Link Love September: Salvador Dalí, Trader Joe’s, and Environmental Consciousness

ACS_0239.jpg

Happy October! To me, there’s always something poetic about the first of the month taking place on a Monday. It feels more than ever like the time to begin anew, and I’m excited to see where the month takes us. September was a great month — I spent time with family, celebrated my birthday, checked a few items off my 28 at 28 bucket list, took a mini vacation, made an on-field appearance at a UCF football game, practiced yoga with baby goats, and much more — so here’s hoping the adventures continue in October.

What have you been reading lately? Check out some of my favorite links from September and share your own favorites in the comments section.

What links are you loving this month? Sound off in the comments below!

Things I’m Loving Lately: Healthy Restaurants in Central Florida

Happy 3rd of July! I’m excited to celebrate tomorrow in the best way I know how: poolside with a burger. 🙂 How are you guys celebrating your 4th?

Now that I’m done with grad school, I’ve been working hard to get my health back on track, and I’m proud to say that I’ve made some great strides. From hitting the gym to eating cleaner (less inflammatory) foods, I feel stronger and healthier than I have in a long time. I completed a round of Whole30 shortly after graduation, and am now working toward a higher goal of balance and eating intuitively. Knowing what works well for me (protein, veggies) versus what doesn’t (gluten, sweeteners, legumes) has changed the way I fill my plate or look at a menu, and I’m excited to continue down this path.

Of course, in keeping up with the theme of balance, I have been especially excited to discover healthier restaurants in the Orlando area that cater to different dietary needs and restrictions. In today’s post, I’ll share some of my favorite finds for all of you local foodies (and visitors, too!). 🙂

Things I'm Loving Lately: Healthy Restaurants in Central Florida
Fresh Kitchen
I discovered Fresh Kitchen in Waterford Lakes after a UCF event last year, and was so impressed with their bowls that I kept coming back for more! Fresh Kitchen’s concept is similar to that of Chipotle: You walk up to the counter, choose your bases, pick your vegetables and proteins, and add sauces as needed. The difference? Their entire menu is gluten free, most of their food is free from dairy and processed sugars, and their meats are antibiotic free. (They also sell paleo cookies and zucchini brownies if you’re looking to splurge!) My favorite menu items are the coconut rice, the pesto chicken, and the broccoli, but they have fresh seasonal veggies and other proteins worth a taste as well. They recently opened a location in Downtown Orlando, and are also located in South Florida and in the Tampa/St. Pete area.

*

BOCA
Located on Park Avenue across from the Morse Museum (check out my recap here), BOCA is a farm-to-table restaurant that sources its food locally and offers seasonal menus. I loved their Smoked Cachaca Chicken, but they offer a variety of market specials, including many menu items that are gluten-free or vegetarian. I’m excited to go back for brunch!

Things I'm Loving Lately: Healthy Restaurants in Central Florida

Olea Mediterranean Grill
I’m a big fan of Greek food, so I was especially excited when Olea Mediterranean Grill opened up in Sanford. Much like Fresh Kitchen, Olea offers a variety of options — customers can go up to the counter and choose a pita, lettuce, or grains, and add in their favorite spreads, toppings, and proteins. I’ve had to cut back from hummus, but their lemon herb tahini and their tzatziki are absolutely addictive. Each food item is labeled for those who have food restrictions, and if you’re gluten-free or vegan, there are tons of delicious options for you. Olea has locations in Sanford, Maitland, and Orlando.

*

Farm & Haus
In the back corner of the East End Market in Orlando is Farm & Haus, which doubles as a café and meal delivery service. Farm & Haus has a menu that changes regularly, but offers healthy meals created from scratch. Farm & Haus delivers meals near its Audubon Park location in the East End Market, so when I took classes downtown, I often ordered dinner from there! Their café, which serves breakfast and lunch, is also home to Orlando’s best avocado toast (I swear–you can Google it).

Things I'm Loving Lately: Healthy Restaurants in Central Florida

Infusion Tea
Although not exclusively vegetarian, Infusion Tea offers some amazing meatless options, and is known as Orlando’s “organic tea café.” I am absolutely in love with their roasted pear salad, and the space is also great for parties and events. The restaurant also has its own Arts Co-Op inside, where you can pick up some fun gifts, and when you visit on a Saturday, you can also enjoy the College Park Farmers Market outside. If you love tea, try the pineapple bliss tea — I promise you will not be sorry!

*

Orlando foodies, what are your favorite healthy options in the area? Sound off in the comments below!

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

Your Health in Action: 5 Clean Cooking Tips for Newbies

For those of you who follow my social media or have been reading the blog for a while, you’ve probably definitely seen me post about my experiences with Whole30 and paleo living. If you’re not familiar with Whole30, it is a nutritional program that lasts for 30 days and is designed to help people discover food sensitivities and kick their junk food addictions. When I first started dabbling in this way of eating in 2014, I quickly realized that I needed to do a lot of my own cooking — something that I’d had virtually no experience with before that time.

For a lot of people, including myself, transitioning to a cleaner way of eating can be intimidating because of the level of cooking and meal preparation that is often involved. Even now, after several rounds of Whole30, I still do not claim to be a particularly talented chef. However, over the years, I’ve significantly improved my culinary skills and picked up a lot of tricks for simplifying the clean cooking experience.

If you’re looking to make a few lifestyle changes and don’t know where to start, check out my tips below!

5 Clean Cooking Tips for Newbies

  1. Prep your meals ahead of time.
    I’ll let you in on a well-known secret: I’m a big fan of #MealPrepSundays. I love to set aside a few hours before the week begins to chop up some veggies, whip up a few dinners for class nights (usually this simple veggie curry), and prep seasonings for other recipes I’ll try throughout the week. I don’t pre-cook all of my meals, but by getting some of the prep work done on Sunday, I can save some time in the kitchen after work. Meal prep will make the cooking process a lot less overwhelming, because a lot of the work will have already been done! I use this weekly organizer to plan my meals.
  2. Sometimes it’s just easier to buy your produce pre-chopped…
    … and that’s totally ok! If it saves time and doesn’t seriously compromise the health benefits of the food you’re eating, why not simplify? I chop most of my veggies on the weekend, but I buy my cauliflower and broccoli already chopped into florets, and often buy my carrots pre-chopped as well. If it makes your life easier and you don’t mind the added cost, go for it!
  3. The Internet is your best friend.
    When following a more complicated recipe or trying out a new cooking technique, look no further than YouTube and Google. Thanks to the Internet, I now know how to poach chicken — and thankfully, it does not mean that I have to hunt my own poultry!
  4. Find your easy go-to’s.
    When you’re in a pinch, having a few simple items in the house that are ready-made can make dinnertime that much easier. For example, I eat a lot of cauliflower rice, so I end up buying it frozen through Bird’s Eye and Trader Joe’s. Find those shortcuts that work best for you, and stock up!
  5. Learn the easy swaps.
    Making a stir fry? Skip the soy sauce and add coconut aminos. Not sure if you have a dairy intolerance? Try cooking with ghee or coconut oil instead of butter. Skipping gluten? Use almond flour or shredded coconut instead of breadcrumbs to coat your chicken. These are just a few examples of some of the ingredient swaps you can make. For more ideas, check out my list of paleo kitchen essentials here!

Hope these tips help you along your own health and cooking journeys! Have any tips to share? Sound off in the comments below!

Veggie Curry

Over the past few months, my Sundays have become synonymous with a few things: brunch with old friends, relaxation, and meal prep. Friends in the paleo world have always preached the importance of preparing meals ahead of time, but I didn’t realize how much time I would save throughout the week by chopping veggies, boiling eggs, and having full meals ready to pop in the microwave after work or before classes. Thank goodness I finally listened to them! 🙂

One of my staple meals is Veggie Curry. Most curry recipes I found online incorporated rice or quinoa and garbanzo beans, but I wanted something that would work for me if I was on Whole30 or simply avoiding grains and legumes.

Whole30 Veggie Curry Recipe | So It Must Be True

This recipe is incredibly nutrient dense and flavorful. It’s also easy to make! I prep this meal almost weekly and heat it up before class. This recipe makes about 3 meals.

Whole30 Veggie Curry Recipe | So It Must Be True

Ingredients:

  • 3 bell peppers, chopped (any color – I like to use red, yellow and green)
  • 1 medium sweet potato, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, shredded or chopped
  • 4 cups cauliflower rice (I use frozen Birds Eye Steam Fresh or Green Giant, but you can also make your own by grinding cauliflower in your food processor)
  • 1 cup chicken broth (use vegetable broth to make the recipe vegetarian/vegan)
  • 3 tbsp petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • Optional: Salt and garlic to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil over low heat.
  2. Add in chopped peppers, carrots, and sweet potato, along with spices. Let cook on low heat for five minutes.
  3. Stir in cauliflower rice, tomatoes, and chicken broth.
  4. Cover and continue to cook on low for 15 minutes.
  5. Uncover, stir, and heat up to medium low. Cook for another 15-20 minutes or until the cauliflower rice has soaked up the rest of the broth.
  6. Serve or store in meal prep containers. Bon appetit!

Adventures in Florida: Blueberry Picking in Ocoee

Hey there, readers – it’s been a while! A lot has happened since my last post, most notably that I started an MBA program and seem to know more about regression analysis these days than who’s who on The Bachelorette. It has been a wild ride so far, hopefully to be shared in another blog post soon!

Last month, as a much-needed break from studying, I decided to knock another item off my 25 at 25 bucket list. Just days before the season’s end, I took a little road trip out to Ocoee and stopped at the Tom West Blueberries U-Pick Farm.

TomWestBlueberries

I may stumble in and out of the world of paleo living, but one thing is for certain: I will always love my fruits and veggies. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that – as someone who lives in a warm climate hospitable to many types of produce – I would have to go berry picking someday.

In Florida, the peak strawberry and blueberry seasons run in the early springtime from around March to May, depending on your farm and crop of choice. Tom West Blueberries is a family owned and operated farm, offering activities for all ages during the U-Pick season.

TomWestBlueberriesThe process, while simple enough, was a whole lot of fun. Once I arrived, I grabbed a bucket and hopped on a tractor, which dropped me off in the nearby blueberry fields. There I had the opportunity to taste and pick the emerald blueberries, a very large and sweet variety of blueberry that I would highly recommend to anyone who visits in the future.

Tom West Blueberries

By the end of my blueberry-picking adventure, I picked and purchased about 3 pounds of delicious, perfectly blue blueberries, which I shared with friends, classmates and family over the next week. In hindsight, I wish I’d picked more so I could freeze them and enjoy even longer! Not only were the blueberries perfectly in season, but there was something so rewarding about eating something I had personally hand-picked at the farm, rather than in the grocery store. (Sorry, Publix – I still love you!)

tomwestblueberries2

Whether you’re looking for fresh produce or simply a fun way to spend the afternoon, I highly recommend visiting a local U-Pick farm! The experience really does appeal to all age groups, and if I ever have children, this will be a must-visit for them too. I look forward to returning to Tom West next season, and can’t wait to visit other local farms for different U-Pick experiences soon!

What types of U-Pick farms have you visited? Share in the comments section below. 🙂

For recaps of my other bucket list adventures, click here!

Reigniting The Spark: How To Get Your Health Goals Back On Track

Reigniting The Spark: How To Get Your Health Goals Back on TrackFor many of us, the beginning of a diet program can often feel like the beginning of a relationship. We’re excited to embark on something new, enthusiastic about the changes in our lives, and looking forward to the possibilities ahead. Of course, after that honeymoon period runs its course, sometimes it can be difficult to maintain that same level of enthusiasm toward the program, as we become complacent or begin to recognize the uncomfortable moments more often than we used to.

I began experimenting with a paleo lifestyle back in 2014 by completing my first Whole30, and since then, the program has played a significant role in my health and wellness. However, I sometimes struggle with motivation and consistency, and find my health journey to be a work in progress. The more that I talk to others in the Whole30 community, the more that I learn that a second, third, or fourth Whole30 can often be much harder than the first, because many of us do have difficulty staying on track even after we’ve experienced positive results.

Sounds a little counter-intuitive, right? Luckily, I’ve dedicated the better part of 2016 thus far to really focusing on ways to re-motivate ourselves once the magic wears off. Read below for my tips on keeping up with your program and remaining empowered even after the honeymoon period is over! 🙂

Reigniting The Spark: How To Get Your Health Goals On Track

How To Get Your Health Goals Back On Track1. Dedicate time for meal prep.
Let’s face it — eating healthy can be time-consuming! You’re preparing most of your own meals from scratch, avoiding a lot of the quick but nutrient-deficient shortcuts a lot of us fall victim to. Because of this, it can be so easy to give up after a long day of work and other responsibilities, and order takeout instead. An easy way to save time and take out a lot of the guesswork is to create a meal plan ahead of time and do a lot of the prep work early. For me, Sundays are the perfect day to decide what I’m going to eat each day (and yes, I do incorporate my social outings into that plan), buy the appropriate foods at the grocery store, and begin prepping those foods.

So what does “meal prep” mean to me? Typically, I’ll put on some vintage Keeping Up With The Kardashians (or another show that entertains me but doesn’t require too much concentration), and set aside an hour or two to chop up veggies for dishes I’ll eat throughout the week, wash fruit for easy grab-and-go access, and hard-boil some eggs to have a convenient protein source available at any time. Your meal prep can be as elaborate as you choose — some like to prepare all of their meals to reheat, and that works too! For me, having my veggies pre-washed and pre-chopped makes it easy to just throw them on the stove or in the oven later in the week, and saves me a ton of time!

*

2. Make things exciting in the kitchen.
Browse Pinterest for cool recipes you can try (check mine out here for inspiration!), or invest in a new kitchen gadget you look forward to using. Find ways to spice things up in the kitchen — literally! When I started to grow sick of scrambled eggs, I started adding cumin and turmeric for a bold new flavor profile. When I’ve enjoyed a new ethnic dish and wanted to make a healthier version of it at home, I’ve often searched “lightened up __” or “paleo ___” to expand my culinary horizons. Figure out those routine favorites that you can make quickly and regularly, but continue to branch out so that things don’t become too stale. Why not aim to try one new recipe each week?

*

How To Get Your Health Goals Back On Track3. Incorporate positive mantras into your program.
I’ve struggled with body image issues for as long as I can remember.  Since I was in middle school, I always associated health and weight loss goals as something negative, something to be ashamed of, instead of as a way to improve your overall well-being. A few months ago, I decided to flip the switch on that mindset by giving myself motivational notes to wake up to each morning. These quotes and messages give me a positive affirmation to focus on throughout the day, and remind me of how far I’ve come. The notes were so successful for me that they even went viral on the Whole30 Instagram page! 🙂 I try to create new words of encouragement for myself each and every month.

*

4. Hide the scale.
If you’re anything like me, then you’ve let that little number either make or break your whole day. One of the rules of the Whole30 program is to not weigh yourself for the entire 30 days, but over the years, this was the rule I always broke. I found that if I wasn’t losing weight fast enough, then even if I felt other positive changes from my diet (better skin, more energy, etc.), I often gave up halfway through the month. This January, I finally stowed the scale away in my guest room (out of sight, out of mind) and fully avoided it for the entire month. Taking a break from weighing myself multiple times per day was extremely helpful for me and showed me just how unhealthy my relationship with the scale truly was. If you consider yourself overly dependent on the scale, I challenge you to hide it for a month!

*

5. Find accountability partners.
Use social media or find people in your real life with whom you can be accountable! I belong to a few private groups on Facebook, some dedicated to Whole30 and some more focused on clean eating as it differs by individual, and having a strong support system makes it that much easier to stay on track. Whether you join one of those private groups or simply find a gym buddy to keep you on your toes, find others who are just as health-focused and turn to each other!

*

What are your tips for staying motivated? Share yours in the comments section below!

Link Love Wednesday: Goat Cuddlers Wanted

a6dc09ca9c131ce46ff4c903ec1f1c2eHappy Wednesday! 🙂 Hope everyone is having a fabulous week. In my little world, I’m working on crossing a few more items off my 25 at 25 Bucket List, applying for graduate school, and figuring out some exciting upcoming travel plans. What have you been up to? As always, feel free to share your favorite recent links or plans in the comments section below!

Things I’m Loving Lately

What are your favorite links from the week? Share your latest finds in the comments below!

Turmeric Scrambled Eggs

One of my biggest struggles on the Whole30 over the past few rounds has been making sure I get enough protein into my diet — and the easiest source of protein for me has been eggs. Eggs are a fantastic superfood, can be hard-boiled in large batches for portable nutrition, and don’t require the same level of attention as handling raw meat.

Of course, eggs get a bad rap by Day 10 of a Whole30, as we start to grow sick of the monotony. After all, many of us feel like we’re eating Gaston-level portions of eggs! When I’m not following Whole30, I love scrambling my eggs with a little cheese, but because my diet is currently dairy-free, I’m stuck with a really boring breakfast.

Recently, I started experimenting in the kitchen to make a better, more flavorful scrambled egg dish. Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory, while cumin is a good source of iron and may be beneficial for diabetics and asthmatics. This “recipe” is so easy that I can barely call it a recipe, but too delicious not to share!

Turmeric Scrambled Eggs

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp ghee
  • A few shakes of turmeric (to your liking)
  • A few shakes of cumin (to your liking)
  • Salt to taste

Instructions:

  1. Melt your ghee over medium heat.
  2. Crack in your eggs and stir.
  3. Sprinkle on turmeric and cumin to your liking, and mix.
  4. Scramble until eggs are as well done as you prefer.
  5. Salt to taste.
  6. Serve.

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think! Please share and subscribe to my blog for more recipes, Whole30 resources and other goodies!

Link Love Wednesday: Go Away, Caillou

caillouHey there, readers, and happy new year! I hope everyone had a fabulous time celebrating with friends and family, and that you are all settling in nicely to 2015 2016. (I think it will take me until about March to get that right!)

The new year has been treating me well so far, and I’m looking forward to all the opportunities and adventures ahead. To kick things off, let’s dig into the first Link Love of 2016!

Things I’m Loving Lately

  • Aziz Ansari’s Netflix show Master of None. This show is incredibly accurate for twenty-somethings, and the episode about the crazy things that women have to deal with really hit close to home for me.
  • This amazing Whole30 compliant Thai Curry recipe. I’ve been making it at least once a week.
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Amazing page-turner so far!

What awesome links are you finding this week? Share your latest link love in the comments section below!

Sautéed Green Beans & Diced Tomatoes

In many circles, I am known as a picky eater. This is sort of a silly thing to be known for, and I hate when family members bring it up, but since childhood, allergies and food sensitivities have made me hesitant to try new foods. (I’m also half convinced that I am a super taster!) However, several rounds of Whole30 have opened me up to a lot of new foods, especially vegetables, that I never really bothered to eat in the past. Green beans are a veggie that – when prepared the right way – I have grown to love!

Sautéed Green Beans with Diced Tomatoes

For those of you who still are skeptics when it comes to green beans, test out this recipe as soon as you can! Green beans are a great source of nutrition that can take on a variety of flavors, and this recipe is a great way to incorporate a few different veggies into your diet. I love sneaking extra vegetables into my side dishes! This dish serves one — adjust your quantities accordingly!

Sautéed Green Beans with Diced Tomatoes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup green beans, stems removed
  • 2 tbsp petite diced tomatoes (for convenience, I used the canned kind)
  • 1 tbsp diced water chestnuts
  • 1 tsp ghee
  • Salt and garlic to taste

Instructions:

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil and add in your green beans. Cook on medium for 10 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and strain. Pat green beans to dry.
  3. Over medium low heat, melt ghee on a skillet.
  4. Add green beans, tomatoes, water chestnuts, garlic and salt.
  5. Cook on medium low for 20 minutes or until desired consistency.
  6. Remove from heat and serve!

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think! Please share and subscribe to my blog for more recipes, Whole30 resources and other goodies!