A Post-Grad's Attempt at a Healthy, Joyful, and Blissfully Sweet Life

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Sweetest Way to Celebrate

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well.” – Virginia Woolf.

hey friends!

guess what? It was my birthday the other day! and, if virginia's quote is true (which i believe it is), then I will be thinking, loving, and sleeping like an olympian!

a few weeks ago, luke asked me what i wanted to do for my birthday.  i said ride a giraffe.  however, after bouncing more ideas back and forth, the day turned into something a little more realistic-a tour of some of the best bakeries boston has to offer! on a giraffe.

we've all been there: walked innocently into a cafe only to be assaulted in the senses.  the smell of baking cinnamon romances our noses, while the flakey crusts and velvety smooth frostings cause us to drool like puppies.  and inevitably, just before we are about to order each and every delicacy making our eyes water at their beauty, that little annoying voice in our heads wakes up and starts reminding us that we have jeans to fit into and money that could better be used elsewhere. and, just as soon as an image of yourself sitting down with a warm chocolate croissant, ready to be momentarily transported to blissdom, you hear yourself ordering a small coffee with soymilk.

well, not this time! this time, i decided i was going to go those bakeries, order those sweet treats, and love every bite of their un-nutricious deliciousness! because this day was going to be just that-a sweet treat.  the day of indulgence i always dreamed about but never let myself partake in.  self-restraint was not invited to this party. 

plus, everyone knows that you can eat whatever you want, since calories don't count on your birthday. it's a known fact.

luke asked for a list of places i'd like to go to, and then he took the reigns and planned out the day.  what an amazing boyfriend i have been seriously blessed with.

our first stop was flour, a bakery that has been featured on three food network shows.  i mean, that really says it all, doesn't it? we went there for lunch, and it was absolutely delicious.  i got a jam, fruit, and mascarpone cheese panini and luke got a chicken, bri cheese, roasted red peppers, and arugula panini.  we both ate them in about 2 bites we were so hungry! and plus, we wanted to get to the main attraction: the sticky bun.  this is the baked good flour is known for-and for good reason! this sticky bun was AH-MAY-ZING! it was huge, gooey, sticky, buttery, nutty, caramely, flakey-everything it should be and more.  normally, i would never order one-my thighs don't need it, thankyouverymuch. but, the whole point of today was to indulge, so i ordered it with confidence and a bit of little-kid giddiness.  (or an obnoxious amount of giddiness, but who's asking?)

thank goodness this was calorie-free today! dodged that bullet...
luke and i dived into this sinfully decadent treat and never looked back. it was fun to eat it. never having indulged like this before, i felt a little naughty and that only heightened the excitement-like a teenager sneaking out of her house for the first time, running down the street with the elated feeling of "i did it! i did it! muhahaha!"

i am pretty sure i took more pictures of this sticky bun than i did anything else all day.  it was just so photogenic and beautiful! yes, i just called a baked good beautiful. whatcha gonna do about it!? thankfully luke doesn't mind me shoving a camera in his face as he eats and saying things like "wait! hold that pose!" "no don't eat it! just act like you're about to!" "here, hold this for a second!" the patience of a saint, honestly...

look at that goodness!
contemplating the complex delicacies of how ridiculously good that bun was...

loving my life right there...

he's coming for ya, baked goods! 
our next stop was georgetown cupcake.  the two creators of this store have their own TLC show, dc cupcakes, which i have been watching since it first aired. for a while, they only had their original shop in washington, dc, and i was all bummed out that i would have to wait a really long time to finally make it down there to get my hands on one of their famous cupcakes.

until the world heard it was my birthday and decided to construct a store right in boston just for my tasting pleasure! that sure was sweet of them. (punny...)

my reaction to when i saw the storefront was more or less akin to a pre-teen at a justin bieber concert. however, i was not alone.  there was a line out the door and oh-so-much sugary excitement in the air in the store.
and with a huge glass case of cupcakes greeting you as soon as you entered, how could you not experience a sugar high? i bet our blood sugar levels jumped just from breathing in that frosting-infused air. and that, my friends, is not something to complain about.

now, i do not make decisions lightly.  in fact, i hardly ever make decisions without fretting, over analyzing, and taking way too long.  and that's over boring things, like what to wear or what to do with my future.  put 16 different cupcake flavors in front of me and expect me to make a solid decision about which to get?  that's just asking for a meltdown. luke has caught on to this trait of mine, and in an act of sheer chivalry and graciousness, told me i could choose six different flavors. yes, this is a real person, i am not simply making up this version of a boyfriend i wish i had.

birthday cupcakes?! how did they know?!
he really did spoil me on my birthday. however, not being one to complain when handed the opportunity to get cupcakes, i took his idea and chose six cupcakes with his help.  unfortunately i didn't get a picture of the ones i chose because by the time i got home and opened their signature pink box, the frostings had slightly melted and moved around a bit due to the summer day's heat. they were still delish to eat-just not picture pretty.  my favorite would have to be the chocolate cupcake with peanut butter chips baked in topped with peanut butter frosting and a chocolate drizzle. nothing beats chocolate and peanut butter for me.  however, i did also love their red velvet, which is their signature cupcake.  it was so good.  their chocolate lava fudge cupcake was so so so yummy as well-and that one was gluten free!

the bakery was so fun to visit, and so exciting to finally taste! it was pretty small though, as you can see, and very crowded so we didn't really get to dilly dally as much as i would have liked.  i did get to see decked out artistan kitchenaid mixer all decked out in lime green
jewels though! and look at those trays and trays of cupcakes! pictured above is one of the types of cupcakes that i got-the red velvet.  the frosting was the perfect combination of sexy and sweet (just kidding-crazy stupid love reference anyone?) it was the perfect combination of sugary and cream cheesy though, and the cake was very moist and complimented the frosting wonderfully.

this was cool-they had a window looking into the kitchen where you could see the bakers creating the cupcakes! 
with my bag of cupcakes in hand, we continued to walk around boston until it was time for dinner.  we happened upon another farmer's market, which was really fun to check out.  they had tons of goods, like purple carrots!! have any of you ever seen those before? i had not, but they were super cool!  there were also tons of sunflowers which can always brighten a day! across the street was the boston public library which neither luke nor i had ever been to, so we popped in there for a bit and just nearly got so lost we almost never left! it is HUGE in there!! and looks more like a museum than a library.  they had this beautiful courtyard with tables and chairs which we rested in for a bit-walking around boston and eating to our hearts content is exhausting! however, the night was young and there were more sugary concoctions awaiting us!

for dinner, luke made reservations at one of my all time dream restaurants-Max Brenner's.  it's a restaurant dedicated to chocolate (which a lot more things should be dedicated to, in my opinion.)  as soon as you walk into the place, chocolate hits you from all angles-chocolate scented air tickles your nose, a big vat of swirling, melting chocolate hypnotizes your eyes, and chocolate rains down from the ceiling, transforming you into a living cocoa creation. the last bit i'm joking about, but everything else is true.  it takes chocolate to a whole new level i thought only existed in my mind. they have tag lines such as "creating a new chocolate culture worldwide." and shirts with "chocolate is good for you" on them. amen! i got a chocolate mixed drink and the most crazy chocolate dessert ever-a chocolate cookie pizza.  this dessert meant business. a cookie crust, topped with milk chocolate, white chocolate, hazelnut bits, and drizzled with peanut butter. i fear the person who could eat this in one sitting.

guys, this sweet, melty, peanut buttery, crunchy, combination of everything that is good in the world was shout-out-loud good.  the heavens surely know about this, for that is clearly where it was sent from. and, along with my dessert came a little chocolate with "happy birthday" written on it in edible gold dust and a candle for me to blow out! and the waiter quietly put it down in front of me, with a happy smile and nothing else-no clapping and no embarrassing sing a-long with the whole restaurant. it was a perfect, sweet surprise. way to wish me a happy birthday in a classy, sophisticated way, max brenners.

with stomachs so ridiculously content and full, we waddled our way to the train station to get back to my apartment. while we were waiting for the train to arrive, we took some silly pictures-probably a combination of so much sugar and exhaustion from walking around the city all day made us just a bit delirious by the end of the day. 

treated by this man all day? i'm a very lucky birthday girl indeed.

once we got home, we were naturally hungry again.  and, as it happened, i had six cupcakes that had not been eaten yet! (are you guys getting stomach aches just reading about what we ate that day?) we decided to split the two birthday cupcakes we chose, along with some wine (which turned to milk as we realized cupcakes just really need a glass of milk above all other beverages.)

the two cupcakes were a vanilla cupcake topped with chocolate frosting, and a chocolate cupcake with a vanilla frosting.  i really liked the chocolate frosting, it was very fudgy.  however, i didn't actually care for the chocolate cake with vanilla frosting.  it was a very good cupcake, but nothing extraordinary.  luke really liked it, however, so it still worked out.  

this cupcake survived the Great Meltdown of 2012 which unfortunately took the aesthetic lives of all the other cupcakes

well friends, that was a LONG post, so thanks for sticking with me! i hope you enjoyed reading about my birthday and looking at the pictures of the baked goods as much as i enjoyed living it and eating them! 

and thank you luke, for being an incredibly selfless and wonderful boyfriend and completely spoiling me on my birthday. not every girl gets a man like you to share a cupcake with :) as the three year old boy i babysit said to me today after giving me a fake haircut: "you are one lucky princess!"

if you could spend your birthday indulging in anything, what would it be? i'd love to know!

a year older,

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Colors of the Wind

hello friends,

a couple days ago i was at church, and my pastor was telling us a "bunny story" of his. he claimed that whenever he was feeling especially spiritually low, God always put a bunny in his path that day to remind him that He has it all under control, and was loving on him.  i began to think about ways in which God does that to me-isn't it cool to think that God has a special language He speaks to each of us, personalized according to our unique selves?  just like how a parent knows the exact way to soothe a crying child, our Father knows exactly how to speak to us when we really need it-or simply just to say hello!

when i was talking about this with luke, he said he thinks God speaks to him when he studies the body.  he was a bio major at college, and wants to go into the medical field in some way.  learning about all the intricacies of the body and how it is designed to function really helps him connect to the God who created it all. 

"God must be a painter.
Why else would we have so many colors?"
A Beautiful Mind

i've known how God speaks to me for a long time-through nature's color.  as an artist, i have always been fascinated with color and pairing different ones together to create aestically pleasing combinations.  however, what really blows me away is when i see color in nature-color that no man created, but just is.  God is indeed the greatest artist of all time-He created color! woah. when i look outside and see a beautiful sky, full of bright blues or pinks, oranges, and yellows, i think wow-God just used the sky as his canvas. i am astounded when i look at a flower and see all the beautiful colors in the petals-to think that grew from the ground! and at the farmer's market the other day, i was again left in awe of His painterly self...

i didn't even touch up this photo-that is the true vibrancy of the colors!

woah. i think i actually exclaimed "God is amazing!" when i looked at the stems of the swiss chard i bought.  aren't those colors just mouth watering?! bright yellows, deep reds, pulsing magentas-all created by the same power that created us.  pre-tty cool.  what blows me away even more is that these are the stems. the part in the ground. i think this shows He has surprise after surprise awaiting us at every turn-if we look for it.  i think He wants us to truly explore all the hard work He put into creating this earth-He wants us to go on exciting adventures and interact with the nature He put on this earth with us.  but, even if we are too tired (or too broke because we just graduated college and barely have a "living day to day" fund, much less an "exciting adventure" fund and so therefore will more likely be navigating the local stop and shop for deals on food instead of trekking through the himalayan mountains), well-He still has ways to make ordinary days extraordinary.

He's a good dad-He likes to pop in and say hi to his sons and daughters every now and again :)

i feel like He says "see? i'm awesome. i'm majestic. i'm worthy of praise.  just look at my colors!" every time i take special note of a color in nature.  and it calms me.  it excites me. it makes me love my God more and more.  because who else is this cool? man can try to recreate the colors seen in nature through mixing and blending pigments, but God's the original artist. His were the first hands to create it all.

look at the colors pulsing through the veins!

"Shout for joy to God, all the earth!
    Sing the glory of his name;
    make his praise glorious.
 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
    So great is your power
    that your enemies cringe before you.
 All the earth bows down to you;
    they sing praise to you,
    they sing the praises of your name.”
~Psalm 66:1-4

in what ways does God speak to you? ever notice that before?  if not, take this week to focus on what grabs your heart, or if there is a consistent thing in your life that gives you a sense of peace-like seeing a bunny on the side of the road, thinking about the ways the body works, or noticing the colors all around you.  listen to the unique way God communicates His love to you!

blessings, friends

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

To Market, To Market

greetings, friends.

i am currently in a wonderfully whimsical cafe in gloucester.  if i could choose anywhere to do work, catch up with friends, read or blog, it would absolutely be at a cafe.  one can't help but feel trendy and hip (and c'mon, don't we ALL strive for those two qualities?!) with a dash of artistic pretentiousness whilst at a cafe.  something between the groovy music playing, the caffeinated inspiration handed to you in a hot mug (or icy cup, depending on the weather), and smells of the lattes and pastries always get me.

in fact, if i didn't currently have a meter ticking away my time in my parking spot, i probably wouldn't ever leave this cafe.

however, i do have some time before the meter's out, so i thought i'd tell you about a little adventure i went on with some friends yesterday.

to market, to market! the farmer's market, that is!
look at all those beautiful vegetables!
two friends of mine and I went to our local farmer's market yesterday.  i've only ever been to one other farmer's market, last summer when i went to chicago, but i love them. with rows and rows of vendors all selling something delectable, from fruits, to vegetables, to baked goods, to honey and homemade jams, you can find it all at a farmer's market!

bins and bins of fruit! a dream come true
what's really cool is you can talk to the very farmers or bakers whose goods you are buying.  they are always so friendly and love telling you stories about their food.  for instance, at fille de ferme, the owner told us she's been making these jams her whole life, from passed down recipes. 
what a beautiful display!
we even got to try some samples of her jams!

they were so good! very interesting flavors, like orange lavender and three berry.
that's another cool thing about farmer's markets-free samples! i was able to try cheeses, jams, tea, breads...it was a mini feast! i am all about my free samples, too. what is better than free food? nothing, friends. nothing.

sarah and briana with some bread samples and lemonade. a perfect afternoon treat!

while i don't eat much bread, (gluten, you know...) Piantedosi had some very intriguing and tempting bread flavors like dark chocolate chip and mocha chip. mmmm.....

a sample of cranberry orange bread. later i tried their rosemary olive oil bread. omgsuhgood.
this just made me laugh: how green of them! only a t a farmer's market...and perhaps portland, OR.

amongst all the fruits, veggies, and bikes, there were also flowers being sold!

my favorite flower-the sunflower!
i found i felt really good about each purchase i made.  not only was everything extremely reasonably priced, i knew i was supporting local farmers and businesses.  i could talk to the very person who pulled my vegetables from the ground, and be assured that there were no harmful pesticides or other unspeakables sprayed on the precious things. what a relief!

in the end, i bought swiss chard (ever tried it? i hadn't, and they looked so plump and pulsing with health i just couldn't turn them down.), zucchini (which i am extremely excited to turn into zucchini muffins) and apricots (i've never had these little guys either! my world of vegetables and fruits truly was grown thanks to my farmer's market trip.)

my loot
as soon as i got home, i chopped up some of those luscious greens and threw them into my blender to party with some fruit and oj. 

smoothies make me smile.
fruit+greens=best power smoothies ever! i always throw a green into my smoothie, whether it's spinach, lettuce, or now swiss chard. i love that you get all the benefits and nutrients of the leafy green while you only taste the sweet and tangy fruit!

all in all, it was a lovely trip to the farmer's market.  i am very blessed to be living in a town where it is just a few blocks away from my apartment, so it is very easy to walk to.

my challenge for you, dear reader, is to go find a local farmer's market near you and stop by! i promise you will not regret it!

now go eat a leafy green!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Difference Between Me and Julia Child

how are you, friends?

i am doing very well, thanks to a delish dessert i just had that included no sugar, no butter, and no onions (thank goodness for that dodged bullet...) however, there were tons of flavor, tons of ooey-gooey melted marvelousness, and tons of "mmmmm"s heard round the apartment.

interest perked?
thought so ;)

however, before we get to the baked good, let me tell you the story behind it. rather, the conundrum. luke and i were eating at one of our favorite restaurants the other night, and while perusing the dessert menu he commented on how he loves apple crisp, but hates how it always tastes overly buttery.  he lamented how his only wish in life was to eat an apple crisp that wasn't soaked in butter. hearing the sorrow in his voice, and looking at those distraught eyes, i decided to work some kitchen magic. i am a great girlfriend, after all. (he may deny this story, and claim he simply stated a desire for a not-so-buttery apple crisp, but we all know the true version.)

so, a few days later i searched for some recipes online and came across this one. it sounded interesting because of the healthy and hearty ingredients which would promise both the warm, comforting taste of an apple crisp, yet had not one ingredient i would regret putting into my body. and most importantly? no butter.  (sorry, julia child...we share a lot of things in common, but i'm afraid we'll have to agree to disagree on this one.) (still love impersonating you though.) it's a bit of a twist on the classic apple crisp, but i quite like it.

here is the recipe according to how i tweaked it:

3 apple halves
1 tb coconut oil
2 tb agave nectar+some for drizzling over the baked apples
1/8 ts nutmeg
1/4 ts cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup granola
1/4 cup oats
1 tb flax seed
honey for drizzling

~preheat the oven to 425 F
~core the apples and slice a bit off the back of them to keep them stable on the cooking sheet
~melt the coconut oil
~combine the melted coconut oil with the rest of the ingredients
~pack the crumble mixture into the apple wells good n tight
~drizzle with honey
~cook in the oven about 15-20 minutes, or until the apples are softish to the touch (depending on how well cooked you like your apples)
~once cooked, move to a plate, drizzle with more agave nectar or honey, and ENJOY!

the cored apples. i used a knife and it was moderately easy-the first apple half i demolished though because i dug too deep. sad.

add that coconut oil with enthusiasm and a little dance!

the crumble mixture, full of cinnamon, oats, and flax! holy healthy yumminess. i could have just eaten this alone!

stuffed to the brim with granola goodness!
ready for the oven!
i'd like to take a pause and show you a very exciting addition to my kitchen that arrived in the mail the other day...

a yellow frying pan!! yellow is my favorite color, so obviously i needed one of these. it matches my yellow mixing bowls and measuring spoons! i sleep well knowing this.

and now, the final product: warm, aromatic, perfect.


 the kitchen smelt soooo good while these babies were cooking.  the final product was a was a perfect serving size, with ingredients that were completely guilt free.  and most importantly, butter free :)

when you cut into them, the oats come spilling out into a pool of agave nectar/honey, a very satisfying event to watch...and even more satisfying to eat!

try these, friends. you will not regret it. i even had some oats mixture left over, so i've been making them for dessert a lot. it's very easy and you can start the process and be sitting down to eat it within a half hour. ahhhh, instant gratification.

i can't wait to make this all the time in the fall with apples i've picked!

now go bake, readers! bake and embrace healthy ingredients that are as incredible for you as they are delicious!


Friday, July 20, 2012

What Good Friends Are For

hi friends!

last week i told you about the s'mores adventure luke and i embarked on.  at the very end of the post, i asked for suggestions for s'mores variations to try.  a very good and close friend of mine from college, andrea, claimed subbing reeses for chocolate was the only way to have a s'more.  in fact, she said she only eats them that way! 

i thought about it...

chocolate+peanut butter+marshmallow+all melted together=WHY HAVE I NEVER TRIED THIS?!?!?

i quickly bought a ticket and hopped on that train, graham crackers in hand.

what resulted, friends, is pure bliss...

the 'mallos gettin ready

you can't say i never learn! i resisted the urge to stick this piping hot piece of metal into my mouth in order to eat the residual marshmallow this time...

oh me oh my, this was GOOD.

more. MORE I SAY! i want s'more!!

you could say my life is changed, yes.
my taste buds are forever longing for that sweet flavorful combination.
andrea-this post goes out to you. thanks for being a wonderful friend to me, an always encouraging sister in Christ, and for giving me the best present a friend could give-this s'more.

(i'm not dramatic. just ask luke.)

any other s'more concoctions out there i should try? throw 'em at me!

I love breakfast

morning, friends!

if i could, i would eat breakfast for every meal. whether it's eggs, pancakes, cereal, granola, yogurt-i love it all! if i don't feel like baking a dessert (like right now, when i have THREE different types of ice cream in the freezer-dangerous!), i go looking for the next best thing-a good breakfast recipe!

i found this one on one of my favorite blogs, and it sounded wonderful so i decided to try it about a month ago.  it's now my favorite thing to make for breakfast-it has all the key ingredients for a healthy, stick-with-you, delish dish: protein, vitamins, and of course FLAX. love me some flax.

i changed up the recipe a bit, so here is the one i used:

5 egg whites
1 Tablespoon flax seed meal
1/3 cup skim milk
feta cheese
salt and pepper
1/2 cup combined chopped green peppers, red peppers, broccoli

2 pieces Ezekiel brand toast

preheat the oven to 350 and mix all the ingredients together.  this recipe is great because you can change it up according to your preferences.  like carrots? throw em in! hate broccoli? throw 'em away! like onions? SHAME.

anyway, continuing on...spray a six cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray (or rub each well with coconut oil for some added health benefits!) and pour the egg mixture into each well.  bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the tops of the eggs have turned a crispy light brown and inside egg is all nice and cooked.

then pop some toast in the toaster, butter her up, pair with the eggs, and enjoy!

this is a breakfast worth waking up for!

i had mine this time with Ezekiel cinnamon raisin bread topped with peanut butter with flax and cinnamon. super filling and satisfying. try this recipe out and let me know what you think! the eggs would also be good with a fresh fruit salad or some pancakes.

what is YOUR favorite meal of the day?