Saturday, January 26, 2013

A new (out)look

I changed my blog header! It looks a tad big, but I couldn't shrink it down without making it off center. It will do for now. I chose this photo because it has things I love: travel (and hot air balloons), Paris, and Europe! My student called it my "likes necklace". Now for a food bracelet...

This is the last day of my fast. It has been an interesting 21 days. Honestly, the second week was the hardest for me. I was craving the typical foods I was used to eating: fried food, meat, and sugar. But I am finally on my 21st day, and although I am glad to be able to eat again, I realize that I need a balance in my life. I shouldn't deprive myself of what I love, but I should also care for my body and eat right and exercise.

Here's some of the food I ate:


 I was craving some Chipotle last week, so I decided to make my own! I made brown rice with lime juice and cilantro, and just added black beans, and sauteed mushrooms, peppers, and garlic. It was delicious!

I also had some bean sprouts and made bean sprouts with hot red pepper flakes/green onions and made a bean sprouts soup.

I ate A LOT of fruit. Now, I am not really a fruit person. Or I wasn't. But that was what I ate when I craved sweets, because that's all I could eat.

I finally made roasted red bell pepper soup from scratch! I was so excited to try this ever since I had some at Patty's Place two summers ago. I adapted a recipe from Rachel Ray. It has no butter or cream.
Albeit the "healthy" version, it was just as good!


Healthy Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup


Ingredients

3-4 red bell peppers
1 teaspoon of olive oil
1/2 of a chopped onion
1 clove of minced garlic
1/8 cup tomato paste
2 or 3 cups of vegetable stock (depending on how thick you want it)
1 cup of soy milk
1 Tablespoon of chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup sweet corn kernels (roasted)


Directions:

1. Slice the red bell peppers into quarters and discard stem, seeds, and membrane. Place peppers on a pan skin side up and broil (375) for about 25 minutes or until the skin blackens.

2. Immediately place peppers in plastic container with a lid and place in the freezer for 15 minutes. This will loosen the skin and let it come off easily.  Take out the peppers and peel the skin off. Chop the peppers and set aside.

3. Meanwhile in a large saucepan, put olive oil in and put on medium heat. Add chopped onions and garlic until they are soft, not brown.

4. Add the red peppers, tomato paste, and vegetable stock. Bring it to a low boil, and then reduce the heat. Simmer for 10 more minutes.

5. Stir in soy milk, cilantro, salt and pepper. Also add cornstarch that has been mixed with a little water for thickening.

6. Cook for another 5 minutes. Let the soup cool slightly and then blend in batches. Be careful! It's hot!

7. Roast fresh corn in the oven(I sliced kernels off the cob with a knife) or you can use canned corn, drained.
Add it to the soup. It's a good combination.


I used the soup as a sauce for my Portobello mushrooms! I also grilled asparagus with salt and pepper and made whipped potatoes! It was a good dinner. :)

Don't you just love my new polka dot plate? I saw it on Priscilla Ahn's blog and just had to get one! It is a hand painted plate from Berlin, and it was expensive, but totally worth it!

I love it!

Trying to eat healthy for 3 weeks has made me become creative in my cooking. It's hard not to use butter, sauces, or dairy. I think I'll continue to try to cut down using butter and eggs in food, especially in my baking.
My friend recently made banana bread without any eggs or butter, which I think I'll attempt next week, so check back! Oh, and I can finally try my waffle maker my sister and brother in law bought me for Christmas.


I know I should ease into it, but I may be having some Hopdoddy tomorrow. I am beyond excited.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

On the seventh day

I started my Daniel Fast this past Sunday, and other than a tiny infraction (yesterday I forgot to bring my baked Lentil chips for lunch for my guacamole, so I had to eat it with tortilla chips), I've been following the guidelines and eating fruits, vegetables, brown rice, and such.

The physical differences:

Before my body felt heavy and weighed down, but now I feel lighter and have more energy. Initially I got a headache from sugar withdrawal, but that's it! I am getting used to eating healthier and I don't necessarily crave anything in particular, but I miss the taste of those foods. Bread, desserts, coffee. I'm a lot more conscientious of what I buy now, and look at the ingredient list.

So far the food has been really good:

From left: homemade tomato basil, salt & pepper tofu with brown rice, salad with red wine vinaigrette, blueberry+pecan brown rice cereal with almond milk, and bell peppers with brown rice & quinoa.

And some have been just ok:

I made these mashed potatoes with almond milk, and they were ok. But it just needed some mascarpone cheese, you know? Once you try Giada's garlic mashed potatoes with mascarpone, you can never go back.


It was so hard trying to find chips to dip my guacamole with, but I finally found them:

They're not bad. Although, I found this little surprise in the bag amongst its tan brothers. I was a little scared so I threw it away ... but I'm not racist. :)


Do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT get these "chips." Unless you like stale, vomit flavored chips.

This feels like a consumer report. I should have known at the words, "raw and dehydrated"


The difference in me:

I have started reading the Bible every night and doing quiet time. It has brought me to a lot of realizations. I am more thankful, more thoughtful, and less stressed. A few days ago, I got into a minor fender bender and usually this would distress me, but I am just thankful to be alive. Spending my time with God instead of wasting my time worrying has put so much in perspective and on how faithless I have been. Something I read really caught my attention: that I am privileged and blessed. On so many aspects. And often, I forget that.

If you are reading this and are on some kind of fast also, I hope this encourages you and helps you in any way.

Along with my fast, I wanted to commit to helping others around me and just being available to them. I tried my best this week, and I hope I get more opportunities to do so next week!



Sunday, January 6, 2013

Be available


Today I am starting my 21 day fast. This is my first real attempt at fasting. Being a MAJOR foodie, fasting isn't really a part of my vocabulary. However, lately I've had the feeling of being stuck. Have you ever felt that way? I just feel like I've been going through the motions and not being present in the moment. I guess getting older does that to you. It makes you reflect on things more and I finally want to make a change by eating healthier. Even after the 21 days, I hope I can continue to make healthier choices and be more conscious; not only about food, but other things as well.

If you have also decided to do this (Daniel) fast, I will write as much as I can about foods, recipes, tips, etc. for you. You can also go to The Daniel Fast Blog and The Daniel Fast, which is where I am getting my information. As always, notify your doctor/physician before starting any diet/fast.

What: The Daniel fast is not a total fast; it is a diet mostly consisting of fruits and vegetables.
Why: I know this may just seem like food. But I wanted to do this fast to discipline myself spiritually as well and bring a focus to my life.
How: Prepare yourself and clean out that pantry!

For me, I had to prepare myself by cleaning out my pantry:

Yep. All my weaknesses in a pile. 


Here is the food list of what you can eat during the Daniel fast. For a more detailed list go here: Food List


  • all fruits and vegetables (fresh, frozen, dried, juiced, canned) Fresh is the best though.
  • all whole grains (whole wheat, brown rice (Yea, Chipotle!), quinoa, etc)
  • all nuts and seeds
  • all legumes
  • all quality oils
  • tofu, soy, vinegar, and all seasonings
  • drink water!

Foods to avoid:
  • all meat, animal, and dairy products
  • all sweeteners
  • bread
  • processed foods (no preservatives)
  • fried foods
  • all solid fats (butter, margarine, etc)
  • coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, and alcohol

I had a lot of questions when I started going grocery shopping, like what about dijon mustard or salsa?
As long as the ingredients match the food list, you are ok. Many packaged foods have added sugar and chemicals/preservatives, so it is better to make the food yourself to be sure. Use your weekends to prepare your meals so you won't come home tired and give in to buying fast food or eating instant meals, like I have done so many times.

Tips:

  • Days before the fast, try to cut out high sugar foods and caffeine
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Have a support system! I have a friend that is encouraging me, and my mom knows not to make me spaghetti. :)  I also have a friend who said she would do it with me! Plus, she works with me, so we can support each other throughout the day!
  • When the 21 days are over, do NOT go crazy and start eating everything you have missed. It may upset your stomach which is not used to digesting such foods. I can't cut out meat and bread forever, but I hope this fast helps me to make better choices about what I eat every day.
  • The booklet says to follow the B.R.A.T. diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast.

Health benefits of fasting:

  • Your body goes through a natural detoxification process, which releases toxins and poisons from your system.
  • Energy is focused on your metabolism and immune system, rather than to your digestive system (which won't need to work as hard).
  • You feel more energized and there is an increased production of hormones.
  • The body begins to use its fat stores as an energy source, which affects your cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight.


My personal goal:

That's the food part of my fast. I wanted a focus while I fasted. If it was just about food, I could easily give in. But if I have a focus, I can resist that piece of chocolate or Starbucks. As I was reading the Bible verse above, the part about being available really caught me. Lately I feel like I have not done that. Selfishness breeds laziness. So my focus is to be available to those around me. If someone needs my help, I want to try my best to help.


Brown Rice and Quinoa with grilled bell peppers and grape tomatoes.

I made this last night. I found this brown rice/quinoa pouch at Costco, which is delicious! Plus, it's perfect to take to work since it is microwavable. Here is the simple recipe:

Brown Rice and Quinoa with Veggies


You will need:

- brown rice and quinoa pouch from Seeds of Change (you can also make your own, but make sure to add seasoning)
- 2 Tablespoons of water
- any bell peppers sliced into strips
- kosher salt and black pepper
- EVOO
- grape tomatoes (optional)

  1. Follow the directions on the pouch to heat the brown rice/quinoa. I put it in a skillet and added 2 Tablespoons of water.
  2. In the meantime, take the sliced bell peppers and place on foil. Sprinkle lightly with EVOO, kosher salt, and pepper. I used my toaster oven to cook them. Cook until tender (about 8-10 minutes depending on the temperature).
  3. Place the rice and quinoa on a plate and put the bell peppers on top. Slice the grape tomatoes in half.
  4. I didn't need any further seasoning or sauce, but you could add a little soy sauce if you want.


Happy clean eating!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A new year..

Photo courtesy of Top Shop.

2012 went surprisingly fast. It was a year of first experiences including carving a pumpkin and participating in the Color Run.

I also turned 30, which honestly, I was dreading. But amazing friends, loving family, and supportive students' parents made turning 30 into something I could appreciate.

I had a lot of great moments this past year, but the best moment if I had to choose would be traveling to Europe, particularly going to the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Watford last summer. It was such an amazing experience getting to see the sets, costumes, props, the special effects used, and animatronics. I was just in awe of everything there. If you love Harry Potter like I do, I highly recommend it! I do still want to go to the Hogwarts in Florida, but I am so glad I got to do the tour in London. Hands down, it was the best experience of 2012.

Here are a few highlights:

Enjoying a pasty before getting on the bus!


Welcome to the world of Harry Potter!




About to enter the Great Hall.

Costumes


The sets


The props




Okay, I got a little carried away with all the photos. :) I had so much fun there!



New Year's Resolutions..?


Like many people, I have made many, many  new year's resolutions in the past which have inevitably failed. Or more accurately I have failed to execute. So this year, I am not making any. Am I giving up? Well, no.
I'm just going to start changing my habits and my attitude. Love more, complain less, appreciate every little blessing in my life, and live for God!

Which leads me to my fast. In the past I tried fasting for a day (or half a day) because of church, but never really thought about why I was doing it. There wasn't really a goal in mind. I visited my friend this past weekend in Atlanta and I attended her church (Victory World Church) and the pastor talked about a 21 day Daniel fast they were starting this coming Sunday. So I am going to start.
For a foodie like me, this is pretty hard. Especially because I love everything that I cannot have: bread, rice, sweets, coffee (Starbucks!), and fried food! But this will discipline not only my body, but spirit as well and I am hoping to continue eating clean for 2013 (because I am not  getting any younger).

I will write more about the fast this Sunday, when I start.
I started some early "spring" cleaning on my apartment (which is a MESS) after I got back from Atlanta.
Now it's time to clean my kitchen pantry!