Alone but not Lonely.

I know I haven’t posted over here in like a month, but I’ve been going back and forth about whether I want to keep this blog, switch back over to just blogging on AlmostVegGirlie or what. So I’m planning on posting some more recipe-type posts over here, as well as more personal posts like this one. Partly because I’m a little shy when it comes to talking about this sort of stuff, and I know fewer people read over here 😉

Today’s topic is one that’s hard for me to write about. And truth be told, if it weren’t for recent circumstances, I wouldn’t be writing it. However, I feel like what I’m going to say needs to be said, because it’ll make me feel better to get the emotions out in a more organized way, and I think it’s an important lesson for a lot of girls/women out there.

So it started out with a conversation my sister and I had a few months ago. We were just driving around, to Target I think, and the topic of relationships came up. We both came to the conclusion that neither of us wanted to sacrifice our careers to follow a guy around, and we wanted to put our own lives first. I don’t think we’re alone in that sentiment, either. What’s so wrong about following your own passions, and then trying to find time to fit someone else in? And if you want to be married, engaged, etc. while trying to find yourself then more power to ya. I just don’t think it’s for everyone.

Me and my sissy, from less stressful times this summer.

Me and my sissy, from less stressful times this summer.

Anyways, a couple months passed and now things are complicated. I don’t want to get too personal because I’m still not sure how I feel, but let’s just say I’ve been really questioning my sexuality lately. I’m wondering if what I’m feeling is real, simply because I ignored or didn’t notice these feelings before, but I’m still not ready to make a decision one way or the other. My sister, on the other hand, is pretty damn straight from what I can tell. She constantly talks about how she wants to marry Adam Levine, etc. And…she just got a boyfriend, her first. Understandably, she’s excited and part of me is excited for her. But part of me is pissed beyond belief that she completely forgot what we were talking about in October. She’ll be graduating from high school in May, and she’s really driven to follow her chosen career of musical theatre, with the hopes of making it on Broadway someday. I really admire her for her passion to follow this dream, as it is a competitive field to pursue. She’s still waiting to hear back from all of the colleges she applied to, and still has to audition for some. So why she would choose this time, of all times, to be in a relationship is beyond me. I don’t know how long this will last, but it’s upsetting to me for several reasons. One, she’s already blowing me off in favor of this guy. I’m about to graduate from college, and even though I’m moving back home, it’s not in my plans to stay for long. My job search will kick into high gear as soon as Christmas break starts, and if all works out right, I’ll be in my own apartment, hopefully in another state, working for a TV station. So it’s understandable that I want to spend as much time as possible with my sister, my best friend, before I hopefully leave for good. She’ll also be leaving once she goes off to college because she’ll probably end up at an out-of-state school, so the chances of us seeing each other often will be slim. Which is natural, I know, but it makes sense that I want to hang out with her before that time comes.

Another reason I’m upset is that it makes me feel like a failure. My younger sister, still in high school, has a relationship before I ever did. And no, the 3 week long fling in 7th grade doesn’t count, I don’t think we even held hands. My mom is really excited for my sister, and is simultaneously trying to reassure me that I’ll end up finding a guy, probably at work. And I’m struggling with trying to tell her that maybe I’m not actually interested in guys, and why does it matter if I’m single or not? Before my sister got into this relationship (which, BTW, only started this week so it hasn’t been going on forever), I was perfectly fine being a single lady. It never upset me that I wasn’t with someone, only a little bit when well-meaning people would jokingly ask “Do you have a boyfriend?” And it only upsets me because I think people expect that girls, all girls, need a man by their side to have any worth. And that is ridiculously untrue. I’m finally becoming more secure in myself, and it sure as hell isn’t because I have a boyfriend. It’s because I’m valuing myself more, and not worrying so much about what other people think. I don’t need someone to complete me, because I’m a complete person in and of myself!

That being said, I’m not opposed to a relationship. But as I mentioned, things are complicated for me right now, and I don’t want to complicate them further. I want to focus all my energy on finding a job I will like or even love and building a new life for myself in a new place. I don’t think it’s selfish to want to pursue this. And it doesn’t make me a lonely person because I’m alone. I have friends. I have family. Most of all, I’ve gained so much independence living on my own at school for the past year and a half that I feel perfectly okay with being alone sometimes.

If you’re alone, but not lonely, I want you to know that we’re in the same boat, and it’s totally okay! If you don’t feel like you have to have somebody at this point in your life, that’s great. I just want more women out there to realize that you’re not weird if you don’t have a boyfriend (or girlfriend) and life will go on if you don’t want to be in a relationship at one point or another. Just value yourself for who YOU are, and that’s all that matters.

What’s your take on this touchy subject?

Oxymoron Bagels [recipe].

Bagels. Oh bagels. Bagels and I have a love-hate relationship. See, I like the texture of bagels, how doughy and chewy they are, and they remind me of my childhood. When we’d go camping, sometimes my dad would drive into town and bring back a dozen bagels from Einstein and my family would eat them for breakfast and lunch. My favorite flavors back then were chocolate chip (that hasn’t changed) and asiago (hold the cheese, please). I haven’t had a donut in a good 3 or 4 years. Thinking about them now, they’re too carby and filling and most of them aren’t gluten free (and the ones that are probably aren’t that good, or are made with eggs). But sometimes, a girl’s gotta have a bagel. Spread with homemade cashew cheese, or dipped in peanut butter mixed with real maple syrup.

So how do I get my bagel fix now, as a health-conscious, clean eating, (mostly) gluten free vegan? Homemade GRAIN FREE bagels, of course!

Now, grain free bagels. That may seem like a bit of an oxymoron, amiright? I mean, bagels are all about the gluten, the carbs. How exactly does a grain free bagel work? Being completely honest, these aren’t exactly the same as those carby bagels you knew and loved, but they’re pretty darn close in texture for being made from coconut flour, and they taste amazing (especially warmed up) and best of all, they’re a lot more fiber-full and nutritious than those empty calorie cream-cheese-slathered bagels from bagel shops. And I’m more than happy to devour these, because they’re mini (so they’re a lot cuter–that’s just how things work) and I finally made a grain free vegan baked good that didn’t totally fail on me!

Awww look, mini bagels!

Awww look, mini bagels!

Pumpkin Cinnamon Raisin Bagels (vegan, gluten free, grain free)

  • 2-3 tbsp flax, ground
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/4-1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1-2 tbsp raw honey
  • 2 tbsp melted extra virgin coconut oil
  • cinnamon, to taste (I used a lot!)
  • 2-4 tbsp raisins (I used a mix of raisins and chopped dates)
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and place foil or parchment paper on a baking sheet. In a food processor or stand mixer, process the ingredients from flax through almond milk until combined. Add in each remaining ingredient, one by one, until dough is formed. You may have to add a little more coconut flour or a little more liquid to get it to be the right consistency. It shouldn’t be too dry or too wet, but you should be able to form it into balls without it falling apart or being too sticky. Form dough into a large ball between your hands (you may have to wet your hands with a little coconut oil), divide the ball in half and divide each half into 4 separate, smaller balls. Roll each of the 8 balls in your hands, place them on the lined baking sheet and form each into a ring, pressing your thumb into the center of each to make a bagel hole. If the dough starts falling apart, use your fingers to reform the rings. Bake for about 20-30 minutes, or until bagels are starting to brown. Makes 8 bagels.

 

What is or was your favorite bagel flavor?

Addictive (and Healthy) Pasta

When you hear the word ‘pasta’, what comes to mind? Silky red sauce, creamy alfredo, maybe just garlic and butter. Most people don’t automatically think pasta is healthy, and usually it isn’t. Restaurants usually serve it in giant portions, usually made from white flour, and drenched in way too much sauce. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

What if I told you you could make a healthy AND tasty pasta dish from these ingredients: kelp noodles, butternut squash, cashews, nutritional yeast, spinach and hemp seeds? You’d probably tell me to step away from the kale chips–those don’t sound like pasta at all. I’m not completely crazy, though. I based my recipe off a similar one that also features squash and cashews as the sauce base, and there are plenty of squash-based pasta recipes floating around the blog world during squash season. I just made mine a bit more nutrient-dense by swapping out the grain-based pasta for noodles made from a nutritious sea veggie with the texture of angel hair pasta and adding some nutritional yeast to the sauce, as well as topping it with spinach and hemp seeds. The key is roasting the squash and soaking the cashews to get a super creamy and flavorful sauce without the cream. This is a truly healthy vegan comfort meal!

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Cheezy Butternut Noodles (vegan, gluten free, grain free)

  • 1/2 butternut squash, roasted
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/4-1/3 cup cashews, soaked at least 3 hours
  • unsweetened almond milk, to thin
  • pink sea salt, to taste
  • spices, to taste (I used garlic & herb and cayenne pepper)
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper (optional, adds some heat)
  • 1/2 bag kelp noodles, soaked and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp hemp seeds
  • handful spinach

In a blender or food processor (I used my Ninja food processor), pulse roasted squash, soaked cashews, nutritional yeast, salt, spices and pepper (if using) until combined. Add enough almond milk to thin the sauce to preferred consistency. Spoon 1/4 of the sauce over kelp noodles and warm in the microwave or on the stove. Top with hemp seeds and spinach. Makes 4-5 servings of sauce. 

What’s your favorite pasta sauce?

How to Love Lettuce Wraps

You know that eating salads is good for you, but what if you still can’t stomach them…or get bored after two weeks straight of salads for lunch?

Who said you had to have salads every day if you don’t like ’em? You can still get in your daily dose of greens by incorporating lettuce wraps into your day in place of (or in addition to) traditional green salads. You don’t have to be a creature habit to eat healthy, you just have to get creative!

  1. Choose the right wrapper. I personally love romaine hearts and green leaf lettuce, because both are sturdy wrappers and the perfect size for plenty of fillings. You can also do Swiss chard, kale, red leaf lettuce…the options are nearly endless. Just make sure your wrapper of choice can hold up to your fillings of choice and will roll up well if you’re taking them to-go.
  2. Pick your fillings. You can go with anything you love–staying on the healthy side, of course! Try to avoid ‘wet’ ingredients because they can soak through the lettuce and make things messy, but you can still make these work if you keep them light. You can go salty, spicy or sweet…just make sure you love what you’re stickin’ in there, or you won’t love your lettuce wraps.
  3. Try new things. One of the best lettuce wrap combos I’ve found is romaine+Medjool dates+coconut butter. Seriously. It sounds SO bizarre, but the flavors really mesh well together, and I love the contrast between the crunch of the lettuce and the gooeyness of the date. So give those weird-sounding flavor combos a try…you never know what’ll become your new favorite!
  4. Wrap it up. Add toppings, sauces, whatever and then devour. Or wrap ’em up tight, put in a Tupperware and take with you for lunch at school or work or on the bus. Lettuce wraps work really well as a quick lunch wherever you want to eat them–definitely less mess than a salad, and more fun to eat!
My latest favorite lettuce wrap variation: romaine heart filled with homemade sprouted wild rice salad, homemade spicy guacamole and hemp seeds.

My latest favorite lettuce wrap variation: romaine heart filled with homemade sprouted wild rice salad, homemade spicy guacamole and hemp seeds.

How do you enjoy lettuce wraps?

Spicy Raw Tacos [recipe].

What’s your go-to menu item at Chipotle? For me, it’s the vegetarian salad bowl with black beans, spicy salsa and tonnnnns of guacamole. I gotta admit though, that if Chipotle offered soft corn tortillas as a taco option, I’d be all over that. I LOVE tacos, because you can stuff them with all sorts of yummy stuff but they aren’t as ridiculously-sized as burritos. Especially the burritos at Chipotle. Those are the size of a small car.

vegan mofo

I know it’s not Taco Tuesday anymore, but these tacos are perfect for enjoying any night of the week, and they make great leftovers for lunch! The best part is, these are completely raw, vegan and grain free. I like wrapping the taco filling in romaine leaves and topping it with homemade avocado-cashew dressing, sauerkraut and red cabbage, but feel free to use a sprouted corn tortilla as the wrapper (it’ll still be raw) and switch up the toppings. These are way healthier than Chipotle’s tacos and P.S. way tastier too.

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Spicy Raw Tacos (vegan, raw, gluten free, grain free)

  • 1/2 cup almond meal (you can make your own, too!)
  • 2 tbsp hemp seeds
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews, soaked
  • 1/2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh hot pepper (I used a Hatch chile pepper)
  • cayenne and garlic powder, to taste
  • pink sea salt, to taste (or regular sea salt)

In a blender or food processor (I used a Ninja chopper), process all ingredients for a few seconds, until roughly chopped and sticking together. Add more coconut oil or 1 tbsp of water if the mixture isn’t sticky enough to hold together. Serve in romaine lettuce leaves, sprouted corn tortillas or on top of a salad or flax crackers. Makes 2-3 small servings.

Recipe submitted to Healthy Vegan Friday #61.

Do you prefer tacos or burritos?

On the Changing Seasons (Or Why I Don’t Love Fall)

Yes,  it’s true–I don’t love fall. It’s a good enough season, possibly my second favorite, but I don’t go gaga over it like most people seem to. Here’s why!

  • random weather. Okay, so maybe it’s not quite as random as spring usually is here (sunny and 70 degrees one day, a blizzard the next…seriously!) but it can definitely go from warm and sunny to cool and snowy or rainy in just a few days. Living in Colorado most of my life, I’ve gotten used to having snow on Halloween and having to trudge through the snow and ice to trick-or-treat, and then having a really warm and dry Thanksgiving. Oh, and don’t get me started on the totally random and crazy flooding we’ve had here this month. Generally, fall is pretty good, but I always miss the always sunny and hot days of summer.
A randomly nice day in late fall.

A randomly nice day in late fall.

  • pumpkin everything. Don’t get me wrong, I like pumpkin in some things, like baked goods and smoothies. But I am not a fan of the pumpkin spice latte, pumpkin candies, whatever. It’s just overdone and not that exciting.
  • falling leaves. This is probably the saddest part of fall. I hate when the trees are bare and dead-looking. It’s even more sad when this happens in mid-October, and you’re stuck with ugly trees for 7 months.
  • school. I have may-jor senioritis this year, because it’s my last semester of college. At this point, school is something I just want to be done with. Fall always reminds me of back-to-school (even though the first few weeks of school are in summer) and it’s just depressing.
  • having to wear jackets again. One reason I welcome fall again after summer is because I get bored with clothes for a certain season after a couple months and want to wear new things. Fall fashion is great. I love the boots, scarves, leggings, sweaters…but I don’t love having to wear a coat over it. This doesn’t happen every day in the fall, but when it does, it’s just a reminder that winter (my least favorite season) is on it’s way. And I HATE having to carry it around all day when it warms up later on.
I don't look happy here. I shouldn't have to wear a coat (and still freeze) in early October.

I don’t look happy here. I shouldn’t have to wear a coat (and still freeze) in early October.

  • leaving behind summer. I’ll say it again, summer is my favorite season, and I get a little sad to see it go. Mostly because I know I won’t get to sunbathe, swim outside, enjoy ice cream without freezing to death, spend as much time as possible outdoors for another 9 months. That, and the fact that fall just means winter’s right behind. Maybe if I lived somewhere where winter (aka mostly February, March and April) wasn’t so snowy and sucky, I’d be okay with it.

Do you like fall, or do you prefer another season?

 

Stocking Your College Kitchen the Healthy Way

Fridge food.

Fridge food.

College doesn’t have to be about all-you-can-eat dining halls and weekends spent playing beer pong. In fact, it really shouldn’t be about either of those! Yes, it is possible AND easy to eat healthy as a busy college student–it’s all about stocking your kitchen right and prepping when you have time.

A lot of these tips are best for college students with an apartment and access to a kitchen because that’s my current situation, but if you’re a dorm-dweller you can still give these a try or keep them in mind for your first apartment experience.

Produce is the best thing you can spend your money on.

Produce is the best thing you can spend your money on.

Produce may be expensive but it’s one of the best investments you can make in your health. The best part is you can save money on it. Some stores discount their fruits and veggies when they’re about to go bad so you can get a ton of produce and save it for later. Or you can buy produce in season and freeze it it to have year round. Sprouts is my go to store for cheaper produce and they have organics at reasonable prices. Whole Foods is great for specialties and exotics and they’re not always outrageously priced.

Pantry staples.

Pantry staples.

Having plenty of nonperishables on hand is key to saving time and money.  Canned beans (no salt added, just beans and water), nut butters, plant-based protein powders,  dried fruit (no added sugars), no salt no oil microwave popcorn, spices, stevia, dried grains and legumes, tomato paste, coconut oil and almond meal are all things that I keep on hand most of the time. They’re all super simple to prepare and have ingredients I feel good about eating.  They also keep for awhile so they’re worth buying, and anyway,  they’re a lot cheaper than prepackaged stuff!

A typical college food gone healthy!

A typical college food gone healthy!

You can still indulge in college student favorites without compromising your healthy standards. I used to avoid most cereals because they were too sugary or had questionable additives, but once I discovered One Degree Organic Foods there was no turning back. They use sprouted grains (easier to digest than regular ones), coconut sugar (unrefined and low glycemic) and organic ingredients,  among other healthy business practices. Their cacao crisps are way better than cocoa Krispies!

You can still enjoy tthe sweet stuff without a sugar hangover.

You can still enjoy the sweet stuff without a sugar hangover.

If you know me at all, you know I have a MAJOR sweet tooth! But…refined sugar isn’t the best for you. That doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to desserts forever,  you just have to do them smarter. Dark chocolate (the darker the better), Larabars (I looove the chocolate chip ones and the cappuccino flavor), dates with coconut oil and fruit are what I rely on for daily desserts. For more more special occasions (aka the weekend), I make vegan and gluten free desserts made with honey or maple syrup,  oftentimes raw or protein packed and with whole foods ingredients. That way, I satisfy my desire for desserts without feeling bad later!

Eating healthy in college shouldn’t be expensive, boring or hard–just do your healthy eating homework ahead of time, shop smart, prep when you have time and enjoy what you’re making!