Acupuncture and a Weekend Getaway

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Last weekend, I went to visit my dad at his place on Lake Wallenpaupack, in Pennsylvania. As you can imagine, it was quite serene –  the anti-city if you will. It was also awesome to see my dad and spend some time with him and Pesty.

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The day before we were supposed to leave for Pennsylvania, Justin hurt his back – only for it to get worse the morning of our trip. Now I’ve had a pretty crappy back since I threw it out in gym class in the eighth grade. For those of you who’ve had spasms and back problems, you understand how crippling this can be. The last time I threw my back out was in December when I banged myself up pretty badly while skiing, a week before I was supposed to drive down to Florida to visit my mom for the holidays. Just around that time, Justin, too, injured his neck while snowboarding. So, after waiting for our bodies to heal, we woke up the day of our Florida road trip feeling little difference from the week before. I’d never been to an acupuncturist before, and if I’d known then what I learned that day, I could have saved myself a great deal of aggravation. A GREAT deal of aggravation. I left the office that December morning proclaiming I’d be back every 30 days for some upkeeping, but I had let life get in the way and hadn’t been back…until a week ago.

Me after acupuncture and cupping (please pay no attention to my 90's tramp stamp...)
Me after acupuncture and cupping (please pay no attention to my 90’s tramp stamp…)

I accompanied Justin to his appointment, and, although I was feeling fine, I was treated too, just because of its powerful benefits to the human body, and because I didn’t make good on my promise to come back monthly. Needless to say, Justin felt much better and we hit the road.

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Some of the beneficial effects of acupuncture:

  • Dilates the blood vessels, improving the circulation and relieving stagnation throughout the body
  • Increases the number of white and red blood cells
  • Stimulates and sedates the nervous system
  • Relaxes muscles and nerves
  • Increases blood supply and general circulation
  • Improves muscle tone, prevents/delays muscle and nerve atrophy
  • Improves digestion, absorption, and elimination
  • Disperses inflammation and facilitates movement of joints
  • Promotes body repair
  • Increases kidney excretions of fluids and waste metabolites
  • Increases respiration and gas exchanges
  • Recalibrates the mind
  • Soothes indigestion
  • Counteracts radiation side effects
  • Dulls persistent headaches

I wanted to shine some light on this topic because our society so often thinks nothing of taking antibiotics and other pills to alleviate or prevent pain, thus weakening the body’s systems and requiring even more pills – a vicious cycle!

I’ll always remember this one doctor’s visit I had as a child. I had an earache, and when told by my doctor to take an antibiotic, my mother asked him if that was really necessary, or could it be cured with a more holistic approach – like dripping warm castor oil in my ear? He said that would be fine; he only offered an antibiotic because, “Most parents feel satisfied after getting a prescription.” Clearly he didn’t know my mother.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blueberry Banana Granola Cups

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One thing I’ve learned from baking vegan desserts is that less is more. When I used to bake “conventional” desserts, I’d think nothing of adding more sugar, butter, or whatever because, “It’s dessert” and it’s supposed to be bad for you. Well, thanks to my blogging community and my love of testing out different recipes, I’ve learned that nothing is further from the truth. Before I actually put these luscious cups together, I was thinking about how I would bake them. I thought maybe I’d put coconut sugar atop the banana and let it caramelize underneath the broiler. Or maybe blend the fruit with maple syrup or coconut yogurt for a dynamite filling. But after test tasting these, guess what? The filling didn’t need any extras like sugar, syrup, or yogurt.

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Another thing I’m learning during my vegan journey is that because so many foods can be deliciously and naturally nutritious, there’s no distinction between breakfast and dessert! Well, these fruit cups are certainly no exception. The oats and nuts are loaded with fiber, protein, and healthy fats, making it a substantial and nourishing breakfast, and the sweet fruit filling make for one hell of a dessert.

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Ingredients (makes about 12 cups):

  • 1 1/2 cups quick oats (use 1 1/4 cups for a thinner, but less substantial crust)
  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts
  • 3 Tbsp melted extra virgin coconut oil
  • 3 Tbsp maple syrup
  • about 3-4 shakes of cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 ripened bananas
  • about 1/2 cup blueberries

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a blender/food processor, combine the oats and walnuts. Blend until you have a powder.
  3. Pour the blended mixture into a large bowl and add the maple syrup, melted coconut oil, cinnamon and salt.
  4. In a greased cupcake pan, fill each cupcake pan about halfway.
  5. With your fingers, press the mixture so that it is even on the bottom and the sides. The oats will expand a bit while baking.
  6. Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
  7. While the crust is baking, mash up 2 bananas with a fork.
  8. After the 15 minutes, remove the crusted cups and add the banana filling, placing blueberries atop bananas.
  9. Cover with foil and place back in the oven for 20 minutes. Enjoy…for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert!

no one is in charge of your happiness

Spaghetti Squash Pesto with Roasted Vegetables

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It can be difficult and tricky to eat the way you’re used to when traveling away from home. Luckily, I’ve said a few time already how much I like rice and beans, so when I traveled to Nicaragua a few weeks ago, I ate a lot of this, along with avocado, roasted vegetables, and plantains. This past weekend, my sister and I visited our mom in Florida. This is just about the only other place, other than my own home, where I know I can still eat the way I’m used to. Sure we went to some restaurants that didn’t have many vegan options and I filled up on hummus and way too much pita bread, but for the most part, I ate the way I’m used to. We definitely are a handful though since my sister, Gabby, pretty much eats no bread or simple carbs. Happy Mother’s Day, right?

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When we were shopping for produce, Gabby wanted to get a spaghetti squash. Spaghetti squash always reminded me of one of my best friends, Becky, because when we were roommates she would make it all the time. Back in 2005, we would make it with Bolognese sauce. I loved it, but haven’t really made it too much since; I really don’t know why. But when my sister made it on Saturday, I became a born-again spaghetti squashee. Its natural taste is sweet and buttery, and because of its high water content, it’s a refreshing meal for the spring and summertime. Like other squashes, it is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. And since I like a smorgasbord of textures, I also collected all of the seeds from this squash (which look and taste exactly like its cousin the pumpkin), rinsed, baked, and added them to this dish.

Becky, on Rockaway Beach, drinking a Balanced Bella juice during a 3-day-cleanse.
Becky, on Rockaway Beach, drinking a Balanced Bella juice during a 3-day-cleanse.

Aside from this recipe being completely vegan, the entire meal is loaded with plant based protein. A lot of vegan pesto dishes call for nutritional yeast since it sort of has that cheesy taste that parmesan would normally give to this recipe, but this pesto has so much flavor to begin with, it doesn’t need it. And believe me, I tested it with nutritional yeast and this sauce doesn’t need any extra help.

Makes about 1 cup
Makes about 1 cup

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups packed basil (4-5 oz)
  • 2 garlic cloves, whole
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts
  • 1/4 cup pine/pignolia nuts
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (plus 2-3 Tbsp for squash and vegetables)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional – red/orange peppers, beets, or vegetables of your choice

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Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut the squash in half horizontally and remove seeds. (Save for later to rinse and bake if you wish.)
  3. Rub 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil onto flesh, along with black pepper, then place flesh side down onto a baking sheet and bake for about 1 hour.
  4. Optional – Peel 1 beet and cut into 1 inch cubes, along with dicing 1 red pepper and 1 orange pepper into 1 inch strips. Drizzle about 1 Tbsp of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, onto vegetables and place in the oven for 30-40 minutes.
  5. Begin preparing the pesto by placing the pine nuts and walnuts on a pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes to toast.
  6. Add the basil, garlic, nuts, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper into a high speed blender/food processor and blend until smooth – about 30 seconds.
  7. Once spaghetti squash is cooked, take a fork and scoop out the flesh into a large bowl (as seen below).
  8. Remove excess liquid from squash by squeezing it with a dish towel or by hand.
  9. Pour the pesto on top and blend well. Add roasted vegetables. Bon Appétit!

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Chocolate Hazelnut Almond Bites

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What can be better than a vegan dessert that is made of only natural ingredients (like my fudgy bean brownies)? A vegan dessert which only has 6 easy ingredients and takes 5 minutes to make, of course! I tried making similar truffle-like dessert balls last winter, but the consistency wasn’t right and they didn’t stick together very well. It did taste delicious, however, so instead I just added a scoop to the bottom of my dessert smoothies. I gave it another go and they came out unbelievably good. Sometimes less is more, and that was certainly the case this time.

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These bites are perfect for when you’re in the mood for something sweet but you’re not feeling the 45 minute bake time, or when you’re in the mood for dessert but don’t want a dozen brownies lurking around over the next two days (or two hours if it’s that kinda day…I’ve been there…). They are rich, chewy, sweet, and beyond decadent. If you can press a button on a blender/food processor, and roll the mixture into balls, you can make these bites. That is, if there’s anything left to make into balls once you start tasting this batter.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup raw, unsalted almonds (roasted almonds will change the taste completely)
  • 1/8 cup hazelnuts
  • 5 dates, pitted
  • 3 tsp cacao powder
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • pinch of salt (enhances the sweetness)
  • Optional – I coated some of mine with unsweetened coconut, cinnamon, and cacao powder.

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Steps:

  1. Blend the almonds, hazelnuts, dates, and cacao powder in a blender/food processor until most of the nuts have become a powder but there is still some texture, i.e. small pieces of almonds and hazelnuts. If the dates did not chop into smaller pieces, just tear them apart by hand a little more.
  2. Pour the blended mixture into a small bowl and add the maple syrup and salt.
  3. Mix together and form into small balls, about 3/4 inch in diameter, with your hands. Makes about 5 balls.

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Coconut Curry Rice Bowl

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I know I’ve told you beautiful people that I eat rice and beans a lottt, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be boring – quite the contrary! It’s one of the most versatile dishes depending on what ingredients you’re in the mood for that day. Creamy, crunchy, salty, spicy – up to you. Justin puts hot sauce on everything, so he’s easy. I can make a bowl of plain rice, and all he needs is some hot sauce. Me? I like a variety of textures. There’s never an overabundance of creamy avocado, crunchy vegetables, or exotic herbs and spices in my opinion.

Bok choy is a wonderful addition to any stir fry. If you’re not familiar with using it in a recipe, it’s similar in appearance to celery, so it just needs a quick rinse and chop and it’s ready to go.

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The rice bowls I enjoy making are super nutritious, simple and filling, and heavenly tasting; there’s just no downside!

Ingredients for rice:

  • 2-3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 cups brown rice
  • 1 can coconut milk, unsweetened (13.5 oz)
  • 2 cans of water
  • 2 Tbs curry
  • salt & pepper to taste

Ingredients for top portion:

  • 2–3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bunch bok choy
  • 10 oz (1 package) mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 can (15.5 oz) kidney beans
  • 3 cups spinach
  • avocado
  • tomato
  • sprinkle of chia seeds
  • pinch of toasted fennel seeds

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Steps:

  1. Chop the yellow onion.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pot for 1 minute on medium/high heat, add onions.
  3. After 2-3 minutes, add in the rice and stir for 1 minute.
  4. Next, add in the canned coconut milk, and twice that amount in water.
  5. Add in the salt, pepper, and curry and stir everything together.
  6. Once everything comes to a boil, cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes, depending on the kind of brown rice you’re using. (Read the back of the package to find out how much time is needed.) Makes about 10 cups cooked.

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Meanwhile, while your rice is cooking…

  1. Rinse and slice the bok choy.
  2. Add oil to a large pan on medium/high heat for about 1 minute.
  3. Add the bok choy to the pan and allow to cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Note, the bok choy should still have a nice crunch to it. Cooking it too long will make it wilt.)
  4. Next, add the garlic, mushrooms, spinach, and beans, stirring gently for about 3 minutes.  Turn off heat, scoop a cup of rice into a bowl and top with vegetables, avocado, seeds, and tomato. Enjoy!

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Super Quick Chickpea Salad with Mom’s Roasted Rosemary Potatoes

This chickpea salad could not be easier to make; it requires 5 minutes of your time, tops – and it’s loaded with protein and healthy fats. I used to really enjoy making egg salad and tuna fish sandwiches, so when I concocted this guy up, I was pretty stoked : )

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Unlike other dishes I make that require soaking, roasting then pureeing, etc, this salad is perfect for when you’re in a pinch – and it only needs just a few ingredients for it to work (I added a couple of extras since I had them on hand, like celery and onion).

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The texture is just that of egg salad, but without the added hormones and animal mistreatment. It could also be used as a dip, because who doesn’t love to submerge veggie sticks, pretzels, and pita bread into creaminess heaven?

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chickpeas
  • 1 1/2 Tbs vegan mayo (I prefer vegenaise)
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • Splash of pickle juice (optional)
  • salt & pepper to taste

Steps:

  1. In a medium size bowl, mash the chickpeas with a fork.
  2. Add in all other ingredients and mix. Couldn’t be easier, right?! (Scroll down for Mom’s Roasted Rosemary Potato Recipe.)

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My mom is an amazing cook, and she’s been making these potatoes for as long as I can remember. My sister and I are going to visit her this weekend and I can’t wait – the last time I saw her was at the end of December.

Me, my mom, and my sister during our last visit in December.
Me, my mom, and my sister during our last visit in December.

Mom’s Roasted Rosemary Potatoes 

Ingredients:

  • 5 yukon gold or russet potatoes
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste

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Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Scrub the potatoes and cut them into sixteenths or twentieths, depending on the size of the potato. (See above picture.) Put in a large pan.
  3. Cut the onion into eighths and add to the pan.
  4. Drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil on top, and then add the rosemary and salt. Mix together with your hands.
  5. Cook for 50-55 minutes and then turn the broiler on high for 2-3 minutes to get extra crispy. I like to dip them in spicy mustard – enjoy!

Party Favorite Dips! (Guacamole * Zesty Lemon & Basil Hummus * Roasted Eggplant & Garlic Dip)

Guacamole –

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If I was savvy, I would say that I created this post because, “Tomorrow is Cinco De Mayo and what a perfect time to share with all of you a delicious guacamole recipe…” But I’m not that quick and I didn’t realize that at all. I woke up Saturday morning with a text from my sister asking me for my guacamole recipe. Then she added, “You should post that on your blog.”  I told her I thought about that earlier this week, and that today I was planning on doing just that. She then said…”You know, for Cinco De Mayo and all…” Well, I didn’t think of that part.  She always was a little quicker than me.  To top it off, when I went food shopping for my dip ingredients, Waldbaums was also one step ahead of me, because all of the guacamole ingredients were put on display together, right when you enter the freakin place. Avocados, tomatoes, cilantro…they even included guacamole seasoning packets…if you’re into that sorta thing. (And an added bonus – avocados are usually on sale when it’s around Cinco De Mayo, Superbowl, etc.)

With my sister, Gabby
With my sister, Gabby

Ingredients:

  • 6 Tbs chopped red onion (1/4 – 1/3 of an onion)
  • 2 Tbs chopped cilantro
  • 1 very finely chopped garlic clove
  • 1 1/2 Tbs lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 avocados
  • 1 large tomato (I used two small Roma tomatoes – you can never have too much tomato though!)

Steps:

  1. Chop the onion, cilantro, and garlic and add it to a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add in lime juice and spices – cumin, chili powder, salt and mix together.
  3. Halving the avocados, gently remove each pit by bringing a large knife down into it and twisting it out. Scoop avocados into the mixing bowl and blend.
  4. Chop the tomatoes and remove excess liquid – nobody likes soupy guacamole.
  5. Gently blend all ingredients and serve!

Note – Leaving an avocado pit in the dip helps it not to turn brown, so does pressing clear wrap directly onto the dip if you’re serving it later.

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Zesty Lemon & Basil Hummus –

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Hummus is so versatile because there are a million ways to make it. Basically, as long as you use a bean and some tahini, you’ve got yourself a kick ass dip. I love tahini, so sometimes I go a little overboard when I use it in a recipe. Luckily, my friend Siobhan and her crafty taste palate came over yesterday and tested my dips – she told me to use less tahini…so I did.

With Siobhan near Big Sur last summer
With Siobhan near Big Sur last summer on “No Pants Thursday”

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (15 oz) of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 6 large basil leaves
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbs tahini
  • 2 Tbs lemon juice (This is a lemony hummus, but you may want to try just one tablespoon if you don’t want to taste the lemon too much.)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Black pepper to taste

Steps:

  1. Add everything to a high speed blender or food processor and mix!

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Roasted Eggplant & Garlic Dip –

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Like hummus, this dip is very versatile and can also be spread across bread or added to salads and rice bowls; however, there are no beans in this recipe, making it a nice alternative.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 eggplant
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus another 1 Tbs
  • 3 Tbs tahini
  • 2 large basil leaves
  • 3 Kalamata olives
  • 1 tsp Kalamata juice
  • 1 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • salt & pepper to taste

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the eggplant, pepper, onion, and carrots into two inch pieces and toss into a large pan.
  2. Peel 6 large cloves of garlic and add them to the pan, whole.
  3. Drizzle 1/4 cup of olive oil to the vegetables, along with salt and pepper. Toss.
  4. Cook for 50 minutes (After about 25 minutes, give a quick shake or stir to the vegetables.)
  5. Once cooked, let the vegetables cool off for 5-10 minutes. Afterwards, add all vegetables to a high speed blender or food processor, along with the rest of the ingredients – 1 Tbs of olive oil, as well as the tahini, basil leaves, olives and olive juice, tomato paste, lemon juice, cumin, salt and pepper.
  6. Blend and devour!

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