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DIY Day: Make Your Own Lotion

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It's been too long since I've posted a DIY tutorial. I've been wanting to make a new version of DIY lotion for a long time, but I kept getting tripped up by all the DIY recipes that called for beeswax. When making DIY beauty products, I really like to stick to recipes that only require basic ingredients that can easily be found at the store. Beeswax seemed to go beyond basic, so I kept looking for alternatives. 

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I finally stumbled across a few recipes that called for shea butter or cocoa butter and decided to try one of those instead. But then when I went to New Seasons, cruised the health and beauty aisle, and saw that not only did they sell beeswax, but that beeswax was significantly cheaper than both shea butter or cocoa butter. A big goal of mine when making my own products is to keep the costs low. So after all that time trying to avoid it, I ended up buying beeswax anyway. 

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I used this recipe from Wellness Mama to make my lotion. I love recipes like this that include optional ingredients because they can either be easily skipped or easily personalized. In my case, I skipped the vitamin E oil, shea butter, cocoa butter and essential oils. I added a teaspoon of vanilla extract. 

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If you skip the optional ingredients, this recipe only requires three ingredients: beeswax, coconut oil, and almond or olive oil. I found beeswax at New Seasons and I think it would also be available at a store like Whole Foods or maybe a farmers market where honey is sold. I thought it was going to be much trickier to find than it actually was. Also, I recently made a trip to Costco and stocked up on bulk-size honey (not needed for this recipe) and a gallon-size bucket of coconut oil, which have both come in handy when making my own beauty products.  

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Here's the full list of ingredients needed for this recipe:

1/2 c almond or olive oil
1/4 c coconut oil
1/4 c beeswax
Optional: 1 t vitamin E oil
Optional: 2 T shea butter or cocoa butter
Optional: essential oils, vanilla extract or other natural extracts to your preference
 

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Since the beeswax came in a big chunk, I cut it into small pieces before adding it to a mason jar. Then I added all the liquid ingredients to the same jar. 

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Add a few inches of water to a pot and turn it onto medium heat. Add the jar to the pot and let the water heat the oils. Shake the jar around from time to time until everything is melted. 

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Once melted, everything was completely liquified. I transferred the lotion to a small tupperware and let it set to room temperature. 

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Once it was all set, it had this perfect creamy consistency. I put a little on my skin and it felt smooth and soft. This three-ingredient recipe took all of about ten minutes to make and so far I'm loving the results. I definitely think this one is a keeper. 

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Banza Recipe #2: Mediterranean Pasta

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Today I made my second recipe using Banza chickpea pasta and just like last week, I tried to keep things super simple to show how easy it is to throw a few ingredients together and create a healthy pasta meal. If you missed my first post last week, here is a quick refresher: Banza does not sponsor me or pay me, but they did send me six complimentary boxes of their chickpea pasta. The ingredients in Banza are chickpeas, tapioca, pea protein and xantham gum. Banza is vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free and egg-free. Banza contains two times the protein, four times the fiber, and half the net carbs of regular pasta. To find out more, including where it's sold and how to order, visit eatbanza.com.

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This week I went for penne, which I thought would blend with the ingredients nicely. You may recall that last week I forgot to rinse the pasta after I drained it and it had some gumminess. This week I remembered and it was perfect. 

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Since getting pregnant, I've been using a lot of new resources for recipes. One of my favorite resources is the Ovuline pregnancy app, which is where I found this recipe for Healthy Mediterranean Pasta. It's a super simple recipe and easily adaptable (I used vegan butter instead of regular, kalamata olives instead of green, and I subbed in garlic powder since I ran out of garlic. I also used veggie broth instead of wine and added a little bit of the juice from the olives to up the flavor). 

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Fun fact: When I was a kid, I hated cooked mushrooms. The only way I ever ate mushrooms was raw and dipped in A-1 sauce. These days, cooked mushrooms are one of my favorite things. 

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I again cannot emphasize enough how much this chickpea pasta looks, tastes and feels like regular pasta. 

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Remembering to actually rinse the pasta this time made ALL The difference. 

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You'll notice there aren't any artichoke hearts in this picture. The artichoke heart jar turned out to be the bane of my existence. After trying to open it for what felt like hours, I finally had to throw up a white flag and wait for Mike to come home and help me. This was a low point for me as a feminist. 

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Damn you, artichoke hearts!

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All put together — rascally artichoke hearts and all — this dish is just as delicious as it is pretty. Minus the artichoke heart fiasco it took probably 20 minutes to make, tops. For a quick weeknight dinner that somehow tastes both decadent and light, this really hit the spot. 

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Cupcake in the Oven

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My darling husband Mike and I are so excited to be adding a new member to our family in November. We can't wait to meet our little cupcake and in the meantime, we've been learning a lot about pregnancy. If there's one thing I know for sure, it's that the way I envisioned my pregnancy and the way it's actually playing out are unbelievably different. If there's two things I know for sure, it's that this is okay.

I could not have anticipated how tired I would feel. I had this vision of pregnancy as this time when I would be motivated to sit down and write a book and attack my household chores and prep healthy meals and be full of endless excitement and energy all day, every day. It was like that, just like that, for a few weeks. But then the fatigue hit. Then the nausea followed. Then I realized there would be days when the single most productive thing I'd do all day was finish a writing assignment for work while reclined on the couch in between naps. I realized there would be days when I'd never change out of my robe. There would be days when I wouldn't make it out of the house. There would be days when I'd settle onto the couch to take "a 20-minute nap" only to wake up from a dead sleep five hours later. There would be days when I wouldn't write at all. There would be days when I would not work out. There would be days when I would not make it to the store or muster up the energy to fix a healthy meal. There would be days when I would eat chips and days when I would eat ice cream and days when I would go back to bed after my husband left for work and not wake up again until the afternoon. There would be days when a walk around the block was all I could handle. There would be days when I'd say, "Pizza? Absolutely. No way I'm cooking tonight." There would be days when I would throw up my breakfast and days when, no matter how exciting the prospect of our impending little one was, I simply could not work up the energy to feel joyful.

There were other days, too. Days when I did get dressed. When I did get more than just the bare minimum of work requirements done. Days when I ran half marathons. Days when I put together healthy feasts and cleaned the house and ran errands and felt like a productive member of society. I feel like what I've experienced in pregnancy is such a small preview of what's to come with my child: there are going to be such good days and such bad days and so, so many days in between. 

I'm not having a picture-perfect pregnancy, but I've seen enough turbulent and even life-threatening pregnancies to know I'm lucky. Am I enjoying every second of it? No, and anyone who says that didn't experience nausea or exhaustion. But I'm enjoying most of it. And though it's taken me awhile to get here, I'm finally to the point where I'm excited to share my experience. 

As a longtime vegetarian, one fear I had was that I'd crave meat during pregnancy. For the record, if this had happened, I would have eaten meat. I'm not depriving my baby of anything. Instead, the opposite happened. During most of my first trimester, my aversion to eggs and dairy products was so strong I had to avoid them almost entirely. This is how I found myself becoming a Mostly Vegan. On the rare days when the thought of eggs or cheese didn't make me want to throw up, I absolutely took advantage and got myself an omelette or grilled cheese. Most days, though, my body just wasn't having it. So I listened. 

The egg/dairy aversion lifted in my second trimester and I've been incorporating (small amounts of) eggs and dairy back into my diet. I've realized that I actually do like to limit my intake because the difference in how I feel when I eat a lot of it versus none is substantial. Most days I have either a small amount or none. Some days (I'm looking at you, Saturday) I have pizza AND nachos AND an ice cream sandwich. And then I wake up the next day and remember why Iife is more fun for me when I don't eat like that. In the end, it all balances out.

The first eight or so weeks of my pregnancy were somewhat breezy. I was tired but I didn't have any nausea and I had enough energy to more or less keep up with my regular workouts. Weeks 9 - 14 or so were more hellish. This was when I discovered that those cute late-night ice cream cravings pregnant women are always having in movies and commercials are B.S. A pregnancy craving is not "Oh my gosh, I just have to have some ice cream RIGHT NOW and I'll send my husband out to get some even though it's 3 a.m. because it just sounds SO GOOD!" A pregnancy craving is "There is literally one food and one food only that I can think about and not want to throw up, so I will do whatever it takes to get that food." For me that food was always something super salty like sour cream and onion chips or Wheat Thins, which was super bizarre for me because before pregnancy, I rarely used even a pinch of salt when cooking. Salt was just not my thing. In pregnancy, salt is SO my thing.

Before I was pregnant, I was running 150 miles a month, six days a week, at a sub-8-minute mile. Now I'm running about 55 miles a month, 2-3 days a week, and I'm creeping up on a 12-minute mile. I knew I'd be running slower and less, but I didn't expect things to decrease this much. What I discovered is that there were a lot of days when my energy level was simply too low to fathom going for a run. On those days I tried to walk instead, but even then there were some days I just had to skip and let myself nap instead. I've long been a proponent of listening to my body and giving it what it needs, but it is only in pregnancy that I've learned just how easy I need to go on myself sometimes. I am simply not willing to push myself for the sake of pushing myself when ever fiber of my being is telling me to rest, rest, rest. I know my body is responding to the needs of my baby — so if my baby needs me to rest, I'm going to rest.

I've been working very hard to supply my baby with an extremely nutritious and balanced diet. Once the nutrient quota for the day is hit, I allow myself treats. I do this often. Why? Because I'm HUNGRY and my baby is hungry and we already ate all the things we're supposed to eat, so now we're going to finish the day with an ice cream sandwich and not feel bad about it. Before I was pregnant, I so rarely ate the kinds of snacks I'm eating now. In the first trimester it was all about chips, crackers, toast, popcorn, and whatever salty morsels I could find. Lately I've been drifting back toward my natural sweet tooth, which means that first and foremost I've been eating a lot of fruit, and beyond that I've been having sweet treats of the ice cream and cookie variety. I try to make my own when I can and stick to cleaner brands when I can't — or occasionally I just go for it with the processed crap. I do. I thought I wouldn't get that stuff anywhere near my baby, but every once in awhile it sounds so good I incorporate a handful and move on with my life. Last night I had frosted animal cookies after eating a vegetable-heavy dinner. Balance, balance, balance.

So far the changes in my body have been both subtle and extraordinary. Pregnancy has a way of making you feel hideous by causing a slew of physical effects simultaneously. It's not just that you're gaining weight. It's that you're gaining weight at the same time your face is breaking out and the same time your hair is getting super dry and the same time your nose won't stop running and the same time your feet and legs are swelling up and the same time you have no energy to do anything, much less put on a cute outfit or do your hair or wear makeup. Huge kudos to the women who say they felt/ feel most beautiful when they're pregnant because that's been a difficult costume for me to wear. I'm not glowing; I'm sweating. My weight gain isn't going exclusively toward an adorable baby bump; my butt and legs and arms are getting bigger, too. I don't feel radiant; I feel tired.

That said, do I get what "they" say about being amazed by your body's capabilities during pregnancy? Yes. I've felt so much of my vanity float away during this process, partly because I'm too damn tired to give that much thought to how I look and partly because I recognize there's something truly magical about what's happening to my body. There is a human growing inside of me! Some nights I catch myself complaining to my husband about how big everything is getting and the fact that I keep breaking out along my jawline and the weird way a lot of clothes look on me right now. He always reminds me that underneath all that surface bullshit, our baby is living and growing inside of me. So maybe I don't feel my cutest right now, but maybe feeling cute is so beside the point anyway.

Would I trade this body for anything? No. There's a little cupcake baking in this oven and the bigger that cupcake gets, the less I care about the state of the kitchen. Let there be flour on the counters and batter on the floor. I can clean things up after this cupcake is born. Or I can not clean things up, and focus my energy elsewhere. Either way, there will be time. Right now I have more important things to worry about. 

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Banza Recipe #1: Creamy Avocado Pasta

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Over the next few weeks, I'm going to make six different pasta dishes — all using Banza chickpea pasta. Let me start by saying that I am in no way being paid by Banza. As previously discussed many times here, the only payment I receive from this blog comes from my generous patrons at Patreon. I do not receive ad revenue or sponsorship. All the money I receive comes from people like you who decided to donate $1-5 a week. In return they receive perks like access to patrons-only posts that go beyond what's here on the blog and have the opportunity to request blog content. If you're interested, please check out patreon.com/kristenforbes.

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Although Banza is not paying me, they did send me something nearly as good as payment: free samples of their product! I was more than happy to receive a case of six pastas from them. I again want to say, though, that I am not being paid and I do not feel obligated to say nice things about this pasta simply because it was provided to me free of charge. If I tried it and didn't like it, I would have quietly thanked them and said nothing about it on the blog. But here's the thing: I tried it and I really liked it. In part to say thanks for sending it to me but in bigger part to tell you all about something I thought was straight-up yummy, I'm going to share my experiences with Banza here.

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For my first foray into the world of chickpea pasta, I wanted to make a ridiculously simple dish to make sure I didn't confuse recipe frustration with pasta frustration. I turned to something I've made again and again over the years because I love the recipe's simplicity, flavor, and super short prep time. I've made this one so many times I consider it a classic. It's the 15-Minute Creamy Avocado Pasta from Oh She Glows. (By the way, I am definitely not affiliated with Oh She Glows, but I love the recipes.) This is one of those dishes that couldn't be simpler. All you need is pasta, avocado, lemon juice, basil, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. 

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It turned out I had all the ingredients on hand except the basil, which I bought fresh at a Farmers Market hours before making this dish. Just to reiterate how amazingly simple this recipe is: all you do is cook the pasta and throw all the other ingredients in a food processor. That's it.

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Look how creamy that sauce turns out. So as I mentioned, I've made this recipe many times before — but always with whole wheat pasta or a few times with zucchini noodles (sorry guys, I can't bring myself to call them "zoodles" like everyone else. They are zucchini noodles. While we're at it, a best friend is a best friend and not a "bestie" and "totally" does not need to be condensed to "totes" and I think we can all manage "adorable" over "adorbs." But I digress.) My original point is this: I've made this recipe enough times to know how it's supposed to taste. If the pasta made it taste different, I would have known right away. 

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The process of cooking chickpea pasta was the same as cooking any other kind of pasta. While it was boiling in the pot, the chickpea pasta looked exactly like ...  any other pasta.

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We can all agree that as appearances go, this pasta is distinguishable from any other, am I right?

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Here's where I messed up slightly. After draining the pasta, I neglected to rinse it as instructed on the box. We all already know I thought the overall result was delicious (hence an entire blog post about it), but I will say that I'm going to be sure to rinse the pasta next time I use it because it had a slight gummy starchiness to it — not enough to turn me off the dish by any means, but slightly there. I don't think this was the pasta's fault, though. I think this one can be chalked up to user error. 

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Look how creamy and green the final product is. The next time I make this, I think I'll add some peas for an even brighter pop of green throughout. 

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A little fresh basil on top and voila: dinner is served. You guys, this was really good. I know it looks just like pasta, but guess what? It also tastes just like pasta. If I was serving this to someone without mentioning what it was, I don't think there's any chance in the world they'd ask if it was made from chickpeas. It simply tastes like pasta. With this creamy avocado sauce, it was perfection. 

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Let's get into what this pasta actually is (Again remember I'm not at all paid for this — just sharing the info). Banza ingredients are chickpeas, tapioca, pea protein and xantham gum. Banza is vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free and egg-free. A 2-ounce serving contains 14 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber (as well as 30 percent of your daily iron, which is great news for someone with anemic tendencies like me). A 3.5-ounce serving (which is in line with what most Americans eat) contains 25 grams of protein, 13 grams of fiber, and 43 grams of net carbs (plus 50 percent of your daily iron, whoo hoo!). Average pasta per 3.5-ounce serving contains 13 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and 71 grams of net carbs. So in the end, Banza pasta contains two times the protein, four times the fiber, and half the net carbs. This makes it a much more filling and light choice than regular pasta — and it tastes just as good.

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This would have worked perfectly well as a main dish, but we wanted to take advantage of the warm weather and do some grilling as well. We both had grilled artichokes, Mike had grilled steak, and I had grilled tofu. Combined with the avocado pasta, it ended up being an incredibly tasty and satisfying meal. I can't wait to try more recipes with my remaining five boxes of Banza. In the meantime, I'm eating the leftovers for lunch and still loving every bite. 

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5 Grilled Veggie Recipes for a Yummy Summer

 Grilled portobellos and corn on the cob made in Krike's Kitchen.

Grilled portobellos and corn on the cob made in Krike's Kitchen.

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I'm keeping things simple today. The weather is warming up and I am so excited for summer, which is by far by favorite season. One of my favorite parts about summer is grilling and eating meals outside. I've been a vegetarian for over 20 years, so I've been asked ALL the "But what do you eat?" and "Where do you get your protein?" and "What can you grill besides meat?" questions. The basic gist of what I've learned from two decades of these questions is that a lot of people lack creativity and imagination. There are SO many options for yummy vegetarian grilling.

Below I put together a list of five options that I think will appeal to vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. Two of the recipes are vegan and the other three can easily be made vegan. Or hey, if you don't want to give up your meat (I'm not the boss of you; do what sounds good!) simply use these recipes as a base and add whatever meat you like. Add steak to your sandwich. Add shrimp to your pasta. Pair your corn with a burger or chicken. The possibilities here are endless.

 Pink-Parsley

Pink-Parsley

Chipotle Portobello Burgers from Pink-Parsley are bliss: peppers, onion, pepperjack, and avocado with "meaty" portobello patties for those days when you're looking for a spicy kick.

 Healthy Seasonal Recipes

Healthy Seasonal Recipes

Grilled Summer Squash Boats from Healthy Seasonal Recipes take freshness to a new level by topping grilled squash with veggies, herbs and cheese.

 Closet Cooking

Closet Cooking

This Grilled Eggplant and Roasted Red Pepper Sandwich with Halloumi from Closest Cooking goes to anyone who still thinks that skipping meat on a sandwich means dainty salad on bread. The combination of eggplant, roasted peppers and cheese proves that vegetarian food can be hearty, too. 

 Food and Wine

Food and Wine

Spinach Fettuccine with Tangy Grilled Summer Squash from Food and Wine pairs yummy squash with an ingredient that's not always the first to come to mind when you think of grilling: pasta.  

 Minimalist Baker

Minimalist Baker

Grilled Corn with Sriracha Aioli from Minimalist Baker puts a yummy vegan twist on a dish that traditionally includes cotija cheese. 

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A Weekend Away

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In what will likely be the last time the two of us are able to sneak away together for a long time, Mike and I spent our weekend at quiet cabin in the woods. The cabin is owned by friends who generously let us stay there and use all the amenities. I realized when we there that it's been way too long since we've had a few days with no TV, minimal phone usage, and plenty of time to just enjoy nature and each other's company. 

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In the absence of TV, I started and finished two books: a collection of essays by my talented friend Chloe Caldwell and another collection of essays by my author crush Lindy West. I loved both of them.

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On Saturday we went for a hike that went straight uphill but was ultimately worth the view. 

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We spent a significant amount of time working on a puzzle of various candies. It looks so sweet and innocent, doesn't it? I found my patience for it in spurts, and in between I read my books. My sweet husband worked diligently in my absence, exhibiting once again a level of patience that exceeds normal human expectations.

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We enjoyed a decadent meal at a French restaurant called Rendevous before allowing ourselves the ultimate indulgence of sleeping in until 11:30 on Sunday. 11:30! I was probably a teenager the last time that happened. We squeezed in another hike before Mike hit the hot tub and I basked in the sunshine. 

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Two food-related lessons I learned this weekend: The Not So Boring Bar and Grill in Boring serves amazing veggie burgers and Joe's Donut Shop in Sandy serves the best donuts. We ate our dinners out but made all our breakfasts, lunches and snacks at the cabin. Highlights of this included a sandwich we made both days with whole wheat bread, chili-roasted sweet potatoes (I roasted them the day before we left), nectarine slices, white cheddar and spinach. We also took some of our avocado-egg salad to eat with bread and crackers, plus grapes, kale chips, trail mix and mini vegan chocolate chip cookies.  

Other lessons learned: It really pays to get away, even if it's just for two days.

Sleeping in like a 14-year-old is possibly the most blissful activity on this earth.

Taking a break from technology and spending time in nature is so good for the body, mind and spirit.

I have the best husband (I mean, this is more a fact than a lesson. He just is the best.)

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From Krike's Kitchen: Avocado-Egg Salad

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Today I want to share the easiest, yummiest, healthiest egg salad recipe you could ever imagine. Egg salad has been weighing big on my brain lately because I've been craving it off and on for the last few weeks. Two weekends ago Mike and I finally made a special trip to Fred Meyer to get a grab-and-go egg salad sandwich, only to discover that our Fred Meyer doesn't make them anymore. Not only did they not have the sandwiches, they've apparently stopped making egg salad altogether. There were no tubs of egg salad to be found in the deli case. We picked up some potato salad instead. It was not the same. 

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A word about egg salad, and then a word about eggs in general: I don't crave egg salad very often. It is not a dish I could happily eat every week. But when I do get a hankering for egg salad, it is a craving so specific and so compelling, I will think about it for weeks. The worst part about egg salad is that it's a gamble. There is bad egg salad (which for me means the super mayonnaise-y kind) and good egg salad (the kind worthy of a fancy tea party). Bad or good, there is no substitution or replacement for an egg salad craving. 

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Eggs and I have developed an interesting relationship. I've discovered that I really love eggs — but only when I eat them rarely. They're not a daily treat for me. I generally feel healthier when the bulk of my meals are egg and dairy-free. However, going completely egg and dairy-free does not work for me. My body craves cheese. My body craves eggs. Certainly not every day, and sometimes not every week. But when I do crave dairy or eggs, I make sure to honor that craving. If you've followed my blog for awhile you know I'm a huge advocate of listening to your body. I am a longtime vegetarian, but I don't believe everyone was meant to be vegetarian. I'm a sometimes-vegan, and I definitely don't believe everyone was meant to be vegan. I think we're all meant to honor our bodies in whatever way that means for us as individuals. For me, eating eggs once a week or so works perfectly.

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This past weekend was hot in Portland. Temperatures reached up to 100 and the last thing either of us felt like doing was cooking. We still wanted to eat, though. I know there are people who are like, "It's so hot, I'm not even hungry!" but, uh, no. I can always eat. It was the perfect weekend to whip up some homemade egg salad. As I mentioned, I'm not a big mayonnaise fan. So we looked around the kitchen, threw a few things together and whipped up this amazingly easy and delicious avocado-egg salad. We are definitely not the first people to make egg salad using avocado, but we didn't use a recipe and just winged it. The results were delicious. 

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FROM KRIKE'S KITCHEN: AVOCADO-EGG SALAD

INGREDIENTS:
4 hard-boiled eggs
1 avocado
Lemon juice (I like things super lemon-y and used a whole lemon, but the amount is up to you)
Sprinkle of sea salt
Optional ingredients: parsley, basil, chives, dill or any other herbs (we kept things super simple and didn't use any)

DIRECTIONS: Once the eggs are cooled, peel them and smash them with a fork in a bowl. Add the avocado and smash together. Add the lemon juice and sea salt. Combine well. That's it! Serve with bread or crackers. This is probably enough for 4 servings, but we ate it all at once as a meal instead of a snack. 

The texture is creamy. The flavor is fresh. In my opinion, it tastes better than original egg salad. Using avocado instead of mayonnaise really lightens things up, so it's healthier than the original, too. The recipe is a win/win. Let me know if you try it!

 

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Special Announcement

It's June! You know what that means, right? To remind you from last month: I decided that starting in June, I would do one weekly post that was accessible to my patrons only. This is my way of showing my appreciation for their support. These posts will be available on Patreon only and will include material not available on my blog. This may mean a special post that can only be found on Patreon. This may mean extra or more in-depth info to expand on a blog post. This may mean a behind-the-scenes look at something from the blog. And sometimes, like today, it may mean an announcement that I reveal to my patrons BEFORE I write about it on my blog. 

If you'd like access to early, more extensive, or more behind-the-scenes info than what's posted weekly on this blog, please consider becoming a patron so you can read a weekly patrons-only post that goes beyond what you'll find here. You can become a patron by donating $1 a week. (P.S. I'm all about supply and demand, so my ultimate goal is for enough people to sign up as my patrons that I can start charging only $1 every other week.)

Why do I need patrons? I need patrons because I work on this time-consuming blog on my own time for no pay. I do not use ads or sponsors. I often share food recipes and DIY beauty and household cleaning recipes and I buy all the ingredients out of my own pocket. 

I love food and fitness and my goal is always to lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Some days I talk about half marathons and other days I talk about cupcakes. I love sharing recipes, DIY tutorials, tips, and stories from my life as I strive for balance. It is a joy for me to share all of this with you but it is an expense for me as well in terms of both the time I spend on it and the literal money I spend buying ingredients for recipes. I'm not trying to make a profit or a living off my blog, but getting a few bucks to help with the groceries each week is an immense help.

If you're interested, become a patron and get immediate patrons-only access to posts like the one for today, where you can be the first to learn about news before it's addressed on this blog. Whether you support me by donating financially or just reading and sharing my work, I appreciate you. Thank you. I have a lot of fun making this blog and I hope you have fun reading it, too.

Here's my Patreon page.

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Cupcakes & Cocktails

 Vanilla Cupcakes with Fresh Berries

Vanilla Cupcakes with Fresh Berries

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Mike and I hosted a Cupcakes & Cocktails party for Memorial Day and not surprisingly, he was in charge of the cocktails and I was in charge of the cupcakes. For his part, he infused vodkas (and gins, I think? I dunno — this wasn't my area) with ingredients like mint, black pepper, dill, cucumbers, basil and jalapeños. I personally haven't had a drink in 2016 but the crowd drank up his concoctions and seemed to love every sip.  

 S'mores Cupcakes and Banana Split Cupcakes

S'mores Cupcakes and Banana Split Cupcakes

There was nothing "healthy" about this party, and I for one think there's some value in that. We're in another cycle where a lot of news sources are picking up stories about "the dangers of clean eating"  that suggest a rigid adherence to healthy eating leads to orthoexia, an unhealthy obsession with eating right. I've written in the past about the problems I have with these types of articles, which I think unfairly link clean eating with eating disorders when in fact the disorders are a result of overzealous rigidity and not the clean, healthy lifestyle I know and love. The lifestyle I know promotes balance and moderation, not severity. 

 Apricot-Glazed Almond Cupcakes

Apricot-Glazed Almond Cupcakes

I think the best way to counter this popular view of clean eating as something dark, dirty and dangerous is to live a balanced life in which food is never the enemy. There are so many fresh fruits and vegetables in my diet, we empty our kitchen compost daily. I am the queen of whole grains and there's nothing I love more than a good tempeh or tofu. Nine times out of ten, I'll choose salad over fries. I'll choose water over soda. These daily choices make it so much sweeter on those days when I do go for the fries or the brownie or the root beer float or the nachos. I have those days too. They're infrequent and therefore they're special. I enjoy them without guilt or shame, which is how I think life should always be enjoyed. 

 Root Beer Float Cupcakes

Root Beer Float Cupcakes

So maybe I fight back by making cupcakes. This is my way of showing the world: here's something I love. It's not particularly healthy, but I made it with my own hands and it tastes good and it brings me joy to share it. And I know my husband gets joy from sharing his fun cocktails, which also have no nutritional value but have the effect of bringing people together and offering refreshment on a hot, sunny day. And I know we'll eat salad for lunch today and everything balances out. 

 Blueberry Lemon Creme Cupcakes

Blueberry Lemon Creme Cupcakes

I am obsessed with food in the sense that I spend a lot of time thinking about it, shopping for it, preparing it, and eating. I love finding delicious recipes. I love playing around with seasonal produce. I love discovering the flavors and textures my tastebuds respond to most. And though I spent my younger years being obsessed with food in a less healthy way, I now refuse to play the game that requires me to feel bad or guilty for eating a certain type of food or equate my self-worth with the items on my plate. There are times in life when you just want to eat a cookie and I refuse to believe there's anything wrong with that.  

 Pineapple Right-Side-Up Cupcakes

Pineapple Right-Side-Up Cupcakes

So I make cupcakes. Sometimes I make really healthy cupcakes, the kind where I swap sugar for mashed banana and oil for avocado or unsweetened applesauce. Other times I make the full-sugar, full-fat, fully loaded versions. I think there's value in both. More than anything, I think there's value in gathering with friends on the patio on a warm day to enjoy food, drinks, and company. In fact, I think experiences like that are the most valuable thing in life. 

Eat cupcakes. Eat kale. Ride your bike all morning and sleep all afternoon. Order the salad instead of the fries. But every once in awhile, order the fries instead of the salad. Ditto for dessert: satisfy your sweet tooth with fresh fruit at the end of your meals. Then one day, go for the ice cream sundae. Enjoy every bite. This summer, enjoy the heck out of corn on the cob and fresh watermelon and big fruit salads and spinach and artichokes. Equally enjoy an ice cream cone or salt water taffy or s'mores here and there. 

Look around. Notice the people with you. Notice the environment you're in. Notice your mood. Notice your comfort level. Are you with people you love? Are you enjoying the scenery? Are you happy? Are you content? This is what matters. Whether you had a "perfect eating day" or you scarfed down cupcakes at a party, this is always what matters.  

P.S. Even those these weren't particularly "healthy" cupcakes, they were all vegan and six out of seven of them were gluten-free. I hate excluding friends with food restrictions from enjoying the foods I make and I love experimenting with ingredients to try and make dishes that work for everybody. 

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It's "Bikini Body" Season

 http://the-toast.net/2013/10/02/girl-tips-2/

http://the-toast.net/2013/10/02/girl-tips-2/

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'Tis the time of year when magazines are splashed with headlines about achieving the perfect "bikini body." Like most things geared toward women, "bikini body" is a made-up term designed to make women feel like they are not worthy of wearing a certain type of clothing unless they have a certain type of body. As the cartoon above so aptly illustrates, this is nonsense.

If you have a body and you want to wear a bikini, wear a bikini. If you have a body and you don't want to wear a bikini, don't wear a bikini. If you want to become physically active and eat healthier foods as a means of feeling better about yourself, do that. If you want to work on toning your body as means of achieving a physical goal, do that. If you want to accept yourself exactly as you are even though you ate three cupcakes today, do that.

But whatever you do, don't buy into this story that's sold every year to women — the one that tries to convince us we need to change who we are in order to fit a certain ideal about how we're "supposed" to look. Wear what you want to wear. Do the physical activities you enjoy. Eat the foods you want to eat, aiming for a balance of healthy foods and treats in moderation. Put on a bikini no matter your size or situation. Or if you don't want to put on a bikini, don't. You're in control of your own body. You get to decide.

I'm a big fan of saving the energy most people put toward worshipping celebrities and instead investing that energy on the people in my own life — and myself. It means a heck of a lot more to me to listen to my mom and friends than it does to listen to a movie star I've never met/ will never meet.

That said, if you MUST look to a celebrity for guidance, here's a list of celebrities making body-positive statements that don't promote unhealthy ideals. If you're feeling low on confidence, steal some of theirs.

And for eff's sake, NEVER bash another woman for how she looks in a bathing suit or any other type of clothing. If you do, guess who will hear you? Your 12-year-old granddaughter will hear you. Your 8-year-old niece will hear you. Your friend who's struggling with her own body image will hear you. And then guess what you are? Part of the problem. A big part of the problem.

“I’ve just never cared what people think. It’s more if I’m happy and confident and feeling good, that’s always been my thing. And more so now, since having a family — I don’t seek out any other acceptance.”
--Kelly Clarkson

“I’m healthy and happy, and if you’re hating on my weight, you obviously aren’t.” 
--Demi Lovato

“Far too many women are much more hurt by being called fat or ugly than they are by being called not smart or not a leader. If someone told me that I was stupid or that I wasn’t a leader or that I wasn’t witty or quick or perceptive, I’d be devastated. If someone told me that I had a gross body, I’d say, ‘Well, it’s bringing me a lot of happiness.’”
--Mindy Kaling

“Don’t compare yourself to anyone."
--Minnie Driver

“I’m never going to starve myself for a part … I don’t want little girls to be like, ‘Oh, I want to look like Katniss, so I’m going to skip dinner.’ That’s something I was really conscious of during training, when you’re trying to get your body to look exactly right. I was trying to get my body to look fit and strong, not thin and underfed.”
--Jennifer Lawrence

 “I think that whatever size or shape body you have, it’s important to embrace it and get down. The female body is something that’s so beautiful. I wish women would be proud of their bodies and not dis other women for being proud of theirs.”
--Christina Aguilera

“I’ve never wanted to look like models on the cover of magazines. I represent the majority of women and I’m very proud of that.”
--Adele

 “My main beauty tip is don’t say that negative thing when you look in the mirror. It just isn’t healthy. That lack of beating up on ourselves — that’s my new mantra. Happiness is the best makeup; a smile is better than any lipstick you’ll put on.”
--Drew Barrymore

 “You know, it gets easier and easier. My fears came true: people called me fat and hideous, and I lived. And now I keep living.”
--Lena Dunham

 “I refuse to worry about something that I could not change … I am not a woman whose self-worth comes from her dress size.”
--Kristen Bell

 “While I admit that the dress didn’t photograph as well as it did in my kitchen, I will also admit that I felt very pretty. In fact, I feel beautiful.”
--Pink

 “As a child, I never heard one woman say to me, ‘I love my body.’ Not my mother, my elder sister, my best friend. No one woman has ever said, ‘I am so proud of my body.’ So I make sure to say it to Mia [her daughter] because a positive physical outlook has to start at an early age.”
--Kate Winslet

"Girls of all kinds can be beautiful — from the thin, plus-sized, short, very tall, ebony to porcelain-skinned; the quirky, clumsy, shy, outgoing, and all in between. It's not easy though because many people still put beauty into a confining, narrow box ... Think outside of the box ... pledge that you will look in the mirror and find the unique beauty in you."
--Tyra Banks

"I keep telling myself that I'm a human being, an imperfect human who's not made to look like a doll, and that who I am as a person is more important than whether at that moment I have a nice figure."
--Emma Watson

"My smile is my favorite part of my body. I think a smile can make your whole body. I want women to know that it's okay, that you can be whatever size you are and be beautiful inside and out."
--Serena Williams

"To all girls with butts, boobs, hips and a waist, put on a bikini — put it on and stay strong."
--Jennifer Love Hewitt
 https://mic.com/articles/89705/there-s-a-new-chart-on-getting-a-bikini-body-that-every-woman-needs-to-see#.ZetycYT9s

https://mic.com/articles/89705/there-s-a-new-chart-on-getting-a-bikini-body-that-every-woman-needs-to-see#.ZetycYT9s

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From Krike's Kitchen: Simple Watermelon Smoothie

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It's important to me to include some super simple recipes here because I think there are few things more annoying than looking at a recipe and realizing it requires a ton of ingredients and a lot of steps. When it comes to cooking (and life in general), I think simpler is better. A recipe with only a few ingredients costs less in both money and time. 

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My husband and I agree on many things, but I love watermelon and he is not a fan. I generally buy mini watermelons because they're small enough for me to eat on my own over the course of a week or so. I think watermelon is the quintessential summertime food but he doesn't like the flavor and texture.

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Imagine my surprise when Mike actually SUGGESTED we make watermelon smoothies for breakfast one morning. "But you don't like watermelon," I said, and he explained that a watermelon smoothie is not like eating a piece of watermelon. Excited to have him on Team Watermelon in any capacity, I didn't argue.

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We used frozen banana in the first batch of smoothies and found the banana flavor way too overpowering, so we switched it up and used strawberries the second time around. Much better.

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You know what else my husband doesn't like? Cucumbers. I'm married to a man who doesn't like watermelon OR cucumbers. But he's always full of surprises: just as he makes an exception for watermelon smoothies, he also happily tolerates cucumber-infused vodka. 

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Luckily, watermelon and cucumber nearly sums up ALL the foods Mike doesn't like. Having a partner who happily eats everything I make, no matter how kooky, is priceless. It makes it a lot more fun to experiment around the kitchen when I know he'll want to sink his teeth into whatever I end up making — and even more fun to collaborate together in the kitchen.  

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We got our Thai basil from an Asian grocer near our house, but any type of basil will work for this recipe. 

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FROM KRIKE'S KITCHEN: SIMPLE WATERMELON SMOOTHIE

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups watermelon
2 cups frozen strawberries
1/2 cup milk of your choice (I used an almond/ coconut combo)
Handful of mint
Handful of basil
Sprinkle of chili powder or cayenne

DIRECTIONS: Throw everything into a blender or food processor. Blend well. This makes enough for 2 servings. 

 

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Let's Talk About Tempeh

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I feel like I've been receiving a lot of questions about tempeh lately. Tempeh is a soy product in the same family as tofu with a firm texture and earthy, almost nutty flavor. It is a good source of both protein (31 grams per cup) and fiber (14 grams per cup) and works well as a meat replacement in vegetarian diets.

The problem with tempeh is that most people have no idea what to do with it. It's one of those foods that doesn't add a lot of flavor if you just throw it in with whatever else you're cooking. It can taste plain and feel dry when cooked and a lot of people get turned away from the weird, bumpy texture and even weirder brownish-gray color.

The first few times I made tempeh, I was not a fan. (This seems to be a very common story; I've heard it echoed in many blogs and cookbooks.) I sliced it up, cooked it in a pan with a little bit of oil and a sprinkling of spices, and thought: Oh, blah. The tempeh I made was probably the exact dish hardcore carnivores picture when wondering why anyone would ever give up meat for something so tasteless. 

Then I took a cue from Fried Green Tomatoes and realized that when it comes to tempeh, the secret is in the sauce. Tempeh that is either cooked in the right sauce or marinated in the right marinade tastes unbelievably good. I have a friend who works at a meaty BBQ joint that serves tempeh and he told me, in an almost conspiratorial whisper, "I never would have believed it, but the tempeh is REALLY good."

If you've have bad luck with tempeh or you just don't even know where to start, there is hope. Here are some of my favorite ways to prepare tempeh for the maximum amount of flavor.

 

Make tempeh bacon.

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The tempeh bacon I like most comes from the cookbook More Peas, Thank You. It's not available online, but many others are, like this one from Happy Healthy Life. Tempeh bacon is sweet, savory and crispy. Does it taste anything like "real" bacon? No. Do you really want it to? Tempeh bacon is its own thing. It's perfect as a protein-packed side for breakfast or thrown into a veggie BLT. You can also crumble it up and put it on top of salads a la bacon bits. 

 Whole wheat bread + a little vegan mayo + tempeh bacon + sundried tomatoes + kale = my favorite BLT ever.

Whole wheat bread + a little vegan mayo + tempeh bacon + sundried tomatoes + kale = my favorite BLT ever.

 Whole wheat English muffin + tofu + tempeh bacon + lettuce + tomato = a yummy breakfast sandwich.   

Whole wheat English muffin + tofu + tempeh bacon + lettuce + tomato = a yummy breakfast sandwich.

 

Make a tempeh marinade.

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I'm in love with the Marinated Balsamic, Maple and Garlic Tempeh recipe from the Oh She Glows cookbook. That recipe is not available online, but here is a similar Balsamic Maple Glazed Tempeh recipe from Meghan Telpher. I'm telling you guys: saucy recipes like these will make a tempeh lover out of anyone. It's delicious in the same way meat is delicious to meat lovers: it just tastes good.

 

Saute tempeh with bold flavors.

 

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The Simple Vegan Caesar Salad recipe from the cookbook Supercharged Foods: Eat Clean, Green and Vegetarian is one of my favorite things on this planet. It includes tempeh that's sauteed with olive oil, soy sauce and garlic, and it is to die for. Once again it seems that particular recipe is not available online, so instead I'll direct you to the Vegan Coach for your choice of gravy, peanut sauce or sesame sauce to saute with your tempeh. The thing about tempeh that I've discovered is that if you cook it plain, it tastes plain. If you toss it with bold flavors, it soaks them up. Tell your tempeh to go bold or go home.

 

Try these five tips for making amazing tempeh dishes. 

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Head over to One Green Planet for the step-by-step lowdown on making perfect tempeh. This includes everything you need to know about removing it from the package (trickier than you might think!), pre-steaming or simmering, choosing a shape, marinades and dry rubs, and cooking times. 

Get outside the tempeh box. 

 

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What else can you do with tempeh? You can do just about ANYTHING with tempeh. You can make tempeh lasagna with cashew cream sauce or kale avocado wraps with spicy miso-dipped tempeh or tempeh picatta. You can make barbeque tempeh sandwiches or General Tso's tempeh or tempeh tacos. You can make teriyaki tempeh or a BBQ tempeh bowl or vegan whole wheat pizza with roasted veggies and tempeh. Make a summer tempeh sammie. Make a blackened tempeh salad. Make a tempeh "bolognaise" spaghetti sauce. Make whatever your little heart desires. Just remember: no matter what you do, make it bold. 

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Advice to a 13-Year-Old Girl

 Me as a young teen

Me as a young teen

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I was recently unsettled when I came across a post from a 13-year-old girl asking members of a fitness community for advice about how to lose 15 pounds. In my opinion, no 13-year-old girl should ever, in any circumstance, have to feel worried about the size or shape of her body. It was heartening to see that others agreed with me and said so in their responses to her, but I was still unsettled by the original post. I have a 13-year-old niece, an almost 12-year-old niece, and two younger nieces and three younger nephews. I was a 13-year-old girl once. I'm flexible about many of my viewpoints in the sense that I'm generally willing to listen to multiple sides to a story, but this case is pretty cut-and-dry to me. Society fails our girls. The fact that a 13-year-old is concerned enough about her weight to post a question about it online is proof to me that we have failed. 

All this got me thinking about the kind of advice I would WANT to give to a 13-year-old girl. Instead of perpetuating a cycle of self-hatred and destruction, what if we empowered our young girls instead? So here's the advice I would give to all 13-year-old girls. 

1. When you look in the mirror, refuse to hate what you see.



This alone will make you a rebel in a culture that's constantly telling you to better yourself. I know you can't open a magazine without being told that this hair product or that makeup will make you look prettier. I know you can't turn on the TV without seeing women act embarrassingly excited about low-calorie yogurt or sugar-free chewing gum. I know you're being exposed to ads featuring models whose full-time job is working on their bodies and still get Photoshopped on top of that. I know many of the stars popular today have spent money to transform the way their hair, faces and bodies look. I know you're constantly fed messages telling you that wanting to improve the way you look should be of upmost concern, but it's completely in your power to say "No thanks" to everyone and instead look at yourself in the mirror and say, "I'm fine as I am." Trust me: You are. You're fine as you are. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you something.

2. Figure out how to be healthy in a way that makes you happy.

When I was 13, I hated sports but tried to play them anyway because it seemed like the thing everyone was doing. I wasn't good at sports and playing them did not increase my self-confidence, so I never had fun in the process. On the other hand, I know people who gained a lot from team sports. My sister became a confident leader because of team sports. She learned how to harness her competitive nature in a healthy, fun way. She loved running around on basketball, tennis and volleyball courts and soccer fields. If you love a sport, play sports. There's nothing better than participating in an activity, losing track of time, and not even thinking about the fact that you're getting exercise. One of the best things about being young is that you're encouraged to have fun. The older you get, the less this will be true. So while you are young, have as much fun as possible. Then try to carry some of that fun with you to adulthood.

I was in my late twenties/early thirties when I discovered I loved running. I wish I had known I loved running when I was younger. For some reason it never occurred to me to look beyond the box of organized sports. There are so many fun ways to move your body, whether it's sports or running or hiking or dancing or riding your bike or doing yoga. The trick is finding out what makes YOU happy. What makes you lose track of time? When exercise feels like exercise for the sake of losing weight, it's a form of torture. When exercise is fun, it's empowering and even life-changing. Figure out what you love to do. Don't worry if it's not what your parents or friends or classmates love to do. This is about your health and your happiness.

3. Learn to love food.

To this day, I'm troubled by a scene from my life that took place when I was about 15 years old. A group of us spent the afternoon swimming in a friend's outdoor pool. After several hours, my friend's mom brought out a trayful of food: sandwiches, chips, fruit. I was starving, as I'm sure we all were after spending several hours swimming. When we sat around the patio table, though, this is what happened. All the boys dug into the food. A few of the girls said, "I'm not hungry," and sat with their arms crossed, watching the boys eat. Then all the girls echoed their actions. One by one, every girl said "I'm not hungry." As the boys chowed down on what looked like the best sandwiches in the history of ever, the girls sat and watched.

That was the first time I learned that it was expected for girls of a certain age to act a certain way even if this meant denying their own desires. And it was the first time I did act that certain way, despite the fact that I wanted one of those sandwiches more than anything. You know what I realize looking back at that scene now? Probably every single girl there wanted a sandwich more than anything. And maybe if just one of us had been brave enough to say, "Yeah, I'm starving," and put some food on a plate, we all would have joined in. But we were stuck in a weird game of teenage girlhood. I understand how powerful that game is and how difficult it is not to conform. But as a 34-year-old who probably seems ancient to you, I promise you: Life will be SO much better if you let yourself eat when you're hungry. Let yourself eat when and what you want to eat, even if's not popular. Don't deny yourself your basic human rights in an effort to fit in. When you are hungry, eat the sandwich. Love every bite.

4. Take the energy society wants you to put toward your appearance and divert it elsewhere.

As mentioned earlier, we live in a society that wants its women to be primarily obsessed with their appearances. We're meant to spend the bulk of our days thinking about our bodies. And while there's nothing wrong with thinking about your body — I think about mine often — please don't buy into the narrative that's it the only thing you should be thinking about. If your body and appearance is what you're thinking about the most, where does that leave everything else? When you're young, you're full of passion. For a lot of people, that passion dwindles as they get older. Adult life gets in the way. But adult life isn't something you need to worry about right now.

While you're young, make a point of figuring out what you love. Do you love to read or study chemistry? Do you love to dance? Do you enjoy spending time with your friends or do you prefer to think about things on your own? Are you interested in astronomy? What about astrology? Do you like to cook? Do you enjoy experimenting with makeup? Are you interested in fashion? Do you like learning other languages? Do you want to be involved in politics?

Hollywood movies tell girls they should be interested in looking pretty and capturing the attention of a guy. They're rarely allowed to move beyond this narrative. Real life is so much more interesting. In real life, you can be anything. You can study anything. You can immerse yourself in anything. Don't waste the energy that could be spent on your passions worrying about losing weight.

5. Get comfortable in your own skin.

Maybe you think your legs are a little chunky and your best friend looks like a model. Guess what? You best friend probably thinks her hair is too stringy and wishes she had your beautiful eyes. Learn to look at other girls and women, appreciate them, and not want to be them. Hating yourself will make your life so much harder. Wishing you looked a different way is a dead-end street. The person you want to look like isn't perfect either; she just took a ton of selfies until she found the one with the perfect angle and filter.

If you spend every day fixated on your perceived flaws, you'll miss a lot of beautiful moments. If you're so worried about what you look like in the group picture that you can't even enjoy the party, that's a problem. And that's not a problem that's going to be fixed if you lose 15 or 50 pounds. You have the power to love and accept yourself exactly as you are right now — not the way you will be if you do X or Y to your appearance. Just like refusing to hate what you see in the mirror, refuse to hate yourself as you walk through life.

Some women with thick thighs and full bellies go on to make millions, win awards, and earn the respect of their peers. Some women with thin hair and flat butts become superstar athletes and bestselling authors. Some women with seemingly perfect bodies develop eating disorders and drug addictions. The secret isn't in how you look. The secret is in how you feel. Tell the world you see yourself as beautiful. Project an image of confidence. You know what the world will see? A beautiful, confident woman. That's how it works. It doesn't work the other way around. You don't hate yourself, punish your body, and transform yourself into being beautiful.

Loving yourself is beautiful. Respecting yourself is beautiful. Treating yourself well is beautiful. So don't waste another second hating yourself because that's what society tells us women are supposed to do. You're allowed to love yourself exactly as you are, despite living in a culture that tells you otherwise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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From Krike's Kitchen: Cheap Date Brownies

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Recently a patron asked if I could make some date-sweetened brownies.

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A what? A patron? What's this? A patron is someone who supports me financially on Patreon by paying as little as $1 per post. In return, patrons can ask questions for me to answer on this blog, suggest topic ideas, request recipes, and more. But why would a blogger need financial support? Good question. Let me break down my answer into three parts.

1. ALL WRITERS NEED FINANCIAL SUPPORT. Writing is one of the least lucrative endeavors you could possibly imagine. Yes, there are a handful of bestselling authors out there making huge bank, but for the most part WRITERS MAKE NO MONEY. What's worse is that writers are constantly being asked to write for extremely low or sometimes no pay. Imagine if our doctors were constantly asked to perform surgeries for free. Imagine if our teachers were asked to teach their classes simply "for the experience." Imagine if we went to a restaurant, ordered a five-course meal, and then explained to the chef that our budget is really low so we can't possibly pay for the meal, but we're happy to take a picture of the food and post it online to give "free publicity." This is what daily life is like for writers. I have worked as a freelance writer for about a decade and have been widely published during that time. You would be SHOCKED to know how little some of the places I've written for have paid me. I cannot emphasize enough how small a writing income is (despite the fact that I'm writing every single day). 

2. LIFESTYLE BLOGGERS NEED FINANCIAL SUPPORT. If you scroll through this blog, you'll notice that I make a lot of food recipes and also a lot of DIY beauty and cleaning products. The ingredients for all of these recipes and products come from my own pocket. I do not receive any endorsements. I do not have advertisements on my page. I would love to keep my blog as ad-free as possible so everyone who comes here can see my content without being pushed to buy something. 

3. CREATIVE PEOPLE NEED FINANCIAL SUPPORT. I can not emphasize enough how much of a one-woman show this operation is. I want to share what I've learned about fitness and nutrition. I want to provide you with information about everything from clean eating to half marathon training to resources for beauty products with less toxins. I want to share the ups and downs of my journey as I try to be healthy in this world. I want to make you feel good. I want to make you feel empowered. I want for this to be a place where you can consistently check in for the latest on my life and learnings. I treat this blog like it's my job even though I also have several other "real" jobs to do. There are times when I prioritize this blog even when it means turning down a paying assignment, because this blog is the place I come to be myself, share myself, and write about the topics I'm most interested in — not the topics I'm paid to write. I've been in so many situations as a freelance writer where I've had to write about topics that didn't inspire me. This blog is where I come to write about the things I am most passionate about. I think that passion shows. I know I can always tell when someone cares about her work. I care about my work. If that's something you value, please consider supporting me on Patreon.

Special challenge! If I get five new patrons on Patreon by July 1st, I am going to start doing ONE special Patreon post per week that ONLY my patrons can access and I will only charge patrons for that ONE post. That means that if you agree to pay me $1 per post, you will only be paying $4 per month. $4 per month! That's IT. $4 a month to see all my recipes, tips, musings and more — plus one special patrons-only post every week that will address the topics my patrons specifically request.

If you're convinced this is the greatest idea ever — trust me, it is! — please go to patreon.com/kristenforbes to sign up as a patron. Thank you!

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So, what about those date-sweetened brownies? 

Ah yes, the date brownies. So a patron asked if I could make a batch of date-sweetened brownies. "Sure!" I said before immediately getting into a situation that prevented me from being able to work on it for a few weeks (more on that in a later post). But never fear, today the day finally came when I could devote myself entirely to an afternoon of brownie experimentation.

The delayed timing of this turned out to be perfect because for the last few weeks, my husband and I have been discussing the idea of using our nutrition knowledge to create our own recipes to present on this blog, with the hopes of amassing enough to someday make a complete cookbook. We're excited about this venture because until now, all the recipes I've shared on this blog have either been someone else's recipe or a slightly tweaked version of someone else's recipe. My husband and I finally feel like we have the confidence in the kitchen to create our own recipes. So that's what we're going to do: create from-scratch recipes that reflect our desire to combine optimal nutrition and delicious flavors. We want to create real, clean food using fresh, whole ingredients — the kind of food that will make you feel amazing after you consume it. We also want to create food that tastes good, period. Those are our goals.

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Perhaps what's most exciting about this project is that my husband and I are merging our very different food backgrounds to give you a variety of options when making our dishes. I have been a vegetarian for over 20 years and am to the point now where my diet contains very little dairy or eggs. My husband is a carnivore from Belgium who loves fine food, good beer, and bold flavors. We have been cooking meals together for the last few years and you can often find a little bit of both our personalities in the dishes we choose. 

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So today we're presenting our first recipe from Krike's Kitchen (Kristen + Mike = Krike): oohey gooey brownies. I knew I wanted to make date-sweetened brownies, but I also wanted to see how else I could "healthify" a brownie recipe. I looked at black bean brownie recipes. I looked at avocado brownie recipes. I looked at date-sweetened brownie recipes. Ultimately, I decided to make a combination of all three.

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These brownies are about as clean and natural as you can get. No sugar, no oil, no flour, no butter. The sweetness comes from dates and a hint of maple syrup and vanilla. The creaminess comes from avocado and black beans. The intense chocolate flavor comes from unsweetened cocoa powder. This is a brownie you can feel good about eating. 

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I am a huge fan of keeping ingredients plant-based, especially when it comes to baking. I rarely use eggs or butter because I just don't feel like they're necessary to create delicious flavors. Mike will be contributing some meaty dishes in the future, so I think you'll find there's something for everyone in our recipe selections. 

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I had so much fun making these brownies because I was truly experimenting. I had no expectations of the outcome. I've learned to adapt to different scenarios in the kitchen, so I now have a much better idea of how to fix problems that arise. There are a few ingredients I added in the end that I wasn't originally planning to put in the recipe. Once I added them, it made all the difference. 

So how do you make these oohey gooey brownies? I'm so glad you asked. Without further ado, I present to you our inaugural From Krike's Kitchen recipe.

FROM KRIKE'S KITCHEN: CHEAP DATE BROWNIES
INGREDIENTS:
For the crust:
1 1/2 c pitted dates
2 c walnuts
For the brownies:
1 15 oz. can BPA-free black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 c cashews
1 c pitted dates
1/2 avocado
1 pinch sea salt
2 t pure vanilla extract
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 c milk of choice (I used an almond/coconut blend)
1 T maple syrup
DIRECTIONS: 
First, make the crust. (Why do these brownies have a crust? The brownies themselves are delicious but so oohey gooey, so the crust gives them a solid base.)
Combine dates and walnuts in a high-powered food processor. Blend well. Use a spatula to blend crust into a baking pan sprayed with cooking spray. Pop in the fridge while making the brownies.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Put all brownie ingredients in high-powered food processor. Blend well. Batter will be thick and creamy.
Pour batter over crust and spread evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Let fully cool and then refrigerate for at least an hour. This helps the brownies firm up. Even at their firmest, they will still be a little oohey gooey. Be prepared to get a little messy as you enjoy these amazing morsels.
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Done and yum!

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Mojo Slump

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I grabbed the photo above from the Women's Running Instagram page. It summarizes my current life well.

Here are the topic titles I originally bounced around for the post: 

Not Feeling It
I'm Tired!
Meh

I've been a little low on the mojo front lately. This isn't to say I haven't been taking care of myself, but I've been pretty exhausted and a little burnt out. As a result, I've had to let a few things go. This is one of those things that happens in life sometimes. My work load has been bigger these past few months, which is not something I want to complain about but definitely something I've had to factor into my schedule. Last night I did something I haven't done in a LONG time: stayed up working on a deadline. It was a nice reminder that I am not in college anymore and I do not enjoy staying up past a certain hour at my age. 

So what's to be done when we hit a lackluster slump? To me, a loss of mojo always signifies that it's time to go back to the basics: basic meals, basic workouts, basic schedule. I know myself well and I know there are times when my energy goes through the roof; during those times I can make  multiple-course meals and conquer new workout routines and load up my days with to-dos. During slumps, though, I know it's more beneficial for me to keep it simple. One-pot meals. Walks in the sunshine. Lots of self-forgiveness because I know I'm operating at a lower level than I normally do, and I also know that's okay.

And maybe that's the most important piece of all of this: to recognize where I am right now, to accept what my body and mind is capable of right now, to make the modifications I need to make right now, and to feel completely okay about not being an absolute badass at the moment. I don't need to be an absolute badass all the time. I'm allowed to be a softer person when that's what I need to do.

Right now, that's what I need to do. I'm fixing myself healthy meals. I'm going for light runs. I'm doing significantly less strength training than I normally do. I'm napping significantly more. I'm working a lot. I'm letting some daily household to-dos slide. Normally when the sun comes out, that's my time to thrive after a long winter fighting against Portland's darkness and rain. This year, it's working out a little differently. This year, this is my time to be a little more tired and to take it a little more easy. This is my time to listen to what I need — physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. And what I need right now is pretty basic: I need to eat good, nutritional food. I need to move my body. I need to get enough rest. I need to meet all my work deadlines. And the rest? The rest has a way of working itself out, especially since I happen to be married to the most helpful and supportive person on this planet. 

So I'm covered. I'm doing what I need to do for me right now. I know my energy will return again and I know it's okay that I'm a little low-energy right now. I think the important thing for anyone going through an energy slump is to continue taking care of yourself in whatever way you can. And always, always be nice to yourself. You're no less awesome when you're a sleep zombie than you are when you're a half marathoner. Embrace it all.  
 

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