Disclaimer: you will laugh after trying this.

There was this really stupid/awesome thing I used to do as a joke with my friends when I was a junior in high school. We would Try and laugh with out smiling. I mean genuinely laugh without smiling.

$1 says you’re trying it right now as you read this.

It’s harder than it sounds!

Here’s the beginning of this whole “laugh without smiling” thing:

The year was 2008. I died my hair brown. I thought I was super trendy. I wore weird hats and scarves. I also tried to laugh without smiling with my friends. The result was awesome.

Just notice how in this video, us trying to laugh without smiling ultimately leads to a genuine laugh. It’s almost impossible not to burst out laughing when you try this technique.

Laughing makes you happy. It lowers stress. It’s therapeutic.

You might feel like an idiot while doing this, but you won’t if you make your friends do it with you as well. Up to this day, almost every person I’ve ever met, no matter how shy or reserved or serious they may be, crack a genuine smile when I challenge them to this.

I always used this as an ice breaker or something funny to do when out with my friends, but it hit me the other day that this is actually an amazingly therapeutic exercise for stress release!

Try it with your friends! Challenge someone to laugh without smiling! Best case scenario, you feel great and relieved of some stress. Worse case scenario, you end up laughing. It’s a win-win in my opinion.

So… can you laugh without smiling? Can you?

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Conquer this.

It’s been a while.

I made my way through 14 countries and over 30 cities in Europe for two months over the summer. It was a crazy ride and something I’ve always wanted to do.

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Have you ever completed something that you’ve always wanted to do or see or experience? Sometimes you’re lucky enough to have it be everything you’ve imagined. This trip was that for me.

The one downside to having the life experience you’ve always wanted… What do you do after it’s over?

I went through a weird stage for a couple of weeks where I didn’t feel part of the picture back home. I was there, but I was just going through the motions. It was as if I wasn’t fully committed to anything I did because I knew I would wake up and be back on a rock in Loch Ness or free diving for sea urchins in Cinque Terre.

But this reality of being back home IS really life. One day, in a haze of under-appreciation of my current situation, I snapped out of it. I needed to get my life, my REAL life, back together.

I didn’t have much of an opportunity to workout while I was in Europe and eating healthy was a constant struggle (except that the app Happy Cow definitely saved me a few times) so I was out of shape. This probably contributed to my ghostly presence back home. I forgot about my passion for everything health, fitness and competition.

I slipped on my running shoes that had mostly only been recently used for traversing foreign streets and headed down to the strand for my first run.

It.

Was.

Miserable.

I haven’t been this out of shape since I started seriously working out 7 years ago. My chest was on fire and my muscles ached. I stopped after only a mile and nearly fainted on the ground.

Plenty of people have similar experiences like mine where you lose your way and try and find it back again. Whether it be having kids, a family loss, a big move, divorce or a new job…The initial struggle is discouraging and makes you wonder how you ever got past this in the first place. The important thing to remember is that you got past this before, you can do it again.

That was my mantra during my sad little one mile runs for the first few weeks. And then one day I pushed myself to two miles. It was hard, but I made it. And then a week went by, and I added in an extra half mile. My legs were screaming, but I pushed through it. My mom told me that while she was getting into running shape, she used me as her inspiration(click here for the full story). She said that if I could run 26.2 miles with no food, no sleep but a whole lot of will and determination, she could finish her extra 6 blocks of running.

My mom’s a smart lady. What’s that quote? Something about half the battle is with your own mind? I’m probably getting it terribly wrong, but you get the idea. My mom reminded me in that moment, yes, the pain is real and yes, it is going to be hard… but you can do it.

I’m not back into the shape I was before I left, but I decided to challenge myself and start training for speed, not distance. I signed up for my first 5k in a very long time to set the time bar and start my competition with myself again.

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I’m competing in this weekends “Conquer Our Run” 5k in Manhattan Beach. For any of you locals, come run with me or cheer me on as I attempt to get my groove back! And for any of you who have lost your health and fitness way, come join me! The first step is the hardest but making any move (whether it be graceful or not!) is better than no move at all.

See you at the start line 🙂

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Matcha… Yuck-a

Today’s my day off from work. Most of my friends have real jobs so they can’t hang out with me when I have free time… So I do a lot of activities by myself. I try out new coffee shops, I go for runs, I spend all day cooking/writing and occasionally binge watching shows like An Idiot Abroad, Game of Thrones or Friends. 

I was that kind of paralyzing bored today where you feel like absolutely nothing can entertain you and you end up just sitting on the couch all day moaning about how bored you are. It’s a vicious cycle. I know it’s a viscous cycle. So on my third episode of The Ricky Gervais show, I forced myself off of the couch and made my way down to a coffee shop the next town over that I’ve never tried. The only cure for boredom is to do something you’ve never done before. Trying a matcha latte would be my thing to do today. 

  

Perfect!! It looks so pretty and it’s so healthy that it MUST taste good too, right?!

Wrong.

I was really excited when I grabbed my pretty little cup of green from the barista. I sat down, took my picture and then sipped away. I was greeted with a chalky texture and earthy flavor. The flavor I actually didn’t mind so much, the texture is what bummed me out.

  

I knew that matcha was green tea powder but I just didn’t expect it to taste like powder. It left a green mustache on my upper lip that I wasn’t aware of for a solid five minutes.

  

Notice my little green ‘stache? My mom did. She thought it was funny to keep me in the dark for a bit while I chatted away, looking like I made out with the hulk. 

After I got past the initial powdery shock, it actually tasted kind of good. Like milky green tea. I still probably wouldn’t order it again, despite being high in antioxidants, trace minerals and certain vitamins. 

But I gave it a go. That’s all I can ask of myself as well as of anyone else. 

  

It really does make for a pretty picture though, doesn’t it? 

A bagel every now and then isn’t that bad…

Happy Veteran’s Day, everyone! I hope you celebrated it with someone who served our country or at least said thank you to someone who did 🙂

As some of you know, I’m training for another half-marathon. One of the many benefits of running an obscene amount of miles each week is that you get to eat a little (lot) more. And I love to eat. I usually make a ridiculously healthy smoothie or chia seed pudding (recipe coming very soon) or almond butter pancake for breakfast, but every now and then… I need a bagel. This morning was one of those days. Before my workout, I stopped off at my local coop and picked up an everything bagel that they make in house. I feel at least a little better about myself if I buy a bagel made from organic and local ingredients. I tried to make this little bad boy as healthy as possible so everything is organic, local and fresh!  You might think I’m being ridiculous by saying this serves 2 with only one bagel… but this bagel is really loaded. You’ll only want 1/2 of it. And even if you are still hungry, just eat the second half! No one has to know!

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Loaded Breakfast Bagel Sandwich

serves 2

Ingredients

1 everything bagel

1 cream cheese packet or about 2 tablespoons of cream cheese (I used an organic one)

2 eggs, scrambled

8 slices of cucumber

1/4 of an avocado, sliced into four thin slices

2 slices of red onion, or about 2 tablespoons finely chopped

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1. Cut the bagel in half, straight down the center, then turn it on it’s side and cut it down the middle forming four equal pieces.

2. Prepare all of your vegetables while you toast your bagel pieces (it’s easier to use a toaster oven for this one. If you only have a regular toaster, don’t cut the bagel in half or it’ll get lost in the toaster!) and cook your eggs.

3. When the bagel is toasted and the eggs are cooked, start to assemble the breakfast sando. First, spread the cream cheese on one side of the bagel. Then add all of the vegetables on this same side. On the other side, layer the egg pieces.

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4. Now comes the tricky part.. hold onto your egg pieces on the bagel and flip it over on top of other half of the bagel. Now you’re ready to eat this masterpiece! Just make sure you hold the insides in while you take bites… it’s a pretty big mouthful.

Falling in love with fall… quinoa and pine nut stuffed acorn squash

Fall is by far my favorite season. A little biased? Maybe. But some of the tastiest and most complex food comes from this season. The squashes, root veggies and cruciferous plants!! All some of my faves. The common theme between all of these is that they taste absolutely incredible when roasted. Each different veggie has such a unique flavor that develops during the roasting process. Yams become sweeter, cauliflower becomes earthy-er and spaghetti squash becomes.. spaghetti (another post on that later this month)!

Roasting these veggies on their own is good… but stuffing them with some other awesome ingredients… even better!!

Acorn squash has a super ridiculously low glycemic load (4 on a scale that goes up to 250) which is good because it won’t give you high insulin spikes that cause a crash later on. It’s also known to be packed with magnesium, vitamin A, folate, vitamin B6, manganese, potassium and vitamin C. Plus, only 56 calories for a cup of the stuff.

Quinoa, as we know, is a complete protein which will help make you fuller faster.

This is a great side dish to meat, or a main meal if you pair it with some cooked veggies. Try it out!

 

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Baked quinoa and pine nut stuffed acorn squash

ingredients

1 small acorn squash
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup quinoa
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 teaspoons butter
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

 

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Cut the acorn squash in half. Once you’ve cut it in half, take each part and cut about 1/2 inch off of the end so that it can stand up.

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3. Scoop the seeds out of the squash and drizzle the inside of both halves with olive oil. Then sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt into both halves as well. Put this into the oven for 25-35 minutes, depending on how big your squash is. Mine was really small so it only took 25 minutes.

4. While the squash cooks, put your quinoa into a pot with 1 cup water. Cover and turn the heat to medium high until it starts to boil. Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium low and cook for 20 minutes.

5. When the quinoa is done cooking, sprinkle the garlic powder, remaining salt and butter into the pot with the heat off. Stir to combine.

6. Next, toast the pine nuts. Take a small, dry sauce pan and put it over medium high heat. Pour the pine nuts into the pan and constantly stir the nuts by shaking the pan. These burn VERY quickly so you can’t walk away from them. It should only take about 45 seconds to get properly toasted (if the pan is hot enough when you put them in).

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This is how the pine nuts will look when they are done.

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A shot of how the pine nuts and the acorn squash look when they are both done cooking.

7. Stir the toasted pine nuts into the quinoa.

8. Flip the acorn squash over so that the cut side is now facing up and put it onto your serving plate. Scoop the quinoa out of the pan and equally fill each half of the squash with the quinoa and you are ready to eat!

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**This also tastes great with some finely chopped and sauteed veggies mixed in with the quinoa, like broccoli, zucchini or cauliflower.

**Feel free to add a meat into the quinoa mixture as well. Just make sure it’s already cooked when you add it in and that it is chopped into small pieces!

 

 

The oh-so-Paleo butter in coffee thing. What, Why and how it tastes

My friend, Christine, actually was the first one to tell me about butter in coffee. We were laying out on the beach one day over the summer when she told me about it. It sounded so bizarre and disgusting that I disregarded it as a rumor and we went on with my day. It wasn’t until last week when I was reading The Skimm (awesome daily emails about world news) and it mentioned “bulletproof coffee” being a thing.

1 cup coffee+2 tablespoons (or more) grass-fed butter+1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil=Bulletproof Coffee (of course, blended up in a blender… or else it’s just a goopy mess of butter sitting on top of your coffee)

This drink is supposed to replace your breakfast… just saying.

After I saw it mentioned by a pretty reputable site, I looked more into it. I found a bunch of videos about how to make it and the benefits of it. I also found other websites saying it was a terrible idea and no one should be doing this. Basically, the whole idea behind it is to create a drink that contains the essential fatty acids your body needs from the grass-fed butter and coconut oil in order to have lasting energy as well as caffeine to give you a little boost without a crash. Here’s a little summary of both sides from my research:

The Butter Lovers Argument:

With “Bullet Proof Coffee” you’re using grass-fed butter which has the “best” ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids. Having an optimal omega 6 to 3 ratio can decrease your risk of many lifestyle diseases such as cardiovascular disease. Butter also contains Butyrate, a short chain fatty acid, which used to be considered bad for you. Now, this fatty acid has been found to be anti-inflammatory and reduce your risk of CVD. Because of the addition of fats from the grass-fed butter and coconut oil, bullet proof coffee provides lasting energy (about 6 hours worth) without the crash often associated with regular coffee.

(If you want to read more about this argument, check out Women’s Health Magazine’s article on Bulletproof coffee)

The Anti-Greasy Coffee Proponents Argument:

Replacing your meal with this coffee means your missing out on a lot of essential nutrients. In fact, 1/3 of your essential nutrients if you’re used to eating 3 meals a day. You don’t get any fiber, only 1 gram of protein and the rest is fat. Yeah, eating this much fat will satiate you (it IS about 400 calories per cup of this stuff…), but it won’t satisfy your daily nutrient needs. Another point is that even though saturated fat has been found to not be linked with heart disease, it doesn’t mean you should be drinking a liquid concoction of it in place of your regular meal. No studies have been done on eating excessive amounts of saturated fat so no one really knows what could happen at such mega-doses. For example, just because you find out that broccoli decreases your risk of cancer, it doesn’t mean you should be consuming it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The body requires many nutrients from a variety of foods and when you don’t supply it of that, you’ll find yourself in a diseased state.

(if you want to read more about this argument, check out Authority Nutrition’s article about Bulletproof Coffee)

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After reading up about it, I had an idea of how I felt about the health benefits, but I wanted to taste it first before I set my mind to my opinion on the whole matter.

So I brewed up some organic coffee beans (freshly ground minutes before I made it), I pulled out my Vitamix and blended all that fat and coffee together. It looked just like a regular latte, minus the foamy top. Then the moment of truth came… and I tasted it.

At first, it didn’t taste that bad. It definitely was rich and “buttery”, but it mostly just tasted like coffee with excessive amounts of cream. But then I kept drinking it. My mouth had such a gross, coating all over it halfway through drinking the coffee that I couldn’t even finish it. I’m used to eating a higher fat diet with butter and coconut oil, but this was just too much. My stomach felt… icky. I mean, I did have energy but I also felt like I wanted to vomit.

I gave it a fair shot, but it wasn’t for me. Personally, I don’t believe that eating excessive amounts of anything in a normal diet is a good idea. I’ve learned way too much from all my nutrition research classes about how high amounts of almost anything, even the really “healthy” stuff, can cause your body to enter into a diseased state of some sort for me to believe that this drink is good for you. Your body needs a variety of nutrients in order to function and when you replace a healthy meal (not a bowl of coco puffs with milk… an actual healthy MEAL) with a drink that has only a few types of nutrients, your missing out on a lot. But who knows? Maybe if you make up for it throughout the day by eating really well all across the board, you’ll be fine. I personally would rather give myself a high fat, high protein smoothie with a clean latte. I mean, it doesn’t leave that coating inside your mouth and still gives you the high quality fat your body needs as well as that caffeine boost that you sometimes require.

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And it just looks prettier..but I might be biased 🙂

My dad creates recipes too: dads paleo granola

My dad rarely gets involved with the kitchen. If he does, he’s making crazy weird experimental smoothies that he thinks are delicious but the rest of my family semi gags over. But today, while visiting me at school for my last family weekend ever (side note-I graduate in December–yayayayay!!), he comes up with this little gem. I’m not a huge paleo advocate, but my dad really digs it. This recipe is uber paleo friendly and it’s really tasty too with minimal sugar. The only real sugar involved is in the dates. But you guys have got to try this one out.

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I don’t know if you guys have heard of the whole butter in coffee thing… but I think it’s strange. It just sounds unappetizing. Paleo peeps love their butter, so this recipe has a little butter involved. Not as much as my dad wanted, but I made him compromise with me over the amount.
This recipe is great for a little pick me up to help hold you over between meals. Packed with healthy fats and protein! And make sure to use grass fed organic butter- we don’t want any nasty hormones in our recipe!

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Dads paleo granola
ingredients
1/2 cup almond butter
3 tablespoons butter (weird, I know)
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 tablespoons of the following:
-macadamia nuts
-walnuts
-pumpkin seeds
-pecans
-pistachios
-cacao nibs
1/2 cup coconut flakes
5 dates, pitted and chopped
1 tablespoon cinnamon
A pinch of salt

1. Finely chop the nuts and seeds.
2. Combine EVERYTHING into a large mixing bowl.
3. Cover a pie pan with parchment paper and pour the mixture into the pan.
4. Put into the freezer for at least an hour then transfer to the fridge and enjoy!!