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Easy Peasy Shrimp Fajitas

March 17, 2010

After my solo shopping trip on Saturday, I came home and Zach and I decided to have a Date Night In.  We used to cook together a lot when we were dating, so whenever we stay in and make something fun together on a weekend it’s like we’re back in our early dating days.  This recipe is so quick, though, you can easily put it together on a weeknight…but it’s a little more fun if you can sit down and enjoy it on a weekend with some margaritas 🙂

In fact, I ended up doing most of the work on these because by the time Zach perfected his margarita recipe, I was already putting the food in the oven!  shrimp2

Quick Shrimp Fajitas

Ingredients (sorry, measurements are approximate – tailor to suit your tastes and the number of eaters!)

Red and Green Peppers, sliced thinly

Mushrooms, sliced

Red onion, sliced

Zuchinni, sliced into half-moons

olive oil

Chili powder


chipotle powder

garlic powder

salt and pepper

3/4 lb. shrimp (I usually buy frozen raw shrimp that is already peeled and deveined, about medium size shrimp, mine were 51-60/lb. sized)


Preheat oven to 375*.  Spray a large rimmed cookie sheet with non-stick spray.

Put all of the veggies in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and add the spices to suit your tastes.  I use a few shakes of chili powder, a little less cumin, and one shake of chipotle powder and garlic powder.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss it all together.  Spread it out evenly on the prepared cookie sheet and roast in the oven for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, toss the shrimp with olive oil and the same spices you used for the veggies.  When the veggies come out of the oven, stir and then add the shrimp, spreading them out so they don’t overlap.  Put it all back in the oven for 8 to 10 more minutes, stirring once half-way through.shrimp

Transfer it all to a serving bowl and enjoy!  We served them with small tortillas, vegetarian refried beans, and chips and salsa.

A note on chips and salsa (one of my loves!).  My favorite chips are Food Should Taste Good Multigrain chips, which Costco FINALLY started carrying again and my favorite salsa is Trader Joe’s Double Roasted.  We don’t have TJ’s here (the horror!), so I smuggled this back from my last trip to St. Louis.



Shopping for One

March 14, 2010

I consider myself a generally social person.  I like to spend time with my husband, my friends, my family, I like to work with others, and I get energy from talking with others.  But sometimes, I just need some time to myself.

Early in our dating days, I explained this to Zach and made sure he knew when I wanted to spend time by myself, it wasn’t something he should be offended by.  It’s not that I don’t want to spend time with him, it’s just that for my sanity, I need to spend some time with no one.  Sometimes that time can be my workout, or reading a book, or cooking, but one of my favorite things to do is spend some quality time shopping by myself.  I can aimlessly wander or go on a mission for the best pair of black pants in Omaha.  I don’t have to explain what store I want to go to next – or go back to for the third time – or why I’m staring at the same display of candles at Bath & Body Works even though I know I won’t end up buying one.

So yesterday afternoon, I took off for a couple hours of shopping by myself.  I only went to one mall and didn’t really do anything weird, but something about it is just really relaxing to me.  I wandered around The Limited, tried on a bunch of stuff, stared at the jewelry, and got some great deals.  At one point I ended up in Dillard’s where they were having a shoe clearance and I tried on almost every pair on the clearance rack in my size (and then got 2 cute pairs for $40 total!). After I hit a few stores, I knew I was done purchasing, but I just wasn’t quite done shopping ( I think this is a distinction that only women will get).  I got a tall Passion Fruit Iced Tea from Starbucks and then continued on what can only be called aimless wandering.  Eventually those shoes in my bag got a little heavy and I decided to call it good.

So I headed home, relaxed and refreshed with some new clothes and shoes to show for it and ready to spend an evening with my favorite person!

Do you like to spend time by yourself or do you prefer to always be with others?  What about shopping – alone or with a friend?

Small Victories

March 10, 2010

The last few days I have had some small victories I’m excited about:

  1. On Saturday I ran 5 miles!  This is the farthest I have run since taking a break from running to let a strain in my hamstring heal last fall.  It felt awesome!  I did the run on the treadmill since the weather was iffy and I think we still need a little more melting action on the sidewalks/trails. 
  2. On Sunday in yoga I finally jumped from crow to plank!  I got the hang of crow about a month ago ( it’s still really the only arm balance I have mastered), but I just couldn’t seem to get my legs off my arms and into plank.  I was at a class with a teacher I have never had before and some of her cues helped me out.   The key for me is taking my gaze forward, which shifts the weight forward a bit and then it’s all core to get the legs back.  I felt so STRONG.image
  3. I did ALMOST all the items on the to-do list in my planner last week.  The only one left is “find a new job” which is really more than just a one-week task 😉


Other activities last weekend included seeing the Oscar-nominated animated short films at Filmstreams, dinner at a new pizzeria with Zach, and having my sister and her family over for dinner – what a great weekend!

70% Dry

March 3, 2010

This has been one of the most brutal winters in Nebraska history in quite some time.  And, while I have been known to exaggerate for effect from time to time, this is no exaggeration.  We’ve broken all kinds of records, like having snow on the ground for a ridiculous amount of days, and having four blizzards in one winter season.  But of course we have all persevered like the good Midwesterners we are.  I have gotten through it with visions of running outside on my brain…

So when I signed up for  a May 2nd half-marathon a few weeks ago, I told myself I had until March to start running outside.  Well, February was (surprise!) really cold and all that stinkin’ snow didn’t go away, so I wasn’t sure how well it would work out.  But then along came March 1 in like a lion with a sunny almost-40-degree day and I found myself layering up and heading out for my first outdoor run of the year.  Since taking my dog for walks around the neighborhood involves leaping over some snow banks, I went to a nearby lake path where I had seen people running recently, so I assumed the path was clear of snow and ice.

I was about 70% right.  The other 30% of the trail was covered in either packed snow, thin ice, slushy mess, or puddles.  I did my best to go around those areas and was very very careful.  I completed my 4 miles without any incidents and only one slightly damp shoe from a puddle I couldn’t avoid.

It was fun in an adventurey sort of way, but I’m not sure I’ll be running outside again until more melting happens.  I spent most of my run either scared of falling or scared of stepping in a big puddle and running in a wet, cold sock.  Luckily the 10-day forecast is all above freezing so hopefully by next weekend I’ll be ready to head out on a 100% dry run!

Learning to Trade Up

February 25, 2010

Today I stopped into my favorite grocery store Hy-Vee for a few necessities: bread, milk, and apples.  I grabbed my usual organic skim milk and fuji apples (on sale this week- woohoo!) and headed to the bread aisle.

The bread aisle is one of the places in the grocery store where I usually spend a lot of time picking up bread, scanning the label, putting it back…picking up another one and so on.  My husband’s criteria for bread are that it is big (the 45 cal a slice kind doesn’t cut it), hearty, but not too dense, and soft but not too soft.  My criteria are that it is primarily whole grain, doesn’t contain HFCS, and doesn’t have anything partially hydrogenated in the ingredients list.  So you can see why this takes awhile…

Lucky for me, a few months ago Hy-Vee started including NuVal scores on many of the products in the store (and then later I learned even more about NuVal from Tina!)  In a nutshell, NuVal scores calculate the nutritional quality of food items by analyzing the nutrients and breaking it down to one number that consumers can use to make more informed choices.  Good stuff goes in the numerator, bad stuff goes in the denominator and the final numbers can be used to compare products to one another.  The numbers range from 1 to 100, but not all product categories can get 100.  Makes sense to me, I noticed most things in the produce section are in the 90’s, but many of the packaged products don’t get that high.

wonder nature pride  oroweat

So, back to the bread aisle.  I snapped some pics with my phone to remember these scores.  The highest bread score I saw was 44 (although not every bread had a score), which was on Oroweat Whole Grain & Flax bread.  The lowest score I saw was good old white Wonder bread at 23.  Something I thought was interesting was the middle one above – Nature’s Pride Stone Ground Whole Wheat, which only scored a 26.  I thought this was interesting because it met my criteria with whole grains and had all the right things on the front of the package, which you can kind of see: “No Trans Fats, No Artificial Flavors or Colors, and No HFCS.”  I’m not exactly sure what drove this score to be lower and am surprised it was closer to the Wonder bread than the Oroweat.  It’s something I would have picked up expecting it to be a healthier choice, but with the simple presentation of the NuVal score, I was steered toward a better choice.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I hope it’s good!

Third Time’s a Charm?

February 23, 2010

As of yesterday, I am on my way to my third half-marathon: the Lincoln National Guard Half-Marathon in Lincoln, NE on May 2.  The two half-marathons I have run before have been VERY different experiences, so I wonder what this one will hold?

My first half-marathon was in St. Louis in April 2005, about one month before I graduated college.  Running a half-marathon was a goal of mine and something I was determined to accomplish.  I had originally set a goal of under 2 hours, but revised that to “around” 2 hours once I started training.

Now, let’s go back to that bit about it being a month before I graduated college…picture me, two fun roommates, and a run-down campus apartment.  Walking distance to several bars, all of our friends, sorority events, fraternity events…got it?  What I’m trying to say is that my cross-training in those days wasn’t yoga and weight-training, it was happy hour and partying.  Don’t get me wrong, I ran a respectable amount of miles during that last semester and I was pretty dedicated to getting across the finish line.  I also had a student’s schedule, which meant I could run at 2 in the afternoon in the winter, instead of being relegated to the dark of early morning or after work.  I didn’t have any “gadgets”, not even an iPod!  I strapped on my walkman, tucked my apartment key in the pocket of my shorts or tied it to my shoelace and took off around campus and to St. Louis’s Forest Park.  I had a vague idea of distances (it was about 2 miles around campus) and I don’t even know if existed then.  So how did I train?  I looked at the clock or the screen of my Walkman when I left, ran for the number of miles on my plan times 10 minutes and then went back to my apartment and stretched.  I have no idea if I ever did a 7 mile run when I was training, I know I did a 70 minute run and I figured since my slowest pace was about 10 minute miles, that I had my bases covered.  Then I wrote down the miles on a printed-out training plan calendar taped to the wall above my desk (which was also in the dining room, next to my roomie’s desk and 20 feet from the TV…oh, college), took a shower, ate some dinner, and went to the bar.  Simple as that!  In April I happily jogged myself and about 10 extra lbs. of pure party weight over the finish line in 1:57:47.   And graduated with honors a month later:)

Fast-forward four years later to spring of 2009 when I ran the Lincoln Half-Marathon for the first time.  My excitement for finally running another half-marathon starting building in January and I mapped out my training plan with precision and focus.  My goal: to beat my time from 2005.  Should be a cinch because there’s no way I could drink that much or eat that much greasy food in “real life".”  This time I was also equipped with gadgets: a heart-rate monitor and a Nike+iPod gadget in my shoe to track my distance on my iPod touch (and the obvious upgrade to MP3 player over radio stations on the Walkman!).  I ate healthfully most of the time, slept on a regular schedule and was a generally responsible pseudo-adult.  I also worked 40 hours a week and took a graduate class once a week.  I stuck to the long-runs on my training plan and most of the speedwork, but was a little loose with cross-training and shorter run days.  My knees started bothering me, it was cold outside, and I just wasn’t always into it.  I crossed the finish line in 2:01:11 and, although it wasn’t that much slower than my previous time, it just didn’t feel good.  Usually running makes me feel strong and powerful, that race made me feel weak, achey, and old.

But this year I’m back!  I have taken some time off running to let a nagging hamstring strain heal, and added yoga into my workout schedule.  I plan to get my miles in, but still have fun and not take myself too seriously this time around…striving for a balance between my last two half-marathon training experiences.

Mardi Gras!

February 17, 2010


Happy Fat Tuesday!   To celebrate, I knew I wanted to make something Cajun-inspired for dinner tonight.  At first I thought I wanted gumbo, but after some online research yesterday and consulting with my co-workers, I decided jambalaya was more up my alley.  I wasn’t sure the difference between gumbo and jambalaya, but I think it basically boils down to this:

Gumbo: thickened with a roux and okra, takes a long to make (including a tricky roux); contains shrimp, chicken, and/or sausage; a soup/stew consistency

Jambalaya: a mixture of shrimp, chicken, and/or sausage (or even duck), tomatoes; a thicker dish served over rice

Both contain cajun spices and the “holy trinity” of onions, celery, and green peppers.

I ended up using this Robin Miller recipe for the Crock Pot since I had yoga class tonight and wanted it to be ready when I got home.  After work I threw all the ingredients in the crock pot; I made a few changes based on what I have on hand so mine contained sausage, shrimp, green peppers, onion, celery, tomatoes and cajun spices.  I served it over some Trader Joe’s Wild Rice Medley.


We loved it!  I’m quite sure it wouldn’t count as jambalaya by the purist’s standards, as it was pretty soupy.  Also, traditionally it would have been served over white rice, but we eat whole grains up in here.


I have decided to give up sweets for Lent this year, which I guess is ironic since this blog is called Life is So Sweet…but I’m certain that life will still be sweet even if the next 40 days lack chocolate, cookies, and ice cream 🙂  I have a pretty serious sweet tooth, so I will be blogging how it goes.  For the past few years, I have given up a bad habit for Lent, like gossiping or complaining, but I feel like this year I really need to get “back to basics” with something that will be on my mind more. 

I’m off for a last hurrah with some Ben & Jerry’s…happy Mardi Gras!

Sweets Day

February 14, 2010

Valentine’s Day has never really been my thing, which is weird because I LOVE pink, chocolate, going on dates, my husband, pink, and chocolate.  It’s the forced part of V-day that really gets me – the girls demanding flowers, gifts, elaborate dates, etc.  Anyway, a few years ago my husband reminded me that Valentine’s Day is just another excuse to do something fun together…not that we need an excuse, but I’ll take it 😉

So far today has been a pretty ideal Valentine’s Day for me.  We started the morning with coffee and cinnamon scones (from Immaculate Baking Co. – I love their products).  Then we headed to mass at the church where we got married 2 years ago.  After service got out at noon, we went to Omaha’s Old Market area and walked around in the snow before lunch/all-day happy hour at one of our favorite sushi restaurants.  Two martinis each and four rolls later and we headed home where I crashed on the couch in my sweats to watch Sex and the City Movie.  I love the characters and the ultimate story in this movie, but gosh, it’s sad!  If I let myself, I could cry about five different times.

I think I could get used to this Valentine’s Day thing…

Get it together

January 15, 2010

I have visions of being one of those people who has their life super organized and streamlined, gets things done on time – in advance, even , are 5 minutes early for everything, always has a tidy house decorated for the season, and just generally has their shit together. I, however, am not one of those people. I might appear organized with my Moleskine planner and all of my lists, but I will inevitably leave one of those things to the very very last minute and along the way make something more difficult than it needs to be.

Take this weekend for example. In 5 hours, my husband and I will be on a plane on the way to St. Louis to visit some friends and for me to attend a baby shower on Sunday. I have known about this shower for, oh, 3 months at least. Buying a gift for the shower has been in the back of my mind that entire time, but why would I buy the gift early? No, no that would be too easy. I had visions of myself showing up for the weekend with a beautifully wrapped small, flat, but incredibly useful gift. Some bedding for the crib, maybe a book, maybe a travel changing pad.

And then along came this week. On Tuesday afternoon, I headed straight to Babies R Us after work to buy this perfect gift. I printed out the registry and wandered around and around the store. I was planning to check an extra duffle bag for some of the items I need to bring to help host the shower, so my gift didn’t need to be too tiny, but realistic enough to put in a duffle bag. After flipping through the pages of the registry over and over again, I realized that most of the “good stuff” had already been purchased. The only things left were a bajillion bottles and the nipples (hehe) that go with them. Come on, this is a dear friend, I can do better than an empty bottle for her first born child! And then I found the gift that even a DINK like me knows every mother and baby loves – the Bumbo seat! Perfect for sitting your adorable baby in while you do something else with your tired arms and let him or her see what sitting up feels like. Of course, I had to ask someone to help me find it (the organization of that store must magically make sense once you have a bun in the oven). I stared at the boxes and surveyed if this was the right gift to pack to fly on a plane. Hmmm, it’s a little bigger than I thought…and what an odd-shaped box. But the babies on the box are having so much fun, this is just the perfect gift. I will make it work.

I did find a duffle bag that the Bumbo would fit in (albeit much larger than the one I originally planned on taking), so I figured I was good to go. Fast-forward to last night – the night before we are to leave – around 10 p.m. and I’m finally getting around to wrapping this thing. I fought with the wrapping paper for a good 20 minutes. A hexagonal box?! Really?!?! As I was struggling to cover every inch of the box with pastel paper covered in little arks and baby animals, it finally hit me. WHY am I trying to pack and take this large awkward-shaped seat to St Louis? Will my friend like me any less if I get her a different gift? Will no one else buy her this seat at the shower she has next month?

So now I am anxiously counting down the minutes until I can leave work, not only because I’m ready for the weekend and to see my long-lost friends, but so that I can dash off to Babies R Us again (GAH!!) to exchange this seat for something like a thermometer and a pack of white onesies. Which I will then rush home to wrap in the remaining ark paper before packing the rest of my things and heading off to the airport.

But, you know, I have all of this written down in my planner, so my shit is together. J

Trying to be a yogi

January 14, 2010

For the past 8 years or so I have been pretty committed to running, cardio in general and a little strength training here and there.  I truly enjoy working out and love what it does for me both mentally and physically.

Before all of that, I danced.  I loved to dance with all of my heart and poured myself into 4 hours of classes a week and 5 or so hours of dance team practices a week during the school year.  Like lots of ladies I know, I stopped dancing when I went to college.  Why I stopped and why I haven’t taken it up again…gosh, I don’t really know.  Those are thoughts for another post. 

One of the things I loved about dancing was the focus and challenge it required.  When I was in a ballet class, I was using every ounce of brain power to make sure my feet, ankles, legs, hips, torso, neck, head, arms, fingers were all in the right place.  There were always new things to try and master – turns, leaps, or just improving my technique in something I could already do. 

For me, dance is the mental opposite of running.  On a run, I don’t have to put too much thought into putting one foot in front of the other, so my mind can wander and wander.  I can work through problems, plan my day, brainstorm or just plain old daydream.  I love running because of this, but lately my mind has been needing more engagement.

I recently started taking an awesome yoga class (hot power yoga- vinyasa style).  I enjoyed the first class and left with a satisfied feeling I hadn’t had in a while.  The next class I took, it clicked – yoga takes the brain focus and concentration that dance does.  My mind feels at home when I practice yoga.  And the challenges – oh, the challenges!  There are so many things ahead of me to master!  Last night I did crow for the first time and a headstand – leaning on the wall, but I got up there on my own.  And, oh, it was lovely!  I can’t wait to go back and see what my body and my mind can do.