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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Kale & Spaghetti Squash

I've now made this dish twice and it's becoming a new favorite.  In a small amount of coconut oil, saute kale, then add some spaghetti squash (roasted beforehand), add salt and spices to taste.  This dish is quick, easy, clean, and combines three highly nutritious foods.  One cup of raw kale has 3 grams of vegetable protein, 2.5 grams of fiber, folate, lutein, omega-3, as well as several vitamins and minerals.   

I've turned to kale after learning that spinach contains oxalic acid and can contribute to blood pH acidity, as well as interfere with calcium absorption.  Since I avoid consuming dairy and rely on my greens for calcium, this was not a happy discovery.  I've also substituted kale for spinach in our smoothies.  

Spaghetti squash, although pretty high in sugar, also has a lot of vitamins, as well as potassium, manganese, and fiber.  And, while the debate is ongoing about the benefits of coconut oil, I choose to believe the good.  But I use it with restraint.

I've been making a lot of fruit salads lately, sweetened with a bit of honey.  A great sweet taste to finish the kale meal.

Movie Night

We are freezing here in KC.  The roads are covered in salt, but the expected snow never happened, much to the kids' disappointment.  Still, it is bitter cold and a perfect evening for tea, sweets, and fire.  Oh, and Beethoven's Christmas Adventure for the kids.  And a perfect book for me.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

(Formerly Vegan) Cookie Dough Truffles

I adapted this recipe from Chloe Coscarelli, who was the amazingly talented 22-year-old vegan chef to win Cupcake Wars back in 2010.   These little cookie dough truffles are absolutely addictive.  I substituted the 1 and 1/4 cup of flour in the recipe for 1 cup of vanilla whey protein powder and 1/4 cup almond meal.  The best thing about these is that they are egg-free, so it's safe to eat them raw.  They are also easy to make.  And if you have kids, they will love the job of rolling the cookie dough balls in melted chocolate.  And then licking the leftover chocolate straight from the bowl, which makes for an easy cleanup.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Very Berry Chia Pudding

Today's "pralines" are played by this delicious berry chia pudding.

Ingredients for two small jars:
  • Greek yogurt (I prefer flavored and used caramel for this recipe), 2/3 cup
  • Almond milk (vanilla, sweetened or not), 1.5 cups
  • Chia seeds, 6 tbsp
  • Frozen berry mix (I used Trader Joe's Very Berry Cherry, which had in it raspberries, cherries, blueberries, and blackberries)

  1. Mix yogurt with 2 tbsp of chia seeds and spoon into the bottom of the jars.
  2. Blend almond milk with frozen berries and the remaining chia seeds and pour on top of the yogurt.
  3. Refrigerate overnight.

This weekend's "crunches" are "Total Conditioning Extreme" class at the gym, which made me so happy and all around sore and Fitness Pilates class, which I hope will take the soreness away.

Happy Healthy Sunday!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Charleston Diaries

We just returned home from a long vacation to Charleston, South Carolina.    I have always been enchanted with the South.  I like everything about it, from the accent, to the memories of Scarlett O'Hara, to coconut cake and grits, the cheesy kind.   Best of all, the people are friendly, the atmosphere is relaxed, the ocean is so close, and it's warm year round.  We were in a rented house on the Isle of Palms, which is just outside of Charleston.  Since the weather was not beach friendly on a few of our days there, we've made a few excursions into town, visited the South Carolina Aquarium on Charleston   Harbor, USS Yorktown, Fort Sumter, South of Broad, and the Battery Park.

The house we stayed in was on the ocean and had a pool.  But who needs a pool when one has the ocean?
The first morning was warm and sunny and we spent it in the ocean.
In the evening, Alexis practiced her ballet moves on the beach
Beautiful sunset
On one of our walks on the beach we found a crab who was missing a claw.  We released him back into the ocean, hoping he'll grow another.
Hominy Grill is a local Charleston landmark.  We enjoyed the food and the atmosphere so much that we ended up eating dinner here on two different nights.

Butternut squash soup.  It had a distinct hint of ginger.  Delicious with toasted almonds.
Pickled shrimp.  I had to Google it on my phone as I was reading the menu.  Turns out it's a Southern specialty.  It was an appetizer, which served as my dinner one of the nights at Hominy's.
Hummingbird cake at Hominy Grill.
Homes on South of Broad

Battery Park
Arthur Ravenel Bridge, which you need to take to get to Isle of Palms from Charleston.  It's a beautiful construction.
USS Yorktown.   The kids met a veteran on board who commissioned the ship 71 years ago.  It was fascinating walking around the ship and learning about World War II. 

Patriots Point Charleston

Fort Sumter National Monument.  I can now say that I've been where the American Civil War started on April 12, 1861. 
Downtown Charleston.  I took this picture coming back from Fort Sumter. 
Peninsula Grill is the home of America's best coconut cake, which was featured on Food Network.

The Ultimate Coconut Cake from Peninsula Grill.   The picture doesn't do it justice.  It was eleven pounds of ultimate coconut goodness.
I so miss the beach already

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Latte

September comes and everything turns pumpkin.  This recipe makes one serving.

  1. Almond milk (unsweetened vanilla) - 0.5 cup.
  2. Pumpkin spice - 1/4 tsp + more for garnish.
  3. Cake spice -- 1/4 tsp.
  4. Freshly brewed cup of coffee.

  1. Warm up the almond milk with the added spices; mix well; do not boil, just bring to a simmer.
  2. Brew coffee.
  3. Make a latte foam in a milk frother (I used my Aeroccino).
  4. Pour the milk into the coffee cup; spoon the froth on top.
  5. Garnish with a bit more pumpkin spice.
  6. Enjoy

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Practicing Self-Discipline … and the Vitamix

I was listening the other day to a YouTube video by Jennifer from The Daily Connoisseur about self-discipline.  Obviously, most of us can use more of it in our lives.  Interestingly, Jennifer chose an example of her college blender to show how she's been exercising her self-discipline by refusing to retire it until it goes to a blender pasture before she allows herself to purchase a Vitamix blender.

As someone who has purchased three Vitamix blenders in the last two years (and gifted one away to a family member), I really wanted Jennifer to just buy one.  They are life-changing and there are so many other areas where one can exercise her self-discipline.

Here is the account of my Vitamix-induced lack of self-discipline.   I bought the first Vitamix, broke the blade in it (never leave a spoon in the carafe and turn the machine on!), and, apparently unable to wait a couple of weeks for the machine to be fixed (the motor gave out, trying to crunch through that poor spoon), just had to buy another one the very next morning.  I bought my third machine because it was a newer and better model and the carafe in the second one began leaking and I've used it every single day since March.  Complete lack of self-discipline all around.  In my defense, the green smoothies tasted awful made in a regular blender and I feel that it is my parental duty to liquify bunches of spinach and kale and feed it to my children, preferably twice a day, and call it "pretty-pretty princess potion."  The Vitamix also makes amazing soups.  You can blend up the butternut squash with a bit of chicken broth and it will taste like the richest cream of butternut squash you've ever tasted, no cream required.  Hands down, this machine makes the silkiest concoctions out of the most fibrous things.

Joking aside, and closer to the subject, I think we all make our choices where to save and where to splurge.  Some buy designer clothes, but brown bag their lunch to the office most days.  Some go on expensive vacations, but mow their own lawn.  Some shop for clothes at thrift shops only, but buy antique furniture.  Self-discipline is important, of course, and if any of these splurges lead to carry-over balances, interest charges, or fees, then Dave Ramsey is the guy.  And I can also get behind the concept that waiting for something and denying yourself can be its own kind of pleasure, but I do think you need to pick your battles, so to speak.  I remember reading several years ago that graduate school is the utmost form of delayed gratification -- you study for years and eat ramen noodles, all in the hopes of it paying off big (whatever that "big" means for you).   Since I managed to get through law school (mostly fueled by dreams of an office with a window and a door and an excuse to wear cute outfits to work), I know a thing or two about delayed gratification.  And while my purchasing discipline is not all that great, I think I'll begin applying my delayed-gratification skills to snacking, which is also one of the areas Jennifer's Lessons from Madame Chic book teaches you to be elegant about.  I'll even start tomorrow, right after I finish my non-elegant after-dinner's Pirate's Booty.   And since I refuse to exercise my self-discipline too much, I already preordered Jennifer's next book, At Home with Madame Chic.  And now I'll need to apply a lot of discipline waiting until October 7, when the new book is released.   I will try very hard not to buy another Vitamix in the meantime.

What does self-discipline mean for you?   Leave a comment!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


If you've ever been intrigued by cronuts, which became all the craze in NYC a couple of summers ago, but didn't want to pay $100 per cronut for delivery, here is a quick, inexpensive, and delicious solution.

Divide a crescent roll into four sheets (along the perforated lines).

Fold each of the four sheets in half.

Cut it like a donut.

Deep fry it in oil (be careful to neither burn, nor undercook).

For added bonus, cut the finished cronut lengthwise and fill it with anything you desire (strawberry jam and cookie-cocoa butter featured here).  Sprinkle some powdered sugar on top.

Don't forget to lick your fingers!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Unconditional Self-Love

I was listening recently to an interview with Julie M. Simon, psychotherapist, author, and life coach, in which she talked about the practical steps of how to achieve unconditional self-love.  Since everyone's talking about self-love these days, but it doesn't come naturally to everyone, Ms. Simon, helps break it down to four habits, adopting and following which should help get one there.  Here are the habits of people who naturally practice self-love:

  1. Self-affirming commentary.  As you go through your day, you need to regularly say kind, loving, supportive phrases to yourself.  "I am so proud of myself that I washed those dishes, even though I didn't feel like doing it."  "Yay, I took myself to the gym and got in 30 minutes of working out, even though I didn't have the time to work out the full hour."  "I am so excited I made that difficult phone call and now it's done.  Good job!"  If you look in the mirror and don't like something you see, you focus on what you do like:  "I am really happy with how my hair is turning out today."  Adopt a zero tolerance policy to self abuse.  Don't say unkind things to yourself that you would never say to others.
  2. Learn to adjust your expectations.  Do not have unrealistic expectations for what you can do or what's possible for you at this particular time.  If you are just starting to learn how to play piano, do not expect to be playing for the symphony in a year.  When you have to get rid of 50 extra pounds, don't think it's going to happen by Labor Day, when it's already July.  When you manage your expectations, you then spend your energy on what you can actually achieve, rather than fretting about how you are failing your unrealistic goals.
  3. Practice win-win comparisons.  We always compare ourselves to others around us and it's usually a win-lose comparison.  We either come out on top compared to the other person and declare ourselves a winner at his or her expense; or we declare ourselves a loser when we see someone with a better career, a Ferrari, or a published best-seller.  Since human beings cannot stop comparing, use this habit in a different way; go for a win-win comparison.  When you see someone who looks better than you, think about how that inspires you to take better care of yourself.  When you see someone with a great career, think about how inspired you are to work on your professional development.  Use comparisons for inspiration and motivation only.   Always boost yourself and the other person.  This will mean more self-esteem for you.
  4. Forgive yourself for your perceived flaws and mistakes.  Also forgive others who have done you wrong.  It doesn't mean forgetting what was done to you, but it means focusing on releasing your energy you are now spending on maintaining anger toward yourself and others and on recycling those thoughts day in and day out.  Once you release this energy, you can put it to a more positive and productive use.
Practice makes perfect and the more you practice self-love, the more inner peace you will experience.  If these habits do not come naturally to you, can you try practicing them for a week and see where they take you?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Cafe Gratitude KC

I recently received my Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from Dr. T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies through eCornell and I have been incorporating more and more plant based foods into my diet.  Yes, mom was right, eat your vegetables.  Everything you need for a long, healthy life is in them.

Fortuitously, a close family member recently decided to become vegan and the whole family went to Cafe Gratitude this morning to celebrate his birthday.  This was my first time in this vegan restaurant (I believe there is only one other in the metro area).  As expected, the atmosphere was cool and relaxed and the food was fantastic.  I particularly liked the names for smoothies, elixirs, shakes, and main dishes:  Enlivened, Healthy, Rejuvenated, Transformed, Cozy, Powerful, Serene….  All the food is organic and there are a lot of raw options.  A big sign by the bar also says that they have recently started serving vegan beer and wine.  

I ordered the Cured tonic (infusion of E3Live and coconut water with 65 vitamins, minerals, amino acids & EFAs) and also had a fair share of the Cool shake that our five-year found underwhelming (I loved it!).  The Cool shake is a mint chocolate chip milkshake with Vitamineral green and raw cacao nibs -- delicious!  I also had the Peace breakfast item, which is an imitation of bagels and lox, the part of lox being played by strips of seaweed and the part of cream cheese by cashew creme cheese.  It was served on a bed of delicious live onion flatbread, with tomatoes, onions, capers, and sprouts.

I remember sharing a beautiful lunch with my husband at the Pure Food and Wine in Manhattan, a chic vegan restaurant serving raw food, about three years ago and wondering just when will KC get its own high-end vegan restaurant, and Cafe Gratitude is definitely the answer to that wish.  I can't wait to go back.

The water bottles have positive words on them.  It has been shown that water absorbs its surrounding energy and you can charge it with good vibes by labeling the bottle with a positive word.

Inside the restaurant
The bar
Do you like vegan food?   Have you been to Cafe Gratitude?  Can you recommend other vegan food options in KC?   Please write in the comments!