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A love story

19 October 2011

I love you and I hate you.  You can make me nervous and jittery, and you can fill me with delight.  My toes curl with pleasure at the thought of having you on a crisp fall morning.  Your warmpth is contagious; you always wake me up and make me grin.

It’s you, coffee, whom I adore so dearly.  What, where did you think I was going with that?

I know that coffee has gotten a bad rap with some health experts.  But why?  Because it’s caffeinated and acidic?  Because it has potential to be a calorie-bomb?  Beacause it’s an addiction that the American public just can’t shake?

One of the most common pieces of wellness advice I read on the web is this gem: Don’t drink your calories!  Granted, if one were to order a double-shot mocha frappuchino with extra whipped cream every morning, it might become a problem.  But what about us black-coffee lovin’ folks?  Black coffee contains 5-10 calories per cup.  Sometimes, I add a tiny splash of unsweetened almond or coconut milk (remember when I went dairy-free?) and I’m good to go.

I’ve heard stories of people who get headaches if they don’t have their morning coffee.  It’s true that caffeine is technically a drug, and that it is possible for its daily consumption to result in an addiction.  But isn’t it possible to become addicted to anything?  Sugar?  Picking your nose?  Bad rap music?  (Endorphins?!?  I know I’m an addict.)

Besides, even green tea, a beverage that is touted as extreme healthy, contains caffeine as well (albeit in a smaller amount than coffee).  I’m not trying to justify an excessive consumption of caffeine, but I don’t think that a tiny daily jolt will do much harm.

This fall, I have unabashadly consumed coffee almost every morning that I’ve had classes (which is 5 days a week).  I don’t need it to wake me up (I have early-morning sports practices for that), but I drink it because I like it.  I find it extremely pleasureable to snuggle into my favorite mug each morning.  The aroma and flavor of coffee is delicious to me, and the extra kick of caffeine keeps me revved for the morning’s classes and workload.

My final thought on the subject is a somewhat broad one: Do what makes you happy!  I think it’s important to treat yourself every day.  If waking up to a cup (or two!) of coffee in the morning is your thing, then do it.

I know you’re waiting for me to add the quick disclaimer in moderation, of course, but I won’t.  Because what makes you happy is usually also what makes you healthy and feel good.  Chances are eating junky foods isn’t going to make you feel good – it might make you feel adequate, but everyone I know wants to feel and look their best.  Eating an entire pack of Oreos every day for a week isn’t going to make you happy in the long-term (unless you really, really like Oreos).

It seems to me that many people lose sight of the fact that we are on this planet for such a remarkably limited amount of time.  Why spend your life denying yourself the things that you consider to make every day special and awesome?  I think that everyone has a little bit of a different rhythm to them, but in all, it’s the same pattern: if you eat healthily and move regularly, you’re going to feel good.  If having a cup of coffee in the morning makes you feel good too, then do it!  If your favorite style of shoes are out of fashion for the season, why stop wearing them?  And if belting out your favorite song in the shower pumps you up for the day, then what’s holding you back?  =)

Homemade gluten-free and vegan granola

11 October 2011

Happy Tuesday!  I spent the 4-day weekend relaxing at home in Connecticut.  My little brother came home from school, too, so it was a true family affair.  In the midst of birthday celebrations for him (even the smell of his gluten-filled cake made my stomach churn) I was able to do some shopping and some soul-searching.

I also made this granola!  It’s certainly not as deep as any personal revelations I might be inclined to share with strangers on the internet, but what’s delicious is what makes the press.  And this is delicious.

In fact, it’s so good that a third of my stash was gone by this morning.  My brother and dad had been nibbling away at it, not knowing that it was healthy (plus, gluten-free and vegan!).  They are my toughest critics – if something is not up to their Americanized, sugar-laden standards, they’ll tell me (in the most loving and constructive way, of course!).

hearty gluten-free and vegan granola (from Love, Veggies, & Yoga)

  • 3/4 c. almond butter
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar (less if you want)
  • 1/2 c. almond milk
  • 4.5 c. old-fashioned or steel-cut oats
  • 1.5 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2.5 T cinnamon
  • optional dried fruit and/or nuts add ins (I used raisins and dried cherries)

By the way, if you haven’t checked out Love, Veggies, and Yoga, you totally should!  It is my favorite health and wellness blog on the web, and I am a daily reader!  There are GF, raw, vegan, and/or soy-free dessert recipes galore.

Preheat your oven to 375F.  Melt the almond butter, brown sugar, and almond milk in a large saucepan on low heat.  Stir in the vanilla and cinnamon.  Then, add the oatmeal and mix to coat completely.  Add in any dried fruit/nuts if desired.  Spread onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and stick in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the edges turn a dark golden brown.  Let cool completely on the baking sheet and then break into smaller pieces.

I love this granola because it’s ultra-chewy and tastes sinful.  I’m glad, though, that the recipe couldn’t be simpler and more wholesome.  Eating naturally is always better than eating something with a long list of ingredients, no matter what crazy health claims it may make!

Have a fantastic week.  I’m headed off to a 90-minute Anusara class before I head back to campus this afternoon.  One of my favorite teachers will be instructing.  I will never remember the day when she said to me, The whole world is less bright if you don’t shine.  How true is that?!

Surprising Myself

5 October 2011

The brink of adulthood is thrilling.  It’s uncertain and surreal.  One moment I have everything figured out and the next, I can be unsure of my path.  I am young and my life is filled with opportunity – I have the luxury to decide what kind of a person I want to be.

Being a nineteen-year-old college student is terrifying.  It’s electric.  It’s out-of-control and topsy-turvey, with a flaming neon exclamation point.  And I like it.

For me, nothing is set in stone.  I have the flexibility of youth to figure out who I am, what I want to do, and how I’m going to do it, and I have encountered some incredible and worthwhile surprises along the way.

In high school, I played field hockey but dismissed my seemingly un-athletic exterior by delving deeply and passionately into music and the arts.  I never made a Varsity team (even though, at my school, almost everyone did by their senior year), and always discounted myself, telling myself that it was okay not to be competitive, and that I really only needed exercise to stay slim.  I thought I was going to major in Music, Spanish, or something equally right-brained.  My reputation consisted of one sucessful musical performance after the next – I was known as the girl who sang, or the girl who played the flute, but never the girl who led her team to victory, or who could sprint a mile in under seven minutes.

This fall, you can most likely find me studying in the science library, eating at the gluten-free dining hall, and on a boat speeding down the Connecticut River.  I could not have predicted that this was how my college experience would unfold, and I am genuinely surprised and pleased to say that I love every second of it.  This is, in fact, the first time that I’ve been at college where I feel like I get it – I have no urges to go home at every opportunity I get, and no incredible sadness to hide behind an unconvincing smile.  I feel happy and fulfilled.  Who knew that doing a sport and studying science would get me there?

I joined the crew team on a whim.  I needed another activity, and I already had developed into an morning person (another surprise) and figured that rowing would be my ticket to a better semester.  So far, I have flourished.  I find myself motivated to improve and looking forward to practice every day (even when it means waking up at 4:30am).  I want to row in the top boat in the upcoming regattas badly.  The competitive, atheletic, and intense side of me has begun to emerge.  Now I enjoy pushing my limits, and feel incredibly proud when I break a personal record.  I still practice yoga three times a week, but I feel this newfound drive to be the best at everything I do, not just with what affects my GPA.

Last year I have a vivid memory of talking with another student and telling her that I would never in my right mind touch a Chemistry textbook again.  Studying science held a certain stigma to me, and seemed like a waste of time for the girl whose destiny seemingly lay in art.  But guess what my favorite class is this semester?  Here’s a hint: it has to do with quantum mechanics.

What gives?  I even groaned when I registered for Chem in early September.  I knew I needed to take the course because a desire buried deep in my psyche had bubbled up to my conciousness this summer that could not be ignored.  In a moment of clarity, I realized that I want to work in holistic medicine.  In retrospect, it makes sense in conjunction with my character and interests, because I am passionate about health and wellness. To me, I know that science combined with spirituality is the way to go.

After months of lamenting how I might never get a job out of a liberal arts college, a plan simply occured to me.  Who would have guessed?

I still haven’t chosen a major, and I don’t have to until April.  I can still pursue Musicology, or I can go in a different direction and study something like Nueroscience.  Anything is in the cards if I want it to be.

Although I am developing new and diverse interests, there are things about myself that will always hold true as well.  I love music, and I love to write.  I love to read, and I love to cook.  These are passions that I’ve known about for ages, and have only intensified with time.  It’s reassuring to know that I can always fall back on these things if I lose sight of who I am, and who I want to become.

It’s incredibly liberating to realize that I have the capacity to become anyone I choose.  I can change habits, pursue different interests, and always, always surprise myself.

New Beginnings

29 September 2011

The Fall season means a lot of things: the beginning of the academic year, the beginning of beautiful red leaves, and the beginning of the consumption of pumpkin-flavored goodies.  The Fall is when things start up again after a long and lazy summer (or was that just me?).

Everything seems fresh.  The brand-new pages of a textbook (for us students) or a glossy, high-fashion magazine that divulges the latest way to wear earth colors (because isn’t that what the Fall is all about?).  The cool air makes my outdoor runs seem wonderful again, and those dredges through the stupefying summer heat are quickly forgotten. 

 I always find myself reflecting on past years during the fall months, too.  How was I feeling last fall?  What was I up to?  For some reason, it seems to be the perfect time to make comparisons because everything always lines up: there are birthdays and many other holidays that help measure the time.  I like to compare how much I’ve grown within the time that has elapsed.  I can remember with precision the first time I moved away from home for school, and how nervous and homesick I was.  I can remember all of the field hockey games I played in high school and the great reunion of my hometown friends last Thanksgiving.  It’s the weather that always seems to bring about these memories.

And there’s always the comforting staples that a crisp fall day brings.  Football games, hot mugs of tea, brightly-colored scarves, and classic novels say Fall to me more than anything else.

It’s a time for us to settle down and reconnect, but with a renewed enthusiasm.  What are your thoughts on the fall?  Do you love it, or are you sad to see the summer go?

Getting fit for dummies

8 June 2011

I love this man.

Voilà.  You owe me for this shit. =)

Happy Wednesday!

White chocolate cake pops

6 June 2011

The other day, I was comissioned to make a dessert for a party.

Living gluten and dairy-free, I decided to have some fun with my task.  If I wasn’t going to eat my creation, someone else has to… and it might as well be delicious, entertaining, and all-around adorable.

Enter: these cake pops.  They are essentially cake truffles – the interior is a mixture of cake and frosting and is topped with a shell of chocolate.  I first came across the idea of creating a cake truffle while browsing through the fabulous food blog How Sweet It Is.  I wanted to take the concept and make it party-friendly by adding sticks – thus, cake pops were born.

All of the online tutorials I sifted through used boxed cake and frosting, but that simply would not do.  I selected a recipe for a flourless chocolate cake from Eat, Live, Run for its gluten-free factor (obligatory taste tests, of course) and for its fudgy, dense texture and rich quality.

I combined the cake with a classic American buttercream (which was, unfortunately, not dairy-free – there was no way of getting around that one).  Then, after burning an entire bag of white chocolate chips beyond salvation, I dunked the pops in white chocolate and then had a little fun with toppings. I drizzled half of the pops with extra milk chocolate I had on hand, left a few of them plain, and dunked the rest in crushed walnuts.

These cake pops have healthy omega 3’s.  Totally cancels out all the butter, sugar, and chocolate, right?

I may have nibbled on a bit of one last night.  I may have done a happy yummy-food-in-my-belly dance.

Seared scallops and roasted tomato over a bed of GF pasta

3 June 2011

When I tell people I have to eat gluten and dairy-free, they often ask me what I eat.

I tell them that my diet is pretty normal…

except totally more fabulous.

Say hello to last night’s post-yoga dinner.  Om (nom nom).