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). 🙂

 

 

Refreshing Lavender & Mint Lemonade!

a title hereOne of the things I love most about Spring and Summer is drinking an ice cold beverage on a hot day, ideally swinging on my porch and reading something fun. Ninety percent of the time I opt for fruit-infused water, but every now and then I want super cold lemonade–especially if I have people coming over.

This lemonade is super quick, very easy and can be spiked if you are so inclined! I enjoy this, usually with something spicy, like the vegan tacos my husband made yesterday! The best part is that this recipe costs less than $5 and tastes like a fancy mocktail.

Ingredients

  • Frozen Lemonade
  • 7 Mint Leaves
  • 2 Lemons
  • 5 tbs. lavender syrup, get the recipe here
  • Ice cubes
  • Water

Directions

Follow the directions on the can of frozen lemonade, typically it will tell you to add between 3-4 cans of water. Whatever the directions are add another half cup of water to it. Stir until the frozen lemonade is completely mixed. Next, cut one lemon in half and squeeze the juice from both halves into the lemonade mixture. Stir. Next, add the lavender syrup. I never make this very strong, but you can add more to taste if you like. Lastly, add your mint leaves, lemon slices from your leftover lemon, and add plenty of ice, then mix and let it steep.

If you are having an evening gathering and want to kick it up, you can always add citrus vodka instead of the extra water.

Super cheap, super easy, super delicious and summery!

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.

IMG_20160216_191207 (1)

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!

 

Pop Goes The Cupcake!

Humble

I am the first to admit if I can take a baking short cut, I totally will. Typically, I like to put the time and care into making things from scratch, like this lemon blueberry cake with citrus cream cheese frosting, but I don’t always have that kind of time. For these special occasions I revert to a magical recipe that requires just three things: boxed cake mix, cream soda, and a can of icing.

My husband has three loves in this world—metallica, me, and rainbow chip frosting. A few years ago they discontinued rainbow chip and my husband was so desperate for the sweet stuff that he took to the internet to try to buy some from Amazon (not even kidding). Well, a few weeks ago he found out that rainbow chips were back and that is when I decided to make this lower fat (not low calorie) version of these vanilla cupcakes.

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Because these cupcakes contain no meat/dairy—I do believe they are vegan, but that’s like saying twizzlers are vegan—while they may be the case, they aren’t necessarily healthy. Also, I am pretty sure once you put the canned icing on the cupcakes aren’t vegan any longer.

Alas, I needed a quick fix and a tasty dessert because I wanted to husband to do some volunteer work with me this Friday and what better way to sweeten a deal than with some cupcakes.

IMG_20151020_191853Ingredients

  • 1 Box Vanilla Cake Mix
  • 2 c. Cream Soda Pop (or diet cream soda if you are want to cut out more calories)
  • 1 can Rainbow Chip Icing


Directions

Preheat the oven to 350. In a bowl add two cups of the cream soda to the vanilla cake mix and mix. Next, you’ll want to generously coat your cupcake pan with cooking spray, as the cupcakes will be slightly sticky once they come out. Pop your cupcakes in the oven for 20 minutes until golden brown. The time you take in the oven may be a little longer or shorter depending on the size of the molds in your cupcake tin—mine are larger cupcakes so they take the full twenty minutes.

Once your cupcakes are completely cooled, take them out of the tin, ice them and enjoy!