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Three Times Per Day Posts

The Art of Keeping Cool

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Nervous Texting

There comes a time, or more likely many times, when one is faced with circumstances that try his or her patience, nerves, or confidence. If you’re like me (i.e., a chronic over-thinker with a lot of emotions and/or character flaws, depending on who is talking), these events occur on a rather regular basis.

Throughout my childhood, I was a bully’s dream. I reacted to anything and everything, and vehemently. My intense reactions to stressors were nothing less than self-destructive. As a college student, I realized the error of my ways.

*FLASHBACK*

When I was in middle school, my local public library had a used book sale every afternoon. (Actually, they probably still do, but that is irrelevant because this story is set in circa-2004) Quite often, I would stop by on a regular basis and impulse buy as many $1 to $2 books as I had money for.

One such book was called The Art of Keeping Cool.

No, it wasn’t a self-help book. It was some little-known fiction novel. And I actually never read it so this piece is not about what I learned from this book. What it is about is this: The Art of Keeping Cool.

From my 20-some years of experience being part-firecracker, part-Energizer bunny, the most valuable lesson I have learned is The Art of Keeping Cool. I only became a novice in this art in the last, say, 18 months.

(Photo: David Mckee/Shutterstock)

But this skill, and lots of yoga, has been correlated to an immense increase in my own personal happiness and in that of my amazingly tolerant family and friends, who no longer have to spend hours reassuring me that so-and-so was completely out of line or that X is probably not mad at me because I said I was going to that social gathering and then I didn’t go.

I call it, Practicing Perspective (patent pending).

“What the…” you say, as you wonder why you’re taking advice from a neurotic twenty-something.

But, seriously, it works.

Practicing perspective means when you start getting riled up — frustrated, annoyed, angry, embarrassed, disappointed, worried, guilty, etc., etc., etc. — you stop and think:

“Will I care about this in a week? Month? Year?”

keep coolIf the answer is “no” to any of those questions then whatever it is is just not worth stressing over. Practicing perspective means keeping your eye on the big picture and adjusting where your emotional priorities lie accordingly.

It’s a simple method that works wonders. I imagine an incredible amount of hours a day would be more productively spent all over the world if everyone would follow this method.

So just to recap:

In the event of a stressful situation…

1.) Take a deep breath

2.) Think “Will this matter in…”

          a) One week?

          b) One month?

          c) One year?

If no, exhale, and move on.

Don’t spend any further time worrying your pretty (or handsome) little head on it.
Your time can be better spent on worrying about all the things you answered “yes” to for options a, b or c!

Now get off this blog and go enjoy your life!

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Healthy Halloween Treats

halloween-treats

If you want all of the treats but none of the sweets, these Halloween snacks are for you. I love these little guys as a quick, simple, and healthy spread for parties. Plus, they’re kid-friendly and super easy to make for that holiday party you were roped into providing food for.

banana-ghosts

Banana Ghosts

Bananas
Mini semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips (make sure they’re kiss shaped)
Regular-sized semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips (make sure they’re kiss shaped)

1. Cut bananas in half width-wise.
2. Point side first, push the chocolate chips into the banana. Use 2 mini chocolate chips as the eyes and the regular-sized chocolate chips as the mouth
Note: if your ghosts are having trouble standing up, use melted peanut butter or chocolate at the base. Or lay them on their backs! They’ll still look spooky : )

antsonalog

Ants on a Log

Celery
Peanut Butter
Raisins

1. Cut stalks of celery off of the bunch and into thirds.
2. Smear peanut butter into the “valley” of the celery stalk.
3. Place raisins in a line on the peanut butter

pumpkins

Pumpkins

Tangerines/Clementines
Celery (the leftovers from Ants on a Log work great!)

1. Peel tangerines or clementines.
2. With the leftover celery (either the tops or bottoms of the bunch, if you’ve made the ants on a log), cut little stems and place into the hole on the top of the tangerine/clementine.

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My Favorite Spot in My Home

Chair with a view

When I first moved into my apartment and was furniture hunting, I noticed a chair in the store window nearby. It was love at first sight. The chair was huge, perfect for snuggling up on, and a super soft gray fabric. For months I passed this store window, debating on the purchase. After all, I had no real need for it, but thought it would go great in my bedroom next to the floor to ceiling windows.

Big Comfy Chair

Finally, after getting my holiday bonus, I decided to commit. The chair wasn’t all that expensive (for a new chair) at around $375. However, I — being a n00b — figured they only had ONE chair and were having trouble selling it. Soooo I gave an insulting offer of $250 and the store owner basically told me thanks, but no thanks. Once the shame wore off a few months later, and I still wanted that big, comfy gray chair, I headed back in, agreed to $30 off, and one week later rolled it from the store to my apartment.

Thai Lantern

I’ve kept this corner simple so that the view can take center stage. Above it, I’ve hung a soft paper lantern my sister brought me from Myanmar. The AMAZING CatStudio Chicago pillow was a gift from my decorative pillow champion of a mother when I went to college (in Chicago, go figure). The side table is actually a refurbished, painted mango wood and metal stool. I got two of these (one for either side of the bed) at local shop that has recently closed (and whose name I can’t remember for the life of me for some reason…). The two differ in how the wood is painted, which I love, because I’ve always been a fan of asymmetry.

Painted Mango Wood Side Table

catstudio Chicago pillow

Long story short, this reading nook perfectly embodies the mentality I’ve been striving to for — surround yourself with things you love. This little reading nook was entirely built out of desire rather than need, but I’ve never regretted the purchase. And while there’s plenty of advice out there that says “don’t wait!,” “take the risk!,” this little corner serves as a reminder for me to practice patience and restraint, so I can get the peace of mind that certainty brings. Hey, maybe slow and steady does win the race after all…
Cozy Chair

Chair  – Coaster (Available in Chicago at Affordable Portables)
Chicago Pillow – catstudio

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Coffee Coffee Coffee

Today may be officially National Coffee Day, but I celebrate coffee almost every single day. My morning (and sometimes afternoon) coffee run is one of my favorite rituals, and because of that I recently sold off my coffee machine when I decided the $2.50+ I spend on a cup o’ joe each day was absolutely worth it. (I’m a big proponent of outsourcing the things that someone else does better than you, which for me includes: making butter, hanging mirrors, and brewing coffee.)

dark-matter-coffee

Osmium Coffee Bar (Dark Matter)

As far as I’m concerned, Dark Matter is the king of Chicago coffee. Basically, I love everything about them. Though admittedly not the best place to study, Dark Matter is the best place for unlimited refills, good music, and a sense of community (and also Do-Rite donuts). While Osmium is my fave location given its close proximity to my apartment, Dark Matter’s strong brand means you’ll get consistency at any of their locations.

 

intelligensia-latte

Intelligentsia (Lakeview)

I wouldn’t be doing Chicago justice if I didn’t include Intelligentsia on this list. While I’ve been unimpressed by some of their locations, their Lakeview location makes a mean (and giant) latte and has lots of space for socializing or studying. Plus, they have a place where you can tie up your pup while you run in during your morning walk.

Caffe Umbria

The smooth coffee and convenient location right off of the 22 bus make Caffe Umbria’s cute little store front a frequent haunt of mine. Grab a cup then head to work along the scenic route across the Clark Street bridge. (3X tip: Stop by Esencia in Lakeview for their signature cinnamon-infused coffee, made with Caffe Umbria beans!)

big-shoulders-marshmellow-latte

Big Shoulders

While their marshmallow latte is to die for, what really blew me away was the immense knowledge of the baristas. I learned of two (or was it three?) completely new ways of brewing coffee the first time I went here and they note which type of coffee goes best with each method. Plus, the space is sunny and relatively quiet, making it perfect for days you gotta get some work done.

Goddess and the Baker

The Tiffany blue cups, adorable decor, always smooth coffee, and convenient locations in the Loop just off the Red and Brown lines makes Goddess one of my top spots to grab a cup of coffee on the way to work or during an afternoon coffee run. Goddess also offers tasty breakfast and lunch items in case you want to extend your stay. If you’re looking to branch out from regular drip, try the honey wildflower latte or goodie’s gringo horchata. And good luck passing up all the amazing baked goods… (3x tip: Goddess cups have a TERRIBLE habit of leaking from the lid — so ask for extra room or that your small coffee be put in a large cup.)

hero-coffee

Hero Coffee Bar

If anyone loves coffee as much as you do, it’s Hero Coffee. I have literally never met a barista SO enthusiastic about coffee (and not trying to be cool about it.) Catch them in the South Loop or head up to their roastery in Roscoe Village (where you can also take a tour).

Revival Food Hall

Revival’s got it all, including great coffee. What really wooed me was the latte on nitro tap, which is deliciously light and smooth and perfect for a hot day…or any day, really. Grab a little baked goodies at the stall next door (provided by Mindy Segal, owner of Mindy’s Hot Chocolate), grab one of their ridiculously comfortable chairs, and enjoy some quality people watching.

wormhole

The Wormhole

The 80’s-theme, many latte options, and plentiful space to work, read, or chat make The Wormhole one of the best in the game. If you can put away your cell phone and stay a while, The Wormhole always has newspapers and magazines scattered around the store (either they’re providing them or maybe people just leave them..?)

Colectivo (Coming soon!)

Though it’s not yet arrived to Lincoln Park, I cannot wait for Colectivo to hit Chicago later this year. The signature roaster of my favorite coffee shop on UChicago’s campus, the Wisconsin-based Colectivo’s mission and vision for community and good coffee are something I’m all about.

Have other favorites? I wanna hear them!!! I’ll try to update this post as I find new faves or remember old ones.

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3X has joined Pinterest!

You can never have too much social media…right? That’s why 3x has joined Pinterest! Check out boards featuring everything from recipes (both 3x originals and some of my favorites) to fitness to women’s AND men’s style that will be updated on the reg.

Well? What are you waiting for? Click the Pinterest icon up in the top right corner or visit www.pinterest.com/3xperday.

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Three Times Per Day is Undergoing a Transformation!

When I started this pursuit, I thought the most interesting thing I could write about — and explore the world through — was food. However, much like our current presidential candidates, I’ve changed my mind since then.

It’s been just about a year since I first started Three Times Per Day. Since then, I’ve developed new passions and interests, grown in my career, returned to school, gotten involved with an amazing non-profit, began writing for Fitt Chicago, and have all the while continued to assess the evolving meaning of health and balance. In short, I feel as though limiting Three Times Per Day to food would mean I was not writing about that which is most important to me or most interesting to you.

I realized one’s spends their day basically three ways: working, playing, and recharging. The new and improved Three Times Per Day is all about navigating the balance between doing these things. Food will obviously still be a focal point, since it’s my ultimate recharge activity. But I (and special guest writers!) will also be posting about exercise, the fun things to do (around Chicago, definitely, and the world, maybe??), and self-exploration. Because I’m a female young professional and am examining the world through this lens, the topics covered will primarily cater to that audience. But balance is not reserved for women and yuppies! It’s something people from all walks of life strive to achieve, so I hope everyone who stumbles upon this finds something for them. And if you don’t? Shoot me an email or post a comment letting me know what you do want to see, and I’ll do my best to make that happen.

For example, some of the topics that will be forthcoming:

  • Best lunches in the Loop
  • How to begin your fitness journey
  • How to create your office “uniform”
  • Easy packable lunches
  • Best 30 minute workouts
  • What (various authors) learned from 1/5/10 years of working

Thanks to those sticking around and welcome to those who are new!

Now it’s time to walk the walk.

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What I Learned From a Weekend of Cooking

I’ve only mentioned briefly on here how so many life lessons can be learned, or at least reaffirmed, from food…which is a shortcoming on my end. Since I started cooking and became a more conscious eater, I’ve acquired so much more than just technical skills and have seen a noticeable difference in how I act in my day-to-day life. 

Over Labor Day weekend I took advantage of the extra day off to try a ton of new recipes: bread, a fig tart, jam, pizza, whipped cream, and ice cream. Not all were successful and none were perfect. However, every single one taught me something far beyond the recipe itself and that is applicable to aspects of my life outside of cooking and eating. And that’s really the intent of this blog at the root of it — to explore the beauty and, dare I say, meaning of life through food and how we can maximize our happiness while we’re occupying our teeny weeny space in this universe. 

(Enough hippy dippy shit! Get to the good stuff already!)

Okay, okay! Let’s do this, and in list form since everyone loves that these days…

1. Stop rushing and stay in the moment.

Every time I made an error, it was because I was rushing or not focusing, and as a result I missed a step, or used granular sugar instead of confectioners sugar, or didn’t let the jam boil down enough. Long story short, these mistakes were completely avoidable.

Cooking, especially baking, is an irreversible reaction. Remember that concept from high school chemistry? It means, just like Eminem, you have one shot, one opportunity. By taking your time and focusing on the task at hand, you avoid having to redo the steps you’ve already completed and are more likely to get a satisfactory product. And if you do make a flaw, you’re also more likely to know what exactly you did wrong so that you can avoid making the same mistake twice. All in all, the few extra minutes you take to read the recipe in full could save you hours (and dollars spent on ingredients) in the long run.

Fig Tart

2. Everything is a learning experience.

We often consider mistakes, imperfections, and failures as a solely negative occurrence. And, of course, it’s not *ideal* when your tart crust crumbles upon slicing it — but it’s far from without merit. We are too quick to give ourselves a hard time when things go wrong, which can take the joy out of the process itself. When we only consider what we’ve lost — time, money, reputation — we forget what we’ve gained — experience, relaxation, a positive memory. As someone who naturally tends to stew over negatives, I’ve found adjusting my outlook to embrace slip-ups has improved my ability to learn, has actually reduced the number of mistakes I make, and has just increased overall happiness.

I noticed this is a highly transferable skill (and, indeed, letting go is a skill) while reading Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The book is essentially about “trimming the fat” — purging all of the material items from your life that no longer bring you joy. She notes that people often get hung up on unused items or things they feel they should keep rather than want to keep. Take unworn clothing that still has tags on it. We are primed to think that even though it’s not been worn for years, we should hold on to it. Instead, Kondo recommends recognizing that it has already served its purpose, even if not the obvious one of being worn. Rather, one should think back to when it was purchased and recall the retail therapy you got or the good memory you made with the person you bought it with, thank that item for it’s service, and then LET IT GO.

Do this same thing when cooking and baking. Do it when studying. Do it in relationships. Recognize that every experience serves SOME purpose. That you don’t just benefit from doing something well or right. Every failure can be a success and SHOULD be viewed as such. (Ugh, does this sound like a poster that should be hanging in a high school guidance counselor office?) Anyway, my point here is stop putting so much pressure on yourself. Kick back and enjoy the ride.

No use crying over broken crust...
No use crying over broken crust…

3. Reflect and Embrace Feedback.

The weekend prior to Labor Day weekend, I had orientation for business school, which was essentially a 3-day immersive period of self-reflection and feedback. I learned more in those 3 days than I had over the past 6 months at work. It solidified for me that the most important part of learning and growing is reflecting upon experiences and embracing feedback.

I had been realizing this more and more often in the kitchen. Instead of rushing through the prep, eating, and then going “oh, okay, that was good/bad,” I’d begun t0 think about why it was good or bad. Doing so has allowed me to get so much more out of my cooking. Instead of simply learning something about that particular recipe, I can glean generalities that I can then transfer to other dishes.

I’ve also gained a far greater appreciation of feedback and the importance of it. For a while, when I put a ton of effort into a meal that PIF contributed zilch to, the last thing I wanted to hear from him was “eh, needs more salt.” But, despite what we tend to think, criticism is a good thing. It helps fast-track improvement. An outsider is able to objectively offer suggestions that you may miss because you’re blinded by the effort you put in. They also have a whole other lifetime of experiences that they can contribute. For example, if PIF has eaten more tarts than me (which he definitely has), he may have a better idea of what an amazing tart tastes like and be able to offer suggestions to improve the one I made, which — although good — could be better.

All successful chefs know this. All successful people know this. Without embracing feedback and reflecting on one’s actions, one’s improvement will be hugely stalled, if it even happens at all.

Heirloom Tomato Pizza

4. Celebrate your victories.

The more I cook (and watch the Chef’s Table), the more obvious it is to me that we fail, or at least fall short of expectations, as often as we succeed. But that’s why it’s all the more important to celebrate the times the times we take the risk, let alone the times we succeed. Embracing the adrenaline rush and warm fuzzies that come with a personal victory helps keep us going. Over the weekend, I attempted my first heirloom tomato pizza, my first whole wheat bread, my first a fig tart, and two new recipes for ice cream. As I said, not a single one of these was perfect, but every single one was a risk I took and, therefore, a personal victory.

I recently had a professor exclaim, somewhat in passing, “Celebrate everything!” I loved this sentiment! We tend to scoff at those celebrating a month-iversary or International Jelly-Filled Donut Day. But why?? Let’s celebrate everything! Celebrating helps us keep things in perspective, to find the joy in everyday experiences, and to appreciate the things that are going right in the world. So celebrate it all! Celebrate your first attempt to make ice cream, celebrate perfectly cooking a salmon filet, celebrate your 9 months-iversary with your significant other, celebrate old friendships and new friendships, celebrate finishing a project at work, celebrate getting through a terrible week, celebrate National Chocolate Marshmallows with Caramel Drizzle Day. Celebrate however you wish. Just get out there and enjoy yourself and the life you’ve been given.

Fresh Bread

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Cheesy Caramelized Onion & Mushroom Omelet

This omelet is like the best grilled cheese you’ve ever had without the bread. And it’s so easy-peasy, any amateur cook can handle it. At the same time, this recipe walks through tons of tips that are transferable to all sorts of recipes.

What You Need:

butter
1/2 yellow or Spanish onion (cut into slivers) + a little red onion if you wish
3-4 crimini mushrooms (cut into thin slices)
handful of spinach (optional)
salt
pepper
2 eggs
hard mozzarella (block, rather than pre-shredded)
smoked or regular cheddar (also block, rather than pre-shredded)
feta (optional, if you prefer it. Just choose whichever of these 3 cheeses you prefer!)

skillet
turner spatula

What You Gotta Do:

1. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Once warm, add a healthy amount of butter (enough to slick the bottom of the pan.)
2. Add the mushrooms and onions to the pan. They should sizzle immediately. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and let cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions and mushrooms are both browned and some have a bit of a char.
3. While the mushrooms and onions are caramelizing, shred about a scant 1/4 cup each of mozzarella and smoked cheddar and mix together. Note: shredding the cheese helps it melt more easily. It’s a good trick to use when making grilled cheese as well.
4. If desired, add a handful of spinach. When spinach has just wilted, move on to step 3.
5. Turn heat down to medium-low. Whisk eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper.
6. Add eggs to the pan and rock skillet around a little to make sure it spreads around evenly. You can cover for a bit to ensure everything gets cooked, but not necessary.
7. When the bottom of the eggs are just set (test this by trying to lift up a bit with the spatula), turn the omelet over. If you can’t do this in one go, just quickly turn it all in pieces and then smush it back together once the wet sides are facing down.
8. When eggs look just cooked (no one likes a dried omelet), sprinkle the cheese over the top evenly.
9. As cheese begins to melt, fold your omelet, slide onto a plate (preferably a warmed one), and enjoy!

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How To Cut A Cake The Scientifically Correct Way

This morning, PIF told me he was going to bake a cake with his little cousin. Needless to say, I’ve now had cake on my mind all. damn. day. Because Google and Facebook can read minds, I stumbled upon this today and just had to share:

 

 

For the article in Nature (one of the most prestigious scientific magazines, if not the most prestigious scientific magazine): click here

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Not-Too-Decadent Peach French Toast

There are few things I love more than a leisurely breakfast. I leave my blinds drawn so that I am gently woken up as the sun rises, put on great podcast, and then prepare and — more importantly — savor my first meal of the day. For me, a calm morning is the ultimate preventative medicine; a hectic one can throw off my entire day, leaving me frazzled as I head into work.

Of course, there are bound to be mornings when you don’t have 45 minutes to prep and cook. And that’s why this recipe is so perfect. Make it on a morning when you have time or during the weekend and reheat it quickly throughout the week. Or make it for brunch and eat it all in one go with friends and family! The opportunities are endless. Plus, this recipe is high protein, fruit forward, and relatively low calorie, meaning there is no guilt and no food coma to follow, assuming you practice some self-restraint and don’t eat the whole thing. I know, I know — easier said than done.

Peach French Toast

Peach French Toast

Total Cook Time: ~40 minutes
Serves 4

Ingredients

crusty bread (I like a more rustic whole wheat loaf with seeds and texture. Added bonus if it’s a bit stale.)
4 eggs
2/3 cup plain or vanilla almond milk (can sub for other types of milk)
1 tsp vanilla
3 peaches
2 T agave nectar or maple syrup (skip if your peaches are already deliciously sweet)
1/4 cup of ricotta per serving being eaten
maple syrup

Also needed:
8 x 8 baking tray
2 mixing bowls

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and lightly butter baking pan or use a canola oil spray (Go easy on the fats. You don’t need much. I take a cold stick of butter and run it along the inside surface).
2. Slice off about 4 hearty slices of bread (~1 to 3/4 inches thick) and cut into relatively even cubes (in a relatively stubby loaf I get about 9 cubes per slice).
3. Spread bread cubes along the bottom of the pan.
4. In one of your mixing bowls, mix the eggs, milk, and vanilla and whisk to combine.
5. Pour egg mixture over the bread cubes and let sit. (I like to let the bread really soak up that eggy goodness so it’s soggy in the middle and crispy on the crust.)
6. In the meantime, remove the peach flesh from the seed and slice it into thin crescents. No need to take off that nutrient rich skin!
7. In a mixing bowl, add the agave or maple syrup to the peaches (if using any) and and mix with your hands so they’re lightly coated. Treat yourself to a peach slice, cause you deserve it.
8. Pour your peaches on top of the bread and egg mixture. Use your hands once again to fold the peaches into the mixture. Do not eat any peach slices at this point. You lost your shot; they’re now covered in raw egg.
9. Bake your french toast for 20 mins or until eggs are fully set. I like to finish off the french toast under the broiler on high for just under a minute to get the top nice and crispy.
10. While the french toast is baking, mix about 1 t of maple syrup or agave per 1/4 cup ricotta and mix to make a protein-rich whipped cream.
11. When eggs have set or toast has been finished off under the broiler, remove from oven.
12. Serve hot topped with the ricotta. If treating yourself, drizzle a tablespoon of maple syrup over it as well.

Enjoy!

To reheat, rebake in over at 350 degrees just until heated (you can throw it in as the oven heats if you’re rushed) or, if really rushed, pop in the microwave.

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