Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013 Recap

I can’t believe Thanksgiving has already come and gone but I had such a great day. To start it off I made a “Thanks Giving” list of some of the things that I’m grateful for. On it I included things like my health, my purpose, and for sure this blog. I’m so grateful to have a space where I can express myself, share my interests, and hopefully inspire people. My only contribution to the menu was mashed potatoes which turned out to be a last minute, but very delicious addition. My sister and I tag teamed it! I tried my best not to overindulge but with sweet potato cornbread muffins, sweet potato pie, and peach cobbler it was a challenge to say the least! I’m not even a big peach cobbler person but my sister did an amazing job! All of the food was great. Sorry that I didn’t take more pictures but my priority was more focused on eating and trying not to immediately fall asleep afterwards.

Now I can’t talk about Thanksgiving without mentioning Black Friday. To be perfectly honest though, we should start calling it Black Thursday. Most of the deals I saw including those at Target, Walmart, and Best Buy, just to name a few stores, started on Thursday. Each year these sales and doorbusters start earlier and earlier. It’s gotten completely out of hand. Pretty soon people will be packing their Thanksgiving meals in lunch boxes and eating while they’re lined up outside (some people probably did that this year). Yes, the deals may be good, and I do love a good deal, but some things should be sacred. I didn’t do any “Black Friday” shopping per se but I did do some shopping (and yes it was actually on Friday). I went to two stores and got some beautiful jewelry and a great weekender bag. 

How was your Thanksgiving? Did you get any good stuff during Black Friday?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Book Review: Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy

A few years ago when I was looking for a simple, straightforward book about healthy eating, I came across Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy by Walter Willett, and I’m so glad that I did. This book is filled with solid information and advice based on tons of peer-reviewed scientific research. And if you care about credentials, which you should when it comes to your health, Willett’s are top notch. He’s not your next-door neighbor who lost 30 pounds by going on a cabbage diet and then decided to write a weight loss book. He’s chairman of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and a professor of epidemiology with an MD and a DrPH (doctor of public health).

This book gives it to you straight, talking about the things we do (and don’t) need for our body to function optimally. In the first chapter, Willett states that a healthy diet, regular exercise, and not smoking can eliminate 80 percent of heart disease and the majority of cancer cases. Think about that for a second. That’s huge. And these are factors that we can control and change. That should make us all very hopeful.

Some of the Key Points from the Book:

1.     You weigh what you weigh because of: your diet, your genes (read: your parents), your lifestyle (active vs. inactive), and your culture: (e.g. Southerners tend to like their foods fried and their tea extra sweet).

2.     Where you store your fat may change your risk for certain diseases. Fat around the chest and waist may be more problematic than fat around the hips and thighs.

3.     Be a defensive eater (e.g. slow down when you’re eating, practice putting the fork down before you feel stuffed, and against your parent’s warnings spoil your appetite before your meals – you’ll eat less)

4.     When in doubt go Mediterranean style (plenty of veggies, moderate amounts of whole grains, and little red meat)

5.     Not all fats are created equally. Some fats are good for you (like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats). Some fats are bad for you (saturated fats), and some fats are downright terrible and should be avoided at all costs (trans fat).

a.     SLIGHT TANGENT. Here’s a secret about trans fat: food products that contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat are allowed to list their trans fat content as 0 on nutrition labels. Sneaky bastards, right?

b.     Here’s a tip: Check the ingredients on the label and look for partially hydrogenated oils. These are the primary sources of trans fat in the diet. If you see it listed, put the item down and slowly back away. 

c.     The good news: FDA is currently considering banning partially hydrogenated oils from food. Until then though, you’ll have to do your due diligence. TANGENT OVER.

6.     Avoid the snooty, refined carbs. You want your carbs unpolished and unrefined because these types of carbs offer more fiber and nutrients, and have been linked to a lower risk for many diseases including heart disease and diabetes.

7.     Try to eat the rainbow when it comes to fruits and vegetables. More colors mean more nutrients.

For anyone wanting to know about the basics of healthy eating, I highly recommend this book. It contains so much information on everything from nut consumption to choosing a multivitamin. At the end it also has a list of several healthy recipes to try.  You can get it from Amazon or check it out from your local library. Let me know if this review was particularly helpful and I’ll try to do more of them. Enjoy your weekend!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Culinary Pursuits: Bowlful of Veggie Goodness

Despite the name, this one does have meat! Without question however, the veggies are the stars of this dish. It is so good. There will be leftovers so this would make a great lunch for the entire week!

In terms of the specific amount of ingredients, it’s pretty flexible. I used:

Green beans (12 oz bag from Walmart)
Broccoli and cauliflower mix (12 oz bag from Walmart)
1 medium squash
3 sweet potatoes
8 oz. container of spinach
4 chicken sausage links
Crumbled goat cheese

There are a lot of moving parts to this one but you can do it! The end result is totally worth it!

1.     Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2.     Slice three sweet potatoes (see picture for how I sliced mine).
3.     Toss with 4 tablespoons of olive oil and ground cinnamon.
4.     Cook sweet potatoes for 40-50 minutes. Check periodically and spray them with extra virgin olive oil spray or non-stick canola oil midway through cooking to keep them from getting dry.
5.     Slice squash and toss in one tablespoon of olive oil (see picture for how I sliced mine).
6.     Season squash with lemon pepper, ground rosemary, and Italian seasoning.
7.     Put squash in the oven at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
8.     Microwave broccoli and cauliflower for 2-3 minutes. The instructions on the packaging said to cook them for 3-4 minutes but I took them out a minute early.
9.     Microwave green beans for 3-4 minutes. Again, I shortened the cook time by one minute.
10.  I seasoned both the broccoli and cauliflower and the green beans with the same seasonings used for the squash and added them to the oven on top of the squash to let them finish cooking. The squash had been cooking for ~13 minutes by this time.
11.  I let the vegetables cook for another 10-15 minutes. 
12.  While your veggies are in the oven, cook your spinach and chopped up sausage links at medium-high heat for 10 minutes.
13.  Once everything is done cooking, assemble.
14.  If you don’t care about presentation, then you can just throw a little bit of everything in the bowl, add some goat cheese on top and enjoy.
15.  If you want to capture this lovely meal for Instagram, then do this: Add your broccoli, cauliflower, and squash first, add sweet potatoes around the rim. Put your sausage and spinach on top and sprinkle on some goat cheese. 

16.  You’ve practiced incredible restraint so far…enjoy!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Birthday Blues

Yesterday was my birthday. I decided to wake up at 6:30 and go for a walk around my neighborhood. I wanted to reflect on the past year, thank God for allowing me to see another one, and make some promises to myself. I think I may make that a yearly thing because it was so nice to have that time to myself to just appreciate my life.

I felt like switching things up a bit, so I opted for a bold blue lipstick and my sister did this dramatic cat eye for me.

Blazer, Pants, & Heels: Forever 21, Top: Lizard Thicket, Necklace: Target, Purse: American Threads, Watch: Asos, Earrings: Aldo's

I ended up spending the day with my mom and sisters. Very rarely are we all together so it was really nice to be surrounded by family. We went shopping, ate cupcakes (and macaroons), talked about everything imaginable, and had an amazing dinner. 

Bottom left: Apple Harvest cupcake with apple cinnamon and butter creme frosting...soooo good! Top right: red velvet and caramel apple macaroons...very yummy!

Now when I say dinner was amazing, I mean it was AMAZING! Everything we ate from the special chef’s treat, to the appetizers, our entrees, and the dessert, was insanely good! 

Cranberry green apple chutney over a sweet potato biscuit with a cinnamon honey drizzle...perfection!

Fall vegetarian risotto with sweet potato hash, goat cheese, and some kind of chutney...amazing!

Granny smith caramel apple spring rolls with bourbon burnt sugar ice cream...mindblowing!

Beyond the food, our server was exceptional too. Usually I find servers to either be too intrusive, checking up on you every two seconds or basically MIA after they’ve taken your order, and he was spot on. A part from the great service, he pronounced our last name correctly on the first try! Now you’re probably thinking, so what’s the big deal? The big deal is that my last name is incredibly difficult to say. I’ve seen people break a sweat and start to tremble when they have to attempt pronouncing it, but it just rolled off his tongue with such ease. My mom, sisters and I all kind of looked around at each other in amazement. I was thoroughly impressed. We made sure to communicate our satisfaction with the manager. It was the best dining experience I’ve ever had, bar none.

I stayed up until after 1 because I wanted to relish every minute of my birthday possible. It only comes once a year, after all. I had such a great day and I’m so blessed to have some very special people in my life. I hope you all are having a great week!