Provincetown Day Trip Itinerary (from Boston)

Provincetown

One of my favorite things about Boston is its close proximity to everything the Northeast has to offer: beaches, mountains, big cities, and small towns. No matter what kind of escape you’re seeking, it can likely be found within a 3 hour drive. After sharing a day trip itinerary for Brattleboro, Vermont, there’s been a request to share more of my tried-and-true day trip ideas. So today, I’m outlining one of my favorite excursions that is perfect for a warm weather escape: Provincetown, MA.

Provincetown, or Ptown as its affectionately known, is located at the very end of Cape Cod. If you were to drive from Boston, particularly during the summer, it could easily take upwards of 3 hours in traffic. Luckily, there’s a faster, more delightful way to get there… by boat!

Both Bay State Cruise Company and Boston Harbor Cruises offer a “fast ferry” from Boston to Provincetown, which is only 1 ½ hours each way. Admittedly, this is NOT a cheap option, as ferry tickets run about $93 per person round trip. But since it’s a day trip, at least you’re not on the hook for a hotel! Plus, this is an especially convenient option for locals who don’t own a car, or tourists who aren’t renting a car.

I’ve been to Provincetown about 5 times over the past 4 years, and in my opinion, the summer shoulder season is the best time to go: in late May, early-mid June, or early September. In July and August, Commercial Street is swarming with slow-walking tourists, and all of the crowds and chaos can take away from the ambiance.

Ready for a trip to Ptown? Hop aboard the ferry, then follow my lead…

You’ll arrive in Provincetown at MacMillan Pier. From the Pier, take a right onto Commercial Street and start wandering along the “East End” of Provincetown. If you had to wake up early to catch the ferry, you’ll probably want a coffee to perk yourself up. I always start my adventures at the Wired Puppy or the Ptown Cafe, both conveniently located in the East End. For tea drinkers, The Captain’s Daughters is a must.

Drink in hand, it’s now time to soak up the adorable New England charm and wander in and out of shops and art galleries. Some of my favorite stores are Utilities and Salt Supply, and if we’re being honest, Monty’s Christmas, because Christmas ornaments are my favorite travel memento.

Once you start getting hungry, turn around and start heading west on Commercial St, going a little past the pier. You can’t come all the way to Cape Cod and not get a lobster roll, and in that case, I recommend Canteen. Canteen is a bit pricey for such a casual spot, but the food is delicious and the ambiance can’t be beat. (Be sure to grab a seat out back, in the funky back patio overlooking the water.) The portions are large, so if you want a side, I recommend sharing with a friend. My favorite sides are the crispy brussels sprouts and the baked beans. If you’re lobstered-out, or are just looking for a lighter option, there are also a number of delicious looking salads and quinoa bowls. I say delicious-looking, because, uh, when in Rome 😉

With a hearty lunch behind you, it’s time to get some steps in. Continue strolling west down Commercial street, throughout the “West End” of Provincetown. The charming New England bungalows are prime Instagram bait, and it’s hard to walk very far without stopping for a photo. A mile west of Canteen, you’ll reach Pilgrim’s First Landing Park. From here, follow the jetty of large boulders (Provincetown Causeway) all the way across to the beach. The beach here is never crowded, and is the perfect place to sprawl out on a blanket and nap, read or play card games.

By late afternoon or early evening, once you’ve had enough sun, make your way back across the jetty, and walk to the Red Inn for a pre-dinner drink. Feel free to seat yourself in one of the white Adirondack chairs overlooking the water, and a waiter will come by and take your drink order. There are often happy hour specials around this time too. If you can stay here for dinner, all the better, but it’s a popular spot (and quite upscale too), so you really need to make a reservation several weeks in advance.

If you decide to head elsewhere for dinner, you’ll have no shortage of options. I’ve eaten at Mac’s Fish House (which was recommended to me by a vegan friend who made an exception for this fish), Nor’East Beer Garden (such a nice ambiance if you want to eat outside),  and Squealing Pig, a casual pub.

If you’re taking the 8:30pm ferry back, you’ll have plenty of time for a leisurely meal. And if at any point in the day you still find yourself with extra time on your hands, you can climb to the top of Pilgrim Monument, relax by the water, or grab a frozen yogurt.

Below is an overview/schedule of what a day trip to Ptown might look like. I don’t think a swimsuit is necessary for this itinerary, but I do recommend bringing a blanket or towel (for sitting on at the beach), a pack of cards and/or a book (for the ferry ride and for the beach), and a water bottle, as well as comfortable shoes and a light layer (the ferry gets chilly, especially at night).

Provincetown Day Trip Itinerary (from Boston)

  • 9:00am Board the Fast Ferry from Long Wharf
  • 10:30am arrive in Provincetown
  • 10:30-noonish From the Pier, take a right onto Commercial Street and wander along the “East End” of Provincetown.
  •  Lunch: Lobster rolls at Canteen
  • 1:00pm-4:30pm stroll along the “West End” of Provincetown, over to Pilgrim’s First Landing Park. Walk across the jetty (Provincetown Causeway) to the beach, and relax on the beach
  • 5:00-6:00pm Grab a pre-dinner drink on the back patio at the Red Inn.
  • 6:00-8:00pm Enjoy a leisurely dinner, then treat yourself to any last souvenirs or an ice cream cone before boarding the ferry.
  • 8:30pm ferry departs
  • 10:00pm arrive in Boston

Have you been to Provincetown? What are your can’t-miss recommendations?

— Kelly

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Vermont Favorites

With its history, cobbled streets, manicured parks, and countless restaurants, cafes, and shops, Boston has everything I could ever need. And yet each season, I find myself longing to spend a quiet weekend escape in Vermont. Today I’m spotlighting 3 of my favorite cities in Vermont: Brattleboro, Woodstock, and Burlington (ranked from closest to Boston to farthest from Boston), and my best tips on what to do, where to eat, and where to stay.

Brattleboro, VT

Hours from Boston: 2h 15min (daytrip-able, in my opinion)

Things to do in brattleboro:

Hiking Wantastiquet Mountain // Though technically in New Hampshire, this approachable 3.9-mile trail is less than one mile from Brattleboro, just on the other side of the Connecticut River. The views at the summit are impressive, especially when the fall foliage is popping. If you’re looking for a more intense hike, Mount Monadnock is about an hour East of Brattleboro.

Apple picking at Green Mountain Orchards // There are plenty of places to go apple picking much closer to Boston, but this one is worth the drive, as it never seems overly crowded. They also have pick-your-own pumpkins and warm apple cider donuts, in addition to a farmstore with other local specialties. The orchard is only a 20-minute drive from downtown Brattleboro.

Hidden Springs Maple // This cute little maple syrup store is less than one mile from the apple orchard. Since you drive past it on the way to the orchard anyway, it’s a no-brainer to take a quick pit stop inside and stock up on real Vermont maple syrup.

Downtown Brattleboro // Brattleboro is like a smaller version of Burlington, VT. There are lots of cute shops, restaurants, cafes, and bookstores. While you wouldn’t need to spend a whole day there, it’s a cute place to walk around while you’re waiting for a table (see below).

Where to Eat in Brattleboro:

Whetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery // It is so difficult to visit Brattleboro and not eat at this restaurant (red building in the photo above). The beer selection is fabulous, and in addition to your typical bar food (burgers, etc.) I have always been pleased to find veggie-centric dishes as well, such as a quinoa bowl with local vegetables. There is always a wait for a table, especially on pleasant days when the roof deck is open (the restaurant overlooks the Connecticut River), so it’s best to put your name on the wait list before you get hungry, then stroll around downtown Brattleboro until your table’s ready.

Duo // On my most recent trip to Brattleboro, the wait at Whetsone Station Restaurant was too long to bear, and we needed to get back on the road at a reasonable time. So we wandered along Main St. until we stumbled on Duo, a super charming, Insta-worthy, farm-to-table restaurant that serves dinner and weekend brunch. Though they don’t offer a lunch menu, we managed to snag a seat while brunch was still being served. The food was delicious (I got a grilled cheese sandwich on multigrain bread with gazpacho) and the atmosphere was lovely!

Mocha Joe’s // For fans of unsweetened chai lattes, the chai at Mocha Joe’s is hard to beat!

sample itinerary for brattleboro:

Woodstock, Vt

Hours from Boston: 2h 30min

Things to do in Woodstock, vt:

Skiing at Killington, Pico, or Okemo // Nearly every visit to Woodstock has revolved around a ski trip. Killington & Pico are about 30 minutes West, while Okemo is about 35 minutes South.

Pottery Workshop at Farmhouse Pottery // I’ve long admired the beautiful dishes and accessories from Farmhouse Pottery, and when I found out that they also offer workshops, I checked out their website immediately.  At $350 per couple (for a tour, personal pottery lesson, & wine/cheese), I haven’t quite been able to convince my date to split the hefty cost with me. But this this is definitely on my Woodstock wishlist!

Downtown Woodstock // Downtown Woodstock is pretty small, with just a few shops and cafes. But the town also home to charming New England houses and a picturesque covered bridge.

Where to Eat in Woodstock, VT

Simon Pearce // This luxury glassware and pottery mill is home to a beautiful restaurant and bar in Quechee, VT (less than 20 minutes from Woodstock) that overlooks a waterfall and covered bridge. Travel & Leisure magazine named it as one of the most romantic restaurants in America, and the designation is well-deserved. In addition to a stunning interior, the restaurant also serves up delicious, upscale farm-to-table fare.

Long Trail Brewery // If you want to enjoy a flight of local beers with your lunch, Long Trail is a fun place to hang out. Plus, it’s only a 10-minute drive from Woodstock.

Woodstock Farmers Market // This specialty food store and deli has an impressive selection of sandwiches, bakery items, and more. It’s a great place to pick up a quick lunch for a picnic.

Where to Stay in Woodstock, VT

506 on the River Inn // This hotel is honestly the reason I go to Woodstock so often. Ranked one of the best new hotels when it opened a few years ago by Conde Nast Traveler, this beautiful boutique hotel looks like a Restoration Hardware catalog come to life. An impressive breakfast is included, which helps you swallow the hefty price tag (about $300+/night during weekends in the peak season). There’s also a well-kept indoor pool and hot-tub, and a gameroom with boardgames and a pool table. (Families will appreciate the kids play rooms as well). We were cooped up here during a polar vortex once, and were SO thankful that we sprung for a comfortable hotel (think heated towel bars in the marble-clad bathroom) with things to do and a cozy fireplace to read by. If we don’t want to drive much further after a long day of skiing, we book a reservation in the hotel restaurant, or snag some seats at the bar. The menu  is surprisingly nice and I’ll take any excuse to spend some extra time in front of the crackling fire.

Woodstock Inn // This classic hotel is a landmark of the area. During peak seasons there’s often a 2-3 night minimum, which is why I’ve yet to have an opportunity to check it out for myself. The gorgeous inn is also home to a spa, a golf course, and restaurants. A must on any Vermont bucket list!

Burlington, Vermont

Hours from Boston: 3h 30m

What to do in Burlington, VT

Hiking at Stowe Pinnacle Trail // About a 45 minute drive from Burlington, this trail is 3 miles out-and-back, and is rated as “moderate.”

Skiing // Burlington is about an hour from Smuggler’s Notch, and about 1h 30 min from Jay Peak.

Biking the Island Line Trail //  If you’re a fan of biking the Cape Cod Rail trail, then the Island Line Trail is a must if you visit up north.  The trail is 13.4 miles each way, and follows part of what used to be the old Rutland Railroad track. Along the way you’ll be treated to beautiful views of Lake Champlain interspersed with lush greenery.

Kayaking, Paddle boarding, or Sailing in Lake Champlain // Just a 10 minute walk from Church St, the main drag of Burlington, and you’ll reach the waters of Lake Champlain. A stroll along the water is lovely, but if you’re able to snag a boat rental and explore the lake yourself, all the better. At the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center, it’s $15/hr for kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards, $30/hr for a dinghy, and $60/hr for a keelboat. This is a popular activity, so on hot summer days be prepared to wait for a boat or plan get there before peak hours.

Church Street Marketplace // Nestled in downtown Burlington is an open-air mall lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants, with Church St. being the main drag. In addition to your basic staples (LL Bean, Gap, Athleta, Lululemon, etc) I love stopping into little independent stores like Vermont Flannel Company, Crow Book Shop, and Frog Hollow on the Marketplace. However, one my favorite shops, Common Deer (which features artisan made-in-America goods), is tucked away on College Street, slightly off the beaten path of the main shopping area. In the warmer months there’s also a Saturday farmers market.

Where to Eat in Burlington, VT

Farmhouse Tap & Grill // This farm-to-table Gastropub has one of the best beer menus I’ve ever come across. Whether you visit for brunch, lunch, or dinner, the menu has a little something for everyone.

American Flatbreads // This casual pizzeria is the kind of place that I wish my Boston neighborhood had. On beautiful days, try to snag a seat in the string-light clad outdoor beer garden. The large wood burning oven and red checked tablecloths lend a cozy atmosphere to the inside as well.  My favorite pie is the “Revolution,” which has tomato sauce, caramelized onions, mushrooms, cheese, and fresh herbs. (My date raves about  the Buffalo Chicken pie.)  On a 6-hour road trip from Boston to Mont-Tremblant, Canada, we once pulled off the highway in Burlington and put our names on the list for a table just so we could eat dinner here.

Pizzeria Verita // One can never have enough great pizza places. This Italian restaurant is decidedly more upscale than American Flatbreads, and the romantic atmosphere is perfect for date night. The pizza is deliciously true  to the thin-crust Neopolitan style, and the other dishes and specials are delicious too.

Uncommon Grounds // Located in right in the hustle and bustle of downtown Burlington’s Church St., this is my favorite place to get a caffeine fix.

Honey Road // Just when I thought the food scene in Burlington couldn’t get any better, Honey Road opened. This Mediterranean restaurant comes from Oleana alum Cara Chigazola Tobin, and features lots of small mezze meant to be shared (like tapas), rather than large entrees.

Hen of the Wood // If you’re looking for an upscale dinner to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, or the like, this is the spot for you. The farm-to-table menu changes daily, but features beautiful seasonal vegetable dishes, as well as elegant animal dishes that you don’t see everyday (duck, lamb, rabbit, etc.)

Waterworks Food + Drink // Although technically in Winooski, VT, this restaurant is less than a 10-minute drive from downtown Burlington. On par with most Vermont restaurants, the food and beers were superb and locally sourced. But what really drew me to this restaurant was the atmosphere, as it’s housed in an old, textile mill (exposed brick! sky-high windows! Edison light bulbs!) overlooking Winooski Falls.

Where to Stay in Burlington, VT

Hilton Burlington // I have a love-hate relationship with this hotel. This is where I’ve stayed nearly every trip to Burlington. The location is excellent but it’s terribly overpriced (~$275 in peak season) given its lack of charm. However, on the plus side, Hilton Honors members get free parking in the attached garage, and the hotel also has bicycle storage and an indoor pool.

Hotel Vermont // At 4-stars, this hotel is slightly more upscale than the Hilton, and is located right next door. There’s often at least a $30 price difference between the two, which is partly why I haven’t sprung for this hotel yet, but it’s also smaller and tends to book up more quickly. Since it’s relatively new (opened in 2013) I love how nice and clean looking it is. Maybe next time!

Made Inn Vermont // Let me start by saying that I am not a B&B person. I have an aversion to granny textiles and I love the security of being able to call down to a front desk at any hour with room questions or concerns. So I was pleasantly surprised to stumble on this small luxury hotel that happens to be a B&B. The vibe appears to be artsy-chic, and in true Burlington fashion you get a can of Heady Topper upon check-in as a welcome drink. Note that there’s a 2-night minimum during weekends May-October, and prices start at $250/night.

What are your favorite places in Vermont? Anything I should add to my list?

– Kelly

Lessons from Cooking through 31 Cookbooks

At the end of 2014, I set off on a journey to cook at least 5 recipes from every cookbook in my collection. To keep the mission even more focused, I tried to avoid buying new cookbooks until the task was complete. Although I wasn’t 100% strict about the shopping part, I have been diligently cooking through my collection for the past 2+ years, and am finally pleased to report a mission accomplished.

One thing I learned is that I am not a huge fan of baking. Ever the cliché dietitian, I am constantly tempted to forgo most of the butter and sugar, and then I get frustrated when nothing turns out right.

However, I also learned that I am a huge fan of plant-based recipes, as the ingredients are refreshingly affordable (no expensive meat or cheese!), and yet completely full of flavor. In fact, my favorite, most-cooked-from cookbook was Food52 Vegan, by Gena Hemshaw. This cookbook is from the folks behind the popular recipe and food website, Food52, so it’s no surprise that nearly every recipe from this book was a hit. However, it is surprising that a vegan cookbook stole the heart of this grilled chicken and Greek yogurt loving girl.

Food52 Vegan gets top billing, not only because I made more recipes from this book than any other (9 and counting), but because nearly every dish was so crave-worthy that I kept scooping them up into my regular rotation. Below are some of my favorites:

  • French Lentil and Arugula Salad with Herbed Cashew Cheese, from Food52 Vegan
  • Orecchiette with Creamy Leeks and Broccoli Rabe, from Food52 Vegan
  • Roasted Cauliflower and Freekeh Salad, from Food52 Vegan
  • Roasted Ratatouille, from Food 52 Vegan (I like to toss this with whole wheat pasta)
  • Zucchini Quinoa Cakes, from Food52 Vegan (I served mine atop kale tossed with avocado)

Honorable Mentions (cookbooks that I had lots of success with and highly recommend)

If you purchase or borrow any of the books above, the recipes listed below are a great place to start. All the following recipes are ones I have tested and would highly recommend! 

  • Avocado, Citrus, and Radicchio Salad, Kitchen Express
  • Basic Hummus, Good and Cheap
  • Black Bean Soup, Kitchen Express
  • Broiled Eggplant Salad, Good and Cheap
  • Chicken Curry with Raisins, Kitchen Express
  • Chicken and Vegetable Biryani, Everyday Whole Grains
  • Creamy Bulgur with Honey and Tahini, Simply Ancient Grains (this also tastes dreamy with millet instead of bulgur)
  • Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich, Kitchen Express
  • Minted Summer Couscous with Watermelon and Feta, Simply Ancient Grains (I use often bulgur instead of couscous)
  • Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprint Cookies, Everyday Whole Grains
  • Roasted Portobello Mushrooms with Hazelnut Buckwheat Stuffing, Simply Ancient Grains
  • Super-Fudgy Teff Brownies, Everyday Whole Grains

Other Favorites

Part of the reason this journey took more than two years is that I was often tempted to revisit recipes, rather than constantly trying something new. Below are a few other recipes I fell in love with while working through my collection.

Breakfast

  • Family Favorite Granola, from You Have it Made, by Ellie Krieger

Mains – Fish

  • Garlic Basil Shrimp, from So Easy, by Ellie Krieger
  • Mussels Provencal, from So Easy, by Ellie Krieger
  • Salmon Cakes with Lemon-Caper Yogurt Sauce, from Weeknights with Giada, by Giada de Laurentiis

Mains – Chicken

  • Black Rice Chicken Congee, from The Grain Bowl, by Nik Williamson
  • Chicken-Farro Salad, from True Food, by Andrew Weil

Mains – Vegetarian

  • Curried Red Quinoa and Peach Salad, from The Oldways 4-Week Vegetarian and Vegan Menu Plan
  • Orzo with Roasted Vegetables, from Barefoot Contessa Parties, by Ina Garten
  • Thick Crusted Greens, Onion, and Feta Pie, by Aglaia Kremezi, from The Oldways Table (I sub whole wheat flour for the AP flour)

Soups & Sides

  • Butternut Squash and Apple Soup, from Barefoot Contessa Parties, by Ina Garten
  • Honey Roasted Carrots with Tahini Yogurt, from Plenty More, by Yotam Ottolenghi
  • Stewed Lentils & Tomatoes, from Barefoot Contessa at Home, by Ina Garten
  • Swedish Pea Soup, from Plant-Powered for Life, by Sharon Palmer

Dips & Dressings

  • Tofu Green Goddess Dressing, The I Hate Tofu Cookbook, by Tucker Shaw
  • Warm Spinach and Artichoke Dip, from The Food You Crave, by Ellie Krieger (I replace the sour cream & mayo with nonfat plain Greek yogurt)

Dessert

  • Baked Fruit with Ricotta, from Giada’s Feel Good Food, by Giada de Laurentiis
  • Cardamom Currant Snickerdoodles, from Food52 Baking
  • Summer Fruit Crostata, from Barefoot Contessa at Home, by Ina Garten (I sub whole wheat flour for the AP flour, and cut the sugar from the fruit filling)

What next?

Now that I have given my existing cookbooks sufficient attention, I’m allowing myself to browse the food section of Brookline Booksmith and Amazon to add to my collection. Here are some cookbooks that are at the top of my shopping list:

For another sneak peek into my cookbook & coffee table book wishlist, check out my related Pinterest board.

– Kelly

Rental Kitchen Makeover (Under $330!)

I’ve eagerly devoured a steady diet of HGTV since early high school. And if I’ve learned anything from Sarah Richardson, Jonathan Scott, or Joanna Gaines over the years, it’s that the most budget friendly way to achieve the look you’re after is to roll up your sleeves and do it yourself.

Living in an expensive metropolitan area certainly puts a damper on home ownership prospects, but with a little bit of elbow grease, and a lot of creativity, renters can also make a space their own. In fact, this is even true in a room with seemingly little opportunity for personalization, such as the kitchen.

With a dishwasher, garbage disposal, natural light, and generous square footage, the kitchen in our cozy attic apartment is fabulously functional. But widespread visible clutter and slightly disjointed color scheme (a purple wall, a yellow wall, and a red door) had me dreaming of a more tidy, Nancy Myers inspired aesthetic.

The primary source of clutter was the lack of built in storage, which had been addressed by previous tenants with a mismatched array of bookcases overflowing with mugs, mixing bowls, and foodstuffs. The second ‘before’ photo does not fully illustrate the direness of the situation, as I didn’t think to take before photos until I had already put two of the white cabinets in.

With my landlord’s blessing, and roommates who are willing to humor my creative whims, I set out for a miniature home improvement project over the long weekend of Columbus Day. A fresh coat of paint and a few new accents can make a world of difference, but the best part is that the entire makeover cost less than most dining room tables.

If you think that all budget-conscious renters are stuck living in drab apartments, I’ve got a paint stained t-shirt and two happy roommates that beg to differ.

beforeafter1

After:

Rental Kitchen Makeover

beforeafter2

After:

Rental Kitchen Makeover

rental kitchen makeover

Rental Kitchen Makeover

Rental Kitchen Makeover

beforeafter3

After:

rental kitchen makeover: chalkboard door

Cost Breakdown:

  • Target Cabinets (3 @ $35 ea.) — $105
  • Target Shelves (3 @ $25 ea.) — $75
  • Brass Hardware for Cabinets ( 6 @ $5.79 ea. + shipping) — $42
  • 1 gallon of blue paint — $33
  • 1 quart of chalkboard paint — $17
  • Supplies (rollers, brushes, tray, drop cloth, spackle, primer, etc.) — $55
  • GRAND TOTAL: $327

Sources:

– Kelly

My Favorite Relaxing Yoga Videos

As the season of free outdoor fitness classes comes to a close, I’ve been on the hunt for a way to sprinkle in more movement without breaking the bank. I’ve since learned that Youtube has much more to offer than just hair tutorials and John Oliver segments, and have stumbled down the joyous rabbit hole of free Youtube yoga videos. Below are a few gentle routines that I keep coming back to. Nearly all of these routines are less than 15 minutes, so they are the perfect low commitment way to get into yoga if you’re new to the practice.

15 Minute Yoga to Wake Up (13:16) // Yoga by Candace

This video starts off super calm and gentle, so it’s a nice, soothing way to start the day, especially if you haven’t had your morning coffee.

Yoga to Get the Juices Flowing! (8:27) // Yoga with Adriene

If you feel like you have been sitting at the desk (or on the couch!) for too long, and need a quick stretch break to feel energized and get the juices flowing, this video is perfect. I also like to do this one in the morning when I wake up.

Yoga for Upper Back Pain (12:03) // Yoga with Adriene

Like most adults with a desk job, I tend to hold a lot of tension in the neck, shoulders, and upper back. Since regular massages aren’t in the budget, this quick yoga routine is a pretty nice alternative. I also enjoy Adriene’s 15 minute sequence for lower back pain.

Yoga for Tired Legs (26:58) // Yoga with Adriene

With cooler autumn weather making appearances in Boston, I’ve been trying to go running more regularly. My sore body has not been as amused as my health-conscious heart, so stretches that soothe achy legs are a welcome treat. I have tried a number of post-run or “yoga for runners” sequences, but this video is my favorite routine to fill that need. This video is a bit longer than the others on the list, but it’s super relaxing, and not at all strenuous.

5 Minute Before Bed Yoga (6:56) // Yoga by Candace

This short sequence is a great stretch to do right when you are ready to go to bed. Sometimes I also do this one right when I wake up, if I’m so tired that I can’t fathom getting out of bed. Candace also has a 10-minute, before bed yoga sequence that I enjoy.

Do you have favorite yoga or fitness Youtube videos that you return to time and time again? Share the link in the comments!

– Kelly

Welcome to Our Garden

Dinner on a rooftop garden, Brookline, MA

^^ Dinner in the garden

While I’m perfectly content lugging my grocery basket up and down the tiny aisles of my minuscule but much loved Whole Foods Market, there is something incredibly rewarding about growing your own food.

As a lover of local, organic foods and CSAs, having a small vegetable garden has been on my bucket list for years. I first acted on this agricultural impulse several years ago, when I enrolled in the Citizen Gardener Certification course from the Sustainable Food Center in Austin. The program consisted of two classroom & field lessons and required 10 hours of volunteer work in community gardens. At the end of the summer, the training then culminated in a beautiful potluck feast at the Barr Mansion in Austin, where students brought dishes created with their homegrown produce.

Despite all of the education and volunteer work, I completely wimped out on the actual act of starting a garden, still too daunted to put these lessons into practice. At the potluck, I sheepishly put my farmers market vegetable tartine on the table (at least it was homemade!), and quickly deflected all questions about my summer in the dirt. So much for that!

In the years since, I’ve been much more enthusiastic about buying plants, and have subsequently let several herb starts and an embarrassing number of succulents perish on my watch. This year, however, marked a turning point in my gardening adventures, as our cozy Brookline abode came complete with a spacious rooftop patio, which I am determined not to take for granted. Plus, our newest roommate is from the Pacific Northwest, and is using all of her quirky Portlandia knowledge to spearhead this project. (Admittedly, I am mostly only contributing dirt and curiosity.)

Garden1

garden4

Cultivating the seedlings into strong plants was a challenge, but apparently, that was only half the battle. Our third floor elevation protects us from most predators, but we’ve dealt with a few heartbreaking run-ins with a rather malicious squirrel, as well as an infestation of aphids.

After several months of care, we are finally starting to see some veggies springing up. We started peas, carrots, green beans, zucchinis, basil, Thai basil, Chinese chives, sunflowers, and cucumbers from seed—a particularly rewarding endeavor. We also have tomatoes, strawberries, oregano, mint, rosemary, and sage, which we grew from starts.

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garden3

If you’re looking to start your own garden, here are some tools we found particularly helpful…

Starting an Outdoor Container Garden in Boston

  1. Smart Pot // Amazon ( Assorted sizes, $8.72 for 5 gallon)
  2. BirdBlock Netting // Amazon ($8.35 for 7 ft x 20 ft)
  3. Neptune Harvest Organic Fertilizer // Amazon ($12.74 for 18 oz)
  4. Foxfarm Potting Soil // Amazon ($24.37 for 36.8 quarts)
  5. Seed Starter Pots // Amazon ($5.98 for 50 cells)

Are you growing anything this year?

– Kelly

Campfire Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry with Quinoa

stir fry

vvvvvv

Campfires are an essential element to all great summers, and this year, I hit the ground running. In mid-June, the season kicked off with a trip to Acadia National Park. While my sweetheart prefers sleeping under the stars, I tend to gravitate towards luxury hotels. One night of camping followed by an evening in charming Bar Harbor was the ultimate win-win.

Aside from the beautiful mountain views, the best part of camping, is of course, the food. S’mores are wonderful, but a girl cannot survive on chocolate stuffed grahams alone, especially after hours of hiking. Therefore, 99% of my vacation preparation was spent brainstorming the perfect campfire meal.

The trusty cast iron skillet was a mandatory passenger on our trip, so a one-pot meal, like stir fry, quickly proved to be our winner. I opted for quinoa instead of the usual brown rice, because it is one of the quickest cooking whole grains, often requiring only 12-15 minutes of cook time. The chicken was a welcome, hearty choice after a day on the trails, but if you’re looking to keep this plant based, you can also sub tofu or shelled edamame.

Stir Fry Collage

Campfire Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry with Quinoa

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
  • 1 pound chopped mixed vegetables (we set aside about a 1/2 cup of the veggies for breakfast the next morning)
  • 6-12 oz grilled chicken
  • 2-4 tablespoons teriyaki sauce

Method:

  1. Get a good fire going!
  2. Add quinoa and 1 cup water to camping pot and cover.
  3. While the quinoa is cooking,  warm oil in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over the fire, then add the veggies, stirring occasionally.
  4. Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces.
  5. Once the quinoa water starts bubbling, and the onions start to become translucent, add the chicken to the skillet. The quinoa needs to cook until all of the water is absorbed, and the grain sprouts a curly “tail”.
  6. When the quinoa looks like it’s almost ready, add the teriyaki sauce to the skillet, then stir well to combine.
  7. Once the quinoa is cooked, add the quinoa to the skillet, and stir to incorporate it into the teriyaki mixture.
  8. Divide the stir fry onto two plates, for serving. If there is any leftover after serving, cover the pan in foil so that it stays warm if anyone wants seconds. Best enjoyed in front of a crackling fire.

Nutrition per Serving: 570 calories, 21g fat (2.5g saturated fat), 46g carbohydrates (7g fiber, 10g sugar*), 48g protein, 124mg cholesterol, 310mg sodium, 37% Vitamin A, 234% Vitamin C, 7% Calcium, 20% Iron

*estimated added sugars: 4.5g

Acadia National Park

^^ Beautiful Acadia

– Kelly

Best (Easy to Read) Nutrition and Wellness Books

Few conversations can bring a bookworm out of his or her shell faster than a request for reading recommendations. Much to my delight, people from all walks of life are now embracing nutrition and wellness with a frenzied, passion-like curiosity. And guess what — they’re looking for something to read! While no one book can bottle up my entire education and experience into a practical, easy-to-read volume, I will happily supply recommendations for those wanting to learn more.

Not to worry — there  are no dense nutrition textbooks or food anthologies on this list. Rather, I’m sharing some of my favorite, easy to read book nutrition related books from the popular press. I also included four of my favorite food systems books, for those that want to dig deeper and approach nutrition on a public health scale.

Best Easy-to-Read Nutrition Books (according to a Dietitian)

Nutrition & Wellness 101: What to Eat and How to Eat It

The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who Live the Longest, by Dan Buettner // This book investigates cultures around the world that live the longest, emphasizing the importance of achievable, enjoyable lifestyles and habits, rather than extreme regimens. The diversity of traditions represented demonstrate why small choices (black beans versus bok choy) aren’t as important as overall dietary patterns (eating lots of vegetables).

Disease-Proof, by David Katz // Although not every chapter of this book is devoted specifically to diet and food choices, it is a great handbook for anyone striving to take better care of their body. Dr. Katz not only addresses goals that are relevant to living healthier, but also the skills needed to make these goals a reality. (I blogged a longer review in a previous post.)

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, by Michael Pollan // While not an outright guidebook on what to eat, this is one of the clearest, most beautifully written explanations of the way that our food is grown and processed matters, and why farm fresh food and scratch cooking are wiser alternatives to packaged “health foods” and standard American fare.

French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters, by Karen Le Billon // This memoir follows the triumphs (and failures) of a North American family attempting to expand their picky palates and embrace real food (and table manners) throughout their year in France. The lessons can be applied to any life stage, even if you don’t have children. Most importantly, Le Billon reminds us not to lose sight of the big picture. After all, green vegetables cooked in butter are certainly more nutritious than opting for highly processed snack foods with no veggies at all.

Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life, by Brian Wansink// Dr. Wansink is a firm believer that “it’s easier to change your eating environment than to change your mind.” This book offers plenty of practical tips to make nutritious choices the easy, default choices, applying data from the author’s behavioral research lab. Picking up from Dr. Wansink’s 2006 book, Mindless Eating, this follow up is even more user friendly, complete with illustrated blueprints on how to makeover your food environment to eliminate the triggers that cause mindless eating and overeating.(I blogged a longer review in a previous post.)

Extra Credit: Exploring Our Food System

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, by Michael Moss // By now, we know that fast food and highly packaged junk foods (chips, soda, etc) are bad news. But if you wonder why these foods continue to engulf our communities and tickle our senses, Moss’s expose on the food industry is the perfect place to start.

The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food, by Dan Barber // Celebrity chef Dan Barber’s tome is a refreshingly solutions-based approach to addressing the plagues of industrial food production. From aquaculture to soil health, Barber gets his hands dirty to find the best ways that chefs, farmers, and consumers can come together and get our food system (and our land) back in shape.

Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty, by Mark Winne // Drawing from his personal experience in urban food activism, Mark Winne illustrates how truly sustainable food systems should address the needs of all participants, not just the wealthy minority. This book is a humble reminder that reforming our food system is not just a hobby for the well-to-do, but is directly in line with the changes needed to help end hunger and improve nutrition in America.

World Hunger: Ten Myths, by Frances Moore Lappé and Joseph Collins // Yes, this is the book that I helped research – an experience that taught me so much about our food economy and food production system. Lappé and Collins go beyond admonishing industrial agricultural monopolies and praising sustainable agriculture – they actually demonstrate that agroecology is in fact better suited to feed a growing population.

– Kelly

Shakshuka Polenta with Chickpeas

Shakshuka Polenta

My morning oatmeal habit single-handedly turned breakfast into the most beloved of all meals,  so it was only a matter of time before I became enamored with polenta, a creamy cornmeal dish from northern Italy (similar to grits).

While this recipe started as an empty-pantry-desperation-dinner (requiring just a few canned goods and some eggs), it has quickly become one of my most dependable weeknight suppers, eliciting frequent cravings, roommate food envy, and a new tendency to stockpile canned tomatoes. The Eggs Shakshuka from the Beat Brasserie in Harvard Square inspired this unlikely pairing, as they serve the traditional, North African tomato dish over a creamy puddle of warm polenta.

Taking recipes to a more porridge-like level is always a winning strategy in my kitchen, so it is no surprise that this Shakshuka Polenta with Chickpeas is heavy on rotation at my place this season. In fact, it just might be better than having oatmeal for dinner. I’ll let you be the judge.

Shakshuka Polenta

Shakshuka Polenta with Chickpeas

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 14-oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes (no salt added)
  • 1 1/2  tablespoons harissa sauce (you can also substitute 1 roasted red bell pepper, finely chopped, and a pinch of cayenne pepper, or you can omit altogether)
  • 1 cup milk (I use nonfat organic)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup corn grits/cornmeal (preferably whole grain)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas (canned is fine)
  • optional: zatar seasoning 

Method:

  1. To make the sauce, put the tomatoes and harissa in a small pot and heat on medium low, stirring occasionally. When the mixture begins to bubble around the edges, reduce heat to low, and let stay warm on the stove.
  2. In a small pot, add the milk, water, and corn grits and bring to a boil. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and let cook covered, stirring frequently. Let simmer for approximately 10 minutes, or until mixture reaches desired creaminess.
  3. To prepare the eggs, crack the eggs into two individual small bowls or ramekins.
  4. In a medium to large pot, bring water to a simmer, where the edges are bubbling but it’s not quite a full boil.
  5. Add a few teaspoons of vinegar, and swirl the water in one direction .
  6. Gently pour one of the eggs from the bowl into the water, and let cook until the white becomes opaque, and egg reaches desired level of doneness.
  7. With a slotted spoon, gently remove the poached egg and set on a paper towel. Repeat with the next egg.
  8. To serve, divide the polenta between two bowls. Top each bowl with tomato sauce, chickpeas, and a poached egg. Garnish with zatar or freshly cracked black pepper.

Shakshuka Polenta

Nutrition per Serving: 420 calories, 9g fat (2g saturated fat), 67g carbohydrates (11g fiber, 20g sugar), 22g protein, 190mg cholesterol, 460mg sodium, 43% Vitamin A, 49% Vitamin C, 25% Calcium, 36% Iron

– Kelly

Cranberry Persimmon Smoothie

Persimmon Cranberry Smoothie 1

Sometimes the most exotic ingredients are best delivered in nondescript packages. At least, that’s the case with this Cranberry Persimmon Smoothie, which conveniently tastes like good old strawberry banana. If you’re new to persimmons, or are uneasy about tofu (yep, I snuck that in), rest assured that even the pickiest of eaters will enjoy the comforting, sweet flavors of this seasonal fruity beverage.

Rather than sticking to tried-and-true favorites, I encourage you to begin 2016 with an open-minded palate. Persimmons (tomato-looking fruits that are in stores this time of year) are a great alternative to winter citrus. Eaten raw, the mildly tropical aromas will transport you to a warmer clime. They also add a delightful twist to baked desserts (like crisps and cobblers). Beginners should note that the oblong, hachiya persimmons must soften before they can be eaten, while the squat looking fuyu persimmons don’t need to ripen as much, and can be eaten firm.

Similarly, while most of us lean towards yogurt as a smoothie thickener, silken tofu is a nutritious (and inconspicuous) plant-based alternative. Although a favorite among the yoga and granola set, this simple soy food also makes for decadently creamy pasta sauces, dips, and salad dressings.

Once you “master” an ingredient, by utilizing it in a crave-worthy recipe, it is much easier to approach menus and cookbooks with an open mind, adding dimension and variety to what can oftentimes become a cycle of repetitive eating.

What new foods will you try this year?

Cranberry Persimmon Smoothie

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 small banana, frozen in chunks
  • 1 ripe persimmon
  • 1/3 cup frozen cranberries
  • 1/4 cup silken tofu

Method:

  1. Add all ingredients to blender and blend until smooth.

Nutrition per serving: 250 calories, 2g fat (0g saturated fat), 60g carbohydrates (10g fiber, 36g sugar*), 5g protein, 0g cholesterol, 7mg sodium, 56% Vitamin A, 43% Vitamin C, 4% Calcium, 6% Iron

*All sugars are naturally occurring; none are added sugars

– Kelly