Little changes, big impact

Happy place
Happy place

I’m not a fan of the phrases “detox”, “cleanse”, or “clean eating”.

I find them to be vague, physiologically inaccurate, and usually a front for a weight loss scam. Your body has a natural detoxification system – it’s called your liver. For me, a healthy diet is a balance of foods that are good for your body and others that are good for your soul.

While I don’t like the idea of cleanses or diets, I do believe in reevaluating my behavior and making changes if the way I have been acting isn’t serving me to the fullest extent (a good principle for life beyond food as well).

My diet has varied quite a bit this summer. There were a few weeks of stress-eating large quantities of dark chocolate (oh hey Trader Joes Pound Plus bars) followed by weeks where I honestly didn’t have time to eat anything other than salad.

I’ve been pretty consistently tracking my diet using MyFitnessPal and it’s been interesting to see how the way I’ve felt, both physically and mentally, has changed along with the way I eat.

I’m the first to admit that I can be a creature of habit. For a while, I had gotten into a routine that was really working well for me. Lately, I’ve noticed my good behavior slipping and habits that don’t work as well for me are popping up instead.

My game plan is to try to reincorporate some of the good habits I had picked up earlier this summer to get myself back into a place where I’m feeling my best. I know this next week is going to be an especially rough one and I want to make some changes to make it as easy as possible.

  • Go for a walk in the morning. Moving around in the morning, even if it’s just for 20 minutes, makes me feel like I’ve started my day on the right track.
  • Cut back on the coffee. One of my problems with coffee is that I like to have something sweet along with it. I’ve been spending a lot of time studying in coffee shops lately. Coffee and a pastry has become a regular afternoon habit instead of an occasional treat.
  • Get my sugar from fruit instead of refined sugar. This was one of the changes that had the biggest impact. I noticed that once I got used to having less sugar, refined sugar actually tasted too sweet and I didn’t crave it any more. Now that I’m back to eating more refined sugar, the cravings are back and it makes me feel awful.
  • Keep tracking my food. I really like that it helps hold me accountable.
  • Stock up on healthy snacks. Yogurt and fruit has been a big one this summer.
  • Focus on self care. It may sound silly but when I invest time in myself and my body, it reminds me to appreciate myself and care for myself in other aspects of my life as well. I’ve been using a simple homemade body scrub (used coffee grounds+sugar+canola oil+vanilla extract) in the shower lately and it makes my skin feel incredible. Body lotion before bed is another nice way to take care for myself.
  • Make sleep a priority and take a few minutes to relax before bed. In college, I’ve drastically reduced my recreational reading and I like the idea of taking 10 minutes to read a book for fun before I go to sleep.

Goat yogurt

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It looks so innocent…

It’s extremely rare that I find a food that I actively dislike. I definitely have my preferences but I’m not a picky eater in the least. Tempeh, seaweed, nutritional yeast, bring it on! Lately, I had the (unpleasant) surprise of trying something that I absolutely hated: goat milk yogurt.

The name sounds so innocent. I love goat cheese and I love yogurt, so when I saw goat milk yogurt on sale, I figured I would be all over it.

Yogurt and fresh fruit has been one of my main snacks this summer. I’ve recently fallen in love with the whole milk yogurt from Strauss Creamery. A couple spoonfuls over a chopped up peach and handful of blueberries is the perfect summer snack.

So when it came time to open up my goat milk yogurt, I quickly diced up a couple of plums from the backyard, threw them in a jar with some yogurt, and ran off to class.

No joke, I almost threw up.

It tasted like goat, in the worst way possible. It was funky and musty and reminded me of a barnyard. The texture was oddly fluffy and it was all I could do to quickly swallow it down.

My roommate, who was getting live updates of my yogurt experience via text, tried some later that day and actually liked it. Granted, she used it in a savory manner (with garlic on naan), which we both agreed sounded like a much better idea than with fruit.

Regardless, I’m now stuck with an entire tub of goat milk yogurt that I can’t stand. I don’t know what to do; this doesn’t happen to me! I’ve considered baking with it, but what if it messes up my baked goods? Then I’ll just have wasted more ingredients. Currently, I’m trying to give it away, but no takers so far. Definitely a lesson learned – next time, buy a small container first.

 

Restless

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“I’m restless. Things are calling me away. My hair is being pulled by the stars again.”

–Anaïs Nin

Lately, it feels like I’m about to burst out of my skin. It’s been a rough summer and I have so much pent up stress about school and my future. At the same time, I’m so burned out. I’ll sit in front of my textbook and stare at the pages as the words blur together while simultaneously becoming more and more anxious about how much I have to do.

I want an escape. I feel like I need to move and relax at the same time. It’s an odd mix, and I think I just need to get out. I’m craving an adventure and the quote above keeps playing in my head.

I’m dreaming of Spanish beaches and Colorado mountaintops. I want to see the stars from the desert and taste salt water. I miss the feel of sun on my bare skin and sand beneath my toes and the wonderful way your body aches when you’ve spent the whole day exploring.

I know I need to push through for just a little longer but it’s hard when I’m going this stir crazy. I keep reminding myself that this is temporary, the end is in sight, and this is what I need to do to get where I want to go. I know how lucky I am for all the opportunities I have and I am so incredibly grateful. This is just one of those times when it’s a little harder to stay positive.

The best cooking buddy

IMG_2448My roommate and I threw together a quick batch of pasta salad earlier this week and it ended up working far better than expected. The two of us cook well together – our tastes are similar enough that we often have the same general idea but different enough to keep things exciting. It’s the best kind of partnership. After four years of living together, we also know each other’s likes and dislikes well enough that planning out meals is easy.

I love the rhythm of cooking with someone you know well. There is a sense of trust and ease that forms over countless hours spent in the kitchen together. It’s incredible how much faster, and more fun, even the most complicated recipes become with an extra set of hands, a good playlist, and someone to laugh with.

Speaking of playlists, my roommate sent me this one, which is the soundtrack from a surfing documentary. I’ve been playing it on repeat over the past few days. It’s definitely better music for studying than cooking, which is perfect since studying has been taking up most of my time lately. It’s been a blessing to be able to come home and grab a bowl of pasta salad from the fridge on my busier days.

Mediterranean Pasta and Kale Salad

Too simple to really be a recipe, just cook the pasta and toss everything together. Quantities given are ballparks – tweak to taste. Would be great with garbanzo beans for added protein. My roommate likes to dress the salad right before it is served so she keeps the leftover salad and dressing separate. 

Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb whole wheat pasta (we used rotini)
  • 8 small tomatoes, diced
  • 1 bunch kale, torn
  • 3/4 cup kalamata olives, sliced
  • 1 cup feta, crumbled or in small cubes
  • basic vinaigrette, or any other dressing

Big Sur

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One adventure that I did manage to fit in this summer was a quick road trip down to Big Sur with my roommate.

The first day, we drove from Santa Cruz down to Andrew Molera State Park, where we camped for the night. We went back up to Garrapata State Park and explored along the coast the next day.

 

 

The next two nights, we stayed at Plasket Creek Campground. We went to see Sand Dollar Beach, Julia Pfeiffer Beach, Pfeiffer Beach (which is completely different) and just generally bummed around.

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On our way out, we stopped by Big Sur Bakery, which we had read about in multiple reviews and travel guides. It lived up to the reputation – we split a ginger scone and the best almond croissant I’ve ever had.

It was a simple, beautiful trip with my best friend and I’m so glad we made it happen.

Summer so far

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I pulled up this blog for the first time in weeks the other day to show a friend a recipe and was pleasantly surprised to find how much I had actually put into this space. I spent a few minutes flipping through the archives today and it brought back a flood of memories. It’s nice to have a journal of this time, with all of its uncertainty and excitement.

This summer has been a rough one. I just finished physics and am now struggling through organic chemistry. Summer sessions move fast and though it is nice to get these classes over with, it’s also a been a big push to get through it and honestly, I’m ready for a break.

I started a new internship this summer at a sports medicine clinic/research facility and so far, I’m loving it. I’m working with my Exercise Metabolism professor and it’s so much fun to see the concepts we talked about in class in real life. One of the researchers teased that she had never seen someone get so excited watching a respiratory quotient change during a VO2max test (but really, it’s super cool). I’m just so happy that I am doing something to remind me why I’m currently fighting my way through ochem.

I was dog-sitting for one of my TA’s for a couple weeks and the dogs were wonderful but also pretty high maintenance. I had a great time with them but it was also a nice lesson to appreciate the amount of freedom I have now. I was talking to a former boss with two young children and it helped me realize that I should take advantage of this time in my life when I have very few obligations. As someone who is a little Type A, it can be hard to let loose and enjoy my freedom but I’m realizing more and more that the period when I can do so is temporary and I want to take advantage of it.

For now, ochem though.

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Food-wise, this has been the summer of salad. Between class, interning, and living at my TA’s house, cooking has gone right out the window. My staples have been eggs on toast, yogurt with fruit, and endless salads. I’m trying to take advantage of the beautiful summer produce available now but I’ve definitely fallen into a routine, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I would like to shake things up and get some more variation in my diet but I’m not sure how feasible it is right now. For the next couple weeks, I’m more than happy to continue throwing together simple, fresh meals.

I did manage to squeeze in some baking as a thank you for my neighbors, who helped me finally change the oil in my car. After a disastrous chemistry midterm, I came home to make almond cupcakes and mini cheesecakes. I’ve mentioned before that I have trouble unwinding after a particularly stressful time and the routine of leveling flour, beating frosting, and even doing the dishes helped to calm my nerves and settle my mind.

The recipe for the almond cupcakes was from David Lebovitz, and I loved it. It was so simple to make but tastes fancy enough that I would happily bring it to a dinner party. I can definitely see myself making this over and over again in the future. The boy I was making them for requested buttercream frosting so I used this recipe from The Vanilla Bean Blog. I halved the recipe and it gave me more than enough frosting for 12 cupcakes. I did have to add a little more sugar to thicken my frosting and also threw in a couple drops of almond extract along with the vanilla.

As for the cheesecake, I used a recipe thats been in my mother’s recipe binder for as long as I can remember. I’m pretty sure it’s just off the cream cheese box but we’ve been making it for years and it’s a good one. The idea to make the cheesecake in a cupcake pan was oddly enough from a funeral where the caterers had served mini cheesecakes. Whenever I make these, I think about that day. It seems morbid to associate cheesecake with death but I really like that it makes me take a few seconds to remember those who have passed.

Mini Cheesecakes

Probably adapted from the Philadelphia cream cheese box.

Time: 90 minutes (10 min prep, 20 minutes bake, 1 hour chill)

Yield: 12 mini cheesecakes

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 8 full sheets of graham crackers (or 1 cup crumbs)
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar

Filling:

  • 12 oz cream cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Line a standard cupcake pan.
  2. Melt butter in medium sized bowl.
  3. Use a blender or food processor to finely crush crackers.
  4. Add crackers and sugar to melted butter and combine.
  5. Evenly distribute crust between cupcakes and pack down (a shot glass works well for this).
  6. Add filling ingredients to blender and mix. Evenly pour over crust.
  7. Bake for 18 minutes, until just barely brown.
  8. Cool fully before serving.

10 Second Raspberry Sauce

The measurements are estimates, this is definitely one of those things I just eyeball.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • splash of water

Instructions:

  1. Combine in microwave safe bowl and heat, stirring occasionally, until raspberries are broken down and sauce has started to thicken. Sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.
  2. Pour over cooled cheesecakes.