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Easy Butternut Squash Salad and Butternut Squash Hack

Hello my friends! It has been less long this time, so I consider that a win! I had a test yesterday (and I have one Monday), so naturally I’m here to blog!

Today, I’m going to share a ridiculously easy salad recipe, a fast way to make delicious butternut squash, and then do some food updates.

First, Jackson update! He’s now just over 6 pounds and is in a growth spurt. He’s eating a ton, and gained nearly a pound in the last week! He’s still a lean little guy though! He’s also currently right at my side, thinking about pouncing on the keyboard. He and my roommate’s dog have started playing together, which is adorable! He loves her toys, and she likes his as well! I think the majority of his baby teeth are gone; all his baby fangs came out. I actually found one of them embedded in the arm of my sweatshirt, because in this face he likes to grab onto my arm. (His 2 favorite ‘toys’ are my arm and my iPad, which is clearly very conducive to studying.) He also LOVES human food, and regularly gets his tongue in whatever I’m making the second I turn around. It’s a work in progress…

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OKAY. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about the salad!

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It’s super simple. Are you ready?

  • kale/lettuce
  • “roasted” butternut squash
  • aged cheddar
  • egg over easy
  • balsamic vinaigrette

So how do I cook the squash? We all know I’m a tad lazy and impatient in the kitchen. If I can’t have it on the table in 20 minutes, I’m probably not doing it. My butternut squash hack is to microwave it (with a little bit of water) until it’s soft; this works for whole squashes, or pre-cut cubes. When it’s soft, sauté it up in a pan with a little oil, until it’s brown and crispy. Basically all of the deliciousness of roasted butternut squash in a fraction of the time! I’ve been doing that meal quite a bit!

What else have I been eating?

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On nights I’ve had more time, I’ve roasted sweet potatoes. Side salad of kale rubbed in olive oil spray and balsamic vinegar, with parmesan and dried cranberries. Plus and egg.

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Rosemary apple grilled cheese in Santa Cruz.

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Another amazing eat from Santa Cruz: Penny’s Ice Cream. My college roommate literally talked this place up for YEARS, and we never made it over there. Finally, I went with my vet school friends and it was delicious! I got dark chocolate sorbet with toasted marshmallow fluff on top!

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This is another meal I’ve had a couple of times. Butternut squash (cooked as described above) with Mexican cheese stirred in. Plus a side salad with AMAZING aged balsamic vinegar, a spray of olive oil, salt and pepper, goat cheese, and dried cranberries.

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Same salad but with a sweet potato.

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Salad with grilled chicken, bear, and goat cheese.

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The above dessert was one of the better ideas I’ve had in a while! I was craving something fruity for dessert, so I tossed fresh blackberries with some honey, and then topped them with Flapjacked Oatmeal Cookie mix (which is the one cookie mix I haven’t used much because it doesn’t have chocolate), and then microwaved it!

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Salad with goat cheese and blueberries.

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Chocolate Halo Top with salted caramel sauce.

And now I have to run off to a spin class! Have a great weekend!

The Craziest Week of Vet School

My goodness, what a week. After Thanksgiving I really took the ground running. Hard. I think I studied more last week than I ever have in my life, and I learned more in 3 days than I ever thought was possible. This weekend was a quick gasp for air before the 2 week sprint to the end of the block, and to winter break! It is really rewarding though to work really hard and then actually know things.

I didn’t really cook much this week. When I was home for Thanksgiving, we had vegetarian chili, and I brought back the vat of it to have for dinners every night.

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This was really the first week of vet school where I felt like I didn’t have time to cook. Luckily, I have a ton of easy/frozen meals for the next couple of weeks when it picks up again!

On that note, I have a few snippets for the week.

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New spin shoes! Finally. My old ones were 4.5 years old and while they held up really well, they were a little gross.

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Her new favorite toy. We got it in Napa for her, and she falls asleep on it.

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I am so, so, SO glad we decorated. A lot of time was spent on this couch or in this room last week with my notes. It made studying feel cozy and (somewhat) fun. Plus my study buddy, who honestly is in it more for the blanket than for me. But look how cute she is!

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Thursday, test day, was one heck of a long day. I got up at 5am to get a little exercise and then last minute studying in before the last, and then the day ended up not going according to plan due to some technical difficulties. When I finished my test, it called for one of the chocolate milk stouts I’ve been hoarding since February from St. Louis.

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I watched a movie on the couch, drank this, and baked pumpkin bread.

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I made healthy flourless pumpkin bread (with oat flour). At first I didn’t love it and felt like it was kind of bland, but it’s grown on me. I actually like it better NOT hot out of the oven. I used a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice and a teaspoon of cinnamon, and I thought it could have used a bit more spice! It tastes and feels really healthy though, so I’m happy eating it at all times of the day! (And with my schedule…I basically have.)

This weekend for me has really been about relaxing and recovering and doing my best to prepare for the next couple of weeks. I got to break out my favorite Christmas sweater on Friday (and failed to take any pictures).

Saturday and Sunday were a mix of lazy and productive.

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I got a mint tea latte as study rule, plus a lavender cookie.

And then spent the evening watching Elf with my roommate and her friends.

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Sunday, I went into Sacramento to take a spin class. It was at a boutique studio downtown, and it was a lot of fun! The staff was also SUPER nice and welcoming. I had originally planned to do that and then go to the gluten free bakery for their Sunday only donuts, but they weren’t making them this week for some reason. I found this out AFTER I signed up for spin, but I decided it would be good for me to get out a little bit anyways. After class, I got a little pastry that was sort of like the inside of a cinnamon roll, plus an egg sandwich. Both were delicious!
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I spent a couple of hours afterwards at a Starbucks doing school work. I never really thought about this until this year, but it’s REALLY nice to get out of a college town to study. All the coffeeshops here are always SUPER full of students, and it’s nice to go to a quieter, emptier spot!

In terms of workouts, this week was a little bit different. It was all about time efficiency, and doing what I needed. My Crossfit actually had a little mini competition that I failed to sign up for and regretted, but I was tired at the time and such is life!

Monday:

20 minutes of HIIT spinning in the morning because I had Thanksgiving weekend sugar running through my veins, and Crossfit in the evening.

Tuesday: Crossfit

Wednesday: Kickboxing at lunchtime. The Health and Wellness club here brought in a kickboxing instructor to teach us vet students a little lunchtime class, and it was perfect timing because I legitimately did not have time to workout that day! It was fun but kickboxing is clearly not my forte. My coordination is not quite there!

Thursday: Weightlifting on my own. I did a super quick workout (despite having to wait for a barbell…seriously, before 6am??) of 5×5 back squats at 165#, single leg RDLs/calf raises, and a few minutes of abs. Those squats left me SORE.

Friday: Crossfit

Saturday: Gym workout by myself. After my test, I was having a hard time getting my body and mind to relax, which is a really important thing for sustainability in terms of my physical health and my ability to keep working hard. I could also tell that maybe I wasn’t getting quite enough exercise (plus lots of sitting) and while my diet was honestly fine, a few extra sweets here and there can affect me a little bit. Anyways, the point was I wanted to hit it fairly hard at the gym but didn’t want to spend a lot of time waiting around for a barbell, so I made use of dumbbells. Here’s what I did:

5×12 lunges with 30# dumbells

7 minute AMRAP:

Push press/RDLs with 30# dumbells

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(This was a variation of one of the competition workouts.)

4×10 single arm dumbbell snatches (35#)

4×10 box jumps (24″)

A Blogilates ab video. This is the first full length one I’ve bothered to finish lately!

Sunday: Spin

I mentioned it last week, but I want to reiterate how important it is to know yourself. My body was feeling physically stressed and I had to recognize that and how to combat it. In some ways vet school is like some type of endurance training. You work hard, and you recover hard. That’s honestly how I felt about this weekend. Rest and get ready to hit it again!

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Vet Disaster Response/Apple Picking (Out)/Weights

It’s been a hot minute, hasn’t it? I want to catch up! I just finished my first block of vet school (essentially a class), and now I’m cuddling under a blanket with a sleepy kitty. I’m going to have another post up feature food as of late, but for now I wanted to discuss some of my life happenings lately.

In terms of the wildfires, thankfully they seem to be mostly contained at this point. The vet school has launched a pretty big response, so I’ve been taking several shifts a week to help care for some of the animals coming in. I also signed up to become certified in disaster response. This stuff is so important. I want to help, but you never know what to expect until these things happen, hence why I want to get trained specifically to respond.

In terms of workouts lately, I’ve mostly been running and doing Crossfit, and squeezing in a day of weights on my own every week to maintain basic strength. I’ve also been working on higher box jumps, which is fun! The boxes at the gym at padded, which is why I feel comfortable enough doing that. I’m maintaining my squat program, and also doing the same sequence with deadlifts. The disadvantage of the gym at school is it’s a quite small gym for like 25,000 people, so there’s usually a line for the squat racks, so I have to be smart about when I go, and still allow a minimum of 10 minutes of waiting. Boo. Here are my weight workouts from the last 2 weeks. I’m off-setting the squats and deadlifts by a week in terms of number/percentages (so my heaviest days will be different for squats vs. deadlifts).

Week 1:

Not on the squat program yet, but working on building volume. Day 1 of deadlifts.

4×3 back squats with 3s pause at the bottom

8 minutes of 2 backsquats every 30 seconds (155#)

12-12-10 deadlifts at 145-155-165

4 rounds of single leg rdls and 20 heel raises (to help with plantar fasciitis)

3×6 box jumps

 

Week 2:

Going an extra rep on the squats, and finishing the last week heavier than last time through the program.

Back squats: 11-11-9 at 135-145-155

Deadlifts 10-10-8 at 155-165-175

4×6 boy jumps (I worked up to maybe 28ish inches? It felt high!)

Half of an ab video

I think I bruised my tail bone a little bit a while ago (not really sure how), so I haven’t done much ab work lately, and I didn’t want to push it with that.

And now onto the fun stuff! I went to Apple Hill yesterday. It’s east of here, and it’s a little town that goes crazy with apples this time of year. There are a bunch of farms that sell apples and every imaginable apple product. We were hoping to pick apples, but apparently there weren’t too many places that let you do that, and they were already picked out for the season. Darn!

That didn’t mean I couldn’t get ALL THE APPLE PRODUCTS though. Plus, it was festive and so pretty up there!

Even better, my friend brought her adorable puppy!

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The first thing we did was get some apple goodies. I got an amazing caramel apple!

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There were a bunch of vendors selling various crafts and food products. I went home with some blackberry honey from that place, and some apple cinnamon BBQ sauce, apple salsa, and unsweetened apple butter from the next stop.

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Christmas trees growing nearby!

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I brought home a big bag of beautiful pink ladies!

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Necessary apple cider donut!

Overall, it was a fun day but not quite what we were hoping for! It was super crowded, so in the future I would go earlier in the year!

I’m excited to do EVERYTHING with these apples this week!

YAY More Uses of Zucchini

I have to say, I had much more ambitious study goals for today. However, after 5 hours of intense lectures, and then spending the rest of the afternoon/evening studying/doing reading, my brain is DONE. So, I figured I might as well pop in here to share some updates on how you can use your zucchini.

Also, why is it that now, whenever I want to celebrate something, I by mass quantities of zucchini?

Today I was happy about something and my first thought was, “I should go get zucchini.”

…but yeah, still working through that massive bag. I’m certainly making progress though! Going through 5 pounds of zucchini in a week is honestly not hard.

Monday night, I made a teriyaki zucchini stir fry. I sautéed up chopped zucchini and stir fry vegetables in a little GF soy sauce, then topped them with GF teriyaki sauce. I served my stir fry over rice.

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I made double veggies, and separated out half of them before adding teriyaki. Those turned into today’s lunch: I added more soy sauce, a little powdered ginger, and chicken.

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And of course zucchini bread is still being eaten.

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The highlight was probably making spaghetti squash pad thai.

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I used the sauce recipe here, but used sunbutter. My measuring spoons were dirty, so I just eye balled it, and I didn’t have fresh ginger so I threw in some powdered ginger. I would say with this lack of effort, the sauce wasn’t as good as it normally is, but it was still delicious! I stir-fried zucchini noodles and stir fry vegetables, and then tossed the sauce in. Lastly, I scrambled an egg on top. YUM. I was SO hungry for dinner today, and this hit the spot!

I made extra zoodles for tomorrow’s lunch salad: zucchini noodle and corn. I tossed it in olive oil, lemon juice, rice vinegar, garlic, and salt and pepper. I think it was a little much lemon juice though! I also threw in some chicken, and topped it with goat cheese.

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In terms of other life things, I signed up for a 5k this weekend. I’ve been regularly running 3 miles, but nothing fast lately so this might be interesting. I have no clue what pace I should even go out at!

I also want to start going to yoga classes. I’m not sure where I should try to go, but I need to figure it out! I went to a tai chi class at the vet school at lunch today, so that was cool! The only thing is that my plantar fasciitis is flaring right now, so being on my feet for 45 minutes was less relaxing and more painful. So I might hold off on that until this cools off. The plantar fasciitis is kind of weird. I think it’s because I haven’t been rolling out enough, plus general inflammation. It gets super painful, but 10 minutes of icing makes it 1000x better. I guess that really shows it is inflammation. Speaking of which, I think I know more about inflammation now than ever before in my life. I feel like for years I would always see studies/articles talking about how XYZ causes inflammation, without ever explaining it. Now I get it. Learning, my friends.

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Ever since Chloe left, I’ve been missing her a ton. She has such a big presence, and it feels so lonely and empty with her gone! She also was a surprisingly good and motivating study buddy. Plus, walks were a great way to break up the day! I don’t have class at all this Thursday, and I keep thinking about how it would have been great to have her here!

I think that’s all I have for now. 9pm bedtime….?

Pup Comes to Vet School

Hello!

Be ready for pup overload today, because I’m recapping the adventures of Chloe coming to visit me here at school!

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My mom brought her up last Thursday when I had a break in my schedule, and we went out to lunch.

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Once I was done with class for the day, I hurried home to take Chloe for the first of what would be MANY walks around the neighborhood.

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My mom brought me some of my favorite soup, plus a giant bag of Pirate’s Booty. Because the pup was so labor intensive, this was about how every meal looked:

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I also learned that Chloe LOVES Pirate’s Booty. It has been sad to eat it alone since she left!

Chloe actually got along super well with Rina. Rina stands her ground, so Chloe mostly left her alone minus some sniffs here and there.

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Unfortunately, her relationship with my roommate’s sweet golden was a little rockier. Chloe recently started getting a little territorial with other dogs in very specific situations, and having another dog at home was a little rough. Most of the time they were fine, but occasionally Chloe would get super barky.

Friday morning, we were up with the sun to walk before class.

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And then Friday night, I took her to one of the breweries with a bunch of vet students. She can be barky in social situations with other dogs, but we’re working on it, and she was really good!

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She made a doggy friend. Another vet student dog. She was super barky when they first arrived, but then calmed down and we all sat together and it was fine. At the end of the night, we let them play it out. When they saw each other the next day, Chloe was totally chill with her!

Chloe is great with other dogs when she meets them on walks, but when she meets them in large groups of dogs and people, she gets pretty overwhelmed and can get riled up and barky.

My Saturday was spent like most of the week, alternating between studying and walking, and then studying WHILE walking. Chloe was pretty wild/jumpy/barky/energetic the first couple oft days especially. Because she is a high energy breed, she needs a ton of exercise. I would walk her, then study while she slept, and when she woke up and starting getting wild and bratty, I would walk her again. And repeat and repeat. Despite the somewhat constant interruptions when she was wild (her favorite thing was to drop my roommate’s dog’s numerous tennis balls under the couch where she couldn’t get them, and then bark until I got them for her…), she was pretty helpful for my studying. When she was sleepy, I felt a lot of pressure to get some good, focused studying in. I also started relistening to some of the lectures I was confused about while walking her, which was really helpful. I’m definitely more of a visual learner than an auditory learner, so listening to things forced me to conceptualize the information myself.

Here are my babes:

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Study buddies <3

That afternoon, I took Chloe to a big vet school event with all the first and second years at a nearby park. We were only a mile away, so we walked there to get some extra energy out. Chloe met a ton of people and dogs, and saw her friend again. Overall, she was a good girl! I could tell by the end though that she was totally over it.

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Later that evening, I brought her to another brewery with friends, and she was AMAZING. She has been getting better (the behavioral issues are fairly recent, only several months), and I discovered her favorite treats in the whole world that she’ll do anything for. It takes the right motivation, and vigilance on my part! She got barked at aggressively and even growled at, but she stayed quiet as we walked through.

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When I got home I had to study some more, which was productive thanks to the most beautiful sight: everyone PASSED OUT.

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Sunday I volunteered at a clinic, and had to leave her alone for 5 hours. We did a short walk before, and then a lengthier walk after while I listened to a lecture.

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That evening, we took the dogs to the park so they would have some time to get to know each other better. They’re TOTALLY fine outside of the house, at least! Chloe also had her first off leash experience. The golden played fetch, and ran like crazy 100 yards out for the ball….and Chloe watched from about 10 feet away from us. She doesn’t like fetch, and didn’t quite know what to do off leash.

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Progress!

Monday night, I brought Chloe to school with me! The buildings are obviously very dog-friendly. We went around 7:30 to study, and so I could show her around where I spend most of my time!

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We stayed in a study room together, and she was the best study buddy! I don’t know if I would have liked being alone in a windowless room at night, but having a dog to snuggle with every so often to break up some dense study time makes it so much better.

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Tuesday, we ended up walking 2 hours! Our morning walk+an evening walk with a friend along the campus trails.

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And then we were back at school to study that night. This girl <3

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Wednesday morning, we went for one final long walk just as the sun was rising. Before coming to vet school, our walks with a podcast became one of my favorite parts of the week. It was even more so here. There’s nothing better than watching the sun rise with an adorable pup, and being up and out while the world is still quiet. It was honestly so nice having her right before a test. I let her off leash one final time…and she just sat there, a little ways away. The previous day I let her off leash at the park when she was wild and she ran around like crazy, but she’s still learning about the world of off-leash!

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We had one last study session together before my mom picked her up.

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My mom and I went for our pumpkin spiced drinks of choice to recap the week, and future training goals for Chloe.

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PSLs are not quite my thing; I don’t love sweet coffee. I got a decaf cappuccino with a single pump of pumpkin spice, and it was perfect! Not too sweet, but still the hint of fall!

Chloe and I had such a great week together. I want her to come back soon, but I have to wait until I have another week where I’m not in class for such long blocks of time! I miss my girl, that’s for sure!