Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! It is officially 2015 AND it’s officially winter in Chicago. We finally had our first real snow and the temperature dropped below zero, so…yay? After last winter, I’ve been bracing myself for this year’s polar vortex, so I suppose it’s almost a relief. Actually, no. It’s still terrible.

winterdreamer

In spite of the depressing plummet of the temperature and the fact that I have to put boots on my dog again, I am grateful for the start of a new year. I’ve always loved new beginnings. When I lived and died by the academic calendar, the first day of school was a magical day full of possibility and the joy of a fresh new planner. As an adult, I still love that feeling of possibility in the new calendar year, and yes, even still, a fresh new planner. (I even designed my own for 2015, which I’m thinking of making available online!)

I have lots of big goals for 2015 but the overall theme is to live life more fully, more intentionally, and find joy, beauty, and pleasure in every day. By the end of 2015 I hope to become a healthier, stronger version of myself – one that has pursued her creative passions and sought new adventures. One of my food goals is to not only blog more, but also eat more whole foods and focus on eating mindfully. One of my biggest health pitfalls is mindless eating. I love food and if I’m honest, I definitely use it as a crutch for when I’m feeling bored, tired, cranky, etc. Cooking whole, healthy foods and practicing mindfulness will hopefully put the true pleasure back in cooking and eating, as well as force me to really think about what I’m putting into my body. I hope to share my learning and knowledge with anyone who might benefit so you’ll definitely be a witness to this on the blog.

I have a good feeling about 2015 and I wish you a beautiful new year.

bloodoranges&toast

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Warm Vegan Breakfast Quinoa

It’s a brand new year, and like most people who have made resolutions, I’ve decided that this is the year that I get in the best shape of my life.  This is not just an empty threat, not this time.  I’ve realized that I’m way too young to feel out of shape.  I’m 23–why shouldn’t I be in the best shape of my life?  Besides, it’s not only a choice to be healthier; it’s a choice to be happier.

The holidays were filled with rich food and copious amounts of wine so January is devoted to detox, getting my body back on track with a healthier diet and more exercise.  I’ve been experimenting with vegan recipes.  I’ve found that a delicious and healthy way to start the day is Warm Breakfast Quinoa.
I adapted a recipe from 101 Cookbooks with some substitutions based on what I had: I used almond milk instead of dairy milk to make it vegan, and I added blueberries and grated coconut.  I also added ground flaxseed for some extra fiber, and I used coconut nectar instead of agave nectar.
I found Coconut Secret coconut nectar at Whole Foods while looking for agave nectar or another natural sweetener.  It claims to be more healthy than agave nectar, and it tastes and looks similar.  After drizzling it on this breakfast quinoa, I’m kind of obsessed with it now, which is probably NOT healthy.  It’s difficult to hold myself back from adding a little extra to the breakfast quinoa.
I love the texture and taste of quinoa. Biting into the bubbly grains, you experience an initial give followed by a subtle burst of nutty flavor.  The roasted pecans and grated coconut enhance the warm nuttiness of the quinoa while the berries and coconut nectar lend it a soft edge of sweetness that hits the perfect note for breakfast.  This dish will be on my breakfast rotation for a while.

Goal-Setting for Gluttons

One of the rules of successful goal-setting, that I just now made up, is this: don’t make contradictory goals.  For example, don’t set a goal to never drink beer again while setting another goal to start your own brewery.  You will not set yourself up for success. Common sense enough, right?  Another example: don’t set a goal to get super fit while also setting a goal to make perfect pastries from scratch.  Well, despite my own thoroughly researched advice, I have set those two goals.

My goal of getting fit came first, and I had been doing an ok job the past month and a half:  joining a gym, getting myself to go to the gym, working out regularly, eating decently, etc.  Then I went on vacation to Florida, where it became a distant memory.

Before I went to Florida, however, I bought a few sessions with a personal trainer at my gym, something I had never done before.  I figured I could use someone to kick my ass and teach me how to correctly use the machines in the gym.  My first session was yesterday, the morning RIGHT after I came back from my weeklong junk-eating, laying-around extravaganza in Florida.  Short story short, I almost threw up during the workout.

Afterwards, to make myself feel better, I went to Half Price Books and bought a book about making puff pastry.  The second goal, to make the perfect puff pastries, came about before I went to Florida.  I had made some pastelitos de guayaba (guava pastries) like I always do, using Pepperidge Farm Frozen Puff Pastry Sheets.  My friends enjoyed them, but they tasted so bland to me. That’s when the wheels started turning and I decided I would learn how to make awesome puff pastry from scratch.

After I bought the book at Half Price, I went grocery shopping and bought some kitchen supplies I didn’t have.  As much as I love baking, I had managed to survive almost a year in my apartment without a roller.  (One time I used a wine bottle I wrapped in plastic wrap…)  I got home, put my supplies out on the counter, and…took a three hour nap.  The exhaustion from the workout caught up with me.

I did manage to make myself some dinner, a Crunchy Curry Pasta Salad.  Since I needed to save a greek yogurt cup from expiration, I adapted a dip recipe from the June issue of Women’s Health (Sweet-And-Spicy Yogurt) for the “sauce.”

I combined a cup of greek yogurt with 1/4 cup diced peaches, 1 1/2 tsp of curry powder, 1/4 tsp of cumin, and a 1/4 tsp of salt.  I also added a little bit black pepper, cayenne, and a few drops of sriracha sauce to taste, because I wanted a little more kick.  I put this mixture in the fridge while the whole wheat elbow macaroni cooked.  Once it was done, I drained it and then mixed it with chopped carrots and cabbage (which I bought prechopped at Whole Foods–so convenient) and the yogurt sauce.  The next step would have been putting it in the fridge to let the flavors develop, but I was really hungry…I put half in the fridge and the other half in a bowl to eat leisurely on the balcony while I plotted my pastry plan for the next day.

Halfway to the Half-Marathon!

I started training for the Country Music half-marathon a few weeks ago because I wanted to challenge myself.  My life had changed recently (i.e. no loser boyfriend), and I realized that I had absolutely no reason to hold myself back ever again.  So I ran.  Today I reached a milestone: SIX MILES, about half-way to my goal of 13 miles.  I ran in the park this morning since it wasn’t too cold.  I like running there because it’s not always the same.  One day, for example, I saw an old man sitting on a bench playing bongos by himself, which I found poignant for some reason.  Today I ran the six miles in an hour and five minutes, which included four or five one-minute walking breaks after some of the miles.  It was hard, but I did it, and I’m so proud of myself.  I’ve got the blisters to prove it.  Running has been great for my body despite the occasional pain.  I can feel and see that my legs are stronger, and my ass, I must say, looks better than ever!  Last time I weighed myself I had lost five pounds.  I’m wondering if I have lost anymore.  Anyway, just imagining the sheer bliss I’ll feel when I cross the finish line keeps me going.  That, and how awesome my legs and abs are going to be…

New Resolution

In an effort to get back in shape, I’ve been working out pretty hard the past few days, and I’ve had an epiphany that has given me all the motivation I need: The only thing that has been keeping me from the body I want is pure, unadulterated LAZINESS, and that is pathetic. So since I don’t want to be pathetic, I’ve decided to commit to this once and for all, working out (HARD) regularly and eating well to get the most awesome body I’ve ever had. I also found out that according to those height/weight/BMI charts I’m about 6 pounds overweight, so there’s more motivation right there. The problem: writing a blog based on food, mostly unhealthy food at that, while being careful about my diet might be a challenge. I’ll continue cooking of course, I just have to be careful not to go overboard on my own creations, like I did with the guava pastries I made a couple days ago (before my epiphany mind you). Christmas dinner is also coming up…I’m making a coconut flan and a pecan pie for the first time. There’s the real test of my self-discipline; I love holiday dinners. I can do it though. Si se puede, right Obama?

Guava Pastry