Curried Sweet Potato Hash

After returning home from North Carolina, I’ve been busy getting back into the swing of things in Syracuse; which also means I’ve been living off of Panera, Hummus, Luna Bars, and of course Taco Bell. Thankfully, now that I’ve had a chance to breathe, today was the first day back in my kitchen! I really, really love to cook, so needless to say I was pretty excited when I realized I had months of unread magazine subscriptions to Clean Eating. Unfortunately, I still haven’t found the time to read them leisurely, but I did stumble across a delicious looking sweet potato and chicken dishI decided to put my own twist on the recipe and make some curried sweet potato hash just to shake things up a bit.

Ingredients

Key Players: Rosemary, Smoked Paprika, and Curry Powder. The sweet potatoes didn’t make it into the picture. Clearly this blogging thing is a work in progress.

Ingredients (makes 6 servings)

  • 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/4″ cubes
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt

Directions

Rosemary Potatoes Onions

Heat olive oil over medium heat and add potatoes, onions, and rosemary to the skillet. Cook for 15-20 minutes until potatoes are softened and browned.

Rosemary Potato Hash

Add the salt, curry powder, paprika and toss to coat all the potatoes. Cook for 2-3 minutes and then enjoy!

If spicy isn’t your thang, don’t be put off by this. I thought this tasted more “smokey” than spicy, but I have a pretty high spice tolerance, so my palette could be skewed–consider yourselves warned. If you’re weary, you can easily swap out some of the spices and add whatever you have in your kitchen that is more to your liking.

Bottom Line: So yummy and simple! The best part is that it only calls for 5 ingredients (salt and olive oil are what I call “freebies” since I always have them on hand). It was a perfect complement to the Turkey Meatloaf Muffins I made courtesy of Pinterest. I will definitely be enjoying these again very soon.

Nutritional Analysis (per serving): 85 calories/2 g fat/16 g carbohydrates

Do any of you have easy 5 ingredient (or less) dishes that you would like to share? I’m always looking for some sort of variation! Post in the comments below 🙂

Valentine’s Weekend: Healthy Comfort Food for the Heart

Let’s face it, we all know that Valentine’s Day really extends into Valentine’s Weekend. And, for all intensive purposes of this post, I had a hott dinner date with my DVR filled with Modern Family and the Mindy Project! Being Valentine’s weekend and all, I was really in the mood for something decadent and comforting…something like baked mac and cheese?? (Insert mischievous face here). However, the leftover cauliflower in the fridge got the best of me. And so, since I’m still trying to stick with this healthy cooking challenge, I attempted to make a healthy baked cauliflower mac and cheese. And boy, did it hit the spot…or should I say heart? 😉

I made this in an individual baking dish and it turned out perfectly. I’m proud to say the picture (and recipe) is actually mine this time! 🙂 This is so simple and easy to make, it’s going to be addicting. Thankfully, you can indulge in this dish guilt-free!

Single Serve Baked Cauliflower Mac-and-Cheese

Disclaimer: the listed ingredient measurements are approximate, because I just threw together what I had. Also, this recipe makes quite a bit. I couldn’t finish all of it, even though I wanted to!

  • 1.5 cups chopped cauliflower
  • 1 cup shredded fat free cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup organic skim milk
  • 2 strips organic reduced fat turkey bacon
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 tsp flour
  • Dash of ground mustard (or dijon mustard)
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • Salt/pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a pot, bring water to a boil. Add chopped cauliflower and cook for 10-15 minutes until cauliflower is soft.

2. While cauliflower is cooking, in a separate skillet, cook the two strips of turkey bacon over medium heat. Remove cooked bacon from the skillet and set aside to cool. When the bacon is cooled, chop it into tiny pieces.

3. In the same skillet that the bacon was cooked, heat the milk over medium heat for a few minutes. Add the butter and let it melt, constantly mixing. Add the dashes of nutmeg and ground mustard. Season with salt and pepper to taste! Finally, mix in the flour and stir for a few minutes until the sauce thickens. Add the cheese to the sauce and let it melt until is forms a thick gooey deliciousness (you’ll know what I mean)!

4. Drain cauliflower and return to pot. Pour the sauce over the cauliflower and mix to combine. Stir in bacon bits, and mix everything together breaking up cauliflower into bite sized chunks. I like to give it a quick taste here to make sure everything is yummyyy.

5. Pour mixture into a single serve oven proof dish. Sprinkle the top with cheese and bake at 350°F for 7-12 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

For a total of 355 calories, there is no way you can’t enjoy this dish! Seriously, your tummy is going to be so happy. Wishing everyone a Happy Healthy Valentine’s Weekend! ❤

How did you spend your Valentine’s Day/Weekend? Did anyone try out some new recipes with their significant other? Share your adventures in the comments below 🙂

Healthy Cooking Challenge

This past week, I set a new goal for myself to make at least one new healthy dish per week. For me, the most difficult part about maintaining a healthy lifestyle is having a variety in the food I’m eating and finding time to actually prepare the food (mostly the ladder). While there are tons of resources for finding healthy recipes, there is very little cooking advice for people like me: single, working, attending school, and on a tight budget. Not to mention moonlighting as a titleholder in the Miss America Organization, which means a lot of my free time is spent volunteering, promoting my platform, and being actively involved in my community–all while living an active and healthy lifestyle. This also means the last thing I want to do when I come home is cook for myself; thus began my healthy cooking for one challenge. I’m hoping this helps me find ways to make cooking for myself a little easier (and fun)!

Let me first start off by saying that I am so happy I set this goal for myself because this first week’s dish was amazing and the experience was even more so! Ever since I found out there would be a P.F. Chang’s opening in Syracuse, I could not stop thinking about their chicken lettuce wraps. They’ve literally been taunting me in my dreams. After googling “healthy lettuce wraps recipes”, I decided to try out Joy Bauer’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps.

And boy, was it good. Really good. I’m talking “is this actually healthy” kinda good.

Chicken-Wraps

*Okay, so the picture isn’t actually mine, but they really did look like this and tasted even better!

Here are a few crucial things I learned this week while embarking on my healthy cooking for one challenge:

1. Plan ahead. This is much easier said than done. As for myself, I’m way more likely to cook earlier in the week because that’s when I’m most motivated. By the end of the week, I’m ready to throw in the towel and resort back to my lifeless (no pun intended) grilled chicken or skip dinner altogether and head straight for happy hour (come on, we’ve all done it).

2. Be smart about investing in ingredients. This recipe called for a lot of asian ingredients. Thankfully, I already had quite a few of them, but I don’t know if I would have made it otherwise because it would have been pricey! I was also mindful of prices while I was shopping. For example, I left out the cashews because they were an expensive ingredient; however, the upside to this was that it ultimately lessened the overall calorie count! Happy wallet and happy waist!

3. Prepare your ingredients. If you’ve ever watched the Food Network, you’ve probably noticed most of the chefs on television breeze through their recipes. This is because they have all of the ingredients chopped up and ready to go. To unleash the inner “Food Network Star” in me, I decided to put this into practice and prepare my veggies the night before. The lettuce wraps called for “finely diced” carrots, celery, peppers, water chestnuts, and scallions. I chopped up the veggies on Sunday night, which took me about 15 minutes, and stored them in a large container overnight. On Monday night after a long day of work, studying, and Bikram Yoga, I came home, threw the pre-chopped ingredients into my wok and had dinner in less than 12 minutes. There was no chance I would have made this if I hadn’t done the prep work before. I will definitely keep doing this because it was a huge time saver. And trust me, it’s worth it.

4. Make the entire recipe. I struggled a lot with this living alone and cooking for one. I would always try to half recipes and use the ingredients for something else, but one thing or another would always go to waste. This time, I made the whole recipe and it worked out really well! The entire recipe makes 6 cups of filling, so I froze 3 cups and refrigerated the other 3. I ate the entire dish over the course of one week: 3 lunches and 2 dinners to be specific! That may seem a little monotonous, but I spaced it out and changed it up for lunch to make it more like an asian salad by chopping up the lettuce and tossing it with the filling.

Shopping List

  • 1 pound organic ground chicken ($7.99)
  • Celery ($1.79)
  • 1 red pepper ($1.50)
  • Green Onions ($0.69)
  • Rice Vinegar ($2.50)
  • Plum sauce ($2.50)
  • 1 can water chestnuts ($0.69)
  • Lettuce head ($1.70)

I already had the following: sriracha (chili paste), soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and carrots (a staple veggie I buy weekly).

Total: $19.47 for 5 servings which comes to a grand total of $3.89 per serving! Honestly, you really can’t beat that.

Bottom Line: Love, love, love! For the price, taste, quality of ingredients, level of ease, and storage, I give this recipe 5 stars! I will definitely be making this again very soon and it will most likely become one of my staples. Overall, a successful first week of said challenge.

What about you? Do you have any tips or tricks when it comes to cooking for one? I’d love to hear what works for others. Post in the comments below! 🙂

Fitness on the Go!

As I mentioned, I’ve been away from home for the past few months so I wanted to share a few fitness tips that have helped me stay in (somewhat decent) shape without joining a gym!

1. Map My Run: I’m not a big runner, but this app actually makes it somewhat fun! You can connect with friends and/or link it to your social media! It tracks your distance, time, and average speed. It surprisingly proved to be a fun workout tool!

2. Jillian Michael’s Ripped in 30 DVD: Okay, if you have never used a Jillian DVD, I highly recommend you order one TODAY! When I first started my fitness journey (at 180 pounds), I used her “30 Day Shred” DVD and it really helped jumpstart my weightloss. Her DVD’s are intense, but they’re only 25 minute workouts and she keeps you motivated the entire time. You will need a set of hand weights (I started with 5 pounds) and to this day, it’s one of the best workouts I’ve ever done. You can really see a change in your body and everyone can find 25 minutes a day to squeeze in this workout–no gym required! I bought the “Ripped in 30” DVD off of amazon and am loving this workout even more than the “30 Day Shred!” You can also find a wide array of her other DVD’s on amazon as well–I don’t think you can go wrong with any of them.

3. Bikram Yoga: I got into Bikram Yoga last year when Bikram Yoga Rochester became a sponsor for the Miss Greater Rochester Organization. I was so happy when my cousin mentioned there was a great studio in Raleigh! It’s not only a great stress reliever, but also helps my strength and flexibility. Plus, as a new customer, I was able to score a free week of classes, and I even received a student discount on their 10 class package! This was an investment I was willing to make because I love doing Bikram Yoga not only for my physical fitness but mental health as well.

4. My Fitness Pal: This is an amazing app I’ve used for over a year now! You can track all your meals and workouts in one place! I’ve tried a few others and this one is by far the best. It summarizes everything daily, weekly, and monthly. It definitely keeps me on track and makes me think twice about eating something!

Hope you find these tips helpful in your journey to fitness!

Cultural Day and New Happenings!

Hi Friends!

While I haven’t done a great job with the up-keeping of my Blog, it is on my list of resolutions for this year, so I will try my best to keep updating!

I’m currently in the wonderful city of Raleigh, NC and am LOVING every second of it! It is a beautiful area with nice weather year round! Coming from Syracuse with temperatures in the mid-20’s and 2 feet of snow to 60 degrees and sunny was quite a treat! Definitely helped cure my mid-winter blues. I’ve been here advancing my medical school goals and staying focused on upcoming interviews and internships for the summer. Special thanks and shout out to my cousin for graciously letting me stay with her for the past few months! 🙂

As some of you may know, I have decided to compete again for the title of Miss New York 2013. It was a culmination of many factors, but mostly through the advancement of my platform, “Cultural Competency: Building Bridges of Understanding.” In the Fall, I was able to establish a program at a local elementary school to bring awareness to younger children about various cultures around the world. We had parents, high school students, teachers, and other members of the community come together to showcase an “Around the World Day” where students were able to rotate between classrooms and experience a different culture. Throughout the day children were taught foreign dances, languages, arts and crafts, and songs among many other things. Although I was busy heading the event and ensuring that everything went as planned, I did have a chance to visit the India classroom and share my talent (Bollywood Dance) and teach a few moves to the ladies (and gents)! I also have a background in French, so I stopped by the country of France and taught a few french phrases as well. And of course, I had to make my famous enchiladas as a dish to pass! Furthermore, everyone was encouraged to dress in traditional clothing from their country. I must say that the event was a great success! I received such positive feedback from the teachers and community that I was asked to visit other local elementary schools in the area. This will be my major undertaking for the next few months and I am excited to return to Syracuse to continue this project.

In other news, today marked the official inauguration of our 44th President, Barack Obama! I’m looking forward to watching his Inaugural Address tomorrow that will lay out his vision for his second term. Also, tomorrow is MLK Day of Service! I’ll be volunteering in the Raleigh area at the East Durham Children’s Initiative. Their mission is as follows: “Our vision–to help alleviate the impact of poverty in this community and ensure that its children graduate from high school ready for college or a career–guides our work to secure the necessary resources and supports the Zone’s children and youth need to prepare them for academic success and productive futures.” I’m looking forward to meeting with the children and families to help promote their cause.

I encourage everyone to get involved in some way! You can look at a list of opportunities in your area at this website.

Wishing everyone a happy MLK Day of Service!

–Nina

For the first time, in a long time…

Greetings World! I suppose I should start with a quick introduction of the purpose of this blog. The idea behind it is to provide insight as to how my life has been in regards to assimilating the Indian culture with the American one (hence the title). Needless to say, it was difficult for me growing up as a child trying to embrace the best of both worlds. Therefore, with each post I’m aiming to provide a small understanding of my life happenings and how I arrived at where I am today. More importantly, my goal is to establish a connection with my readers in hopes of showing how relevant and important the idea of Cultural Competence is in today’s society.

Now, moving on to a new order of business–this past week was very exciting! I was offered a position as a research assistant and could not be more thrilled to begin my work with an amazing primary investigator and former professor! My journey to becoming a physician has been an emotional roller coaster and finally, for the first time in a long time, everything seems to be falling into place.

To be honest, I have always said I wanted to be a physician, but I wasn’t actually certain until my senior year of college (a story I will save for another time). However, aside from my personal revelation, it would be remiss if I did not mention my older sister (who is also my best friend :). It has been our dream to open our own practice together as future physicians and now that she is in her second year of medical school, our dream is half-way complete! Now, it’s my job to ensure the other half (aka me) makes it!

Which brings me to my next point–addressing the stereotype that all Indians are doctors. When I’m having the conversation of why I chose to go into the medical field, I’m always posed the question, “Why are all Indian people doctors?” This is in fact, false. However, I will admit that there does seem to be a large correlation between Indians and healthcare. To be honest, I’m not sure why. I can only speculate based on my family (it should go without say that in no way are my views representative of the entire Indian population). That being said, my family has always had a profound emphasis on the values of respect and integrity. In our minds, the profession of medicine is one of the most highly respected careers that cannot be achieved without hard work, honesty, and service to others; a career in which you have the ability to save a life.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t other careers in which you can have the same sense of fulfillment, but for me, this truly was my calling. Regardless of my family’s cultural views, I can honestly say that my parents have always encouraged me to follow my dreams. And so, as I embark on a new journey and with the beginning of a new school year, it seems only appropriate to leave you with one of my favorite quotes (you’ll learn that I love quotes):

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” —Henry David Thoreau