... dance, fitness, food, health, life...

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

When joy sneaks up on you

Sometimes simple joy sneaks up on you.

On Tuesday night, I spontaneously decided to attend a ballet class after having to miss my scheduled Monday night class thanks to an RA flare up. It was just a beginning, open adult class. Nothing fancy, no frills. Just good ol' fashioned plie, tendu, rond de jambe, et al. I didn't think much of it, no expectations beyond working on my standing leg and turnout.

I loved every minute of it.

I left class feeling light and full of light.

Ballet in Aspen, CO, circa October 2011. Miss those girls.

Such a pleasant surprise. And just what my spirit needed.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Hungry Dancer: No-Brainer Chili (a.k.a. the easiest recipe of all time)

Now that I'm a full time working girl who gets her sweat and dance on in the evenings after work, I don't arrive home until almost 10 p.m. most nights. Hubs himself goes to the gym, so between the two of us, we had to figure out a plan. A hungry dancer and her hungry hubs can't live on cereal alone.

Enter the good ol' fashioned crock pot! Oh crock pot, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways... If you don't own one, stop reading this right now and go buy one. Then come back and finish reading. :)

My crock pot transformed my life. Whoever invented that thing is my hero. I whipped up the easiest pot of chili ever known to humankind, brewed in the amazing crock pot.

Hungry Dancer's No-Brainer Chili

1 white onion, diced
1 bell pepper, seeds removed and chopped
1 lb. cooked lean ground beef
1 14-oz can of corn
1 14-oz can of diced tomatoes
1 14-oz can of kidney beans
1 14-oz can of pinto beans
1 14-oz can of black beans
3-4 cups of water
2-3 T chili powder
1 tsp cumin
Cayenne powder
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Toss the onions, bell pepper and cooked beef into the crock pot. Drain the corn and throw it in there. Add the tomatoes, including the juice.
2. Drain and rinse the beans, and add them to the mix.
3. Pour 3-4 cups of water over everything, adjusting the amount based on how soupy you like your chili.
4. Add the chili powder and cumin, again adjusting to your spicy preference. I love cumin, so I added a teaspoon more than listed here. Add a few dashes of cayenne, more if you like heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Give everything a stir or two to mix in the spices.
6. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours (until the onions and peppers are done).
7. Eat and be happy!

Colorful and tasty!

Just yum. Spicy chili fills the tum, and warms the body and soul.

What's your easy, go-to crock pot meal?

Happy eating!


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Hungery Dancer does Giada's Risotto

Rice, we meet again. If you recall my last discussion about rice, it took me a hot second (30-some years, ahem) to finally cook rice successfully (all it took was marrying a Persian man). My next rice challenge? Risotto.

Risotto is one of those perfect mid-winter dishes, in all it's creamy, comfort food, carb glory. Add bacon to the mix and it's comfort food nirvana.

Who better to guide my maiden risotto voyage than my favorite Food Network chef, Giada De Laurentiis? I just love her. Not a single recipe I've made of hers has ever disappointed. The thing that always intimidated me about risotto is the time and effort required to reach creamy perfection. Giada's recipe has a twist that's perfect for risotto newbies like me - it starts on the stove, but finishes cooking in the oven.

And. It has bacon.

In true Hungry Dancer form, I made some adaptations to fit what ingredients I had on hand. I recruited the husband to be sous chef and it was game on.

Hungry Dancer's Risotto w/ Chicken, Bacon & Mushrooms

5 strips of bacon, chopped into small pieces
1 large white onion, diced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 cup Arborio rice
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth, plus 1/4 cup more
1 lb. chicken tenders, chopped into small chunks
Ground sage
Dried rosemary, finely chopped
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese

What I did

1. Cook the bacon until brown and crispy. Transfer from the pan to a paper towel with a slotted spoon, to drain.

2. Using the bacon drippings, cook the onion. Season with salt and pepper, cooking until just soft. Add the sliced mushrooms. Continue cooking until the mushrooms just soften.

3. Stir in the rice, cooking for a couple of minutes.

4. Add the chicken broth and stir. Bring this to a vigorous boil.

5. Oven time! Either keep it in the same pan if you have a lid and both are oven-safe. We don't have a lid for our saute pan, so we transferred the rice mixture to a glass baking dish and covered it with foil. Pop it into the oven let bake for about 25 minutes.

6. While the rice is baking, cook the chicken on the stove. Season with salt, pepper, sage and rosemary. Be sure to cook all the way through. Turn off the heat once it's cooked and let it sit.

7. When the rice is finished baking, take it out of the over and add it back to the pan, mixing it with the cooked chicken. Turn the heat back on, about medium-low, and stir in the remaining 1/4 cup of chicken broth until the risotto is creamy.

8. When it's creamy and velvety, stir in the bacon and cheese. Serve immediately.


We enjoyed artichokes as our side veggie... dipped in melted garlic butter, of course.

Quick directions: Cut off the stem and the top of an artichoke, as well as the leaf tips (see photo). Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop in the artichokes. Squeeze one or two lemon wedges into the water, and drop them into the boiling water, too. Add about a teaspoon of fresh minced garlic. Boil for about 30 minutes, or until the artichoke bottom is soft when pierced with a fork. Drain the artichokes. Peel off the leaves, dip the ends in the melted butter and pull the meat off the leaf with your teeth. When you get to the spines at the center of the 'choke, carefully cut these away and enjoy that artichoke heart, also dipped in garlic butter. Not healthy. So good.

If you happen to see this, I hope I made you proud, Ms. Laurentiis!

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What's your favorite mid-winter comfort food that makes you warm inside? Afraid of risotto like I was? Have no fear, Giada saves the day!

Happy Eating! 


Friday, January 18, 2013

Ballet bun elegance

Last summer I chopped my hair to a chin-level bob. It was cute, easy for summer, and I liked it.

Fast forward to today. My hair is growing out and it's a little longer than my shoulders now. I'm well overdue for a haircut and I can't decide what to do. My husband loves short hair and that love is what gave me the moxie to chop my hair last summer. But I'm also really, really, really missing this...

My love of the ballet bun has nothing to do with the hair itself. Oh sure, you can twist and braid and  embellish to make your bun shine...

But what really elevates the elegance of a bun? The neck, collar bone and shoulders come center stage. Hello, femininity...

I can only hope to be so elegant someday (bonus points if you know who this is)

Yours truly (taken pre-smart phone, hence the, *ahem*, quality)

Oh, and do you know this blogger? She is the connoisseur of the bun and of classy elegance. Just beautiful. Stop by and pay her a visit - she and her blog are a treat!

What style makes you feel your most feminine and elegant? And gentleman, you can play along, too - what inspires your manly swag?

All but the last three photos compliments of Pinterest

Happy Weekend!


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Hungry Dancer: Borscht, pozhaluista! (Borscht, please!)

Growing up, I hated beets. My mom and grandmother used to pickle beets and I thought they were just gross. Thus, I categorized all and any beets as nasty and wrote them off. Until the Russians.

Caution: your hands will turn pink

While still a student over the last few years, I was pretty involved with the international student community at my university. I made friends with people from many different countries, including Russia, and as such, I got to try my first bowl of authentic borscht. One bite and me and those beets became friends once again.

This cold weather has had me craving a hearty bowl of borscht. Chock full of veggies, it's both tasty and good for you, and it fills you up. You can make it vegetarian by omitting the meat, but I need my animal protein, so beef it is for me.

As usual, I modified a couple different recipes to make my own. And as usual, my measurements are flexible :)

Hungry Dancer's Slow-Cooker Borscht

1 lb. of stew beef cubes (leave out to make vegetarian)
3 or 4 carrots, peeled and thickly chopped
2 or 3 potatoes (depending on size), peeled and cubed
3 tomatoes, diced
Half a white onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
Half a head of cabbage, chopped
3 beets, peeled and cubed
2 cups of water
1 6-oz. can of tomato paste
6 T. apple cider vinegar
3 T. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. dill weed
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Bay leaf
Sour cream or plain yogurt

1. Throw beef, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, onion, garlic, cabbage and beets into a slow cooker.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the water, tomato paste, vinegar, sugar, dill, salt and pepper. When mixed, stir in bay leaf.
3. Pour sauce over meat and veggies.
4. Cover and cook on high for ~5 hours, or until meat is cooked through and veggies are soft (specifically the beets).
5. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt on top.
6. Enjoy!

Yes, yes, y'all, this hit the spot. The earthiness of the beets mellows out to a subtle sweetness and the cool sour cream is the perfect match to the bite of the vinegar. I hope I made my Russian chums proud!

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What's your favorite hearty, mid-winter stew? If you're not afraid of fuschia hands and fuschia soup, give this one a try!

Happy Eating!


Monday, January 14, 2013

Winter beauty: hands

The annual fight to keep my hands hydrated has begun! Pittsburgh is more humid than Colorado (anywhere is more humid than CO, really), so I thought my skin would be less fussy come winter in the 'Burgh. Not so! Dealing with cracking cuticles and itchy skin has followed me out here.

Have no fear, this Colorado girl has the 411 on what works. Here's what's in my winter beauty arsenal for my hands...

Avon Foot Works Beautiful Thermal Exfoliating Scrub
I've used exfoliating scrub made for feet on my hands for years. It gets rid of any flakiness and dead skin that's stubbornly hanging on. Want to know a secret? Use an exfoliator first and hand cream works more effectively. When you have a layer of dry skin on top, it steals moisture from the newer, softer skin underneath.

Avon Moisture Therapy Intensive Healing & Repair Hand Cream
Thick and emollient, it's great for getting rid of the itchiness. Use my exfoliating trick first, and oila! Softer, hydrated hands. I use this on my feet, too.

 Jason Vitamin E Oil 
This stuff is my winter saving grace. I dab this oil into my cuticles before bed, and sometimes before heading out into the cold. When my fingers are in the brink of splitting open, I will slather it all over my hands. It's the serious TLC that gets the job done. The smell is nice and fresh, too!

Fight the dehydration from the inside, too... Chug a glass of good old fashioned H2O. I think you need as much water in the winter as you do on a hot summer day.

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See your Avon Representative for the Avon products. Don't have an Avon Rep? I got you covered here and here through my site. The Jason Vitamin E Oil can be found at any local grocery, drugstore or natural food market, as well as online.

Disclaimer: I'm not a dermatologist or a doctor, and I was not paid or endorsed to write this post. All opinions are from my own personal product use and experience. And yes, I'm an Avon/mark Representative.

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What do you use to help combat dry winter skin?

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Hungry Dancer: chicken pot pie for the soul

You guys. I made the best chicken pot pie last weekend! I feel I can make such a claim only because I had zero expectations for this one. I was craving basic comfort food and you can't get more basic than good ol' fashioned chicken pot pie. Boy was I surprised at the outcome!

I originally planned to make this in the slow cooker so it would be ready to eat when we got home from work Friday night. But true to form, I hit the snooze button too many times Friday morning and there was no time for prep. Believe me, most of the time I barely get out the door in one piece. Mornings are not my forte. Alas, I had to revert to plan B, cooking it in the oven later than night.

I got home and scrounged my cookbooks and the interwebs for a recipe, but of course I couldn't find just one that made me happy. I ended up using various parts of three different recipes, creating my own recipe. If you try it, keep in mind that my measurements are flexible :)

Hungry Dancer's Chicken Pot Pie

1 lb (give or take) chicken breast tenders
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup of butter (1 stick)
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon powdered thyme
4 tablespoons of flour
1 1/2 cups of milk
1/2 cup of heavy cream
Half package of frozen peas (I used half a 10-oz. package)
1 1/4 cups of Bisquick mix (more if batter is too thin)
1/2 cup of milk
1 egg


1. Boil the chicken in water seasoned with salt and bay leaf for about 30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Drain the chicken and let cool. Discard the bay leaf. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred into bite-size pieces and set aside in a medium-sized bowl.
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
3. Saute the onion in a couple tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Cook until they just begin to turn translucent. Add the carrots and season the veggies with salt and pepper to taste, along with the thyme. Cook just until the carrots become tender and then remove from heat. Add the onion and carrot mixture to the bowl with the chicken.
4. Melt four tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan. Once the butter is melted, whisk in flour, along with salt and pepper to taste. Whisk until smooth. Gradually whisk in the milk and cream, constantly stirring until it boils. Once it begins to boil, reduce heat slightly and keep stirring until it begins to thicken. Once it thickens, let is simmer for 10 minutes more over low heat, stirring occasionally.
5. Add half the package of frozen peas (add more if you really like peas!) to the chicken and veggies mixture. Pour the white sauce over everything, stirring to coat. Transfer the mixture to a glass baking dish (9x9 square is a good size).
6. In a separate bowl, mix together Bisquick mix, milk and egg (note: if the batter is too runny, just keep mixing in Bisquick mix until it thickens). Pour over the chicken and veggies.
7. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the biscuit topping is golden brown.
8. Remove from the oven and let set for 10 minutes before serving.

Yowza, was it gooooood. I'm sure glad my original plans were foiled by my inability to wake up on time. And the husband couldn't stop raving. Really, he's never gone on and on about something I've cooked. This one's a keeper. And like I said on Facebook, no way does this jive with any New Year's Resolution, unless yours involves a comfort food diet.... But it sure is good for the soul!

What's your go-to comfort food? Have you ever set out to make something that came out far more stellar than expected? I want to hear all about it!

Happy eating!


Thursday, January 3, 2013

The 25 to Watch list is here!

The January issue of Dance Magazine is by far my favorite issue put out by the publication. All for it's annual "25 to Watch" list, featuring DM's top dancer picks for the year. And it's finally here! I'm always so eager to see who they picked each year. What an honor to be selected!

The list features single artists and dance companies, ballet and modern dancers, hoofers and street dancers alike. Last year was one of my favorite lists. One of the companies selected was the August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble, a company that resides right here in Pittsburgh!

When I learned I would be moving to the 'Burgh late last spring, I began checking out the August Wilson crew. I watched this video and checked every page of their site. I admit, I was crushin' pretty hard. I couldn't wait to see them live onstage when I arrived in August (irony?). I finally got my chance in November at the Black Dance Festival.

In the 2012 "25 to Watch" article, DM used descriptions like "supple muscles", "quicksilver agility, fierce athleticism" and "innate theatricality". An on point assessment, I discovered. You guys, they blew. my. mind. Their dancers are beautiful and strong. They move almost at the speed of light, never missing a beat. And they're pure poets in motion.

Dance Magazine, thank you for the awesome yearly list! I can't wait to check out this year's 25... And August Wilson dancers, thank you, you captivated me.

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Dancers, lovers and watchers of dance! Do you have a favorite company or solo artist that just gets under your skin, deep inside your soul? Tell me, tell me! If not, but you're intrigued, grab a copy of Dance Magazine or go visit them online to begin your favorite dancer/company search. I promise you won't be disappointed!


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A new year, a new chapter

Happy New Year, everyone!!

I've spent a lot of thinking, journaling and list-making over the last few weeks about where I want to take this little blog in this next year. It wasn't easy. You see, a few months ago I started to panic. I started to panic that my blog was just a boring ol' blog. I was playing the keeping up with the Jones' game. My blog doesn't have sponsors! There are no ads! I've never done a giveaway! My design is terrible! Major companies or industry people are not contacting me! I have less than 100 followers! I'm not making any money! Omg, I'm such a failure!!

I know. I can be such a spaz. Don't worry, I've had a couple of important epiphanies since then - this is my journey and what I put into it is what I get out of it - and all is right with the world again.

We are about to embark on a new chapter friends! This new direction can be summed up in three words: Dialogue. Inspiration. Focus.


I want Better late than never to be a place for conversation and idea sharing. I want to hang out and kick it with y'all. That's why a blog exists, is it not? Us bloggers are not writing to hear ourselves talk, are we??  It's about YOU, my readers, my audience. Which leads me to the next area...


I genuinely want to inspire you! Whether I'm writing about fitness, sharing my Hungry Dancer recipes or discussing my latest dance adventures, I want you to feel, to believe, that you can go out and DO, too. That's how Better late than never came to be... I followed my heart and began a dance career in my late twenties. You can do something just as crazy and unconventional, too! Trust me, you can.


And how am I going to accomplish all of this? Through focus. I've been talking about doing this for months, but I think I've finally figured out my game plan. What this means on my end is following a schedule, working on my design and layout, figuring out some basic (keyword here is basic) technical stuff, and seeking help with the technical stuff that is beyond basic (which is a lot). What this means for you is (hopefully) informative posts, a pretty blog to look at and read, and a place where you enjoy spending a little part of your day. Sound like a deal?

I am SO excited about this new journey we're embarking on! Yes, we. Vamos, amigos!

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Let's get this party started right here and now... What do you hope to see here in the coming year? What kinds of topics would  you like me to cover? Do you have questions you've been itching to ask? It doesn't have to be dance or fitness related, so ask away!