When Life Gives You Lemons

When life gives you lemons🍋, how do you handle it? Do you show up as your best self? With a whole damn pitcher of lemonade :)? Do you curl up under the sheets to avoid human contact? Perhaps you’re somewhere in the middle — you show up, but not with the energy needed to manage the situation. For the last year (plus) every one of us was handed bushels of lemons. Many people experienced days, weeks or months that were quite sour. Some of us used the pandemic as a time to complete projects, cook, bake, exercise, hang with your pod, and gather outside with others. Spring is in the air and, with the promise of vaccination, hope is also out there. Let’s embrace some hope, slice up some lemons and create more hope…and some tasty zesty food.

In regard to nutrition, if you could pick one new thing to create or change, what would it be (i.e. add veggies to a meal, eat breakfast, mindful eating)? Regardless of what you decide to change, you need to have a strategy to help make the change doable and sustainable. Hope alone is not a strategy. I “hope” to lose 10 pounds before the summer. I “hope” to start running. I “hope” I will drink less once I can get out again (LOL). What do you want to change? What is your strategy to get there? Your strategy or plan of action will help you to achieve your desired new habit. Without it, when the lemon is handed to you along your journey — and it will happen, you need to be prepared to manage the obstacle(s).

As dietitians we talk a lot about SMART goals. They very efficiently take you right where you need to be, when setting goals:

S — Specific
M — Measurable
A — Achievable
R — Relevant
T — Time-bound

Example of a vague goal or strategy: I will lose 10 pounds by summer.

Example of a SMART strategy: I will include at least one vegetable serving with my lunch 5 days a week. I will include vegetables on my shopping list to be sure I always have options. This will help me fill up at lunch with the extra fiber. Starting next Monday, I’ll add a vegetable to my lunch at least 5 times each week. I will put food shopping on my calendar for this Sunday, so I’ll be ready.

Creating your own personal strategies to achieve your own personal want, no matter how daunting the task, will help get past any lemons thrown your way. Your plan can break down any goal into measurable and achievable amounts. Your plan should empower you, as you know you can do it! Plan meals, grocery shopping lists, exercise classes, & social situations that we have not managed in quite some time. Without a personal plan or strategy, you may feel frustrated or lost (sour lemons) instead of energized and focused (with a lemon martini🍋)…SEE BELOW!

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LEMON🍋PISTACHIO PESTO
I was not sure if the name would throw people off, as it is not overpowering with lemon, it is just the theme ;). This yummy pesto could be used with a whole grain, like farro, or any fish, seafood or chicken. Easy with a special tasty zing. No salt needed with the lemon juice and lemon zest (and if you must, you must…).

INGREDIENTS
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1 cup fresh baby spinach leaves
1/3 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/2 cup vegetable broth, low salt
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2–3 cloves garlic, peeled
Freshly ground pepper to taste

PREPARATION
Place all of the ingredients in your blender or food processor. Blend for 2–3 minutes, scraping sides to be sure everyone is included ;). Makes about 1/2 cup, enough for 2–3 dishes.

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LEMON🍋GARLIC-APRICOT CHICKEN
This is a recipe I have made and tweaked for years. It is spicy, sweet and sour — quite a tantalizing combination. It was originally for a slow cooker, and much more complicated. This is simplified and quick enough to prepare on a busy weeknight.

INGREDIENTS
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup apricot preserves
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons reduced-sodium Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped

PREPARATION
In a small mixing bowl, combine apricot preserves, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, chili garlic sauce, apple cider vinegar, minced garlic and lemon juice with a whisk. Set aside.

Place large iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and heat for 2–3 minutes. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with salt and freshly ground pepper. Place in skillet.

Sauté chicken 3–4 minutes per side. Turn heat to medium-low. Add sauce and combine with chicken. Cover pan and cook 8–10 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

Spoon onto serving dish (or serve from pan!)Sprinkle fresh basil. Makes approximately 5-6 servings.

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CHOCOLATE BANANA BLUEBERRY LEMON🍋MUFFINS
It is a long title, but each ingredient is such an important part of this fruit-filling, sweet muffin. For breakfast, brunch or an afternoon snack, you are getting at least one serving of fruit in each muffin. Satisfies the sweet tooth, while providing vitamins, nutrients and fiber.

INGREDIENTS
3 overripe bananas, peeled
1 egg, large, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed is best
5 ounces applesauce, unsweetened
2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed, steams removed
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
Nonstick cooking oil spray

PREPARATION
Preheat oven to 325˚F. Spray muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

Place bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mash bananas with a fork. Stir in egg through applesauce, mixing until well-blended. Add blueberries and chips, mixing until combined.

Use a half-cup measuring cup to scoop the batter into prepared muffin cups, evening out as needed. Bake for 30–35 minutes, or until muffin tops are slightly browned and toothpick comes out clean from center of muffin. Makes 12 muffins.

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LEMON🍋MARTINI🍸

Most sweet martinis are pushing the simple syrup, created from lots of sugar and water. Though a touch of anything is fine in moderation, the inclusion of limoncello invites the exclusion of unnecessary additional sugar. Correct, no need for the rim either :). Cheers.

INGREDIENTS
2 ounces vodka
1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce limoncello
1 cup ice cubes
Lemon wedge
Lemon twist, optional garnish

PREPARATION
Fill shaker about half-way with ice cubes. Add vodka, lemon juice and limoncello. Shake well for about a minute. Pour into martini glass. Garnish with lemon wedge and lemon twist, if desired. Makes one serving.

The most effective way to do it, is to do it. ~Amelia Earhart, first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean

A nutrition expert and middle child, I am writing to promote health and wellbeing, recipes and tips in a relatable, slightly rebellious fashion.