I’m coming up on the year anniversary since I moved to Florida and every day that goes by makes me realize how much the decision to move here has changed my life. For starters, if you went back a few years and asked any of my friends and family if they thought I’d turn into this cooking aficionado, they’d probably laugh at you. It really came out of nowhere! First of all, I was the pickiest eater as a child. I didn’t venture too far from macaroni and cheese and simple sandwiches. I hated when my foods touched each other and wasn’t open to trying new foods. I had an affinity for all things sweet and never thought twice about the nutritional value of anything I ate. I was small with a fast metabolism.
Like all stubborn kids, I didn’t realize this would eventually catch up to me until I went away to New York City for college and suddenly found myself gaining weight. I don’t exactly know when my palate changed or when I became a bit more brave when it came to trying new things, but I do know when my conscious effort to eat healthier and exercise began. I left Marymount Manhattan College after my first semester and moved back home with the plan to transfer to Rutgers University in New Brunswick after finishing some of my general education classes at our local community college (for free, thanks to the NJ Stars Program and their scholarships for those graduating at the top of their class). Not only did I come home with these plans, but also with some extra weight… If I showed you pictures, you wouldn’t recognize me. There is almost a 50-pound difference between what I look like now and what I looked like when I came home after that first semester. I am almost embarrassed to even talk about it, but it helps my readers understand me a little more, and see where my love of exercise and healthy cooking and eating comes from. I was ashamed of myself and hated how I looked and felt. I got a job at the best and most prestigious gym in south Jersey and started taking classes, working out with the various trainers, and eating better. Slowly the pounds came off and I finally felt confident again. I credit Tilton Fitness for helping me start my healthy lifestyle, which has stayed with me ever since I began working there in January 2007.
Fast forward to now and I’m loving my life, my body, my mindset and everyone around me. Sometimes people make comments that I may be too skinny. But I am not skinny. I am strong. I am lean. I love looking at the definition in my muscles and knowing how hard I worked to get there. I love knowing that I take care of myself so that I can treat myself every now and then to a little indulgence. I love that I know how to cook a delicious meal or dessert that may taste as though it’s bad for you, but is really healthy and nutritious. Living in this area introduced me to many types of cuisine, and there are so many different restaurants to try. The cooking and baking evolved from that — I started to realize that you really can’t eat out every night of the week, but you can make meals that feel like you’re dining out while eating right in your own kitchen. And then the blog evolved … I love to write, and of course, there is also the fact that I was unemployed for the first four months I lived here, and during the day the only shows worth watching are the cooking shows on Food Network or the Top Chef marathons on Bravo. I was in awe of these chefs and their amazing abilities in the kitchen and eventually found myself writing about it. I may not be able to recall the exact timeline of how everything came to be and how I made this my main hobby once I became a Floridian, but whatever the reasons, I love being part of the food-blogging community. The people I’ve met, both in person and online, are all awesome with lots of advice and tips and they are always ready and willing to talk shop (in our case, food!). It is definitely a positive thing to be a part of this group.
When I first started, I was looking at other blogger’s recipes for guidance and ideas, but now I can run with the big boys and come up with my own! Sometimes when I have a few minutes of downtime at work, I find myself daydreaming about what I’ll make for dinner that night. I like to plan ahead as much as I can, so I can get right to work when I get home and not dilly-dally. These two baked chicken recipes were simple and easy to put together. Both were extremely moist, which is sometimes hard to achieve with chicken breast. I was happy that I succeeded in this aspect and the chicken wasn’t too dry. I was only cooking for one, but they can easily be adapted for as many people as you are cooking for.
Baked Chipotle Lime Chicken
1 piece of chicken breast
2 tbsp lime juice, separate
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp ground chipotle
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a shallow baking dish, pour 1 tbsp of lime juice over the chicken breast. In a small bowl, mix together 1 tbsp garlic powder and 1 tbsp ground chipotle. Season both sides of the chicken with the mixture and then pour remaining 1 tbsp of lime juice over the chicken. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked through.
Sun-dried Tomato and Artichoke Baked Chicken
1 piece of chicken breast
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 cup artichokes canned in olive oil, rinsed (to get rid of the excess olive oil but still keep the taste)
1/4 cup sun-dried julienne cut tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a shallow baking dish, season both sides of the chicken breast with salt and pepper. Add the artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes and with the vinegar mixture. Pour the balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar over the chicken, artichokes and tomatoes. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked through.