It’s a Smoothie Day!

 Banana Spinach Pineapple Smoothie

Smoothie days are the best days at our house!

This Green Drank is a quick and easy to make. I’ve had it for breakfast countless times and sometimes even after a small dinner to keep me full, curb my sweet tooth, and to get those last minute veggies and fruit servings in. 

This recipe is super adaptable, which I love. For the most part, in terms of ingredient quantity, I throw in what I have on hand – so it really never tastes exactly the same, but somehow DELICIOUS every time. Now off you, make this smoothie now! And please tell me about your favorite smoothie recipe in the comments section…my blender is ready.

Quick Green Smoothie
3-4 servings
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Ingredients
  1. 6 oz non-fat yogurt (vanilla or plain)
  2. 2 cups water
  3. 3 handfuls of spinach
  4. 2 sliced bananas (frozen)
  5. 1 cup diced pineapple (frozen)
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients to blender. Blend away! Once at desired consistency, pour into glasses and enjoy :)
Blushed http://blushedblog.com/

Skipping into a Sunny Weekend!

For many people, summer is synonymous with sun, heat, ice cream, beach days, dresses, shorts, tank tops, iced coffee, [insert your favorite summer food/drink/outfit/activity]. For us San Franciscans, too many times it means cold, wind, or fog.  Don’t get me wrong, there are warm days. However, those “days,” typically last only a few hours and require being in direct sunlight.

Our warmer days come in the early fall, so I like to think, that while much of the US is winding down their summers and gearing up for the fall, over in SF, we’re getting giddy in anticipation for the few weeks of the year that it is hot hot hot! 

This year, we’ve been lucky enough to have a couple days here and there, that give us a preview of what is to come in a few weeks. This weekend in particular, promises to be a scorcher, so I’ll be spending most of it outside. Here is a glimpse of what I’ll be doing!

Golden Gate Bridge

IMG_8347Sausalito Ferry

Bar Bocce Sausalito

Bar Bocce Sausalito

Ice cream Swensen's

 

Chickpea Salad.

Sometimes the last thing I want to do before bed is make my lunch. This recipe came together pretty quickly, while I was waiting for dinner to finish simmering one night. It’s really a hodge podge of stuff from my fridge and pantry but the flavors seem to come together nicely, making a satisfying, 2 minute to prepare, lunch! 

Chickpea Feta Avocado Cherry Tomato Salad

Quick Green Smoothie
3-4 servings
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Ingredients
  1. 6 oz non-fat yogurt (vanilla or plain)
  2. 2 cups water
  3. 3 handfuls of spinach
  4. 2 sliced bananas (frozen)
  5. 1 cup diced pineapple (frozen)
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients to blender. Blend away! Once at desired consistency, pour into glasses and enjoy :)
Blushed http://blushedblog.com/

15 Carry On Essentials

As I’m gearing up for my trip to Cape Town, I thought I’d share with you some of my carry on essentials. Most of these items, if not all, are for trips of any duration, but I hope this inspires folks to book some amazing international getaways!

Carry On Essentials for Travel

1) Big Bag.  You want your carry-on bag to be large enough to fit everything you need, yet, in accordance with airline protocol. I love this Canvas Weekender Bag from Cuyana. It’s the perfect carry on – easy enough to toss in the overhead compartment, yet malleable enough to fit under the seat in front of you, to avoid gate-checking your bag, which I absolutely hate!

2) Small Bag. Toiletry bag for all your, well, toiletries! I purchased this Large Leather Carry-All Pouch from American Apparel and have used it for nearly every vacation and weekend getaway I’ve been on since. It’s large enough to hold all your travel toiletries and makeup but also stylish enough to use as a clutch. 

3) Phone AccessoriesWith flight protocol now allowing phones in airplane mode to be used for entertainment, it means it’s very possible to run out of battery before ever landing! I usually charge my phone at the gate prior to boarding and then, if necessary, after landing. Headphones are also a must for me while travel. Like many travelers, I get a little anxious while taking off and landing. Listening to music or watching TV during these times helps ease my nerves. 

4) Pen and Notebook. For making notes and jotting down thoughts, I like keeping a pen and notebook like these Pocket Notebooks from Rifle Paper Co. in my carry on. Who knows if I’ll think of the next great invention, while strapped into my tiny seat in a tin can, right? Not likely…but I do like watching cooking shows on flights so having a notebook and pen to scribble down recipes comes in handy! 

5) Hand Cream & Sanitizer. My favorite travel size hand care items these days are the Lavender Hand Cream from L’occitane and Lavender Hand Sanitizer Spray from Eo. Along with keeping your hands clean and soft, the lavender scent in both of these products provides a calming effect, potentially alleviating anxiousness or restlessness. 

6) Powder and Concealer. I’m not too fussy with my make-up, however, after a red-eye or a painfully long flight, I am usually due for a touch-up. Don’t want to scare anyone or anything! My favorite staples are the Studio Finish SPF35 Concealer from MAC and the Pressed Powder from Nars. 

7) Lip Balm. Keeping hydrated and moisturized is very important while flying. Humidity levels in planes are low, making the air extremely dry. Adequately hydrating yourself is key. Most times I still feel dry, so along with applying hand cream, I always make sure I have some lip balm. My favorite moisturizing, no color, lip balm right now is the Smooth Sphere Lip Balm from Evolution of Smooth. It is easy to apply and keeps my lips soft. Another great lip balm with a hint of color, is the Dior Addict Lip Glow from Dior. I’ve written about this fantastic lip balm before – it uses “Color Reviver” technology to create a lip balm that changes shade based on the heat of your lips. Infused with mango and luffa cylindrica it also keeps your lips soft and radiant.  

8) Magazines & Books. Always good to have more to entertain you than might be necessary. I might not make a real dent into Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, but I like having options while counting down the minutes till I reach my destination. 

9) Wool. Avoid the bacterial-riddled blankets provided on some flights and bring an oversized blanket scarf! You’ll be warm while at the gate (it’s always so cold in the airport!) as well as on the plane. Just make sure to wash it once you get home. Socks are a must on my carry on list. One of the most important ways to keep your body warm is to keep your feet warm. My mom is an adoring fan of SmartWool and has passed her love for them onto me. Living in New England, they kept me warm during the cold winters. Now living in California, they keep me warm on flights and in my wellies.

10) Snacks. Avoid the expensive and unhealthy snacks available for purchase on flights and bring your own snacks. Opt for a snack high in fiber to keep you full longer. 

Not Pictured

11) Medicine. Tossing a packet of head ache relief medicine can be life-saving. Also, on long or over-night flights I like to carry some Melatonin to help me sleep. 

12) Deodorant. Keep fresh for yourself and others! 

13) Face cream. Face cream is always a great thing to have on hand. I usually bring a light, moisturizing cream, bought from the travel section at the drug store. If you like your everyday face cream, I recommend picking up some travel size containers (available at most drug stores or your local beauty supply store) and fill one up with your choice of face cream. 

14) Toothbrush and Toothpaste. When sitting on a plane for long periods of time, your body system starts to slow down. One by-product of this is your saliva production. When that slows down, bacteria have a field day in your mouth, causing not-so-nice breath. Keep a toothbrush and toothpaste on hand to give your pearly whites a nice cleaning. 

15) Gum. I usually pop some gum right before take off and landing to avoid getting “airplane ear” when the pressure changes suddenly while ascending and descending. 

Of course this list could go on forever, but these are definitely my “must have” items while on board. Now…off to pack for Cape Town!

Blushed + Beeswax

Blushed Candles Beeswax

Blushed is officially heating up! We will be creating a small line of fragrant candles, with hints of floral, woody, and spicy notes. Before the first scents are revealed, I wanted to share some background on the candles we’ll be creating.

The three most produced candles out there right now are paraffin, soy, and beeswax. You can walk into most retailers and find one, if not all, of these types of candles. I personally, never knew too much about the candles I was purchasing, beyond scent. Well, turns out, there are some important things you should know about the candles you are burning in your home!

Paraffin Candles 
Paraffin candles have been around for quite some time. The wax is known to be pretty versatile, due to it’s varying melting points.  However, paraffin wax is a by-product of the crude oil refinement process, therefore, a petroleum-based wax. Because of this, once burned, paraffin candles can release toxins into the air. 

Soy Candles
Soy candles popped up in the marketplace in the 1990s as a healthier alternative to paraffin candles. I’m hesitant to put soy candles into the “bad” column, but, in the United States, soy candles are considered pure, if they are made up of at least 51% of soy wax. That means, the other 49% can be a number of different toxin releasing agents. So what about 100% soy wax candles? Well, unbeknownst to most consumers, even 100% soy candles in the US are processed with a small amount of paraffin wax!

Beeswax Candles
Beeswax, also known by some as the “original wax” has been around for as long as candles have been around. The wax is a by-product of the honey making process. After the wax is excreted from the bees, it is melted and filtered, with no additives. 

Given all of this information, Blushed Candles will always be made out of 100% beeswax. Beeswax provides so many benefits, while sparing you from the toxins burned off by many other candles.  

So what are some of the benefits of beeswax candles you might ask? Well beeswax is in fact a natural air purifier. When burned, the wax releases negative ions into the air which help pull down positively charged particles, including pollen, dust, dirt, and other pollutants. This means that the junk floating around in the air that you breathe every day, gets pulled to the ground where you can most easily clean it up. Those with allergies, asthma, and sinus problems in particular, can greatly benefit from the use of 100% beeswax candles.

I’ve already tested out a few candles and can’t wait to share them with you!

 

Sources: 

Make Your Own Natural Beeswax Candles from DIY Natural
Soy vs. Beeswax from Empowered Sustenance 
Candle Making Basics from Candle and Soap

Carmel Chicken

Caramel Chicken

This recipe is OH SO GOOD. A fantastic find from the past holiday issue of Bon Appétit, I have been saving this recipe for a special occasion, but after holding onto it for months, I decided why wait? Isn’t every dinner is a special occasion? Well…it certainly should be.

The original recipe calls for chicken thighs and legs, however, with only legs on hand, I thought the dish still worked wonderfully.  Of course thighs will taste amazing, as they are the fattier pieces of the chicken and would simmer well with the sauce. 

I recommend pairing this dish with a heaping pile of veggies, for a lovely dinner. The recipe does yield quite a bit of chicken, so if you’re cooking for two, shredding the leftover chicken for sandwiches and salads is an excellent idea :)

Caramel Chicken
Adapted from Bon Appetit; serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  2. 2½ pounds chicken legs with skin
  3. Salt & pepper
  4. 8 garlic cloves, peeled and pressed
  5. ⅓ cup light brown sugar
  6. ¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  7. 3 thing slices of peeled ginger
  8. 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  9. ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
  10. handful of cilantro
Instructions
  1. In a large pan, heat oil over medium-high heat.
  2. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Place in heated pan, cooking chicken until brown and crisp, about 8-10 minutes per side. Remove chicken from pan.
  3. Add garlic to pan and cook for a few minutes. Remove garlic and reserve with chicken.
  4. Add 1/2 cup of water to the pan, scraping up residue. Add sugar and mix for a few minutes. You want the sugar to be the color of maple syrup. Add vinegar slowly. Stir to combine.
  5. Add ginger, chicken broth, and soy sauce. Return chicken and garlic to the pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 25 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. The mixture will begin to thicken which chicken is cooking.
  6. Top with cilantro and serve.
Blushed http://blushedblog.com/
Adapted from Bon Appetit

Mozzarella & Marinara Egg Bake.

Mozzerlla Spinach Tomato Sauce Egg Bake

Let me start off by saying, eggs are fantastic. Fried, scrambled, hard-boiled, poached, I’ll eat ’em all! 

Wanting to shake things up on a slow morning, I decided to whip up a couple of egg bakes. I had been craving them since my trip to Seattle last fall. Brunch at the Fat Hen in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood left me wishing I had tried one of their bubbling, hot bakes. 

Turns out, these are really simple to make and can be customized for whatever you’re in the mood for! I was in the mood for a creamy tomato and cheese dish, so that’s what I went with! 

Coffee in hand, I grabbed my Le Creuset Mini Round Cocottes, a lovely gift I received from an equally lovely person, and started making breakfast. A couple of spoonfuls of spicy marinara, a few leaves of baby spinach, a slice of mozzarella, all toped with an egg, the prep time was insanely fast. The only thing left was to impatiently wait for the eggs to set in the oven. Of course you’ll need lots of bread to dip into your bake so make sure you have plenty on had. A quick brush of olive oil and you can throw some slices into the oven with your cocottes so they are ready to go once the eggs are done. 

I licked my dish clean, which I’m sure you’ll do as well. 

Mozzarella & Marinara Egg Bake
Serves 2
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Ingredients
  1. 2 eggs
  2. 4 tablespoons marinara sauce
  3. Handful of spinach
  4. 2 slices of mozzarella cheese
  5. Salt and pepper
  6. 1 green onion, chopped
  7. Lots of crusty bread
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Place 2 tablespoons marinara sauce in each Le Creuset cocotte.
  3. Add spinach. Add mozzarella. Carefully egg over cheese and season with salt & pepper.
  4. Cook cocottes in preheated over for 10 minutes, or until eggs are set. Garnish with green onions and serve with bread.
Blushed http://blushedblog.com/

 

Gluten-Free Cornbread.

Gluten Free Cornbread

It’s March! The beginning of a new season, March Madness, National Waffle Day (yes, that’s real), and my birthday :) what’s not to love about the month?!

To ring in the month, I spent the day cooking up a storm – egg bakes, cauliflower chowder, and…..cornbread! 

I’ve never been a huge fan of cornbread, but found a recipe for a chickpea chili served with cornbread on Two Peas and Their Pod and was sold on it. I’ve altered the recipe a bit to make it gluten-free which did change the consistency a little bit – wasn’t as dense – but tasty nonetheless. With a small pat of butter and some agave, it made for a lovely bite of sweetness. 

Gluten-Free Cornbread
Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup gluten-free flour
  2. 1 cup cornmeal
  3. 1/3 cup sugar
  4. 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  5. 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  6. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  7. 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  8. 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  9. 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  10. 2 large eggs, beaten
  11. 1 cup no-salt added corn
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease an 8x8 baking dish.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, butter, oil, and eggs.
  4. Fold wet ingredients into dry. Add corn. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  5. Bake cornbread for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean after inserted into the center. Let cornbread cool in pan. Cut into squares and serve with butter and honey if desired.
Blushed http://blushedblog.com/
Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

So long February.

We’re at the end of February! I feel like it’s been ages since the year started but thankfully,there is so much of 2015 still left! This month I’ve cooked up a storm, checked out a new band, explored Tiburon, worked a sweat (ahhhhh SoulCycle), watched the Patriots win the Superbowl (like I ever thought they’d lose…..sorry, typical New England pride….), and got far too much sun. Let’s see what March brings! 

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Almond Praline Chocolate Rochers.

Almond Praline Chocolate Rochers

Typically I’m pretty good about rationing myself with sweets, but I’m just about eating, breathing, and dreaming chocolate right now. I blame it on Girl Scout cookie season being in full swing. Thin Mints. A box of Thin Mints triggered my demise. Valentine’s Day certainly didn’t help either. December is typically when I go off the deep end, a pure sugar coma, that takes several workouts and a steady dose of sweet fruit to recover from. But really, no one warned me about February being a close second diabetic-inducing month. Um did I not mention Girl Scout cookie season!!!! 

Earlier this month, the sweet lover in me scoured the internet for an incredible recipe. If I’m being honest, it really didn’t take long; I have a small collection of blogs I follow just to look at pictures of sweets. One of which is Sylvie’s Gourmande in the Kitchen.

Decadent. Blissful. Downright enchanting. That’s all I have to say about these Almond Praline Chocolate Rochers from Sylvie’s blog. I will admit, they require some patience. I think I had about two mini-meltdowns over these. But I have more faith in you than myself! And if you still doubt yourself, trust me, they are SO very worth it. Truly mouthwateringly delicious. 

Almond Praline Chocolate Rochers
Adapted from Gourmande In The Kitchen; makes about 20 chocolates
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Praline Filling
  1. 1 cup, unsalted toasted almonds
  2. ½ cup maple syrup
  3. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  4. 5.2 oz dark chocolate (70%+), chopped
  5. ½ teaspoon salt
Chocolate Coating
  1. 7 oz dark chocolate (70%+)
  2. 1/4 cup unsalted toasted almonds, chopped
Praline Filling
  1. Heat pan over medium heat. Combine unsalted toasted almonds, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt. Cook, frequently stirring, until mixture is sticky and bubbly like caramel.
  2. Spread mixture onto parchment paper. Let cool completely in the fridge, about 30 minutes.
  3. Once cooled, break into pieces and place in food processor. Process mixture until it's the consistency of almond butter.
  4. In a separate bowl, place 5.2 oz of chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Melt on medium in the microwave while stirring frequently until fully melted.
  5. Fold processed almond mixture into melted chocolate until incorporated. Place in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes.
Chocolate Rochers
  1. Removed cooled mixture from the fridge and use a spoon to scoop about a tablespoon of the mixture at a time and roll into balls. Keep formed rochers cold while preparing the chocolate coating.
  2. Set ¼ of the 7oz of chocolate aside and chop the rest. Place the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and melt in the microwave. Add reserved chocolate and stir until completely melted.
  3. Fold in chopped unsalted toasted almonds into the melted chocolate.
  4. Using two forks, dip rocher balls into the melted chocolate, coating them well on all sides. Let rochers sit in the fridge until chocolate has hardened, about 15 minutes.
Blushed http://blushedblog.com/
Adapted from Gourmande in the Kitchen

Sweet Ginger Salmon.

Sweet Ginger Salmon

Seafood has always been welcome on my plate. Some of my favorite childhood dishes consisted of shrimp, salmon, and white fish. I have a great appreciation for fish and shellfish, with salmon being one of my favorites – baked, fried, smoked, or grilled! Packed with nutritional value, the oily fish, in some moderation of course, can be a fantastic part of your diet. 

As you can tell from my past posts, I enjoy being informed about the food I eat and I encourage you to do the same whenever possible! Now for some quick facts on North American salmon. :)

There are six species of salmon found in North America. They all vary in size, color, taste, and preparation:

North Amerian Salmon Species

For all of these species, you’ll often be given the choice of wild or farm-raised in the grocery store. As of today, in the US, farm-raised practices are abysmal. The fish are “raised” in over-crowded pens that are typically disease and parasite filled. Farm-raised fish are often treated with antibiotics to achieve optimal size and tend to have higher PCB levels than wild fish. So bottom line, buy wild fish, it’s more expensive, but it’s better for you!

Last week, I made one of my favorite baked salmon recipes, adapted from Damn Delicious. It is a simple recipe, packed with sweet and tangy flavors that pairs well with vegetables. Some crispy, roasted brussel sprouts, asparagus sautéed in soy sauce, or cauliflower mash are all great sides that come to mind! 

Salmon in Sweet Ginger Marinade.
Adapted from Damn Delicious; serves 2
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Salmon Marinade
  1. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  3. 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  4. 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  5. 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  6. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  7. 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  8. 2 wild salmon filets
  9. 3 green onions, chopped
Sweet Ginger Glaze
  1. 1 tablespoon agave
  2. 1/2 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
  3. 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  4. 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
  5. 1/4 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
Salmon Marinade
  1. In a large bowl, combine olive oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, and green onions. Mix well.
  2. Add salmon and allow to marinate for 1 hour to overnight, flipping fillets occasionally.
  3. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking dish with foil and lightly grease.
  4. Place salmon in baking dish with all the marinade and bake 20-25 minutes or until thickest part of fillets reach 145 degrees F.
Sweet Ginger Glaze
  1. In a small bowl, combine agave, soy sauce, sesame oil, hot sauce, and ginger. Mix well.
  2. Top cooked salmon with glaze. Garnish with chopped green onions if desired.
Blushed http://blushedblog.com/
Adapted from Damn Delicious

Nutritional and species information from Eating Well and Salmon Nation

Image Credit:
Chum
Chinook
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Atlantic

Friday Favorites.

Marc Jacobs Vintage Rugs Antelope Canyon Arizona

1) 2015 New York Fashion Week with Marc Jacobs 
     The last bow for NYFW came from Marc Jacobs this year, with the designer streaming the show live online. In my opinion, the collection was excellent; 12 minutes of shine, sheer, and sparkle adorned models (close to 50? I lost count), trotting down the runway in topknots to Clint Mansell along with the Kronos Quartet’s “Southern Hospitality.” It was a solid show that would make Diana Vreeland proud. 

Image via Marc Jacobs 

2) Vintage Rugs in Kitchens from Door Sixteen
     I feel like I keep seeing this – rugs that are normally for dining, living, and bedrooms, now showing up in kitchens. I dig the idea but wonder if they’ll work in all kitchens. Personally, it seems to lend itself nicest in kitchens that get a lot of natural light, but maybe I’m wrong!

Image via Door Sixteen

3) Antelope Canyon in Arizona
     I’m planning a weekend trip to Arizona and am hoping to make it to Antelope Canyon. The canyon is located on Navajo land and primarily consists of an upper and lower slot canyon. Looks incredible!

Image via Pinterest

Alamere Falls.

Last month, I went up to Bolinas to hike Alamere Falls. Several friends had recommended the trail, gushing about how beautiful the hike was. After experiencing it myself, I can safely say it is more than just beautiful, it is spectacular. Really a hike that reminds you of how amazing California is. With endless views of the ocean and lush forestry, including a giant grove of Eucalyptus trees, I was constantly in awe.

The trail is 8 miles long, with the first 4 taking you to the beach, and the last 4 backtracking to the head of the trail. The trail is moderate in difficulty, well maintained, with a couple of muddy and rocky patches. The halfway point, the beach, includes an upper, middle, and lower fall. The lower fall is the main waterfall, dropping right into the ocean. Unfortunately, I was there during high tide and was not able to take in the full view of the lower fall, so will just have to go back!

Alamere Falls

Alamere Falls

Alamere Falls Bolinas California

Alamere Falls

Alamere Falls Bolinas California

Alamere Falls

Alamere Falls

To get to Alamere Falls, follow directions to the Palomarin Trailhead. This should take you a parking lot. Parking can be difficult so plan to park alongside the road and walk over to the start of the trail. The trail begins right by the public restrooms in the parking lot. After walking for a few minutes you’ll see an information map and then a sign to either take the Palomarin Beach Trail or the Coast trail. Make sure you take the Coast Trail. You’ll see a picnic table as well as coastline views pretty soon after you pass through the tree covering. Follow the path until you see a sign for the Alamere Falls Trail, about 3.5 miles into the hike. This 0.4 mile trail takes you right to the falls. You’ll want to follow the same trail back to the parking lot to finish the 8 mile in and out hike.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Wear comfortable shoes. Tennis shoes or hiking boots are fine.
  2. Bring sunscreen. 
  3. Bring a backpack with water and snacks.
  4. Bring layers. The trail goes through patches of sun and shade so prepare for fluctuating climates.
  5. Make sure to obey the posted signs. It would be such a loss if we ruined this area. 
  6. Watch out for poison oak. We were fine but others have mentioned that the short trail leading to the beach can be lined with poison oak. 
  7. Try to go during low tide. During high tide it is difficult to go down to the beach and see the waterfall.
  8. Make sure you have 3-4 hours of daylight. Without stopping, the hike takes nearly 3 hours. Most people stop at the falls, which you will definitely want to do, so ideally, give yourself 4 hours so you’re not too rushed.
Alamere Falls Trail Map

Trail Map via Every Trail

 

*The photos featured in this post are from a collection of mine and my friend Vicky’s

Cauliflower Mash.

Cauliflower Mash

Searching for a quick, hearty, AND healthy side dish for dinner? Well, cauliflower mash is it!

A lot of people refer to this dish as “mock” mashed potatoes, but I prefer to keep them separate. Both are very satisfying, but also very different in taste, texture, and smell. The first time I made this dish, I don’t think I cooked the florets enough. You want them to be very tender so that they mash up well. 

Most people stay away from cauliflower, however, it is so very good for you – chalk full vitamins and minerals, providing extensive benefits to your health:

Digestion
An excellent source of fiber, cauliflower can promote a healthy digestive tract while also reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. 

Memory
Cauliflower contains choline, an essential nutrient that helps improve memory capacity.

Cancer
Sulforaphane, an antioxidant in the vegetable, can help prevent cell mutations, potentially reducing the spread of cancer cells. 

Strong bones
There is some debate about the effects of vitamin K intake, however, there are those out there say adequate consumption of the vitamin (found in cauliflower) can increase bone density, potentially reducing the risk of osteoporosis.

Read more about the benefits of cauliflower here.

Cauliflower Mash
Adapted from Steamy Kitchen; serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 head of cauliflower, stems removed
  2. 1 3/4 cups water
  3. Salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste
  4. 3 tablespoons milk (I used 1%)
  5. 1 tablespoon butter
  6. 2 tablespoons light sour cream
  7. 2 tablespoons green onions
Instructions
  1. Separate stems from head of cauliflower, break apart florets.
  2. Bring water to a boil in pot. Add cauliflower, reduce to medium heat and cover. Cook cauliflower until very tender - this can take anywhere between 15-25 minutes.
  3. Drain water and let cauliflower dry. Add milk, butter, sour cream, salt and pepper and purée using an immersion blender. Top with green onions.
Blushed http://blushedblog.com/
Adapted from Steamy Kitchen
H
ealth benefits of Cauliflower from Medical News Today

Ramen at Home.

Ramen

Before I moved to San Francisco, my idea of ramen consisted of packets of Maruchan Ramen that you can buy for basically pennies. A college staple, these easy-to-make and cheap packets of ramen are riddled with sodium, monosodium glutamate (MSG), preservatives, and countless other mystery ingredients. 

The first time I tried real ramen was at Ramen Underground in the Financial District. A big bowl of steaming, hot, spicy miso with noodles, spinach, mushrooms, and tofu, on a cold, rainy night, made for a blissful dinner. 

I’m not saying that ramen served in restaurants is the healthiest, but it has to be better than what you get for about $0.50 at the grocery store. Last week, I decided to take a stab at making ramen at home – ensuring I knew exactly what is going into my dinner. I found an easy recipe from Damn Delicious and adapted it a bit, for a lovely, vegetable-full bowl of ramen. 

I started off by heating up my favorite pot, a bright red, Le Creuset Stock Pot. I’ve used this pot to make pasta, soups, tomato sauce, rice, turkey brine, and tons of other recipes. It’s just the best. I highly recommend investing in one!

Once the oil heats up, add garlic and ginger and watch as your kitchen is filled with a fantastic aroma. I couldn’t even believe that 3 ingredients – sesame oil, ginger, and garlic could smell so good, but it really does. After a few minutes add the broth, water, soy sauce, and mushrooms. Next, the noodles. Then, the rest of the vegetables and you’re done! 

If you’re feeling a heartier bowl, try adding some protein, such as tofu, meat or eggs. I added a hard boiled egg and it really just made the dish. 

Now, hard boiled eggs can be tricky to make. Don’t cook it long enough and you can end up with a soft boiled or runny yolk, both good things, just not hard boiled. Over cook it and you can get an egg that is smelly and discolored, really unappetizing. A friend taught me a fail-safe way to hard boil eggs. Every time I’ve followed these steps, my eggs have come out perfectly; easy to peel and delicious. Try it for yourself:

Hard Boiled Eggs 101
     Start by boiling a pot of water. Make sure the water is high enough to cover eggs. 
     Once water is boiling, slowly place eggs into water. Do not drop eggs into the pot – they will hit the bottom and break!
     Boil eggs for 11 minutes. While eggs are cooking, fill a separate bowl with water and ice. You will use this to stop the eggs from continuing to cook after removed from boiling water. 
     After 11 minutes, remove eggs from pot and place in ice water. After 5 minutes remove shells and enjoy! 

Homemade Ramen
Adapted from Damn Delicious; serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  2. 4 cloves garlic, minced
  3. 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  4. 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  5. 4 1/2 cups water
  6. 8 oz mushrooms, chopped
  7. 2 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  8. 9-10 oz YakiSoba noodles (no seasoning)
  9. 3 cups baby spinach
  10. 1 cup carrot, grated
  11. 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
Instructions
  1. Over medium heat, heat oil in a large stockpot. Add garlic and ginger, and cook about 1-2 minutes.
  2. Mix in chicken broth, mushrooms, soy sauce and water. Bring to a boil and then reduce and simmer for 10 minutes, or until mushrooms have softened.
  3. Add noodles and cook for 5 minutes, or until noodles have cooked through.
  4. Stir in spinach, carrot and green onions and cook 3 minutes. Pour into bowls and top with hard boiled eggs if desired.
Blushed http://blushedblog.com/
Recipe Adapted from Damn Delicious

Friday Favorites.

Friday Favorites

1) 3 Bean Carrot-Spinach Soup from Food Fashion Party
      I’m a big fan of lentils. They are tasty in soups, stews, salads, so much. This looks like a great soup, full of lentils and vegetables, all infused in Indian spices. 

Image via Food Fashion Party

2) Dior Addict Lip Glow from Dior
      I finally tried this out on a recent trip to Neiman Marcus and loved it. The brand uses “Color Reviver” technology to create a lip balm that changes shade based on the heat of your lips. It’s infused with mango and luffa cylindrica to keep your lips soft and radiant. The Dior Beauty Specialist even told me that one of these are sold every minute!

Image via Dior

3) 2015 Sephora Beauty Insider Birthday Gift from Sephora
      I cannot be happier about this new collaboration! Each year, Sephora gives their Beauty Insiders a special birthday gift. In the past I’ve gotten a lip set from Fresh, 3-in-1 soap from Philosophy, and this year, a lip set from NARS. The set includes mini-lip pencil’s Cruella and Rikugien from their Velvet Matte Lip Pencil line. 

Image via Sephora

4) Let’s start exploring people!
      “Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” I love this quote! There is so much left of 2015, plenty of time to go somewhere you’ve never been before, physically, emotionally, let’s do it!

Image via Pinterest 

What did you find this week? Let me know in the comments below! 

Tomato Basil Soup.

Tomato Soup with Basil and Parmesan

Soup is one the top foods I crave. I could eat it for days. Canned soup is a simple way to satisfy cravings, however, homemade soup is the best. This winter, I’ve made tons of soup, from a creamy butternut squash to chili. In the mood to go back to the basics for dinner, I made a tomato basil soup, adapted from The Blond Cook

Most soup recipes are pretty simple, giving you very few excuses to whip some up yourself when you have the time. If you’re going to make soup at home, I highly recommend investing in an immersion blender. I like this one from Cuisine Art since it comes with a few attachments that can be used to purée, chop, and whip, making it a versatile tool in your kitchen.

Most recipes don’t necessitate an immersion blender, but I think it is so much easier to use one instead of pouring a large pot of soup into a blender to purée, only to pour it back into the pot to finish up. 

So with the use of my immersion blender, I made a big pot of tomato soup. It was just what I wanted – flavorful, creamy, filling, and pretty healthy. It also keeps well if put in the refrigerator, so can be eaten for lunch or dinner later in the week!

Tomato Soup
Recipe Yields 1 qt, Adapted from The Blond Cook
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Ingredients
  1. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  2. 1 cup onion (chopped)
  3. ½ tablespoon garlic (minced)
  4. 14 ounces whole peeled tomatoes in juices
  5. 2 cups chicken broth
  6. ½ cub Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  7. Salt & pepper to taste
  8. ½ tablespoon sugar
  9. ½ cup 1% milk
  10. 2 tablespoons basil (chopped)
  11. Parmesan cheese (grated)
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in a medium pot. Add chopped onions and cook over medium heat until soft, stirring frequently.
  2. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Be careful not to let the garlic burn.
  3. Add tomatoes, broth, sugar, and breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes.
  4. Using an immersion blender, blend soup until smooth. Add milk and stir to combine. Cook over low for an additional 15 minutes, topping soup off with basil 5 minutes before turning off heat.
  5. Pour into bowls and top with Parmesan cheese if desired. Great with bread, tuna melts, grilled cheese, or a side salad!
Blushed http://blushedblog.com/
Adapted from The Blond Cook

February Challenge: SoulCycle.

SoulCycle Union Street Marina San Francisco

SoulCycle has been around for almost a decade, however, admittedly, before studios made it to San Francisco, I had not heard anything about it. Now with three locations across the city, I feel like I’ve heard it all. From those that swear by it, to those that trash it, everyone seems to have an opinion about the workout that is like “spinning on steroids.”

In my research on SoulCycle I came across several Buzzfeed articles about “things only spin fans understand.” For the most part, I found myself rolling my eyes at the statements that apparently hold true for loyal riders.

 “The horror you experience when you find out there is no SoulCycle where you’re going for vacation.”

“You will ask yourself what the likelihood is that you will do a somersault clean over the handlebars.” 

 “And when the music is so loud, it (thankfully) drowns out your attempts to duet with Rihanna.” 

 “You will be outfitted with special shoes that are a mix between bowling shoes and the clop-clop wooden joints worn by Pinocchio” 

After spending far too much time going down the black-hole that is Buzzfeed, I decided to do some actual research on how the workout grew so quickly in popularity. SoulCycle was created by co-founders Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler, over lunch. The duo’s first location opened in 2006, in New York City.

Years later, there are now nearly 40 locations across several states, with the highest concentration of SOUL studios in New York and California. The surge in locations has to do with the company’s acquisition by Equinox in 2011. Forbes notes that following the acquisition; SoulCycle has increased ridership by 58%, to increase revenue by 60%, and profitability by 85%. Definitely not, eye-roll deserving. 

Much of the success of SoulCycle has been due to it’s die hard celebrity following, including Katie Holmes, Kelly Ripa, and Lady Gaga, just to name a few. However, the price tag of the cult-like workout is pretty steep, at $30 a class (shoe rental is an additional $3 a class). I typically work out 5-6 times per week, so if I was to build this into my weekly routine, I’d likely go 3 times per week, setting me back over $5,000 a year. Wow.

With February just beginning, I figured SoulCycle would be a perfect challenge to kick off the month. To be honest, what got me through the hesitation was that I was still unsure of why quite a large group of people seem to be addicted to SoulCycle.

Now, I thoroughly enjoy hard workouts that push me mentally and physically, but hate spinning, so while booking my first class, I crossed my fingers in hopes that I didn’t get hooked onto what’s arguably the workout for the 1%.

So on the day of class, I somewhat nervously headed down to join the Lululemon-addled riders. When I got there, I was greeted by the helpful and enthusiastic staff, who showed me around and thankfully, helped me get my bike positioned correctly and my shoes clipped in.

The high-energy instructors are all basically a mix of trainer and life coach, offering yogic inspiration (“the way you ride your bike is the way you ride your life”). After 45 minutes of brutal and grueling pedaling, weight lifting, and push-ups….all done on the bike and to heart pounding techno and top 40, I definitely began to see why some love it and why others hate it.

One of the first things the instructor told us was that we would be moving in beat with the music….and we did…the entire time. It was strangely thrilling to be moving in sync with 50 other people. The countless self-help aphorisms, however, weren’t exactly my cup of tea. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe in positive thinking, optimism, and peer encouragement, I’m just not as receptive to it coming from my gym class. That being said, plenty of others welcome it with open arms.

So the bottom line – Overall, I loved the intensity of the workout and the music. But, at the end of the day it’s an extreme workout at a just as extreme price. If you can swing attending classes regularly you’re sure to see damn good results.
 

Sources:

Buzzfeed, “22 Things Only SoulCycle Fans Will Understand” 

Buzzfeed, “14 Things That Will Happen In Your First SoulCycle Class”

Buzzfeed, “18 Things Only Spin Fans Will Understand”

Forbes, “SoulCycle’s Intense Brand Loyalty Is Driving 85% Growth In Profitability”

Chicken Sausage & Rice.

San Francisco, CA Hawk Hill

My visiting friends have just left, one off to Tahoe and the other off to Los Angeles, leaving the house much too quiet for me. Over the course of their visit, we made it to Half Moon Bay, Sausalito, Bolinas, and of course, all around San Francisco. Showing them around was a welcome reminder of how stunning the Bay Area is. I truly feel grateful to live here.

As you can tell from my recent posts, my friend has been teaching me some of her crowd-pleasing dishes. It was so great to be in the kitchen with friends, making not only a meal, but memories. 

Over the course of their visit, we made flavorful salads, soups, shrimp, pasta, salmon, orzo, pesto and so much more. One of the heartier recipes we made was a sausage and rice concoction. This dish is a lovely mix of vegetables and meat folded together with rice. It’s almost a mix between  jambalaya and risotto, creamy and full of flavor. I’ve altered the recipe slightly, using chicken sausage and brown rice.

Chicken Sausage & Rice

This is an easy dish to make, yet looks very impressive! 

Chicken Sausage & Rice
Adapted from Avocado Pesto; Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound chicken sausage, casings removed
  2. 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  3. 1 cup onion, diced (about ½ a large onion)
  4. ¾ cup red bell pepper, diced (about 1 pepper)
  5. 2 large tomatoes, peeled and diced
  6. 1 cup jasmine brown rice
  7. 1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
Instructions
  1. Cook sausage in olive oil over medium-high heat until browned. Make sure to break up the sausage into bite sizes pieces.
  2. Add onions and cook until translucent.
  3. Add garlic and cook for one minute. Be sure not to burn the garlic.
  4. Add red bell peppers and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Meanwhile in a separate pan, toast rice for 4 minutes.
  6. Add rice to the sausage mixture. Add chicken broth. Bring mixture to a strong boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover.
  7. Cook until rice is cooked, stirring once or twice.
Blushed http://blushedblog.com/
Adapted from Avocado Pesto

Friday Favorites.

A quick collection from other bloggers, publications, and retailers, here are a few of my favorite discoveries from this week!

Friday Favorites 2/6 Vogue Peonies Blitz London Vintage Praline Chocolate Anthropologie

1) Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Annie Leibovitz, Feb 2010 from Vogue
     So many memorable photos have come from Vogue over the years, all of which are available in the magazine’s online archive that spans from 1892 to today. Subscription to the archive collection is required, however, last year, the magazine published a few transportation related photos that I’ve been going through lately.

Image via Vogue 

2) February Lookbook from Anthropologie
     I love the new looks from Anthropologie. Lots of color and pattern, it just screams, plan a vacation and start shopping for it already!

Image via Anthropologie

3) Almond Praline Chocolate Rochers from Gourmande in the Kitchen.
     One of my favorite cooks, food blogger, and food photographer, Sylvie, posted this recipe a few days ago. I follow Sylvie on Instagram and am constantly in awe of her beautifully photoed recipes. I’m planning on making these chocolate treats next week!  

Image via Gourmande in the Kitchen

4) Peonies, Peonies, Peonies!
      We’re just about in the growing season for one of my favorite flowers, the peony! Can’t wait to have these beauts back in my home. Style Me Pretty Living has some great arrangement ideas for peonies that are worth a try come spring! 

Image via Pinterest 

5) Vintage Shopping at Blitz London from Vogue
     Vogue declares Blitz London, “The world’s largest vintage warehouse” in it’s online city directory, full of the secrets behind where the magazine’s editors shop. Blitz London carries vintage clothing, accessories, and homeware as far as the eye can see. This place is definitely on my must visit list, and it should be on yours…

Image via Vogue 

6) Easy Homemade Ramen from Damn Delicious
      I’ve made quite a few dishes from Damn Delicious and none of them disappointed. I do enjoy ramen and this recipe makes me want to try making it myself. I agree with Damn Delicious’ sentiment – homemade is always best!

Image via Damn Delicious 

What did you find this week? Let me know in the comments below! 

Wonton Soup.

The weather in San Francisco has been incredible these past few days…70 degrees in January incredible….

One of my favorite things to eat in warm weather is soup. I know it sounds strange, but I love soup even more during the summer than I do in the winter. 

So after a walk home that typically requires a winter jacket, scarf, and occasionally a hat (I’m from Massachusetts and admit I’ve totally whimped out on anything below 55 degrees), but required no jacket at all today, I made a chicken-cilantro wonton soup for dinner. I love this soup because it’s filling, full of vegetables, and takes very little time to whip up. The soup is also perfect for cold days – a hot bowl of this soup, full of Asian flavors that blend together perfectly, really hits the spot. I came across this recipe from Liz Della Croce’s blog, The Lemon Bowl, while looking up ways to get rid of the bag of frozen wontons I bought on a whim at Trader Joes. I now buy frozen wontons quite often to make this soup! I’ve also used a brand from Whole Foods – really you can use any flavor/brand. Maybe one day I’ll make my own wontons (that disaster will be posted here I promise). The original recipe does call for noodles in addition to wontons, however, I omitted them to lighten the soup up a bit. Also, this soup can get pretty salt-intense, so opt for the low-sodium versions wherever possible. You can always add salt but you can’t remove it!

Wonton Soup

Wonton Soup
Adapted from the Lemon Bowl; Serves 4-5
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Ingredients
  1. 16 frozen wontons (filling of your choice)
  2. 8 oz sliced mushrooms
  3. 4 cups spinach
  4. 6 cups chicken low sodium chicken broth
  5. 1 cup water
  6. 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  7. 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  8. 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  9. 2 cloves minced garlic
Instructions
  1. In a soup pot, combine sesame oil, chicken broth, water soy sauce, rice vinegar, and garlic. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently with a whisk.
  2. After liquid comes to a boil, add mushrooms. Simmer for 4 minutes. Add spinach and frozen dumplings. Simmer for 3 minutes. You want the dumplings to be warmed through, spinach wilted, and mushrooms tender.
Blushed http://blushedblog.com/
Adapted from The Lemon Bowl

Friday Favorites.

Friday Favorites Nars Chanel Benefit Mac Lipstick Flowers Barcelona German Gingerbread Lebkuchen

 1) Make Your Own Natural Beeswax Candles from DIY Natural
      Candle making is something I have been really interested in lately. DIY Natural has the most comprehensive and informative write-up on candle making I’ve come across, even tells you where you can find some of the materials necessary!

2) Coastal Trail to Alamere Falls
      I did this 8 mile in and out hike this past weekend and it was wonderful! Lots of breathtaking views of the coast and lush forestry. The halfway point takes you to a jaw dropping waterfall that falls right into the ocean.

3) Orzo With Salmon & Sun Dried Tomatoes from Avocado Pesto
      My dear friend Vicky, writer of Avocado Pesto, was in town this week and made this delicious dish for dinner. Be sure to check out this recipe and all of her others, her site has tons of gluten-free and vegan recipes as well.                                                     

What did you find this week? Let me know in the comments below!

Mussels in a White Wine Sauce.

This past week has been a bit of a fantastic blur with a few of my closest friends, Vicky and Susan, in town visiting. Many laughs and smiles were shared over drinks, food, and around fireplaces all over the Bay Area. 

Bar Bocce Sausalito

Moss Beach Distillery

Vicky, a wonderful cook and owner of Avocado Pesto and A Couple Travelers, both successful blogs about food and travel, taught me quite a few recipes while she was here. After consuming an unbelievable amount of oysters over the course of the week, I could not get shellfish off my mind and had her teach me how to make a classic pot of French Moules Marinières, mussels in white wine sauce.

I’ve always been intimidated by mussels, thinking they required more expertise than I have in the kitchen. Little did I know they are one of the simplest things to cook! 

If you’re a fan of mussels, you should definitely try making these, takes about a half hour to clean the mussels, chop the ingredients and steam the mussels in the broth. 

Here are a few tips about mussels that Vicky taught me:

1) When purchasing mussels, keep in mind that for a filling meal, about 1 pound per person should be plenty.

2) Make sure you keep the mussels over ice until ready to cook.

3) Before cooking, wash each mussel in cold water, removing any remaining beards and checking for cracked or open ones. For open mussels, lightly tap them on the counter and set aside. After 10 minutes, if the open mussels do not close, dispose them. All cracked mussels should be disposed. 

Mussels in white wine sauce

This recipe calls for the mussels to be steamed in a butter and white wine mixture, full of garlic, peppercorns, and shallots, making a delicious sauce you’ll want lots of bread to dip in.

Mussels in white wine sauce

Hope you enjoy these as much as I did! 

Mussels in White Wine
Adapted from Avocado Pesto; serves 2
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Ingredients
  1. 2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  2. 2 tablespoons butter
  3. 1 shallot, finely chopped
  4. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  5. 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  6. 6 whole peppercorns
  7. 2 bay leaves
  8. 1½ cups white wine (we used Pinot Grigio)
Instructions
  1. Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add shallots and cool until translucent.
  2. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
  3. Turn heat up to high and add the peppercorns, bay leaves, wine and half of the parsley. Toss in mussels. If the wine does not come up 1/2 inch up the sides of the pot, add more. Bring to a boil then cover with lid. Cook until mussels open 6-8 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and plate mussels and broth. Sprinkle parsley on top and serve with bread if desired.
Blushed http://blushedblog.com/
Adapted from Avocado Pesto

Blueberry Thyme Jam, Personalized!

As I’ve said before, I’m a total sucker for jam. I can’t get enough of it. Making jam is so easy, however, preserving can be a little tricky, but is definitely a must for anyone that wants to make jam. Most recipes yield far too much jam to simply jar and keep in the fridge. You’ll want to preserve quite a bit of it and do so properly to make sure you’re not eating moldy jam, obviously, that would be no good. Here is a recipe for a great Blueberry Thyme Jam as well as directions on canning and ideas on personalizing your jam!

Create it.

Blueberry Thyme Jam

Adapted from Chai & Pie Co; makes about 3 cups

Ingredients

5 cups blueberries
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
¼ cup fresh thyme
3 spoons, frozen

Directions
1) Place 3 metal spoons in the freezer.

2) Heat a large pan over medium heat.

3) Fold together blueberries, sugar, lemon juice, and zest in a large bowl. Pour mixture into heated pan and mix.

4) Using a potato masher, mash blueberries until they release most of their juice. Cook for 30 minutes, until thickened, stirring occasionally.

5) Test jam for thickness, using frozen spoons. Place a dollop of hot jam onto a cold spoon and turn over. If the jam reaches a consistency where it doesn’t immediately run off the spoon, it is done.

Preserve it.

Water-bath Technique 

You Will Need

A large, deep stock pot (must be large enough that jars are full submerged with at least 1 inch of water covering jars)
Glass preserving jars with lids
Jar funnel
Jar lifter
Lid lifter

These materials can be purchased at Sur La Table and many other retailers:

Funnel & lifters
Canning Stock Pot 
Jars & Lids

Instructions

1) Check jar materials for any nicks, cracks, and sharp edges. Any of these can prevent proper sealing or may cause the jar to break during the canning process.

2) Use dish soap to wash jar materials in hot water. Dry well.

3) Fill large, deep pot with water. Heat jars in hot water while preparing contents. Water should be simmering but not fully boiling.

4) When ready to fill, remove jars and lids from water using jar and lid lifter. Fill immediately using jar funnel. Make sure to leave enough head-space as contents will expand once processed. For jams, ¼ inch head-space is enough.

5) Carefully place lids on the jars and wipe the jars with a clean towel.

6) Place filled jars back into the pot and bring to a full boil. Boil jars for 10 minutes. Turn the heat off and allow jars to sit in water for 5 minutes. Remove jars with jar lifter and set upright on a towel. Leave jars undisturbed for 15 minutes.

7) Jars are properly sealed if when pushed, lids do not flex up or down. Store in a cool, dry area for up to 1 year.

For more tips and instructions, visit Pick Your Own. The site is a great resource for all things preserving! 

Design it. 

When I make jam, I always end up with quite a few jars that would take me forever to get through. I often pass along a few for friends to enjoy. After all of the effort it takes to sterilize the jars, make the jam, fill and then process, why just scribble the name of the flavor when it is so simple to create a lovely label that makes it a bit more personal. The Elli Blog provides a couple of printable jam labels and stickers that can be downloaded and customized. I love the touch of the cloth and ribbon as well.

If you’re looking for other ideas on how to customize your jam, Pinterest can offer tons of inspiration. This is great example of a simple and stylish looking jar of jam by Love & Olive Oil, which I found on Pinterest, along with tons of others ideas.

If you’re looking for materials, Williams-Sonoma usually has a few gift tags and labels in their preserving section, including a personal embosser, which can be used to make labels for anything that comes out of your kitchen and into the homes of friends and family. Paper Source is also a great place to find labels, ribbon, chalk paper stickers, etc. So go have fun with it! A nice, personalized jar of delicious jam will not only impress others, but make you even more proud of your little jar of happiness!

Blueberry Thyme Jam
Adapted from Chai & Pie Co; makes about 3 cups
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Ingredients
  1. 5 cups blueberries
  2. 1 cup sugar
  3. 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  4. 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  5. ¼ cup fresh thyme
Instructions
  1. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Fold together blueberries, sugar, lemon juice, and zest in a large bowl. Pour mixture into heated pan and mix.
  3. Using a potato masher, mash until blueberries are juice like. Cook for 30 minutes, until thickened, stirring occasionally.
Blushed http://blushedblog.com/
Adapted from Chai & Pie Co

Friday Favorites.

Friday Favorites Nars Chanel Benefit Mac Lipstick Flowers Barcelona German Gingerbread Lebkuchen

 1) NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Mysterious Red from NARS Cosmetics
     It’s back! Last year, NARS released limited edition Velvet Matte Lip Pencil, Mysterious Red. It basically flew off the shelves, but I was lucky enough to snag one of the last ones from the Fillmore location in SF. It is the perfect crimson red matte lipstick that doesn’t dry out your lips and is long lasting. 

2) Healthy Habits: How to Make Yourself Drink More Water from Lauren Conrad
      I’m pretty bad at making sure I’ve had enough water during the day. Might have to try some of Conrad’s suggestions!

3) Winter Chicken & Kale Salad from I Will Not Eat Oysters
      Found this recipe this week and I am excited to try it! I love kale and this seems like a great, hearty dinner salad. Barley sounds good – I think it would also be great with quinoa.

4) Adorable (& free) Printable 2015 Calendar from Oh The Lovely Things
     Download this simple and adorably designed calendar to hang up at work or at home. Free to download, each month is designed to print at 4.5″ x 7″. As the creator mentions, these are best printed out on heavier paper. 

5) Arm (+Core) Workout with Hand Weights from Nicole of Pumps & Iron
      I just started adding this quick 15 minute workout to my gym routine and it is tough! Designed by Nicole, a personal trainer and so much more in Boston, MA I’m hoping paired with some cardio, this will help tone me up. 

What were your favorite findings from this week? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Blueberry Crumb Bars.

This is another great recipe from Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitten – Blueberry Crumb Bars! These deliciously, sweet and simple bars are a crowd pleaser, I promise.

A word of advice from Deb, they are definitely easier to cut once chilled. It can get real messy to cut these right after they come out of the oven, or even slightly warm. In the safety of my kitchen, I sneak a small square before chilling the rest to cut up nicely.

I’ve made these for holiday parties, bake-offs, and for no special occasion at all. They are a wonderful sweet and I challenge you not to eat the entire tray! 

Blueberry Crumb Bars
Adapted from Smitten Kitten
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup white sugar
  2. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  3. 3 cups all-purpose flour
  4. 8 ounces unsalted butter, cold
  5. 1 egg
  6. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  7. Zest and juice of one lemon
  8. 4 cups fresh blueberries
  9. 1/2 cup white sugar
  10. 4 teaspoons cornstarch
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together 3 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest.
  3. With a fork, cut in butter. Add egg. The dough should be crumbly.
  4. Spread half of the dough into the greased pan.
  5. In another bowl, mix together the remaining sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice. Fold in blueberries. Add mixture over the crust. Spread the remaining dough over the berry layer.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes, or until slightly brown on top. Chill before cutting.
Blushed http://blushedblog.com/
Adapted from Smitten Kitten

Hello 2015.

With the fresh start the new year brings, I have been thinking a lot about what I want to accomplish this year, as I’m sure many of you are doing as well. Rachel Gadiel, writer of Nourish, a lifestyle blog, wrote 8 statements that make up her “manifesto” for 2015. It’s Rachel’s way to create what she calls her “best and most intentional year yet.” Inspired by this I’ve decided to share my own manifesto which does include a few of Rachel’s statements that really resonated with me. 

2015 manifesto

1. Let kindness rule.

Be kind, be patient, be understanding, to both others and yourself. I believe that the energy you put out there draws in those that share the same values and virtues.

2. Be your own cheerleader.

Give yourself a chance to succeed by visioning a positive outcome for your goals. I challenge you to work towards letting go of the negativity in your life and focusing on the positive.

3. Start each day with a purpose.

This year, I’m hankering down on what I want to accomplish in the future and actually making steps to get closer to it.

4. Discover something new each day.

Over the past few years I feel like I’ve grown quite a bit. I’ve slowly made discoveries on what I love, not just what I like. This year I hope to continue this journey of learning more about myself.

5. Believe that anything is possible.

Most days I do believe in this, but it’s worth a friendly reminder once in a while.

Now I challenge you to jot down your 2015 manifesto!

Goodbye 2014.

Well it is the end of 2014. It has been quite a year for me – full of ups and downs. From switching jobs, being happily covered in Splenda, making new friends, spending some of the summer in Barcelona, truly one of the most beautiful cities of the world, thankfully the ups greatly out numbered the tough downs of 2014.

Here are 10  of my favorite moments from this year. Some are from around the Bay Area and some are from around the world. Here’s to a beautiful 2015. xx 

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetThe National at The Greek Theater in Berkeley.

England vs. Italy World Cup brunch @ home.

IMG_6646One of my favorites! First photo in Barcelona!

IMG_6642Tree Structure in The Sagrada Família in Barcelona.

IMG_6728My parents outside of the Basílica de Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona.

At the Catedral de Barcelona. 

IMG_6721With a stud in the Mission in San Francisco.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetView from outside Moss Beach Distillery in Half Moon Bay, CA

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetPaddle boarding in Santa Barbara.

IMG_6638Summer Reunion in Boca, FL.

Holiday Eats.

December is in full swing! The past couple of weeks have been pretty hectic with holiday parties, Christmas shopping, gift exchanges, tree decorating, and working out to hedge against maybe half of the inevitable pounds gained consuming butter-smeared sweet and savory treats.  

Days after returning from Tahoe, where I had a fantastic Thanksgiving with some lovely folks, I headed to my neighborhood market to pick up the best looking tree I could find. In no time the tree was trimmed and suited up, just in time for supper club! 

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About 2 years ago, several of my friends and I decided to set up a monthly (well nearly monthly) potluck, with rotating hosts. With each dinner having a theme to keep things fresh, for my turn I decided to make December, the Holiday Supper Club Edition. Everyone brought their favorite holiday dish, making for a decadent spread that included honey-butter chicken, sweet potato gratin, pasta salad, fried chicken sushi (omg!), truffle mashed potatoes, sprouts, and so much more deliciousness. The party was a success and I am delighted to be eating leftovers all week!

Sweet potato gratin has been a holiday dish I’ve become obsessed with, having it both at Thanksgiving and again for supper club. It so easy to make and tastes great – creamy, cheesy, sweet but not too sweet as russet potatoes are also mixed in. I would definitely recommend using a mandolin for this recipe, as I can’t imagine thinly slicing one potato, let alone six!

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Another recipe I discovered this year was for a honey-butter grilled chicken dish. So delicious – tender, juicy chicken, glazed with honey-butter, which is just perfection. I found this recipe in Food & Wine magazine and have been wanting to try it for months now. The recipe also calls for a parsley sauce, however, I found the chicken fantastic without it. Also, for those that don’t have a grill – I made this recipe on my stovetop using a grill pan, so no need for a grill! Although, if you do have a grill, I do think that it’s worth it to cook the chicken over it. 

The honey-butter should be slightly warm before brushed over the chicken. I just kept the bowl near the stove while the chicken cook (not over the stove!) and it seemed to warm up enough to make the mixture brushable. 

Sweet Potato Gratin
Adapted from Southern Living
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Ingredients
  1. 3 medium sweet potatoes
  2. 3 medium russet potatoes
  3. 1 1/3 cups heavy cream, divided
  4. 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  5. 1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese, divided
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Remove skin from potatoes. Using a mandoline, cut potatoes. Toss together potatoes, 3/4 cup heavy cream, and salt in a large bowl. Transfer to a lightly greased 2-qt. dish, and spread potatoes into layers. Top with 1 cup Gruyère cheese.
  3. Pour remaining heavy cream over potatoes, and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup Gruyère. Cover loosely with aluminum foil. Bake at 400° for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake 20 to 25 minutes or until potatoes are tender and cheese is golden brown.
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Adapted from All Recipes

Honey-Butter Grilled Chicken
Adapted from Food & Wine
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Ingredients
  1. 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  2. 1 clove of garlic, grated
  3. 1 tablespoons lemon juice
  4. 1 ½ tablespoons agave
  5. 1 tablespoon ginger, grated
  6. 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  7. Salt & pepper
  8. 12 chicken thighs (about 7oz each)
Instructions
  1. In a bowl, blend butter with grated garlic, lemon juice, agave, ginger and chopped parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a separate bowl, toss chicken with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  3. Heat a lightly greased grill pan over medium heat. Grill chicken, turning occasionally, until just cooked through, 15-20 minutes. Brush the chicken all over with honey butter and grill until glazed, 3-5 minutes.
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Adapted from Food & Wine

A Weekend in Seattle.

“Take Only Memories, Leave Nothing But Footprints” – Chief Seattle

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Known for rain, coffee, markets, and Sleepless in Seattle of course, Seattle is a fantastic city. It’s a city that I’ve always wanted to visit, even more so after moving to California.

With a spur of the moment opportunity to visit Seattle falling into my lap, I decided to finally spend a few days exploring this Pacific Northwest city.

Leaving Friday afternoon, after a quick 2-hour flight, I arrived in Seattle with my partner in-crime. Deciding not to rent a car, we jumped onto the light rail, which took us right to downtown Seattle. Researching many of the neighborhoods, we decided to stay in the downtown area for convenience and accessibility to many of the sites we planned on visiting. We had originally wanted to stay at the Ace Hotel, however, with the hotel fully booked, we did some digging and came across The Hotel Max, a lovely boutique hotel with a very grunge music theme. Upon check-in we noticed that many of the guests were in the lobby. The receptionist then let us in on one of the hotel’s daily perks, a free happy hour for all guests that features a different micro-brew each night.

One of the first things I noticed was how cordial everyone was. For the entire weekend, everywhere we went, we were surrounded by kindness, even among the numerous Seahawks fans ;).

Having never been to Seattle, I quickly scoured for recommendations for dinner, brunch, coffee, oysters, cocktails…you know, just the necessities. A former colleague of mine had quite a few recommendations that to be honest, made me wish I was in Seattle for a month instead of a weekend.

We started our weekend with a pre-dinner cocktail at Miller’s Guild, a restaurant connected to hotel. A quick cab ride later we arrived at Bar Cotto for dinner. I would highly recommend this cute spot. Cocktails and food were pretty tasty.

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The next morning, we woke up early to get some running in along the water. I loved running through the area close to the hotel. Only about 3 miles, we passed Pike Place Market, the first Starbucks, the Olympic Sculpture Park and so many other sites.

Seattle Running

On the way back we walked through the market to see the famous fish throwers. Watching a bachelorette catch a cold, wet fish was hilarious…oh and then seeing her 12 hours later at a bar 1 block away still going, was definitely a highlight.

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Later on in the afternoon, we took a cab over to Ballard, a historic and hip little town. Starving, we immediately headed over for brunch at the Fat Hen. Top notch. That’s all I have to say about the Fat Hen. The only thing I would change would be to have ordered everything on the menu instead of just one dish.

After brunch we walked around the area, apparently once known as the Shingle Capital of the World. Powering through the bitter cold, we went over to the Chittenden Locks where, luckily enough, a boat was just coming in. I had never seen the process of increasing the water level to raise a ship in order to send through. It was pretty cool and definitely an interesting sight to see. Regrettably, I don’t have a picture of the ship passing through as I was too busy staring in awe, but I did take a picture of the larger lock that had been emptied out.

Another first for me on the trip was to try an oyster. We had settled on going to the Walrus and the Carpenter, a famous oyster spot, however, with the wait over 2 hours and dinner reservations closing in, we headed over to the Ballard Annex for their oyster happy hour. The experience was great and a trip up to Marshall, CA is already in the works :).

Seattle was just as I had imagined; rainy, cold, and beautiful. A city where the vast amount of greenery make it hard to believe you are actually in one of the top 20 largest metropolitan areas in the US. I would happily visit this city again and make sure to head to The Walrus and the Carpenter for oysters, Mamnoon, Momiji, Smith, Sitka and Spruce, and countless other places for dinner.

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List of Places Visited

Friday

Miller’s Guild: Award-winning Chef, Jason Wilson’s joint. Just had drinks here, which were tasty. The wood oven looked to turn out delicious food!

Bar Cotto : Ethan Stowell restaurant in Capitol Hill. The bartender mixed up a great Old Fashioned and the chef cooked up some delicious food. The crostini and pizzas were the perfect mix of flavors. One of the loveliest meals I had over the course of the weekend.

Quinn’s Pub: Gastropub in Capitol Hill. Stopped here for post-dinner drinks only. The food did look good here as well…really the food looked tasty nearly everywhere we went.

95 Slide: Sports bar. The place was packed with people playing pool, taking pictures in the photo booth and dancing. Was fun, but definitely a last stop bar for us…

Saturday

Pike Place Market & Sculpture Park: Went running past the market and through the park. Great path along the water made for an easy jog. Stopped by Pike Place on the way back to watch the guys at Pike Place Fish Co. throw fish around.

Storyville: To avoid the Starbucks “1st & Pike” store, we ducked into Storyville to grab some coffee. The guys at Storyville roast only one blend, processed in Bainbridge Island, WA. Good spot to grab some coffee and maybe sit down and recover from the bustling open market.

Fat Hen: Amazing brunch spot in Ballard. Everything on the menu looked great, however, we left feeling most jealous of all the egg bakes we didn’t try.

Anchored Ship Coffee Bar: Small coffee shop in Ballard. The guys at Storyville recommended this spot. The upstairs nook was a welcomed break from the cold.

Hiram M. Chittenden Locks: Right at Salmon Bay in Ballard. The intricate system of locks adjusts water levels to allow boats to pass through. When we went we saw a boat pass through the smaller system and also saw the actual structure from top to bottom, as the larger one was drained.

Sunset Tavern: Dive in Ballard with live music nearly every night. It had apparently just reopened after a several week remodel, so no idea what it looked like before. The front room was the main bar area, with a separate room in the back for live music. We were there for happy hour so did not get a chance to see a band, but would have definitely came back if we had the time!

Ballard Annex: Oyster house in Ballard. They had about 5 different types of oysters available, one of which is a great deal during happy hour. We sat right at the bar so saw the guys shucking our oysters and pouring our hot soup from the steam bar.

Purple Café: Café and wine bar in the downtown area. We did not drink wine, however, they had a killer selection. The staff was very nice and the food was good. I loved the braised baby beets – just the perfect amount of beets and blue cheese.

Kells: Irish pub near Pike Place Market. Associated with the Kells in San Francisco, we decided to pop in for drinks after dinner. The Seattle location had two rooms – one with a band and one with a DJ. The band that night was really good – I wish I remembered their name. A good place if you’re in the mood for a casual, lively pub. Oh and this is where we saw the Bachelorette party from earlier in the day!

Sunday

Top Pot Doughnuts: Popular coffee and donut chain in Seattle. Visited the downtown location to grab a donut and some coffee on our way to the Space Needle.

Space Needle: Popular landmark in Seattle. Great views, won’t take you long if you just want to go up and take a walk around the observation deck. It’s open late and apparently on a clear night the views are incredible. We went on a clear day and I thought the views were great as well! If you do want to see it both at night and during the day, there are multi-visit tickets on their website for purchase. There is also a restaurant if you want to have lunch up there.

Sport Restaurant and Bar: Restaurant right across from the Space Needle. So many TVs. Food is fine, really just a good spot to watch football. We popped in because I HAD to catch at least some of the Patriots game!

Strawberry Balsamic Jam.

“Happiness is like jam, you can’t spread even a little without getting some on yourself”  -Anonymous

Strawberry Balsamic Jam

I adore jam. On toast, crackers, cheese, or even just by the spoonful (I know…). I love how jam is not only delicious by itself, but also a fantastic addition to many recipes, sweet and savory.

This year, I’ll be spending much of Thanksgiving week up in Tahoe, so I’ve whipped up a jar of one of my favorite jams, Balsamic Strawberry, for breakfasts and maybe some pre-feast snacking. While it sounds like an odd pairing, succulent strawberries and aged balsamic is truly a match made in jam heaven.

This jam is super versatile. It can be a great addition to turkey sandwiches, used to glaze meats, in cookies, as the base for a fruit tart, spread over the top of a cheesecake, and so much more.

I really hope you love this recipe as much as I do!

Strawberry Balsamic Jam
Recipe yields 32 oz of sweetness
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Ingredients
  1. 5 cups of strawberries
  2. 2.5 cups of sugar
  3. 5 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
Instructions
  1. Over medium-high heat, combine strawberries, sugar and balsamic, stirring quickly to combine ingredients to avoid initial burning of the strawberries.
  2. Bring mixture to a good boil then continue to cook over medium heat for 20 minutes or until desired thickness.
  3. Jam will continue to thicken as it cools down.
How to prepare jars
  1. Wash jars and lids with warm water and soap.
  2. Place jars and lids in a pot, pouring enough water to cover jars.
  3. Boil jars for 20 minutes.
  4. Fill jars while hot with jam. Dry lids and close jars. Return to water and boil for 15 minutes.
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US Half Marathon.

Another year, another half marathon.

I never thought I’d run a half marathon in my life. Never had the urge to at least. Then, out of the blue, I thought why not? Living in San Francisco, I had witnessed numerous races and always loved how friends, family, and even strangers, tirelessly cheered on the runners. Realizing why not be more than just a passerby, I started researching half marathons in the city. As one of the most well known races, I decided to register for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon. I had no idea that the race was so popular that registration for the 25,000 spots came on a lottery basis. I knew getting in would be a long shot so I did some research and came across the US Half Marathon.

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The US Half Marathon is a much smaller event, with typically less than 5,000 registered runners. While it does lack some of the glitz and glamour of the Nike event – flashy expo, fire fighters at the finish line, and congratulatory Tiffany swag, the US Half Marathon certainly does not lack in views and enthusiastic bystanders!

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So I signed up for the race and began training. Naturally, knowing nothing about running races, I decided the smart thing to do was not to do any research or design any real plan on training…

It wasn’t long before I started feeling terrible pains in my right hip and was told by doctors I had developed tendonitis in my right hip flexor. So a word of advice to all you race hopefuls – eat right, drink lots of water, get good running shoes, work on your core (trust me it’s important), and you don’t need to run double digit miles every week! I’d say a mix of running, spinning, yoga, and barre classes will not only get you ready to run a fantastic race, but will also give you a killer bod. Hope you have more drive than me!

Anyways, after taking a couple of months off of running and sticking with biking a few times a week, along with getting a PT consult, I decided my hip, while still in some pain, was good enough to simply try running the race, just at a much slower pace than I had set my sights on.

Three years, later, I just finished my third run of the US Half Marathon in San Francisco, landing my fastest time yet!

Taking you through some of the best sights in the city, the course definitely has not gotten old. Starting along the water in Aquatic Park, the course goes through Crissy Field, Fort Mason, the Presidio, across the Golden Gate Bridge, where you have breathtaking views of the city, Alcatraz, and the Bay Bridge.

Over the years, I’ve tried to be better about training, however, with my hips still not the best, every part of my body still hurt, from my hips to my palms (due to an unfortunate “didn’t see the curb because I was too busy taking in the seediness of Larkin Street at 7AM” event).

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The night before the race I made myself a carb-filled feast, after which I prepared my race day breakfast, a simple chia seed pudding, adapted from a recipe passed on by a friend.

Chia Seeds, termed one of the top “superfoods” are pedaled to dieters, diabetics, athletes, really anyone, as they are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants, protein, and calcium.

Read more about the benefits of chia seeds here.

This year’s race was the toughest by far, but the views and loved ones cheering me on – in person and virtually – made it worth it. 

Chia Seed Pudding
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Ingredients
  1. 1.5 tablespoons chia seeds
  2. ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
  3. Dash of pure vanilla extract
  4. 1 banana, mashed
  5. Handful of blueberries/dried cranberries/nuts (optional)
Instructions
  1. Mix chia seeds, almond milk, vanilla, and banana until combined.
  2. Place mixture in a container with lid and refrigerate overnight.
  3. When read to eat, mix well.
  4. Top with fruit or nuts for an extra dose of nutrition.
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Why?

As I’ve slowly been telling people that I’m starting a blog, I’ve been asked the same question over and over, why?

Being so far away from many of my friends and family, I’m hoping this becomes a way to stay in touch, letting my loved ones experience a piece of my life in San Francisco. Over time I hope that this blog becomes a catalog of the years that as I’ve grown, have flown by, no matter how much I’ve demanded they slow down.

Over the course of my life, I’ve embraced a number of different hobbies, loving each more than the previous one. This blog will display quite a few of them, even the disastrous ones. Here we go!