Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Then and Now: My Journey Thus Far :)

Every once in a while, it's a beautiful thing to look back and see how far you've come from the person you were only a few short years ago.
My 21st birthday was a time of great joy and excitement. I had my own apartment, a great job, my amazing boyfriend, and a supportive family; life was really just beginning for me.  I was a point in my where I was just comfortable with everything around me and I let life take it's toll. Enter: alcohol calories, bar food, greasy hangover breakfasts, you get the idea. The weight slowly crept on and before I knew it, I was the heaviest I have ever been.

I'm not proud of the decisions I made back then regarding my health, but I am proud of the one decision I made that changed my entire life: Get healthy. I started a program in May 2012 that was a strict low-carb, nearly no carb diet. I avoided bread, rice, and pasta, and consumed only small portions of fruit and vegetables. My main caloric intake came from protein. Lots of lean chicken breast, turkey, salmon, cheese, and yogurt. In 6 months I had dropped 40 pounds simply from changing the way I ate. I went on the occasional walk during this time, but did little to no other form of exercise. As soon as I ended this program and began eating normally again, the weight began to come right back. Although this diet provided me with drastic results, I've come to realize that this is not a sustainable way to eat or live as a healthy individual. I spent the next several months trying to balance a social life, a full-time job, school, and everything else in between. I found myself stuck and unable to commit to eating right or working out.

Fast forward a few months later to May of 2013, when I found Tone It Up through Lauren Conrad's website. The founders of Tone It Up, Karena and Katrina, two beautiful, fit women had created an online community across the world of women who inspired each other to become the healthy and happy individuals I have grown to admire and draw strength from every day. After trying some of their workouts and recipes, I immediately purchased the Nutrition Plan and dove head first into one of their "Slim Downs". The wealth of information about health and nutrition they provide in the plan really gave me a strong base to start eating healthy again - the right way.  I learned to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats - even a few sweet treats as well! I discovered that being healthy is a daily commitment, and  you have to constantly work at it. Through Tone It Up, I have connected with like-minded women in my area who have become great friends, and an amazing source of motivation for those days when I just don't feel up to the task.

   2011                                           Today!
Since starting Tone It Up, I have not only began eating healthy again, (and going vegan!) I also started incorporating different types of work outs. I didn't want to just lose weight, I wanted to be strong and fit.  I began boxing at a local gym, jogging (yikes!), and strength training. I now have four 5k races, and a 10k under my belt, and this Saturday I'm doing a 5k obstacle course/mud run with a few girlfriends. In the coming months, I have another 10k lined up, and I also plan to sign up for a half marathon by the end of the year. Health and fitness has not only just become a daily part of my life, it is now one of my greatest sources of happiness. I've grown a lot over the past few years, and I've learned to fall in love with my body for the amazing things it has shown me I can do. I've managed to drop the 20 pounds I gained back last year and then some; plus now I've got some baby muscles!!

The past couple years have been a roller coaster, but I'm glad to say that I've found my stride. I've not yet reached my goals, but I'm a lot closer to them then I have ever been. Even when I do get there, I'll just be ready with some new, more challenging goals!  I've already come this far, and I can't wait to share the rest of my journey with you :)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Literally The Best Quesadilla, Ever.

I'm a huge fan of Mexican cuisine. Luckily for me, it is super easy to "veganize" many popular Mexican dishes. I was browsing Pinterest the other day and came across this super delicious looking quesadilla (sans the cheese) that I wanted to try immediately. The recipe is from Love My Vegan Life and she had it right; it really is the best vegan quesadilla!! The best quesadilla in general, for that matter. The hummus really gives it a creaminess so you don't even miss the cheese. You can definitely put all the vegan cheese you want on there, but I preferred it without :)
Anyway, I'll get right to it, here's the recipe:

The Best Vegan Quesadillas
 recipe and photo courtesy of  Love My Vegan Life 

What you'll need:
1 medium red onion, chopped,
10 scallions (green and white parts) chopped,
small bunch of cilantro (depends on your personal taste preferences) chopped
(I just threw all of this into my little ninja chopper so it mixed it all up and chopped it finely, you'll have leftovers of this to use on other recipes! )
Flour tortillas (I used Sonoma Traditional Organic Tortillas)
1 can of rinsed organic black beans (or other beans of your choice)
1 package of chipotle hummus (from Trader Joes, if you don’t have it, just add a ½ tsp of taco seasoning to a small container of roasted red pepper hummus) <-- That is what I did, I couldn't find chipotle hummus at Whole Foods.
1 tomato, diced (or fresh tomato salsa)
Onion/scallion/cilantro mix
Taco seasoning
Avocado (or guacamole)
Pre-heat a nonstick skillet with a tiny drop of olive oil. Take 2 tortillas, and spread a decent amount of hummus on each of them. Take one and gently placed on heated skillet hummus side up. Start loading – black beans first, tomatoes, onion/scallion/cilantro mix, and be generous with all the ingredients, you want this to be a hearty dinner! Sprinkle some taco seasoning and cover with the other tortilla, hummus side down. Let it sit on the skillet (on a medium low) for about 3 minutes on each side, until golden and warmed up inside.

I topped my quesadilla with fresh avocado and some vegan sour cream. It was so delicious, and I want another one so bad as I'm typing this. I especially loved that this took such a minimal amount of effort to make. If I see more than like 10 ingredients, or a long and tedious list of directions, I just kind of chuckle to myself because that is probably never going to happen. The best part about this recipe though is that it got the boyfriend stamp of approval :) He enjoyed it just as much as I did, and I'm honestly probably going to make it again tonight.

Let me know if you try it!
and I want to know, what other recipes have you successfully veganized?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Recipe: Homemade Chana Masala (Chole)

Last night I had an intense craving for Indian food, specifically, chana masala (or chole). I had some vegan samosas from Whole Foods that were calling my name, and felt nothing would go better with them than chana masala. The problem:  I was much too lazy to go and pick some up. So my only option was to make some. I've never made Indian food at home before and was kind of afraid to. Many of the recipes I looked up called for things I didn't have (coriander seeds, garam masala, etc) but I decided to wing it, and it actually came out pretty well! The best part was I had all of this at home, and  it didn't require me to go to the specialty section of Whole Foods and spend money; plus it was super easy :)  Most of it I just kind of threw in the pan so these are only estimates, do what tastes good to you! For the tomato base I used paste, but next time I would probably use canned peeled tomatoes or something like that. (or fresh)

Homemade Chana Masala (Easy!)
1 can chickpeas
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp Grape seed Oil (or vegetable oil)
1 Tbsp Earth Balance Buttery Spread
1/2 small can of tomato paste or 1 can of diced tomatoes w/ liquid.
1 and 1/2 Tbsp Curry powder
1 clove garlic - minced
1 medium red onion - chopped
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
Black pepper to taste
Dash of cayenne powder
Dash of cumin powder
Dash of turmeric powder
Water, as needed

Heat vegetable oil over medium heat and saute onions until lightly browned. Then, add in the chickpeas, tomato paste or diced tomatoes, curry, garlic, salt, cayenne, cumin, turmeric, and black pepper. Add in the Earth Balance and stir until melted. Lastly, throw in the cilantro and let everything simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the chickpeas are nice and soft. (I noticed my mixture was a little thick, so I threw in some water to thin it out a bit, per my preferences)  Serve with rice, naan, samosas, pizza, whatever your heart desires!

I really enjoyed making this recipe. It was super simple and proves I don't totally suck at making food when I don't have a recipe to follow!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

True Life: I'm Addicted to French Fries

As I sit here eating my delicious Vegan Chocolate Cupcake, I am reminded that tomorrow marks the first day of Lent. I have struggled over the past few days with feelings of guilt about what kind of food I eat on a regular basis. I realize that while I do my best to be healthy (like still drinking one green juice a day!), I could definitely make some better decisions when it comes to food. Yes, it may be vegan, but that doesn't mean it is necessarily good. So, for Lent I've decided to give up my most recent vice: french fries. I don't know what has gotten into me, but I'm finding one way or another to get myself some french fries on a much too often basis. Like, almost daily. Its bad. My stomach hates me for it. My skin hates me for it. Generally, I feel pretty shitty about it, but I can't stop myself! I brought lunch to the office today; a healthy and savory eggplant tomato stew. But what did I do instead? I went to get myself a falafel pita and a side of fries... At least it was the "small" size, right?! I swear I could feel my eggplant stew silently judging me from the fridge, uneaten. Anyway, it's clear I have a problem. So I'm making it my mission to avoid the fried sticks of deliciousness for the next six weeks.
I'm pretty competitive by nature, so I feel like this will be an excellent way to challenge myself and start making better choices. Even if that choice is simply not to eat the damn fries.

What will you be giving up for Lent this year? What other ways are you encouraged to say adios the not-so-healthy foods?