Things I’m Loving 3!

Click here to read Things I’m Loving 1! and Things I’m Loving 2!.

Now for Things I’m Loving 3!

1.) All your comments yesterday on my blog post about making good girlfriends as an adult. Thank you! It’s nice to see I’m not the only one struggling with this. Now, if we could just find an easy way for everyone to connect.

2.) This infographic I found on the web yesterday. I would never have understood this 6 months ago but I know it all too well now. Although we’ve yet to have that day in March, this is exactly how the seasons in New England feel.

Seasons Screengrab

[Source]

3.) Coconut Oil: I originally bought this to cook with but I’ve been reading a lot about the benefits of using coconut oil as a natural moisturizer. I love the idea of not putting a bunch of random chemicals and fragrances on my face so I thought I would give it a try. Turns out, I love it! Besides smelling amazing, it’s not as greasy as you’d expect, much less so than mineral oil. It makes my skin super soft and I might be making this up but I think it’s smoothing out some little wrinkles near my eyes too. It’s also unbelievably cheap. For $4.99 a jar you get months of moisturizer.

There are a ton of articles on the benefits and other uses for coconut oil. Here’s just one.

One caveat: I have extremely dry skin so I found this perfect. If you have oily or combo skin you’ll have to experiment with whether it’s too much.

trader joe's coconut oil

4.) The Soda Stream!

Michael and I love bubbly water. We used to buy 12 huge bottles every time we went to the store. Not only was it a pain to lug all those bottles upstairs, it’s wasteful and not very green. We bought a Soda Stream a few months ago and haven’t looked back since. It’s not cheap, we bought ours for about $120 at Bed, Bath and Beyond and the CO2 cartridges run about $30 a pop. We get about 30 bottles out of one cartridge averaging out to about a dollar per bottle. Pretty much the same as if you buy it at the store. But the ease and the green factor completely outweigh the costs. If you love bubbly you may want to consider it.

Soda Stream

5.) Writing for WalkJogRun. In the past couple of days I’ve shared two articles with their readers and thought you might like them too.

The first is how to pick the right yoga class for you. It’s a brief overview of the different styles and how to find the right studio and teacher. Check it out if you’re interested in yoga but feel overwhelmed by all the options.

yoga

The second is a smoothie recipe. Really refreshing and light!

breakfast smoothie

6.) A couple of weeks ago we saw the jazz band People vs. Larsen play. They were really good and are on Itunes. They are Brooklyn based so if you live in the NYC area check out their performance schedule.

People vs Larsen

That’s it for today’s list.

Enjoy and Exhale!

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Homemade Peanut Butter and Friendships

Last night I had some new girlfriends over. We ate cheese and crackers and veggies and delicious banana bread. We also drank wine while complaining about the weather and how hard it is to make good girlfriends as you get older. Over the past couple years I’ve heard this complaint a lot, from both myself and the ladies I’ve met and it doesn’t seem to be specific to Boston either.

When we are no longer in school with ample time to “hang out” but instead work full-time or take care of children all day it leaves little time for friendship. Seems we’re all yearning for more friends and yet we can’t figure out how to connect. Add a move and a new city to the mix and it makes it all the more difficult.

Plain and simple, as an adult it can be hard to make new friends!

It requires time and effort to develop close friendships and I’ll admit, it can be also be somewhat uncomfortable. It’s almost like a first date, meeting a friend of a friend for coffee or a perfect stranger for a yoga class, where I’m not really sure if we have enough in common to hang out but decide to try anyway. It can leave me feeling a little insecure as I wistfully think of my friends back home. But, then I remember that at some point they too were new friends. They were the awkward meet up for a run or book club or cocktail that grew into these deep, lasting friendships. And that keeps me optimistic.

I can never tell how much is too much to share here. Whether I shouldn’t write about this kind of stuff because it might make me sound childish and whiny. But then I think if I’m having this problem and many of the other women I’ve met are feeling them same, then maybe I’ll just be open about it. I’ll risk seeming less than blog perfect (ha!) if it opens up a dialog and makes us all feel less like we’re the only ones. If you happen to have all the friends you need then I’m a little envious and please ignore the above.

I wish at the end of this ramble I could give a solution. Like a fool-proof app where you could punch in a couple of criteria and presto you’d have 5 new best friends. I don’t have that app. 😦

What I do have is peanut butter. The fool-proof kind where you dump it all into a processor  and presto, you have a new best friend!

See how that worked? The perfect segue from friends to peanut butter in less than 30 words.

This recipe is not ground breaking. There are plenty of homemade peanut butter recipes out there, I’d just never tried any myself. Our last jar of store-bought peanut butter looked like this today.

peanut butter

So, I figured now was as good a time as any to try it. The process couldn’t be simpler and calculating the cost, making my own was about a $1 cheaper. Not a huge sum but I like the idea of being able to adjust the salt and am looking forward to mixing a couple of different kinds of nuts and flavorings together for tailor-made nut butters.

Homemade Peanut Butter (vegan, gluten-free)

1 16 oz bag of unsalted peanuts

1/2 tsp salt

————

Add peanuts and salt to your food processor.

peanut butter 1 minute

Run the processor for about 4-5 minutes until peanut butter is smooth. Scrap down the sides if necessary.

Peanut butter 3 minutes

Makes one jar. Store in the fridge.

homemade peanut butter 1

Enjoy and Exhale!

Lentils and Rice

This box of spanish rice has been my nemesis forever. I bought it at least a year ago when we were still living in Noe Valley. I have no idea why I bought it. Maybe for burritos or taco salads? Whatever it was for, it wasn’t used. We gave away almost all our food before the move and yet, it somehow found its way into the moving boxes, all the way across the country and back into our new kitchen just to stare me down for another 6 months. Resilient little bugger.

spanish rice

Yesterday it finally met it’s fate!

lentils and rice

Work is crazy for Michael right now as he prepares for a big meeting at the end of the month. Knowing he would be working late again last night I thought I’d make him something that would only get better with a little time in the fridge. Plus, he’d asked for a veggie stew this weekend and I didn’t make it for him so I used this to make it up to him.

I love the combo of rice and lentils and it was also the easiest recipe I’ve made in a long time. Saute veggies with spices, add lentils and rice, add liquid, done. I actually made and photographed a smoothie for a WalkJogRun article while this was cooking.

Feel free to add whatever rice you have on hand you absolutely do not need this specific box of rice but if you’re like me and have one hanging around, it might be a great time to finally use it.

Lentils and Rice (vegan, gluten-free)

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

1 broccoli stalk, diced

1/2 jalapeño with seeds, diced

2 tbsp minced garlic

1 tsp salt

1/2 tbsp turmeric

1 tbsp cumin

1 tbsp chili powder

1 box spanish rice and half flavor packet

1 can diced tomatoes

1 1/2 cup green lentils

2 cups veggie broth

3 cups water

————

Heat olive oil over high heat and saute vegetables until soft. Add garlic, salt, turmeric, cumin and chili powder, saute another minute.

veggies and spices

sauteed veggies

Add rice, flavor packet, diced tomatoes, lentils, veggie broth and water to the vegetable mixture.

rice and lentils

Cook over medium high heat for 20-25 minutes or until all liquid has evaporated.

lentils and rice

I ate my plain. Michael told me this morning that he made sandwiches out of his and topped the mixture with cheese. He also brought it to my attention that I made A LOT of it, which is very true. If you’d like to make a smaller portion, cut the lentils and rice in half. You’ll also want to reduce the water to 1 cup.

lentils and rice

lentils and rice

Enjoy and Exhale!

Keeping Up Appearances

On Friday night I met my friend Kristy at a bar near downtown for happy hour. It was definitely an after work kind of place with lots of guys in suits and girls in pearls. Most of which were checking emails while having a much-needed drink and talking to their co-workers. True multi-taskers.

Trade

While looking around at everyone, I mentioned to Kristy that one of the disadvantages of working from home and teaching for a living is that I never really get dressed anymore. Not even just dressed up, I mean dressed. I spend all my time in yoga pants with my hair in a bun. I haven’t worn more than a little mascara in months, my blow dryer died two weeks ago and I’ve yet to replace it and the only laundry I’m ever doing is spandex and sports bras. It’s become a problem.

Part of the problem is that I save my workouts for the afternoons, after I’ve written a blog post or an article. Which puts off doing my hair or showering or any of the other things normal people do in the morning. It’s left me feeling rather disheveled, frumpy and lazy.

Time for an intervention.

This morning, right out of the gates, I laced up my new, very awesome running shoes and headed out for a run with the pups. It was a cold morning but it felt really good to be out and about that early. We made a loop by the river and then came through the Commons. We did about 4 moderately paced miles (I didn’t actually track it) with a little time spent saying hi to all the other dogs out for their morning walks.

Morning run

Spring is coming, I don’t care what anyone says.

Eli

We stopped off at the grocery store afterward to grab green smoothie fixings and some peanuts, more on that later this week.

Once home, I showered, changed into real clothes, straightened my hair, put on some makeup and felt like a new woman.

These are obviously not ground breaking events, nor really all that blog worthy, except that they made such a big difference in my day and helped to remind me that keeping up appearances shouldn’t be for the sake of someone else. Looking good can just be for you!

Eli and Me

And maybe the dog, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t care that I straightened my hair!

With that, off to make some food. I have a bunch of new recipes I want to try out. I’m hopeful that some will be good enough to share this week.

Happy Monday.

Enjoy and Exhale!

Asparagus with Maple Tahini Dressing

Weekend post! So rare for me but I wanted to share.

Last week I created a veggie side dish featuring asparagus for WalkJogRun. I roasted the asparagus because it is still winter after all, then paired it with a lightly sweet, incredibly lovely maple tahini dressing that had me licking the bowl clean.

If you’re interested, you can find the recipe here or click on the first photo I’ve ever taken that I’m actually proud of! Progress is progress, no matter how small.

Vegetable Spotlight: Asparagus

Hope you’re having a relaxing St. Patty’s Day.

Enjoy and Exhale!

Two for the Price of One

I didn’t mean for a whole week to disappear without a recipe. This post was actually written yesterday but just as I was going to upload the pictures our wireless router crapped out.  After chatting with Comcast and buying a new router we weren’t back online until late last night. Oh well, today you get two recipes for the price of one!

Just kidding, everything’s free here. But you still get two recipes.

While out on a walk yesterday morning I stopped in at Starbucks. The line was really long so I turned back around after only a few seconds of waiting. However, as I was leaving the barista yelled “blueberry muffin” to someone and that got my empty stomach growling. I walked the rest of the way home mentally checking off the ingredients for my blueberry muffins, check, check, check, eh, wait, no gf flour or blueberries. Sort of key ingredients.

Plan B, improvise. I swapped the blueberries for strawberries which was easy enough as I have a huge bag of frozen ones in my freezer. But, finding a gf flour sub seemed unlikely, until I remembered a bag of Bob’s Red Mill GF Pancake mix that’s been hanging around for a while. Perfect! I think?

Turns out, yes, perfect, better than actually. I prefer these muffins to the original version although I would probably swap the blueberries back in or add them in addition to the strawberries. I also just noticed that I forgot the flaxseed to this version. To be honest, it doesn’t seem to have mattered in the least so we’ll keep it out.

strawberry gluten free muffins

Apologies for the lack of pictures. I was rather absent-minded about it until the batter was already mixed.

Strawberry Muffins (vegan, gluten-free)

1/2 cup gf oat flour

1/4 cup gf oats, whole

1/4 cup almond meal

1 cup gluten-free pancake mix (I used Bob’s Red Mill)

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

2 bananas, mashed

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup almond milk

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup strawberries, cut into bite size pieces

————

Preheat the oven to 375.

In a large mixing bowl, combine oat flour, oats, almond meal, gluten-free pancake mix, baking powder and salt.

Next add brown sugar, melted coconut oil, mashed bananas, vanilla, milk and apple cider vinegar to the dry ingredients.

Stir until well incorporated.

gluten free strawberry muffin batter

Lastly, fold in chopped strawberries.

Grease a muffin tin. Fill each cupcake hole about 3/4 of the way up.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

strawberry muffins

Yields 8 muffins.

vegan strawberry muffins vegan strawberry muffins

Okay, that’s one but I promised you two. This recipe is for all you runners. With spring springing and longer runs on the horizon I put together an all-natural, preservative and dye-free energy gel over at WalkJogRun. I used chia seeds as the base and offer a couple of suggestions for mix-ins. Check it out if you’re looking for an alternative to those neon colored gums and goos.

chia seed energy gel

Alright, that’s it for me today. More articles to write, a house to clean and a gym to get to.

Have a wonderful weekend.

As always, Enjoy and Exhale!

Wednesday in Boston

A little quiet around here today because something unexpected happened…

sunshine

…the sun came out!

Oh beautiful, warm, bright sun. Welcome back to my life.

So what if it’s only 48 degrees and I’m still in my winter coat and this is the only warm day in the 7 day forecast. So what! We’re living in the moment and this moment isn’t freezing.

Blue sky above.

Boston

Outside seating set up (a bit prematurely if you ask me).

boston

And four very muddy puppy paws, happy from a long walk by the river.

eli

Tomorrow recipes. I just couldn’t stay inside today.

Enjoy and Exhale!

Hippie Life: Juice and Meditation

I realize that sometimes this blog makes me seem like a free-loving, bell bottom wearing hippie with all its yoga and veggie talk. This post will do nothing to dissuade you of that assumption. I’ve come to peace with that!

Today’s post is about juice and meditation. Both of which have been pretty non-existent in my life lately.

First, the juice:

I can’t remember the last time I dusted off my juicer. I definitely go in phases with it. Sometimes having 3-4 a week, then waiting weeks before I use it again. This morning I looked in the fridge and realized I had a lot of odds and ends sitting around. This is going to sound ridiculous but I take great pleasure in using up the random broccoli stalks, the last cup of kale or the other half of the pear I didn’t eat with breakfast yesterday. There’s a feeling of accomplishment that comes with finishing the food I buy and knowing it won’t go to waste. Sort of like checking off a to-do list.

Luckily, all those bits and pieces ended up making the perfect juice and drinking it out of a wine glass made it all the better.

green juice

Here’s the “recipe”.

1/2 an orange, 1 lemon, 1/2 a pear, 1 big handful of kale, 1 broccoli stalk, 1 cucumber, small knob of ginger, small piece of jalapeno.

Fresh, bright, green goodness. Now, if only I didn’t have to clean the juicer.

Second up, meditation:

I’ll be honest, I don’t have a meditation practice. I want to. I know it would be beneficial but I can’t seem to find the self-discipline, which is incredibly frustrating because I have loads of self-discipline in many other aspects of my life. I have little problem with eating well, exercising often, getting enough sleep. I don’t know why sitting still and clearing out the chatter is so hard for me.

Then, last week, I ran across this on Twitter. A 21-day meditation challenge presented by one of my favs, Oprah! I actually ignored it the first time I saw it, but then it surfaced again two days later elsewhere on the web. It got me thinking that maybe the universe was telling me something. So I signed up and did my first guided practice yesterday.

meditation challenge

The whole meditation took about 15 minutes and wasn’t nearly as hard as it usually is when I go it alone. I’m going to try really hard to complete the whole thing and will report back when I’m through. If you’re interested you can still sign up and start with yesterday’s practice today. If you decide to try, let me know how it goes for you.

With that, this hippie is off the drink her juice, do some yoga and clear her mind. Om shanti.

Enjoy and Exhale!

Weekend: This and That

Oh daylight savings, how I love thee. I know this morning was rough but how nice is it to have extra sunlight in the evenings? I taught at 4:30 yesterday afternoon and it was still light when the class let out! So wonderful.

Not in the mood to write a long post so here are just a few highlights of the weekend.

I went out of my way to get a nice wine for us to drink last week at a little wine shop right by Sangha. I spent 15 minutes talking with the wine people (are they considered sommeliers in wine shops or just restaurants?) I was told this would be perfect for our combined preferences of Pinot Noir (him) and Zinfandel (hers). We were sorely disappointed by this wine but the label was cute enough to share and aptly named, as some of this little troublemaker ended up on our couch.

troublemaker wine

Dinner with my friend Naina at the Beehive in the South End. I love that place, we’ve been at least 5 times! Probably should branch out and try some other restaurants in the neighborhood though.

Naina and Me

Mezze platter. Dip lovers dream. 7 dips on one plate!

mezze platter

We went to see a friend’s play.

The Lover Play

I did some yoga in our living room. Pincha mayurasana.

pincha mayurasana

Vrischikasana attempt. Still working on it.

Vrischikasana

We went on a 3.5 mile run an 8:29 pace. Then stopped in at Pavement Coffee while Eli waited patiently outside. Such a good boy.

Eli

Finally had a chance to take Michael to The Hawthorne for a drink and some nibbles.

bar nibbles

He hates this picture. I love it. I write the blog so I get to post it! 🙂

Michael

And with that, we’re back to Monday and everyone is pooped.

Eli napping under the table

Enjoy and Exhale!

Coconut Milk Whipped Cream with Vegan Hot Chocolate

This morning Michael and I were talking about what I should write about today. He was rather unhelpful, although very cute, with his only suggestion being that it wasn’t a Things I’m Loving kind of day. I agreed mostly because I currently have just three things on my newest list. One of which is this book that I really want to talk about. Have you read it? It’s crazy messed up.

Gone Girl

Without being any closer to deciding what to post today, Michael heads off the work and I watch him clean off the car…

cleaning off the car

…for a really long time. Then I start to feel cold just watching him and decide it’s time for some hot chocolate.

Now, in a normal world the recipe title would be the other way around. This would be a post about hot chocolate and the whipped cream would be the icing on the cake, haha. But the hot chocolate part is neither here nor there, to be honest I’m still perfecting the recipe. It’s really the whipped cream that steals this show. But I can’t do write a post all about whipped cream, can I?

Maybe I can, but you’ll get the hot chocolate recipe as a bonus. If you’re a lover of whipped cream, make this! It’s like a natural, tastier, more delicious version of cool whip. Put it on cake, on ice cream, eat it straight from the bowl she says, while taking a big spoonful between typing these words. Whatever which way, it’s worth trying soon.

Coconut Milk Whipped Cream with Vegan Hot Chocolate (vegan, gluten-free)

For the whipped cream:

1 can full fat coconut milk, make sure it’s full fat, no light stuff here

3 tablespoons powdered sugar

splash of vanilla extract

For the hot chocolate:

1 cup almond milk

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

1-2 tablespoons maple syrup, depending on your preferred sweetness level

splash of vanilla extract

pinch of salt

———–

First things first, place a can of full fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight upside. Don’t skip this step.

The next morning open the can (right side up). Drain liquid into a separate container for another time. You’ll be left with the coconut milk solids.

coconut milk solids

Spoon the solid coconut milk into a mixing bowl.

coconut milk solids

Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until it resembles whipped cream, about 1 minute.

coconut whipped cream coconut whipped cream

Once whipped cream is done, warm milk, cocoa, maple syrup, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan. Whisk, bring to a low boil and remove from heat.

vegan chocolate milk

Pour into a mug and top with whipped cream.

vegan hot chocolate coconut milk whipped cream and vegan hot chocolate

Enjoy while staring out at the snow or your boyfriend cleaning off the car.

Enjoy and Exhale!