What I Ate…(Meat Free Monday)

…today. Okay, so today was an unintentional “Meat Free Monday”. I saw what I had planned to eat and noticed that it was all vegetarian food. Even the smoothie shop I went to for dinner caters to the vegan/vegetarian population. Cool. I was actually a vegetarian from the age of six, up until the age of 25. I didn’t eat any red meat, and I rarely ate chicken. I was more of a pescatarian now that I think about it. Something changed when I hit 25 though. I don’t know what it was, but I suddenly wanted to eat burgers. I can’t really explain how it happened and I don’t remember the exact meal that broke my 19 year  long stretch. When people ask I usually say, “I just wanted a Big Mac. I had one, and I fell in love!” I don’t know what they want to hear, but it wasn’t some big to-do. It happened over the course of time.

Anyway…What did I eat today?

Breakfast: Raspberry Cocoa Latte and a string cheese…

Latte Ingredients
Latte Ingredients

I use the same formula for my lattes:

  • Almond milk, heated
  • Packet of stevia – one in the cup, one in the pan with the milk
  • A small swig of vanilla in the almond milk, while it’s heating
  • Powdered flavoring – usually 1 to 2 teaspoons
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil

So, that’s how I made today’s latte. Powdered flavoring=Cocoa Powder and I substituted the pack of stevia in the almond milk pan for one raspberry honey stick that I got from the farmers market. That’s it! It was good. The raspberry flavor was slight, that’s probably because it was natural and not filled with sugar.

Breakfast
Big breakfast (heh heh). Honestly though, the lattes are really filling!

Lunch: Feta Dip, Veggies and Olives

Feta Dip

Okay, this was awesome!!! The dip was so easy too…

Feta Dip Recipe
Easy peasy…

Only four ingredients: Feta (half of a small container – I’m really precise – Ha!), cream cheese (about 1/3 of a softened brick), olive oil (about a teaspoon) and garlic powder (depends on your taste, I use a lot)…Simple. One of those back pocket recipes.

Beverages: Seltzer with lime or apple cider vinegar

Drink
…lime-ish squeezy!

I LOVE seltzer! Seriously, I stock up on whatever brand is on sale so I am never without it. Polar is amazing. LaCroix is great, but sometimes I’m not willing to spend that much. Vintage and store brand will do just fine, thanks! I used to have a SodaStream, but it broke a couple of years ago and I’ve yet to get a new one. I should (re-)invest. It would be worth it!

Dinner: Italian Kale…

***Warning: I turn into a bit of a smartass here, I was highly annoyed. Feel free to read this section in Sarcasm…***

Okay. So I had planned to go to a new restaurant in town to get a salad for dinner. And I went, with my cousin…

Blend
“Buddha Bowl” – (unmassaged) Kale, spinach, tomato, sweet potatoes, avocado and a lemon vinaigrette. Intentionally Missing: Corn. Just Plain Missing: black beans

I ordered what was called a “Buddha Bowl” salad. And I got what is seen above. It had everything it said it would, but it was not really a “bowl”, it was more like a plastic carton of produce. I paid $8.00 for a plastic carton of kale that is on sale for .99 a pound at Shop-Rite this week! The kale wasn’t even massaged! I know that sounds like something a snob would say, but massaging kale is a real thing. A real and VERY IMPORTANT thing. It helps break it down so one can chew and digest it easier. Seriously, I took one bite and I nearly choked. I actually need to warn this restaurant – this is a potential hazard. I just was not in the mood to argue tonight, so I just left…

…And, I did what any person who spends $8.00 on a carton of produce does: I took it home to cook it myself!

Kale - Fried
DIY Restaurant – I believe it’s called grocery shopping! 

Yup. I massaged EACH piece of kale (you could HEAR it breaking down as I kneaded), added the contents to a pan with olive oil and garlic powder and…

Kale - Fried - Yum
Repurposed food…

…Yum! Success! I turned this meal around! I sprinkled some parmesan on top, as you can see.

So, there you have it, a full day of vegetarian eats. Pretty clean eats too…Yay!

Freak-Out Friday…

I turned 38 on Sunday (yay). Almost 40. Awesome. For the past couple of years I have noticed that things are changing, physically.

The Hair…

I have five to six gray hairs now, which is fine. Seriously. I only had one gray hair about three years ago, and now I have six. That rate of growth is nothing to be alarmed about. I have so much hair that you’d really have to take a mini flashlight and a tongue depressor (thinking back to those crazy elementary school lice check-ups!) and search my hair to find them. I take fenugreek and I use it topically, which is supposed to help darken hair/keep it dark. Also, whatever. I’ll dye it if it starts to become “too much” for me, but not a moment sooner than that (I like my natural hair color – plus only SIX HAIRS!).

Hair Care
Pre-Poo: Coconut oil and aloe vera for moisture ~ Fenugreek for growth and darkening…

So, I’m sorta “at peace” with my grays…

The “Puff”…

I now get bloated and put on visible, obvious water weight about a week before and during my period. My face gets super puffy and everything (incl. hands, feet, tummy) gets so flippin’ bloated!

This has never happened to me before! In fact, in the past, when I would see commercials for PMS medications I used to think “…Bloated? Water retention? Does that really even happen? Heh, heh…” – YES! It happens, young fool! This is a fairly recent phenomenon for me too – I just started noticing this last fall! I can’t even weigh myself until I am in the clear also, because that water puts on at least FIVE POUNDS. Seriously, at least…

So, what do I do about it? I don’t take a pill for it (even though I was seriously tempted one time because I had a date the next day). I like to make detox/debloat drinks. I’ve tried a couple of different recipes, and I’ve found that anything with green tea and ginger and/or turmeric works pretty well. I just make different combinations of those three ingredients and it seems to help. Iced green tea with lemon and ginger is my favorite.

They say that drinking and eating these foods/drinks/spices help:

  • Cucumber
  • Parsley
  • Green Tea
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric (the BEST anti-inflammatory spice!)
  • Lemon
  • Watermelon
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Dandelion Tea (I haven’t had this, but I know it’s a big part of Jillian Michaels’ detox, so it might be worth a try…)
  • Cranberry Juice
  • Water – Lots of water, of course!

Here are a few of the combinations I’ve tried:

Detox Drinks
Detox~De-Bloat! l to r: Black Lemonade (activated charcoal), Lemon-Ginger Green Tea, Cucumber-Parsley Green Tea and a shot of ACV with Ginger and Turmeric!

At least I get to try different home remedies and recipes, which is lots of fun for me. Especially if I get to buy a new gadget. I’ll have to think of some…

The Eyes…

Probably the most superficial thing, the thing that really irks me: the changes to my under-eye area.

Now, I’ve always had a hollow under-eye area. I have high cheekbones with chubby cheeks, so that just naturally occurs.

Young Erika Hollows
2nd Grade Under-Eye Area!

It didn’t bother me until a couple of years ago, when I noticed that on top of being “hollow” they were also getting darker (sounds familiar – “Erika and the Deathly Dark Undereye Hollows”…).

So, when I’m tired (which is every-single-morning now), I look like this:

Older Erika Hollows
ZERO MAKEUP! You can see the darkness, even with the old-timey filter…

Eventually, during the course of the day and with the help of concealer, the darkness is less obvious. But it’s jarring to me – because I’m not used to it!

I’m also not used to: Undereye dryness.

I must’ve been such a jerky youngster. I used to see commercials for eye cream and think “C’mon! These women are being so dramatic. Do you really need that?” YES! Skin changes over the years, especially around the eyes!

I used to have an oily under-eye area. I remember when I worked in a department store, at age 20, I would use the tissue paper from the bagging area to blot my face. I’d have to blot my forehead, nose AND under my eyes. NOW, I’d kill for some excess under-eye oil! The dryness is what emphasizes fine lines, so I’m learning that I have to keep that area SUPER HYDRATED. I told my mom about my issue and she bought me this:

Josie Oil
Josie Maran Argan Oil – Light – because I’m sensitive…

She said that it’s not enough to use my regular moisturizer (even though it’s a cream), I have to add an oil or serum beforehand. She’s right! My skin looks and feels so much better when I use the oil! I don’t use this only around the eyes. I use it on the dry patches around my nose, around my lips and to condition my eyebrows. It’s great! I highly recommend it. My mom got me the “Light” formula because she knows how sensitive my skin is, and I haven’t had any reactions to it. I combine it with my First Aid Beauty and it’s great!

I’m sure I’ll notice more as time goes on, but for now…

Wellness Wednesday!

I seem like a very calm, serene person. Someone I once worked with called me “the definition of laidback”. That’s fine. That’s awesome. But, while it looks that way, that’s not the way it is. Think about ducks. They look so smooth and graceful gliding across a pond, but under the water they are paddling for their lives. That’s how it really is with me. I am quiet and cool, but inside my mind is racing, going a mile a minute. I am think about the past (“I wonder what would’ve happened if I…”), present (“It’s too warm in here, I might get a headache”) and future (“I think I’ll have pancakes for breakfast tomorrow. Probably not tomorrow, maybe next Monday”) – all at once. This is all happening while I’m listening to music, checking an app notification, working on my laptop and watching tv on closed captioning at the same time. It never stops – and that’s good! I do enjoy living this way, the Multi-Tasking Life, but I do need a break from it every once in a while.

About 12 years ago, to cope with the stress brought on by over-stimulation and overthinking, I began meditating. It was something I had heard and read about for years, and one day I decided “…that sounds like something I need in my life…” I picked up the book “The Complete Idiots Guide to Zen Living” and I was on my way.

Since then I have taken a couple of classes here and there – on the Alexander Technique and even aromatherapy – to add to my Zen/meditation repertoire. In 2008, I was lucky enough to take daily meditation classes at the Omega Institute during the Women and Power Workshop. There, we did seated and walking meditations at least twice a day on the gorgeous grounds. I don’t practice every day, I wish I did. In fact, and this is bad, I usually only practice when I am at the stress breaking point.

Omega Sanctuary
Steps leading to the Sanctuary at Omega Institute

When I do meditate, I really love the focus I give to my breathing. I have the tendency to, like most people, hold my breath when I am stressed out or in pain. It’s amazing how a deep breath, in and out, can help to relax you so much.

It sounds really simple, right? Just clear your mind of all thoughts, focus on your breath and chill out. Well, it’s not always easy for me to “clear my mind”. In fact, I don’t think I have ever completely “wiped the slate clean” while meditating. And that’s, okay. I can still feel blissful while a little something goes on in my mind. It usually ends up being something happy and hopeful instead of worries. There is something that helps though…

Guided Meditation and Imagery!

These styles of meditation can really help anyone who has a problem with focus. The guide talks you through your meditation, by telling you what types of breaths or movements to make (guided meditation) or by talking you through different imaginary scenarios that will help you get through whatever problems you’re having (guided imagery). I find it easier to concentrate on the music and/or the guide’s voice than to just sit in a quiet room and try to “clear my mind”.

It helps put me in a positive mindset. I like to listen to guided imagery before I do something important – before taking a test, giving a presentation, etc. it can really make you feel more powerful and confident.

It can also help you sleep. There are some great Youtube videos and podcasts out there with meditations specifically for helping you sleep. You have to find the ones that will work for you. Some make me fall asleep while I’m listening and some just make me feel relaxed but not sleepy.

As with anything – do what works for you!

The Tea Garden

Today I visited The Tea Garden, a new teahouse in my hometown of Middletown, New York, where they held a free morning guided meditation and breakfast bar.

Meditation Area
In front of the meditation area. I didn’t want to close my eyes!

It was great! Jillian, the owner and meditation guide was so knowledgeable and had so many tips and tricks.

I told her about how thoughts will sometimes intrude my meditation and she advised “…step outside of them and don’t get involved. Treat them as if you are a third party observer.” I actually found that really helpful during today’s meditation.

Oh – and there was also food! There are nothing but clean eats on the menu and they are all small, palate cleansing dishes. Nothing heavy, nothing to feel guilty about.

Today there were tea eggs, kidney beans, a variety of pickled and spiced veggies and, my favorite, steamed buns…

Steamed Buns
Steamed Chinese bread, steamed custard bun (nai wong bao) and spicy cucumber. To drink: “Double Beauty” – a mixture of tea and coffee and lemon ginger water…

So, I have to say, it was a pretty good “Wellness Wednesday”…

  • For more on guided imagery and meditation, visit Health Journeys.com
    • From that site, I enjoy guided imagery from Belleruth Naperseck and Lynne Newman. Lynne is a New Age practitioner who is local to me, and leads amazing guided meditations in person as well.
  • Some great podcasts:
    • Meditation Minis with Chel Hamilton
    • Sleep With Me: The Podcast That Puts You To Sleep (hilarious, actually)
    • Guided Meditations: The Yoga Bunny

ACV Shots ~ Post-Birthday Detox!

I don’t always go crazy with the food on the weekend. I try to keep the healthy eating going throughout the course of the week, with minimal “cheat meals”. Yesterday though, it was my birthday. I didn’t go too crazy, but I did make a slightly “bad” breakfast, I indulged in a coupla slices of pesto pizza from my favorite pizzeria and I had a celebratory red velvet cupcake (okay, two) from my favorite bakery.  Not too bad, considering the damage I have done in birthdays past (have you ever nearly passed out from eating too many tamales? I have!). But still, since I haven’t had those complex carbs (wheat crust pizza?) in a while, I woke up with an acidy tummy feeling. That’s my very grown up way of saying I had acid reflux this morning. Even though I didn’t eat that much, my body is not used to the carb-sugar overload anymore. Carbs and sugar (over a normal limit), for me = acid reflux. I’ve tried to deny this for years, but those two things are the common denominator.

So, how do I counter this? I’m fighting acid with acid!

Yes! Using natural acid found in lemon juice and apple cider vinegar (ACV) and mixing it with water, neutralizes stomach acid. It helps to drink this acid-water mixture first thing in the morning because it also helps kick start the digestive system. That’s the plan for today – make a couple of ACV shots, in various flavors, for the week.

I decided to make them all in different flavors, all with different health benefits. Apple Pie, Lemon Ginger, Turmeric Lime and Mermaid (hee hee – food trends). Here they are, spices in first…

Spices Down
1/2 teaspoon each – l to r: Cinnamon, Ginger, Turmeric and Spirulina
  • Cinnamon: Helps lower blood pressure
  • Ginger: To soothe/settle the stomach
  • Turmeric: Anti-inflammation
  • Spirulina: Detox and vitamins

I then added a tablespoon of ACV, and about half a teaspoon of my other liquid flavorings.

Acid Additions
Acid Additions…

Here they are with just the ACV and lemon-limeness…

Pure - No Mix
Yeah, not gonna drink this straight!

Some people like to add still water to their ACV shots, but I like seltzer…

Mixed
Sparkly goodness!

I would normally wait until the day I drink these to add the seltzer, but I’m stuntin’ for the camera today!

Today, I am having the Apple Pie…

Apple Pie Shot

Yay! The acid-tummy feeling has subsided and I actually feel more awake (probably because of the acid flavor jolt)…

Try it! Enjoy!

 

Charcoal Latte…

I’d like to think that I’m not susceptible to food trends. Rainbow bagels? They look stupid. Unicorn Sundae? Eww – there is too much going on there. But, sometimes something sneaks in. This is especially the case when it’s a healthy food trend. When I scroll down my Instagram feed and I see mac & cheese chips, collagen smoothies and kale-herethere-and-everywhere I realize that I too can get caught up in food fads. Take this morning for instance. I woke up and decided to make myself a Charcoal Latte.

Yup, I actually have the activated charcoal capsules already…

Charcoal Capsules

I bought them because, well, I’d heard so much about them on the interwebs. You can make a facial mask with them, they are good for hangovers, they can whiten your teeth – they must be amazing. Of course, I have not tried them for anything other than something food/beverage related. I recently made a delicious Black Lemonade for the wonderful detoxing qualities, and I’d like to think it worked. Well, I need something that works like that today. I am feeling quite waterlogged and my face looks puffy, and I have no idea why (like with most things that have started happening to my body for no reason after I turned 35). As it says on the bottle, activated charcoal provides “digestive support”, so de-bloating and detoxing. Let’s see if this latte helps…

Charcoal in the Cup
All in the mug…

I start by putting my (opened) charcoal capsule, a packet of stevia and a teaspoon of coconut oil in my latte mug. I also put a mugful of unsweetened vanilla almond milk, two packets of stevia and a nice pour of vanilla extract into a pan on the stove. I’ll just let that heat up and come to a near boil. You’ll want to make sure you really add flavor to the milk because the charcoal is flavorless. I am thinking next time I’ll add coconut or almond extract…

Charcoal and Oil
Cookies and Cream?

 

I added about 3/4 of the the heated milk mixture to the mug contents and 1/4 to my frothing cup. It looks pretty cool already – like cookies and cream ice cream! <wishful thinking break>…

I begin to froth in my mug to get all of the ingredients incorporated…

Charcoal Frothing
Yay! Frother!

I also froth up my milk in the frothing cup.

Again, the frother is the best kitchen tool ever. I’ll never stir with a spoon again!

Charcoal Pour
Will I get a real shape this time?

So there I go, attempting to do latte art…

Charcoal Latte Art
I have no idea…

So, this is a mustache? Something? I don’t know. I still have not gotten any better at the latte art! I will keep trying!

Grey Latte

So here we are – a lovely grey latte on a summer day! It’s so vanilla-y and yummy! Here’s hoping my face will return to normal before I have to go out into the public today!

Cheers!

 

Yogurt Sticks!

 

Yeah, I know how exciting the title sounds. I’m not even going to cheerfully type “But they are exciting!”. They may not be the most exciting things, but they are very useful. Think about the good bacteria! I guess, maybe they can be made to be exciting – I actually got several ideas once I started taking pictures of the process…

Anyway…

Yogurt Sticks. For me they are essential for a good smoothie. They add thickness, almost like adding ice cream or store brought frozen yogurt. That’s what this is like, “breakfast frozen yogurt”. Instead of buying a carton of frozen yogurt and putting scoop after scoop into a once nutritious smoothie, you get to add your own clean, healthy ingredients and control the amount of sugar added.

I usually start the “yogurt stick process” with a huge tub of plain Greek or regular yogurt. Not today. Why? Because yesterday at the grocery store I stumbled upon one of those “Buy these now because the expiration date is coming up soon” deals. It was for Chobani Yogurt and it was 87 cents!

Yogurt
Not too shabby…

I usually don’t buy flavored yogurt. Mainly because the sugar is out of control and for a little carton, it’s not worth it. This yogurt though, it has less sugar and more protein (yay!). Yes, I see there are 14 grams of sugar in one carton. I only use half of the carton in my smoothies though (so there)…

I start by scooping the contents of each container into two separate cups. Then the magic happens (seriously, it takes very little to make me excited)…

Yogurt Mixes
Flavorings…Necessary…

Then, I add different flavorings to each cup (woo hoo)! The yogurt is already vanilla flavored, but why not boost it by adding your own ingredients? Since I usually buy plain yogurt, this step is a must.

In the one on the left, I have cocoa powder and vanilla extract. The one on the right has cinnamon and ginger. These will go well with the the two flavors of protein powder I am using right now. So…stir them up…

Yogurt Mixed
Stirred!

After they are stirred and smoothed out, I add them to plastic “baggies”. I used basic, fold over baggies and not freezer baggies only because I know I am going to use these in 2 to 3 days. If I was saving them longer, I’d use a sturdier baggie.

Yogurt Bags
Get excited!

The good thing about these (cheaper) fold over baggies is that they can be stretched out to have a flat base on your surface, so it’s not such a mess putting the yogurt in them.

As you can see, I divided the mixtures into two so I have four baggies of yogurt. Less sugar, but you still get the good bacteria that yogurt adds to a smoothie. Yay, probiotics! Yay gut health!

I freeze these bad boys, usually overnight, and this is how they look:

Frozen Stick
Frozen yogurt stick!

I add the stick to my blender cup and then add all of my smoothie supplements. With this frozen stick, I don’t have to use as much ice either. Which is great because I usually forget to make ice…

Here’s what I’m talking about, with the corresponding flavors…

Both Smoothies
Natural Whey is THE BOMB! Yes, I just said that…

I use the cinnamon-ginger yogurt stick with the snickerdoodle protein powder and the cocoa with the decadent chocolate.

So, try this. It’s very easy and YAY for more flavor! Doing this just gave me a ton of other ideas…I’ll have to make and share!

Enjoy!

Beet Obsession!

I don’t know if I’m obsessed with beets so much as I bought a one pound bag of beet powder from Nuts.com and now I feel compelled to put it in everything. I’m sure that’s a big part of it, but I actually like the taste. Mmm, earthy-sweet beet flavor. I’m making it sound weird, but it’s really good. Not only that but it’s good for you. The ways? Let’s see…

Beet Kombucha

BeetStuff
Ingredients for Kombucha Gummis – Yum!

With any kombucha, because of the probiotics, I immediately think of the benefits to the Solar Plexus chakra – the gut, your core. Digestive motility is a very important topic to me – which you’ll see as the blog goes on. With beets in the mix, it adds that extra “blood cleansing” property. That’s how I remember one of the benefits – they look bloody, they help with blood flow (great visual!).

Beet Latte

The key to a good beet latte is the vanilla. Without vanilla, you’ve just made yourself a cup of creamy beet soup. Taste your milk before adding it to make sure it has a nice flavor. This latte has such a pretty pink color and and it’s healthy! Some essential minerals are added to this latte via beets – potassium and manganese. Potassium, for heart health and manganese, for bone health. Here is my recipe:

In the mug:

  • 3/4 teaspoon Beet Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Coconut Oil
  • (A little less than) 1/4 teaspoon Cocoa Powder
  • 1 Stevia Packet

On the stove:

  • 1 mugful of Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
  • 1 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Stevia Packets
BeetMix
Aww! In the mug!
  • Bring  milk, vanilla and stevia mixture to a near boil
  • Pour 3/4 of the vanilla milk into the mug and 1/4 into your frothing cup.

Froth in mug!

BeetFrother
The frother is the best invention ever!

Froth in frothing cup!

MilkFrother
Yes, this is a real frothing mug. I go all out for my food!

Try to do latte art!

MilktoLatte
The pro tip is to pour high, then low…

Fail at latte art…

BeetLatte
It’s clouds – or something(?) Mushrooms? I see mushrooms…

Enjoy!

Beet Chocolates

These chocolates are pretty much “Fat Bombs” – which are very important in a keto diet to help induce ketosis (burning of fat).

In a bowl:

  • 3/4 Tablespoon Beet Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Cocoa Powder
  • 3 Stevia Packets
BeetCandyMix
Yes, more cocoa than beet…
  • Whisk with a fork to smooth out the chunks (beet powder can be clumpy) and to combine the dry ingredients.
  • Add about 3 tablespoons of melted Coconut Oil
  • Whisk with a fork until smooth
  • Pour in molds
BeetMolds
Cute shapes! Yay!
  • Let the coconut oil harden in freezer for 10 to 15 minutes
BeetCandy
The red peeking out is so pretty…

Enjoy!

Of course they are heart shaped! These are the valentines you send to say “I care about your blood pressure, my love”. You can eat them as is, or, what I really like to do with these molded “fat bombs” is add them to a smoothie. Adds extra flavor and more supplements!

Beets are awesome! I can’t help but think of this song every time I cook with beets, even though it’s about a different type of beet…

New Moon~New Blog

I was trying to decide when to “go live” with my blog for a few weeks, and then I discovered – July 23rd is the New Moon in Leo, conjunct Mars, which falls directly on my natal Venus/descendant. If you’re into astrology then that’ll mean something to you. If not, it just means it’s a good day to take action (Mars) and start new creative endeavors (Leo New Moon) for others to enjoy (Venus/descendant).

This blog IS NOT about astrology, though it’ll likely seep in every now and then. It is one of my dweeby interests and hobbies, so yeah…

So what is this blog about?

Food, health and work-life balance. Day trips and long trips – usually food related. Learning and teaching. Family. Some New Age principals. Some music. Dorky-dweebyness. Lots of positivity.

The dweeby stuff we do and think about every day…

Be Awesome
Do what the mug says!