Viewing entries tagged
intuitive eating

Comment

Prepping For Baby: Freezing Flautas

IMG_1429.JPG
Psst. Check out my Patreon account to see how you can support my writing. 

Our little cupcake has been baking in my oven for over 33 weeks and we are getting more excited every day. We're also getting a little more prepared each day. From setting up the nursery to acquiring a lot of essential items through the generosity of our family and friends, we've been taking a lot of baby steps (see what I did there?) toward getting things ready for our new roommate.

IMG_1416.JPG

One of my big projects for this month is prepping and freezing meals that I can then easily heat up once the baby arrives. I typically spend a lot of time during the week cooking. In the first few months especially, I don't anticipate spending a lot of time in the kitchen. However, I do anticipate spending a lot of time hungry. (I've reached the hungry, hungry, HUNGRY phase of third trimester pregnancy and I know it will only increase with breast feeding.) In an attempt to make things a little easier on myself down the road, I'm freezing meals now so I can have quick, healthy options after our baby arrives. 

IMG_1417.JPG

The first dish I'm making and freezing is sweet corn and green chili baked flautas. This is a recipe from the original Thug Kitchen cookbook. It's a super simple recipe that only requires the ingredients shown above, so it's a great one for a project like this. It's also easy to double the recipe: one for this week and one to freeze for later. 

IMG_1418.JPG

I chose this dish because it's an easy way to squeeze veggies into a super portable meal. Flautas can be picked up easily and I have a feeling that will come in handy on certain days. A lot of the other meals I have planned are more casserole-based, but I needed at least one meal in there that I could easily pick up with my hands. 

IMG_1419.JPG

An update on pregnancy itself: Yes, I'm still incredibly tired. That seems to be the hallmark of my pregnancy. In the past few weeks I've also been quite breathless. Standing for even a few minutes can make me feel like I might pass out, but light movement like walking helps. As the little cupcake's apartment gets more cramped, things are getting more uncomfortable for me, too. I feel a lot of pressure on my organs, mostly my bladder and lungs. I like the idea of sharing this space with the baby but I have a feeling we'll both be much more comfortable when we're free to move around a little more. 

IMG_1420.JPG

Mike and I have been taking a birth class for the last two weeks. We were so overloaded with information after the first class that we both had trouble sleeping for the next week. Last night's class was better, though we still both woke up an hour before the alarm this morning, unable to get back to sleep. I think the birth classes are solidifying the realness of the impending labor, something I managed to not think about for most of my pregnancy. 

IMG_1421.JPG

The thing about childbirth is there's only so much I can actually do to prepare for it. My body will do what my body does, my baby will do what my baby does, and I will do my best to respond accordingly. Although the idea of childbirth is getting more real to me, I still feel distanced from it. I don't think it will be REAL-real until it happens. 

IMG_1422.JPG

Meanwhile, my baby is moving more. The issue of baby movement has been a touchy one for me because apparently my placenta is anterior and apparently this makes it more difficult for me to feel movements. It took a long time before I could feel even slight flutters. Now that baby is moving around (possibly doing laps?) in a way I can obviously feel, I am grateful.

IMG_1423.JPG

My emotions have surprised me. I do not get weepy over television commercials and I do not cry over nothing like the pregnant women in movies. If anything, I've felt less sensitive during pregnancy than I normally do — but more irritable and more vulnerable. I'm not a fan of strangers getting too close to me. I'm more likely to feel agoraphobic or claustrophobic while out shopping or in group events than I did before. I feel very protective of my body and my space. I feel less inclined to be polite to strangers. When I walked past a man on the sidewalk last week and he yelled out, "Boy or girl?" I just kept walking, ignoring a question I didn't feel like he knew me well enough to ask. Normally I step all over myself to be polite, even when that politeness hasn't been earned. Pregnancy has offered me many moments like this where I surprise myself. 

IMG_1425.JPG

Having a pregnancy that coincides nearly perfectly with a presidential election is probably THE most stressful thing to me. The idea that I could bring a baby into a world with a certain leader in charge is too stressful for me to elaborate. 

IMG_1427.JPG

By the way, these tin pans came from the Dollar Store and they're perfect for freezing. As an added bonus, we actually have an extra refrigerator and freezer in our garage. It's usually unplugged, but we're going to plug in for the next few months and store big batches of ready-to-go food.

IMG_1430.JPG

I think I've reached that point in pregnancy where despite my exhaustion, I have enough worries and emotions coursing through me that I can't easily lie down and take a nap. It feels like all the drama of life should stop and make room for my pregnancy, but that certainly is not the case. I'm still working but it's getting harder to concentrate and unfortunately my job requires nothing but concentration. I'm trying to reach out and be a good friend to people but I'm also trying to spend as much time as I can readying myself before the beautiful storm arrives. It's an overwhelming time but little things like freezing a batch of flautas help me to feel a little more in control. 

Comment

1 Comment

New Cookbook Day: RUN FAST. EAT SLOW.

image.jpg
Psst. Check out my Patreon account to see how you can support my writing. 

I love cookbooks. New recipes, crisp pictures, fun ingredient ideas: a new cookbook opens up a new world. I get excited for cookbooks the way others get excited for clothes or shoes — I see a new one on the market and I simply HAVE TO HAVE IT. For many months I've been getting increasingly excited about the release of a cookbook written by four-time Olympian Shalane Flanagan and chef/food writer/nutrition educator/runner/mother Elyse Kopecky called RUN FAST. EAT SLOW. After all my anticipation, the book was released in August and I finally got my hands on a copy last night during a talk the authors gave at Powell's at Cedar Hill Crossing. 

I'm excited to get cracking on some of the recipes, but before I do I already know I love this book. How do I know this? Shalane and Elyse have a food philosophy that aligns perfectly with my own. They may eat a lot more meat (they are particularly big fans of bison) and their athletic training may be way more elite than mine, but we still share some very similar ideas about food.

Particularly in this country and especially as women, so much of what we're taught about nutrition is bonkers. By focusing so much on avoiding fat, counting calories, and restricting ourselves, food is stripped of both flavor and fun. Restrictive eating leads to hunger which leads to binging which leads to restrictive eating which leads to hunger which leads to binging. Nowhere in that cycle is there room for enjoyment or adequate nutrition. For many years now I've believed — and KNOWN! — that there's a better way. In reading their book, I can see that Shalane and Elyse believe this too.

Their food philosophy is all about "indulgent noursishment." They believe that eating real food and not obsessing over calorie counts or micronutrients leads to optimal body function and satisfaction. We all have the ability to tune into the needs of our own bodies, but some of us have been conditioned for years to participate in diets and other restrictive styles of eating. We've lost sight of the power of our own bodies and minds.

I try hard never to turn food into a moral argument but the fact always remains that I DON'T FEEL GOOD when I eat processed foods or when I skip meals or when I let myself get so hungry that I'm willing to eat whatever is set in front of me. I feel good when I eat whole, real food. I feel nourished. I feel happy. Eating a real meal does not make me want to turn around and eat a bag of potato chips. Eating a bag of potato chips makes me want to turn around and eat a bag of potato chips. Eating real food — the kind that is prepared with fresh ingredients, contains substantial calories, and actually tastes good — is the bridge for everything for me. It's the bridge to a good mood. It's the bridge to a good run. It's the bridge to less stress and higher contentment. There is simply nothing in this world that can or will make me feel better than a healthy, home-cooked meal shared with someone I love. 

In this cookbook, Shalane and Elyse are not messing around. They do not shy away from healthy fats, which are both flavor and nutrient carriers. We've been so conditioned to be so scared of certain types of foods (like foods with real fat) while encouraged to flock to the very foods that will leave us less satisfied and more unhealthy (like low-fat foods pumped with extra sugar). These elite athletes are here to put a stop to this madness and I could not be any more on board.

I'll be trying recipes in the coming weeks and letting you know what I think, but for now I'm just pleased that a book like this even exists. At their talk they said this is the first book geared toward runners that doesn't contain calorie counts, which I find astounding. As someone who refuses to count calories and/or weigh myself* I think this is such a positive step toward establishing healthier food habits for so many people. In my opinion food is meant to be lovingly prepared and happily devoured. When a food relationship is all about trying to look a certain way or be a certain weight, life can get pretty miserable. I have no interest in a miserable life and every interest in loving the food I eat and the body I'm in.

*You don't weigh yourself?! How do you know how much you've gained in your pregnancy? I don't! And I also don't think it's important that I do know. I get weighed at every single doctor's appointment and I know they'll let me know if there's ever an issue. Otherwise, what difference does it make? Keeping active and eating healthfully have been my main goals throughout this pregnancy and as long as I'm sticking to that, I think that's all that matters.

But what about losing the weight after the baby is born?! Before I was pregnant, I thought this would be a concern. The more pregnant I get, the less I care. I want my baby to be healthy and I want to keep myself healthy and the rest just doesn't seem that significant to me. My body will look the way it looks. I will continue to focus on being active and eating healthy and my body can either follow suit or not. I'm much more interested in providing a healthy life for my child. I think the best place for me to start is to introduce healthy food habits early. I don't anticipate my kid caring about how soft my stomach is. I do anticipate my kid caring about whether or not the food I'm serving is delicious and satisfying. 

With Elyse Kopecky and Shalane Flanagan at Powell's in Beaverton

With Elyse Kopecky and Shalane Flanagan at Powell's in Beaverton

Life is crazy enough without making ourselves crazy about food, too. I say: eat real, good food and enjoy every bite. Then get outside for a run (or walk or whatever your preferred mode of activity is) and enjoy that, too. We're humans. We're alive. We're allowed to enjoy ourselves and it's totally possible to do just that while living a healthy life at the same time. 

1 Comment

Comment

From Krike's Kitchen: Banza Recipe #4, Spicy Pesto Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes and Nectarines

image.jpg
Psst. Want to support my writing? Find out how as little as $1 can help.

Today I'm making another pasta recipe using Banza chickpea pasta. If you haven't been following my previous posts, here's a quick recap: Banza contains two times the protein, four times the fiber, and half the net carbs of traditional pasta. Banza is vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free and egg-free. Banza is made from chickpeas, tapioca, pea protein and xantham gum. Banza is not paying me to speak on their behalf, but they did send me six free boxes of pasta. I have been using this free pasta to experiment with different recipes. In all previous weeks I've followed a recipe, but this week I challenged myself to create my own. I was inspired by recipes I've tried in the past but decided to go completely off-book and create everything from scratch in the moment. The result was a dish that has a creamy pesto sauce with a slight kick mixed with perfectly roasted savory tomatoes and sweet nectarines. 

image.jpg

To me this dish screams summertime. I ended up using about a third of the tomatoes pictured here, plus two of the nectarines. While the oven preheated to 325, I sliced everything up and placed on a baking sheet covered with tin foil. 

image.jpg

I sprayed everything with a little spray oil and sprinkled with a touch of sea salt. I baked for 15 minutes on one side, flipped everything over, and baked for 10 more.

image.jpg

While those roasted, I assembled my pesto ingredients. I used 1 cup of soaked cashews (which I started soaking a few hours prior), 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup water, a package of basil, a clove of garlic, a sliced jalapeño, and salt and pepper to taste. If you're sensitive to spice, you could make this with either a deseeded jalapeño or leave the jalapeño out entirely. If you want to kick it up even more, add another jalapeño or choose a hotter style of pepper like habanero. For me, one jalapeño with all the seeds was perfect. 

image.jpg

There are few things I love more than throwing a bunch of ingredients into a food processor and ending up with something tasty. Making this thick, creamy pesto could not have been simpler.

image.jpg

From there I boiled a pot of water and threw my pasta in. One thing I love about Banza is that it cooks rapidly. (Did I mention I'm not paid by Banza? I swear I'm not paid by Banza. I just love their pasta.)

image.jpg

I know I mention this every time I make a recipe with Banza, but I again want to reiterate that it has the taste, texture and appearance of regular pasta. If you're nervous about a pasta made from chickpeas, rest assured there is absolutely no chickpea flavor. This just tastes like straight-up delicious noodles. 

image.jpg

Look at those beautiful shells, all drained and rinsed. (Do not skip rinsing. If you do, you'll notice a real starchiness and stickiness.)

image.jpg

I loved the hint of green that came out when I folded the pesto into the pasta, but I couldn't wait for the bold pop of color I knew was coming with the next step. 

image.jpg

I've been obsessed with roasted tomatoes all summer, but I think the real showstopper in this dish is the nectarines. A little sweetness in each bite makes this pasta refreshing and memorable. 

image.jpg

The whole recipe took about 20 minutes to make. It is packed with healthy fruits and veggies but does not taste like "health food." This dish got the seal of approval from my husband, who I don't think immediately realized that I hadn't followed a recipe to make it. For a quick, light summertime meal, I think this pasta is perfect.

FROM KRIKE'S KITCHEN: BANZA RECIPE #4, SPICY PESTO PASTA WITH ROASTED TOMATOES AND NECTARINES

INGREDIENTS:
1 box Banza pasta
1/2-1 cup cherry and grape tomatoes
2 nectarines
1 cup soaked cashews
1 handful basil
1 jalapeno
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
Sea salt
Pepper
Spray oil

DIRECTIONS:
See above.

Comment

Comment

Banza Recipe #3: Vegan Macaroni And Cheese With Roasted Tomatoes and Crushed Crispy Kale Chips

image.jpg
Psst. Want to support my writing? Find out how as little as $1 can help.

This week I tried my third recipe using Banza chickpea pasta, which contains two times the protein, four times the fiber, and half the net carbs of traditional pasta. Banza is also vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free and egg-free. It is made from chickpeas, tapioca, pea protein and xantham gum. 

image.jpg

Want to learn more about Banza chickpea pasta? Go here: eatbanza.com. Want to see the first recipe I tried? Go here: Banza Recipe #1: Creamy Avocado Pasta. Want to see the second recipe I tried? Go here: Banza Recipe #2: Mediterranean Pasta.  Also, in case you missed my original discussion about it, I wanted to again make it clear that I am not being paid by Banza by they did send me six sample boxes to try. If I didn't like this pasta, I wouldn't share these recipes with you. I'm sharing them because I think this is a delicious product and a great alternative to regular pasta when you're looking for a protein or fiber boost. 

image.jpg

I knew I wanted to make macaroni and cheese with the elbow pasta, but I decided to mix things up and use a vegan recipe instead of traditional cheese. I thought a healthy pasta like this deserves a healthy pasta sauce. This sauce is loaded with veggies, nuts and spices. There's a lot of nutrition packed into this meal. For the mac and cheese I used this recipe from Vegan Yumminess. I followed the recipe closely and was happy with the results, though I would make a few changes if I make it again. 

image.jpg

For this recipe you'll need  yellow or russet potatoes, carrots, onion, water from cooking, soaked raw cashews, coconut milk, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, garlic powder, optional cayenne pepper and paprika. I loved the flavor at the end, but if I were making this again I'd sub in sweet potatoes to give a little extra sweetness and creaminess. I'd also up the flavor intensity a bit by adding crushed red pepper or chili powder. Just a few tiny changes to fit my personal preferences. I love the simplicity of this recipe though: after cooking the potatoes, carrots and onion, I threw them and and everything else into a food processor, ran it for a few minutes, and voila: the perfect creamy sauce was done.  

image.jpg

While all that was going on, I cooked my Banza pasta. To reiterate from every other time I've talked about this, Banza pasta looks, feels and tastes like regular pasta. Neglect to tell your dinner guests it's made from chickpeas and I guarantee they'll never know. 

image.jpg

I love tomatoes in summertime and I especially love the combination of roasted tomatoes with pasta, so I knew I wanted to add some roasted cherry tomatoes to this dish. I took a container of cherry tomatoes, cut them in half, placed them on a cookie sheet covered in tin foil (easier clean-up), drizzled with olive oil and sea salt, and baked for 25 minutes at 400 degrees. I started the tomatoes first and then put together all the macaroni ingredients. 

image.jpg

Before I was pregnant, I watched a few Food Network shows a handful of times. Since being pregnant, I have watched shows on the Food Network every single day. I am now obsessed with everything from Chopped to Master Chef to Next Food Network Star to Guy's Grocery Games to Cutthroat Kitchen to Cupcake Wars to Cake Wars and everything in between. I'll even watch the junior versions of these shows despite highly questioning whether it's really appropriate for children to be facing that amount of pressure on national television. I am now truly obsessed with the Food Network and my only explanation is pregnancy. People ask me about food cravings all the time and at this point in my pregnancy, I think food cravings are a myth. Food Network cravings, on the hand, are very real. I think I got started with it because I needed to take so many naps during the day to combat my pregnancy exhaustion. It was nice to have a show that wasn't too intrusive on in the background when I was napping on the couch. But then it became a whole thing. I like to watch Food Network while I'm doing my own cooking. I like to watch Food Network while I'm cleaning. I liked to watch Food Network whenever I need a few minutes to regroup, get energized, or wind down. There is no time, really, when I don't like to watch it.

My Food Network obsession plays into this dish because I knew I didn't want to just stick to a plain macaroni and cheese recipe. I asked myself: What would the Food Network judges want? I know they'd want a pop of color (the tomatoes were perfect for this) and a variance in textures. Since the pasta and sauce on their own are so creamy, I wanted to add something crunchy on the top to mix things up. An obvious example of this for most macaroni and cheeses is breadcrumbs, but I had already committed myself to making a super-healthy version of mac and cheese. In keeping with this goal, I decided to make crushed kale chips for my crunchy topping. To do this I laid de-stemmed kale out on a baking sheet covered with tin foil and drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt and nutritional yeast (for a cheesy flavor that's not cheese), baked for 10 minutes at 350 degrees, flipped and baked for 10 more. When they were all done I chopped them into little pieces. 

image.jpg

After draining and rinsing the pasta, I added the creamy sauce. Can you believe this was made from potatoes, carrots and onions? I've also seen vegan macaroni and cheese recipes made with butternut squash, which I think would be a nice addition. 

image.jpg

Once the sauce was mixed in, I added the roasted tomatoes. Those Food Network chefs are right: adding a pop of color elevated this dish to a new level. 

image.jpg

Next up, I mixed in the kale to give the dish even more color and also a satisfying crunch. Combining creamy and crispy textures is a beautiful thing. 

image.jpg

Creamy. "Cheesy." Crunchy. Colorful. Savory. Rich. Packed with veggies, protein and fiber, this dish is a win/win for any day when you're craving something decadent but don't want to load yourself down with cheese and butter. 

Comment

Comment

How to Start a Self-Love Revolution

image.jpg
Psst. Want to support my writing? Find out how as little as $1 can help.

As I've mentioned many times in the past, I'm a big fan and follower of Fit Girls Guide, an online fitness community that promotes clean eating and self-love. For each monthly challenge with Fit Girls Guide, there is a new mantra. This month's is I Am The Revolution. I love this phrase because it encourages us to look inward for our own inspiration instead of seeking it elsewhere. 

At the same time, I know a lot of people are confused about where exactly to start when it comes to starting a revolution. Telling someone to "just love yourself" is not enough to get them going on a journey of acceptance and self-compassion. What does that actually mean and how does one practice it daily? 

I thought I would share a few concrete ways I started a self-love revolution for myself. This is a process that began four or five years ago and continues daily. I know this kind of revolution can seem daunting at first, but I think you'll see from the examples I'm providing that it can be a lot simpler than you might first realize.

1. STOP READING WOMEN'S MAGAZINES

This one pains me as a writer. When I was younger, I aspired to write for these types of publications. Also I don't want to miss out on the incredible writing I know lives in the pages of these magazines. (For the latter I have a solution: read the articles online.)

A lot of quality content can be found in women's magazines and I don't want to underscore this fact, but I also want to point out that the barrage of images — both from the magazine's photoshoots and the included advertising — are not healthy for even the healthiest woman out there. Flip through the pages of a women's magazine and the message you will find over and over again is that you are not enough. You're not thin enough or your hair isn't shiny enough or your fashion budget isn't big enough or your skin isn't clear enough or your body isn't toned enough or your nails aren't bright enough and so on and so on.

These magazines exist to sell  products. Magazines want you to believe that the pop singer with the flawless skin didn't get that way through airbrushing; she got that way because she uses X brand of makeup. That model's hair isn't the result of three hours with a hair professional; it's because she uses Y hair product. We would all be a little prettier and happier if we just bought this outfit or that eye cream or this self-tanner. 

Remove yourself from the cycle of comparison by just saying no to women's magazines. I used to read them religiously (probably at least five different magazines a month) and it's amazing what happened when I stopped several years ago. I no longer felt like I HAD to go get my hands on a certain beauty product because I was no longer aware of that beauty product's existence. I no longer looked at pictures of celebrities or models and compared them to the way I looked in my own life. Eventually, when I did pick up a magazine again, I was struck by the skewed ratio of quality content versus selling. I decided to become a person who didn't want to be sold anything. I decided to accept myself the way I already was, without X miracle beauty product or must-have outfit. Once I ditched the constant exposure to beautiful airbrushed models, I felt a lot less pressure to look a certain way and a lot more comfortable just being myself. 

2. EAT FOODS THAT MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD

I know I'm getting into tricky territory with this one. On the one hand, I hate the way that food is moralized and we're made to believe there's such a thing as good versus bad when it comes to the way we eat. This society puts way too much pressure on everyone, specifically women, to look a certain way and be a certain size and we're often sold the message that the only way to be happy is to not be overweight. I don't buy any of that. I think people should eat what they want to eat, wear what makes them comfortable, and live their lives the way they want to live their lives.

That being said, there is no denying the fact that for me, eating healthy foods makes me feel one way and eating unhealthy foods makes me feel another. Processed foods exacerbate my fatigue. Fresh foods and veggies combined with lean proteins and whole grains give me energy. Does this mean I never consume chips or cupcakes or other so-called "bad" foods? No! It means that balance is always my goal and I strive for a diet that relies mostly on healthy foods and minimally on less healthy ones. To me this has nothing to do with wanting to look a certain way. It has nothing to do with self-punishment. It has everything to do with checking in and realizing that I simply cannot finish off a plate of greasy nachos and feel great afterward. I feel weighed down, lethargic and listless — which is fine if those greasy nachos are an occasional indulgence and those post-nacho symptoms are an occasional side effect. When junk food starts taking over my life, though, it has a huge impact on the way I feel both physically and emotionally. I am far more prone to get an upset stomach or head after polishing off a cookie than I am after eating an apple. 

On the other hand, when I feed myself food that fuels me with the nutrients and vitamins and minerals my body needs, I operate better. My thoughts feel clearer. My energy is bigger. I feel more equipped to take on life challenges that arise daily. So while I don't turn down a piece of birthday cake and don't recommend that you do either, I also make a conscious attempt to fill my life with leafy greens and quinoa and tofu and almonds and garden-fresh veggies and berries. I do this because my physical and mental health depends on it. I simply can't love myself as much when I don't even have the energy to move. 

3. CULTIVATE YOUR OWN STYLE

There are a lot of style rules out there dictating that this type of body needs to wear this type of swimsuit and that type of body should avoid that cut of dress and if you weigh X, cover yourself up and if you weigh Y, go about your days half-naked. To me it's all nonsense. When it comes to putting clothes on your body, I think it all boils down to wearing what you like, what makes you comfortable, and what makes you happy. Period.

If you're 250 pounds and want to wear short shorts, don't let anyone stop you. If you wouldn't be caught dead in a dress even at a friend's wedding, own it. If you want to wear a bikini but are worried what others will think, screw what everyone thinks and wear it with pride. If you want to wear nothing but sweats and T-shirts, go for it. If you get dressed to the nines every day and wake up extra early to do your hair and makeup because that's what makes you happy, do that. Wear what you like. Wear what makes you comfortable. Wear what makes you happy. Follow trends if you think that's fun. Avoid them if you don't. Wear jeans. Wear skirts. Wear the skimpiest swimsuit imaginable. Wear a conservative pantsuit. Show your cleavage. Cover your cleavage. Wear something tight. Wear something loose. Wear something that elicits compliments. Wear something that nobody else likes. It doesn't matter as long as you like it, you are comfortable, and you are happy.  

4. TREAT YOURSELF THE WAY YOU'D TREAT A CHILD

This one is huge because women have a tendency to say horrible things to themselves. Every time you look into the mirror and tell yourself how fat and hideous you are, turn around and picture yourself saying those exact same words to a small child. Nobody — child or adult — deserves to be treated with hatred. Nobody includes YOU. You do not deserve to be treated with hatred. If you would forgive a child for accidentally breaking a plate, forgive yourself for eating an unhealthy meal that left you feeling depleted. If you can forgive a child for saying something inappropriate, forgive yourself for whatever missteps you made today. You can skip your workout and still be a wonderful person. You can weigh more than what society tells you you're supposed to weigh and still be a wonderful person. You can try on an outfit you don't like and refuse to tell yourself you have a gross body, opting instead to realize that all outfits fit all people in all different ways and this one just didn't quite work out. Hug the child in your life, hug yourself, and move on. 

Several years ago I read this piece by Sarah Koppelkam and it became the Bible for how I treat myself and others. Now that I am pregnant, I've been thinking about this concept anew. This is a short piece of writing and I encourage everyone to read it from start to finish. If you want a revolution of self-love and body acceptance, this is the way to get there. Use this as a guide for talking to your daughters and sons. Use this as a guide for talking to yourself. Memorize the words. Tattoo them on your body. Live them. There's your revolution. 

Comment

1 Comment

Banza Recipe #2: Mediterranean Pasta

image.jpg
Psst. Want to support my writing? Find out how as little as $1 can help.

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.

image.jpg

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. 

image.jpg

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). 

image.jpg

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. 

image.jpg

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

image.jpg

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

image.jpg

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. 

image.jpg

Damn you, artichoke hearts!

image.jpg

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. 

1 Comment

Comment

Cupcake in the Oven

image.jpg
Psst. Want to support my writing? Find out how as little as $1 can help.

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. 

Comment

Comment

Cupcakes & Cocktails

Vanilla Cupcakes with Fresh Berries

Vanilla Cupcakes with Fresh Berries

Psst. Want to support my writing? Find out how as little as $1 can help!

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. 

Comment

Comment

It's (Almost) The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

image.jpg
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.

If you had asked me a few years ago for my stance on farmers markets, I would have categorized them as one of the most overrated experiences imaginable. This is how I would have described them: You fight through crowds to stand in lines to buy some weird vegetables you don't end up using, which then rot in your fridge. Oh, and that's if you don't forget to bring cash, which you always do, which means you fight through crowds and stand in lines for NOTHING because you can't buy anything anyway. Meanwhile you are guaranteed to encounter all of the following: barking dogs, big strollers you can't maneuver around, and aimless people who constantly stop right in front of you so you have to jump out of the way to avoid crashing into them. What a hoot.  

image.jpg

But then I realized I was going about farmers markets all wrong. Not only was I going at the wrong time (the middle of the day on a weekend is asking for disaster), I was going in unprepared (seriously, just bring some cash and don't forget your own bags) and with the wrong attitude. Going to a farmers market is not like going to a grocery store, where you make a beeline for the aisles you need based on the list you've made ahead of time and avoid interacting with other shoppers as much as possible. Farmers markets are another experience entirely.

 

image.jpg

Farmers markets are interesting because a.) you need a bit of a game plan to keep from getting trampled or completely unfocused, but b.) you don't want TOO much of a game plan or it ruins all the magic. This is what my problem used to be: I went into farmers markets with very specific expectations that could not logistically be met and then I left disappointed. Every time. This is one of those times when it's so much better to chuck expectations and just see what happens. 

image.jpg

In my opinion, it zaps away the fun if you go to a farmers market with a specific list. Inevitably that one vegetable you need is either in a less-than-desirable state or completely unavailable, and then the grand idea you had for dinner that night is ruined. If instead you walk in and let yourself be surprised by what's available, you may end up creating a dish that's completely new to you.

image.jpg

It's also good to have a general idea of what's in season so you're not disappointed when craving a wintertime vegetable in the middle of summer. AboutFood.com is a great resource for this because they have all kinds of lists: regional lists, state lists, seasonal lists. Since we're starting farmers market season in spring, here are some fruits and veggies that typically do well in spring: apricots, artichokes, arugula, asparagus, beets, carrots, chard, cherries, fava beans, fennel, grapefruit, green onions, kiwis, leeks, lemons, lettuce, mint, morels, navel oranges, new potatoes, parsley, peas, radishes, rhubarb, spinach, spring onions, strawberries, sweet onions and turnips. 

image.jpg

If your schedule prohibits you from going to farmers markets any time other than the busiest times, godspeed as you fight the crowds. If you're lucky enough to have some control over when you go, choose wisely. The best time to go: right when it's opening. This is when the selection is best and the crowd is smallest.

image.jpg

Do not be afraid to improvise. I know so many people who think the only way to cook is by using a recipe. This is not true! Some of the best meals are the ones thrown together last-minute using whatever ingredients you happen to have on hand. Here's an easy way to think about building a balanced meal. First, include a healthy complex carb. This could be brown rice, couscous, quinoa, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, a tortilla or a gluten-free grain. Then, include a healthy protein. This could be chicken, fish, tofu, tempeh, seitan, edamame, eggs, whatever. Make sure to include a healthy fat. This could be a dressing made with olive oil, peanut butter, hummus, cheese, nuts, or avocado. Then go to town on fresh vegetables and fruits. These can be raw, roasted, grilled, baked — however you want them. Once you fill all these categories, you have a complete, balanced meal. It's that easy. Tortilla + chicken strips + cheese + grilled veggies = balanced meal. Whole wheat pasta + shrimp or edamame + pesto made with nuts and olive oil + roasted veggies  = balanced meal. Whole wheat toast + eggs + avocado + berries = balanced meal. 

image.jpg

Another way to approach a farmers market is to use the expertise of the people who work there. Nobody's going to give you a blank look if you ask for suggestions for how to prepare a certain vegetable. Many vendors will be able to suggest either general cooking approaches or specific recipes. These people are experts. Trust them when they say something will taste good.

image.jpg

Another tip to remember: it's not just about the produce. Farmers markets are a great place to discover local brands of hummus, dips, nuts, cheeses and more. You're also likely to find some amazing lemonade, coffee, baked goods, and ready-to-go food cart meals for lunch or dinner. And don't forget the flowers. Compare the prices of supermarket flowers versus farmers market flowers and in most cases, you'll be pleasantly surprised at the farmers market.

image.jpg

Sample the products. Even when I wasn't on Team Farmers Market, I had to admit there are few things in life better than a free sample. Sample away, but don't be a jerk about it. If you like something enough to want to sneak another sample, buy it. Don't be that person who lurks around and pretends it's the first bite of cheese you've had all day when really it's your fifth. 

image.jpg

Let yourself be inspired. I think there is something so fun about going in with the idea that somewhere in that market, you will find all the ingredients you need to make your next meal. You have no idea what those ingredients are, but you'll know them when you see them. This is intuitive eating at its best: letting the fresh smells, bright colors, and crisp textures guide your choices. We've all had those days when we open our packed lunch and think, "This doesn't even sound good anymore." Today is not going to be one of those days. Today you will literally go from farm(ers market) to table, leaving you no time to change your mind about what you want. 

image.jpg

Aim for simplicity. The best farmers markets meals, in my opinion, are the most thrown together. Cook up some veggies, toss them in pasta with sauce and a little cheese, and call it a day. Make a big salad. Make a simple sandwich. It goes back to my earlier advice of just combining a complex carb with a lean protein with a healthy fat with as many veggies and fruits as you want. That's truly all there is to it. You don't need a lot of steps. You don't need heavy preparation. You just need a few simple, fresh ingredients. 

image.jpg

Bringing your own cloth bags will save a lot of hassle. If you purchase more than one item, you'll want a place to carry things. Carrying seven different plastic bags from vendors is not fun. Bring your own bags. 

image.jpg

If you're not a person who loves crowds, farmers markets can understandably be an uncomfortable experience. I'm definitely not a fan of crowds, but I've managed to do a little damage control by avoiding peak times, staying several paces behind people so I don't get frustrated when they stop suddenly, and scouting out the quiet corners and unoccupied benches that always exist at famers markets. There is no such thing as a private farmers market, unless maybe you go in the middle of a freak snowstorm when everyone else has stayed in. You're going to encounter other people, and likely lots of them. Prepare yourself for this fact ahead of time (and prepare yourself for the fact that you'll likely need to park at least several blocks away). Don't let yourself be surprised that so many other people are interested in doing the same thing you're doing on a beautiful sunny day. 

image.jpg

For me, it was all about switching my mindset. Yes, there will be crowds and noise and chaos. Yes, you will wait in line and the person in front of you will get into a never-ending conversation with the vendor about kale. Yes, you'll get sweaty and slimy and have to walk ten blocks to get to your car. But guess what else will happen? You'll get out in the sunshine. You'll see beautiful, fresh produce. You'll talk to someone who has an idea for cooking asparagus you've never heard before. You'll sample someone's homemade pesto and it will rock your world. You'll witness human kindness. You'll order a sandwich or take home a cupcake and for weeks afterward, you'll tell anyone who will listen it was the best sandwich or cupcake you've had in years. You'll see families, partners, and friends enjoying each other's company. You'll eat a strawberry on the exact day when it's the freshest it could possibly be. You'll go home with a bag filled with fresh food and make a dinner that's so much better than any of the other meals you've made recently. You'll get hooked and discover why farmers market season is the most wonderful time of the year.

Comment

Comment

My Ideal Food Day (AKA My Birthday)

image.jpg
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.

image.jpg

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.

image.jpg

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.

image.jpg

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. 

image.jpg

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. 

image.jpg

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.

Comment

Comment

Morocco Day 3: Beach Day at Essaouira

image.jpg
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.

We again started our morning with pastries and mint tea from Gian, this time with the addition of vanilla yogurt. The weather was perfect: sunny and in the upper 70's, so basically the opposite of Portland.

image.jpg

Abdu picked us up and took us on the three-hour drive to Essaaouira. Being a passenger in a car in Morocco is an experience that definitely takes getting used to. Most drivers have a fast and aggressive style that includes a lot of honking and close calls. The harrowing drives added a sense of ruggedness to the journey and made it that much sweeter every time we reached our destinations. In the middle of this drive, we stopped to look at goats in an argan nut tree. 

image.jpg

Along the way, we also stopped at an argan oil-producing facility. We watched as women squeezed the nuts by hand to create the oil, which really makes me think about the amount of labor that goes into our products. Here, we stocked up on honey, almond butter, lotions and soaps to bring back to our families. 

image.jpg

Abdu dropped us off near the beach and we walked around the marketplace. The stalls here were much more laid back than those in Marrakech: most of the prices were fixed and there was no hassling or haggling. We bought a few trinkets for our nieces and nephews and were relieved when we didn't have to put our nonexistent bargaining skills to the test.  

image.jpg

We ate lunch along the pier at a place Abdu recommended. I ordered a cheese omelette. Mike had salad, fried sardines, and salmon tagine. You know you're in a committed marriage when you can watch someone eat around fish bones and still love him. We were sitting outside, which was lovely until we were joined by a flock of seagulls and several cats. There are feral cats everywhere in Morocco, which is why as a non-cat person I found myself saying, "I could live here if it weren't for the cats" more than once. The food was tasty and we split a bottle of sparkling water and a caramel dessert. 

image.jpg

We walked along the beach with our bare feet in the sand and enjoyed the perfect weather. In hindsight I realize I should have at least touched my toes into the water to test the temperature, but at the time we were content to stay on the beach. We sat for awhile on a wall, looking out at the water and taking it all in. 

image.jpg

We walked back to the main square and bought a few more gifts for our family. We also picked up some pastries from a street vendor, which was exciting because they seemed to have an endless assortment and we could pick and choose what we wanted and pay by the pound. We had some time to sit outside at a restaurant and enjoy some mint tea (for me) and espresso (for Mike) before Abdu picked us up to take us back to Marrakech. 

image.jpg

The ride home was as treacherous as ever but I was starting to get used to Moroccan driving and getting better about just not watching the road too much (what I don't know can't hurt me). I know I sound like such a repressed Portlander every time I say this, but I just could not believe how clear the skies were and how perfect the sun felt on our skin.

 

image.jpg

When we arrived home, Gian fixed us vegetarian tagine, mint tea and fruit cocktail. I took a hot bath in our big bathtub and we spent the rest of the night relaxing and reading. I think our first two nights were marked by jet lag and a general feeling of being overwhelmed with sensory overload, but this was the day I started fantasizing about what it would be like to stay in this beautiful country and just never come home.  

Comment

Comment

33 Things That Happened in my 33rd Year

image.jpg
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. 

image.jpg

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. 

Comment

1 Comment

Morocco Day 1: Arriving at Our Riad

image.jpg
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.

After leaving from Portland early in the afternoon on Saturday and stopping in Amsterdam, we arrived at the Marrakech airport Sunday evening. We were exhausted from traveling but so thrilled to be there. 

image.jpg

The weather was perfect. Our driver Abdu, whom we booked through the AirB&B where we were staying, picked us up, carried our luggage, and led us to his waiting van. Navigating the streets of Marrakech was an exercise in insanity. I didn't think it couldn't get worse than the narrow streets of Belgium or rush-hour in Paris, but apparently it could. The streets were even more narrow. The traffic rules seemed loose. Cars turned from every which lane. Bikers, pedestrians, scooters, cars, and horse-drawn carriages were all together on the same road. One-way traffic from one direction butted against one-way traffic from another direction, often converging in the middle of a dark tunnel. People crossed the streets willy-nilly with no sidewalk on either side. The streets were crowded with produce carts, food stands, and masses of people milling about. 

 

image.jpg

We arrived at our riad and were introduced to our housekeeper Giann, who came to the house every morning to fix us breakfast and tidy up. She also fixed dinners on request and helped us coordinate all our outings. The pool was too cool for this time of year, but the rooftop balcony was beautiful. We also met the house turtle, Caroline. 

image.jpg

Giann made us vegetarian couscous, fruit salad and mint tea for dinner. Many people warned me it would be difficult to find vegetarian food in Morocco, but I didn't find this to be the case at all. It was comforting to have a home-cooked meal after such a long day of travel. 

Exhausted, slightly scarred from our drive from the airport, and not yet sure how we'd find our way when navigating the endless twists and turns in the streets of Marrakech, we opted to spend our first night in, cuddled on the couch in the living room, dozing with an animated movie (Planes) in the background after unpacking and getting ourselves cleaned and settled (a hot shower never felt so good). 

"We're in AFRICA," my husband and I kept saying to each other in disbelief. If not for the sheer exhaustion, we probably would have stayed up all night, marveling at how crazy and rewarding our lives turned out.

1 Comment

Comment

Clean Vanilla Cupcakes and Other Updates

image.jpg

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.

Comment

Comment

Class Pass Week 3: Boot Camp, H.I.I.T. Training and Kickboxing

image.jpg

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 stepped up the intensity level for my third week with my Class Pass. (If you're just tuning it, I received a one-month gift certificate for Class Pass from parents-in-law for Christmas and have been putting it to use, focusing on different styles of exercise each week. Class Pass lets you visit multiple gyms and studios for group exercise classes as a way to either try things out or keep things varied.) The first week I used Class Pass, I had a half marathon at the end of the week and therefore focused on slow, gentle yoga classes. The second week, I went for Pilates and barre-style classes. Last week, I went full-on warrior and focused on boot camp/ H.I.I.T training/ kickboxing. 

Here's something that may sound slightly insane. As I've been taking these Class Pass classes, I've continued with my regular workout schedule. That means running six days a week and Fit Girls Guide Boot Camp four days a week. When I added in extra yoga or Pilates classes, this wasn't a very big deal. When I added in extremely high-intensity classes, I started to question my sanity. It's not that I wasn't physically capable of handling that amount of exercise (I was happy to discover I was), nor that I wasn't mentally capable of handling the extra stress (I was doubly excited to discover I was), but that I was in no way, shape or form prepared for how EFFING HUNGRY I felt all week long. Mind you, I THOUGHT I was prepared. I added in extra snacks and made sure to get adequate amounts of complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats. I made sure to keep extra-hydrated by upping my water intake. I went easy on myself when I needed an extra handful of nuts here or a piece of toast with peanut butter and fruit there. But no matter what I did or how much I ate, I was still ravenous. (This is partly thanks to monthly hormonal fluctuations that were coinciding with this week as well.) Three workouts a day, four days a week = NO END IN SIGHT TO MY HUNGER. It got to the point where I felt like I had to eat so much food to compensate, it completely negated the amount of calories I may have burned in the classes. I have no idea how (or why) people work out like that on a regular basis and if I'm ever in that position again, I will definitely lay off my regular workouts and focus exclusively on the group classes. 

That said, this was also one of my favorite weeks. I like the gentleness of yoga and Pilates (I'm talking about the style of yoga and Pilates classes I take — I know some yoga and Pilates classes are quite intense but that's not what I'm talking about here) and the gracefulness of a barre class, but after a few weeks of mostly bodyweight and light weight exercises I was really craving some grit. I've reached a physical level where I'm capable of pushing myself more than I ever have in the past and it's fun for me to challenge myself, seeing just how capable this body is. 

I like to end a workout drenched in sweat. I like to feel the fatigue in my muscles. I like to end the workout feeling both physically spent and emotionally hyped as a result of all the endorphins spinning around my brain. The classes this week delivered on all fronts. 

The titles of my classes said it all: "Bootcamp." "Drench." "S.PA.C.E. (strength, power, agility, core stability, endurance) Camp - Core Stability & Power." "Kickboxing." These are badass titles meant for badass classes. So how did they stack up? I loved them all. They were all extremely challenging but doable and I left each class feeling accomplished. Boot camp was great because it focused on the upper body at a time when my lower body welcomed the break. "Drench" delivered as promised and worked me into a sweaty frenzy. S.P.A.C.E. Camp was an absolute godsend and focused almost exclusively on the hips, which are by far the tightest area of my body thanks to all my running. And kickboxing was like going back home — I did kickboxing regularly about six years ago but had to give it up because I couldn't afford it. Of all the vigorous, intense classes I've been taking lately, I still think kickboxing is hands-down the single best full-body workout. I left that class SPENT. And then I ran seven miles because that's what was up on my running schedule that day. And then I wanted to eat a house.

If I were ever to operate at this level again (and frankly I don't think there's any reason why I should — I stepped things up this particular week because I wanted to take full advantage of a limited-time gift certificate), I will definitely do a lot more research to figure out how to feed myself better when I'm burning that many calories. I'm proud for how much I pushed myself physically and was amazed to discover I had the stamina for these types of workouts (and was double amazed to discover I could do a handstand from the wall, which I didn't even know was possible for me). But the hunger, man. It was intense. If pregnancy hunger is anything like this, I'm considering myself slightly more prepared for if/when that time comes. 

But for now: I'm glad my crazy week is over. I miss the rush of the intense classes, but I'm getting my mind straight again with yoga this week. It's my final week using the Class Pass gift certificate and the experience has been incredible. It makes me realize that I don't think I would want to be a member of just one gym at this point in my life. I get bored too easily. Having the opportunity to take completely different kinds of classes at different types of studios from one day to the next has been awesome. If I made more money, Class Pass would be a great option. I'm a frugal girl on a budget, though, so I'm just enjoying it as much as possible while I still have it. 

Comment

Comment

These 5 Things Helped Me Stop Feeling Guilty About What I Eat

image.jpg

I have a new article up at Verily Magazine about strategies for dealing with emotional eating. I'm happy any time I can combine my personal story with tips for others who may be dealing with similar issues. Being in the middle of an emotional / compulsive/ binge eating battle can feel very lonely, but I promise there is a way out. Here's the link: These 5 Things Helped Me Stop Feeling Guilty About What I Eat. 

Comment

Comment

What Clean Eating Means To Me

image.jpg

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.

Clean eating is one of those terms that seems like it should be fairly cut-and-dry but often ends up ambiguous. Some people who eat clean are more strident than others (you’ll recognize them from the “NO” and “NEVER” language they use). I’m personally a fan of balance. I think a person can maintain a clean diet the majority of the time and still have indulgent treats now and then without feeling any guilt. I think there are some situations (like Date Night at a gourmet restaurant) when it makes more sense to aim for portion control than for clean foods. And I think that restriction leads to deprivation and deprivation leads to binging, so I’d rather avoid restriction altogether.

This is what clean eating means to me.

When possible, I choose whole, real foods. I am in an ongoing love affair with fresh fruits and vegetables. I’ve found joy in making my own versions of things I would have previously bought packaged, like granola bars and soups. In terms of satiation, I know that eating an apple will satisfy me in a way that eating a slice of apple pie never will. Real foods fill me up without making me feel weighed down.    

I avoid processed, fried, and fast foods as much as possible. I’ve found there’s a healthy alternative to any food I could possibly crave. Baked sweet potato or carrot fries do it for me in a way that fried white potato fries never did. Ice cream is as simple as blending a banana and adding in some mix-ins.

I aim for unrefined foods (brown rice, quinoa, honey, maple syrup) over refined (white rice, white bread, sugar). There are so many ways to sub in healthy ingredients when cooking or baking. I like to swap butter for avocado, sugar for unsweetened applesauce, and whole wheat flour for white.

I eat protein, carbohydrates and fat (preferably a little of all three at most meals). I won’t let anyone tell me I need to avoid X type of food in order to maintain a healthy weight. I don’t need to avoid ANY type of food. Balance is always my goal. 

I refuse to be afraid of food. If I’m hungry, I eat. I wasted too many years stuck in the cycle of believing it was normal to go for hours upon hours without eating. This was always followed by delirious hunger and a desire to eat way too much to compensate. It’s so much easier just to feed my body when it’s hungry and walk away satisfied. 

I eat several small meals throughout the day. This is especially important because I work out a lot. I need food for fuel. I need food for recovery. I need food throughout the day.  

I drink as much water as I can handle and sip on herbal tea when I want something beyond water but limit my alcohol and coffee intake (I haven’t had any alcohol or coffee in 2016).

I do not count calories or macros. I try to eat as much real food as possible and I also try to honor my hunger. If I’m craving a handful of walnuts, I’m going to eat a handful of walnuts. If I eat a regular portion of food and still feel hungry, I’ll add a piece of fruit. I refuse to obsess over how much I’m eating or burning. I’ve found that by eating a mostly clean, healthy, and normal-portioned diet, everything works itself out without me having to think about it too much.

I do not think of my way of eating as a diet because it’s not a diet. It is a lifestyle. This is the way I eat every day. Some days I have extra clean treats and some days I have treats that aren’t clean at all, but I always come back to clean eating as my mainstay.

I don’t believe in absolutes. I worry for people who say you should NEVER eat X. I have no intention of going the rest of my life without cupcakes, but I’m also not going to eat a cupcake every day or even every week. When I have a cupcake, I’m going to enjoy it for the treat that it is.

I don’t believe in the concept of cheating. I think food is food. My diet is 90-100% clean a lot of the time. Some days, I eat snacks and meals that aren’t so clean. I don’t view this as cheating. In order for it to be cheating, I would have to eat something I’m not allowed to eat. In my mind, I’m allowed to eat whatever the heck I want to eat. I simply choose to eat the foods that fuel me the best and make me feel the best — most of the time.

Being in control of my food empowers me. Knowing exactly what I’m putting into my body helps me to know I’m not absorbing toxic ingredients. If I were to go to a fast food restaurant right now and order a snack, I could not tell you what exact ingredients I’ll consume or how exactly my food will be prepared. When I make my own meals based on a handful of whole ingredients, I know I’m fueling my body to get through the demands of working out, running, and living my life.

Clean eating and clean living is a choice. I don’t choose to avoid bagels because I think it’s what I ought to do. I choose to go for whole wheat bread over a bagel because I know how my body feels when it eats a bagel: heavy, sluggish, and slow. As someone who runs 150 miles a month, I consider myself an athlete. As someone who works from home, I know the importance of feeling alert throughout the day. Making certain food choices enables me to power through my life efficiently. I’m not depriving myself. I do not need anyone’s “Still on that diet, huh?” pity.

I believe in the power of fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. The difference in how I feel when I eat clean is undeniable. I used to eat foods like boxed macaroni and cheese made with powdered cheese, processed fake meat products, artificially flavored chips and crackers, and store-bought cookies and cookie dough without batting an eye. I’d inevitably feel terrible after consuming these kinds of foods, but I’d just keep eating them. I lived in a near-constant state of feeling terrible. Antacids were part of my daily routine. I felt too tired to work out. Sometimes I felt like my entire body was coated in grease. Now I eat real, whole foods. I make healthier versions of the snacks and desserts I always loved. I’m able to run long distances. I’m able to sustain vigorous workouts. I’m able to live my life without feeling weighed down. That’s why I eat clean. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. And the pudding, of course, is made from avocado or silken tofu with unsweetened cocoa powder.     

 

 

 

 

 

Comment