• Speaking My Mind

    Plant-Based and Sugar-Free Living

    I’ve changed my diet a bit more since my last post, so I thought it was about time to update y’all! I have now excluded all sugar from my diet, including honey. I’ve also been eating plant-based as much as possible, with the goal of one plant-based meal per day. Usually, I eat some sort of animal protein for dinner.

    Cutting out sugar has been harder than reducing my meat intake. Sugar is addictive, so the difficulty can probably be attributed mostly to that, although I do love sweets in general. Now, when I crave chocolate (yes, I’ve even reduced my chocolate intake. When I do eat chocolate, I eat 85% cacao because there is less sugar), I opt for fruit. My go-to fruits lately have been apples and grapes. I like to pair my apples with grocery store-made almond butter. They make the almond butter there for you and it’s delicious!

    Overall, I enjoy eating a more plant-based diet. It feels better in my body and I get to support local farmers because I buy most of my produce from them! I’ve been using Sahara Rose’s new Ayurvedic cookbook to make plant-based meals, and they’ve been so tasty. I can talk about recipes I’ve been trying from her book another time, but I highly recommend you check out her book.

    One day, I would like to be vegetarian, but I’m hesitant to do so now because over the summer I lost a couple of pounds…which isn’t bad necessarily, my weight does fluctuate a little bit, but I’m afraid I’d lose more weight by becoming vegetarian. I’m also afraid of having vitamin deficiencies. Plus I don’t want to have such a prohibitive diet because cutting out dairy and sugar are difficult enough…to exclude animal protein would be even harder. So for now, I’m just doing the best that I can to eat lots of veggies and plant-protein while avoiding sugar and dairy.

    xx Vic

  • Speaking My Mind

    August & September Favorites!

    It is time for another favorites post! Today I am sharing my top five favorite items from the last two months!

    1. Autumn-scented candle

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    This candle smells so delightful! It perfectly welcomes the autumn season and it has a great, festive color scheme too!

    2. Roasted Red Okra

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    I bought this at the farmer’s market because it looked unusual yet festive for the season.  I, unfortunately, forgot to take a photo of its beautiful hue before I put them in the oven, but you can get an idea of what it looks like by clicking here! Anyway, they tasted exactly like regular okra, they just looked extra cool with their red/green gradient, similar to how the leaves slowly begin to change from green to red as the days become brisker!

    I seasoned them with ground cumin, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne. Then I ate them with my hands! It’s a super delicious and easy recipe.

    3. I learned how to cut an avocado!

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    Yes, as a college graduate, I finally learned how to cut an avocado! In the past, I have squished avocados and I have gotten the meat all over my hands trying to get the pit out, but now I’m less of an amateur.

    The trick is to cut the avocado in half, all the way around. Then, before pulling the halves apart, Turn the avocado so the cuts you just made are on the sides, then cut the avocado in half again. This way, when you pull it apart, you have four quarters as pictured above! It makes serving the avocado easier as well as removing the pit.

    4. Sweet Loren’s Gluten-Free Fudgy Brownie Cookies

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    These cookies are insane! I’m a chocoholic and my preferred baked dessert is brownies, but not just any brownies. I need to have my Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate Brownies with chocolate chips. They are seriously heaven! These cookies are real competition for the brownies.

    The cookies from Sweet Loren’s are relatively new and my sister bought them to try. We are a big fan of this brand because their cookies are organic, often gluten and dairy free, and the woman behind the business is a survivor of cancer. Our favorite cookie from this brand is the chocolate chunk ones, and this brownie cookie places a close second.

    These cookies are essentially brownie bites, especially when warm! They are rich, moist, and super chocolate-y. They are a healthier version of the Ghiradelli brownies, and I’m all for it!

    5. Toothpaste and Tongue Scraper

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    I picked this up when I was with my girlfriend in the Indian store we frequent. It came with a free, stainless steel tongue scraper, which was cool because I had been wanting to integrate that into my daily routine.

    Initially, I did not like this toothpaste because I found it to be foamier than the toothpaste I usually use (Arm & Hammer’s Advanced White Toothpaste), but I’ve grown to really enjoy this brand.

    It has a more…earthy flavor and it’s a brown color that foams white. A little goes a long way because it gets extra foamy. The tongue cleaner is super nice and I’ve been using it daily.

    Those are all my favorites for these last two months! Was there anything you tried recently that is currently your favorite thing? If you try any of my favorites, let me know what you think!

    xx Vic

  • Speaking My Mind

    Swallowed by the Grey

    Everything has felt so miserable.  I haven’t done anything fun because of school, which I’m not doing too well in anyway…my bestie didn’t come to visit me for Halloweekend this year and I’ve been spending most of my weekends wallowing in my room.  I can’t wait for this semester to end and to graduate, but when that happens, I’ll be going back home and I won’t be seeing my girlfriend nearly as frequently.  Our relationship will change because we’ll be in two different places, both physically and emotionally.  We only live about an hour away from each other but if I’m working full-time (at this rate, I won’t be because I stopped applying for jobs) and she’ll be at school full-time…we’ll have different, busy schedules.  I don’t think it’ll negatively impact our relationship but I’ll just miss seeing her every day and I’ll miss spending as much time together.  I also won’t be seeing my sister as much…I’ll miss being at school with her.

    My birthday is tomorrow and my sister and I may not have a voice due to laryngitis caused by allergies.  Dinner with our parents will be incredibly silent.  This happened to me last February for the first time since elementary school, and I was hoping it wouldn’t happen again but alas, it appears it will.

    I’m quite sad that tomorrow is my birthday…I am not where I want to be.  Then again, I’m never satisfied with where I’m at.  Why is that?  What will it take for me to be happy, even if I’m not “the best?”  Why make myself miserable?  How can I change the way I value my life so that I’m positive and kinder to myself?  Perhaps value societal expectations of me less?  Perhaps value academic excellence less?  Perhaps value the way I feel about myself more? How do I go about valuing myself more?

    Anyway…I went to the city on Saturday to combat all this negativity.  I went with my girlfriend because we had been talking about wanting to go for forever but for one reason or another, we haven’t been together yet.  It was pretty spontaneous because we kept going back and forth with it but then we both got train tickets and hopped on the train and we were off!

  • Speaking My Mind,  Yummy Recipes

    The Autumn Harvest

     

    I just had my first midterm this semester and I think I bombed it, which is depressing.  I had a nice lunch with my girlfriend afterward though and now I’m in my room relaxing before I pick her up to go to Trader Joe’s.  A Trader Joe’s just opened in the area and we went once already a couple of weeks ago but we’re going to go again today.  After that, I’m going to do some work around the apartment like do laundry, sanitize my room, finalize my resume and apply for some jobs, and study for my last midterm on Friday.  I’m less stressed about it but I have a ton of preparation to do still.

    Anyway…I’m considering seeing my therapist again because I’ve been feeling a little depressed.  I’ve unfortunately been taking it out on my girlfriend a lot as well as my family…but she suffers more because I’m around her more frequently than I am with my family.  It’s not fair to her and I don’t like constantly picking fights with her because I’m in a bad mood.  I’ve been doing several things to take care of myself such as yoga, cooking, and writing…perhaps I don’t need more outlets though…perhaps I need to do more professional and future plan-related development.  I’ve done a ton of that but I feel like it’s been futile so…I feel stuck.

    Anyway…let’s talk about food!

    The first dish I made with my girlfriend, and it’s pizza!  We made this over the summer, in late August.  We made several errors here…one is that we used way too much dough for the small pizza tray we had, and ended up with deep-dish style pizza.  I don’t quite remember what we put on the pizza…she did most of the work.  I was doing a puzzle but she added mushrooms, jalapenos, three or four different cheeses, pepperoni…spinach probably…onions…yeah it was intense.  The toppings were great but because she added so many of them and because there was too much dough, the toppings all fell into the center.  I think the pizza would’ve been better if we executed the dough part better.

    The next two pictures are two different adaptations of tomato sandwiches.  My family friend’s mom grows tomatoes so he brought some over and my mom decided to make tomato sandwiches to really savor the freshness of them.  Tomato sandwiches consist of toasted bread, a thin layer of mayo on both sides, fresh torn basil, and then the tomatoes! it’s super easy and it really highlights the deliciousness of the tomatoes.  The first version is with Italian bread, which is great but cuz it was so crusty, the tomatoes slipped out.  The sliced bread was better because the tomatoes stayed inside.  When I went back to my apartment, I made another variation (not pictured here) with sliced and toasted wheat bread, butter, dried basil, and then the tomatoes.  It was good but it’s definitely better with at least fresh basil.

    The other pizza photo is a grilled pizza my mom makes on the grill.  Making pizza this way has become popular but my family swears she came up with it first.  But yeah…it’s super delicious.

    The first pasta dish is penne with butternut squash from the In the Kitchen Food Network app.  I never cooked with butternut squash before so I was excited to try it, especially because I know I enjoy butternut squash.

    I had to peel and cut the butternut squash, which was kinda difficult because it’s hard like cutting a raw potato.  I won’t be making butternut squash a regular part of my diet just because the preparation takes too long.  Anyway…this dish includes the butternut squash, cremini mushrooms, black pepper, fresh garlic, red onion, red pepper flakes, parmesan, and oregano.

    My mistake here was using shitake mushrooms instead of cremini.  Shitake mushrooms, which I’ve never cooked with before, are super smelly and cooking them was incredibly unpleasant.  I feel like if I used a less stinky mushroom, such as the one they suggested, I would’ve enjoyed this dish more.  Otherwise, I loved this dish because it’s seasonal and overall, pretty simple.  I served this dish with a side of fresh tomatoes and sauteed spinach.

    I didn’t make the next plate that I pictured.  It’s actually from an organic made-to-order cafeteria on campus.  They use a ton of vegetables, lean meats, and different sauces.  One of my favorite sauces is raspberry jalapeno.  The one pictured here is papaya lime.

    The next two pictures are of an omelet I made.  I really enjoyed the flavors so I took a photo.  Plus, I’ve been making perfectly round omelets!  The omelet ingredients I chose were pepperoni (leftover from the pizza), red onions (leftover from the penne dish), and the stinky shitake mushrooms, also leftover from the penne dish.  The odor was unpleasant but it tasted delicious, especially when topped with feta which melted a bit, so good!

    Some of the next dishes were brought to you by the local farmer’s market that comes to campus!  Unfortunately, last week was the last week of the farmer’s market.  I love the farmer’s market because it entices me to try new vegetables and I like supporting local farmers.

    The first meal I made with ingredients from the market was simple and also from the app.  I got okra and sauteed it with fresh tomatoes I still had from my mom’s friend, garlic, salt and pepper, and a splash of cider vinegar.  I put it over pasta to make it a meal and damn, it was tasty.  I love okra because it’s slimy, but I don’t eat it as frequently anymore.  I will definitely have to change that because it’s easy to prepare and cook, and it’s healthy too!

    The waffle ice cream is a dessert I made with my girlfriend in the dining hall.  I just thought it looked nice.

    The next dish in the pan is white eggplant I got from the farmer’s market sauteed with fresh tomatoes.  (I had a ton of tomatoes for awhile).  I splashed some balsamic vinegar in there and it was good…white eggplant didn’t seem incredibly different to me than purple eggplant except the skin is tougher.

    There is another waffle ice cream….lol they’re soooo good!

    The dish after that is pho I prepared in the dining hall at school.  I love pho and there’s an authentic place down the street that makes it but I never go…but the dining hall does a pretty decent job.  I get chicken and chicken broth and either sweet potato noodles or some other type of noodle…and then I season it with lime wedges, fresh jalapeno, lots of bean sprouts, and whatever else they have.  I enjoy the crunch of bean sprouts and the contrasting flavors of jalapeno and lime…it’s so damn tasty.

    The next meal I made included banana peppers from the farmer’s market which I stuffed with sausage, bread crumbs, egg, parmesan, and seasonings.  I then cooked it until golden and served with homemade tomato sauce I made probably a couple of months ago.

    My mom made homemade mac and cheese and then baked it at the end…so delicious.  I shall make it myself one day but experiment with cheeses and flavors.

    The next meal is a sweet potato I seasoned with honey, olive oil, salt and pepper, cinnamon, and a dash of nutmeg.  I baked it until it was soft.

    The last photos pertain to an old family classic dessert my mom makes for me, but this time I made it myself!  As you can see, my girlfriend and I have hoarded many apples from the dining hall.  The dessert I made with the apples is called apple crisp.  I made it by peeling the apples, slicing them thinly, and then seasoning them in a bowl with cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg.  Then I put the mixture in a glass baking pan.  Next, I made the topping which consists of brown sugar, raw oats, flour, and tons of butter.  After I mixed it up, I spread it over the apples and then put the entire thing into the oven to bake.  Then you eat it when it’s warm and serve it with ice cream!

    The next couple of things I’m going to make are from the farmer’s market too!  I am going to make a dish with celeriac and poblano peppers.  I’m also going to try making ginger tea with fresh ginger.  I’ve learned that I greatly enjoy ginger but I’ve never really had it fresh, so I’m excited to try it!

    Happy cooking!

    xx Vic

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