Cut it Out!

For the last five weeks, I have cut out alcohol, sugar (except for fruit), dairy, refined/"white" carbs (including white rice) and gluten out of my diet to detox and adopt a healthier baseline going forward.  I'm not cutting these things out forever, but so far, it hasn't even been hard - I think that's because for the first time, I'm not cutting things out for a diet or to lose weight.  I genuinely WANT to be eating healthier and avoid some of the unhealthier patterns I had fallen into for the past few years while I was in "study" mode.  I didn't think I could go a day without cheese, but honestly, I barely miss it.  It's really kind of crazy...

The last alcohol I had was a special bottle of wine we picked up on our trip to Napa to celebrate having taken my exam.  We drank it after finding out that I passed, and it was SO delicious, that avoiding wine hasn't been too difficult, thinking about how not many of my go-to weekday wines would hold a candle to that yummy Silver Oak!  Going forward, I'd much rather drink less frequently and splurge on tastier wines when I do :-)

In cutting out refined carbohydrates, I have been eating a lot more grains like quinoa, which is featured in this recipe for Moroccan Steamed Salmon with Quinoa and Carrots - the addition of chopped up carrots to the quinoa is absolutely delicious! It pairs so well with the salmon (which I baked in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes rather than steaming it).  I am a huge fan of cilantro (are you? or do you hate it?), so this easy-to-make sauce is just amazing to me too.  Recipes like this prove that eating healthy doesn't mean you have to sacrifice eating delicious food!!! Enjoy!!


Back and Relaxed!

The last time I posted was just before my exam... I pretty much shut down right after to decompress and just relax (when I wasn't thinking about my exam results of course, which, by the way, took 2 months of waiting for!).  I recently found out that I passed!!! All these years of hard work are now behind me and I can focus on other things.  I learned a ton and can't wait to put that knowledge to good use :-)

Now that I will have more free time, I am contemplating pursuing one of my lifelong goals of running a marathon.  I am a long way removed from my high school cross country days, and most recent attempts at running have all resulted in nearly immediate injury.  So I will be patient and ease into it this time, beginning with *gasp* walking - there's no shame in that!

My current obsession right now are unsweetened green tea lattes with Vanilla soy milk from Starbucks.  I just ordered some matcha green tea powder  to try and make these at home.  Use this simple recipe to make hot or iced lattes.  Rice milk is yummy too.


Dark Circles

I have naturally darker under-eye circles and late night study sessions definitely do not help.  The big test is coming up this Saturday, and I will be MIA this week studying every spare second and eating terrible processed foods to keep me going along the way...  That's just how it is.

I wanted to share my favorite under-eye concealer kit that my makeup artist for our wedding introduced me to: Bobbi Brown's Creamy Concealer Kit.  There's nothing else like it.  I have olive skin and use the "warm natural", but go in to your local department store that carries the line to get matched.  

Begin with the moisturizer base, dab on the concealer, and top with the finishing powder that is NEVER cake-y (how to here; I have yet to try the new "Corrector").  It looks amazingly natural and completely turns around and brightens your face.  It's sleep and magic in a bottle and just what the doctor ordered this week :-) Wish me luck! 


Outdoor Flooring

I'm embarrassed to say that we're coming up on 3 years of living in our place, and have yet to create a functional space out of our balcony.  For the first year, we sort of used it as storage for what was ultimately junk that we should never have moved with us in the first place.  We eventually parted ways with said junk in Year 2 and it essentially became a home for my husband's surfboard.  Once I am done taking this exam next weekend, Project Balcony becomes Priority #1 around the house!

First things first, the flooring.  I am debating several options... Any thoughts?  I would love to hear about what you've used/love or to hear of other options.  (I've realized to actually comment, you need to click on the heading of the post; trying to fix this!).  I want flooring that is easy to clean and maintain, yet still stylish and fun.

These decking tiles from Ikea seem like a potentially great fit and easy to implement, as does this Japanese decking:

When we were looking at our place, our realtor suggested artificial grass... I like the idea of seeing a green patch outside the window and simulating the effect of having a real "outdoor" space, but I worry that it will be difficult to keep clean.

Interlocking tiles made of pebbles seem like a unique and fun way to cover the floor as well:

A sleeker ceramic version is an option too:


California Eggs Benedict

This meal used to be a staple around our place for weekend brunch, and it had been a while since I'd made it.  Because I've been very short on time due to studying, and this is a quick and simple meal, I made it for dinner this week.  I cheat a bit and use a packet of Knorr Hollandaise sauce mix; it's easy to whip up and also probably healthier than making Hollandaise from scratch - you just add 1 cup of milk (I used 1%) and 1/4 cup of butter (I used half of that, although admittedly it tastes better with the full amount). 

I start with high-fiber low-calorie multi-grain english muffins, then top with sliced tomatoes and avocados:

I usually top with scrambled egg whites, but since I had some Omega-3 eggs, I used a 4 egg whites to 2 whole eggs mixture:

Top with Hollandaise sauce & eat!


Hearts of gold

I love all these pieces since they are off-beat interpretations of traditional heart shaped jewelry... Each one has a fun uniqueness and personality to it and the gold keeps them grown-up! :-)

1. Tribal Heart Gold Necklace
2. Gold Skull Earrings
3. Heart Scribble Ring
4. Gold Tone Heart & Arrow Skinny Bracelet


Griller's Vegan

Have you ever tried these Morning Star Vegan burger patties? They are awesome.  I think you could seriously pass them off as meat.  My husband thought they tasted like the meat he was served in elementary school from the cafeteria (ok, so that's not exactly a ringing endorsement).  These have been a staple for me while studying to throw together a tasty, quick, healthy and filling meal.  I will probably experiment with chopping these up and throwing them into a "meatless" lasagna.

For a quick lunch/dinner, just heat up a patty, then chop it up and top a pita with it, followed with low-fat shredded mozzarella.  Heat in microwave until cheese is melted and top with fresh avocado.



Architectural Finds...

These unique cagey architectural pieces from Osnat Har Noy's Etsy shop have caught my eye and would make timeless additions to any jewelry collection...





Poached Egg over Grits

Grits and I have only been acquainted for a few years now, and we are still getting to know each other.  I love their grainy texture and their versatility when it comes to mixing in different ingredients and flavors.  This recipe makes "calcium grits", which are made in milk with cottage cheese mixed in.  The poached eggs make this a filling and comforting way to begin the day...


Classic French Omelette

We recently went to brunch at Misfit in Santa Monica and they had a "French Omelette" on their menu - we were hesitant to order it for fear of it not living up to the incredible omelettes we had enjoyed in Paris last fall.  We asked the waitress if she could describe it and if it was really a "French" omelette - but really, she wasn't going to know if it was what WE had eaten, so we skipped it and had some incredible food nonetheless.

SO, I decided to research this to see if I could make a classic "French Omelette" at home.  I followed these instructions, and I have to say, the results were pretty fantastic (while not quite identical to what we had in Paris).

It's all about using a fork to break up the eggs while cooking (and heavy on the oil/butter - the recipe called for 2 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of butter; I would only use 1 tbsp of the oil next time) and freezing the butter ahead of time.  It really doesn't take much time for the little diced cubes of butter to freeze, so just prep and freeze them while you set everything else up.  You'll incorporate half of the butter in with the eggs, and half to the heated oil. 

Have your shredded cheese (and anything else you want to incorporate in your omelette) and lid for your pan ready.  Once the oil/butter mixture is frothy, pour in egg/butter mixture, and slide fork back and forth to break up the eggs while cooking over medium heat for a few minutes.  Push eggs back together with a spatula, top with cheese, then cover for about another minute or two.  Remove from heat, and slide the omelette onto a plate, simultaneously folding it over.  Serve with toast and enjoy!


Paper Doily Cake Decorating

How pretty is this idea from Real Simple for decorating your next cake?  All you need is a paper doily and some confectioner's sugar to transfer a beautiful print.  This would be perfect for a flourless chocolate cake or to use to decorate a big stack of pancakes! All the beauty without the heaviness of frosting...


Dijon Croque Monsieur

My husband had a serious craving for a Croque Monsieur, and in the interest of saving our arteries from sure doom, I decided to make a healthier version at home for dinner... Health being relative here. HealthiER, not healthy, ok? :-)  The mustard in this recipe adds a nice touch of flavor.

I used this great "whole grain & flax" bread from Trader Joe's that I'd never tried before. It is delicious!  So much flavor, comforting, and good for you too.

I always have a jar of this "Aioli Garlic Mustard Sauce" (also from Trader Joes) on hand.  It elevates even the simplest sandwich and I'm never without a spare jar in the pantry.  Substitute this for the mustard/mayo mix called for in the recipe if you can get your hands on some.

Instead of sliced ham, I used prosciutto (just because).

When I got home, I realized the gruyere cheese I bought was actually a gruyere-cheddar blend.  Amazing.  With the addition of a slice of low-fat swiss cheese, this turned into a 3-cheese Croque. Monsieur.

Once your sandwich is assembled, coat in egg/milk mixture before grilling in a buttered pan for about 3 minutes on each side (you could skip the egg mixture and just butter the bread for a more classic grilled cheese approach):

Too tired to throw together a salad, I served alongside a sliced up apple which helped cut the heaviness of all the melted cheese... Enjoy!


Ricotta Pancakes... For Dinner!

I love breakfast for dinner.  I wish it was easier to have breakfast for lunch, because then I'd be eating b-fast ALL DAY LONG! Luckily sometimes, the husband is okay with indulging my needs for sweet dinner time... So this week we have ricotta pancakes! 

The addition of ricotta and whipping the egg whites results in some of the fluffiest pancakes you'll ever have.


Cougar Town Wines

To say I loved the show Friends is a huge understatement... So of course, devoted fan that I am,  I had to give Cougar Town a shot and have thoroughly enjoyed watching the show since it began.  Especially the devotion to wine drinking demonstrated by all characters; I have to have my glass of red at the ready to drink along!  I equally love watching to see what they are drinking, and often times, they are some of my favorite wines (Jordan Cabernet, Orin Swift's "The Prisoner" and "Palermo", etc.) - so I look to the cast to lead me to new discoveries :-)

Courtney Cox's character Jules had a ginormous vintage sommelier wine glass (that has since "passed away") named "Big Joe" that held almost two bottles of wine... You can buy your own super fancy expensive version here at Big Joe Wine or a more affordable version from Amazon here.  I'm going to need someone to pour me one of these after I'm done taking my (6 hour!) exam...


Summer Shades

Did you know Vans makes sunglasses now?
I just discovered these, and you can snag a pair starting at only $10! 

Cateyes Sunglasses
80's Sunglasses
Flip Up Sunglasses
Hangar Sunglasses
Damone Sunglasses


Frozen Goods

I am in the midst of studying for the third level of an exam, which if I pass, will conclude a four year journey... So crazy!  It takes place on June 2nd, so time is running out!  With study time cutting into cooking time, Trader Joe's comes to my rescue with these delicious flat breads...  Our good friends introduced us to these frozen flat breads, and I now always keep a couple in the freezer just in case.  Pop one (or two) in the oven and enjoy!

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