New summertime recipe

Naked Greek Feta-Zucchini Turkey Burgers

In my never-ending attempt to eat healthy I have become bored with my staple menu of low-cal, low-sodium, low-carb, low-fat, easy-to-make recipes. While each was beloved at first, they’ve lost their appeal with repetition. I decided it was time to spice things up. (Oh the joy of cooking puns…)

Seen here grating zucchini. A more treacherous exercise than I first gave it credit for. After the zucchini is grated you have to squeeze a surprising amount of liquid out of it  as it is mostly made of water.

Grating zucchini is a more treacherous exercise than I first gave it credit. After, you have to squeeze a surprising amount of liquid out of it as it is mostly made of water.

My first stop in search of a new recipe is always SkinnyTaste.com, curated by Gina Homolka. In nearly two years of experimentation, her dishes have never disappointed. She uses healthier ingredients and methods but still manages to retain full flavor. I’ve also pushed myself out of my comfort zone trying my hand at some of her recipes, ultimately improving my skill in the kitchen.

Searching for inspiration last night I happened upon her post for naked Greek feta-zucchini turkey burgers. Feta cheese, burger, naked…how could I resist?

This had me tearing up more than I'd like to admit.

This had me tearing up more than I’d like to admit.

Worried at first having never used grated zucchini in a dish and never making a burger, Gina walked me through the steps with grace and ease (on her end seemingly at least…mine however involved a few narrow misses of grating my fingertips and breaking one of the patties mid-flip…)

In the end, the burgers and the Greek salad were absolutely fantastic! A perfect mix of garlicky goodness in a moist burger, which Gina says is due to the zucchini. This is one of my favorite cooking adventures that I have taken with Gina to date.

The hidden gem of this recipe is the Greek salad you make to go with the burger. I'll be making this with many meals from now on.

The hidden gem of this recipe is the Greek salad you make to go with the burger. I’ll be making this with many meals from now on.

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Diversifying my workout

Since high school I’ve been a self-proclaimed gym rat. I am not a fan of team sports, lack great hand-eye coordination and do not generally enjoy exercising outside during the warmer months. This laundry list of limitations left me staring at a gym membership.

WeightsIt turns out that the air conditioned climate, complete with TVs and an endless supply of water within reach is just what I needed to get active.

Not too long ago I noticed  that I had been doing pretty much the same routine all these years. It was a combination of 45 minutes of moderate to decently intense cardio (usually running on the treadmill or elliptical), 10 minutes of stretching, 15 to 20 minutes of abs finished off with 15 minutes or so of weights.

This is nothing to scoff at. It is a balanced workout (I think…?) and typically left me with a sweat. However, I noticed I started to plateau after a while. The runs that used to leave me panting and clenching my side now barely made me break a sweat. Crunches that once caused me to wake up with a sore stomach the next morning were gradually a piece of cake.

I realized I wasn’t varying or increasing the intensity of my workouts.

Flat-belly workout courtesy of POPSUGAR Fitness.

Flat-belly workout courtesy of POPSUGAR Fitness.

My goal as of late has been to change this. I downloaded the POPSUGAR Fitness app, which I open every day at the gym for new ideas and routines, and started tracking my workouts with MyFitnessPal and MapMyRun. These apps help me stay focused and quickly identify when I’m slipping back into my old ways. I’ve challenged myself to do interval runs at an incline to  amp up the intensity of my daily cardio fix. And, I’ve started mixing in more weights and circuit training.

So far the results have been great. I’ve noticed my endurance has shot up and my muscles are more sculpted, thanks to the weight training. The best outcome is that I’m having more fun at the gym because I’m not doing the same tired routine again, and again.

Today I pushed myself to try two new workout plans, a flat-belly workout that combines cardio and crunchless abs and a circuit training workout for legs. I felt them target muscles that I hadn’t hit before and push others further than I normally do. It was also just fun to try a new set of exercises. I lost track of time in the gym because I was working to get a grasp on the new routines.

My tea set lamp; the first DIY project of the summer

The final product.

The final product.

Continuing my post grad adventures, today I built a lamp. Let me preface this post by stating that I am not the handiest girl around. I can manage a hammer and screw driver, but once you get more advanced than that I am out of my league. Today was a real learning experience, luckily I was with someone who knew what he was doing. I was inspired and advised by two blogs: Vintage Revivals and My Repurposed Life.

My handy boyfriend Kevin I created a lamp from pieces of a tea set. I bought all the tea set parts cheap at Home Goods and the lampshade at Ikea (although after assembling it I realized the shade is too small and I will have to get a larger one).

My pre-lamp tea set.

My pre-lamp tea set.

Before we could begin putting anything together we made a trip to Home Depot to buy a drill bit (I didn’t even realize these were customized by purpose and size!), a lamp kit (this has all the wiring and bulb appliances needed), a threaded rod and rubber washers (these go on either side of the ceramic to keep it in place).

You have to drill holes in each plate/cup in order to stack them on top of each other and run the rod through them. We put the hole in the center of each piece except the teapot which I decided to orient at an angle, as if it were pouring tea. We chose a 3/8 inch drill bit because that is the side of the rod I bought.

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Drilling these ceramic and china pieces was very intimidating for us because we were scared we would crack them. A bunch of DIY blogs I read said to start drilling at a 45 degree angle and slowly raise the drill until it is perpendicular to the plate/cup and then to let the drill grind without pressure.

While I think this is probably a good method for some plates, it did not work for us. We had to apply more pressure than was recommended to make any mark on the plates and we did not find any advantage in starting at a 45 degree angle versus starting perpendicular. My advice would be to try the careful way first and see how it works for you. It just did not do it for us.

IMG890

The best tip I found was to drill under water. The drill and plates got very hot as we drilled so doing it under water made sure it didn’t over heat and ruin the drill bit. At first I slowly poured water, letting it collect within the lip of the cup or plate and replenished it as it evaporated. But the drill started getting really hot so I switched to a hose which I sprayed on the “mist” setting continuously while Kevin drilled.

Pouring water onto the underside of a saucer.

Pouring water onto the underside of a saucer.

After drilling through the set, which we found can take 3-5 minutes per piece, comes the fun part: deciding how to order it! I tried it a couple different ways before settling on one.

My final order.

My final order.

Then I followed instruction in the lamp kit on how to string the wire up through the rod and connect it all at the top. Finally I put the lampshade on and voila:

Bringing back old hobbies; my first painting of the summer

Now that I have graduated many people have told me that I’ll have more time to myself that used to be filled with homework and studying. To those who don’t know me, let me tell you something about me: I don’t like free time. I have never been good at relaxing, I don’t particularly enjoy vacations or days off, unless they are filled with purpose.

So, being told that I’ll have lots of time to fill gave me a little jolt of anxiety. Then I realized that it is a perfect opportunity to do things that I used to love doing, but did not have time for while running a daily newspaper at UConn.

The first thing up on my docket was art. I used to spend a lot of my time drawing, and painting and I loved it. My favorite medium is pastels. I haven’t really sat down and drawn with pastels for a couple years. I decided to try my hand at it again last Monday. I gave the painting to my mom for her birthday, which was yesterday. (Happy birthday mom!) Forgive any rustiness and remember that I am not trained, I simply love to do it.

I was inspired by a picture I took during my trip to Paris with my friend Kim. We found an adorable little cafe, with sweet people, around the corner from the Sorbonne. We had our first cup of French espresso, which incidentally kept us up until 4 a.m. that night because we made the mistake of having it in the late afternoon. It was one of our favorite afternoons in Paris.

My pastel painting.

My pastel painting.

 

Goodbye UConn, hello New York City

The last couple weeks have been a whirlwind.

I finished my last week of final exams.

Attended the last banquet for The Daily Campus.

My fabulous Daily Campus staff at the banquet. (Photo courtesy of Rachel Weiss)

My fabulous Daily Campus staff at the banquet. (Photo courtesy of Rachel Weiss)

Packed up my dorm room and left my roommates.

Me and my roommates (from the left) Lindsay, Shreena, Nikki, me, Alivia and Andrea  on Horsebarn Hill at UConn. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Scheller)

Me and my roommates (from the left) Lindsay, Shreena, Nikki, me, Alivia and Andrea on Horsebarn Hill at UConn. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Scheller)

Said goodbye to all the amazing friends that I have made over the last three years at UConn.

And graduated.

Now that I am an alumni I have no idea what to do with myself. It is a difficult to wrap my head around the concept of being done with college.

I had an incredible time studying at UConn. I loved my classes, professors, friends and The Daily Campus. I learned more about myself during my time in Storrs than ever before. I learned that I want to be a journalist. I learned that I enjoy leading people. I learned how to be a good friend. I learned how to be independent but also how to ask people for help when it is needed.

Thank you to my parents Carla and John for helping me get through the last few years, both financially and personally. I would not be where I am today without them.

Thank you to my roommates who I lived with the last two years. Six girls living together in two bedrooms, with one bathroom, seems like a recipe for disaster. But for us it was a recipe for greatness. We became a family. I relied on their support, love, humor and company countless times.

Finally, thank you to my coworkers and friends at The Daily Campus. The newspaper shaped my college career and led me to find what I want to do next. Day after day of late nights, trips to Storrs Center, editorial meetings and weekend outings brought us close together. You were my other UConn family.

And now that I have left Storrs, Connecticut for the last time, I am off on my next big adventure: NBC. In two weeks I will start as an NBC Page. I am incredibly fortunate to have been given this opportunity and I cannot wait to begin.

Stay tuned to hear stories from my next chapter!