Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Vegan Holiday Deliciousness (for non-vegans, too!)

For any vegan, the holidays can be stressful and result in eating lots of random side dishes. Most traditional holiday meals include meats, fish, and dairy products in sides, such as milk in mashed potatoes, a cheese filled pasta dish, or creamed vegetables. This can cause quite a dilemma when filling up one's plate.

Enter the Vegan Holiday Cooking from Candle Cafe cookbook. This book is filled with beautiful images that will make your mouth water and recipes that are easy to follow and exciting to make for your next get-together. More over, they cover all sorts of holidays. Upon seeing the title of the book, I assumed there would only be recipes for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah, and perhaps a Birthday celebration. Vegan Holiday Cooking from Candle Cafe covers every holiday from Super Bowl celebrations to Passover Sedar to Cinco de Mayo. The authors, and owners of the Candle Cafe restaurants, clearly put a lot of thought and time into creating the book and considering all varieties of vegans. For each holiday category, there's at least one beverage, appetizer, main dishes, and deserts.

The common belief about vegans is that we eat "rabbit food" like lettuce, carrots, and vegetables. It's simply not true! Vegans love everything that non-vegans like to eat, only we prefer ours with non-animal based ingredients. With all the options available to vegans, we can enjoy things like ice cream sandwiches and pizza and meatball subs, all without any ingredients that either don't work with our bodies, allergies, or moral opinions. Some of the recipes that really stood out to me in this yummy book are French Toast Coffee Cake, Pecan Pie with Cinnamon Ice Cream, Wheat Ball Heros, and Sweet Potato Latkes. Yum!

The only reason I gave this book 4.5 stars is because some of the recipes are a little tricky to make, and/or require equipment or products that I didn't have or couldn't find. However, I do feel with a little extra effort or a more stocked kitchen than an apartment of a 20-something year old, the recipes would be easy to make in all aspects.

As a New Yorker that loves to go to the Candle Cafe restaurants whenever possible, I can't wait to try every single recipe in this book! If you're a vegan, or love a vegan, definitely check it out! Happy Celebrating and get to cooking!

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Choosing the Tea (and other important choices)


We have a Keurig in our house now. Do you know the joy that a Keurig brings? With the quick push of a button, you have yourself a hot beverage. In the morning, when it's cold, and you still don't have your contacts in, this is the kind of invention that makes you know for certain God loves you. Naturally, I decided now was a great time to start drinking coffee (well, start again, after drinking it most of my childhood, but that's a story for another day). It was so easy and so delicious and within days, I found myself feeling like making tea in the kettle was too much of a hassle.

I'm going to write that one more time: I found myself feeling like making tea was too much of a hassle. Uh, what now? Tea? The thing that involves water and a few minutes? Hm.

Just now, I went downstairs to make some chamomile tea before bed, and found my eyes instantly wandering to the Keurig and the hot chocolate K-cups sitting next to it. And this was when I realized I had a choice: do what I know is best for me and for my body, even though it would take a few extra minutes, or do the faster, not so good for me option.

I chose the tea.

I've found myself interested in paying attention to my choices and habits lately. What are the things that I frequently do that don't serve me? What do I purposefully choose to do that keeps me from living my best life? Why am I making those choices? And how can I easily fix them? Let's look at a few (and this is some real talk, friends):

1. I choose to go to sleep very late at night and therefore sleep in very late in the morning.
I'm a morning person. If you know me in real life, you're probably crying from laughter, as nearly every day, I sleep until whenever I want to. Without a set schedule, unless I have an early morning audition or coaching, I can wake up as late as 11 without blinking an eye. Since I'm choosing to stay up super late at night, I'm making it so I'm too tired to get up early. It's easy to let netflix keep playing episode after episode. It's easy to distract myself by scrolling on instagram for hours. It's easy to declare I'm most productive after midnight. You know what takes a little work? Getting to bed earlier. Turning off the computer. Putting the phone down. Not eating sugary snacks or drinking anything caffeinated later in the day. Choosing to get a good night's rest so I can wake up ready to take on the world. That's a little harder, choosing what's best for me.

2. I choose to eat poorly, quickly, or not at all. It's so darn easy to microwave something, and if it says vegan on the front it can totally make you think you're eating something healthy. It's easy to pick up take out, especially in New York City where whatever you want is at your fingertips. It's a little harder to take the time to plan meals in advance, go grocery shopping, and prepare a healthy dinner for yourself. And if we're talking breakfast (aka I'm late, I have to run out the door, oh this doughnut looks great) or lunch (sitting at a desk, more take out, skipping it entirely, a diet coke counts right, etc), well we can just forget it. You know how great you feel when you're eating whole foods, making fresh juices or herbal teas, and generally not eating anything that comes in a cardboard box? Yeah, me too. It's awesome. And we can feel like that all the time. It's about making the choice to.

3. I choose to put things off. Another favorite habit is "I'll just do that later". The laundry is ready to be folded? I'll just do that later. There's 46 new emails in my inbox? I'll just do that later. The dogs would probably really like to go romp in the park a little? I'll just do that later with a side of guilt please. I have things that I've been saying I'll do later from, like, October. And from last summer. And some from 2007. It's easy to say we'll take care of something later on or tomorrow, but the truth is we're just choosing to be lazy. I love lazy. If there was a Queen crowned of laziness it would be me. But you know what feels even better than laying on a comfy couch? Actively taking care of the things in your life. My newest rule is if it would take me less time to just do the darn thing than it would to stand there and debate if I should do it now or later, just do it. When my coat is thrown over a chair and needs to be hung up, that will take like 8 seconds total. Getting the mail? Maybe a minute, plus Henry loves to get the mail. Which leads me to taking the dogs on a walk. If I don't take the dogs out (they're potty pad trained so it's always an option, plus Layla doesn't do cold, rain, or snow), I will literally feel bad the entire rest of the day. Have you ever seen the World's Most Handsome Dog staring out the window longingly? Of course you haven't because then you would be in my house and that would be creepy, but let me tell you, it will break your heart. I've spent hours trying to explain storms to Henry to no avail ("stoooooorm. make boom-boom-boom noises. it's wet. weTTTT. no walk in thunderstorm. do you understand what mommy is saying?"). If I just get up off my Queen Lazy butt and take them out for 10 minutes, we're all incredibly happier.

These are just three examples, but I'll bet they resonate. Why do we do this? I've been writing and analyzing on this for about a week now and I keep ending up at the same place: we're scared to live our best lives. We're scared to hold ourselves accountable to really living. We're scared to not have anything to complain about. We're also not so sure we're good enough or worth so much effort. After all, we're messy, flawed, mistake-making humans. Why should we be good to ourselves when most days we're mad at ourselves? Because we deserve it. You and I deserve our best lives. It is really scary to get what you want. It's really scary to change and grow beyond our current limit. We grow past people, and that's scary. We grow out of jobs, and that's scary. We grow so much we find ourselves in new cities, new homes, new relationships, new careers. And it's so scary. But the alternate, the staying stuck, the "this is okay, I guess" feeling, is so much worse. And so very permanent.

This week I'm challenging myself to make very small changes that will potentially produce big results. I'm planning to go to bed by 11, no computer, phone, or social media at all, and am challenging myself to hit a list of daily tasks that I mostly always do but sometimes skip, such as meditating twice a day, stretching, taking the dogs out twice, and some other things. Will it work? We'll find out. Take a look around at your own habits this week. What do you do to stop yourself from living your best life? Why are you doing it? Is it easily fixable? Let's talk here or on instagram, and start making better choices together.