Current few of my favorite things

As we leave winter (or at least try to) and enter Spring, I always find myself gravitating towards new routines/products and practices.

I’m not sure if it’s the shift in weather, the bounce in my step, or the promise of warmer days, but when I know Spring is upon me, I just love finding improvements in my beauty, exercise, and eating habits.

I’ve been loving a few specific things as of late, and this list will show ya what I’m talking about with the whole “light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to winter” thing.

  • Lemon Water!

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I’ve been know to hate lemon water so much that whenever I get a lemon in my drink at a restaurant, I immediately throw it in the glass of whomever has the pleasure of dining in my company. I used to think it wasn’t refreshing, never quenched my thirst, and was all around gross. But, my skin has been having a hell of a winter in its own right, and I’ve been desperate to stop the cystic breakouts around my mouth.

I eat right, I exercise, I use only all natural products, and still nothing was working. After reading article after article, trying cinnamon masks, new cleansers, and no cleaners at all, I’ve started drinking 1 litre of lemon water immediately upon waking up, and at least 1 more litre of it after work (along with the other million cups of regular water I always down) and what do ya know, my face has been clearer during the past few days than it has been in weeks!

I still do not enjoy the taste, but I do have a jar of lemon, ginger, and rosemary water infusing in the fridge that will hopefully make my morning elixir more my style!

  • Vegan Bowls! 
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My Mediterranean grain and veg bowl

I swear I could eat rice, veg, and beans at every meal and never get tired of any of them. With endless pairings, so many combination options, and sauce ideas, vegan bowls are my go-to dinners and lunches when I want to have just about everything in my fridge.

The one above is what I whipped up for dinner last night. It’s a Mediterranean bowl with a lemon-dill tahini dressing. All I did was cook a sweet potato in the microwave, sautee onion, kale, frozen spinach and broccoli, orange bell pepper, and garlic with some olive oil and then glazed with balsamic vinegar. In a small bowl I made a batch of lemon-dill tahini dressing which is just 2 tbsp. tahini, 1 clove minced garlic, juice of 1/2 a lemon, 1 tbsp. white vinegar, 1 tbsp. nutritional yeast, and 1/3 cup water. Just whisk it until smooth.

Next, I layered a large bowl with cooked brown rice, added some chickpeas, my sweet potato which I sliced into medallions, and topped with some of the sauteed veg and tahini dressing! You could also add pumpkin or sunflower seeds for extra crunch.

  • Plants as Therapy by Elvin McDonald

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Since Collin and I have started some of the seedlings for our balcony garden, and have cultivated an impressive collection of indoor plants, I’ve really begun to develop a passion for plants and gardening. Since we plan on having our own organic farm someday, our mini garden is kind of like training for us as plant parents.

When we were browsing in a book store a few weeks ago, I came across this little guy and loved the cover and concept so much I bought it. I would recommend it to anyone who has a passion for plants or living things in general. The author is super quirky and endearing and it’s a great read for when you want a break from the norm!

  • My Future Bike!

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Since my bike was stolen last summer, my dad said he would go halfsies with me for a new one for my birthday this June! I’ll let you in on a secret though….I’m a terrible cyclist! I can run for miles and miles, do burpees until I can’t stand, and swim until I just can’t move anymore, but when it comes to bike riding, I just do not have it and I don’t know why! I’ve been wanting to get into cycling for a while, and it would be so awesome to  have a bike again to get around the city with and go for rides with Collin, as well as another form of an ass-kicking workout!

I’ve joined a spin class at 5:30 AM before work on Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and am just so pumped to be getting a new bike to start a new leg of my health journey, and to conquer a different form of sport.

  • Apartment Parties and Soulmates

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Now that we are completely settled and thriving in our new place, Collin and I had our best friends over for a little partayyy to kick off the coming season of balcony grilling, star gazing, and beer sippin’. My best friend from college, Audrey, and my best friend Victoria came up to celebrate. Being around them and Collin’s friends, who I now consider some of my best friends was so wonderful, so comfortable, and just so much fun. I cannot wait for the summer of apartment parties ahead of us.

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Vegetable Pho Recipe!

Can anyone take a guess what it looks like outside at this very moment?

I’ll give you a few hints…it’s March, and it’s Rochester.

If you guessed that it’s raining and a film of depression-inducing, foggy gloom has settled itself comfortably over the entire city, then you guessed right!

When it comes to weather, there are no rules here in good old Roch; mother nature seems to take out her frustrations on our city. The winters last forever, the springs last about a week, and the in-betweens are just plain torture.

With all of this gloom and doom, I actually have to work pretty hard to stay positive and keep on truckin’ because no matter what, warmth will arrive and I will forget this terrible winter and gloomy spring transition ever even happened.

One good thing about rainy days and cold weather is that it’s always a perfect occasion to make some soup!

Lately I’ve really been craving take out food. While I keep our fridge pretty well stocked, I’m a busy bee. I wake up at 5, either go to spin class or workout at home, then it’s breakfast and off to work I go! Even though I love cooking, sometimes when I get home all I want is a huge bowl of rice and spicy veggies from my local Thai restaurant. But then I remember how wasteful it would be and I whip up something myself.

Though I had never tried pho before I made it myself, I have been dying to try it, considering Rochester is surprisingly full of restaurants boasting “greatest pho you will ever eat here.” So, I decided to use the soup weather, my stocked fridge, and my pho desire to my advantage and create a bowl of Asian goodness for myself.

Behold, Vegan Pho!

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INGREDIENTS:

For the Broth

  • 12 cups water
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 4 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 head of garlic, cut down the middle, skins on
  • 1 thumb ginger, roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass, chopped and crushed
  • 1 tsp. peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp. tamari

For the Soup

  • 2 cups broccoli
  • 1 package mushrooms, left whole (I used cremini)
  • 1 cup snow peas
  • 1/2 pack rice noodles, cooked

Garnishes

  • Bean sprouts
  • Cilantro
  • Sriracha

In a large pot, combine all of the broth ingredients, and bring to a boil. Let broth boil for 5 minutes, then turn heat down to medium-low and let it simmer for at least 45 minutes. Once broth has simmered, taste it and adjust seasonings as you like. Place a fine strainer over a bowl and discard/compost the veggies/broth ingredients so you’re left with a smooth broth. Place broth back in pot, and put over low heat. 

Add in whole mushrooms, snow peas, broccoli, and let them simmer for about 15 minutes.

While your veggies simmer, cook rice noodles according to package. Once veggies are softened and blanched to your liking in the broth, place noodles in a bowl, ladle soup over them, and add garnishes.

Now, I know this may not be the most traditional pho, but after doing some research and reading recipe after recipe, this is what I came up with, and it satisfied both my soup and asian cravings perfectly!

Give it a try, even if you live in Mexico where the sun is most likely shining and soup weather doesn’t exist.

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Delicious Recap of a Wonderful Weekend

Well, today ends one of those weekends you just wish could last forever. I’m finally settled into my new apartment, with every room decorated exactly how I envisioned it, and it was one of the first full weekends I truly got to enjoy it while continuing to explore my little city.

The weekend started off on a giddy note, with my boss letting us out early at 3:45. I, of course, used this rare extra time after work to cook up an elaborate feast for Collin and I, which I unfortunately failed to photograph. I spent a good two hours in the kitchen in my sweatpants with music blasting, completely in my element, just the way I like.

I made homemade pita bread and falaffel with tatziki sauce made from my homemade coconut yogurt, and I served roasted sweet potatoes with balsamic-lemon tahini sauce on the side.

Once my dinner digested, I went for a sunset two mile run just to get my blood pumping and some sun on my face, and then made Col and I some banana nice cream sundaes…and fell asleep at 9:30. What can I say, I like to get a good night’s sleep and really enjoy having no plans on Friday nights.

On Saturday, Collin and I had a whole day and night full of Rochester fun.

I signed up for a World Gym membership, so I hit the gym for an intense five miles on the treadmill (I know I’m weird, I actually enjoy the treadmill and the gym atmosphere for gettin’ shit done).

We got lunch at the new vegan French bistro right on East Ave that I’m obsessed with, Vive, and got this cheese plate.

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Left to Right: Garlic grilled house-made baguette, figs and candied pecans with a balsamic reduction, Boursin cheese, Brie, and Blue cheese.

If I could put into words how incredible this cheese plate is, I would, but I do not believe it’s possible to do this justice. Not only are these the best vegan cheeses I’ve ever had, they are all hands down the best cheeses I’ve ever had, period.

My favorite was the blue, but it was only by a slight margin since they were all so delicious. Not to be upstaged, the bread was to die for with a salty crunch, a moist middle, and an unmistakable garlicky bite, and the fig-pecan-balsamic combo was just to die for; it complimented the salty cheese and moist bread perfectly.

As you can tell from my gushing, this shit is LEGIT, go to Vive ASAP if you’re going to be in Rochester any time soon, vegan or not!

Anyway, now that I’m trailing drool all over my keyboard, I shall commence my recap.

After lunch we saw a documentary called “Walking Under Water,” a part of Rochester’s Greentopia Festival, which screens sustainability documentaries. It was about a fishing culture in Borneo whose way of life is slowly vanishing thanks to tourism and Western influence. It was as beautiful as it was heartbreaking.

To end our night, we were going to check out Cheshire, Rochester’s self-proclaimed speakeasy, but we just weren’t feeling it. It was too small, too packed, and filled with bro-y douche bags who looked like guys I went to college with…not what I was looking for. So, instead, we headed to the public market area and tried out Cure. Cure doubles as a second location of Java’s coffee shop during the day, and then transforms into a restaurant/bar on the weekends!

Cure is easily my new favorite bar in the city. We pulled into the parking lot to find we were the only car except for the fleet of food delivery trucks, and the only light around was the subtle glow of the red sign in Cure’s window. When we walked in, we were so so pleasantly surprised. Beautiful wooden tables, candles everywhere, light bulbs surrounded by beautiful metal spheres hanging from the ceiling, and a bar complete with an impressive liquor collection.

At the bar, we learned that Saturdays are “Booze your adventure” night. Basically, you’re given a list of liquors, attitudes, and aspects to choose, and the bartender will make you a unique drink based on your choices! For example, I chose “Strong, Gin, and Spice” and received a rosemary-infused, gin fizz drink that was easily the best cocktail I’ve ever had.

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Here she is, folks.

We spent a few hours at the bar just talking about everything and enjoying the fancy/hip ambiance. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Today, I closed out the weekend by having one of my Sunday prep days. After I hit the gym, I ventured to Trader Joe’s and picked up some goodz. After a few hours crafting/jamming out in the kitchen this afternoon, I made two rice and veg bowls and two pita sandwiches with roasted eggplant and spinach for lunches for this week; portioned out edamame, carrots, and hummus for snacks; juiced one carrot, apple, ginger juice and one celery, apple, parsley, kale juice for the week; and made two jars’ worth of overnight oats for early workout mornings before work. I made all of this goodness while cooking up my very first batch of Vietnamese Pho! Here’s a shot of my stocked and prepped fridge….one of my favorite sights, hehe.

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As you all know, I love to truly take advantage of every moment of my weekends, and this one was filled with my very favorite ways to do that.

From mouthwatering food, to discovering new places, to runs, and lots of time well spent in the kitchen, I sit on my couch surrounded by my candles, plants, and pillows content, relaxed, and ready for the week ahead.

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Dear Universe,

Thank you for bestowing this life upon me; this life so pregnant with pain, guilt, loathing, and grief; this life so bursting with beauty, wonder, magic, and love.

Thank you for bringing me into a world where I can rest my head on a pillow as I drift off to sleep every night, the heat turned up or down to my chosen comfort.

Thank you for blessing me with parents who love me, who hug me, who have watched me grow with pride, with adoration in their eyes, who tried to ground me when I stole booze and slept at my boyfriend’s house. Thank you for parents who cared if I had sex too early, rather than counting the days until I come of age before selling me to make end’s meet.

Thank you for running water so I can read in the bath, soaking my feet full of blisters from runs up, down, and around the safe streets surrounding my cozy abode.

Thank you for locking this brain into my head, this brain that knows no bounds, runs barefoot through the world seeking answers to every question, knocking on doors of possibility, thinking so hard, too hard, not hard enough.

Thank you for the 9-5 job I secured after 3.5 years of higher education. Thank you for giving me the voice that pulses through my pen, through my fingertips, through the keyboard, through my tongue, and out my mouth.

Thank you for making me a woman in America, a woman free from the cage of child prostitution, a woman capable of choice, of change, of growth, of necessary escape. Thank you for giving me the chance to take advantage of my valued place in the world, thank you for making me grateful enough to take notice of my coincidental luck.

Because I could have been a child of a brothel, a baby girl with one path and one path only. I could have been up at 4 am this morning fetching water for a neighbor, getting slapped by my mother, getting fucked by a drunken man who paid to feel powerful by being on top of me.

I could be begging for money to feed my family, accepting that the world is only meant for darkness, anguish, and torture. I could be surrendering any possibility of fulfilling any scrap of a dream to waiting my turn for the merry-go-round of ancestral prostitution.

So I thank you, universe, for the man I come home to every night who kisses my hands and plays with my hair, who knows how to order my take out food.

I thank you for my childhood, preserving my innocence past the age of 10, placing me in the valley of the tiny mountains surrounding my home, with roads stretching far in each direction, calling me to venture down the path of everything unknown.

Thank you for this life I want to keep living, thank you for not making me merely survive.

*I suggest everybody watch “Born Into Brothels,” a heartbreaking 2004 documentary that has brought me to my knees. Be thankful, be present, be positive, and remember how lucky you are.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kyXFr2g1x8

Kicking Winter to the Curb

I simply cannot put into words how good it feels to turn my thermostat down to 60 and pack clothes to wear for a lunch time run OUTSIDE!

Yes, my friends, it has hit 50 degrees in Rochester, AKA spring is here and the token hobo across the street is donning shorts and a muscle tank.

This weekend I kissed winter goodbye with some outdoor St. Patrick’s day festivities and by cooking up my final batch of squash soup for the season.

~drunk in love~ at the St. Patty's day parade

~drunk in love~ at the St. Patty’s day parade

My intentions were to make just a regular, run of the mill pureed acorn squash soup, but since my squash was a baby, I added in some parsnips I had hiding in my fridge along with a sweet potato to bulk it up.

Since I had one of my productive but also lazy sundays, I let my soup simmer for a few hours and DAMN it was good.

I finally broke down and bought some Himalayan Pink Salt and oh mannnn does it make a difference using good quality salt; so much more bang for your buck!

In the midst of my soup simmering, I also roasted some broccoli rabe, eggplant, and red onion for my chimichurri pasta (recipe coming this week…spoiler alert: it’s really effing good), so I topped my bowl of soup off with some extra charred red onions and it complimented the flavors perfectly!

This soup is a perfect way to enjoy the last of old asshole winter’s bounty while cleaning out the cupboards of that squash you’ve been meaning to cook up!

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 small-medium acorn squash, peeled and sliced into half-moons
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and cubed
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp. fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 container vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • Himalayan salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place squash half-moons on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes or until fork tender. Let cool, then peel the skin off.

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat and add sliced onions and cubed parsnips. While they soften, cook sweet potato in the microwave for a faster process. Add 1 cup water to the parsnips and onion and bring to a boil, cooking until water evaporates and parsnips become more tender.

Next, add peeled, cooked squash. Peel the skin off your cooked sweet potato and add that as well.

Add minced garlic, bay leaves, rosemary, nutmeg, salt and pepper, along with container of vegetable broth, cover, and turn heat to medium-low. Let soup simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Once soup has cooked for your desired amount of time and cooled, either use an immersion blender or transfer to a regular blender, and blend until desired smoothness.

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Tuesday Happy List: I Moved! Edition + Chana Palak Recipe

After months of planning, weeks of packing, and days of unpacking, I’m exhausted, exhilarated, and excited to finally be settled into an apartment I absolutely adore.

From the green and white checked tiles in my sunny, spacious kitchen, to the bay windows in my living room, to the delicate but sturdy glass-paned bookcase in my dining room, I am completely head over heels for the damn place.

This past weekend was full to the brim with moving without a moment’s rest, and the past couple of days have been no different, except of course for work and working out in between.

Needless to say, I’m beat, but I’m happy, and my happiness is most likely the culprit of my over-exertion but what the hell, I love to be busy!

Here are some reasons for my merriment and general case of rose-colored glasses.

  1. This Beautiful Kitchen. I’ve already begun creating concoctions, wafting aromas of delectable dishes into the air, christening our apartment with my cooking. It’s the big, room-for-dancing kitchen of my dreams, complete with the floors I’ve always wanted in my favorite color! Easily my favorite room in the place (as if you couldn’t tell…)

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2. My Mama! My beautiful mom came to visit two weekends ago and has truly been just as excited as I am for my new venture. The trait I am most proud of came from my mom: a sense of wonder and constant excitement for what life will bring. I’m the luckiest betch on the planet to have a mother who is so genuinely proud and excited for me throughout every stage of life.photo (55)

3.  My Roomie. I’ve spent the past two years growing more and more in love with my muse. I’m proud to call him my man, and proud of the both of us for taking the leap together once again and making our wishes come to fruition as a dynamic duo. I love him. Nuff said.

Us in our new place!

Us in our new place!

4. My Homemade Chana Palak! Remember when I mentioned how my mom’s meal at Thali of India stole the show when we took her and my stepdad out for Indian food?? Well after a few days scouring the internet for a Chana Palak recipe I felt would match what I tasted, I found a few that I combined, and added my own touches to, to make this beauty!

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 can organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 4-5 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 plum tomatoes
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • 1 small green chile
  • 1 inch piece of ginger
  • 1 cup homemade coconut yogurt* or any plain coconut yogurt
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 1/2 tsp. corinader powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 3 tsp. salt (or to taste)

*For the Yogurt: 

Using a blender, immersion blender, hand mixer or whisk, blend together 2 cans full fat, organic coconut milk with 2 probiotic capsules (just the powder from the capsules). Place in a large mason jar and tightly close the lid. Place in an unheated oven for at least 24 hours, ideally 48. Open up to see if it smells tangy/yogurty, and you have yourself some delicious, thick, creamy, additive-free homemade vegan coconut yogurt!

Talk about a good morning right there, am I right??

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For the Chana Palak:

In a large pan, heat coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add minced green chile and spinach. Sautee until right when spinach starts to wilt. Take out of the pan and set aside.

Cut onion into quarters and put in a blender/chopper with the garlic and ginger. Blend until everything breaks down and purees. Add to a hot pan and cook for 5 minutes or so until onions are translucent. 

Add all of the spices to the onion/garlic/ginger mixture, and sautee for another minute or so to toast the spices. 

Puree tomatoes and add to the pan. Turn heat to low, put cover on, and simmer everything for 15-20 minutes until liquid absorbs.

Once tomatoes have cooked down, whisk in the yogurt and add the spinach, mixing everything together. Lastly, add the can of chickpeas, cover and cook for another 15-20 minutes until mixture reaches desired thickness.

Serve over basmati rice, die, and go to heaven. This shit is GOOD.

While you can use store bought yogurt for this recipe, in my experience, coconut yogurt from the store is NOT anything close to the homemade stuff. If you want the full spectrum of taste and rich flavor, it’s so easy to make your own yogurt and so worth it!

Another option is to use 1 cup of cull fat coconut milk and about 1 tbsp. of apple cider vinegar to get the creamy and tangy elements but I have not tried it so I can’t vouch for it. Either way, enjoy!

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Indian Spiced Cauliflower & Tempeh over Garlic Ginger Quinoa!

So remember how I’m in midst of a passionate love affair with the ever seductive world of Asian cooking?

Well, my friends, it has reached whole new heights of ecstasy with my current plunge into the magical land of Indian food.

Shockingly, I hadn’t tried Indian food until this past fall! But then my BFF and I ventured to the Indian restaurant down the road from her house in Syracuse (Taste of India off Westcott St. It’s delish!) and from the first bite of my Baingan Bharta, I was hooked.

This past weekend my mom and step dad came for a visit since Collin and I are moving to our brand spankin’ new apartment, and we took them to Thali of India in Henrietta, the land of Asian restaurants. It was an overall amazing dining experience since the waiters were super friendly and there was a whole vegetarian menu with a note that said anything could be made vegan!

I chose the vegetable jalfreezi which was excellent in its own right, but the scene stealer of the night was my mom’s Chana Palak, a creamy spinach and tomato curry base with chickpeas; out of this world, I’m tellin’ ya.

While I’ve been hunting down a recipe (and more free time) to experiment with cooking up some chana palak of my own, I did cure my now constant Indian food craving with some boldly spiced cauliflower and tempeh last night.

Flavorful, complex, and savory, I’d say it was the perfect way to christen my new kitchen with me and Collin’s first meal in our new place.

Piled on top of some simple quinoa and garnished with a few sprigs of cilantro, this dish came together better than I imagined, and is definitely going in my ethnic food rotation.

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INGREDIENTS:

For the cauliflower & tempeh

  • 1 package organic, original tempeh
  • 1 bag frozen cauliflower
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp. tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander powder
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp. tamari
  • 1/2 tbsp. sriracha

For the Quinoa

  • 1/2 cup dry quinoa
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 inch piece grated ginger
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Optional: Greens like kale or spinach

Preheat oven to 450. Melt the coconut oil until in liquid form. In a separate, large bowl, mix frozen cauliflower, cubed tempeh, soy sauce, sriracha, and spices. Pour oil over everything and mix thoroughly. If your bowl has a top, put it on and give it a good shake. Bake in a large baking pan for about 30 minutes, flipping every 10 minutes or so until cauliflower is browned and tempeh is crispy.

While cauliflower mixture roasts, cook your quinoa. Once it’s done, place a bit of veg broth in a large pan and sautee onion over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger, a bit more broth, and cook 5 minutes more. Add greens if you wish, the remaining broth, salt and pepper, and cooked quinoa. Simmer until liquid dissolves and season again to your liking.

Top the quinoa with roasted cauliflower and tempeh, a skirt of sriracha if ya love the spice like I do, and garnish with some cilantro. Voila!

This meal satisfies take out cravings without leaving the house, comes together easily if you have a stocked spice rack, and clears up your sinuses with its subtle but powerful kick of heat!

If you’re an ethnic food fiend like me, cook this baby up and let me know how it goes!

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