Thursday, April 3, 2014

When Life Gives You Lemons...

Get excited!

While visiting the in-laws in Florida over the weekend, I was overjoyed to be back in my natural southern habitat, complete with 100% humidity, lush surroundings and warm, thick air.


Not only was the weather spectacular, but the local supermarket was teeming with so many fresh, organic produce options that I had all but forgotten about during the arctic tundra winter I'd been living through in New York.

I figured while in Florida, do as the Floridians do and feast on some citrus... ('cause all Floridians do that, right?)


I can't think of a happier-looking fruit than a lemon and if the bright color doesn't sunny-up your disposition, maybe a few of these lemony facts will get your juices flowing....

  • Citrus fruits are PACKED to the rind with important nutrients our bodies need to thrive: vitamin C is the one we all know and love, but there's also: potassium, folate, calcium, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, thiamin, niacin, and the fibers pectin and lignan.
  • Over 170 different phytochemicals have been identified in citrus fruits. These important naturally-occurring compounds are known to have antioxidant properties, making them both immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory. (inflammation=sickness FYI)
  • Eating more citrus fruit serves as possible protection against heart disease, stroke, arthritis, asthma, Alzheimer's disease, cognitive decline, multiple sclerosis, age-related eye disease and diabetes.
  • Many of these beneficial vitamins and nutrients are found in the peel and white pulp we tend to avoid in citrus. Be sure, in addition to juicing your lemons and citrus, that you're zesting those bright colored rinds! The zest makes an excellent addition to salad dressings, otherwise plain vegetables and, of course, baked goods. [source]
And that's where my area of joyous expertise comes in....







There I am, soaking up some sunny vitamin D while simultaneously extracting anti-cancer properties from a lemon rind. Modern day multitasking.




Staying true to my intention of baking more health-conscious treats, I decided to try a twist on your standard coffee shop's sugar-laden Lemon Poppy Seed muffin... And so was birthed:


VEGAN LEMON COCONUT MUFFINS:

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt

1/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup apple sauce
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 TBSP lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1 TBSP poppy seeds

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.

Combine your dry ingredients in one bowl. Combine your wet ingredients in another larger bowl. Add dry to wet, and stir but DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT go by my photo below and use a whisk. A wooden spoon works best. The trick is to keep the batter just combined- mixing too much makes for a liquidy batter and the beauty in these babies is the lumpy, hearty texture. Remember: lumps are your friend in this case.

Once your batter is just combined, pour into greased or lined muffins tins and
Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

The recipe listed above makes about 4 regular sized muffins, so you can double, or even triple it up if you're really in the muffin mood.

Sweetened with real maple syrup, unsweetened apple sauce, and forgoing the poppy seeds for unsweetened coconut shreds, these hearty muffins served as such a filling and satisfying snack, I enjoyed them pretty much all weekend long...


I loved them so much that by the end of the 3 days, I had made 4 batches. In the last batch, I decided to experiment with another Florida-in-March delicacy: organic strawberries.


I diced some up, added them to the regular batter, popped them in the oven and voila: two fruits in one bite!


With your leftover lemons, might I suggest making some delicious/nutritious lemon and mint-infused water? It's like lemonade, only without the sugar.


Simply juice your leftover lemons, add a little zest and some mint leaves to a pitcher, muddle with a wooden spoon to release the mint essence, fill the pitcher to the top with water and let sit in the fridge overnight...


If you're back in New York or some other northern climate like I am now, it might be a little while before you can enjoy this hydrating, alkalizing refreshment by a pool but keep on juicing (and zesting) those lemons, dream of the sun and I promise the warm weather will be here before you know it!


When it finally does arrives, your glowing skin and beaming insides will be thanking you :)

Friday, March 28, 2014

How to Get Healthy (And Stay That Way)

..... Anyone?

No, really- I'm asking you.

I've been there before, and maybe you have too:

You're on top of your workout regime; you're nourishing yourself daily with a plethora of fruits, veggies and superfoods; your energy is top notch; your desire to "party" late into the night has all but vanished. You'd rather go to bed before 10pm on a Friday in order to wake up refreshed for that early morning yoga class, followed by a calm, easy trip to the farmers market where you'll get first pick of all the best produce and miss the crowds (who are still nursing their hangovers in bed or bloody mary's down the block).

It's a good life, the healthy life. A rewarding life. A happy life.

To be perfectly honest: with all the pressure of a cross country move, compounded with the frigid stress of winter, I kinda fell off the wagon.


Sure, I just say no to fast food and soft drinks, I avoid processed/ packaged anything and opt to grab n' go a little container of sprouted brown rice and quinoa from the corner deli instead of downing a large slice of pizza with extra truffle oil when I'm in a hurry... But have I been to yoga lately? Ummm, on and off. Have I been juicing daily? Not exactly.

What I have been doing (and what I suggest for you, if you're looking to remount the health horse) is finding ways to gradually implement a few tried and true healthy habits back into my life where it's convenient.

For example: I know meditation is an absolute game changer for me. While living in a cramped apartment overloaded with our bachelor subletter's accumulated possessions of 10 years has left my home almost completely void of any zen quality, enough became ENOUGH a few weeks ago, and I went to work carving out a little safe zone corner in my bedroom. I set up my favorite crystals, a candle, some incense and have been allowing myself 5 minutes of breathing/meditation in the morning.



Sure, it's not the 25 minutes I built up to in LA months ago and I skipped a couple sessions in the beginning but I'm now routinely doing that little bit daily. And that's a [re]start.

When it comes to my beloved baking, I'm getting back to the days of yore when I mainly experimented with "healthy" sweets, limiting the butter and white sugar-laden treats to special occasions.

Yes, I may still be indulging in one chocolate a night (someone's gotta finish that box of assorted Godiva truffles in the freezer), but the box will soon be gone and once it is: Sayonara sugar high! Hello again, you beautiful overabundance of sustained energy!



So, how do we get healthy... and stay that way?

I'm just restarting the journey myself and I'll keep you in the loop. For now, the best suggestion I have to offer is: be nice to yourself.  Maybe you're not quite ready to devote yourself to daily gym visits (yet!), maybe those dessert or potato chip cravings are just too powerful to stave off at the moment. Relax. You'll get there. We'll get there. The first step to healing is truthfully acknowledging your current situation.



Do yourself a favor and select a few healthy habits you can start incorporating into your normal, everyday routine. Do you have a blender? Make a green smoothie for breakfast!

My current favorite:
-a few frozen banana chunks
-chopped pineapple (fresh or frozen)
-a handful of greens of your choice (spinach or kale are my go to's)
-half an avocado
-1 tablespoon chia seeds
-1/2 cup coconut milk
-add a teensy nub of fresh ginger if you're feeling zingy


hit a button.... and voila:



a healthy, DELICIOUS snack.

Do it today and I promise you won't feel so bad at happy hour later tonight.... because you're back on the road to health and it feels so good.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Shiksa in the City

I always thought I would make a natural New Yorker. During my first visit to the city as a wee tween of twelve, I was fascinated by the quick pace, the gorgeous super models on the street and the cacophony of horns honking. So much excitement! So much action! Coming from South Carolina, this was all very novel.


After that initial introduction to the city, I visited many times, enjoying every New York minute, even staying in the area for a 3 month stint a few years back. But it wasn’t until I made the move permanently this January that I learned what it truly meant to take up residence in “the city that never sleeps.”
A few casual encounters have assured me that my ever-evolving and inconsistent attitude toward living in Manhattan is completely normal. The first two weeks I was here, I was on an unabashed HIGH! A horrible blizzard hit the area two days after moving in and I was stoked- snow!? Snow everywhere! This wind, the snowflakes flying into my eyes… it’s so exhilarating! This is what our grandparents must have been talking about when they bemoaned hiking miles in the snow just to get to school every morning. NOW I KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS!! 
It wasn’t only the high stakes weather and obvious delineation of seasons that thrilled me (after living in a utopian 75 degrees and sunny, day in and day out for nearly 5 years in Los Angeles, this mattered)- it went beyond that. It was the people, they were so cultured and informed, outspoken and they loved wearing black; I could take the subway almost anywhere or hail a cab in the middle of the night if need be. And the friends… oh, my long lost New York theatre friends that I hadn’t really truly bonded with since college and shortly thereafter… Now we had all the time in the world to reconnect. And we could do it anytime day or night because everything is open 24/7!!!!
After a few weeks of reveling in this seemingly limitless lifestyle… reality set in. My bank account balance began to dwindle; I realized a life of going out on the town nightly for dinner, drinks or both just wasn’t sustainable. Weeks without yoga, green juice and daily meditation- rituals I so lovingly established with ease in California- were starting to take a toll. 
I started getting- surprise!- stressed out. I began wondering why I had moved here at all. Why was it so cold everyday? Why did we pay SO much rent for so little space? Many things that at first seemed charming- walking to the grocery store, waiting for the train, schlepping in the snow- were now just annoying inconveniences. 
I needed to get back into my truth groove. Enough of this letting my environment get me down. Because here’s the thing: stuff is going to go wrong in life, circumstances are not always going to be ideal— many times those things are out of our control— and it’s how we deal with and react to those circumstances that will ultimately dictate the quality of our well-being. With this in mind, while clinging desperately to a warming cup of hot water with lemon in my teeny shoebox apartment as flurries swirled furiously about outside my window, I started thinking about when and how I feel the most happy and at peace.




















… Being outdoors in a serene nature setting, relaxing at the beach, having dinner with family and friends, practicing yoga daily, relishing a warm and gooey chocolatey dessert, savoring stillness, conversing with interesting people, and baking. Always baking.
Since spending still moments outdoors and dining leisurely with friends at the beach was deemed a non-option in the hustle and bustle that is a New York City winter, I decided baking would do the trick. Yes, I knew I needed to get back to my yoga and green juice routine… and I would. But sometimes, we just need to allow for a little indulgence in order to restore and reset our stressed-out selves to a good equilibrium before embarking upon a new fresh n’ healthy journey. 
So how could I indulge my baking self in a more New York-centric way?
I had to look no further than 4 feet across our 10’ wide studio to see my fiancĂ©, J. Since being engaged to a not-so-standard but nonetheless, nice Jewish boy from New York, this South Carolina-California-hippie-hybrid Shiksa had recently been introduced to a whole new world of Jewish cuisine and culture. I decided to pay homage to my current dwelling in the historically immigrant-filled lower east side of Manhattan (and attempt to impress my future in-laws in the process) by trying my baker’s hand at the traditional Purim cookie: Hamantaschen. 
I first learned of the triangular-shaped stuffed pocket of a dessert while chatting with the in-laws in their spacious and well-equipped (swoon) New Jersey kitchen. As we discussed wedding details around the kitchen island (which had been generously laden with a variety of fruits, popcorn and other “noshy” items by the indelible and in your face Jewish ma-in-law to be, Randi), I noticed a pamphlet about Purim they had received in the mail. As I am with all new Jewish facts, I was intrigued and began to inquire… Future pa-in-law, Big L, gave me the low down and upon learning there was a cookie associated with the holiday, I was sold on it.
After returning to our not-so-spacious kitchen in the city, I became determined to defy all the physical laws of science by using my 1’x2’ area of counter space to create a delicious dessert worth eating- from scratch. Having found a mouth-watering recipe from a fellow shiksa here, I got to work experimenting with both the butter and non-dairy varieties of Hamantaschen. 



Two pairs of flour-laden sweatpants, an overnight waiting period and one burnt [trial] batch of cookies later, I had my end result. 

... And they weren’t too shabby.
I had nothing in my past to compare them to, so I brought in my Jewish food experts, Randi and Big L, to be the official taste testers. We even paid a visit to the famed 100 year old New York icon of a Jewish deli, Russ and Daughters Appetizers, to buy the "real deal" in Hamantaschen to add to the pressure excitement.












Both were tasted… 
Mine won by a long shot ;)
Now if that didn’t boost my New York state of mind, I don’t know what could have. 

***************
So yes, there are challenges to living in a city of this size, expense and intensity, but there are challenges in every sort of region. If I was living in the middle of nowhere, I could complain that nothing was walkable or that I was tired of eating at the same restaurant every time I wanted to dine out… The point is: it’s not where you are but who you are that determines your quality of life. You’ve heard the old saying “your problems will follow you anywhere.”
My hope is that you can take these little tales from my experience adjusting to New York City life- all the ups and downs inherent in that- and relate it to whatever you’re going through, wherever you’re going through it. When the going gets tough and you rashly decide, “I’m over this place” or “going back to school was the worst decision ever” or even, “I’m never going to land my dream job, I might as well just give up,”— instead of jumping to conclusions and ditching everything you’ve worked so hard for, take a step back, get comfortable, get silent, get back to basics and decide on something small and simple that will make you happy in that moment.

Maybe it’s indulging in a little fro yo, perhaps it’s going on a quick run around the neighborhood or it could be turning off your cell phone for an entire evening to enjoy the company of your favorite roommate. Whatever it is, allow yourself that quiet, focused moment of “me time” before to discover that special little nugget of a thing that’s going to bring you joy. 




By practicing this simple act of listening and doing, you’ll realize that life truly is what you make it. 


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Coincidence?

The jury's still out.

I woke up in the wee hours of the morning feeling SICK!

I use the exclamation point because this rarely happens to me. I take pretty good care of myself (abstaining from beloved milkshakes and bowlfuls of mac and cheese on the regular) to avoid that unfamiliar, unpleasant tickle of the throat. In addition to the foods I eat, I try to keep my thoughts positive and my routine anxiety-free.... which makes all the difference when you're lookin' to stay healthy.

All things considered, am I the only one who finds it sort of odd that 3 days after I stop drinking coffee, I start to feel icky throat sickness coming on out of nowhere?

Not to fear.... I went straight to Naturewell (an aptly named "wellness bar") and took a double shot of... The Face Melter:


Looks exotic, no?

Lemon juice, oil of oregano and cayenne pepper down the hatch.

I left with a couple of these bad boys... (2 gallons of water not pictured here)


And was on my way to start the day.

Luckily, all my "day" consisted of was a quick read through for an upcoming short film.

After which, I came straight home to chill. Like getting sick, just chilling- doing nothing- is something I don't allow to happen too often in my daily life.

Maybe it's actually not the lack of coffee making me sick, but the universe calling out for a bit of stillness...

Like I said: the jury's still out!

Welp, 3 days down. Not feelin' great but stickin' with it nonetheless.

Here's hopin' tomorrow I'm all better!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

ADDICTED

Hi friends,

Woah.....ummm.... so I haven't posted in over 2 years. It's pretty insane how time flies and things change.

I'll spare the deets for now and get right to the point: I'm getting off coffee.

It feels so official now. Good.

Why am I kicking a drug that I'd hasten to bet MOST of the world uses and [sometimes] abuses?

the FUN reasons:
1. I'm bored and feel like challenging myself.
2. J is out of town for a couple of mornings days at the moment, so he will be spared the wrath of coffee-less moi.
3. It just seems like the right thing to do.
4. I miss doing this ol' blogging thing and thought it'd be a nice way to get back on the bandwagon.

the SERIOUS reasons:
1. I'll admit it: Sometimes.... when I drink a strong cup of coffee in the morning.... I forget to eat actual food until, say, 4pm. NOT OK! It is speed to me and since everyone's body is different (as I've come to find during my 2 year hiatus away from forcing my way of eating down voluntary readers' throats), I'm going to experiment and see if maybe my body works more proficiently off the coff.
2. I've been reading a good deal about adrenal fatigue and while I don't necessarily think I'm suffering from it to a T, I definitely experience some of the symptoms pretty frequently. The most obvious one to my dear friends and loved ones being what I like to call GRANDMA SYNDROME. AKA, I can fall asleep as soon as I'm finished eating dinner. No problem- any night, anywhere, no matter how fabulous the company. Hel-lo! I'm still in my 20's and would like to have some fun past 9pm.

Maybe kicking this whole coffee addiction will be the cure-all!

Or maybe not.

But a girl can try.

2 days down.

When will I know it's official? When I get through 21 days without a drop of coffee.

Only 19 to go.

Come along for the ride if you'd like. I'm pretty sure I'll be sharing some other fun tips and tricks along the way.

HAPPY SUMMER!

xo
m

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Baking Spree

Once my pantry starts looking like this...


I know it's time to get back to work.

And when life gives you expiring organic blueberries


and you're leaving town for a week-


is there really a question as to what to bake?


Why... Vegan Berry Muffins, of course.

Admittedly, it's been awhile since I heard the smoke alarm go off repeatedly turned on the ol' oven to bake some deliciousness, but within 5 minutes of standing at the counter, I came to realize it's just like riding a bike.

I adapted these to-die-for Cranberry Blueberry Muffins from this recipe,

using:

- 1/4 Earth Balance
- 1/2 cup organic unsweetened applesauce
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 cup raw turbino sugar
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 Tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 Tsp ground flax seed
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup almond milk
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
- 1 cup frozen cranberries (from Christmastime)

You simply gather your ingredients,





put 'em in a bowl, and mix.


Add the berries last to avoiding heavy smashing,


plop the batter into muffin cups,


and bake at 350 degrees for 23 minutes (the original recipe calls for 35 minutes, totally depends on your oven)

Voila:


Hands down the best muffin I've ever made- vegan or not. Outrageously moist, just sweet enough and fairly filling thanks to the flax meal. (Though that didn't stop me from scarfing down my fair share...)


Seeing as I still had time to kill (a rarity) and wanted some sort of goodie to bring my parents, I decided on the perfect homemade California gift: vegan granola.

One of the ingredients seemed wildly appropriate for this particular trip back down south...


The recipe for "Hemp-nola" is seriously one of my favorite breakfast or anytime snacks. It can be found in Eat, Drink and Be Vegan.


Loaded with hemp protein and refined sugar-free, it's pretty much the bee's knees.


I'll be back in my west cost kitchen soon enough but for now, I'm enjoying a little trip down south...




shooting a short film with some of my favorite people




and spending time with those I love the most!