Perfectly Imperfect

This weekend was one of those weekends that I never wanted to end. Don’t get me wrong–it wasn’t the perfect weekend in every way. But perfection is boring! My weekend was perfectly imperfect, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  • I finally got my hair re-done.

It was time for a change and I’m so glad I made one. I got about 5-6 inches off the length (big for me since my hair’s been this long since 9th grade!) and got it colored darker. I’m in love with the results though–but of course, hair is never as amazing as it is right after getting it done.

I'm a brunette again!

I’m a brunette again!

I was a little worried when I went out with my mom later on Friday on a few errands because it was raining & snowing and I didn’t want my new hair getting ruined. Fortunately, it stayed pretty dry and I was able to score a new bikini from Target thanks to my lovely mom. Trying on swimsuits is still an anxiety-provoking thing for me but I was able to get over my body hang-ups and find a cute suit that I love!

View from my room on Friday afternoon. Looks more like December than March!

View from my room on Friday afternoon. Looks more like December than March!

I can't wait to wear this...hopefully soon!

I can’t wait to wear this…hopefully soon!

  • I went hiking with my parents. 

After crappy weather on Friday and some cold (in the 40s) sunshine on Saturday, I was more than ready for some springlike weather like we had on Thursday. Sunday delivered on that, so my parents and I laced up our hiking boots (okay, I just wore some tennis shoes) and hit the trails at a state park in the foothills on the south side of town. The weather was perfect–in the 70s with gorgeous blue skies. I was excited to fit in some exercise out in the fresh air. Everything was great…until we ran into some mud on the trails. And by mud, I mean several inches of sloppy, gooey fresh mud. Not so ideal, especially with the shoes I was wearing but with a little help from my dad, I was able to survive the muddy trails. You never know what’s going to happen when you’re hiking, and that’s what I love. Sure, it wasn’t quite the perfect conditions but we made the best of it and now we have a great story to tell 😉

I was finally reunited with the Whole Foods salad bar!

I was finally reunited with the Whole Foods salad bar for an almost-perfect picnic lunch.

Isn't this view just gorgeous? I'm so lucky to be able to call Colorado my home (for now)!

Isn’t this view just gorgeous? I’m so lucky to be able to call Colorado my home (for now)!

A photobombed selfie on the trail.

A photobombed selfie on the trail. I love my mom!

  • I got my grocery shopping done for the week. 

I’m being serious when I say that grocery shopping is one of my highlights of the week. I love browsing the aisles for new products and being able to pick out my produce and other food for the week. I get a little upset, though, when I have to push back my grocery trip because of my mom or dad’s schedule. Mostly because I go through my groceries by the time the weekend rolls around, and being low on my favorite foods is a little annoying. But I’m learning to be patient, and just to appreciate the fact that right now, my parents are paying for my (slightly expensive) groceries.

My dad and I didn’t get to the store until 5 pm on Sunday because of our hiking escapades earlier in the day, but I really enjoyed the time I spent with him at Sprouts and Whole Foods. We ran into my internship supervisor from last summer–he’s always been so nice and funny and supportive, so we talked a little about my possible upcoming job. My dad and I share a love for fruit, so we went a little crazy in the Sprouts produce area. At Whole Foods, I wasn’t able to buy everything I had on my list (no spinach, boo!) because things weren’t stocked or they were a bit too expensive but I’m just so grateful that my dad spent the time and money to take me to my favorite store. And now I’m all stocked up for the week and ready to try out some new recipes!

Homemade grain free pizza with homemade kale pesto made from the remnants of my last grocery haul.

Homemade grain free pizza with homemade kale pesto made from the remnants of my last grocery haul.

So yeah, my weekend wasn’t perfect. My nail polish chipped right after I painted them, I had some anxieties over my workouts, I ate too many Larabars (I’ve had 1 per day since Thursday even though I meant to save them…oops!), I was disappointed by this week’s SNL, I didn’t drink enough water, I got a not-so-great voice mail from my doctor’s office and I struggled with some lingering cold symptoms. But you know what? My weekend was perfectly imperfect. I enjoyed plenty of family time, I ate some amazing pizza (of the homemade, grain free variety), I helped my sister with a baking project, I slept in and stayed up late and I just lived. Not every weekend or every day will be perfect, but it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes, the imperfect days are the best!

What were some highlights of your weekend?

 

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Healthier Vegan Baking Tips

‘Tis the season for desserts, right? I don’t know about you but I’ve got a major sweet tooth. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day (and I hate savory breakfasts), I can’t live without dark chocolate and I could eat fruit all day every day.

It might seem like vegan baking is always healthier than traditional baking that incorporates eggs, butter, etc. That’s partly true, but not always the case. Some vegan dessert recipes call for tons of white flour, dairy replacements and lots of sugar and oil. Not exactly the healthiest thing. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for more indulgent desserts but I’d rather save those for special occasions when I happen to find an amazing vegan baked good at Whole Foods or a restaurant that might not match up to my normal nutritional standards but it looks/sounds so good that I’ve just gotta try it once. Even those are a little more healthified, but when I make desserts at home, I like to make sure I’ll feel good eating them. With that being said, I’ve got a few tips just in time for the holiday baking rush. This is all about vegan baking, because that’s what I have the most experience with, but I think even non-vegans can appreciate these!

1. Coconut oil > vegan “butter”

I used to be deathly afraid of coconut products. Why? Because they’re loaded with saturated fats! Of course, now I’ve learned a lot more about coconut nutrition, and they are really good for you. Coconut oil is one of the healthiest oils you can use for cooking and baking and if you buy the refined kind, it doesn’t add any coconut flavor. I prefer unrefined for a little extra taste but even unrefined isn’t too coconutty. Vegan “butter”, on the other hand, is filled with lots of unnatural oils and other unnecessary ingredients. It may be lower in fat than coconut oil, but a bit of natural fats are healthy!

2. Go for whole food subs

If you are a vegan, you’ve likely tried or at least seen some popular subs for meat-and-dairy filled products. Things like vegan cream cheese, soy yogurt and egg replacer powder aren’t hard to find anymore, but they aren’t as good for you as whole food-based options. If you want to make vegan cheesecake, try cashew cream instead of vegan cream cheese. If the fudge recipe you found calls for soy creamer, try using full-fat canned coconut milk instead. Again, whole food subs may have a bit more fat but at least you know exactly what you’re putting in your body.

A raw vegan cheesecake made with whole foods: cashews, dates and almonds!

A raw vegan cheesecake made with whole foods: cashews, dates and almonds!

3. Try out gluten free flours

I’m not strictly gluten free, but I like to use gluten free flours instead of whole wheat because they can add an interesting taste and texture and I feel better when I limit wheat. My personal favorites are almond flour and buckwheat flour. Both are higher in protein and fiber than whole wheat and all purpose flour and they’re great to use in recipes that call for a bit more chew and a stronger flavor. I used almond flour in my Pumpkin Chip Muffins and I used buckwheat flour in my Festive Garland Bars Take Two. I would suggest searching for vegan gluten free recipes so you know they’ll work without eggs (GF flours sometimes work better with an egg but they can be made into vegan treats).

4. Stick with natural sweeteners

I typically use pure maple syrup in most of my dessert recipes because I love the subtle taste it adds and it’s also one of the most healthful sugar sources. Stevia is a good option if you want to cut down on sugar and calories, but I usually use it combined with maple syrup to make the texture of the baked good more like a typical dessert. Coconut nectar/sugar is another healthier option, as is raw honey (if you aren’t a strict vegan). Dates and bananas are a great way to sweeten desserts without any added (non-fruit) sugars but remember that they have a stronger taste than other sweeteners.

5. Experiment and have fun

I’ve veganized my fair share of dessert recipes and that can be a lot more fun than following a vegan recipe ingredient-for-ingredient. When I want to make a dessert, I usually search for a vegan (and gluten free) option first and sometimes combine multiple recipes into one to make my own. And don’t let these guidelines make you feel like you can’t enjoy dessert. If you want to enjoy a more indulgent vegan dessert, go ahead. But you may be surprised by how tasty a healthified vegan dessert can be too!

A less healthy (but still delicious) vegan ice cream pie.

A less healthy (but still delicious) vegan ice cream pie.

Do you like to healthify the desserts you make yourself? Have you ever enjoyed a healthy vegan dessert?

I’ll be back after the 25th to share some recipes and all the Christmas festivities I’ve been enjoying! If you celebrate, I hope you have a very merry Christmas 😀

WIAW: What I’ve Been Making

Happy (almost) Thanksgiving to all my fellow U.S. bloggers! Are you excited for the big day? I know I am, since I’m planning on making a few things for the meal.

I wasn’t exactly planning on doing a WIAW post this week–in fact, it almost slipped my mind! But I did promise you guys a few recipes, so I decided that a WIAW post could be good for that. I know it’s kinda cheating, but I did eat them all on Tuesday, so it’s just a shorter version of my usual WIAWs.

Peas and Crayons

I was totally inspired by my pumpkin s’more from Monday night, so I decided to recreate it in oats form. I made a batch of plain volume oats, heated it up in the a.m. and topped with a teaspoon of vegan chocolate chips, a couple of mini marshmallows and a square of graham cracker. I loved how the chocolate and marshmallows melted into the oats. Probably my best oat creation to date!

S'mores in a bowl!

Remember those festive garland bars from WIAW a couple of weeks ago? Well, I made them and they turned out fabulously good. I’m so glad that I’ve finally been able to make a baked treat that turned out perfect. Plus, they’re completely vegan!

Sweet, salty, pumpkin-y and chocolate-y.

Festive Garland Bars (vegan)

1/2 c oat flour

3/4 t baking powder

1/4 t salt

1/8 t baking soda

1/3 c dried cranberries

1/3 c vegan chocolate chips

1/3 c maple syrup

1/4 c pumpkin puree

1 c Whole Foods popcorn or kettle corn

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9-inch square baking pan with PAM; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda; add 3 T cranberries and 3 T chocolate chips and toss to coat. In a large bowl, mix maple syrup and pumpkin until combined. Add flour mixture and stir together until combined. Transfer batter to prepared pan and bake until just cooked through and golden brown, about 20 minutes; set aside to let cool. Melt remaining chocolate chunks. Spread 2/3 of melted chocolate over bars and immediately scatter remaining cranberries and popcorn over the top, pressing down gently to help adhere. Drizzle remaining chocolate over bars. Set aside until chocolate sets, about 15 minutes; cut into squares and serve immediately.

This dessert was definitely a turning point for me, as far as my ED goes. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but one of my biggest fear foods is chocolate. I love dark chocolate, but I can’t eat it straight-up, it has to be in cocoa powder form or something. I’m mostly scared of the saturated fat in it, which is ridiculous. I don’t eat very much sat fat, maybe 2 grams a day, so it scares me that just a tablespoon of chocolate chips has 2 1/2 grams. But I used 6 whole tablespoons of vegan chocolate chips in these bars, so there’s a little over 1/2 a tablespoon of chocolate per square. I gotta be honest, I loved these little bars, but the chocolate did make me feel a little guilty, especially since I already had a teaspoon earlier. I know this probably sounds completely ridiculous, but I’m working on feeling okay with eating chocolate, one teaspoon at a time.

The main ingredients of the most amazing bars!

Later, I made dinner for me and my parents. My mom ended up not liking it, but she hates squash for some reason! Crazy woman 😉 This recipe is not vegan, because it has shrimp, but if you don’t eat seafood like I do on occasion, then you can definitely sub tofu or even just chickpeas.

I love my orange overload dinners!

Butternut and Pumpkin Curry with Quinoa

1 butternut squash, cut into small cubes

1 c unsweetened plain almond milk

1 c vegetable broth

1 lb raw shrimp

1 T red curry paste

1/4-1/2 c pumpkin puree

1/2 yellow onion

1 t minced garlic

1 t ground ginger

1 cup quinoa (dry)

Chop up onion and toss in pot with garlic and a teaspoon of olive oil. Cook on medium heat until onion is fragrant and translucent. Add red curry paste to taste, and cook for a few more minutes. Add veggie broth, almond milk, pumpkin, ginger and squash and cook until boiling. Cover and let simmer for 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, cook quinoa in 2 cups of water (for about 15-20 minutes on medium low heat), and cook shrimp in a pan until pink. Set quinoa aside and add shrimp to curry. Cook for a few more minutes, then serve on top of quinoa. Makes 4-5 servings.

What’s the best thing you’ve made lately?