San Francisco weekend

I’ve been trying to get as many mini-adventures in as possible lately. I always thought I didn’t have time for weekend trips but I’ve been getting out of town and it feels so good.

If anything, the change of scenery during the weekend makes me more productive during the week and knowing that I have another adventure ahead of me is motivation to close Netflix and get my stuff done.

This weekend, my roommate and I drove down to San Francisco for a night. Some highlights:

20140427-150613.jpgPizza with asparagus, fontina, and thyme at Palio d’Asti. They have a killer happy hour deal – an entire pizza for one dollar when you buy two drinks.

20140427-150649.jpgWe sprinted up a hill to catch the sunset. Worth it.

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Warm brownies with salted caramel chip ice cream and beer. Absolute perfection. The brownie mix was wonderfully pretentious. The instructions prefaced every other word with “organic”, such as “Add in organic egg. Pour the organic batter in the pan”.

20140427-150523.jpgBrunch at Zazie. This is what the line looked like before the restaurant even opened. Also worth it.

Our meals were absolutely incredible but sadly not photographed. My roommate got the special: oven baked kale, white beans, and root vegetables topped with egg. I ordered the Avignon scramble, which had eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, and herbs.

20140427-150508.jpgHuge caterpillars! It was Bug Day at the Randall Museum.

Also not pictured was studying over Irish coffee, burritos in the Mission, and wandering throughout the city.

All in all, a great weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

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Quick and easy veggie burgers

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I’ve been a vegetarian for about 14 years now. Over the years, I’ve had a lot of veggie burgers, and I mean a lot. Some have been great, while others were frankly awful.

In college, I started making my own instead of buying them from the store. Store bought veggie burgers tend to be one of two types: fake meat veggie burgers that are full of scary sounding ingredients and taste like rubber or hippie whole food veggie burgers that cost far more than I’m willing to pay for something that I could make myself.

I usually eat veggie burgers as part of a sandwich, rice bowl, or salad. They’re a great way to add some protein and flavor to a meal. They also freeze and reheat well (just make sure to shape them and freeze them flat first).

The following recipe is adapted from A Girl Called Jack, who writes great budget friendly recipes. I love that her recipe uses foods that I generally have on hand, making it super easy to whip up at a moments notice. I almost skipped the step where she boils the beans but I’m so glad I didn’t because it is brilliant. Canned beans tend to be a little tough, boiling them makes them soft and easy to mash into the perfect veggie burger.

I’ve made her recipe a little fussier because I happened to have the extra ingredients on hand but if you want an even simpler version, I highly encourage you to give the original a try.

Kidney Bean Burgers

Adapted from A Girl Called Jack

Time: 30 minutes (20 minutes to make the burgers and 10 to cook them)

Yield: 5 burgers

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup cooked brown rice
  • 2 Tablespoons flax seed
  • olive oil for frying

Instructions:

  1. Drain and rinse the kidney beans. Place them in a small pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Heat the oil over medium heat. Add carrot, onion, and spices. Saute until tender, about 6 minutes.
  3. Drain the beans and dump them into a bowl. Roughly mash the beans with a fork.
  4. Add in cooked veggies, brown rice, and flax seed. Mix together.
  5. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat.
  6. Shape patties. You can make them as small or large as you like – I usually go for around 1/4 to 1/3 cup.
  7. Fry until cooked, about 5 minutes per side.

Packing lunches

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At one point in college, I was eating three meals a day on campus, and it was miserable. Thankfully, I usually just have to bring one or two meals with me now and with all the practice I’ve had, I’ve gotten much better at packing a good lunch.

First of all, why bother? Bringing my own food saves me money and often allows me to have healthier, tastier options than I could buy on campus.

That being said, there are definitely times to buy food. I used to be so stubborn about not buying food. My parents nicely informed me that I was being absolutely ridiculous and that it was okay to spend $5 on a sandwich every now and then. So I’ve been working on that.

I’ve learned to buy food when I’m busy but on most days, I do try to bring my own food. My biggest priorities when I’m bringing food to campus is to have something that tastes good, fills me up, and packs well.

Learning how to pack food well has probably been one of the bigger challenges. Having your lunch leak all over your backpack and opening it up to find a soggy mess is not super fun.

Part of the solution is to use the proper containers. At our house, we have a lot of cheap Tupperwear, which work fine, but I make sure to use the good ones for lunch. Containers that screw shut, like the one shown above, are great.

I’ve also started using glass containers when I want to microwave my food – it’s a little heavier but it’s an easy switch to make and makes me feel a little bit more comfortable about the chemicals that get into my food. Old jars work really well for this, and as a bonus they fit into the cup holder on the side of my backpack. Yes, sometimes this makes me feel obnoxious (I think it’s a little silly that jars of all things have become trendy) but it is practical, cheap, and works well.

I also have a ton of tiny little containers that are great for small snacks or dressings. I use them instead of the little snack sized plastic baggies to cut down on waste.

The other two containers that keep me happy throughout the day are my coffee thermos and my water bottle. For coffee, this Contigo travel mug is phenomenal. It doesn’t leak and keeps contents hot for hours. Sometimes I actually have to take the lid off to let it my coffee cool down enough to drink.

As for water bottles, I like the kind with a straw. I don’t know why but I always drink so much more if there is a straw around. I have this CamelBak one and I like it but over time, the straw has become a little leaky. My favorite is this little baby one from Thermos. It’s small, but I am lucky enough to have water fountains everywhere around campus. I would rather fill up a small water bottle multiple times a day than carry around a big heavy one.

So once I have all the proper containers, all I have to do is fill them with delicious food.

First of all, I make sure whatever I’m bringing won’t go bad if it’s out of the fridge, especially on long hot days. I also make sure I’m going to have time to find a microwave if it is something I want to eat hot. Finally, I try to make sure my meal is nutritionally balanced and will keep me full and happy while I’m at school.

Some of my favorites are:

  • sandwiches
  • veggie burgers
  • rice bowls
  • salads
  • leftovers

What are your tips for packing a good lunch?

Cookies make everything better

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I tried to change the oil in my car today. I looked it up on the internet, bought supplies, and dragged my roommate out to the front yard to help me through it.

I couldn’t do it. The stupid plug would NOT loosen, no matter what we tried.

I spent a good hour with my face mashed up against the dead bugs on my front bumper before finally giving up. I don’t like to give up, at all, but eventually I had to face the fact that I wasn’t getting anywhere and could completely strip the bolt if I kept going.

So to cheer myself up after the battle with my oil plug, I went inside and did something I knew I could do properly: made cookies.

These cookies are adapted from Aran Goyoaga’s book Small Plates and Sweet Treats. Aran writes the gluten free blog Cannelle et Vanille; since I tolerate gluten just fine and my kitchen is not stocked with gluten free flours, I used a combination of whole wheat and white flour instead.

Make no mistake, the whole wheat flour isn’t in there for health purposes – these cookies have enough sugar and butter to be decidedly placed in the “treat” category. Instead, the whole wheat flour, oats, and coconut give the cookies a wonderful texture and helps cut the sweetness.

Spiced Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies  

Adapted from Small Plates and Sweet Treats by Aran Goyoaga, via Sprouted Kitchen

Time: 1.5 hours (20 minutes prep, 1 hour chill, 10 minutes bake)

Yield: 24 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup white flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips (I like to quickly chop them so I get little bits of chocolate distributed throughout my cookies)
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts

Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar. Cream with a whisk until smooth (about 2-3 minutes).
  2. Add vanilla and egg. Beat to combine.
  3. Add both flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Use a spatula to fold them until just combined.
  4. Fold in chocolate, oats, coconut, and walnuts.
  5. Chill in fridge for at least 1 hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 350° F and grease a cookie sheet.
  7. Scoop heaped tablespoons of dough and roll into balls. Place dough about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet.
  8. Bake for about 8-10 minutes. The cookies will crisp up quite a bit so stick to 8 minutes if you want softer cookies.

 

Whoops.

So apparently, when I said “I’m totally going to keep blogging after my class ends!”, what I really meant was “I’m going to fall off the face of the planet for a few weeks”. My bad.

Life has been crazy busy since I got back from break, but thankfully with fun things. I don’t love my classes as much as I did last quarter but I’ve been making up for it by enjoying my time outside of class substantially more.

I’m finally starting to settle into the new quarter (my first midterms were this week, ahh!), which hopefully means finally being able to get a few blog posts up.

So what have I been up to, if not school? I’ve been getting out of town, which is usually a bit of a rarity for me. My roommate took me to Santa Cruz to volunteer with an organization called Ride a Wave, which takes children with special needs surfing. She has been working with them for years and it was an incredible experience.

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The picture above is one of the few I took while in Santa Cruz (I left my phone at home while we were on the beach). We went to the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History to see an incredible paper-cutting exhibit by Nikki McClure. The artist kept the list above in her studio, and I really liked it.

I also went on a weekend trip to Yosemite with a few friends.

It was the perfect time of the year to go – it was warm enough to wear shorts and all the waterfalls were at their peak thanks to the snow melt. We hung out by the river, went for a few short hikes, and enjoyed good company in a beautiful place.

 

There was cake too.

With all this excitement, my eating has been all over the place. I realized after my first week back in school that tracking my food as I had planned was not realistic during the school year.

Most of my meals were repeats and many were eaten in class. The other night, I had ice cream for dinner while running from a microbiology review to a scholarship event, to an internship interview.

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Microbiology is pretty sweet though.

What’s strange, and nice, is that I’m okay with all this madness. I’m usually more in the “live-to-eat” category but I’ve been so busy, in a good way, that I’ve been a little more “eat-to-live” for the past few weeks. I have no doubt that this will shift as I get used to my new schedule but I’m not complaining at all – life has been great.

I was working on my meal plan for the week today and I’m excited to do some real cooking again. I also have a veggie burger recipe and date cookie recipe to share. Hopefully, there will plenty of good things happening in this space soon!

 

 

Food diaries

So I mentioned the other day that I was going to try posting my meals in order to help curb snacking and keep me accountable. I thought this would be a good time to talk a little bit about food diaries and tracking your intake.

I’ve learned quite a bit about various ways to measure someones food intake through my nutrition classes and one of the most common methods is keeping a food diary. These can vary in intensity – some people just jot down the foods they eat while others keep a careful account of all macro and micronutrients.

Pros

Keeping a food diary can be a great way of tracking your intake, especially if you’re trying to increase or decrease your consumption of a certain nutrient.

An added bonus of recording your food is that writing it all down tends to make people mindful about what they’re eating and more careful with their choices.

I like to use food diaries every now and then to get a rough idea of what I’m eating. Generally, I do this when I’ve notice that I haven’t been eating as well as I would like to and I want a little nudge to help me make healthier choices.

Cons

Food diaries can be a great way to help achieve your goals but I think it’s important to remember not to live your life around the numbers. My worry with food diaries is that they can turn into an obsession. I think part of being healthy is having a healthy attitude toward food and for me, that means not worrying about every bite.

Additionally, I think many of us have experienced that when we place too many limitations on our diets, we are much less likely to stick with it. For a dietary change to be sustainable, it needs to be something we are willing and able to do long-term.

It’s important to remember that a food diary is just an approximation. Food diaries are helpful to give you a rough idea of what you’re eating but there is no food diary on earth that can give you a completely accurate measure of your intake. And even if they could, we can’t always get all of the nutrients out of the foods we eat.

Types of food diaries 

As far as logistics go, you can record your food using a pencil and paper or an online program. Writing it down feels a little more low key to me, especially if you’re just keeping track of the amount and type of food consumed but not the nutrients.

Depending on what you would like to track with your food diary, some things that you can record include: time, food, amount, nutrients of interest, hunger before/after eating, emotions before/after eating, and location.

If you suspect you have an adverse reaction to a certain food, you can use a food diary to help you determine if eating that food has an effect. As always, make sure to check with a doctor regarding any intolerances or allergies though.

With online programs, it is very easy to calculate the nutrient breakdown of your diet. This can be incredibly useful, especially if you’re worried about your intake in a certain area, but it also makes it much easier to obsess about the numbers. The other benefit of using an online program is that if you have a smartphone, it’s very convenient to track your food.

Personally, I use Fitbit and MyFitnessPal.

I use my Fitbit (I have the Zip) to track my steps, so it’s nice to have everything in the same place. You can sign up for a free account without buying a tracker but I’m not sure if it includes all of the same features. I have the app on my phone, which just tracks calories, and it’s good to get a rough estimate of my energy intake.

MyFitnessPal is an extremely detailed and popular tracking tool. It allows you to track multiple nutrients, which is helpful if you’re trying to increase your dietary protein or cut down on the sugar. The interface is easy to use and there is an app for it as well.

If you’re looking to change up your diet, a food diary can be a useful tool – just make sure to keep it in perspective.

Pearl Harbor

USS Arizona Memorial
USS Arizona Memorial

One of my favorite parts of our vacation was a visit to Pearl Harbor. We did the free tour of the USS Arizona Memorial, which included a 20 minute video on the history of the Pearl Harbor attack and a boat ride out to the memorial, which is build over the remains of the ship.

The memorial was stunning and the trip was a heartbreaking reminder of the lives lost in warfare. Although I have friends who served in the military or are part of college ROTC programs, as a college student I am largely sheltered from the brutal effects of war.

It’s shocking to think that many of the boys who died on that ship must have been around my age.

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Part of the USS Arizona

The memorial, especially the video, also made me realize that I’ve stopped learning about many subjects as my education has become more specialized. I love that I get to focus on a subject I care about, but there is so much more about the world that I would like to learn.

I’ve been making an effort to read more for pleasure. It’s something I used to spend hours doing as a child but the amount of reading I’ve had to do in school has dampened my love of reading. I would like to try to include more nonfiction books about subjects I care about, like history.

In the past, it’s felt so difficult to force myself to learn for fun after a rough day at school but I want to make a stronger effort to keep on learning outside of school and make sure my education is a well rounded one .

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Inside the memorial