Healthy Lunch Ideas-Roast Chicken Pesto Sandwich

I was asked to give some healthy lunch ideas you can take with you to work. I know how annoying and hard it is to pack your lunch. You many feel like you only have a few options: make a sandwich with lunch meat, take a frozen meal or get food near your office. (if you’re lucky to have a lunch place near you.) Many of you may say that you can take a salad. That’s true, but really it ends up being the same problem as the sandwich. Plus, if you’re anything like me you hate making your own salad.

(weird isn’t it? That I somehow feel like when someone else like Chop’t makes my salad it’s that much better? Is it the $13 dollars I’m paying? Is that what makes the taste difference?)

IMG_2584Anyway, here’s one good option to take with you to work. A roast chicken sandwich with broccoli rabe, roasted red peppers, pesto and provolone. All on a baguette.(Throw in some sugar snap peas raw or tossed with a little olive oil, and you’ve got a meal.)

This may seem complicated for a quick lunch, but I promise make the elements (and even the sandwich) the night before and you’ll be thanking yourself by lunch. Plus make extras so you’re set for the week. The really great thing about this sandwich is that it’s balanced. You get a great combination of protein and vegetables to keep you going through the rest of the work day. Don’t just eat that granola bar, you’ll be hungry and tired in an hour.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 baguette loaf
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe
  • 1 jar roasted red peppers
  • 1 jar store bought pesto (homemade pesto is better, but since we’re trying to be quick for work don’t sweat it too much. Plus it’s a pain without a food processor.)
  • 1 pack sliced provolone
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • cayenne pepper

Cut the chicken breast into strips and pan fry with salt, pepper and a little cayenne. Cut off the ends of the broccoli rabe. Cook it in a pan with salt, pepper and a little olive oil. The broccoli rabe should be tender but not falling apart.

(If you’re super concerned about a soggy sandwich, stop here. You can put the chicken and the broccoli rabe in the fridge until morning and assemble it before work. The good news is that the baguette can handle the moisture because of the hard crust, and using the provolone as a barrier will also prevent sogginess.)

Cut the baguette loaf into the perfect sandwich-sized piece, then cut down the middle. Put a few slices of the cheese on the broad. Give a generous spread of the pesto. Top with a few slices of chicken, the broccoli rabe and the roasted red peppers. (Put the red peppers on a paper towel for a minute to prevent too much liquid from getting on your sandwich.) Then just get ready to have a great lunch.

That’s definitely food you can feel good about.


Living with Depression: How My Dog Helped Me

stella and karaMy dog Stella is a quirky little mutt. I love her. When she was young, she was super energetic. Now that she’s older she has calmed down significantly. Here’s a little bit about how she helped me through my depression.

Dogs are the best. We know that. I hope your pet cheers you up as much as mine does!



Welcome to Treat Yourself Tuesdays!

If you’ve ever watched Parks and Recreation, you know the importance of a “Treat Yourself Day.”


And really, who can argue with the wisdom we’ve learned from Parks and Rec?!

But seriously, we do all need to treat ourselves once in awhile. It’s hard… I know from experience. To be ok with indulging every once in awhile takes a lot of work. It’s not easy to actually have a healthy relationship with food. And that doesn’t mean just eating salads all the time.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t all eat healthy and balanced meals. In fact, we absolutely should. It’s important to get enough protein and vegetables for energy and nutrients. I’m learning a lot about it from sessions with a nutritionist.

**side note: if you’re interested in seeing a nutritionist to learn more about eating well, most health insurance plans will cover a few sessions a year at no extra cost. So check your plan.

The problem with food comes when you can’t allow yourself to enjoy something really delicious from time to time. You shouldn’t beat yourself up or feel guilty just because you ate a cookie. That’s what led me down a bad path to a skewed view of eating, and ultimately an eating disorder.

So that’s why I’ve decided to post recipes for *TREAT YOURSELF TUESDAYS.* On Tuesdays I’ll post a recipe that’s a little bit more of a guilty pleasure. In moderation we can all enjoy our favorite foods, and we don’t have to feel bad about it.

Today’s first Treat Yourself Tuesday recipe is Summer Berry Sorbet with Homemade Whipped Cream. So check it out! The sorbet itself isn’t too unhealthy, but with the homemade whipped cream this dish is a little more decadent and A LOT more delicious.

So in the words of Tom and Donna: “Treat Yo Self!”


Summer Berry Sorbet with Homemade Whipped Cream

IMG_2506I don’t know about where you live, but here in Philadelphia it’s been HOT! Which makes sense, because it is the middle of July. But still, if you’re looking for a sweet way to beat the heat this recipe for summer berry sorbet with homemade whipped cream is perfect! Plus, nothing goes better than berries and cream!

*recipe cheat!!! If you don’t feel like making homemade whipped cream, you can just buy some from the store. BUT big *BUT* it won’t be nearly as good. and you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to make yourself.

**recipe cheat 2!!! Life is easier with an ice cream maker. I’ll show you how to make it without one (sadly I don’t have an ice cream maker). If you have an ice cream maker you can take the base of the summer berry sorbet, chill it and then stick it in the ice cream maker. Then you’re done!

What You’ll Need for the Sorbet:

  • 2 cups blackberries
  • 3 cups strawberries
  • 1/3 cup sugar

What You’ll Need for the Whipped Cream:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To Make the Sorbet:IMG_2508-1

Take the strawberries, and half or quarter them depending on the size. Put the strawberries, blackberries and sugar in a mixing bowl. Give the berries and sugar a quick mix and let sit for 5-10 minutes until the berries are macerated (best word ever) and there’s a syrup at the bottom.

(Many people prefer to make a simple syrup and add it to the berries instead of macerating them. I think you get a better flavor when macerating, because it brings the flavor out of the strawberries and blackberries.)

Blend the berry mixture in a blender until smooth. Stick the sorbet base in the freezer. From there you have a few choices.

  1. Check on the sorbet occasionally (maybe ever hour or so) and give it a stir. When it’s firm your sorbet is done.
  2. Let the sorbet freeze completely. Then break it into pieces and blend until smooth. Stick it in the freezer again until its frozen and has the smooth consistency of sorbet. (Note: if you do this method, let the frozen sorbet sit out for about 5 minutes to soften first. If you don’t have a strong blender, this may not be the best method. Also you may have to stop and stir several times while blending.)

To Make the Whipped Cream:

Take the bowl and whisk you plan to use and stick it in the freezer for 15-20 minutes. (This goes for the bowl and whisk for standing mixers as well.)

IMG_2504When the bowl is cold, add the heavy whipping cream, sugar and vanilla extract. Whip until you get stiff peaks. Don’t over whisk or you’ll start to get butter.

*note: If you’re using a standing mixer, make sure you whisk on a very low setting. In addition, make sure you scrape all the ingredients from the bottom. Generally the whisk won’t hit the bottom, so you have to make sure to scrape all the ingredients from the sides and bottom.

You can save the whipped cream or leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. Just make sure to give it an extra whisk for a few seconds before using.

Put it All Together:

Take a few scoops of the sorbet, top with a few dollops of whipped cream and garnish with a few extra fresh berries.

That’s how you beat the heat with summer berry sorbet with homemade whipped cream!


Savory Sweet Potato Burrito

Philadelphia residents are familiar with the iconic burrito IMG_2510joint “Honest Tom’s.” Now I’ve talked before about my love of a certain breakfast burrito in DC. Now I’ve found another burrito love, and it’s the sweet potato burrito at “Honest Tom’s.” It sounded weird to me at first, but this burrito is so soft, tender and flavorful. So I wanted to try and replicate it. Now I know I’ll never even come close to achieving the perfection that is “Honest Tom’s” burrito, but I still wanted to make my own version. So that’s the recipe I’m posting today. This will make a couple of burritos, so it’s perfect for a small group or for leftovers.


What You’ll Need:

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 package cotija cheese
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 package large tortilla shells (the largest you can find
  • Mexican Rice (You can find my recipe here.)
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Adobo seasoning
  • olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Take a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil or give a generous spray with non-stick cooking spray. (I like to cover my pan with aluminum foil for easy clean up.)

IMG_2509Peel the sweet potatoes, and cut them into large strips. They should be about an inch wide. Place them on the baking sheet, and flip over so they’re coated. Season with salt, pepper and the adobo seasoning. Put the sweet potatoes in the oven for about 20 minutes or until soft. I put the broiler on for the last few minutes to kind of get a crust and add some texture into the sweet potato.

Chop up the poblano pepper, put it on the stove with some olive oil until the peppers soften a little. Then add the black beans and a little salt to heat them up.

Put to tortillas in the microwave for 30 seconds to get them soft and warm. This is easier for folding the burrito.

Put the cheese, black bean mixture, sweet potatoes, Mexican rice, avocado strips and tomato in the tortilla and fold into a burrito. (I’m still working on perfecting that.)

If you like it spicy, like i do, eat with your favorite hot sauce! Enjoy!

Delicious Mexican Rice

We’ve all used the ready packages of rice at some point or another. Especially if it’s something like Mexican rice. The great thing is making Mexican rice is much easier than you think. It’s a great side dish for any dinner meal.

**To make this dish vegetarian friendly, you can swap out the chicken broth for vegetable broth or water. I suggest the broth since it makes it more flavorful.**

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 7.12.06 PM.png

What you’ll need:Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 6.36.43 PM

  • 1 cup diced tomato
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 cup uncooked white rice
  • 2 cups chicken broth (preferably sodium free)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil

Heat a skillet coated with olive oil over medium heat. Add the tomato, onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Stir occasionally until the tomatoes break down and the onions and garlic become transparent. It should be about 5 minutes.

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 6.35.47 PM

**some people prefer to use salsa or raw tomatoes in their Mexican rice. (Both of these options you would add when you add the chicken broth, but I think you get a much better flavor when you use fresh tomatoes and cook them down.)**

When the tomatoes are cooked down, add the rice and turn up the heat to high. Stir occasionally until the rice is slightly browned. Add the broth, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Add a generous amount of salt if you used a sodium-free chicken broth. **IF YOU USED CHICKEN BROTH WITH SODIUM DO NOT ADD ANY MORE SALT**

Cover the pan and stir occasionally until the rice is cooked, and has soaked up all the broth. Taste occasionally, add salt as needed.

And that’s it! Enjoy the Mexican rice in tacos, burritos or as a side dish.Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 7.12.06 PM.png

Social Media & Depression

media-social-media-apps-social-network-facebook.jpgI’ve gotten a few texts and messages from people wondering if I “unfriended” them on Facebook. To all my friends: I don’t hate you. I didn’t unfriend you. I did the unthinkable. I deleted my Facebook.

I guess technically I deactivated my Facebook. I could rejoin the social media site if I wanted to. But after months off the website, I don’t want to go back.

Social media is such a powerful medium. I use it to find out what’s going on in the world, and now to share my story with everyone here at Food, the City and the Girl. I think it’s important, and I think it’s a great vessel for self expression. That being said, I think that’s only true if you truly express yourself.

Too much of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and whatever else people are using these days,  are about showing an idealized version of yourself. A version that doesn’t exist for anyone. It’s great to post pictures of your friends or talk about how much you love your job or your significant other, but a lot of times that’s not the entire story. And honestly that’s ok, because you don’t need to share every problem in your life with that guy you knew in third grade and haven’t talked to since.

But staring at the over idealized versions of ourselves every day can cause problems. Especially for people suffering from depression. It can make you feel very alone. Like you’re the only person struggling when really we all have our own problems.

It also can cause problems if you have an eating disorder. Staring at pictures every day of girls in bikinis and six-pack abs doesn’t exactly boost your confidence.

So how can you make it better?

Take a break from social media for awhile. I’m not telling anyone to completely quit every social media account they have. Clearly I still depend on social media very much. But find the site or sites that are making you feel bad and just try and step away. For me it was Facebook. I took a step back. I still actively use Twitter (@karawarr) and Instagram (@kara_warr). For me, twitter is more about following current events. I used it a lot when I was working in local news, and that’s still the majority of accounts I follow. I don’t follow a lot of people on Instagram and I like that. For me Instagram isn’t overly politicized. People don’t bitch about every single thing. It’s mostly just cute pictures of puppies and the vacations my friends go on. Instagram actually makes me feel better when I look at it.

When you feel like you’re in a better place, try rejoining the social media site. That was my plan originally, but I found I’m much happier without Facebook. Maybe some day I’ll go back, but it won’t be anytime soon. By then there will probably be a completely different website.

But how do I keep in touch with friends?

I was worried about this at first as well. I have some friends who notoriously lose their cell phones and get new numbers all the time. It’s hard to keep in touch and social media actually makes that so much easier. I’ll say I was actually surprised that I DIDN’T have any issues keeping in touch. Those people I worried about losing touch with had MY NUMBER. Or they had my email or followed one of my other social media accounts. Those people who are important in your life will stay in your life. Before you disconnect, you can always shoot a few people a message, if you’re really worried about losing touch.

It also doesn’t have to be forever. Go back to it whenever you want! Like I said, I love social media. I think it’s important, but when you’re in a bad place, it can be helpful to take a break. And if you’re not ready to disconnect, just remember no one’s life is perfect… even if it seems that way on Facebook.

Creating the Recipes

As I say on my home page, I’m no chef. I still need recipes for a lot of things, and I’m still learning a lot about flavor and technique. Admittedly I can be a little impatient. But I still try really hard to come up with new ideas for the blog.

The video below is a little background, and a request for readers to send me some new ideas. (Content continued after video)

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the old way I was looking at food wasn’t healthy or smart. I’m working now to make food that’s delicious, and that will make people feel good about themselves. As one of my best friends put it, “food for people in recovery.” Well I think it goes beyond that. I think it can be food for a lot of people. Those who are busy, or tired, or stressed out and just need a really good meal. I want to pack in protein and vegetables, but not worry about leaving the skin on chicken or about how many carbs are in a meal. I promise I won’t add 5 sticks of butter into anything, because the goal is to be healthy *AND* not feel bad about yourself.

So where does it all the inspiration for Food the City and the Girl come from? I’m lucky enough to live just a few blocks away from Philadelphia’s Italian Market. So a lot of times it’s whatever I see. The produce is incredible and there are so many great butchers.

IMG_2459In addition, this little book now lives in my house. It’s called “The Flavor Thesaurus” by Niki Segnit and it’s a great helper especially since I’m not a chef. It helps you think of new flavors and ideas to put together. Even if it doesn’t give me the answer, it gets the wheels turning a little bit.

Most recently this book helped me come up with the idea for Almond Coriander Baked Chicken

In the above Youtube video, I mentioned I wanted readers to reach out with what food they’d like to see recipes for. My fatal flaw in all of this is that I only cook what I like to eat. Part of this is because I don’t want to waste food, and I’m the one who has to eat it. It’s also because I don’t have a ton of money to waste on just buying food that no one will eat. But I also want to get out of my box. So please help! If you have an idea or a recipe you’d  like to see leave me a comment, email me at, send me a message on twitter (@karawarr) or Instagram (@kara_warr).

Thanks as always for your support!

Fresh Corn & Quinoa Congee

IMG_2445This is the first time I’ve ever attempted to make congee, and honestly it turned out pretty well. It’s a kind of porridge dish traditionally made by cooking rice in water or broth. It can then be flavored in many ways. For the people who grew up with their families making the dish, I know this won’t quite be the same. This variation uses fresh corn and quinoa instead of rice. I had a similar dish at a restaurant in Philadelphia and tried to recreate it. It didn’t pack the same punch, but it still turned out pretty great. It’s a great dish for any time of the day. This makes a lot so it’ll feed you all week.


What you’ll need:

  • 3 ears of corn
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 5 1/2 cups chicken broth (preferably sodium free)
  • salt (at least 1/4 cup)
  • sugar (at least 1/4 cup)
  • pepper
  • garlic powder
  • red bell pepper
  • jalapeno

Cut the kernels off all the corn cobs. set aside 1/3 cup of the kernels. Put the rest in a blender or food processor until pureed. There should be enough liquid in the kernels to puree the corn without additional liquid. If you need to add a tablespoon of water.

Put the corn puree, the extra corn kernels, the chicken broth and the quinoa in a large pot with lid on the stove. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook on the stove, stirring occasionally, for about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes, or until the congee thickens into a consistency you’re happy with. It should be the consistency of a loose oatmeal or porridge.

Now it’s time to season. Note: if you used a broth with sodium, you will not need as much- or any- additional salt. It’s important to keep tasting until you’re happy. I used a homemade broth without any salt, and had to add at least 1/4 cup to make it taste good. Also add about 1/4 cup of sugar. Once again keep tasting. Add a few dashes of garlic powder and a few generous dashes of pepper. Once you’re happy with the taste, you’re done! Dice some red bell peppers and jalapenos (without the seeds or stems) and add on top. The peppers add some great fresh flavor and an awesome crunch.

Enjoy this fresh summer treat!

Grilled Chiles Rellenos

IMG_2443Now for anyone who really knows a lot about chiles rellenos, this might be a total sham. But this is such a great summer option. Fire up the grill and enjoy a great summer treat. Poblanos are one of my favorite peppers. They’re not really spicy, but they have such a powerful flavor. Plus the interesting way of making the chicken, really adds a lot of moisture and flavor.


What you’ll need:

  • 4 poblano peppers
  • 2 large chicken thighs
  • 2 tbsps butter
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 medium tomato
  • 10-12 oz queso cotija (more cheese is always better)
  • salt
  • chili powder
  • pepper
  • garlic powder
  • adobo seasoning
  • olive oil
  • can of refried beans (This is optional. I prefer black if available)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Take the two chicken thighs, season them with generous amounts of salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder and adobo seasoning. Take the tomato and puree it in a blender or food processor. Take an oven safe skillet or pot with a lid. Add the milk, butter and tomato. Heat over very low heat, just to warm and melt the butter. Add in a tsp of salt and a pinch of chili powder. Keep stirring occasionally until heated and the liquid becomes almost a salmon color. Place the chicken thighs in the pan with the tomato and milk mixture. Put in the oven for about 20-25 or until the chicken thighs are done. Luckily thighs cook pretty quickly.

Fire up the grill! When the chicken is done, take it out to the grill and flash grill it. It adds a great smokiness and texture. About one to two minutes on each side. (obviously you can skip this step, but you need to use the grill anyway later and it makes a big difference)

IMG_2439Take the poblanos and make a circular cut around the top, and pull out the stem and the seeds. The results should be a hollowed out pepper. Take the cooked chicken thighs and start shredding the IMG_2440chicken with a fork. When done, add the chicken to the bowl with the cotija cheese. (leave a little off to the side for a topping later) take the chicken and cheese mixture and stuff the poblano peppers. Make sure they’re really stuffed to the brim to make sure you get the maximum amount of cheese and chicken.

When stuffed, grease the outside of the poblano peppers. Sprinkle with salt and wrap in aluminum foil. Grill the peppers for 6-8 minutes or until soft, turning the peppers occasionally.

Top the peppers with some refried beans and extra cotija cheese. Enjoy!!IMG_2443