Posts tagged ‘lifestyle’
My sister is my best friend. Always has been always will be. We have been through everything together. From the day I was born, my sister was my watcher, my guardian. She thought I was her own personal baby doll that our parents created special for her to play with. My sister was my influence, whether it getting into trouble eating mom’s spices or playing “IFF” in the bathroom mixing chemicals, or my inspiration to do the best I can in school and life. My sister is the strongest woman I know. She was born with a one in a million birth defect leaving her to endure an absurd amount of surgeries. Despite the struggles and scars on her face, my sister has never thought of herself as different. Our mom tells a story about after one of Jen’s surgeries Jen looked into the mirror and saw her bruised and scarred face, which would have scared most children. Jen, always sunny and sparkling, smiled and said, “Mommy said it would be ok, it will all be better soon” and went on playing. She developed into a woman with not only a beautiful soul, but a beautiful exterior as well. My sister has taught me some of the most important lessons in my life. She has encouraged me to be a strong independent woman. She taught me how to be serious and determined, but also how to be the silliest person and let my freak flag fly. We have gone through everything together, and it is no surprise that we are now planning our weddings together! She has demonstrated her incredible faith in God through every challenge in her life, and also through every celebration. She is my constant reminder that nothing life throws at you is big enough to stop you. With faith in God and a strong supportive family, nothing can stop you. My sister is my best friend and my inspiration.
If you haven’t noticed yet, this isn’t Jen, this is her little sister and biggest admirer, Chelsea. As you can imagine, Jen is phenomenally busy keeping up with her 4th year of medical school, going to residency interviews (because of course everyone wants her so she has like 20 in the next few months) and planning a wedding with the love of her life. As I said, Jen has always been my biggest influence and inspiration. While most people say their mom and grandmother taught them to cook, I really credit my sister for teaching me to cook. Sure my mom taught me the basics, but my sister showed me the excitement and creativity in cooking. I remember when she came to visit me my sophomore year of college when I finally had a tiny kitchenette. We trudged over to the local grocery store and collected food to make a vegetable primavera dish. The space was so small, we had to cut the vegetables up on a cutting board set on a chair. We made a make shift table in the center of the tiny room and enjoyed our dinner together. The food was delicious, but more importantly, this was the turning point in when I discovered the fun in cooking. This has spurred me to believe I am always on “Chopped” and have fun creating all sorts of different creations, many from Jen’s blog. Since Jen is so busy and doesn’t have the time right now, I thought it might be fun to post a few posts for her.
So you know my sister, and have read some stories about me, but I figured I’d tell a little about myself. Recently I discovered I have an under-active thyroid. This has contributed to a large decrease in energy, and also some weight gain. My sister has been my biggest advocate in seeking proper treatment and also my coach in making healthy decisions to help keep my energy up and my weight down. I am proud to say that in the past 3 weeks, I have lost 3 pounds. Now this doesn’t sound like a huge accomplishment to most, but to me it is the world. After gaining nearly 25 pounds in 6 months without altering my lifestyle, I am happy my weight is going anywhere but up. And if it is a pound a week, I will be back to my slim happy self by the time my beautiful sister gets married. I also just recently graduated college at the end of August and passed my board certification exam to become a music therapist at the end of September. So I am now patiently (not really, but trying) waiting for the right job to come along, while embracing my lifestyle of being a housewife to my wonderful fiance, Mike, and raising my adorable puppy, Archer. I am not a vegetarian like my sister, so most of my dishes posted will probably contain meat. But right now, my focus is on healthy, low fat foods. I have a rehearsal dinner to attend tonight, so you can look for my first food post tomorrow. I’m excited to be apart of Jen’s blog, which has inspired me and many for years, and I do hope to be able to keep up with the high level of cuisine that she has previously posted!
I have also never blogged and am admittedly not the most tech savvy person. I prefer to stick to my acoustic guitar and piano. This being said, bear with me as I figure out this blogging thing.
In honor of the last What I Ate Wednesday in March, I decided to green my meals for the day! Despite a day of studying hematology, I still managed to sneak in some fun, healthy meals and a quick run. Since I have to get back to the books, I will let the pictures do the talking! They are also the links to the original recipes, if you are interested in trying something out for yourself!
3/3 of my meals had a green veggie base – that is what I call a WIAW gone green success! To make things even greener, my roommate and I started composting yesterday! Since we are city folk with no yard, we never thought this would be an option for us. However, friends told us about Boostrap Composting, which delivers compost buckets to your door, and picks them up on a schedule. If you compost enough, you can get some of your own homemade fertilizer back! We are excited to venture into this new world of waste, and would love to hear more about your experiences if anyone has composted before!
Question: How do you go green?
You have seen my progress in the Vegan Challenge, and have occasionally heard from my parents and friend, but I thought I would give them a chance to share about their experience in their own words! One of the highlights of the month for me was recipe swapping with my mom. She taught me the basics of cooking and shared her passion of good food with me at a young age. I was excited to be able to share some of the tips I have picked up along the way with her, and am amazed by her creativity with vegan cooking! I hope you are as inspired by my mom as I am!
Somehow my daughter was able to talk my husband into going vegan for the month of January. I don’t think he really had any idea of what he was agreeing too, but I had wanted to try going vegan for some time. Some of my friends had done the Daniel Fast, a “spiritual fast” based on the book of Daniel in the Bible in which he ate only vegetables, fruits, and drank only water. A “side effect” of their fasting was weight loss. So needing to shed some pounds and really cleanse my body and mind, I thought, “Why not join him in this challenge?!” So during the Christmas holidays, with help from my already vegetarian daughter, I prepared both my mind and my kitchen for the challenge. She gave me tips on how to incorporate protein into each of our meals so that we wouldn’t go hungry. I stocked my kitchen cabinets with beans, quinoa, and rice and my refrigerator with fresh vegetables and fruits. I had recently started getting a weekly delivery of organic fruits and vegetables which proved to be a huge help during the challenge. She took me to Whole Foods and taught me how to read labels to find all those hidden sources of off limit ingredients and introduced me to tofu and tempeh. I replaced cow’s milk with almond milk–which I now absolutely love and will not go back to milk. We even found some different coconut creamers for my husband’s coffee in the morning.
For breakfast, I made oatmeal with a variety of different fruit mixed in. I took Jen’s advice and made sure to add either almond milk or sometimes peanut butter to give the oatmeal some protein. On the weekends, when I would normally have loved scrambled eggs, I began making hash brown potatoes, something I learned from my younger daughter. On a recent Saturday morning, I shredded some sweet potatoes I had gotten in my organics box, added some onions and black beans, and fried them in olive oil for a delicious and filling breakfast! I discovered a love for hummus at lunchtime, which also helped to keep me full. My favorite quick lunch is spread some hummus on a wrap, add some mixed salad greens and diced cucumbers or any leftover grilled vegetables. Fabulous! I had a lot of fun finding new recipes and enjoying all the things that I could eat. That was the best advice that Jen gave me at the start of the challenge. It was never about what I couldn’t have but making the most of what I could have. I made homemade pizza with caramelized onions, roasted artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers for a topping—I didn’t even miss the cheese. I made chili with sweet potatoes instead of meat. I even made a vegan macaroni and cheese using butternut squash and some nutritional yeast to make the “cheese sauce”.
So, after my thirty days as a vegan, I definitely feel better and lost 12 pounds in the process. I learned a lot about healthy eating and filling my body with good food. It definitely takes a bit more planning and preparation to be vegan and social settings are definitely hard. I had friends over for dinner during the challenge and fearing that they would have to be satisfied with a weird vegan dinner, the men all admitted to having eaten meat or chicken BEFORE they came over to eat my vegan food. So I do agree with Jen, being Vegan with Benefits is much easier. That’s pretty much what I have been doing (significantly reducing my meat and dairy intake) since the challenge ended as well and plan to continue doing, although I do admit to having some pepperoni pizza while cheering the Giants to victory over the Patriots in the Superbowl this past weekend! So thanks, Jen, for the encouragement and support in helping me succeed in this challenge!
The question still remains: how did Dad fare? Well, he has been busy with a snowmobiling and business trip, but I will try to wrangle a paragraph or two of thoughts from him as soon as I can! Looking at the pictures of what my mom cooked throughout the month, I can assure you he didn’t starve!
I like Miss Smart’s term: Vegan with Benefits, because that best describes how I have been eating for the past week! Now that the vegan challenge is over, I am still eating pretty much the same at home. However, I am enjoying not having so many restritctions on friends and families, and the easier ordering process at restaurants. I enjoyed a Greek salad wrap for my first non-vegan meal, and loved it. Oh how I missed feta! The other half sandwich I ate at the catered lunch meeting, however, was not as satisfying and I actually picked the cheese off! Granted, it was fake American cheese slices, but it definitely surprised me how little cheese I crave anymore!
My food today was random and on a weird schedule, which I blame on cravings, a weird class schedule, and my evening yoga class. WIAW isn’t about presenting your perfect day, though, so here is a peak into my eats! In keeping with Jenn’s theme for this month, let me restate how much I really do love veggies. Despite being all over the place, I did a decent job of getting my greens. One way to get extra veggies is to incorporate them into snacks (I am not a fan of raw veggies, so like to roast broccoli or snap peas or Brussels sprouts first), add them to your sandwich (like the lettuce leaf over my hummus crackers), make up a quick side salad with dinner, or enjoy a huge stir fry. Join us for the month to try and get more veggies in your daily meals!
I finally obeyed my alarm clock and got up before the sun to get some work done. Lately, I have been able to get an hour of studying done before getting hungry for breakfast, but not this morning. That meant a really early breakfast of a pumpkin muffin with a bit of peanut butter, kept on the lighter side in case I decided to go out for a quick run. The other weird occurrence: I didn’t have coffee! I slept a lot this weekend, so my body hasn’t craved its caffeine jump start the past two mornings! Doubt that will last long…
After getting bogged down by work, a phone call, and a few distractions, my run never happened. I snacked on half an apple to tide me over, but needless to say I was starving by lunch! I heated up some leftovers: Mama Pea’s Thai Fried Quinoa (my 2nd time making the recipe!) made with edamame instead of peas and topped with a few peanuts and Sriracha. Still hungry, I munched on a handful of peanuts, and then heated up the other half of my apple with some local honey, cinnamon and almond butter.
I walked over to campus for a long afternoon of cancer screening seminars. My body responded to all of the information being thrown at me with a few loud stomach growls. I responded with dinner part 1: caramelized Brussels sprouts leftover from the other night, and a big juicy orange.
After a hard yoga class, I was about to gnaw my arm off. I turned to the quickest dinner part 2 possible: hummus on rice cakes with a lettuce leaf ripped over top, with some Veggie Chips from Trader Joe’s on the side. Those were promptly inhaled before I even reached the table… Still hungry after dinner, I roasted up half a crown of broccoli. Normal people crave broccoli for dessert, right? Regardless of what meal category this fits into, roasted broccoli with BBQ sauce hit the spot! Real dessert, 2 squares of dark chocolate, followed to end my random day!
Question: Do you ever have random food days?
The biggest roadblock for me over the past few weeks as a vegan has been community. I feel awkward accepting dinner invitations, hesitant to ask for restrictions on what my friends can cook but also unable to eat what I am served without question. Dining out can be difficult, depending on the menu. Hosting should feel like the easiest option, but I get nervous about my friends reactions to my “weird vegan food.” However, sharing meals with friends is an important part of my life, and I needed to face my fears of communal vegan eating head on this weekend.
I met up with friends for lunch and was terrified of not being able to order anything at the tiny diner we ducked out of the snow into. I scanned the menu, seeing fancy omelettes, pancakes, homemade muffins… and I panicked. But then I saw the life-saving asterisk: for vegans/vegetarians, all eggs can be replaced with tofu or tempeh. At no extra charge, this was a miracle! I got to enjoy tempeh with home fries and veggies, which was a really filling and satisfying lunch! As my friend said, “only in JP,” commenting on the characteristic residents of this notoriously hippie Boston neighborhood. Not all restaurants are so vegan friendly, but I was happy to have a small hurdle to conquer my fear!
My evening was spent catching up with a few friends from school over dinner, so I got to conquer my fear of serving friends “weird vegan food” as well. It was also an easy hurdle, since four of them were independently doing their own vegan challenge, and one was a former vegan. We laughed about experiences with friends, family, and servers; commiserated over the questioning of preparation methods and scanning of ingredients lists; and swapped recipes and new foods to try. It was such a great night, and the food was a hit!
To avoid the, “Um, what did you say that is?” reaction, I wanted to find a recipe recreation that would be familiar to people’s taste buds. I chose Mama Pea’s Thai Fried Quinoa, since it harkens Thai pineapple fried rice and can be customized with various toppings. It was a huge hit and definitely a recipe I will make again! On the side, I made Sesame Kale Chips. Kale is a veggie-lovers green, but I have never met someone who could turn down a crispy kale chip. Even my Dad loves kale this way, despite his usual turned up nose when it appears in soups and stews! I omitted the lemon juice, used a little less oil, and added a dash of ginger. I will definitely be playing with different seasonings for my kale chips from now on, since these were so flavorful and not just overly salty! The green stuff went faster than the main dish, which I think speaks volumes!
Vegan desserts on their own can be tricky, but another wrench was thrown in – my friends were also not eating any added sugar! Good thing I had these muffins on hand! A friend and I baked on Friday night, and certainly got our peanut butter and chocolate fix with these. I put out the rest of the muffins for dessert, and my friends were so excited to be able to enjoy a sweet treat at the end of the meal! You can’t go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate, and the natural sweetness comes from the dates. They are even healthy enough to fill the role of an on-the-go breakfast, making these another make again recipe!
What I learned from my Saturday: don’t let fear hold you back! It might take a little more creativity, planning and thought, but you can enjoy communal meals and laughter with friends, no matter what your current food lifestyle choices are!
Question: Have you ever been afraid of friends reactions to food you serve?
Please tell me that Bon Jovi immediately popped into your head when you saw the title of this post. No? Just me? Great, well now that’s out of the way… We are already halfway through our vegan challenge, and there already some exciting results to share! First, I’ll let my friends and family do the talking, and then I’ll add my two cents at the end.
Happy 2012! This past year has flown by, and has been filled with so many great memories. I started this blog, finished my first year of medical school, traveled to 5 new countries, completed my first triathlon, stood next to my best friends as they got married, and so much more. It is impossible to predict what a new year will bring, no matter how much you think your life is planned out. I am excited for what this year holds!
One of my goals for the year is to keep my kitchen (and apartment) more organized. I am tired of reaching for the salt and knocking over 10 other spice bottles in the process, annoyed with all of the loose dry beans floating in my cabinet, and over the Tupperware tower that attacks me every time I make my lunch. I have spent the entire weekend (minus New Years celebrations, of course!) deep cleaning and re-organizing my apartment, and hope to keep it up as life gets busy and stressful again! One tip I have seen for pantry organization is to move bulk items into jars, tupperware, or other storage containers. Anything that comes in a plastic bag tends to be amorphous and hard to store neatly. I have moved all of my dry goods into glass jars that my roommate and I have been hoarding anytime we finish almond butter, salsa, pasta sauce, etc.
My mom was a little fancier with her organization and bought a pack of large canning jars for her dry goods. She filled them, labeled them with cute paper, and then stuck a slip with the cooking instructions onto the lid. Her cabinets are beautiful, clean and organized now!
Our newly organized dry beans will also help with a second challenge: going vegan! A friend and I, who are too competitive for our own good, got into a discussion about food and lifestyle choices. After a little while, he decided to experiment with being a vegan for a month, but only if I could convince my meat-loving father to do so. Oh how little he understands how much sway a daughter has on her father ;) My dad accepted the challenge, and so now my friend and my dad are competing to see if they can last the month as vegans! For solidarity, my mom and I have agreed to also participate in the challenge. We each are challenging ourselves for different reasons, and some are more excited, willing and ready than others. Regardless, it will definitely be an interesting month for all of us! I hope to have a few fun posts with some thoughts from my parents and friend about their success with the challenge, as well as share some recipes that I try out or create along the way!
Question: Do you have any New Years Resolutions?
A month is a funny thing. It seems like so long ago that it was August 1 and I was still on vacation in NJ. And yet it seems impossible that I haven’t been a 2nd year medical student forever. Time is funny that way: days are long but months are short. In order to stay sane in medical school, I have found that it is important for me to look back and appreciate the small things. Sure, I may spend most hours of a day in class or hunched over a desk studying. That is very tedious and mundane, and it is easy to fall into thinking that your life is boring and uneventful. However, if I look back over the month, I realize just how many things I have done, how many friends I have gotten to visit, and how much fun I really have had. I may no longer be on vacation, but I am still making time for something I enjoy each day!
Some highlights from August…
I participated in the NYC Triathlon. My third race and first triathlon, my only goal was to finish! That I did and I have the medal to prove it!
I started my second year of medical school, and although the daily grind is draining, I am still excited for the year ahead. School moves at a quick enough pace that I have even already taken my first exam of the year!
I was Freshly Pressed! I love writing posts, and am so excited that this one got highlighted! My time in Sarajevo was unique and special, and I am glad that I got to share the beauty and recovery that is occurring there in the midst of most negative media coverage.
I wrote my 100th post! It feels like just yesterday that I started my blog, but really it has been almost 4 months! I have so enjoyed cooking and writing, and love feedback on recipe ideas and new things to try!
I got my very first apron! I asked my cousin Lizzie if she could make me one at the beginning of the summer, not knowing how good of a seamstress she really is! Lets just say that she could put Anthropologie out of business. It is so cute, with my favorite colors and a cute vintage style, and an awesome big bow in the back!
I got to visit with my friend’s dad over ice cream, in Boston only once a year from Italy!
I finally replaced my toaster oven, after catching my first one on fire last winter making these. Don’t worry – I put the fire out in the cooler that the toaster was sitting next too, but not before alarming all of my neighbors and completely filling my house with smoke. Whoops. I’ll be more careful with this one!
I made Mama Pea’s Sunflower Seed Butter. And I became addicted. This stuff is seriously good.
I got to visit Worcester! Two of my really good friends have recently been stolen by Western Mass, and I got to go visit one of them with a housewarming gift! Story behind the plant choices: in college, Azra had a small collection of mini cacti. Someone told her that it was bad feng shui and that she was ruining her luck, so we bought her bamboo to even out the energy. My roommate from college and I decided that her new home would be incomplete without these additions, so we decided to get them as a thank you gift and housewarming present!
This list doesn’t count the other things that make my days a little less tedious: coffee breaks and meals with friends, my weekly community group Bible study, and random deep conversations with my roommate. I am so thankful for all of the people who keep me sane in life!
Question: What was your August highlight?
There is nothing I love more than watching someone fall in love with a healthier lifestyle. It only takes a few small changes that eventually add up into a lot of healthy habits! This recipe is what pushed my little sister over the edge to be an adventurous, veggie-cooking college student. She has found her own veggie delivery program in Philly, and says that she is excited to try new recipes and new foods as she begins to cook for herself this year! I hope that she finds inspiration from what I make with my box, as well as from her own amazing culinary creativity.
I have seen recipes for all types of green goddess dressings popping up everywhere, whether they are low-fat, vegan, gluten-free… you name it! I had some leftover cashew cream from my pasta sauce, and decided to try my own hand at it! It is a little more inspired by the flavors in pesto than in a traditional green goddess dressing, but is absolutely delicious in its own right. Plus, I got to try out my new Whole Foods purchase – nutritional yeast! This strange, flaky ingredient is super good for you – rich in B vitamins and packed with protein. It has an interesting, almost cheesey flavor, making it a perfect addition to dressings and pasta sauces! If you are not so adventurous, you can definitely try substituting a bit of grated cheese in the dressing, or just leave it out and add a bit more salt! I really like the flavor that it adds in recipes, but am not at a point to use it sprinkled over pasta. A little to earthy for me…
Try this recipe. It is really, really good. My sister exclaimed, “I just want to stick my face in it!” She had me make extra before I left, and is dreaming up ways to use it. We dipped some roasted broccoli in it, but she thinks it would make a great chip dip, or could even be a great pasta sauce.
Question: What do you think it would go well with?
Green Goddess Dip
1/3 cup basil
1/3 cup parsley
1/2 cup cashew cream
1/2 tsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Chop basil and parsley finely in a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and combine until smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste.
After three months of being an omnivore (and a few truly carnivorous weeks in Europe), I am back to my vegetarian ways. My dad is particularly perplexed by this, since he is the kind of man who thinks dinner doesn’t count if there is no meat. But honestly, I feel better when I am not eating meat. I have more energy after meals, definitely get more veggies in my diet, and all around feel healthier. I still will stand by my philosophy of being a better friend than a vegetarian, and will not turn down someone’s hospitality simply to maintain my dietary preferences. However, my recipes from now on will be vegetarian!
There are two things I love most about cooking as a vegetarian. The first is enjoying tons of fresh fruits and veggies! It is really simple to eat healthy when a huge box of produce shows up at your doorstep. I have explained the Boston Organics program briefly before, and am so glad to be a returning customer! I received my first delivery for the new school year yesterday, and found kale, lettuce, green beans, cukes, onions, plums, nectarines, apples, oranges, bananas and thyme all nicely waiting for my on the porch when I got home from class! I have convinced many of my Boston friends to join either Boston Organics or a CSA, both for the convenient for delivery and for the fact that it forces you to always be stocked with fresh, mostly local, organic produce. My sister even found a really similar program in Philly and is considering joining, and is really excited about learning to cook veggies so they taste good. My enthusiasm for veggies may sicken some, but is obviously infectious, so watch out ;)
The other thing I love is finding alternative protein sources: beans, nuts, seeds…. but one of my favorite vegetarian protein sources is lentils. My mom picked up some naan at the store during my last few days home, and I knew that I wanted some lentils with it. With it being so hot and humid, I wanted to stay away from the stove as much as possible. These lentils are light and creamy, with just enough curry flavor to make it interesting. They are not the most photogenic beans… I promise they taste better than they look! I enjoyed the lentils with naan for dinner with a few of my spaghetti squash fritters, but they would also make a great light lunch on their own!
Question: What is your favorite vegetarian protein?
1 cup dried lentils
2 cups water
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (soy yogurt if vegan)
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp dried cilantro
3 stalks celery, chopped
Cover dried lentils with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to allow lentils to simmer. They should be cooked through and soft in about 15 minutes. Be careful that the water doesn’t boil off or the lentils will burn at the bottom! Allow the lentils to cool. Mix with Greek yogurt, herbs and spices, and chopped celery. Season with salt to taste if desired. Refrigerate or serve at room temperature.