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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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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All the unnecessary thoughts floating in my mind while meditating on the beach

Today, I tried to meditate on the beach. I occasionally get bad day to day anxiety and my dad has been insisting that meditation would help with it so I thought I would give it a go. I’ve tried meditation before and I generally enjoy it when I’m able to remove thoughts from my mind, but getting to that point is really hard! Especially when your mind goes a million miles per second like mine does. With practice, I’m sure it will get a lot easier, but today was about 3% solid meditation and 97% random thoughts. IMG_5577 Case in point: While writing the above paragraph, I found it absolutely necessary to pause and take this picture of the beach with the little bird in profile. Jesus. I laid out my towel on the beach, sat with my legs crossed while facing the ocean, closed my eyes and attempted to simply focus on the air entering and leaving my body. The assortment of thoughts that entered my brain were similar to those of a dream. Just random. Jurassic Park entere my mind. Where would I hide from a t rex that was also inaccessible to a velociraptor. WHERE WOULD I HIDE??? While trying to push that thought out, I began to think of backpacks and how much weight I could hold. I mean, my books in college were pretty heavy. My computer weights about five pounds also… At some point my brain was talking in a british accent. I don’t know, maybe it just wanted to test it out? It was all very weird. But during that 3% of successful silence (finally), I felt physically quiet and at peace. There were no problems. There was no past and no future. No dinosaurs to hide from. No backpacks to carry. Just that moment. IMG_5581 My post meditation glow 🙂 I’m going to keep trying to meditate. Hopefully every day. Maybe I’ll get to the point where focusing on my breath and nothing else isn’t so hard. I don’t want to feel panicked or scared anymore for virtually no reason. That alone is enough to make me return to the beach and try to push away images of problems and random thoughts. To me, it’s worth the daily attempt.

Scraping your insides clean: Cleansing

The first few months of the new year is the time when people decide to get healthy. Usually this also means that they decide to do a cleanse in order to “reboot” before they (hypothetically) completely change their diet and lifestyle. Cleansing is a great idea if you’re doing it the right way and for the right reasons.

If all you want is to lose weight, DON’T cleanse. A successfully completed cleanse will only allow you to lose up to 3 pounds. If you lose anymore than this in such a short amount of time, it’s because you are literally starving your body and it’s using your muscles as energy instead, causing you to waste away. You don’t want to lose muscle. You want to lose fat. Fat won’t be lost through starvation, muscle will. To lose weight, you have to alter your diet and increase the exercise. Another post on that later.

Today we’re talking about cleansing in order to boost your health. If done properly, a cleanse can help boost your immune system, rid you of certain ailments, help with allergies and arthritis, cure bloating and many many other benefits.

There are many different ways to clean your body out to fit all sorts of lifestyles. I’m actually currently doing a three day cleanse through my job at Kreation Organics. You can do cleanses on your own and make fresh juices each day, but it can be tedious and it might just be easier to buy the juices (organic and raw, please!).

So, back to the types of cleanses:

1. All Juice:

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This type of cleanse generally has 6-8 16 oz juices that you drink through out the day. You drink juice and eat NOTHING. You can have as much (non-caffeinated) tea and water as you want as well. This type of cleanse is great because it gives your digestive system a total rest. Like any machine, if it is in constant use, then it will  break down. In today’s society, we are constantly snacking throughout the day and never really giving our GI tracts a break. A juice cleanse gives the GI tract a rest while still absorbing the important nutrients your body needs. This cleanse is kind of intense for beginners. It’s do-able, but be prepared to be incredibly hangry. PS, don’t do this cleanse for longer than 7 days. Ideally, you would do this for 3-7 days.

2. Juice and Food Cleanse:

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In this cleanse, you will drink 3-5 juices with one meal in the middle of the day. The idea is that you are still giving your body a good 20 hours of rest per day while still allowing yourself some substance. The meals you eat should follow “clean” guidelines. So no caffeine, alcohol, sugar, meat, etc. If you choose to do this type of cleanse and have more questions about what to eat at lunch, comment below or shoot me an email for more information!

This is the cleanse that I’m doing. I don’t want to lose any weight and I am choosing to still lightly work out so the higher calories work better for me. If you are a newbie to cleansing, have an active job or are still opting to work out, then this would be a good choice for you.

Since we’re on the topic of working out… Here are some general guidelines for working out while cleansing:

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1. Keep it light and simple. Don’t do heavy muscle workouts. Don’t run five miles. You’re taking in about half of the calories you normally would. Just use common sense. Workouts like a light jog, walking or yoga are all good ideas. Just don’t go all gym-rat on me and hit the gym at your normal pace. The action of working out breaks down your muscles. Normally, you would have enough protein and nutrients to build it back up. While cleansing, you don’t. So you end up just tearing down your muscle and not rebuilding it. This is not good. Just do me a favor, and keep it light and simple.

2. You should still be at least a little active. I know I said to keep it light and simple, but that doesn’t mean avoid exercise. You should still at the very least be walking about 5.000-10,000 steps.

My Cleanse:

Today is day one of my cleanse. Yay! I’m doing four juices plus a lunch. I’ve done cleanses before and had a terrible experience because I didn’t consume enough juices in general. I was BEYOND hangry the last few times of cleansing. I was the hulk and I was on the verge of smashing everything in sight. But the whole adding food thing really works for me. I’m still cleansing, the juices plus the water I’m drinking really fill me up and I’m not scary, hangry Autumn! I already feel less “icky” inside from this first day. I eat really well on a fairly regular basis already, so I’m not experiencing much of the “detox” symptoms, but some people may. This would be caused from drinking too much alcohol on a daily basis, consuming too many simple and refined sugars daily or depending on coffee to get your day going.

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I’m also taking a probiotic during this time to help restore my gut flora. This is always a good idea to implement into your daily life even when you’re not cleansing. Probiotics are a huge field in nutrition that are linked to curing or aiding in treatment for a wide range of diseases and ailments: Crohns, IBS, depression, allergies, nutrient absorption, etc.

I’ll be posting the next two days about my experience so you can understand what to expect during your own cleanse!

If you have any questions at all about cleansing, just comment below or email me at healthyfoodylife@gmail.com

Happy Cleansing!

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!