Soup in the Summer: Spicy Thai Curry

thaicurrysoupI must confess, if I could eat soup everyday for dinner I would. I am pretty sure I ate a bowl of tomato soup with noodles for dinner almost every night in college. The only problem I have with finding recipes is that generally, a lot of soups call for animal stock. I try to maintain a vegetarian diet so this isn’t super ideal, however I have found that curry and coconut milk-based soups often call for veggie stock.

Honestly, I don’t know why I made this…it’s hotter than hell outside, and this soup is spicy…but alas, there are only so many salads you can eat in the summer. It’s a nice change to pace, super hardy, and has a lot of good veggies in it. Bonus points for the fact that you can make it vegan!

 

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 tbs. minced garlic
  • 1 tbs. ginger (chopped fine)
  • 2 tbs red curry paste
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 bunch of baby bok choy
  • 4.5 c. veggie broth (or chicken if you wish)
  • 1 sweet potato (cut into chunks)
  • 1/4 c. shredded carrots
  • 13 oz. can of light coconut milk
  • 2 tbs brown sugar
  • 1/2 tbs fish sauce (optional)
  • 1/2 c. rice noodles
  • 1/4 red onion (optional garnish)
  • 1 lime (optional garnish)
  • sriracha (optional garnish)
  • sprouts (optional garnish)

Directions:

  • In a pan, on medium heat, add the oil, garlic, and red curry and cook for a few minutes until mixed.
  • In a soup pot, mix the veggie stock, ginger, sweet potatoes, carrot, red pepper flakes, and the stalk of the bok choy (chopped up, leaves separated). Add the garlic curry mix and set to boil. Once the mix has boiled for a few minutes, set to simmer until the potatoes are soft. This usually takes about 20 minutes.
  • Add brown sugar, fish sauce (if desired), and coconut milk and stir. Let simmer a few minutes.
  • Add the rice noodles to the simmering pot and allow them to cook until the noodles are soft.
  • Pour soup into a bowl and sprinkle juice from a lime wedge on top. Add sprouts, sriracha, and onion to the top and enjoy.

5 Easy Ways to Kick Off a Healthier Lifestyle

Healthier.pngAs someone who loves veggies and tries to eat mostly vegan, I think about health a lot, but sometimes it’s the things you aren’t doing that can contribute to an unhealthy or less healthy lifestyle. The good news is, fixing this is super easy, even for the laziest/busiest of people.

Because I don’t eat meat and I rarely eat dairy, I am always worried about getting enough of my iron and vitamins, especially because I tend to have low iron anyways. I eat a lot of beans, seeds, and veggies, but until I started using My Fitness Pal, I didn’t realize all of the nutrients I wasn’t getting.

I have made some really easy adjustments and not only do I feel great I have lost 10 pounds without even really trying! My husband has lost weight too, all his shirts are too big! What? I know, right! Anyways, here are some tips and adjustments to things that you may or may not already be doing in order to feel good every day.

START USING MY FITNESS PAL: This is one of my favorite apps, hands down. It keeps you on track with calories, water consumption, but most importantly—nutrition. I had NO idea I wasn’t getting enough Vitamin A, B, C, protein, and iron. You can also log in calories burned from working out. A lot of the meals are pre-loaded, so all you need to know are the portions you eat. You can log in via the web and your phone to log in your meals and snacks so there’s no excuse to not use it, because it’s that easy. My macros look great, but I was not meeting my daily nutrition goals, which I have adjusted and I feel great!

20160524_144011DRINK MORE WATER: This is what I struggle with big time. I would go from coffee to maybe a glass of water during the day and then I would have some water with dinner. There’s NO WAY that’s enough. I have a method now. If you have to drink 11 glasses of water a day, I know that I need to fill my water bottle at work 4 times and then drink a few glasses of water at home.

In order to stay on task I write goal times down on a post it note (11:30 a.m. , 1:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m.) and I know by those times, whatever they may be, I need to have had a bottle of water. I always add lemons and herbs to make it more interesting. When you get enough water there’s less headaches, you have better skin, you loose weight, and my acid reflux is so much better. Also, I hardly ever drink pop, but I love bubbles so I drink La Croix instead—my fave!

VITAMINS & NATURAL SUPPLEMENTS: Because I have dietary restrictions and I take daily medication for reflux I am lacking some nutrients. When you take a proton pump inhibitor daily it can deplete your magnesium, vitamin D, calcium and can lead to weak bones. I am not trying to have a hip replacement in my early 30’s so I take magnesium, calcium + vitamin D, in addition to vitamin B12 (for energy), COq10 (for heart health), folic acid (to help alleviate cramps), 5-HTP (for anxiety), and turmeric (for joint health/inflammation). That’s a long list, but I take a few in the morning and a few in the evening and I am confident that my bones will not break, I am getting the vitamins I need, and my cramps are 50% better than they used to be!

20160613_183856EAT MORE: Wait for it…veggies! Literally, 65% of my dinner and lunch are veggies. This might be more challenging to some, but I have never met a veggie I wouldn’t try so it’s easy for me. For example, tonight I roasted some cherry tomatoes, brussels sprouts, peppers, onions, and squash and I ate it with some soy “chicken”. Because my plate was mostly veggies that were filled with fiber and vitamins, it was filling and didn’t make me feel like garbage after I ate! Try spicing them up with some garlic, herbs, and red pepper flakes, yum.

WORK OUT WITH NOISE: I have never understood how people can run on the treadmill or work out in complete silence (unless it’s yoga), but even then I need some noise. If I make a certain play list while I am working out in my home “gym” aka my elliptical, bike, and treadmill, I know how far a long I am by what song is on and I know if I want to finish strong I need to push myself during a certain song. I also know what I need to start cooling down. Let’s be honest, I’m the girl listening to something fun and poppy like Passion Pit while getting into a deep thoughtful yoga pose (I’m not great at finding my center—yet!), but this is how I am able to stay on task and motivated while working out.

See…super easy! What are your simple tips to a healthier you?

Easy Pineapple Upside-Down Cake!

CORNERIt’s been quite the week so far! I got a really great promotion at work (woohoo Manager of Communications), we are so close to finishing up our living room project, Mr. JD and I just booked a much needed vacation, AND I found the most adorable old dresser at the thrift store that I will turn into a coffee bar (stay tuned for more on that). $9, solid wood—awesome!

To celebrate, I decided to make one of my husband’s favorite cakes, the classic Pineapple Upside-Down Cake. I must confess, I snagged the ingredients to make the cake for my mother-in-law, who came to help us peel wallpaper (UGH!), but the recipe makes two, one layer cakes, so it was actually kind of perfect.

This recipe isn’t vegan (you can make it vegan with egg beaters and Earth Fare vegan butter), but it is super easy—I basically follow the boxed ingredients and make it slightly healthier and add a secret ingredient! This recipe is super flavorful and reminds me of summer, it’s also not too sweet and not too rich, which is great because I hate the taste of butter!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large jar of pineapple rings, plus juice
  • 6 maraschino cherries
  • 1/3 c. butter
  • 1/3 c. light brown sugar
  • 2 tbs. vanilla
  • 1 box pineapple upside down cake mix
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 egg with yolk
  • 1/3 c. oil
  • Coconut oil non-stick spray
  • 2 round baking pans

Directions:

IMG_20160412_183317First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and get out all of your ingredients. Next, open your can of pineapples and remove two full ring and place them in a bowl; leave the juice and the rest of the pineapple rings in the can. Next, open the bag of cake mix and empty into a large mixing bowl. Add two egg whites and one whole egg to the mix, in addition to 1/3 c. oil. Next, in lieu of water, add 1 c. pineapple juice. This keeps the cake super flavorful and moist, which allows you to cut some of the fat out of the cake (I like to use egg whites whenever possible). Mix the ingredients together with a hand mixer until completely smooth.

Next, in a separate bowl, melt the butter and the brown sugar. While this is in the microwave, spray your baking pans with cooking spray and get ready to arrange your pineapples. You can arrange these however you want, I like to take a knife and cut through the rings, essentially halving the pineapple rings and then arrange them in a pan so they will make a pretty design. Place three maraschino cherries in the center of the pan. Next, remove the butter and sugar mix from the microwave and add the vanilla, stir then empty into the two pans all over the pineapple. Next add the cake batter to the pan, making sure you spread the batter to the edges.

Bake for 30-40 minutes. Each pan and oven is different, you’ll know when the cake is finished because it will pass the toothpick test and it will be a golden brown. Set the cakes to cool on a rack for about 40 minutes. Next, you are going to flip over the cooled cake after running a knife around the edges of the pan. Once you have flipped over the cake pan onto a plate give all sides of the pan a little knock with a spoon. This will help the cake loosen and fall from the pan beautifully.

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Last, enjoy with some orange spice tea (my style) or with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream (Mr. JD style). 🙂

 

 

Prepping Your Veggie Garden This Spring!

SINCE 1972It’s almost spring and the first signs of life are sprouting out of the ground! We always see gorgeous, fragrant hyacinths and tulips in our yard during the spring, then as the summer approaches we get tiger lillies, peonies, and roses. As much as I love flowers (and I plan on adding to my garden this year), I also want to approach the spring with a more utilitarian mentality.

First of all, being a veggie is hard and expensive. In order to get really good, organic produce, without going to 3 or 4 different stores, I end up shelling out at least $20 on produce a week. A few weeks ago I bought 6 bell peppers and it cost me $8, but what else are you going to do in a week where you are having salads, stuffed peppers, and tofu fajitas for dinner?

Now, I’m not going to lie, I don’t have the greenest thumb, but it’s in my blood (my uncle is a farmer), plus I have a friend who happens to work at the local food bank who is also passionate about growing her own food. She’s giving me tips and for every dollar I save on what I would have spent on produce this summer, I plan on donating it to her Foodbank, because they really do amazing things in our community, which unfortunately, is considered a food desert.

I digress, I have committed to growing my own produce this summer and I am super excited about it! I will not only be saving some money and do some good, I will be eating super healthy! I plan on growing hot peppers, sweet peppers, summer squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, strawberries, herbs, lavender, pumpkin, spaghetti squash, mini tomatoes, and berries. I also plan on adding dahlias, hydrangeas, more peonies and roses, and ranunculus to my existing flower garden.

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Seeds and Herbal Seed Paper

So, I’ve been told the best way to start your veggie garden is with a seed starter kit. I also grabbed some herbal seed paper from work and seed kits for fun. Here is everything you’ll need to start your garden:

  • Seed starter kit
  • Seed paper
  • Seed starter soil
  • Your choice of seeds
  • Water
  • A sunny area

First step is to add your soil. I purchased soil that is specifically used for starting seedlings and I added a healthy amount to each pod. Next, dampen the soil and stick your index finger into each pod creating a two-inch hole. Place the seeds in the hole and recover with soil. Add a bit more water and soil, then cover the seed starting kit with the plastic top and put in a warm, sunny place.

When your seeds start sprouting, you will eventually take the plastic top off and cut down all of the weaker sprouts, leaving the strongest seedling behind. Transfer the entire pod, seed and soil into your garden area, then BOOM—veggie garden—and then you get to eat all the vegetables!

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All the fruits and veggies!

 

Chocolate Chip Walnut Banana Bread

Chocolate Chip WalnutI have a confession: I am a banana horder. I buy a bunch every week to put into smoothies, eat in oatmeal, etc. With work being so crazy recently I barely have time to do anything in the morning, so I end up with a bunch of leftover bananas that I intended to eat for breakfast, in some capacity, over the week. (Coffee counts as breakfast, right?)

By the weekend these bananas are brown, which is the perfect time to make banana bread. Naturally, I grabbed some really ripe bananas and went to it!

Ingredients

  • 3 super ripe bananas
  • 1/3 melted butter (I used vegan butter)
  • 3/4 c. sugar (you can use white, I used organic cane)
  • 1 egg (My co-worked gifted me some eggs from her tiny farm)
  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tbs. vanilla
  • sea salt
  • 1/2 c. semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 walnuts

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a loaf pan with cooking spray, I recommend coconut oil cooking spray.
  • Mash those bananas until they are no longer chunky, then add the butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla. Stir until all mixed together.
  • Add the flour in to banana mixture a little at a time while stirring and mix completely.
  • Next add in the baking soda and salt, mix completely.
  • Fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
  • Pour mix into loaf pan and bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes.
  • You will know your loaf is finished because it will firm up in the middle and you won’t get any batter on a tooth pick when you poke the middle of the cake.
  • Let cool for 45 minutes and cut.

This is great for bake sales, carry ins, or Sunday breakfast and of course, bananas are good every day!

Oolala! Lavender Syrup Cocktails & Mocktails

oolalaIt’s been awhile–who knew migrating a website could be so time consuming? Needless to say, with everything going on at work recently, I’ve needed (with what little time I have off) to relax.

I have some friends at work who are into essential oils and told me lavender works wonders for sleep, anxiety, and stress—so the next time I went to my favorite local coffee shop I ordered a Tangerine Lavender Honey Latte and fell in love! Not only does lavender smell wonderful, it’s delicious–very delicate and floral.

Because I rarely drink soda, wine, beer, juice, or dairy this leaves me with a lot of water, coffee, and tea. I discovered that adding lavender simple syrup to cold and hot tea, sparkling water, and coffee is truly amazing. There’s

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Tangering, Lavender, Honey Soy Latte

nothing like throwing some herbs, fruit, and garnish into some sparkling water for a nice mocktail or cocktail if you’re having people over and have some vodka on hand.

Here’s the recipe to make lavender simple syrup and a recipe for my favorite mocktail/cocktail:

Lavender Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup purified water
  • 1 cup organic sugar
  • 3 tbs lavender
  • purple food coloring (if desired)

Add the water and sugar to a small sauce pan and stir, then add the lavender and bring to a boil. Once boiling, stir and bring down to a simmer for 10 minutes. Strain our the lavender buds using cheesecloth and store in a mason jar. Your simple syrup will end up a caramel color, but if you want it to look more purple you can add a bit of food coloring (red and blue).

Store in the fridge for up to a week.

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Citrus, Cucumber, Lavender Mocktail

My Favorite Lavender Mocktail

  • La Croix Orange Sparkling Water
  • 2 Crushed Basil Leaves or a Slice of Cucumber if Basil is too strong for you
  • Slice of Lemon
  • Lavender Simple Syrup to taste

My Favorite Lavender Cocktail

  • Large shot of vodka in a cocktail glass
  • Heavy Splash of Grapefruit Juice
  • Soda Water
  • A Few Crushed Mint Leaves
  • Lavender Simple Syrup to taste (I like about a tablespoon)

Pro Tip: If you have a friend who works at a non-profit in a development capacity, recruit them to be a bartender at your wedding/event, hell recruit them to coordinate your entire event/wedding. We have all had to play double duty at fundraising events as a event coordinator/bartender/florist and have learned quite a few tricks! I know more about linens, seating grids, centerpieces, menus, catering, and ordering bistro tables, eight and ten tops than I ever, ever thought I would know.

Lavender may be on the expensive side, HOWEVER, feeling relaxed with a delicious drink is priceless—so tune out all of your work worries, miserable, mean people, loud kids, and have a delicious drink with a few friends!

 

Vegan Smoothie Bowl & Mixtape Monday!

Most people hate Mondays. I, however, am kind of a fan. Mondays give you the chance to detox from the last week (if it was kind of a bummer), you are rested from the weekend, and no one bothers you from 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. at work because everyone’s just trying to get through the influx of email that happened over the weekend. As I said though, not everyone is a fan…

IMG_20151207_141158For those who get a total case of the Mondays, I am offering you two pick-me-ups. 1) a recipe for a killer vegan smoothie bowl and 2) a mixtape Monday playlist that will give you the motivation to kick Monday’s ass.

Vegan Smoothie Bowl

The premise of a smoothie bowl seems like perfection: blend your smoothie and sprinkle delicious and nutritious things on top. Though this doesn’t seem super portable, you can toss everything into a mason jar and you’re good to go!

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Indgredients

  • Medium sized ripe banana
  • 1 c. dairy-free milk (I used vanilla almond)
  • A few ice cubes (pro tip: you can nix the ice if you freeze the banana in chunks ahead of time!)
  • 1 heaping tbs. of nut butter
  • organic granola
  • flaxseed
  • fruit

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Directions

The directions are really simple (which is awesome). Place the nut butter, ice cubes, dairy-free milk, and banana in the blender and mix until smooth. Pour in a bowl or mason jar and sprinkle with flax, granola, and fruit—blueberries and strawberries are a delicious addition! This has tons of protein, calcium, folic acid, antioxidants, and heart healthy stuff! Yum.

Mixtape Monday

Music is where I go when I need to get amped up or decompress from something. Tackling a full work day, shaking off a crappy person and their crappy passive aggressive comments, getting over a hurtle, needing motivation. Hence, this play list…take a listen and don’t let ’em get you down–especially on a Monday!