18 May 2016

Vientiane Cafe - Gluten Free and Vegan in West Philadelphia

18 May 2016 0
Okay - typically I don't find enjoyment in repeating the same movie, restaurant, dinner, etc over and over and over and over again. However, I literally think I could rock Vientiane Cafe pretty much on a weekly basis.

I say this not only because the menu is very NICOLE FRIENDLY. As in, they offer a number of gluten free options BUT they can also accommodate almost every dish on the menu to be vegan. ALLELUIA!  I can hear the birds singing! Now, add in the fact that the ingredients are always fresh, it is a BYOB joint, they are very reasonable on price, and we are officially in heaven. Actually, we are in heaven, floating on a cloud. Let's be real, every dreams of being able to chill on a cloud at some point in time, right?

Back to dinner. I noticed they have made some additions to their menu and while I am in love with their King Soup (seriously, I crave this soup often) and hate to verge to new things in fear of disappointment,  I couldn't help myself.

I went with a small order of the Rice Porridge and the Vegan Pho. Neither of which disappointment me. In fact, I couldn't stop eating the porridge - well, I could do without the crispy tofu as I prefer their pillow-like tofu in their soup dishes. Other than that, the porridge is the perfect comfort food that is also somehow healthy for you- is that possible to put comfort and healthy together in the same sentence when describing food? Oh well, I just did and Vientiane made it happen!

The porridge has a cream-like texture and the flavor is subtle but bold all in one. I highly recommend it. I learned my lesson and next time I will order a large and not share! :)

Okay, enough rambling - if you have not yet checked out Vientiane Cafe, RUN THERE quickly and enjoy their cozy setting!




09 May 2016

Allowing Myself To Get Lost

09 May 2016 2
Answers are not always the answers you want to hear, but they are the right answers.

My journey. Where to begin...this year has been the most dramatic of all my years. I have and still am, learning a lot about myself and others.

I have learned:

  • I need to allow myself to be broken
  • I need to allow myself alone time
  • I need to love myself
  • I need to learn, mistakes happen but tomorrow is a new day and so long as I learned from my mistakes, then I am happy to continue to make them - as it is how I will improve. 
  • It is alright to cry, in fact, it is necessary 
  • It is okay to be lost, in fact, go - get lost and rediscover yourself 
  • Just because you are fine today does not mean that tomorrow won't be a day full of tears and confusion
A year ago, I would have never in a million years looked at who I am today and recognize her as my future self. I have done things this year I never thought I would have. I have gone home and spent a week on my parent's couch crying. I have called family to just vent and ramble on. I have asked others to be my support system. I have cleared people and things out of my life that no longer serve a purpose. I have tried to sit with myself and be brutally honest. 

I have been ill for almost ten years and this past year I tried to express my overall health concern to my closest family and friends, but I think they did not understand the seriousness. I was always the strong one of the family and so they figured, okay, she isn't feeling well today, this is Nicole. There is no way Nicole is not going to just kick this SHIT in the ass! She is a survivor. She is determined. She is persistent. She gets what she wants, because she never takes NO for an answer. 

The problem with all of this, this time I lost my way and I was very serious when I told those closest to me that I physically felt exhausted and mentally, mentally I was past exhaustion. 

I have had plenty of changes and time to think and I have to realize some of my thoughts:
  • I do feel like I don't have many, if any true friends. I mean, I have many of people around me, but who is really always there for you? Maybe this is me expecting too much from others, but I would define a true friend and someone always there - thick and thin. 
  • I find I am confused on how others live this thing called a normal life. 
  • With my illness dictating what I do and do not eat - especially with my drastically limited diet the past 7 months...  I have NO idea what is normal to eat anymore and what portion sizes are sufficient and what is stuffing myself past necessary. Not to mention, I don't remember what foods I enjoy. 
  • I am insecure in my body. 6.5 out of 7 days a week, my stomach is acting up and typically rather bloated. This makes me feel fat and uncomfortable in my skin. 
  • I am socially awkward. I came to realize this when I began sitting back and watching how others reacted around me. This is probably because I shut myself in because it was easier than dealing with my illness (which if anyone could ever give me a real diagnosis of what this mystery illness is....much appreciated, thanks). 
  • Finances scare the crap out of me! I've spent 27 years watching my dad work like a dog, and for what? In the end, there is nothing. No legacy, no income, just a man who appears to be burned out and maybe even a bit relieved that everything is done and other with. 
  • In healing, I do not need to have the perfect body
  • I need to stop comparing myself to others 
This journey that I am on - It is nowhere near being over. I have come to accept that and embrace my brokenness. 

My goal is to rediscover myself. Who I am? What makes me happy?
I do know some things make me happy:
  • Sunny days
  • Being outdoors
  • Candle light
  • Family
  • Yoga - although this can be a love hate relationship some days :)
  • Tulips
  • Puppies
I need to develop a plan - just like I do with EVERYTHING else in life. I see a problem and then I step back, create a plan and tackle it! How can I relearn how to eat? How can I learn what is means to be normal? When I figure this chapter out, I will update you. 

Here is a note to all of those around me. I am okay. I am broken, but that's not always a bad thing. 
Some days I feel defeated but other days I know I can come back and be just as powerful as I always was. Everyday is a new day. Everyday is a chance to embrace something beautiful. 

You were once wild here. Don't let them tame you. -Isadora Duncan

05 May 2016

Philly Gluten Free Expo in Oaks PA

05 May 2016 0
Come join me at the Greater Gluten Free Expo in Oaks, PA on Saturday, May 21.


26 April 2016

Trying Citron Fruit

26 April 2016 0
One of my amazing farmer's market finds this past weekend was a Citron Fruit. Actually, at first glance, I thought it was an over-sized lemon.

Knowing me, I had to ask the farmers for more details, but they actually had none to share. They informed me that they too had to research a bit about it.

Come to find out it is actually a Citron fruit - you can read more about it here.

I was excited to see all of the health benefits and figured, just like I do with anything else, I will give it a try.

After washing the fruit, I sliced it and added some cinnamon to it.

It wasn't bad, but it got a sour quickly and I found myself not finishing it. I think I would enjoy it more in it's candied form.

22 April 2016

Prepping for the week

22 April 2016 0
"If you want something you never had, then you've got to do something you've never done."

I find that I want peace and happiness in my life. To achieve such, I have decided to SMILE no matter what the situation.

I have decided to think only positive thoughts and continuously remind myself that "everything happens for a reason".

I also know that my weeks are rather busy and do not allow me much down time, or even much time to sleep so if I can prep on the weekends, my weeks become a bit more doable.


I have started making my breakfasts (moong dal) and lunches (soup) for the week. I know, this contradicts that I am not really suppose to eat many leftovers, but a girl can only do her best :). I figure, I would rather make my food with love and take the time to make it properly and enjoy it rather than toss it together. Hopefully in the near future, my schedule will simmer down a bit and I might have some additional time in the evenings to prep more "fresh" meals. For now, left overs will have to work for me :).

Lastly, I make sure my "allergy-free" fridge at work is stocked with my breakfasts, lunches and plenty of snacks!

Here is to another beautiful week!


21 April 2016

Suspend your preferences they may be getting in the way

21 April 2016 0

My First Ever Juice Cleanse

I have always wanted to try a juice cleanse but have always had a couple reservations:
1. The expense
2. Would I starve
3. I LOVE LOVE eating food

I couldn't justify my reservations once my place of employment was hosting a corporate-wide juice cleanse with Ryan Crown's Philly Juice Club, Philadelphia PA - so I decided to go all in.

There was a number of unique cleanse packages to select from but I decided to go with the following:

DAY 1:  48oz of ON (Red Beet, Organic Carrots, Lime, Ginger Root, and Parsley),


16oz Banana Brain Smoothie (Organic Bananas, Mango, Hemp Seeds, Cinnamon Bark, Cardamom, Nutmeg, Vanilla Almond Milk).

DAY 2: 48oz Alkaline Forest (Kale, Cucumber, Dandelion, Parsley, Celery, Cilantro, Dill, Apples)

16 oz Green Buddha  Smoothie (Pineapple, Basil, Organic Banana, Spinach, Coconut Oil, Cayenne Pepper, Aloe Vera, Vanilla Almond Milk).

Day 3: 48oz Alter-Native (Lemongrass, Apples, Ginger Root, Pineapple, Cucumber)

16 oz Green Buddha  Smoothie (Pineapple, Basil, Organic Banana, Spinach, Coconut Oil, Cayenne Pepper, Aloe Vera, Vanilla Almond Milk).

How did I do?

Day 1:  Day one was great. I took 8 ounces of juice every two-hours with the full 16oz smoothie at lunch. I was fabulous until I got home around 7:00pm after the gym where I thought I might die. I needed more calories and added in some fresh dates and steamed apples.

Day 2: I started with steamed fruit and then continues with the fresh juice and smoothies. I ended the night with steamed apples and did very well.

Day 3: I did straight juice until the evening where I ended with steamed apples.

Overall, I was able to kick my gum habit, my stomach was no longer bloated, and I felt great. I was low on energy, which I assume was due to the lack of calories but I survived rather well and would definitely consider doing another cleanse.


19 April 2016

What I Eat in A Day

19 April 2016 0
People seem to be struggling with that to eat, and way more than they should be. Perhaps it is because some have essentially become addicted to un-healthy foods and others, perhaps they have become obsessed with what is and is not the current health-trend. 

The best advise I can give is this: 1. eat what you crave and 2. everything in moderation. 

 I thought I would share what I have been enjoying on a daily basis. Keep in mind, this does take some prep work and my weekends have been not as beautiful - but I am a work in progress :).

I start my days as much as possible with an early am yoga class. 

Around 8:00am I sneak in a quick breakfast. I have found that a nice warm moong dal recipe has been doing the trick. 

10:00am I am starving yet again and have been enjoying citrus fruits!

Lunch usually happens around 12:30 and has religiously been a soup and oatmeal combination.I think the heavy oatmeal has been bringing me some peace during the colder months. 

Mid-afternoon I sneak in another quick bite - today I just happen to find a lovely kiwi to indulge in. 

Dinner was actually on time for me tonight and was a mix of apple sauce, oatmeal, and apples. I have to think quick meals on my Mondays as I work late at the studio. 

I found myself still a bit hungry later on so I grabbed a quick lemon juice - which did the trick. 

I eat often, I eat when I am hungry. I eat what I enjoy and I smile as much as possible. Why? Because tomorrow is always a new day! :)

29 March 2016

Savory Mushroom Moong Dal Breakfast (Vegan, Gluten Free and Oil Free)

29 March 2016 0
Experimenting a bit more with Moong Dal - as I am finding that my body reacts well to this dish, I figured it was the perfect combination to try and add back mushrooms into my diet.

I started by toasting a couple spices (Star Anise, Ginger, Tumeric, Mustard Seeds,  Seaweed etc) along with two small mushrooms - since I am testing to see how my body will react to mushrooms, I didn't want to go overboard.

Then I added my soaked Moong Dal and water and let it simmer.  I don't measure my water level for the Moong Dal, I just keep an eye on it and add more water when it looks like it is needed.

The dish came out as a success.

27 March 2016

Easter Tradition, Deviled Eggs

27 March 2016 0
Happy Easter!

This year marks the first Easter without my dad's parents. With that being said, I am sure this will be a very emotional holiday for my family. Not to say that the day will be ruined or without joy, as neither of my grandparents would want us to dwell in sorrow. Rather, the family will take strolls down memory lane and remember all the wonderful times we had spent with our grandparents.

When I think of Easter, I think of the beach (my grandparents resided in Myrtle Beach, SC), traditional Italian Music (Dominck the Donkey) and the year my grandma made deviled eggs but forgo to discard all of the shells.

It was as if the entire family decided to bite into their deviled eggs at the same time (completely unplanned) we all took one bite and then quickly glared at one another with the eyes of "what the hell do we do now? We can't spit this egg out in front of grandma.).

Needless to say, no one accepted grandma's offer for seconds of the deviled eggs. It does carry a nice memory that none of us will ever forget and we repeat this story to one another yearly, as if one of us had forgotten or missed out on this experience. It never gets old! Love you grandma

Obviously, when a spring potluck was planned at work I had no choice but to make deviled eggs  - but thought I would put a spin on it and make a variety of deviled eggs.

My variations included:
*Sweet relish
*Pesto
*Scallion Cream Cheese











*Traditional
*Dijon Mustard
*Sweet red Pepper Jelly










Each variation was pretty simple to make. I added a bit of mayonnaise, the additional ingredient and a touch of salt and pepper.

The Team's favorite was a mix of pesto and Dijon.

25 March 2016

Arugula Oatmeal (Gluten Free, Vegan, & Oil Free)

25 March 2016 0
These days, everyone's schedules extend past our ability to maintain. We find it more convenient, and sometimes cheaper, to grab the unhealthy food choices (bag of chips, frozen dinner, fast-food, and so on). However, once we fall into this trap, we become addicted to this type of food (thanks to all the additives) and then find ourselves on a whirl-wind of diets and unhappiness with ourselves (in particular, our bodies). I could continue to rant on about how these foods also effect our mind and spirit, but that would require it's own blog post.

If there is one thing that my food allergies have taught me, it is that creating your own "fast-food" can be inexpensive, fast, healthy and scrumptious with just a bit of pre-planning. I am learning that left-overs are really not healthy for you - especially when trying to heal your gut.

I have started relying on soups, oatmeal, moong dal and fresh fruits and vegetables for my meals.

My days have been following the below routine and my body is loving it:
Breakfast: Moong Dal dish
Snack: Warm apples with spice
Lunch: Soup with oatmeal
Snack: Orange
Snack: Fresh juice of some sort
Snack: Fresh protein smoothie
Dinner / Evening snack: Warm fruit or steamed vegetables

This week I made a couple batches of Arugula Soup:
Ginger
Star Anise
Mushrooms
Turmeric
Cumin
Garlic
Seaweed
Zucchini
Arugula
Cilantro

After all the ingredients have had time to simmer, I toss everything into the Vitamix and pulse until smooth.

I portion everything out into my mason jars and then when lunch time arrives, I measure out a serving of gluten free oatmeal and heat everything together.

YUM!

When the day is over, LET IT GO. Don't dwell on what you could've or should've done. Tomorrow is a new day & another chance.

13 March 2016

Breakfast Ideas

13 March 2016 0
A lot of people ask me what I eat for breakfast during the winter months - I always start with the speech "I don not recommend eating cold smoothies for breakfast during the winter season". After plenty of research, I have found that cold food during the winter tends to put our bodies into a flight-or-fight mode. Which, let's be honest, this is not the way any of us want to start our day, especially on a Monday.

There are a couple of things I have been sticking to for winter breakfasts and one is oatmeal vegetable soup. I like to take a jar of soup (preferably homemade, but store bought can work just as well) - recently I have been enjoying zucchini and pea soups - heavy on the fennel :) and mix in some oats.

This is beyond easy to make. I literally take the soup, pour it into a bowl, add some oatmeal and heat for about 3-4 minutes  in the microwave. It provides for me a warming and hearty breakfast to get my day started.

11 March 2016

Instant Chia Seed Pudding

11 March 2016 0
Instant Chia Seed Pudding

Items needed:
1. A Jar with a tight sealing lid
2. Measuring Cup
3. Crushed Cashews
4. Dried Dates
5. Chia Tea
6. Almond Butter
7. Honey

I took the cashews (I had them in their whole form, so I just crushed them and placed them in the bottom of the jar). I added the diced dried dates, a couple tablespoons of Chia seeds, two tablespoons of almond butter, and a drizzle of honey).

I placed the lid on the jar and began to shake it up. Make sure all the ingredients move around in the jar. Then reopen the jar and add some hot water and Chai tea bag.

Place the sealed jar in the fridge and let it set for a couple of hours.
The more time you have for it to sit, the longer it will settle and thicken.

Enjoy.

09 March 2016

Quick Zoodle Soup

09 March 2016 0
I was running late and needed a quick pick-me-upper. I tossed together a broth while I did some quick prepping for the next day.

I added some spices:
-Ginger
-Turmeric
-Star Anise
-Curry
-Nutmeg
-Fennel Seed

I let that simmer a bit while I took care of everything else. 

When I was ready, I came back, ran the zucchini through the spiralizer and then tossed that right into the sauce pot with some sugar snap peas, cilantro, and fresh arugula. 

It made for a super low key quick dinner that had some great flavor! 

07 March 2016

Getting My Creative Mo-Jo Back

07 March 2016 0
As I continue to heal my mind, body, and spirit - I am realizing who I am, and what it is that I enjoy doing. I don't have it all figured out - but slow and steady wins the race!

One thing I do know that I enjoy and I like to think I am pretty darn good, is cooking.
I tend to cook from smell rather than a recipe.

My sister was headed over for some much needed sister time and I decided to just bring random things out of the cupboard and roll with it.

I started by pulling out a little bit of this and a little bit of that and decided to pull a little bit more as I moved forward in the creation.

I started with my new favorite technique, heating my spices.

I turned the stove on, let it heat up a bit. Then added my spices (Mustard Seeds, Garlic, Ginger, Turmeric, Parsley, Star Anise, Fennel Seeds, Onion Flakes, Mushrooms, and a touch of cinnamon.

After a minute or two, I added in two giant spoons of Brown Miso paste. I let that cook a couple of seconds and then started adding water.

I eyed this measurement and just added until I felt like I had enough.

I let this mixture simmer for a bit and then added two tablespoons of molasses, a touch of liquid aminos and a splash of pomegranate juice.

Getting closer to dinner time, I added in some mushroom tops, sugar snap peas, fresh live arugula, and cilantro.

I selected King Soba Buckwheat Noodles for this dish. I thought the earthiness of the buckwheat would pair well with the broth.

As I began cooking the noodles (directly into the broth), I heated my pan for a porter house steak. Once the pan was heated, I added a touch of neutral oil and let that heat up. I placed the porter house down on the pan for 4 minutes without touching it. I then removed the steak, cut the bone away added everything back into the pan (including the bone) and broiled it for an additional 4 minutes or so.

For the finishing touches, I added a nice runny egg and some crushed cashews.

Here is to a quick and healthy dish

For my vegan friends, you can simply leave out to egg and the steak and enjoy a quick Soba Noodle dish. You could even add a miso glazed tofu.



03 March 2016

One Step Forward, Two Steps Backwards

03 March 2016 0
"Truth. Life is beautiful." 

Life is a journey and if you are afraid that with every leap of faith you take, that you will fall behind ten steps and never be able to recover - well then, what type of life do you have to look forward to? 

Honestly, if you live in fear, you will shield yourself from any wonderful opportunities that life has in store for you. 

While I am on this journey of healing my gut and overall health, my diet is very restricted and "safe". However, it also lacks in a number of nutrition opportunities (i.e fermented foods, healthy fats, healthy oils, etc). Whenever I have a slip up, it is painful and takes a number of days to recover. 

Many ask, "then why deviate from the simple menu that works?" Easy. I want to be healthy and I need to continue to challenge my body and see what does and does not work for it. Or I will remain stagnant in progress. 

I need "cheat" days just like everyone else or I would go insane. I have some good days, some okay days, and sometimes when I experiment, I have terrible days. Actually, there are a number of days when I am following the "simple" diet that I still feel miserable. For me, I feel like it's a game of Russian Roulette - I wake up and I already know, OH NO! Today is going to be a rough one for me, or maybe I think, awesome, I feel strong and healthy today. I can't gauge it. 

I choose to be adventuresome in my food, why have I struggled to do so in life? Ha - that's likely because there is no pill I can pop to heal a broken heart or control the feelings that arise from leaping in the dark! Making it a goal of mine to venture into more "un-safe" waters, this year. I'm learning, it's okay to fall down. It's okay to be sad. It's okay to be mad. It's okay to be lonely. It's okay to be overwhelmed. It's okay to be bold and go for what you want in life. Experiment. 

Live life to it's fullest and learn from the past, but never regret it. 

This week's experiment in food was a Glutino Bagel with peanut butter, almond butter, honey, and ginger syrup. 

I have to say, I remember loving these bagels and I don't. 300+ calories and they are gooey and chewy. 

I can't wait to Sweet Note allergy free bagels

01 March 2016

Moong Dal - An Ayurvedic Health Food

01 March 2016 0

After having done plenty of experimenting with food recently - I really was not feeling my best. I turned to the food my Ayurvedic doctor praises, Moong Dal.

I was using Moong Dal for Kitchari - but hadn't really done much more experimenting than that.

I made my healing pea soup (with plenty of cilantro included) and decided, instead of adding gluten free oats, I would use Moong Dal.

I started by soaking the Moong Dal for a good 24 hours (makes it easier to digest) and then, without measuring, I added enough water to cover the Moong Dal and cooked it on low for a good 30-40 minutes or until it became a mushy-like consistency.

The Moong Dal adds a bit of an earthy taste to the dish and still provided the starch my body craves in the winter months.

Needless to say, after indulging in my Moong Dal dish for both lunch and dinner, by the next morning I was already feeling significantly better.



27 February 2016

Betsy's Bakery, Camp Hill, PA

27 February 2016 0
Once upon a time, I was given a wonderful present from Betsy's Bakery in Camp Hill, PA.
I tossed some of these treats into the freezer and figured I would pull them out when I was desperate and in a hurry and starving - you know, right before you become hangry.

I decided to treat myself and pull it out from the freezer and give it a try. I simply tossed the bread into the microwave for 20 seconds and I was good to go.

Taste - wasn't too bad, pretty flavorful
Texture -was a little on the gooey side of things.
Overall - not bad, but not sure that I would purchase it again.



26 February 2016

Fennel Pea Soup - Gluten Free and Vegan

26 February 2016 0
Fennel Pea Soup:

*Fennel Seed
*Star Anise
*Ginger
*Nutmeg
*Cinnamon
*Turmeric
*Frozen Peas
*Gluten Free Oats

Take a sauce pan, roast the ginger, fennel seeds, star anise and lightly toast them for 5 minutes or until aromatic.

Add in some water and the remaining ingredients (excluding the oats).

Let simmer for as long as you would like. The longer it simmers, the more the flavors will begin to marry one another.

Add everything to your blender (I use the Vitamix) and then puree until smooth.

Store, and for each serving, add a 1/2 cup of gluten free oats, microwave until done and enjoy!

I have found this soup combination to be one of my favorites this winter. I love the way oats almost "glue" themselves to my insides :)

24 February 2016

Golden Soup - Gluten Free and Vegan

24 February 2016 0
One of the biggest questions I get is, "How do you find time to make every meal from scratch?"

The answer is much easier than the recipient is expecting - "I cheat. I make easy meals with simple ingredients and love." 

Golden Soup:

*Water
*Ginger
*Seaweed
*Turmeric
*Cumin
*Cinnamon
*Garlic
*Carrots
*Steamed Onions
*Cooked Quinoa 

The process for this soup is so easy it is my go to when I am in a rush. I took an empty mason jar and filled it with a couple slices of ginger, garlic, cinnamon, turmeric and a handful of seaweed (I used Dulse but any kind would work). I let this soak for the majority of the work day and when it came time for dinner, I was able to toss in some precooked quinoa, steamed carrots and onions. 


The soup came out delicious, healthy, and warming to the soul on a very cold and damp February evening. 

17 February 2016

Mom's Organic, Naked Lunch both Vegan and Gluten Free

17 February 2016 0
Thanks for contacting MOM's - we can absolutely accommodate gluten free and vegan diets at Naked Lunch!  Some more information on this is below:
  • All Naked Lunch dressings are vegan and gluten free (they're also soy and dairy free).  
  • Our Cauliflower Stew and Butternut Squash Soup are vegan and gluten free. 
  • Our Black Bean Burger can be made vegan and gluten free by request.
  • These bowls are vegan and gluten free: Crowder Bowl, Lin Bowl and Sushi Bowl
    • Any of our bowls can be made vegan and gluten free by request by choosing substitutes. Feel free to speak with our Naked Lunch staff, who are are very experienced with dietary restrictions and are always happy to provide suggestions/alternatives.
  • One quick note is we are not a 100% gluten, dairy and soy free kitchen - we let anyone with very serious allergies know that.

16 February 2016

Warming Soup for the Cold Winter

16 February 2016 0
For some, we have been lucky this winter and have seen very few bitter-cold snow days.

For others, those of us who look forward to all four seasons (with the criteria that no one seasons captures all the attention) I'm eager for just one more beautiful snowed in type of a day.

Of course, the time when I decide I will ignore the weather channel, as it just keeps telling me lies, I find myself  at work, witnessing a gorgeous day of snow falling. I leave from work early to make it home safely and maybe even capture a bit of snow fun. Go figure, within the hour of being home, the snow fall stops and the dreaded sleet starts pouring down.

I figure, instead of harnessing my energy into what I had missed, I would embrace it for what it is and create a nice warming soup for dinner. Like always, my recipes are created by a mix of this and that.

There are of course, some ingredients I always go to (cinnamon, turmeric, ...) but then I try to just add in whatever is around the kitchen (garlic, seaweed...). Therefore, I never really know how my dishes are going to come out.

Trust me, I have had plenty of dishes that I did not enjoy - but I have had plenty that I loved as well.

This particular soup came out as a do-again :)

As I continue on this journey called life, I find that I am trying to, and I would like to consider myself somewhat successful, embrace all that I can and enjoy at least one small aspect of whatever life tosses my way. With that being said, I find there are a couple of things I would really like to harness my current energy on:

  1. Being okay with down time
    I find that I create things to keep myself busy, perhaps so that I don't need to face reality or myself. What I find happening, I have no down-time and I am wearing myself out too thin. I am balancing the exhaustion and just keep going mode.
  2. Being okay with silence
    I have a heard time, particularly during mid-day and in the evening when my cell phone is a little quite - or quieter than I would like it to be.  
    It's odd because I do find that I turn my phone on silent in the evenings so that I might find peace and me-time, but then I am eager or longing for some sort of communication. 
    I suppose this contradicting feeling is all a part of the growth and healing process.
  3. Loving my body
    I find I am 100% uncomfortable with my body and that I am, in an un-healthy manner comparing myself to others (ie. she has those abs, why don't I, she weighs a normal health weight, why can't I?)

    What I need to do is stop judging myself and just love my imperfect under-weight body and when it does heal, I will love every imperfection it brings along with it.

    How am I going to do this?  I have no idea...yet, but I know I need to snap out of it and just love what I have! :)
While I do not want to invest too much energy in changes, because let us face it, we will always find something that we want to change or dislike about ourselves. The saying, "we are our biggest critic" is one of the most truthful cliches. 

It is important that we remember to love ourselves - not for what we have been in the past, not for what we want to be in the future, but who we FREAKING ARE TODAY, imperfections and all!

"Self love isn't a jean size - it's saying yes to taking care of your body and mind."

14 January 2016

My Progress

14 January 2016 0
People have been asking how my progress is doing - I have had four months of drastic changes in my life - (single, new doctor, new car, new residence, etc)

I suppose my answer would be, it changes from day-to-day. Like any other human being, some days are great, some days are mediocre, some days are crap - but you have to keep moving.

A good friend of mine read a beautiful quote to me this morning as I awoke out of my morning savasana - it went something like, "sometimes when you think you have been buried, you have really only just been planted." This quote touched me and I immediately and silently said to myself, "ditto."

I'm sure I have said this a number of times before, but I do strongly believe that everything happens for a reason and sometimes we can see that reason clear as day and other times it may take days, months or even years to uncover the reason(s). You just need to have faith that everything will turn out for the best and that every journey you take on the way should never be regretted, only embraced that it has taught you another lesson in life.

With it being a new year, I have decided to do things a bit differently - no New Year's Resolutions over here - just a new journey of doing things that take me out of my comfort zone and into some unique experiences.

I found a list of 52 unique things to do each week of the new year and I said, heck why not. The first week's assignment was to hand write a note to someone you have lost touch with over the years. I selected my aunt as a recipient of this beautiful gift. Long story short - I have a number of aunts but this particular aunt, due to family-drama, has removed herself from the family and is currently battling some health struggles. At this point in time, I felt like I could relate to her and decided I should send her some gentle and healing love.

The second week's assignment is to bake a birthday cake. This is something I have not done in probably a good 5 or 6 years just because of all the nasty gluten. With many birthday's coming up this month (my brother-in-law, mom, and dad) it is the perfect time to find a good flour-less cake recipe! Keep your eye open for a recipe post soon.

I noticed that I had lost myself and that I no longer loved myself or, for that matter, even liked who I became. No need to really go into the details of why or how, but the important aspect here is to note that I am moving forward and finding myself and happiness.

I am making more times for social activities and balancing that with alone time as well so that I am forced to re-learn / learn to love myself once again.

I'm investing a lot of time, money, and patience into my health and some days I truly see an improvement and find that I am full of energy, ambition, and positive mood and then I still have the days where I do not feel well, my digestion is poor, and I'm mentally and physically exhausted. On these days, I just remind myself that tomorrow is a new day and not every day can be a good one or I would loose appreciation for the good days that I do have.

Here are a couple of things I have been eating lots and lots of...

Homemade Kitchari - I vary the recipe each time but I seem to be enjoying it. Very warm and soothing to the soul. :)

I have also been taking vegetable (normally a squash or gourd) soup and adding oatmeal to it.

Lastly, I have been devouring this specialty squash called Opo which is apparently very difficult to find - lucky me I was able to find it at a local international market.

 I will end today's post with a quick note of gratitude.

What am I grateful for:
* Every morning I wake
*Family
*A job
*New car
*Friends
*A place to call home
*My breath
*Essential Oil Diffuser



09 December 2015

Buttercup Squash Soup (Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Vegan)

09 December 2015 0
It has been about a month since my first Ayurvedic appointment and I have noticed a complete shift in my mood - thoughts - actions.... and pretty much everyone in my life has noticed some physical changes (including my skin color / glow).

I am learning to not just eat-to-eat, but to enjoy my food and the art of taking time to prepare it.

While with a busy work schedule it is almost impossible not to eat leftovers (or I would be eating dinner at midnight!) - I do try and eat food 2-days or younger.

Buttercup squash is actually a variation of the beloved Kabocha Squash - and the skin is edible and contains many health benefits!

Some benefits include: phytonutrients, fiber, iron, and the skin is packed with Vitamin C! Actually, the skin of a buttercup squash has 22% more calcium than the same weight of milk! The squash itself is fat-free, filled with complex carbs (the good kind) and 12% protein!

Buttercup Squash Soup
- 2 Cups Water
- Ginger pieces ( to your liking)
- Garlic Cloves (to your liking, but I used about 5)
- Fennel Seeds
- Spices to your liking ( I used a mixture of Tumeric, Cinnamon, and Nutmeg)
- Seaweed
-1 Buttercup Squash (roasted whole and seeds removed).

In a sauce pan, I combined the water, ginger, garlic, fennel seeds, spices and seaweed while I left the squash roast in the oven.

I allowed the broth to simmer on low for about an hour or so to really absorb flavor.
Once the squash was ready, I scooped the insides out and placed everything into the Vitamix to make a nice creamy soup!

I have been struggling to just commit to this one texture and not chomp on some raw veggies, so I have been substituting with Dulse Seaweed (YUM)!


07 December 2015

Experimenting with Kitchuri

07 December 2015 0
Ah-ha! I am getting it! I knew I would find a way to love this new diet, it just needed a "Nicole-Spin" to it!

The flavorings and cooking techniques need a little tweaking!

Here is where I am at now. 
1. I toned down the seasonings - going with smaller amounts and less abrasive ones (to me).
**I am currently loving fennel so I sort of go heavy on this one
2. I am creating a broth-like substance before I make the Mung-Dahl and Brown Basmati Rice.
3. I cook the rice on high at first and then tone it down and let it simmer for longer (making everything much softer)
4. I am cutting the seaweed up into smaller chunks.
5. I am cooking the cilantro right into the dish rather than just sprinkling decoratively on top.

This batch was thus far my favorite batch! Yummy!
P.S when you enjoy what you are eating, you feel better. Then add that it is a very healthy dish for you, and boom! Win-win!

06 December 2015

Some People Get Food Allergies

06 December 2015 0
While I am doing my best to be very strict with my daily routines and eating habits, it can make eating out or even schedule any sort of social activity rather difficult.

When you do come across that random person / establishment that actually understands you have not only one food allergy but multiple and that they are very severe - you really take the time to appreciate them!

I normally despise chain-restaurants, however, in this case, a recent visit to the Cheesecake Factory in center city Philadelphia has me thinking otherwise.

Not only was the company more than willing to heat up my homemade food, they understood all about contamination and treated me as if I was a fully-paying customer. Now, I did have a couple of other guests with me that choose to order a couple appetizers and of course a slice of cheesecake, BUT - our waiter, Matt, we just a blessing!

I know personally that the restaurant industry is not always the most fulfilling career, but Matt had a smile on his face the entire time we were at the restaurant and he even knew to carry the gluten-filled bread with one hand and take my to-go container in another.

Thank you Matt! I was able to hang out and be social with others while still sticking to my kitchari diet and I did not get sick from contamination!



01 December 2015

Keeping up with the doctor's orders

01 December 2015 0
As I begin to focus more and more on myself with specific attention placed on my breathing, I am beginning to feel better each and every day. while I am still working on my stomach digestion and energy levels - I am making great progress!While I do not love Kitchuri (I miss my spicy foods), I am learning to enjoy a nice warm comforting meal! 

28 November 2015

Kitchuri Ayurvedic Cooking

28 November 2015 0
Continuing my quest on a healthy Ayurvedic lifestyle - I made myself my first ever batch of the ever-healing Kitchuri!

I started my journey at the local Indian grocery store.

I went through every isle and I grabbed anything that was on my "allowed to eat list" and ignored those that are on the "stay away from list".

While I know this list will change with the seasons, my health, etc I was sad to skip over some of the items....

Moving on, as we are going to remain optimistic and hopeful on this journey. There are still a good bit of allowed food items that I enjoy and I do enjoy trying new recipes and cuisines!

I am going to try and refrain from eating leftovers and focus on daily new cooked meals, but I need to ease into this new regimen to so I suggest that in the future, one would cut this recipe in half!

Healing Kitchari Cleanse Recipe:
½ cup brown basmati rice
1/4 cup split mung dal (moong dal)
6-8 cups of filtered water
½ an acorn squash
1-2 tsp of a mix of coriander, cumin, and fennel 
½ tsp of turmeric 
Cilantro for topping 

I started by pre-soaking the Mung beans and Rice overnight. 

I then rinsed the rice and added it to a pan with about 2-3 cups of water. I brought it to a boil, then covered the pan and added a little more water. I stirred occasionally to reduce any sticking. 

I added the remaining water, spices, and pumpkin. I let the dish cook on low heat, covered, for another 25-30 minutes and then enjoyed with some fresh cilantro!

This dish makes about 4 servings.

I need to do some tweaking on the recipe, but all-in-all....it wasn't awful. 





25 November 2015

Friendsgiving Gluten Free Vegan Style

25 November 2015 0

Thanksgiving is a very special time of year for my family. As we use this time to bring all of my dad's side of the family (my dad is one of twelve children) together.

This is the one time a year where everyone tries their best to be in once place at the same time.
With family as far north as Canada, as far west as California, and as far south as Florida - you can imagine the difficulties we face each year trying to come together.

It becomes evident how important family is and the importance of embracing your family for what they are and loving them unconditionally, no matter how crazy they might seem.

Each Thanksgiving, we cram in as many crazy Italians under one roof as possible. We make both the traditional turkey dinner, add in a ham, and of course all the Italian specialties - including antipasto, pasta, meatballs, lasagna, eggplant parmesan and much more! What can I say, Italians love to eat!

With my focus being set on spending time with the ones I love, it has never bothered me that I am unable to eat the provides Thanksgiving food, nor is
there really any additional kitchen space for me to create myself a holiday meal. I typically pre-make something and bring it along. I am always careful not to create something that needs to either be refrigerated or frozen - as you can only imagine the lack of space.

This year, I decided, I miss having a huge labor-intensive meal for myself to enjoy! Thus, friendsgiving came about.

A couple friends and I all went through our kitchens - okay and a run to Whole Foods, and brought together some autumn ideas and a miss mosh of ingredients and we got to work being creative and resourceful!

On the menu we created the following:

  1. Pumpkin Almond Gnocchi
  2. Acorn and Carnival stuffed squash
  3. Flaxseed popovers
  4.  Kabocha pumpkin sauce / soup / yummy
  5. Toasted pumpkin seeds
  6. Sweet potato banana carob chia seed dessert
There are no real recipes for these delicious items, as we truly just winged it and tossed most of these items in a Vitamix and blended until we felt it was yummy! 


Pumpkin Almond Gnocchi
Here we took a can of Libby's Pumpkin and mixed it with ground flaxseeds, thyme, and almond flour. When we went to cook it like traditional gnocchi in a pot of boiling water - they gnocchi began to fall apart - so we just quickly tossed them into the oven for a little baking time! 




Acorn Squash and Carnival Squash Stuffed with Apples
For this delicious entree, we cut the squash in half. Cleaned them out and cooked them at 425 for a good 30 minutes or until they started to soften.  

Then we stuffed the squash with cored and peeled apples, dried cranberries, dried dates, ginger, cinnamon, and pumpkin spice. 

We continues to cook them at 350 for about another 20-30 minutes

Flaxseed Popovers
This was truly the most far-fetched recipe of the night. I took a pancake mix that I had just chilling in my cabinet. Added in some non-dairy milk and started to soak some flaxseeds (for 15-20 minutes). 

I preheated the over to 400 and tossed in the muffin pan to warm up. 

I then mixed all the ingredients together. Cooked them for 10 minutes at 400 and then reduced the heat to 325 for another 15-20 minutes. 

These popovers looked a bit unappealing, but was one of our favorite creations and super healthy for you!

Kabocha Pumpkin Sauce
We realized we needed a sauce for our gnocchi and we didn't want to waste / not use the Kabocha squash so we cut this baby in half and cooked it at 400 for about 30 minutes. 

We then proceeded to eat the skin while we took the flesh of the squash and tossed it into the Vitamix. We added some non-dairy milk, thyme, cinnamon, almond butter, ginger, and some nutmeg. Tada - this one was ready!


Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
With our goal to be "no waste left behind" we took all the seeds from our different squash varieties and dry roasted them in the oven. They made for a great snack and topping!






Sweet Potato Dessert Cups
This one was another creative effort on our part that came out fabulous and very healthy!

I baked the sweet potatoes until soft. Added them to the Vitamix with a can of coconut milk, chai seeds, frozen bananas, maple syrup, cinnamon, ginger, and whatever else was laying around. 

I blended until smooth and then dished into their own single servings and placed them in the fridge to continue to set while we finished our prep work. 

All in all, this was a very successful meal and I can't wait to plan another!
I am so grateful for the amazing people that I do have in my life. 
I am grateful for the health that I do have and the fact that I can get up every morning!

Remember to take time this busy holiday season and remind yourself that you do in fact have a lot to be thankful for!



23 November 2015

Trying the Ayurveda Route

23 November 2015 0
With 10-years of poor health - I have decided that with all the recent changes in my life, now is the perfect time to learn to stop giving so much to others and really focus on myself.

I have realized that in giving to others, I was taking away from myself - not just energy, but mentally and in a loving capacity. I was wearing myself down and feeling worthless in every sense. This worthless feeling was carrying a negative-vibe throughout my daily activities.

So here is to a whole new me! I have started seeing an Ayurvedic doctor and spending more and more time with myself and being content with that. While time-alone is important, I do also make the time to ensure that I spend with friends and family as much as possible. I have begun to filter out any of the negative people in my life and embrace those that are true.

With that being said, I am learning I am a VATA dosha and that it is best for me to keep to a daily routine and in this cooler weather, I need to focus on staying warm!

As per the doctor's request, I have started giving myself daily massages (morning and evening). At first, I found this was the hardest adjustment for me. I was not comfortable with myself.... at all! But funny enough, I was so busy being everyone else's support and providing everyone else with love, that I had not realized that I no longer loved myself.

It has only been a short time since I have started these daily massages and I am already seeing some great improvement! It goes to show you the true power of the ever-cliche saying of "if you don't love yourself, who will?".

More to come on my journey of a whole new health - mind, body, and soul. Cleaning out all the negative in my life, spoiling myself from time-to-time and learning to love <3.

Here is one my new VATA Balancing Recipes:
Soup with oatmeal. I literally took all the vegetables that I had left in the house (rutabaga, zucchini, etc) and boiled it in a pot of ginger, seaweed, and seasonings.

After allowing the mixture to cook together thoroughly. I ran everything through the Vitamix.

Tada - soup was done! Now just add a little gluten free oats - cook until a soft mush and enjoy!

I know it looks a bit funky, but the taste was actually on par!



 
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