NYC – Part 1

I’ve been sitting here for hours trying to write this post. And with every attempt I’ve failed miserably.  So I’ll just say this: I grew up in NJ, 30 minutes outside of NYC. When I was a child my mom would take me into the city to meet up with my grandpa or uncle or to catch a show. It became a natural extension of my universe. And despite being hundreds of miles away at college, my universe spun askew on that fateful day that the Twin Towers came down. Never had I been so confused, so angry, so fearful, so suffocated by utter and total incomprehension. I can spend all my days trying and I will still never truly understand what my eyes saw, my ears heard, my heart felt. Last weekend, I visited the site of the Twin Towers for the first time since September 11, 2001. I felt sad, resilient, and hopeful all at once.

freedom tower 1

freedom tower combined

waterfallviews of pools

center

names

survivor tree

This is the “Survivor Tree”. As described on the National September 11 Memorial website, “in October 2001, the tree was discovered at Ground Zero severely damaged, with snapped roots and burned and broken branches. The tree was removed from the rubble and placed in the care of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. After its recovery and rehabilitation, the tree was returned to the Memorial in 2010. New, smooth limbs extended from the gnarled stumps, creating a visible demarcation between the tree’s past and present.”

More information about the memorial can be found here.
Information on the 9/11 museum can be found here.
Information on the Freedom Tower can be found here.

Hippy + Preppy Tassel Baubles

This hot weather has me browsing for easy, breezy jewelry with pops of color. I’m loving these necklaces and bracelets with tassels because they have a summer zen vibe. I like the way the beads and tassel say boho yet the bright color pop gives them a modern edge. These are my favorite hippy-meets-preppy tassel baubles:

Photo: All Girls Need

Photo: All Girls Need

These happy bracelets are from the Etsy shop All Girls Need based in Boca Raton, Florida. The shop owner specializes in bright beaded and woven jewelry and bags. These handmade bracelets are made of wooden beads and come in three sizes. They are only $10 each, and I like that a purchase supports a woman-owned small biz.

Photo: The Rainbow Farmer

Photo: The Rainbow Farmer

If you’re into yoga, you may be familiar with mala beads. They are used for keeping count while reciting or mentally repeating a mantra during a type of meditation or prayer. The Etsy shop The Rainbow Farmer, which is based in California, features mala necklaces and other boho pieces. This one is priced at $36 and, like the shop above, purchases support a woman-owned small business.

Photo: Nest Pretty Things

Photo: Nest Pretty Things

This dainty beauty is made of glass beads, brass and a cotton neon-pink tassel. It’s by the Etsy shop Nest Pretty Things, which is based in Burlington, Vermont. As an added bonus, the shop also uses adorable packaging. Like the other pieces, this one is also affordable at $38 and supports a woman-owned small biz.

Photo: Bauble Bar

Photo: Bauble Bar

Lastly, I’m sharing the preppiest piece of the bunch. The Cape Town bracelet set from Bauble Bar takes the guesswork out of styling your arm candy. The set includes 5 chicly coordinated bracelets with three different colored tassels and gold accents. It retails for $62.

Which one is your favorite?

Bluejacket’s Brussels Sprouts Salad

I hated brussels sprouts as a kid. Well, I think I would have hated them…which is why I always refused to try them. But then, a few years ago I had roasted brussels sprouts at a restaurant and I was an instant convert. Delicious! I can eat a whole pound of roasted sprouts in one sitting. But raw sprouts? As a salad? Ick…or so I thought until I took a leap of faith and ordered the shaved brussels sprouts side salad at Bluejacket, a DC microbrewery and restaurant.

closeup

Unfortunately, it’s no longer on their menu; but fortunately for you, I was so obsessed that I recreated it at home. It’s super simple with only 4 main ingredients. The only (small) obstacle is that this recipe uses a food processor. I suppose you could finely shred/cut the sprouts by hand, but I don’t have the patience or the knife skills for something like that.

lemons

This raw sprouts salad is great as a side dish. For a more filling meal, add some chickpeas. What?!?! You know I love me some chickpeas. Want to make it a little more exotic? Add both chickpeas and a cut up peach or two. Sounds weird, tastes delicious. Bonus: the sprouts taste great (maybe even better) the next day.

pecorino

This salad is vegetarian, not vegan. Personally, I think the pecorino cheese is a critical component, so I wouldn’t recommend leaving it out. That being said, if you try it, add salt and let me know how it tastes.

saladbrussels

Bluejacket’s Brussels Sprouts Salad
(serves 4-6 as a side, 2-3 as a main meal)

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cup raw shredded brussels sprouts (16 oz bag of sprouts)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 Tbls + 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup shredded pecorino romano cheese
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Directions

  • Rinse the sprouts, cut off the bottoms, then put in a food processor and pulse until shredded (you can use the shredder or grater attachment, but I tend to just pulse them). Place shredded sprouts in a large bowl.
  • Mix together the olive oil and lemon juice and pour over the sprouts. Toss until the dressing coats all the sprouts.
  • Add in the pecorino cheese and pepper and toss again, thoroughly.
  • Let sit for five minutes to let flavors blend before serving.

Black Bean Enchiladas: Cheese-less & Taste-full

Yeah, that’s right. I said it. Enchiladas with no cheese can taste damn good. I know it’s a bold statement. I doubted if it was possible until I experimented and hit gold.

They may not win a beauty contest but they're damn delicious.

They may not win a beauty contest but they’re damn delicious.

By now, I’ve been eating a plant-based diet for more than a year. So I’m getting better and better at taking recipes and veganizing them. But when it came to enchiladas, I hit a mental roadblock. Actually, an emotional roadblock may be more accurate.

I grew up eating cheese enchiladas made with love by my mom and abuela. They always made them with red chili sauce and cheese, and they were always delicious. It was one of my favorite dishes growing up. Since I figured I wouldn’t be able to come close, I hesitated to try my own version. Thankfully, that attitude ended a couple of weeks ago.

Yes, mine are totally different than my mom’s but that doesn’t mean they aren’t delicious. I’m pretty pleased with myself for giving an old favorite a healthy twist and not sacrificing taste. Consider these enchiladas 2.0!

full dish

Makes 8-10 enchiladas

Ingredients:

8-10 Corn tortillas
20ish oz Salsa verde
15 oz Black beans rinsed and drained
12 oz Corn
1 Avocado
1 Red bell pepper
3 Fire-roasted whole green chilies
2 Garlic cloves
3 Green onions
1 tbsp Nutritional yeast
½ tsp Chili powder
½ tsp Garlic powder
¼ tsp Chipotle powder
Veggie broth (used for sautéing, instead of oil)
Pinch of salt
Mexican crumble (recipe from Minimalist Baker)
Cilantro

Instructions:

  • Start by sautéing the chopped garlic and onions (reserve some onion to use as a topping) in veggie broth for a few minutes until browned and soft. Use a good-sized pot.
  • Add the remaining chopped ingredients and seasonings into your pot – except the Mexican crumble, cilantro, and a portion of your avocado and onion for topping – and bring to a bubble. Then knock back the heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Pour in more veggie broth during this process to help everything combine. (If you don’t have nutritional yeast, don’t sweat it. I made this dish without it once and the enchiladas still came out delish.)
  • Cover the bottom of a baking dish with a layer of green salsa. (I’ve used the salsa verde from Trader Joe’s and the 360 green salsa from Whole Foods. I chose the salsas over the cans of green enchilada sauce I saw because I prefer the ingredient list on the salsas. And using the salsas is a time-saving hack vs. making your own!)
  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Now it’s assembly time! Take your corn tortillas and spoon in a line of the filling. Roll it and place in your baking dish. Repeat until your tortillas are done. You should have leftover filling.
  • Pour additional salsa all over these bad boys. You want them fully covered in the salsa. Then spoon the leftover filling and Mexican crumble over the top. (If you don’t have time to make the crumble, don’t worry and proceed without it. However, if you’re trying to eat dairy free, I recommend having a batch of this on hand to sprinkle on your dishes. So far it’s my favorite vegan “cheese” substitute. The recipe for the “shakable” cheese is by the brilliant Dana Shultz of Minimalist Baker.)
  • Pop them in the oven for 20 minutes. You will see the crumble get nice and brown.
  • Before serving, finish by topping them with fresh cilantro, avocado, and green onion.

 Enjoy!

Jump Around

Anyone else have House of Pain in their head now? I came to get down / So get out your seats and jump around / Jump around / Jump up, jump up and get down. No, just me? Well, I had that song stuck in my head all day this past Sunday because that’s exactly what I was doing. Jumping around….at a trampoline park!

ME

“A what?!?!?” you ask. A trampoline park, and yes, it is as awesome as it sounds. And yes, those are trampolines on the walls too. Apparently there are a bunch of different companies operating around the U.S., but in the Metro DC area, they all appear to be under the Sky Zone brand.

skyzone

Sky Zone claims to be the world’s first indoor trampoline park and the inventors of “fun fitness.” While I don’t know if any of those claims are true, I can attest to the fact that it’s fun and I definitely felt like I was working on my fitness. And this chick on their website certainly appears to be enjoying herself. Although, word to the wise: wear workout clothes, not jeans!

cheesy skyzone

Does anyone else think it looks like most of the people in mid-jump were photshopped into the picture? I swear at least five of them are photoshopped in….

According to various fitness calculators, I only burned around 72 calories for the half-hour I was jumping around, but it felt like a heck of a lot more and I had a ton of sore muscles the next day. In fact, numerous articles on trampolining (yeah, I was surprised that’s a real word too) cite a NASA study that found that 10 minutes of bouncing on a trampoline is a more efficient cardio workout than over 30 minutes of running. As someone who hates running, score 1 for the trampoline!

So how’s it work? With Sky Zone you can buy trampoline time by the 1/2 hour or hour. You select your date and time and then buy the tickets online. Since the open trampoline area is divided into squares and only one person is allowed per square, buying tickets in advance for a designated day and time ensures that they don’t oversell tickets beyond their capacity. It was $11 for 1/2 hour and $14 for an hour (but there’s a $2 service fee added and when you get there you have to buy their special socks to wear, which adds another$1). Still, pretty affordable for a half-hour or hour of fun, especially in the DC area. We selected a 1/2 hour time slot just to be safe. I think Matt was easily done by the end of our time, but I could definitely have kept going.

There are different areas of the park: a dodgeball area (yes dodgeball on a trampoline), the open trampoline area, a foam pit area, and a dunking station. These posed pics are also from Sky Zone’s website.

stations

I definitely suggest you give a trampoline park a try. Matt and I went to celebrate my birthday, followed by pizza, a big  cookie, and 2 scoops of ice cream (yep, I turned 35 and had the birthday party of a 5 year old…). But this activity would be great as a workout, an escape from your usual weekend shenanigans, or a social event/gathering with friends that doesn’t revolve around food.

Have you ever been to a trampoline park? Are there other types of activity “parks” out there that you’d recommend?

My Latest Faves

For this post, I thought I would do a round up of my latest favorite things. They range from a fab foodie site to a tech gadget I can’t wait to try. Read on, friends, and you may find a new fave of your own!

Roasted red pepper pasta; tofu chilaquiles; Mexican quinoa salad; energy bites

Roasted red pepper pasta; tofu chilaquiles; Mexican quinoa salad; energy bites

FOOD

Minimalist Baker – Lately, a week doesn’t go by where I don’t try a new recipe or revisit a favorite on MinimalistBaker.com. So far, every recipe I’ve tried has been delicious. The tofu stir-fry recipe completely changed my opinion of tofu. I went from thinking it was so-so to loving it. The site has a search feature, which works well. So if you want to recreate any of the dishes in my photos, just search for them.

Roasted chickpea salad

Roasted chickpea salad

DIY Nut Milk – I saw this TED Talk by Sarah Britton of My New Roots (another great food blog), and she inspired me to make my own almond milk. Now a bag of raw almonds is kinda pricey so there is minimal cost savings but this is an easy DIY project that ends in a pure product. Will I only make my own nut milk from now on? Well, probably not, but I will from time to time and I’m glad I know how. I’m definitely going to try adding a bit of flavor to my next batches, like a dash of honey and vanilla extract. I’ve already made plain and chocolate and they were both refreshing and subtle.

almonds still soaking; plumped almonds; freshly blended plain milk; small batch of chocolate!

almonds soaking; plumped almonds; freshly blended milk; small batch of chocolate!

FITNESS

XHIT Daily I don’t think I’ll ever buy another workout DVD (or any format) ever. Why spend the money when there is XHIT Daily? I subscribe to this You Tube channel for effective and fun workouts. Most of them are 7-15 minutes long so if you are short on time, they’re perfect. If you want an extended routine, just do a couple back-to-back. My favorite instructor is Rebecca Louise who sometimes has her two rescue pups in her videos.

On You – My hubby, who is a runner, discovered and backed On You on Kick Starter. When he showed me their video, I was sold. This magnetized tech case looks like an ideal way to work out with your smart phone. I love the flexibility and security is seems to have. We should both be receiving our On You soon so I can update this with an actual product review. Stay tuned!

MEDIA

Invisibilia – Since I wrote an entire post about the podcast Serial, it’s probably not surprising that I turned to another NPR podcast once Serial ended. Invisibilia’s first season recently ended, and I found most episodes thoroughly entertaining. Like the name suggests, the podcast explores invisible forces and how they affect us. The episode entitled Batman had me engrossed – it’s about a blind man who can see. Yup, that’s right see.

The Lively Show – This podcast features host Jess Lively interviewing a slew of inspiring and educational guests. Topics range from finances to pregnancy but all discuss living a life with intention. I appreciate how the guests often discuss doubts and challenges they had to overcome or are dealing with, instead of just showing their glossy successful side.

Rue Magazine – I discovered the site ruemag.com thanks to The Lively Show. The interior design focused website and online magazine are pure eye candy.

What are some of your favorite things at the moment?

Chickpea YUM Salad

I totally recognize that Chickpea YUM Salad is not a legitimate name for a salad…or a blog post. But I have no idea what to call this concoction that I’ve been eating every night for dinner, for a week straight.  All I know is that I take a bite and I think, “YUM!” and then I take another bite and think “YUM! YUM!” and on it goes until the bowl is devoured. So, Chickpea YUM Salad it is.

Chickpea YUM

Like most of the stuff I come up with on my own, I don’t really have exact measurements for anything, so use this more like a guide than a recipe and adjust it to your own tastes.  Hopefully, on your first bite, you’ll say “YUM!” just like I (still!) do.

Chickpea YUM Salad
Serves 1

Ingredients

  • ½ – 1 cup chopped spring mix greens
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped (I recommend the orange bell peppers)
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped red onion
  • 5 oz of chickpeas (~⅓ a can), drained and rinsed
  • 5 Sunburst tomatoes (the bite size yellow ones), cut in half or quarters
  • ¼- ½ avocado, chopped
  • 1 – 2 Tablespoons reduced fat feta cheese (can omit to make vegan) I ran out of feta the night I took a picture, which is why you might notice the cut up Polly-O string cheese instead….oops.
  • Balsamic vinegar to taste
  • Lime juice to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  • Layer the ingredients in the bowl starting with the greens. Top with bell pepper, red onion, chickpeas, tomatoes, then feta
  • Drizzle balsamic vinegar over the salad in an amount to your liking (I’d start with less, maybe a teaspoon to two…you can always add more but it will be hard to recover from adding to much)
  • Then add the chopped avocado on top. Sprinkle a little lime juice and some salt and pepper over the avocado
  • Mix it all together and enjoy!

Let me know what you think. Have you created any super fast dishes while you were starving that ended up being a favorite?

It’s Earth Day – Grow Something!

FUll GardenI’ve never really been into plants. Well, let me clarify. I’ve always appreciated the beauty of green grass, colorful flowers and majestic trees. However, actually caring for plants myself didn’t pique my interest. As a kid, grass and plants meant chores and this “ugh” perception stuck with me, until now.

As an adult who has been cooking more and more, the idea of growing my own herbs seemed like a smart idea. I might go so far as to say it seemed like a sexy idea. Ah geez, I’m getting old. Anyway, the usual chatter around Earth Day this year served as the kick in the booty I needed to get this project started. Getting my hands into dirt and growing something seems like a fitting way to celebrate the day.

Hand Earth

Growing herbs appeals to me for several reasons. First, they are not only pretty, they are also practical. I’ll actually use them. Secondly, I usually don’t use up the entire bunches I buy in the grocery store. Throwing away brown and droopy cilantro or parsley bums me out. I hate the waste. By growing my own, I can pluck just the leaves I need when I need them. Lastly, I bet having my own organic herbs will be cheaper than buying them every time a recipe calls for a pinch of parsley.

Of course we named the new additions to our family. So without further ado, allow me to introduce you to the dashing Clint Cilantro:

Clint

The beautiful Betty Basil:

Betty

I love the way sweet basil smells! If you haven’t stuck your nose in basil leaves and inhaled deeply, you’re missing out.

And the baby seedlings, Eenie, Teenie and Weenie:

Eenie Teenie Weenie

 

This little herb growing kit was gifted to me by none other than Jen, my blogging partner in crime. Fingers crossed that we’ll see oregano, basil and parsley soon.

I also decided to add a succulent to the mix. Why a succulent? Because I’m shamelessly jumping on the bandwagon. There are so many cool ways to display these hardy guys, from tea cups to glass spheres. The type of succulent we bought is called Hen and Chicks. I repotted her in a Growball I got at Urban Outfitters ages ago. So last but not least, here is her royal highness Queen Bee:

Queen Bee Side

 

I enjoyed my Earth Day activity so I thought I would share it. I hope these little guys thrive on our patio. (I sincerely hope I don’t kill them.) If this goes well, I plan to add rosemary, thyme and more colorful succulents to the collection.

How will you celebrate Earth Day? If you don’t have time to do something today or this weekend, don’t stress it. After all, every day can and should be Earth Day.

Eggs for Breakfast…at Work

I am NOT a morning person in any respects. I’m not even hungry right when I wake up, which is one of the reasons I always eat breakfast at work. The other reason being that I’d get in even later if I had breakfast at home. On the plus side, I never buy breakfast; I always bring. Buying is strictly for lunch!

IMG_1904

And when it comes to eating breakfast at work, I always feel like my options are relatively limited. I’m either eating oatmeal or plain greek yogurt with granola or peaches/nectarines … every Monday through Friday. Well, I finally hit a bit of a wall in the last two weeks and had to switch it up. The incredible edible egg seemed like a good idea and better yet, I could sneak in some veggies at breakfast.  Now, I realize, the “recipe” I’m about to share isn’t particularly inspired or ground-breaking. It’s along the lines of the egg “muffins” people used to bring to work during the height of the South Beach Diet craze, but a hell of a lot easier than dealing with muffin tins. And the great thing about it is, you really can customize it however you want.

combined

Ingredients
(4-5 servings)

  • 5 large eggs
  • 16 oz egg whites (~ 10 egg whites)
  • 1 cup frozen chopped broccoli
  • 8 oz baby Portobello mushrooms, quartered
  • ¼ onion, chopped
  • 1 cup reduced fat feta cheese
  • ¼ cup reduced fat parmesan cheese shredded
  • Dried basil, salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • Spray a 9’ x 13’ baking dish with non-stick spray
  • Sautee the mushrooms and onions in a non-stick pan with some salt and pepper over medium-high heat until the mushrooms have released most of their water (if you overcrowd the pan like I do, the excess water won’t evaporate. If this happens, make sure you drain your mushrooms before putting them in the dish)
  • Defrost the frozen broccoli in the microwave and pat it down with a dishtowel or paper towel to remove the excess moisture
  • Put the cooked mushrooms, onions, and broccoli in the baking dish and let it cool to room temperature
  • While the veggies are cooling, combine the eggs and egg whites in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk until combined, then add in the cheese and stir it all together.
  • When the veggies are at room temp, pour the egg and cheese mixture into the baking dish. Add dried basil, salt and pepper as wanted and stir everything around in the dish for even distribution.
  • Bake for 30 minutes

Notes

  • If you don’t have a non-stick pan, use a little bit of olive oil or white wine to prevent the mushrooms and onions from sticking
  • If you want thicker (taller?) eggs, you can either add more eggs/egg whites, or use a smaller pan. If you use a smaller pan, you’ll likely have to bake it a little longer to make sure the eggs set in the middle.
  • You can use all eggs instead of egg whites if you’re not as concerned about cholesterol or calories and fat.
  • You can really use any sort of veggies/cheeses/herbs you want in this dish, so have fun and use flavor combos you really enjoy!

Cool & Casual in Gray

Here in D.C., spring is teasing us. We’ll have a nice day of weather and I’ll think, “Yes, I can retire my puffer coat until next winter!” And then we’ll have a cold day and the puffer is back on. Today is one of those gray, cold days but since I’m seeing bunnies and daffodils everywhere, I know I’ll soon be able to switch to my spring clothes. In my warm weather wardrobe, I have two pairs of comfy shoes I can’t wait to wear. So in this post, I’ve created three casual looks, inspired by today’s gray weather, that work with both pairs of shoes.

Here are the shoes patiently waiting in my closet:

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 10.27.10 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birkenstock Gizeh sandals I dedicated an earlier post to my love for Birks you can check out here.

Vans for J. Crew I scored these babies a few weeks ago on sale for $17! They are sold out but you can find similar styles at J. Crew.

Look 1: A Dress

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 10.55.54 AM

 

Dress: I have this dress from Athleta and it is crazy comfortable! It is so soft and cozy.

Earrings: Dogeared I’m a sucker for studs.

Tote: SpicerBags This Etsy shop has tons of cute farmer market type totes.

Lip Gloss: Tarte A pop of pink goes great with gray. I’m a fan of Tarte because most of their stuff is well formulated, they have fun packaging and they’re cruelty free.

Look 2: Joggers

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 4.46.08 PMJoggers: Athleta I like joggers because you can work out in them or run errands in them and look put together.

Top: Athleta I picked this top because of the Chevron stripes – a clean pattern that keeps things interesting but simple.

Sunnies: Ray-Ban Aviators are just so freaking cool. I love the gradient on these.

Earrings: Dogeared These studs have an edgy vibe.

Look 3: Shorts

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 10.21.31 AM

 

Sweater: Choies This sweet looking owl just called out to me.

Shorts: J. Crew I’m not a big fan of shorts in general but I do like the few I have from J. Crew.

Bag: Matt and Nat I like the simplicity of this bag and that it can be worn as a crossbody or clutch.

Earrings: Vince Camuto I’ll end with another pair of edgy studs.

What are you looking forward to wearing this spring?