No-Bake Monster Cookie Energy Balls

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Every time I pack my cooler for a trip, it appears as though I’m looking through a veil of health consciousness, which clouds my vision and makes me believe that salad alone will keep me satisfied along my journey. Then, invariably, when I’m 35,000 feet up in the earth’s atmosphere, my enthusiasm for raw cauliflower seems to dissipate. When I start to lose interest in my rabbit food I fall victim to sweet cravings, and those hyper-processed, sugar-laden plane “muffins” start calling my name.

The story always ends the same. I give in and break into a forever-soft banana nut muffin. Halfway through the calorie bomb, I become aware of two developments: my energy has both peaked and crashed, and my stomach is suffering the consequences of sugar over-consumption.

So I learned quickly that I need to come prepared with some quasi nutritious options of my own in order to avoid that regretful feeling–both literally and figuratively–in my gut that comes from caving. I learned that I needed to bring a snack because sugar abstinence is not realistic for me. But I also learned that my sweets should hold some other nutritional value because I am an adult. Protein would be the key to stabilizing my blood sugar while I satisfy my unruly sweet tooth.

Monster trail mix has always been a favorite cheat snack of mine. I love the salty sweet balance between the peanut butter, raisins, and chocolate, and the protein keeps me full and energized for more miles on the trail. So I deconstructed the picky-kid friendly version of the snack and reassembled its parts into bite-size, protein-packed, no-bake monster cookie energy balls to energize my miles in the sky.

This is a really easy recipe to mold to your taste and your pantry inventory. So, replace whatever you don’t have or like with what you do and enjoy your creation.

Ingredients

1 cup oats (I used the gluten-free ancient grain and super seed oatmeal blend from–you guessed it–Trader Joe’s)
1/2 cup nut butter (I ended up mixing in sunflower seed butter when I ran out of crunchy peanutbutter)
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup mini M&M’s or mini chocolate chips (for a cleaner version, try some cacao nibs)
1 tablespoon chia seeds or flax seeds

Mix all your ingredients up in a bowl and form into bite-size balls. Refrigerate, or freeze until you’re ready to pack them.

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Caulifried Rice

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Flying into Vegas

I’m a flight attendant now. That much you all know. There are a few questions that seem to arise every time I tell someone new what I do for a living. Where’s your favorite destination so far? Do you get to fly around wherever you like? But sure enough, people seem fascinated by the fly girl’s diet. So, what’s it like eating out all the time?

If you think about it, life in the aviation industry is inherently transient. It is my job, after all, to travel. And it seems that as a general rule, our eating habits are always the worst when we travel, right? We don’t have access to our usual grocers, we tend to lax up on our diets (we’re on vacation!), we often skip out on our typical exercise routines. Plus, if you’re anything like me, you travel for the sake of food. I mean, there’s just so much to learn about another culture and environment through their cuisine. That, and I just love food, plain and simple. Needless to say, many of us gain a few pounds because when we’re on vacation we let loose and enjoy ourselves, and it’s all okay because we’ll get back into the swing of things as soon as we return home.

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Cheese Steak in Philly…ya gotta go out sometimes!

But what happens when your return home is to be followed shortly by yet another voyage? How can you ever get back into the swing of it if you’re always on the move? With all these factors against me, it seems only natural that the travel diet would become my new lifestyle. But that’s not the case.

I quickly mastered the art of lunchbox tetris wizardry, out of poverty necessity. Hey, we never said we do this job for the money, people!

I enjoy clean eating. If I don’t consume some sort of fresh greens and fruits in my day, it’s a day gone wrong, and I’m left feeling wanting and unfulfilled. While eating out is fun sometimes, knowing what I’m putting in my body is ultimately more important. And I knew this would prove especially true in a tiny flying germ capsule, or else I’d suffer the consequences–weakness, fatigue, and that nasty cough and vulgar runny nose the lady sitting in 16D grossed everyone out with. So I had to figure out a way to get my daily dose of whole foods when I’m working 30,000 feet in the air or laid over in a hotel in a strange city.

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My FA training classmate, friend and colleague and I on a trip together

So I’m going to share with you some tricks and recipes I’ve learned in practice.

When packing food for travel, you have to keep a few things in mind. Sometimes, it can be a challenge to reheat food, let alone cook it in its raw form. My aircraft don’t have microwaves or ovens, so I need to get a little crafty. Some of our coffee machines have a hot plate, which you can (slowly) warm foil-wrapped food on. I’ve also heated soup right from the can this way. It takes a while, but you have the time to plan it out once you’re in the air. Some of my aircraft, however, don’t even have hot plates. In this case, I heat my food, sealed in plastic, in a bin of hot water.

Another thing you need to keep in mind when packing for a trip is that your food needs to be hardy. This can be tough when you’re trying to get fresh foods because they often wilt, get smashed, or rot. Go for hefty produce, like kale and broccoli. Apparently I’m Trader Joe’s’ unofficial spokesperson, as typically everything I eat originates there, but their Broccoli and Kale Slaw is the best. It stands up to tossing and turning, and it doesn’t get soggy after it’s been dressed. Carrots are super easy. And I also like to have Persian cucumbers because I think it’s nice that you don’t have to cut them up to fit in your bag, so they keep longer. Well, I could go on about every item I manage to cram in my life-saving lunchbox, but that’ll be the next post. Keep your eyes peeled for a video coming up.

For now, I leave you with one of my favorite healthy recipes that’s good on the go:

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Caulifried Rice

Caulifried rice is actually not rice at all. Made from riced cauliflower, this dish is light, clean, and healthy. And as a carb fiend, you can trust me when I tell you, you won’t feel like you’re being gypped as you do so often with healthy substitutions. Plus, it’s easy to customize the recipe by throwing in any veggies or proteins you have on hand. As easy, healthy, and delicious as this is to make, you may find you have a new staple to add to your busy work week menu.

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Ingredients:

  • 2-3 TBSP sesame oil (or olive oil)
  • 16 oz riced cauliflower, raw
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, finely minced/grated
  • 1/2 cup peas, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 cup corn, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 cup carrots, diced
  • 1/2 cup firm tofu, diced (I like to marinate my tofu in soy sauce ahead of time to give it more flavor. Also, you can use chicken or pork or whatever protein you prefer.)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4-5 TBSP soy sauce/tamari
  • 2-3 TBSP scallions, fresh, chopped
  • sesame seeds
  • pepper to taste
  • large wok (If you don’t have a very large pan, like a wok, cut the recipe in half, so as not to overfill your pan. You want a lot of room for the fry to occur.)

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Instructions:

  1. In a large wok, saute the onions, garlic, and ginger in oil on medium/low heat until onions become soft and translucent (about 2-3 minutes).
  2. Raise heat to medium/high. Add peas, corn, carrots, and diced tofu. Cook and stir until veggies are heated through, but still firm (about 3-4 min if frozen, 2-3 min if fresh).
  3. Make a well in the center of the wok. Pour in the beaten eggs, and stir until scrambled.
  4. Raise heat to high. Add cauliflower and soy sauce. Cook stirring frequently or about 5-7 more minutes.
  5. Garnish with fresh chopped green onions and sesame seeds.

 

 

Enjoy whatever add-ins you choose. Broccoli, baby corn, cabbage, bok choy, shrimp, water chestnuts, steak–the possibilities are endless.

Now, please excuse me while I go pack my lunch for the next trip!

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I’m Back!

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I hit the bullseye.

So, there have been a lot of changes in my life these last few months, to say the least. I’ve had a major makeover in my career, my home, my city, my company, my diet…Basically everything about my life has turned a complete 180–and I am loving every bit of it!

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Downtown NYC

The last time you saw me, I was writing out of a mish-mosh Brooklyn apartment. I was doing the nanny thing, interning at a museum, and cooking in a kitchen that only New York City could claim as passable. I didn’t have a lot of extra time on my hands, and I didn’t really get out much.

I was by no means a recluse. I enjoyed time with my friends in the city, and I always had fun whipping up tasty treats. But something was missing. It took me two years of living in the big, bad city to figure out what it was. But once I could finally admit to myself that I needed an adjustment, my life turned around and started falling into place.

In October, after months of pestering from my friend to get out of the city that had been trying my patience and happiness for the last 730 days and join her in the aviation industry, I received an email from an airline, inviting me to apply for a flight attendant position.

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Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia

I’ve always been the black sheep of the family. I’m the artsy-fartsy, free-spirited rebel. I like to do what I want, and what I want is often very different than what I’m told. But I was also raised in a well-educated, professional family. I learned to strive for a traditional life–go to college, get a good white-collar job, raise a family. These were the goals of a future I was taught to envision for myself since I was a little girl.

So that’s just what I did. I studied hard and worked my way through school. I have these two lovely degrees from a renowned university, some professional writing experience, and a 25-year-long plan for my future in the corporate world. Dropping everything I’d ever done to become a flight attendant was not an option. It just didn’t seem to make sense. Until it did.

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Reading Market, Philadelpha

Finally, something inside me just snapped, and everything seemed to become crystal clear and incredibly confusing and terrifying at the same time. By the time that invitation reached me, I guess I’d just had enough. The straws had been piling up for two years, and I just kept telling myself that if I could just make an adjustment here or a revision there, I’d find bliss in NYC. But what I’d been doing wasn’t working, so it was time to try something new. Completely and totally new.

I bought myself a ticket to Detroit for the interview, and a whirlwind ensued. It was a wild, nerve-wracking experience. The whole interview process lasted about 12 hours. There were 200 people with whom I was competing, and there were eyes and ears everywhere, watching our every move. My spirit was high, my attitude positive and excited, and my hopes soaring. I was going to land this job. And I did.

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Celebrating my new job as a flight attendant in Greek Town, Detroit

Once I returned home from the interview in Detroit, I had one month to move to the other side of the country before being shipped off to Florida for a month-long training program. One month to clear out. I sold all my furniture, tossed a lot of what had become a part of my life in New York City, rented out my apartment, and prepared to leave the city behind.

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Leaping lizards!

Soon after I landed in Florida, I found that I had underestimated the stress of a flight attendant’s training program. So, it was a month–big deal. So I’d have to share a room–definitely doable. So I couldn’t cook for myself–I’ve been there before. So there’d be some exams–I went to college! I could handle it! And while I got through training with more knowledge and understanding of the aviation industry than I’d ever even realized exists, and made some life-long friends, training did not come without its struggles.

 

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FA gathering at Ft. Lauderdale Ale House

With class from 6 am to 4:30 pm, straight to studying, eating canned soup and microwaved sweet potatoes every day, waking up an hour earlier than I’ve ever needed in order to learn how to use the company-mandated makeup I’ve spent my life avoiding, and literally having zero hours a day to myself for 30 grueling days, I was exhausted. I always had to be “on.” I had to bite my tongue…a lot. And we all know how difficult that is for me. I had to cope with little sleep, found myself longing for my friends and family, missed the Thanksgiving holiday and my mom’s heavenly spread, and lived in what I considered a hobunk town with little in the way of culture, food, history, or entertainment, save for the halfway house next door to our hotel. It was far from glamorous.

But I made it.

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Some of the gang from my FA training class

Then came the next struggle. Living in Detroit. In a crash pad. For those of you not involved in the airline industry, a crash pad is a horrid little house, furnished with loads of beds for the use of flight attendants and pilots in need of a place to stay during their time in base. I was technically residing in Las Vegas, my future desired base, but I had to be in Detroit for all of my assignments. I ended up in this double-wide trailer with ten bunk beds. Never had I lived with so many people at once. I also never anticipated having to sleep in either a bunk bed or a twin bed after my freshman year in the college dorms. Here, I had both! I was living in the town around the airport, called Romulus. Romulus, I am certain, must have been the inspiration for The People of Walmart. In fact, Walmart was the closest thing to my house–only a 15 minute drive! I felt pretty trapped and sometimes overwhelmed by all the personalities in the confined space.

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Brunching in downtown Detroit

But I made the most of my time in Detroit. The ladies in the crash pad became a family away from home. And I was able to reconnect with some close friends of my past, who oddly found themselves in Detroit by way of sunny, southern California, too. I used my 12 days off every month exploring the city, which my friends and I coined “The Land of Low Expectations.” I ran through wooded trails, dropped to the ground in total unpreparedness to make snow angels with every snowfall, baked cookies, experimented with a slow cooker, learned to sleep during broad daylight, and got the *bleep* outta there!

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Christ Church, Philadelphia

For the first time in years, I could travel where I want, when I want. And for the first time in my life, I could do it all for free.

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Lunch break by the Andes in Armenia, Colombia

I visited my friends in New York City, went home and saw my mom and dad, stayed with my sister and sis-in-law in their beautiful new home along the Hudson River, and traveled to Chicago to visit Monet and Renoir and Surat! I have a trip to LA for a reunion of my childhood choir coming up, and soon after, I will be heading to Kiev. How amazing it feels to finally have the freedom I’ve always sought. To throw away all the preconceived notions of what my life should be, and give myself the life I want. 

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Now that I’m settled in Las Vegas with my flight attendant friend, in a space I call my own, I have the opportunity to make my life mine. To use my time for me instead of working for someone else every single day. I have the time I desire for fitting in travel and writing and cooking and art and all the things I want to be surrounded by. But even more importantly, I have the means for helping to take care of my family. I finally feel like I’m able to give them something, after years of having nothing to offer other than myself. I can go spend time with my mom and cook dinner for my dad. I can send them away to the destinations they’ve always had their eyes on. I can plan excursions with my brother and explore the world at our feet together.

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I haven’t been this happy in years. I am so glad I finally took the dive and decided to do something unexpected. I am grateful every single day to have a job that I love and the freedom I need to be happy. As a flight attendant, the world really is my oyster, and boy, am I hungry!