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?

Cauliflower asparagus “risotto”

I didn’t make this with the intention of creating an alternative to risotto, it just happened that I accidentally did so in the process of simply trying to make dinner. 

This meal is incredibly filling. I paired it with a caprese salad and that was more than enough for dinner. It looks like it won’t be, but the high fiber cauliflower makes you much more full than equal amounts of rice would.

  
This recipe is easy, but the prep is a little time consuming so crack open a bottle of wine and invite a friend over to gossip as you chop, grate and dice away!

  
 

PS that caprese salad was for three people.. As is this recipe.

Cauliflower asparagus “risotto”

Serves 3

Ingredients:

1 head of cauliflower

8-10 stalks of skinny asparagus

1 shallot 

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds 

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 

Juice from 1/2 of a lemon

4 tablespoons olive oil (half used for cooking, half used for the sauce)

1/4 cup grated cheese: A harder cheese of your preference, one that melts well (I like using stinkier cheeses but you can use a mild one if you prefer. Real parmigiano reggiano would work or anything else you have lying around)

 Salt and pepper

1. Heat a large pan to medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. 

2. Chop the shallot and add it to the pan. Cook for 2 minutes. 

3. While the shallots cook, cut the bottom two inches off of the asparagus. Toss the ends. Chop the rest of the asparagus into 1 inch pieces. Add to the shallots and sprinkle with salt. Cook and stir while prepping the cauliflower.

4. Cut the leafy part off of the cauliflower. Grate the entire head using a cheese grater. Add this to the asparagus mixture.  

5. Sprinkle about half a teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper into the mixture. Drizzle another tablespoon of olive oil into the cauliflower. Stir the mixture around every 1-2 minutes. Cook for 8 minutes. 

6. Using a dry pan, toast the pumpkin seeds: Heat the pan to medium high and add the seeds. Shake the pan every 20 seconds or so. Only let the seeds toast for 1-2 minutes. They very quickly burn so make sure you don’t leave this pan until the seeds are done and you take them off of heat. 

7. Grate the cheese and stir into the cauliflower. Turn the heat off below the cauliflower.

8. Combine the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil with the Dijon mustard and lemon juice. Mix well and stir into the cauliflower. Stir in the toasted pumpkin seeds.

9. Salt and pepper the finished product to taste.

10. Pair a super light salad with this or a very small piece of meat. I really mean it when I say that this is surprisingly filling!

  
  
And make sure to eat it outside on a beautiful summer night with people you love! And wine, of course 🙂

My bitches (dogs..and cats) make me happy

People who own animals (particularly dogs) tend to be happier and healthier people. Because of the necessity of walking dogs, they make the owners more active and spend more time outside (which in turn gives you more vitamin D, which studies have found decreases risk of depression). They also make people happy simply by having the company of unconditional love that animals provide.

Fun fact: when a dog sees their owner, their brain releases the same hormones that are involved in our brains when we are in love. You are your dogs life. They love you. What else could anyone ask for?

I’ve had pets my entire life. We call our house “the Bates Zoo” because we’ve literally housed it all: 2 turtles, 2 doves, 5 dogs, countless finches, 3 fish and at least 10 cats. Right now we only have two dogs and two cats (which is a considerably smaller number considering our past amount of animals).

I can’t imagine living a life without animals. Actually I can. When I was in college, the majority of the time I didn’t have any pets. For a year and a half I had my cat, Sherlock, living with me but other than that, only humans inhabiting my apartments.

It wasn’t that it was awful not having animals, but it was lonely. I would wake up without a kitty sleeping next to my face and come home without dogs barking and jumping on top of me.

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This may sound strange, but my animals have provided me of so much through out the years. Coda (the dog I’m snuggling with above) is my dog that I’ve had since I was 9 years old. She’s my protector. We got her from a kill shelter when she was 8 months old. She had previously been abused and was a little skittish around people and other animals. After a while, she grew to love me and my family and become protective of us. Whenever I’m with Coda, I honestly feel safe.

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CODA THE ENFORCER!!! Kind of kidding. But I actually do feel safe when I’m home alone at night and she’s standing guard by my side.

And then there’s Rusty Roo.

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Rusty’s my love bug. She is the definition of pure and innocent happiness. As soon as I see Rusty’s little face stretched with a human like smile and her enormous booty partaking in a full body wiggle of happiness, any day is made 100000 times better. Everyone loves Rusty.

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She’s also a little sausage and about 15 pounds overweight, but that just means that there’s more of her to love.

Rusty is a semi-feral pup. Well, her mom was. My uncle found her mom on the 4th of July hiding in a dumpster. He took her in and realized a few weeks later (as she was giving birth to 10 puppies) that she was pregnant. 14 year old Autumn successfully convinced her mom to take one of the 8 week old pups in and no one has ever regretted that decision.

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Rusty Roo the Love Bug Guru.

Sherlie (Sherlock) was a feral kitten that I adopted from the pound when I was in school in Tucson.

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He was covered in fleas, ringworm and mites when I first got him. He had a rough little childhood going through multiple therapies to rid him of all his disease. Then when he was a year old he had a bad case of kidney stones and we thought he wasn’t going to survive. But we did everything we could to remedy him of the stones and now he’s disease free! He’s a feisty little snuggle puss full of personality. He’s lovey at night and in the morning when he sleeps right next to (and often on top of) my head. And during the day he chases the unrequited love of our other cat, Callie.

Sherlock made coming home after school to an often times empty apartment a lot more enjoyable.

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He’s also extremely photogenic and kind of a ham.

My animals make me happy. They give me a purpose on days when I have nothing else to do and provide me of ample love and laughter when I need it most.

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They need me. I need them.

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And even though my mom doesn’t like to admit it, she needs them too.

My animals make me happy which ultimately makes me healthier.

A win, win if you ask me.

The perfect little avocado toast

On Tuesday morning, I went to the farmers market in Torrance with my mom. We got there around 7:30 am even though it doesn’t open until 8, partly because we love farmers markets so much… But mostly because my mom wants to beat the crowds. 

We piled up our little cloth bags with fresh herbs, tomatoes, various sprouted beans, avocados, lettuces, fruit, potatoes… Everything. We loaded up the car with all of our goodies and drove home. There are three smells that are my absolute favorite smells.. 

1. The smell of what I deem “fake water”. You can usually smell it during the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Weird. I know. But I like it.

2. Lavender oil rubbed on the back of the wrists.

3. The smell of my car freshly filled with farmers market finds.

The compilation of herbs, fresh fruit and veggies is so aromatic and always makes me feel clean and healthy.

Anyway, fast forward to today when I’m walking home from work. Starved. I decided to pop into an organic bakery that I know uses their own sourdough starter (instead of active dry yeast) and buy a whole wheat loaf of sourdough bread. Using the compilation of goodies I got from thee market the other day… I came up with this!!

  
Avocado and sprouted mung bean toast

Serves 1

Ingredients

2 slices of whole wheat sourdough bread

1/2 an avocado

1 small handful of sprouted mung beans (or any other sprouted bean)

A tablespoon olive oil

1 cup mixed greens 

1. Preheat your oven to 350.

2. Put the bread in the oven for 2-4 minutes. Just until warm, but not toasted.

3. Spread the avocado equally over the two slices. Distribute the mung beans between the two toasts. Drizzle the olive oil on top of it all. Serve with the mixed greens.

Easy. Now go eat! 

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!

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? 

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”!