Israeli Cous Cous Mediterranean Salad. PS, I leave for Europe in 9 days

In 9 days, I’ll be boarding a plane that will initially drop me off in Stockholm. From there I’ll go to 14 more countries/23 more cities in two months (!!!!!!!!). Trying to contain my excitement. This has been in the making since my trip to Europe last summer.

When I was there last summer, I studied abroad in Italy, learned how to make authentic Italian dishes from a little Italian lady and did some minor weekend traveling.

Last years trip to the Grana Padano Cheese factory, one of my cooking classes with my Italian instructor and the Olive Oil factory:

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That was enough to get me saving and planning for this trip I’m about to embark on. I won’t be doing as much cooking as I did my previous time (only a few simple dishes cooked in hostels), but I’ll be going to a ton more countries. My goal for this trip is to not only see new things, places and people, but also to taste new cuisines to inspire a few new dishes to add to my upcoming cookbook!

Once I get back, official recipe testing and cook book creating will be on the way! Lots of work to be done, so before the madness and as a graduation gift to myself… Europe it is.

Here’s probably the last recipe I’ll be posting in a while. But don’t worry! This isn’t the last for two months. I’ll be posting about my experience abroad, the food I eat and the workouts/hikes/classes I do.

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Israeli Cous Cous Mediterranean Salad

serves 2

Ingredients

1 pre-cooked chicken breast, torn into bite sized pieces

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/3 cup dry israeli cous cous

1/2 cucumber, chopped into bite sized pieces

1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half

1 green bell pepper, chopped into bite sized pieces

1/4 cup thinly chopped red onion

1/4 cup goat cheese crumbles

1 handful italian flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

7 large basil leaves, thinly sliced (julienned)

2 small garlic cloves, sliced

1 small chunk of either grana padano or parmigiano reggiano cheese (you’ll need a micro grater to grate this)

2 tablespoons pine nuts

salt

1. Make the Israeli cous cous. In a small pan, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil on medium heat. Add the Israeli Cous Cous and stir around, toasting the cous cous for about five minutes. Add 2/3 cup water, raise to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 5-6 minutes and then drain excess liquid. Put this to the side to cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

2. Make the pesto. You can either use a mortar and pestle or a food processor. I think the pesto tastes 1000000x better when made with a mortar and pestle, but it’s up to you. Combine the pine nuts and garlic in the mortar. Crush until the ingredients almost form a paste. Add the olive oil and basil and crush/grind. This process takes a few minutes. Lastly, stir in about 2 tablespoons of micro grated parmigiano reggiano or grana padano cheese and a pinch of salt.

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3. In a large bowl, combine the cooked chicken, bell pepper, cucumber, parsley, tomatoes and onions. Pour the pesto on top and toss to combine. Separate the mixture into two bowls or plates and top with the israeli cous cous and goat cheese crumbles.

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The simple act of being kind

I feel extraordinarily at peace with where I am in life right now. I have an incredible family, I live in a beautiful city, I’m able to pursue my passion for nutrition and fitness while living rent free with my parents and I have great friends who can make me laugh and remind me once again how lucky I am. My life is full of ups and downs, as most people’s are. There’s no such thing as someone having a problem-free existence. The happy moments wouldn’t be so happy if it weren’t for the unfortunate moments as well. And that’s the thing I think most people forget: everyone has problems. Our own problems always seem exponentially larger than anyone elses because they are our own problems. So we lash out, we blame, we convince ourselves that the person who was rude to us has no right to be so mean.

Trust me, I’ve worked in the service industry since I was 13 so I know how awful people can get. Never worked as a waitress before? Well, you can really tell what a person is like by the way they treat people who “serve” them. So I came across my fair share of jerks and a**h****.

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This is me at my first real job. I was a waitress for 2.5 years at a local breakfast spot in my hometown. My friend (on the right) and I used to watch a lot of “SpongeBob Squarepants” on rainy days when it was slow…

But letting those people who are having a bad day ruin your day as well will do nothing but continue the vicious cycle of people being dicks to each other. From my years of experience of working with and around jerks, I’ve learned that the only way to deal with these people while still coming out as a positive and happy person, is to spread some random acts of kindness to others.

Think of a time when someone was rude to you and you lashed out back at them. Did you feel better? Did the “lashing out” cause you to be happy? Did it solve any problems? Most likely, the answer is no. It can be hard to be kind to those who are so mean to you, but ultimately, you will be happier and in a better place because of it.

If being kind to jerks is too difficult, try first being kind to those you don’t know.

When I was in school, I was living off of a very tight food budget. There was one particularly stressful day where I was freaking out about my future because graduation was approaching, I was scared to leave my friends and I felt lost in a sea of confusion and anxiety. I took a break from studying and walked to the store to buy some lunch. Outside of the store, there was this homeless lady who drew pictures to sell for food. She was probably in her late 60’s. She never begged or asked for money. She just went along drawing pictures in exchange for food to keep her alive.

Seeing her made me forget my problems and think about her. I felt the need to bring some positivity to her life in any little way that I could. Instead of spending my money on lunch for myself, I bought a sandwich and a hard boiled egg with a water bottle to bring out to her.

She thanked me and I talked to her for a little about her drawings. She mostly drew pictures of the people that walked past. She told me she liked to draw people and imagine what their lives were like.

After I left to return to my studying, my anxiety was gone and I felt happy. Reaching out to someone else and displaying a little act of a humanity reminded me that happiness is all that matters in life. Instead of lash out from my anxiety and fear at the first person I could, I did the exact opposite. It made me feel happy. It spread happiness to another human being. My negative emotions were replaced with positive ones.

You don’t have to be charitable in order to be kind. Just remember that none of us on this planet want to be sad or lonely. We all want to belong. We all want to be happy. Just the simple act of being kind is enough to spread happiness to all of those around you.

Laugh when you feel sad.

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Smile when you’ve been wronged.

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Hug those that have forgotten how to be happy.

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Spend time with family.

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Make time for friends.

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Do what you love.

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Simply be kind. And you will be happier for it.

1.

Chia pudding. For those days when the alarm clock isn’t your friend (always).

This morning, like many of my mornings, I had three alarms set: 5:45, 5:47, 5:50. Yes, as in the morning. When the suns alarm hasn’t even gone off yet. 

On these days, I have work at 6:45 am so I don’t have a whole lot of time to physically make breakfast, so I pre-made these little guys the night before!

I make a big batch so all I have to do is grab a little jar in the morning and take off. I would love to have the luxury of sitting down to a warm meal with a cup of tea, sitting in a wooden chair with a blanket while watching the sun rise… But that’s not my reality right now. I watch the sun rise from inside my work. But my little chia pudding cup makes me a lot happier about it!

This makes three 8 oz servings. Enjoy!

 

Chia pudding pot

Ingredients:

1 cup vanilla yogurt (preferably organic)

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/3 cup chia seeds

1 tablespoon real maple syrup or honey

A pinch of cinnamon (optional)

2 sliced strawberries per serving  

1. Mix the yogurt, almond milk and honey/maple syrup until well blended. 

2. Add in the chia seeds and stir until combined. Let sit for 1 hour or over night. After an hour, split them into separate containers with sliced strawberries and a pinch of cinnamon on top!

It’s SHREDDING SEASON: icy pineapple and ginger smoothie

It’s bulking/shredding/toning/slimming season, BRO!!!! Time to eat nothing but meat and salad!!!

..or not.

It’s true, right now is the time that everyone’s looking to start getting in shape for summer bikini season. This doesn’t mean you have to eliminate fruit, grains or anything else enjoyable. I mean, yeah, you DO have to limit yourself on some things. Alcohol, refined sugars and grains, sodas, pastries, pizzas, pasta, etc. All that fun stuff that you already know you should be limiting anyway. And you probably do a great job of it.. until 2 am when the bars close and Manhattan Pizzeria is still open. I think that’s a general struggle we all deal with.

One super common misconception is that eating healthy and getting in shape means eating tasteless food and feeling sore 99% of the time. Honestly, if you have had this experience, then you’re probably doing it wrong. Healthy food (not diet food) tastes fabulous. Ever had chicken cooked in red wine sauce layered on top of garlic oven roasted veggies with a crisp romaine salad dressed with a dijon lemon vinaigrette? Does that sound like diet food? Well it’s not typically what people think of when considering going on a diet. But that’s the type of food you should be eating when trying to lose weight.

And if you’re telling me that you feel sore all the time when you workout then you probably only stuck to a workout plan for a week, maybe two. Because after that initial hump is over and done with, you shouldn’t be getting uncomfortably sore anymore (unless you’re a hardcore athlete trying to do a dynamic workout).

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So here’s a refreshing, tasty and (gasp) fruity smoothie to sip on after a sweaty workout. If you really feel like being adventurous, this is also a really good base for a healthy “daiquiri”. This recipe may sound tasteless and kind of strange, but it’s less than 100 calories and actually insanely delicious. Just give it a shot.

Happy shredding season!

Icy Pineapple Ginger Smoothie

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serves 2

Ingredients

2 cups fresh or frozen pineapple cubes

1.5 cups coconut water

1 inch of fresh ginger, skin peeled off and diced super fine

2 handfuls of spinach

1/2 cup ice (optional)

1. Make sure to cut off all of the skin from the ginger and then dice it really fine.  Just for a reference, this is about how big of a piece of ginger you should use:

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2. Blend all of the ingredients (besides the ice) until it is smooth. If you plan on adding ice (which I would recommend if you plan on making a drink out of it), then add the ice after blending the other ingredients until smooth. Blend the ice in until you have your desired consistency!

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I couldn’t help but chug mine. Just try and drink yours like a lady/gentleman. It’s not possible.

** PS, this recipe is really great because it incorporates anti-inflammatory ginger in it’s raw state. Your body is inflamed after a workout, so sipping on this drink will help decrease that inflammation and increase your recovery speed.

The new year resolution conundrum.

Have you been doing too much of this?

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Or eating too much of that?

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Yeah, I’m in that same boat. New years resolutions are interesting like that. You have SO MUCH ambition and excitement that this year will be the year that you lose 10 pounds, start eating veggies, quit smoking, drink less, etc etc etc. But then there’s New Years Eve. And you drink a bottle (or two) of champagne. There is no way in hell you’re passing up those greasy hang over cure potatoes the next morning on January 1st. So you tell yourself that January 2nd is the start of your new year. And then it’s Nana’s birthday and the cake is from that new trendy awesome bakery so you have to have a slice (or two). THIS WEEKEND. I SWEAR TO GOD THIS WEEKEND IS WHEN MY NEW YEAR STARTS. And then you get that call from your friend who just found out she got a raise/got engaged/broke up with the awful boyfriend/got a pedicure and needs to go out and celebrate. Well.. it would be rude of you to NOT do something to celebrate your friend’s newly painted toe nails. So you close down the local dive bars and leave your debit card with the bartender.

Basically, the new year isn’t what you planned it to be.

It’s not a lot of this.

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Or this.

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And definitely not that.

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You’re not alone, my friend. Everyone starts off the new year exactly the opposite of the way we had planned. I think the problem is we put our expectations for ourselves too high for such an immediate change. I’m a big believer in gradual change. You won’t stick with something that is drastic and uncomfortable, but small changes made over time can be easy to implement and stick with.

I’m actually doing a three day cleanse to reboot my body starting next Monday, so look forward to a post on picking a cleanse that’s right for your body and goals coming soon! But for now, lets pick out a few new “new years resolutions” that aren’t so extravagant and can be achieved and make you feel great about yourself!

My “Mini” NY Resolutions:

1. Drink more water.

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This sounds silly and typical and too easy but is SO GOD DAMN IMPORTANT. 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. That’s a scary big number. Especially since dehydration, even the mild every day type, can cause shriveled and dry skin, rapid heart beat, heart palpitations, dizziness, inability to absorb nutrients, fatigue and lack of energy.

So here’s an easy way to drink more water. Carry a water bottle with you constantly and make sure you drink 8 oz/ hour starting right when you wake up. Make little marks on the side of the bottle so you know exactly how much 8 oz is. This alone will help detox your liver and kidneys, increase your energy levels and improve the appearance of your skin. Obviously, if you live in a very hot area or you work out a lot, this number will have to be increased, but try and maintain a minimum of 8 oz/hour.

2. Do something active (and fun) at least once a week.

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This is in addition to your workout routine. Get outside and do SOMETHING fun that’s active as well. Remember when we were kids and our idea of “fun” was running around for hours playing tag, sliding down slides and chasing groups of birds? Rediscover that inner child of yours and teach yourself how to do fun things that are active again. It’ll be great for your physical and mental health and help break up your routine of work, gym, sleep.

Here are some ideas: hike, walk the dogs, join an adult for fun sports team, get your friends together to play a pick up game of dodgeball, join your kids in games of tag, do a yoga class or go dancing with your friends! The opportunities are endless!

3. Spend the first hour that you wake up NOT on your phone.

Trust me. I know how hard this is. I love my phone like it’s my child. But try and get up at your normal time, make breakfast, read the paper, take a walk with a cup of tea, etc all without craning your head down to look at a little glowing screen. Just breaking the habit of starting your day with technology is a great feat. All day we’re bombarded by technology at work, at home, at dinner, with friends, and taking an hour in the morning to just enjoy the morning will do your mental health some good.

Happy February 3rd! Good luck with your new “new years resolutions”!

No-Bake Hiking Cookies!!

HIKING COOKIES! Not volleyball cookies… but hiking cookies. They obviously can be eaten where ever you want, but I was trying to force my friend into going hiking with me today so I was bribing her with these non-bake “hiking” cookies. She insisted that they could be volleyball cookies (because she wanted to play volleyball) and I insisted that no, they were hiking cookies. So now, in tribute to my stubborn-ness, these cookies will forever be known as HIKING COOKIES!!

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They are ridiculously easy to make and packed with superfoods. When I eventually went on my hike today up at Runyon Canyon, I had just one of them for my “lunch-snack” and it completely filled me up. Because it isn’t baked, the enzymes and heat sensitive vitamins contained in the ingredients of the cookies are retained and therefore accessible for your body to soak up! Part of the ingredients must be heated slightly just to maintain a correct consistency, but its only for a minute and on a very low heat. The rest of the ingredients have no heat applied to them whatsoever.

 

Because of the hemp seeds and chia seeds, these “cookies” are high in protein and omega 3 to help power you through your day. Plus, it contains maca which not only regulates your hormones, but also boosts your fertility and libido. I bring these with me to work paired with a small piece of chicken and salad and it provides the perfect amount of sustained energy. Plus, they taste spectacular which is always a plus!

This recipe makes 12-13 cookies so it will easily last you a week of bringing them to work or school. Just make them on Sunday and enjoy your little healthy treat the rest of the week!

No-Bake Hiking Cookies

makes 12-13 cookies

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Ingredients:

1 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup chia seeds

3/4 cup almond butter (or peanut butter)

1/4 cup maple syrup (real maple syrup. not aunt jemimas)

1/4 cup almond milk

2 tablespoons maca powder

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

a pinch of salt

 

1. In a large bowl, mix the oats, cranberries, coconut, hemp seeds, chia seeds, cinnamon and salt.

oatmeal pour

 

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2. In a pan over low heat, mix the almond butter (or peanut butter) with the maple syrup and almond milk. It might be easiest to use a fork with this because it helps break apart the almond butter and  combine the ingredients.

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3. Once the ingredients are combined, turn the heat off and stir in the vanilla extract and maca powder.

4. Pour the wet mixture in with the dry and stir until combined.

5. Put a parchment paper sheet on a cookie sheet. Scoop two heaping tablespoons of the mixture and form into a cookie shape. Put onto the cookie sheet and repeat until the batter is gone.

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6. Once the cookies are all done, put them into the freezer for 1-2 hours and then transfer to a sealed container and put them into the fridge. They can be eaten for up to a month as long as they are kept in the fridge! Enjoy!

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I brought my cookies along during my hike with a friend and my dog on Runyon Canyon. Such a great hike on a beautiful Saturday morning! My friend (not typically a healthy food eater) LOVED the cookies! Go take a hike and bring the hiking cookies along with you!

Let’s pretend this is a panzanella

I lived in Italy this summer for five weeks and I ate a lot of pasta. There isn’t exactly a whole love of big veggie dishes in Italy (trust me, I searched) unless you’re on the coast. I’m spoiled and grew up in Southern California where we have arguably the best produce in the world. I eat tons of veggies, so this overdose of pasta was quite the culture shock. However, panzanella was an occasional awesome find. It’s basically a plethora of veggies that are grilled or cooked with some toasted pita or bread of some sort. I dig it.
I was feeling a little nostalgic of my travels through Italy and whipped up my own version of Panzanella! Mine is light, limited on the bread, and very flavorful considering how few ingredients it has. Whip it up, pour yourself a glass of red and pretend you’re sitting in a piazza in Florence!

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Panzanella
serves 1
ingredients
1 green bell pepper, thickly cut
1 zucchini, thickly cut
1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup chickpeas
1 whole wheat pita cut into 8 triangles
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons goat cheese

1. Put the olive oil into a pan and turn to medium heat. When the pan is hot, add in the first four ingredients along with 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and the dried basil. Toss the veggies with a spoon and let them cook for 7 minutes , stirring occasionally.
2. While the vegetables cook, heat the oven to 300 and assemble the pita pieces on a cookie sheet. Put them into the oven and cook for 5 minutes or until slightly crispy.
3. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, chickpeas and remainder of the salt to the veggies. Stir and cook for another 3 minutes.
4. Assemble the vegetables on a plate with the pita pieces around them. Sprinkle the goat cheese on top.

Don’t forget your glass of red! You aren’t in Italy until you have your wine!