Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Recipe Rundown

So, I’m incredibly behind on my recipe posts (sorry!) but we have been doing plenty of yummy cooking! Here is a little rundown of our semi-kind cooking highlights... ENJOY!

Spicy Rainbow Rice and Black Bean Salad + Fish Tacos
My hubby and I still eat fish, it’s the one ‘meat’ that we have yet to give up. Every other week we make the most delish fish tacos with a yummy mango salsa and we’re never disappointed. It’s one of my fave ‘go to’ weeknight meals because it’s incredibly simple to make. We recently decided to kick up our bi-weekly fish taco dish with a side of Oh She Glow’s Spicy Rainbow Rice and Bean Salad. And we LOVED IT! It’s so delicious and the spices really kick up the flavor profile of the dish… plus, it holds really well and you can eat it for leftovers for days.

What You'll Need ...
1 Fillet of Tilapia     (Preferably non-farmed)
1 Tomato – Chopped
Trader Joes Pineapple Mango Salsa
Trader Joes Salsa Verde
1 Avocado – chopped into cubes
2 WW Tortillas or small corn tortillas
½ Lime

1. Spray your frying pan with some EVOO and lay the filet down to cook, flipping sides every few minutes. Squeeze on the lime juice. Continue cooking until it’s flaky and white. Then make your taco with the additional items listed above. (& add in some of the salad below - DELISH!)

Spicy Rainbow Rice and Bean Salad       (Makes 6 Cups) 
Adapted from Vegan Yum Yum Cookbook & Oh She Glows Blog 
What You'll Need ...

1 bag of Trader Joes Brown Rice     (pre-cooked package)
1 tbsp of EVOO
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp oregano
1 garlic clove, minced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen corn
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
1 tsp Earth Balance, to stir in 

1. Chop all veggies so they are ready before you start cooking. 

2. Prep your skillet with the tablespoon of EVOO over low-heat. Add in the in the onion and    sauté until golden. Add all spices, minced garlic and sauté.
    3. Add in the soy sauce and the drained and rinsed black beans and stir well. Heat for about 5 minutes on medium heat.

    4. Add the frozen peas, grated carrots, and frozen corn and stir well. Heat on low for another 5 minutes.

   5. Stir in the cooked and drained rice and a teaspoon of Earth Balance (or butter).

6. And enjoy .......       

Minted Orzo and Zucchini Salad
I made this super yummy flirt salad from Whole Foods Reipes for the 4th of July with my fam and it was the perfect side dish to the chilean seabass and grilled veggies my brothers made. The mint seriously made the dish - I highly recommend it for a weekend meal (it takes a bit of time) or for a pot luck. Enjoy!
Photo courtesy of WholeFoods.com
Serves 4 to 6         *Make sure to let this salad chill for a few hours before serving.

What You'll Need ...
1 cup dried orzo
2 large zucchini, thickly sliced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped mint
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
6 ounces feta cheese, cut into cubes
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
Ground black pepper to taste
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add orzo and cook until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain well, rinse in cold water and drain again. 
2. Meanwhile, arrange a rack about 6 inches from the heating element and preheat broiler. Brush zucchini with 1 tablespoon oil and arrange on a baking sheet. Broil, flipping halfway through, until tender and deep golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside to let cool and then roughly chop and transfer to a large bowl. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil, orzo, lemon juice, mint, garlic, feta, olives, tomatoes and black pepper and gently toss to combine. Cover and chill for several hours until flavors blend.

Red Quinoa and Black Bean Vegetable Salad 

Enjoyed my yummy lunch with my new book, The Help - Love and Love.
This is another delicious creation from Oh She Glows and it was by far our favorite quinoa dish to date. My hubby seriously had 2 bowls for lunch and 1 bowl for dinner ... on the same day! This is perfect for lunch or a light dinner ... but make sure to double up the recipe because you will want leftovers ... trust. 
What You'll Need for the salad...
1 cup uncooked Red quinoa
1 (14oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 red pepper, chopped
1/4 cup fresh Cilantro, finely chopped
2 Green Onions, chopped
1 cup corn     *we only had frozen - grilled it on the stove and then let cool
1 small avocado, chopped into 1 inch pieces

What You'll Need for the Super YUMMY dressing...
4-5 tbsp of fresh lime juice                  (We only had 1 medium size lime...)
1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp Freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup fresh Cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin, or more to taste

1. Cook 1 cup Red Quinoa according to package directions.
2. While quinoa is cooking, prepare the chopped vegetables and whisk together the dressing.
3. Allow quinoa to cool after cooking for about 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Add the beans and vegetables and toss well.
4. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss well with salt and pepper to taste. Put the salad in the fridge for about 10min before eating.

Night in BarCelona

I really wish that I was actually in Barcelona but i'm not going there anytime soon ... so, i'm settling for second best, tapas & sangria at BarCelona, the appropriately named modern Spanish restaurant & bar in trustee Old Town Pasadena. My girlfriends and I were craving a girls night and with our men busy and the 405 shut down we decided to escape to Old Town for what turned out to be a delicious meal with the best of friends.

I was incredibly hesitant about trying out a new cuisine but I was pleasently surprised as soon as the sangria hit my lips. I loved the vibe of the restaurant and the food was much better then I expected. We tried a variety of tapas including the flat bread with romesco, pine nuts, manchego, grilled apple, arugula (delish!), grilled garlic shrimp (mediocore), crispy eggplant with honey and spiced yogurt (I couldn't stop eating it!) and we finished off with the special seabass with corn relish (amaze!).

Now, my only vice is that their tapas are small and not priced accordingly; we walked out at around $40 each for the above + 2 more tappas ... but after 2 glasses of sangria I really didn't care.  
I get really happy when I drink :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

What iLOVE Now - Summer Fashion

Colored Denim

I love this trend for summer … I personally have way too many black and white tops and colored denim jeans and shorts really help switch up my wardrobe with minimal effort. I’m especially loving this look by Nicky Hilton in JBrand skinny purple jeans… perfect for day with flats and for night with a great pair of heels.

Season-less Jewelry
I absolutely love jewelry! Delicate everyday pieces to chunky statement pieces can transform my look in a snap...but I hate when a piece falls out of trend and I have to switch it up from season to season because quite honestly i'm on a budget and jewelry can add up! For this reason I love these key pieces from Stella & Dot...they can carry me from Spring to Summer to Fall.
(It’s pretty obvi that I’m obsessed with gold – but they have so many versatile pieces in silver.. check out their website!)

I especially love the layered bracelet trend with a combination of the following...alone or together they add character to any outfit and dress up a simple t-shirt and jeans in a pinch, day and night.

My 2006 Bulga Bag

I used to work at a super trendy denim boutique in Santa Barbara (RIP Blue Bee Jeans). Twice a year we had an amazing sale and us employees snagged amazing finds at 70% off and this bag was one of mine. I found it stuffed away in my closet a few weeks ago and don’t intend on hanging it back up for a long time. I love, love the color and how it adds pop to any every-day outfit. I’m on the look out for an amazing black bag for fall… until then I’ll be sporting my bargain find designer bag.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My LOVE Hate Relationship with Dairy

I love icecream, yogurt, quesadillas and so many other comfort foods that are made with dairy products that quite simply hate me. Over the past 6 years I've battled stomach issues that have been incredibly frustrating ... they last 3 months, go away for 1, come back for 2, and well, you get the picture. In college I encountered one to many uncomfortable doctor exams and at the end of it all I put up the white flag and gave up on some of my faves. Needless to say, it was a sad day.
...Until I read the Kind Diet.  Alicia examines the controversy behind dairy and how it can negatively affect our bodies (she claims dairy is linked to asthma, allergies, heart disease and diabetes - check out her book for all the deets). While all of this is just dandy, I was freaking psyched to know that there are so many alternatives for people like me with love/hate relationships with dairy! I apprehensively set out to Whole Foods praying that I wouldn't be horribly disappointed with the pseudo-dairy products I set out to buy and to my disbelief I found some delish new staples. 
Here is a little recap of my purchases ...
(it's worth noting in advance for all who are just as skeptical as I was that my cheese loving hubby enjoys them all!)

DAIYA CHEESE - Cheddar Style Shreds

Daiya is plant-based cheese alternative and i'd personally have to give it a B-. I first had it in a wrap and there was a noticeable change in flavor ... it's also a bit pricier then other shredded cheese alternatives which is an immediate turn off for me.

Galaxy Nutritional Rice Shreds & Toppings

Point blank, it sounds awful but it is SO yummy - it actually tastes like cheese! My hubby and I now buy this in place of real cheese (he seriously loves it!) and it passed the quesadilla test with flying colors - melted perfectly! I give this a strong A+. I have 2 packages of the rice shreds in my fridge now.

Tofutti -  Sour Cream & Cream Cheese
The Sour Cream is seriously better then the real thing and again, it is a new staple in our house, it's an easy A ... so long Daisy Sour Cream!
As for the Cream Cheese, it was awful.  I ended up throwing out my bagel which made for a very unhappy mornng. Fail.

Blue Diamond Almond Breeze - Unsweetened Original Flavor
This tastes much better then soy milk and is a good source of calcium, Vitamin D, A and E. My hubby absolutely loves it ... I sometimes think the taste is a little thick but it's still pretty damn good. I give it an A-.


If you battle GI issues like I do or just want to switch to a more cow friendly dairy alternative, I seriously recommend trying 1 item from the list above. A small change can make a huge difference in the way you feel. I am so thrilled to know I can find relief and that I don't have to sacrifice a night of stomach pain or bloat for a yummy homemade quesadilla.

I'm pretty sure you're now wondering How do you get enough calcium? 
Well, many veggies have calcium especially the green leafy ones which i've come to love (kale included) and you can find loads of calcium in different types of beans (soy included), seeds (think sesame) and nuts. I personally eat a lot of black beans, hummus (it has 60mg of calcium per 1/2 cup serving), almonds, brocoli and kale.

I hope this post has been helpful ... If you have any dairy alternatives you'd like to recommend, please let me know!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Stop. And LIVE.

I’ve been MIA for awhile primarily because of my 9-5 (better known as my on call 24/7 job) … and on top of that life has just been busy. Over the past two weeks some big changes have happened in the lives of people I’m close to … one of my best friends got engaged and another close friend lost his mom …

Both are reminders of how precious life is, how valuable friendships and family are … and how quickly it can all be taken away.  I grabbed drinks on Friday night with some friends and we chatted about how losing someone makes you question the way in which you live your life and how we stress about the things that in hindsight really don't matter. We all felt we could do better and stop stressing about the unimportant, stop shortchanging experiences and opportunities and live better.

These ideas have been reoccurring for me … I call it my quarter life crisis (25 is slowly creeping up on me) … but I have come to realize that they’re inevitable and healthy. I’m not perfect and I’d rather struggle then be complacent because that’s when I learn the most about myself and challenge my integrity. It's still easy to get caught up in the mundane (bills, bosses, etc.) but I've gotta deal with the crap because it's quite simply part of life...what matters is how well I can stop allowing the crap overwhelm me, find the time to make memories, do what is important to me with people that matter and just simply, live.

.... and this brings me to the quote/saying below. LOVE it.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Kale - Love it or Hate it? I think i LOVE...

Before reading The Kind Diet I rarely tried new veggies but now I love so many of the ones I used to despise, namely cucumber, mushrooms, brussel sprouts, red onion and KALE, especially kale.We went to Whole Foods this weekend and I decided I needed to try something that scared me and stumbled upon a whole lotta kale and figured 'what the hell?' 

Kale is a great veggie to add to your shopping list because it has a crazy amount of nutrients, high levels of anti-inflammatory agents and cancer fighting power; it is chock full of fiber and calcium (a huge plus for me!) and when prepared alongside the right ingredients it's pretty freaking delicious. In my research, I also learned that this superfood is great for people fighting diabetes because it helps maintain normal blood sugar levels and it also can help lower (the bad) LDL Cholestorol. So, it's basically something we should all incorporate in our meals as much as possible.

We tried the following recipe adapted from Oh She Glows - one of my fave blogs - and it was DELICIOUS - the ingredients compliment each other so well, even my meat-eating hubby was raving about it! The key to this is to massage the dressing into the kale leaves so you don't get the usual bitter kale taste ... Enjoy!
Note: This recipe could have been vegan-proof but I wasn't able to find the key ingredient in the Tahini Lemon dressing so I went store bought and this is now a good 'flirt' dish. You can find the vegan version on Oh She Glows.

What You'll Need: (use however much you like of each - i'm not big on measurements)
-  Cucumber
- Tomatoes
- Red Onion
- Kale (duh)
- Cranberries
- Carrots
- Avocado 
- Walnuts
- Red Pepper
- A yummy dressing.  We used *Annie's Goddess Dressing and it was delish!

You'll want to prep the kale - pull off the bushy parts from the stems (the stems are super bitter) and rinse in a collander. Let sit. Cut all your veggies. 

You'll want to marinate your kale in the dressing - mix it in and massage it into the kale. Add your veggies and put the salad in the fridge for 10-15min. After the salad sits for a bit toss in the walnuts and cranberries and eat!

This salad is a great side to any meal and it can be a meal in and of itself. It's also a great salad to make for parties or large groups.. I will definitely make this again, and again ... i'm thinking with tofu & quinoa next time - YUM!

*A note about Annie's products - if you're looking to add more organic & vegan friendly items do your diet they carry a bunch of yummy options ... click here to browse.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Whole Life.

I'm a self professed magazine junky and they are everywhere in our house.  To declutter i've started tearing out pages of articles, recipes, etc. that I find interesting and I end up stashing those away as well ... everywhere. I'm in the middle of Spring cleaning and came across this page from the September 2010 issue of Whole Living....

I love the sentiment of each point, especially #9 - "Transform Anxiety into excitement; focus not on the fear of what lies ahead but the possibilities you might create." This one hits home for me because I've been feeling quite a bit of anxiety in the past few months about work and our timeline for a new home & starting a family ... i've realized that fear can be both a positive and negative emotion and one that has paralized me on too many occassions recently. The day this changed is when my hubby reminded me that one of the reasons he fell in love with me was because I was a fighter, I perservered and have always been able to overcome my obstacles but that suddenly I was feeling defeated by then. That definitely put a fire under my ass - why had I become so deflated? I have a few answers to that question but the bottom line is I now feel in charge of my anxiety and reassured that I can create my own future and it doesn't need to be set by anyone else's expectations or needs. I feel ignited by the possibilities of my (and our) future instead of paralyzed by them. . Well, the point of this entry wasn't to babble but i've done that.... I hope you enjoy the '10 Thoughts on Whole Living - Happy Monday! :)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I'm Pretty Damn Lucky ...

Dad & I on my wedding day - So Special.

I have a pretty amazing family and at the center of it are the two best parents ... ya, ya, ya, I know we all say that but they are pretty much incredible. Since tomorrow is father's day it's appropriate I boast about mine ... I give him quite a bit of crap for the 'glass ball' speech that he has now given at all of our wedding celebrations and the 'life lesson' talks he has attempted to have with me throughout the lows i've experienced but the truth is he has always been right on the money ... his little speeches are so relevant and his message is almost always helpful -  if not right at the moment of crisis, I find myself on a bad day being reminded of one of our chats. He is such a huge influence in my life and I am forever grateful for what he has taught me. 

....and now to his 'glass balls' speech ... basically it emphasizes one of my motivations for this blog - mastering the balancing act; the 'glass balls' of life (family, friends, work, etc.) - they don't work if one is off, you don't work if one is off and each piece is just as important as the other - that's where the 'glass' comes into play ... life is fragile, relationships can shatter, your health can fail - you have to nurture each one. I'm pretty lucky, i've always had a pretty solid foundation with my family at the center of it, and they've always reminded me of how important this balancing act is and have nurtured every other area of my life ... they embrace my friends, my choices and are there to make sure i'm keeping myself even when I feel like i'm falling off balance. 

Last night we celebrated Father's Day with just the immediate family at La Grande Orange in Pasadena (YUM! - See below) ... my dad started dinner by asking everyone how their week was (a ritual of his throughout our entire lives at the dinner table) and ended our responses with a toast to all of us (on his father's day celebration, of course) ... he has always been so supportive of where we are in our lives, involved in the highs and lows; even when it's him that we should all be focusing on. It was a pretty great evening - both of my brother's are dad's now and I can't even put into words how proud I am of them and their families - I have a pretty incredible relationship with them and for that i'm grateful ... but it all goes back to my parents, their parents and the foundation they created for us. I left the dinner feeling pretty much just love and pretty damn lucky. 

Now, tomorrow is Father's Day and my dad is on a golfing trip with his brother's and his dad...  We are always giving him crap about his time consuming hobby but i'm so happy that he gets to spend this special day doing something he loves with some pretty special people.  

Dad & I last weekend dancing at the Paine Wedding
 .... And now to the AH-MAZING meal! I have never been to La Grande Orange before so I was a little nervous; with my new eating habits I sometimes find myself limited at restaurants so as usual I pulled up the menu before dinner and was not disappointed - fish tacos, salads, veggie burgers and a promise on their website for an "honest approach to quality food." Right up my alley .. and oh was it ever. 

We started off with chips/guac/salsa and a shrimp ceviche - both were delicious. I ordered the veggie burger with cole slaw (i'm pretty predictable) and it was seriously delicous - 2nd fave to the Granville Veggie Burger. My hubby had the ahi burger which sounded disgusting but was actually pretty damn good. The rest of the fam had tacos, salads, burgers & my dad ordered a side of mac & cheese that looked delicous and no one was disappointed. 

I totally recommend this place - it's an affordable (& historical) gem in Pasadena - the restaurant is the 1953 De Mar Train Station. 

Hope everyone is having a wonderful Father's Day weekend with their amazing dad's.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I LOVE ...

June has been a crazy month and i've felt myself tinker off and 'lose my balance' with work, family parties, trips, chores and the unexpected (namely our tv breaking on us out of nowhere ...hello target and a late night of entertainment system + tv assembly). When it gets crazy like this I really try to find a bit of time every day (even 5 minutes) to focus on myself with no distractions. With that in mind, this is what I'm loving right now ...

1. Pilates SPX  at Pilates Plus Montrose - Well, I ALWAYS LOVE this workout ... it's been my staple 2 times per week for the last year and I seriously cannot get enough of it. In 40 minutes this workout helps to burn off the martinis from the weekend & the stress from work all while working my muscles to exhaustion ...  It's AH-MAZING. My favorite stress reliever.

2. Retail Therapy - I'm on a budget but I don't think that gives me reason enough to omit shopping altogether (sorry babe ...let's be real ) so I LOVE websites like HauteLook which allows me to find great designer clothes at amazing prices (Including the cute Matty M floral print dress in the photo below - 1/2 off!). If you're not signed up to receive HauteLook's daily e-mails,  it's an absolute must & ASAP - don't miss out on great deals for yourself, the men, friends & kids in your life ... heck, they even have cute items for decorating your home, beauty products and amazing deals on hotels everywhere.

Jacob's Baptism

3. My Family - They're seriously my everything ... especially the 3 little men in my life: Gavin, Michael and Jacob. No matter how frazzled or exhausted I am my family is #1 and those three boys light up my life instantly.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

LAUGH it Up - 'To My Husband'

My good friend Lindsay sent me this website today and it's absolutely hysterical! The name says it all ... I've recently encountered the one ply v. two ply toilet paper debate in my own home. Enjoy!

Monday, June 6, 2011

LIVE - The Kind Life

Six months ago my aunt had a stroke and to be honest it scared the heck out of me … the unpredictability of the stroke itself & her recovery was a stark reminder that life is fragile and everything can change in literally one minute. It was the first time I had experienced something like this so close to home and I saw the immediate affects it had on so many people I love. I immediately started to think about my own health and decided I needed to take control of the issues (albeit small) that i've always been faced with;  stomach/GI issues, acid reflux, ulcers, headaches and a morphed perspective of my body and eating habits. I decided that I needed to make a change, educate myself and treat my body better. 

For months I had been seriously considering eliminating meat from my diet for numerous reasons but could never commit to it or to questions I would inevitably receive from my family ... but one week after my aunt’s stroke I had my last piece of meat. For me, it was the first step to taking charge of my health and making decisions that worked for me and that I felt good about. But that was a small step ... within a few weeks of eliminating meat I was hungry all of the time and feeling incredibly deprived.  I wasn't treating my body any better so I bought The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone and couldn’t put it down. This book seriously changed my life and I highly recommend it for anyone who is even the slightest bit curious about what they are really eating and how it could be affecting your body. While the book focuses on the many benefits of eating a veggie based and vegan diet it had a much deeper affect on me; it didn’t only make me want to change what I put into my body, it educated me on my choices and the importance of good, wholesome food.  It also reminded me of the importance of living a more conscious and balanced life, which is something I felt far from. In the book, Alicia breaks down three veggie lifestyles: the flirt (this is me - tinkering on vegetarian and trying vegan alternatives), vegans (no animal products. Period) and the ‘Superhero’ (based on the principles of macrobiotics). The point of all three is to eat clean, eliminate preservatives as much as possible and to make educated decisions that work for you. 

Personally, I think the whole ‘Superhero’ thing is a little out of my league (& perhaps to many my choices seem slightly ridiculous), so for now, I am a flirt making small and educated choices that work for me and my body. I've eliminated red meat and poultry (I’m still eating fish 1-2x/week), I don’t drink cows milk and I’m starting to realize that my stomach only hurts when I have certain types of cheese or dairy so I’m on the look out for a good soy alternative. 

What I love the most about The Kind Diet is that it's really not a diet (contrary to the title); it’s a new way of life that can very well positively influence my health for years to come. So, I figure, what do I have to lose? I mean, I haven't had an acid-reflux episode since I cut out meat which is a huge feat and I have a huge appreciation for everything I cook. I have so much to learn but I’m excited about this journey, trying new clean foods and documenting my progress here. 

Want to learn more about the Kind Diet? Visit The Kind Life on-line.

Live. Laugh. Love.

I love a challenge; really anything that pushes me to grow, to learn and to live life more consciously. This blog is a chronicle of a challenge to my self to live a balanced life, a promise to put more energy and time into the people I love, things I love and to love my body by eating more wholesome foods and living an active lifestyle. I hope my blog will inspire others to think about what they are putting into their bodies, how they treat their bodies and act as a reminder that sometimes even when the world is spinning you've just gotta take that vacation, splurge a little, live more consciously, laugh more every day and love every second of it.

For It is in Loving, as well as in being loved, that we become most truly ourselves.
No matter what we do, say, or accomplish, or become, it is our capacity to love that ultimately defines us. In the end, nothing we do or say in this lifetime will matter as much as the way we have loved one another.                      - Daphne Rose Kingma