keep you moving. You can get up to $240 each year just for being active.” Pretty cool, right?

I thought the post was a good fit for Brown is the New Pink. I always appreciate recommendations for new apps and anything that can help me stay on track to reach my goals, and I hope that y’all will too.

Let’s start off with tools that I use . . .

RunKeeper (App)

RunKeeper is a great app for my fellow runners, walkers, or cyclists. I’ve been in the gym more as of late due to the insanely cold weather (I live in the South; what is this single digit temperatures business?!?), but I use this app when I run outside. It’s a GPS fitness tracker that measures your pace, distance, and time. The app will actually let you know your pace and distance every 5 minutes during the run, which is great if you’re aiming for a certain speed. The GPS feature also makes it so that you can turn any activity into a route to do again later.

RunKeeper tracks performance over time and notifies you of new personal “bests” and milestones. You can make detailed running plans or goals such as running 3x per week. It will send you friendly (and sometimes passive-aggressive) reminders to run. I got this same message below once, and it cracked me up. Nothing like my phone giving me a guilt trip.

MyFitnessPal (App/Website)

This app/website is perfect for tracking what you eat. MFP estimates your daily calorie need and can be used to track both intake and burning of calories. It can actually sync with other apps like RunKeeper to track calories burned during exercise.

MFP is easy to use and simply involves inputing what you eat. There is a HUGE database of foods to choose from. You can break it down by breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, which is helpful for seeing what time of day you may be struggling with healthy eating choices. I can tell from mine that afternoon snacking is my toughest time of day. You can also group foods together to make meals to make your tracking easier. For example, I have a small rotation of breakfasts that I saved as meals instead of entering each individual item every time. Finally, my favorite feature is the macro breakdown. You can set specific nutrition goals based on diets recommended by your doctor or nutritionist. I’m starting to look at my macro nutrient breakdown more than my calories, as it is often more nutritionally telling for me.

Garmin Forerunner 10 (Watch)

The Garmin Forerunner 10 is a simple (and cute) GPS watch. Similar to the RunKeeper app it tracks distance, speed/pace and calories. I prefer my watch to RunKeeper for longer runs so that I don’t necessarily have to lug my phone around. The watch also identifies your personal records such as fastest mile/5k and longest distance. One of my favorite features is that it automatically alerts you with a beep and displays your pace when you complete each mile. The watch also has virtual pacer and walk/run features if you’re looking to run at a specific pace or starting out with a mix of running and walking intervals, respectively. The coolest thing about this watch is that you can  upload your runs to Garmin Connect to see your run on a map and get more detail on each mile. It even includes elevation, which is perfect if your training for a hilly race.

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Now onto a few tools I’d like to try . . .

Fitbit (Activity Tracker)

If you haven’t already seen this, Fitbit is a wearable activity tracker. During the day it tracks steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, stairs climbed and active minutes. At night it tracks sleep. One of the coolest things about Fitbit is that it wirelessly syncs with most mobile devices and apps, including RunKeeper and MyFitnessPal. I would be really curious to see my steps, distance, and flights of stairs measured. I’m running around the hospital all day visiting patients, and it would be neat to see stats on my daily activity at work.

I got my dad a Fitbit for his birthday, and he liked it so much that he got my mom one for Christmas. Let me just tell you, my mom is definitely motivated to meet her activity goals. On more than one occasion I caught her walking in circles around the house trying to meet her step goals for the day. Haha!

Fitocracy (App)

Fitocracy is an app/website that can be used to track exercises at the gym. You can create workout plans or if your like me and need some guidance there are pre-made workouts that you can follow. Apparently the app also uses “gamification” to motivate users by assigning points based on the fitness benefits of each activity tracked. Gaining enough points helps you to “level up.” I don’t fully under stand the gaming part of the app, but I’m definitely curious and want to check it out.

*For the sake of transparency, I did not receive any gifts, money, or any other type of compensation for writing this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Reader question: Are there any apps or tools that help you reach your fitness or health goals? I’d love to explore some new ones!

 

These Are My Confessions . . . Part II

Back when I first started Brown is the New Pink, I made a post about my confessions and goals. I figured that after 6 months it’s time for an update and some new goals.

The first time I wrote about my confessions, I set three goals for myself:

  1. Eat more whole foods.
  2. Exercise more.
  3. Identify my all-or-nothing thinking and come up with alternative thoughts.

Overall, I’ve been eating more whole foods and definitely exercising more. Up until 2.5 weeks ago I was running 4 days/week training for a half-marathon. Sadly, the half marathon didn’t pan out due to injuries, but I’m still happy with all of my exercising. I also think I did a good job of sharing my training plans and meal plans on the blog. Finally, I’m still working on my all-or-nothing thinking. While I mentally noted thoughts when they occurred, I never actually wrote them down. Something to keep working on!

Now that I’m keeping up with eating whole foods and exercising (most of the time), I want to make some more specific goals. With that said, these are my confessions . . . part II.

(Yes, it is necessary for me to post the corresponding Usher music video every time I write that.)

I let myself get way too hungry.

This is a big issue for me. I tend not to snack between meals, and I’m starving by the time I eat the next meal. I think that if I eat healthy snacks I will be less likely to overeat during meals or to get hangry.

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I always choose cardio over strength training or yoga.

I’m pretty good at keeping up with cardio, but I am not nearly as consistent with strength training. Though I actually love the way I feel when I strength train regularly, I don’t enjoy it as much as cardio. I honestly just find it boring, but I probably just need to find something that works for me. I also enjoy yoga, but practicing it puts me out of my comfort zone. It’s a totally different kind of exercise for me, but I think I would definitely benefit from practicing it consistently, especially given my recent overuse injuries.

I often reward myself with food.

Survived a rough week of work? Celebrate with Mexican food. Finished everything on my to-do list? Wind down with a piece of chocolate. I love food, and I tend to associate it with joy, success, and love. While I will continue to enjoy food and cooking, especially as part of special celebrations like holidays, I need to find other ways to reward myself on a day-to-day basis that don’t involve empty calories.

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So what am I going to do about these confessions?

  1. Eat 2 healthy snacks (with fiber and protein) everyday. I’ll post snack ideas on Brown is the New Pink and include snacks in my weekly meal plan posts.
  2. Strength train at least 2 times per week and do yoga 1 time per week. Instead of a half marathon training plan, I’ll post weekly workout recaps to keep myself accountable with this goal.
  3. Find new ways to reward myself that don’t involve food. I’ll post ideas on the blog and incorporate personal examples of new rewards in my future posts.
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