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My Ideal Food Day (AKA My Birthday)

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If you are interested in supporting my writing, please visit my Patreon page to find out how you can donate as little as $1 a month to help keep me afloat: patreon.com/kristenforbes.

This was my birthday breakfast sandwich from Next Level Burger. It contains a whole grain English muffin, tempeh bacon, organic tofu, tomato and spinach.

Last year for my birthday, I gathered a group of nearly thirty people and rang in my new year at a pizza parlor and bar. I stuffed myself with pizza and beer, made homemade cupcakes, and had a great time. This year I was exhausted. After a whirlwind year that included a wedding, honeymoon, and two overseas trips, all I really wanted to do was lay low and relax. No party. No big get-together. Just a simple day. So that's what I did.

But simple or not, one thing was for sure: I wanted to eat good food. And I wanted to eat good food all day long. I wanted every piece of food that passed my lips on my 34th birthday to be something I LOVED. So I made it so. I started with a fresh tempeh and tofu breakfast sandwich that tasted so good, I didn't miss the egg or greasy cheese I typically pile on that type of sandwich. Once I got off to such a fresh, clean start, I wanted to keep the delicious food train rolling all day.

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I went to Harlow for lunch and ordered the special, which was a a sweet potato and veggie hash with tempeh, pepitas, scallions and jalapeño cashew cheese. I knew this would be a good birthday because after I ordered the cashier said, "Ooh, you're lucky, that's the last one" and immediately went to the board and erased the description of it.

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I'm all about indulging my sweet tooth on special occasions, so after lunch we went to The Maple Parlor and I loaded up on vegan soft-serve carrot cake ice cream and as many fun vegan toppings as I could fit in my bowl, including gummy bears, chocolate chips, sesame cracker bites, graham crackers, sprinkles, berries, ginger and pieces of waffle. I'm a big fan of Maple Parlor because they cater to all kinds of diets: vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, you name it. I generally stick to the vegan offerings when I'm there because they're delicious, though I've heard from good sources that the non-vegan options are great too.

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Things only got more delicious as the day went on. We went to dinner at Harvest at the Bindery and ordered a four-course small-plate meal that was honestly one of the best meals I've ever had. Between my parents, husband and I, we split cornbread, grilled chickory, pumpkin romesco (pictured), veggie chips, corn cake, sun choke gratin (pictured), lonesome whistle grits, grilled mushrooms (pictured) and mushroom trumpet BBQ. Not one dish disappointed. My non-veggie family was impressed. To me, this was plant-based eating at its finest. 

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This was followed by chocolate hazelnut pie that was delivered by our waitress with a birthday candle and a sweet speech. "Before you make your wish," she said, "here's my birthday present to you. Think about that one thing you're going to put into the world this year. It has to be something that ignites you, something that makes you come alive. It has to be something that brings you joy. It has to be something only you can do. And whatever it is, you have to commit yourself to doing it." Such a lovely moment provided by a stranger. 

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Of course there was still room for cake when we got home. My darling husband made my new clean vanilla cupcakes with macadamia-coconut frosting, which we topped with strawberries for a deliciously satisfying food finale. 

All I wanted to do this birthday was eat good food. Thanks to all I've gone through in the past year, my definition of "good food" has changed. In the past I would have wanted cheesy pizza. Heavy pasta. Cake loaded with sugar. Buttery popcorn. Fried jalapeños with cream cheese. French fries. Lots of wine. The works.

This year I still wanted "the works" but I wanted ingredients that would make me feel GOOD instead of making me feel bloated or giving me a headache or making me want to take a nap. My mission is not to be the food police. I don't ever want to tell people what they should or shouldn't eat. If eating Cheetos makes someone feel good, I think that's wonderful. But I've learned a lot about my body. I know what foods make me feel good. I know what foods make me feel terrible. And though I still think life wouldn't be life without at least a few of the terrible foods thrown in, I'd much rather spend the majority of my days eating clean food that fuels me, energizes me, doesn't weigh me down, and makes me happy to be alive. So this year on my birthday, I celebrated this awesome revolution in my relationship with food. I proved to myself that healthy and delicious can be synonymous and I enjoyed every bite.

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This Is What a Year of Clean Eating and Regular Workouts Looks Like

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If you are interested in supporting my writing, please visit my Patreon page to find out how you can donate as little as $1 a month to help keep me afloat: patreon.com/kristenforbes.

Today is my "fitversary" which means I've been sticking to a mainly clean diet and working out 4-6 days a week for a year. It all started in 2015 when I decided to start using Fit Girls Guide as a birthday present to myself. I was turning 33 and I wanted to get in the best shape possible for my wedding and hopefully a future pregnancy. My birthday was March 12th and I started the program on March 16th.

March 16, 2015

March 16, 2015

I made it a goal to always have fun. I refused to hate, shame, or torment myself. I made foods I enjoyed eating. I found workouts (mainly running) I enjoyed doing. I didn't berate myself for any missteps. I was proud of every small accomplishment. 

April 11, 2015

April 11, 2015

Clean eating made me feel so much better. I stopped popping antacids all the time. I stopped taking so many naps. I got through my days with more energy than I'd had in years.

May 31, 2015

May 31, 2015

I became addicted to the feeling of moving my body. I got in the habit of walking to the grocery store, parking far away on errands, taking the stairs, and adding little bursts of activity (10 push-ups here, 10 squats there) throughout the day. 

July 2, 2015

July 2, 2015

I drastically reduced the amount of alcohol I consumed. It became rare for me to consume more than two drinks a week. I thought that cutting down on drinking would be so much more difficult than it actually was. 

August 7, 2015

August 7, 2015

I never tried to lose weight. I focused on eating real, fresh foods and making exercise a regular part of my daily routine. 

September 13, 2015

September 13, 2015

In addition to Fit Girls Guide, I turned to Jillian Michaels videos and Kayla Itsine's Bikini Body Guide for challenging workouts. I fell in love with the feeling of pushing myself to the next level. 

October 25, 2015

October 25, 2015

I became passionate about adapting recipes to make them healthier. I especially enjoyed swapping cleaner ingredients into desserts to make them less sugary. 

November 29, 2015

November 29, 2015

The more addicted I became to the way clean eating made me feel, the more I wanted to experiment with clean living in general. I began making DIY versions of everything from dish soap and toilet bowl cleaner to face masks and shampoo.

January 3, 2016

January 3, 2016

I was more lax about food around the holidays because it was more important to me to spend time with people I love than to obsess over a few cookies.

February 7, 2016   

February 7, 2016

 

I'm proud of the changes I've made in my body even when it's not at its leanest. Some weeks I work out like mad and stick to clean eating 95% of the time and have the tight body to show for it. Other weeks my workouts are more relaxed, my eating is more relaxed, and my body is a little softer and more relaxed, too. I love both versions.

March 12, 2016

March 12, 2016

Clean eating is a way of life for me. It is my lifestyle. I eat treats here and there and don't feel guilty about it — but generally when I do, I don't feel physically great afterward. Sometimes I have to ask myself if that slice of pizza or cake is really worth the way I'll feel later.

March 16, 2015 on the left and March 12, 2016 on the right

March 16, 2015 on the left and March 12, 2016 on the right

The change in my appearance is nice but the change in my attitude, happiness, and confidence is  what I care about most. Exercise made me stronger, empowered me, and showed me that I'm capable of so much more than I thought. Eating well helped me to realize that the way I feel both physically and mentally is within my control. When I eat well, I feel well. 

March 16, 2015 on the left and March 12, 2015 on the right

March 16, 2015 on the left and March 12, 2015 on the right

I decided on a whim to give myself the gift of health last year on my birthday. It was the smartest decision I ever made and I'm proud of myself for making it. 

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33 Things That Happened in my 33rd Year

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If you are interested in supporting my writing, please visit my Patreon page to find out how you can donate as little as $1 a month to help keep me afloat: patreon.com/kristenforbes.

That picture up there if of me at my birthday party last year. A lot has changed in 364 days.

Today's my last day as a 33-year-old. For reasons I can't fully clarify, I always thought about turning 33 when I was a child. There was something this particular age that epitomized adulthood to my young brain. I always looked forward to it wistfully. When 33 arrived, I was thrilled. And now, looking back on it a year later, I can assuredly say my 33rd year did not disappoint. In honor of tomorrow's 34th birthday, here are 33 things that happened in my 33rd year. 

1.) I traded in a diet full of fake meat, lots of cheese, and tons of pasta and chips for one that focused on clean foods, whole ingredients, and lots of fresh produce, fiber, lean proteins and healthy fats.

2.) I became a person who works out regularly. In years past I've always gone through phases where I'd work out a few weeks or months here or there, but this year I got myself into the routine of legitimately working out 4-6 days a week every week. 

3.) I married the love of my life.

4.) I visited Belgium for the first time.

5.) I refocused this blog to showcase my new interest in maintaining a healthy lifestyle through clean eating and fitness.

6.) I received a check from the state of Oregon for over $200 in unclaimed property refunds.

7.) I accidentally shredded said check.

8.) I went to three different bachelorette parties thrown in my honor and spent time with some of my favorite female friends.

9.) I developed a serious passion for running and completed 12 races in 2015 and two races so far in 2016.

10.) I learned how to make cleaner versions of all the foods I love, from cupcakes to cookies to ice cream to macaroni and cheese to lasagna to eggplant parmesan.

11.) I tried trampoline aerobics with my friend Megan.

12.) I tried stand-up paddle boarding with my niece Grace.

13.) I tried indoor rock climbing with my husband Mike.

14.) I spent a relaxing weekend in Bend at a lovely house with a hot tub in the company of my sweetheart thanks to the generosity of a former coworker.

15.) I went from being unable to do even one push-up to being able to bust out 20.

16.) I got legitimately good at doing burpees.

17.) I spent a lot of time writing, working on articles, and babysitting.

18.) I said no to a few invitations I knew were going to absolutely drain me and I did so without guilt.

19.) I spent two different days in two different emergency rooms with two different family members.

20.) I got into the habit of prepping all my meals for the week on Sundays. 

21.) I lost 40 pounds.

22.) I mourned the fact that none of my grandparents lived long enough to see me get married.

23.) I didn't get sick once beyond a minor sore throat or case of the sniffles here or there.

24.) I spent a few days in Paris.

25.) I reached the Purple Level on Nike Plus, which translated to 1,553 lifetime running miles.

26.) I gathered with two other families for our 31st or 32nd (we've lost track at this point) annual camping trip.

27.) I watched a lot of Netflix movies while cuddled up on the couch next to my husband.

28.) I made a raw, vegan, gluten-free cheesecake for my husband's birthday that everyone in my family raved about.

29.) I made clean gingerbread cookies for Christmas that nobody in my family really liked. 

30.) I published a lot of articles that didn't excite me but paid the bills and several articles I felt genuinely proud of, too.

31.) I'm pretty sure I didn't throw up once, which HAS to be a record for me.

32.) I rode a camel.

33.) I planned a honeymoon to Morocco with my husband and we spent a week having the adventure of a lifetime

I capped off my last day as a 33-year-old with a 16-mile run in the rain and am officially dedicating the rest of the weekend to nothing but relaxation and fun. 

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This picture is of me last week, enjoying my natural habitat of daily sweat sessions and clean eating. (As a reminder I'm all for everything in moderation, which means I also enjoyed the heck out of all kinds of food this year, including breads, pastries, and sweetened mint tea galore in Morocco. If you never allow yourself to indulge in anything, I think you're holding yourself back from fully enjoying your life.) Here's to another year that will hopefully be healthy, balanced, fun, and productive. And here's hoping I don't accidentally shred any checks next year. 

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Clean Vanilla Cupcakes and Other Updates

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If you are interested in supporting my writing, please visit my Patreon page to find out how you can donate as little as $1 a month to help keep me afloat: patreon.com/kristenforbes.

I have a lot I want to talk about on this blog in the next few weeks. First of all, I went on my honeymoon to Morocco and enjoyed the most magical week of my life. I have lots of stories and photos to share soon.

Secondly, my transition back into real life since returning from vacation has been rough. Jet lag had me in bed at 9 and up at 5 almost every day last week. Portland's weather has me down and I've felt generally unmotivated after the high of being away. I'll go into more detail about this soon too.

This week, I'm trying to get my mojo back. My 34th birthday is coming up on Saturday and I have two big wishes: 1.) to eat white cake and 2.) to use clean ingredients for this cake.

Enter ifoodreal.com, where I found this Clean Eating Vanilla Cupcake recipe. I made a few small tweaks to veganize it and cut down on sugar, but in general this recipe is ready to go as-is. It also couldn't be simpler: you just combine the wet ingredients, add and combine the dry ingredients, and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. It makes 12 big cupcakes as 207.3 calories apiece or twice as many mini cupcakes. 

WET INGREDIENTS:

1/4 c coconut oil at room temperature
2 large eggs (instead I used 2 T ground flax seed mixed with 5 T water)
1/2 c maple syrup or raw honey (I used 1/4 c maple syrup and 1/4 c mashed banana)
1/3 c unsweetened applesauce
3/4 c milk (I used a coconut-almond blend)
2 t vanilla extract

DRY INGREDIENTS:

1 3/4 c + 2 T whole wheat or spelt flour (I used whole wheat)
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt (I always skip the salt when I'm baking)

Let me tell you: the batter tasted exactly like white cake. After they baked the banana flavor came out more, so it tasted a little less like a cupcake and a little more like a muffin. It was still good though. If you're not into banana, skip it and stick to the maple syrup or honey.

For the icing, I used this four-ingredient Coconut Macadamia Frosting from Minimalist Baker. This is all you need:

1 3/4 c macadamia nuts
2 1/4 c shredded unsweetened coconut
1/4 t vanilla extract
4-6 T powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the macadamia nuts on a cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes (or just throw them in with the cupcakes for the last 10 minutes). 

Toss the baked macadamia nuts in a food processor and blend into a meal. You may recall that I broke my food processor, so I used a blender. This made things a little tricky but not undoable. Set the nut meal mixture aside.

Throw your coconut into the food processor / blender and blend until smooth and creamy. If you're using a food processor, this could take 5-10 minutes. If you're using a blender, this could take FOREVER. I added water to speed up the process.

Add vanilla and blend and then add powdered sugar one tablespoon at a time until it's as sweet as you want it. I generally like these types of things to be less sweet.

Who says you can't eat your cake and eat it too? White cake and clean baking: what a perfect marriage. This feels like a good first step to getting my mojo back.

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Birthday Treats: A Little of This & A Little of That

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If you are interested in supporting my writing, please visit my Patreon page to find out how you can donate as little as $1 a month to help keep me afloat: patreon.com/kristenforbes.

My husband’s birthday was this past Monday and we were in full-on celebration mode all weekend. (This man is worth celebrating 365 days a year, but that’s a sappy post for another day.) When I asked him what kind of treats he wanted, he had very specific requests: cupcakes, cheese, Jelly Beans, and olives. Easy! "Great," I said, and supplemented with chips and salsa, crackers, dark chocolate-covered almonds, and popcorn.

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Here's how it looked all laid out. Pretty, right? But more importantly: pretty simple.

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I'm a devout cupcake maker, so for me the most important part of the puzzle was the cupcakes. My husband chose two flavors: Peanut Butter and Brooklyn Brownie. I always make vegan cupcakes despite not being a vegan because I prefer the way they taste. (I once spent 40 weeks making the 40 cupcake recipes in the cookbook VEGAN CUPCAKES TAKE OVER THE WORLD, so I consider that book my baking Bible.) I toyed with the idea of cleaning up the cupcakes by using less sugar and oil, but ultimately I decided that this wasn't MY birthday and I could go as clean and crazy as I want when it is. I made two tiny healthy tweaks (I used whole wheat flour and homemade peanut butter), but for the most part I left these decadent cupcake recipes as-is. 

You can find the peanut butter cupcake recipe I used at Miss Marzipan.  
You can find the peanut butter frosting recipe I used at Bake and Destroy
You can find the Brooklyn brownie recipe I used at Vegan Bandit
 

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Those are chopped walnuts on top of the Brooklyn brownie cupcakes and blackberries on the peanut butter. 

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Cupcake success!

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The only other homemade element here were the crackers, both of which were THREE-INGREDIENT recipes. The recipes I used for flax crackers and cheesy star crackers can be found in the cookbook SUPERCHARGED FOOD: EAT CLEAN, GREEN AND VEGETARIAN

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For his actual birthday, my husband wanted cheesecake. I thought it would be fun to do cheesecake two ways: a super-light version for breakfast and a more decadent one for dessert. This was how we started our day on Monday. 

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The recipe for these Upside Down Cheesecakes came from FIT GIRLS COOK, a cookbook from Fit Girls Guide. 

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This perfectly-portioned frozen treat was a sweet way to start the day. 

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For dessert, I wanted a show-stopper. So I turned to DELICIOUSLY ELLA for a raw, vegan, gluten-free berry cheesecake. You can find the entire recipe at her site but I'll also go through it step by step below. 

STEP ONE: Slice three bananas and freeze them. Also freeze 1 cup of fresh blueberries (the water content in frozen blueberries is too high, so you'll need to freeze your own.) Soak 2 cups cashews in a bowl of water. You'll need to freeze and soak for at least four hours (I did this step overnight.)

STEP TWO: To make the base layer, crush 1 1/2 cup almonds in a food processor. If your food processor isn't particularly strong, be warned: mine burnt out during this process, even though I was working in small batches. I realized after the fact that I needed to chop the almonds into small pieces  before adding them to the food processor to prevent this. R.I.P., yet another food processor. After crushing the almonds, add 2 1/2 cups dates and blend until a sticky dough forms. Press the mixture into a greased cake pan and put in the freezer. 

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STEP THREE: Now it's time for the middle layer. Supposedly you're still using a food processor for this step, but if your food processor died like mine did you've switched to a blender. In your blender, combine 2 cups soaked cashew nuts, 2 frozen bananas, 1/3 cup maple syrup, 1/3 cup apple juice, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Combine until smooth and creamy. Remove the base layer from the freezer and add 3/4 of the middle layer to the top before freezing again. Reserve the last 1/4 of the mixture to be combined with the top layer. You'll need to freeze the new mixture for at least 20 minutes.

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STEP FOUR: After waiting twenty minutes, combine the remaining 1/4 of the middle layer mixture with 1 cup freshly frozen blueberries, 1 cup strawberries, 1 frozen banana, 4 dates, 1 tablespoon maple syrup and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Blend until smooth, pour over the middle layer, and put the entire cake back in the freezer. Freeze for at least two hours. Remove from the freezer and let it thaw for a few minutes before serving.  

It's a time-consuming project, but so worth the delicious effort. 

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We also got in some good physical exercise this weekend since my husband wanted to go cross-country skiing. Physical activity, clean treats,  a few not-so-clean treats thrown in, and a lot of quality time with my sweetheart: that's my idea of a perfect birthday weekend. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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