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let’s talk about food

Thanks so much for all the sweet well wishes for the husband’s first day on the new job. Ya’ll are so sweet.  I texted him mid-day to see how it was going and he texted back “it’s going really well.  A great company to work for…and so much to learn!”  Today and tomorrow are basically just orientation days, and then Wednesday will be his first day in the office.  That is, unless the predicted 6-10 inches of snow keeps him home (fingers crossed:).  Anyway, I’ve always been so thankful that he has a job he loves, and I feel that way even more now.  Every time I ask him about how he’s feeling regarding the change, he just starts talking about how great he feels about this company and the difference they’re making in people’s lives.  Yay.

Now let’s just see if I can get a job as well!

I started off yesterday morning with a serious craving for yogurt and raw oatmeal.

1/3 cup raw oats, whole soy yogurt, chia seeds, dried cranberries and cinnamon

Totally hit the spot.  Sometimes I feel myself getting tired of foods that I’ve been eating a lot of, and all it takes is scrolling back through my blog a little bit to find inspiration.  I can almost always find a basic meal that I haven’t had in awhile to bring back all fresh and new!  This oldie was definitely a highlight to start the day.

Other highlights for the day included but were not limited to the following:

  • painting my nails mint green

  • spending a little extra time with God this morning

  • making my green smoothie with a scoop of natural peanut butter and chocolate almond milk for lunch

  • having a really great conversation with my mom on the phone this afternoon

  • eating yet another leftover cinnamon roll for a snack this afternoon (I know).  One a day does = moderation.  It does!

I have had two tasty meals in my head all day today, but I’ve been on kind of a weird schedule (hence the green smoothie for lunch), so I haven’t been able to make either one of them.  One is the veggie chili I made for the husband’s work party a couple of months ago, and the other is a really simple lunch idea that I just can’t get out of my mind.  I’m thinking I’ll be enjoying it for lunch today, and if so then I’ll share it later on!  As far as the chili goes, I think it’ll be the perfect meal for Wednesday when we’re all snowed in again.  mmmm.

The last part of this post has been pretty much all about food, ha!  Food is where it’s at, though.  Even Mr. Squirrel agrees.

He sits right outside our kitchen window almost every morning, munching on all kinds of nuts and seeds.  Gives me a hankering for nuts and seeds myself, just watching him.

But really food is such a big part of life, you know?  We need it for fuel and nourishment…but it also affects us in psychological ways. We celebrate with it.  We comfort with it during times of loss.  We have memories attached to it.

I’m not encouraging emotional eating in the sense of eating to hide or cover up emotions, but we’d be crazy to say that food isn’t tied to something besides a physical need.

I’ve never really talked about this on the blog before, but in the past I’ve had issues with emotional eating, and it wasn’t in a positive way.  Sometimes, whether I’d be feeling stressed, sad or just plain tired, I would go straight to the pantry and just eat mindlessly.  And then when I would finish, I’d feel guilty and even more stressed, not to mention physically kind of sick.  I remember at times feeling like I’d never be able to break the cycle.  I ate healthy enough all the rest of the time and exercised enough that I never really put on any visible weight, but the emotional weight it was adding on was not a good thing.  It was a bad habit…and I needed to break it.

It has been a long time since this last happened.  I still get carried away with the chips and salsa occasionally (okay, often;), but it’s not the same kind of destructive behavior.  It’s no longer me trying to cover up an emotion…it’s more just about liking blue corn tortilla chips a little too much. ha.  I think the point that I really was able to gain control of what I was doing was when I recognized the true issue behind the behavior.  After a lot of prayer and internal processing, I realized that I was eating at these times in an effort to relieve the negative emotions I was feeling inside.  Food was a way to cover those emotions up by doing something that felt good right at that moment.

Besides identifying the root of the problem, another thing that helped a LOT was realizing that just because I disappointed myself by doing this didn’t mean that I should punish myself afterwards.  When I treated my body that way I needed to do something really nice for my body in turn…rather than beating myself up about it.  So, I started going for a long, slow walk,  taking a bubble bath, or just cuddling with Olive for a bit.   I also spent some time identifying the specific reasons why I would eat, and then made an alternative plan for each negative emotion, such as laying down for a twenty minute nap, getting into downward dog and holding it for 20-30 seconds or spending some time in prayer. Basically, I was ready to tackle the problem itself, whatever problem it was, rather than trying to put a band-aide over it.

After so many weeks of implementing my new plan, it became a habit, and now I don’t even think about it.  I’m not saying it was an easy process, and I definitely had my fair share of set-backs, but in the end it was so worth it.  Every time I would fall back into the behavior, I would take time to really process through what I had really been feeling in the moment, work through that emotion (if it was anxiety over my job, I would take 30 minutes and problem solve or call my teacher friend and ask for advice).  And through the whole process, not only have I gained confidence in my ability to eat in a healthy way, but I’ve also become more confident in handling conflict and anxiety.

I don’t know if I’m the only one that has ever dealt with us, but somehow I doubt it.  Just the other day I was talking to the husband, and it suddenly hit me that I hadn’t eaten in this way in a long long time.  I realized that I’d totally forgotten what it was like and is totally out of character for me to do something like now.  I know there’s a possibility that I could fall back into the habit someday, but it feels good to know that making slow progress toward a healthier way of dealing with negative emotions has brought me to a place where I feel much more confident in my relationship with food. Isn’t that how it should be?

Anyway, these are just some thoughts I’d been pondering lately, and I thought I’d share them.  I used to think this issue was something I was ashamed of and wanted to hide.  I’m still not proud that I struggled with it, but I realize now that we all have battles such as this and the best way to overcome those struggles is to bring them out into the light.

What is something you’ve overcome through a lot of time and hard work?  How does it feel to be in a place where you feel confident and at peace in regard to that issue?  Or are you still working through something and trying to get to that place?

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go get ‘em husband

Good morning!

I honestly cannot believe how quickly the weekend flew by…seems like it just started.

On Saturday things warmed up a bit around here, and some of the snow started to melt off.  By late in the day, many of the streets were almost clear…but there’s still tons of white everywhere else!  Apparently (I never watch the weather) there is more snow headed this way in the next few days, but we shall see!

I know I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but Saturday and Sunday we spent a lot of time organizing and packing.  The story of our life these days.  I have to admit it feels sooo good to get it done, though.  We are still a long ways from being packed, but I think we did finally finish the office for the most part after being buried in boxes and files for the last few days.

Saturday night I got inspired to make a stir-fry.  When I asked the husband what he wanted for dinner, he said something I thought I would never hear him say: “How about something besides mexican?”

I thought I was dreaming.  Did he just say he didn’t want mexican food?!

So stir-fry it was!

I chopped up bell pepper, onion, broccoli, carrots and cabbage and stir-fried it in about one tablespoon of olive oil until it was tender.  Then I tossed in some frozen edamame (did you know edamame has the same amount of protein as roasted turkey?) for protein.

After it had cooked for a little bit, I mixed together about two tablespoons natural peanut butter, two tablespoons tamari, a couple teaspoons rice wine vinegar and some water to thin it out.  Honestly, I just kind of guessed at the proportions and tasted as I went.  I poured the sauce over the veggie mixture and continued to cook them for another 5-10 minutes.

In the meantime I cooked some buckwheat (soba) noodles, and when it was all done I poured a big spoonful of veggies over the noodles….and that was it!  Easiest stir-fry ever.

Stir-fry reminds me of Thailand so much.  During the last few months we lived there, I literally ate stir-fried veggies in some form every. single. night.  No exaggeration.  Always on top of brown rice.  Granted I wasn’t a vegetarian then, and I used fish and oyster sauce (Thai style) for flavoring, but it was still so good.  Really takes me back:)

cooking with friends in Thailand

Anyway, on Sunday the husband and I went to lunch with some dear friends of ours from our college days.  They are several years older than us and have three of the cutest little kids.  During our time in Campus Crusade for Christ at OSU, Dan discipled Jonathan, and Debbie discipled me.  They have always meant so much to us and have walked with us through some of the most important decisions in our life.  It was so nice today to catch up and spend time with them…we’re really going to miss them when we move.

Debbie and I / Dan and Jon – about five years ago

Other than packing throughout the afternoon, I also made some Super Charge Me cookies for the husband.  While he ate cookies, I enjoyed a leftover vegan cinnamon roll.  This morning someone brought cinnamon rolls to Sunday School, and ever since then I’ve been craving one.  I can honestly say that these rolls are one of the best vegan baked goods I’ve made yet.  The day after I made them, I realized that unless I wanted to turn into a giant cinnamon roll, I needed to put them away for awhile.  So into the freezer they went.  A couple of times since then I’ve pulled one out and heated it in the microwave for about a minute and a half…and it’s always just as good as when it was fresh out of the oven.

You really must make these if you’re a cinnamon roll fan!

So that’s the weekend in nutshell – only two more weekends left until moving weekend!

Last thing – I have to give a shout-out to my better half.  Today is the husband’s first day at his new job, and I am so dang proud of him.  I’m so thankful for all the hard work he has put in over the last several years to get us where we are.  This is just one more step we get to take along the path of our life.  I’m going to miss him now that he’s leaving earlier, getting home later and not coming home for lunch (tear), but I know he’s going to love his new role…and he’s totally going to rock it! Go get ‘em husband:)  I love you!

Did you have a good weekend?
What’s your favorite vegetable?

I think mine would have to be spinach…or maybe snap peas.  It’s really hard to narrow it down, though!

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cinnamon rolls!

Well, in true Candice fashion I was up until 2am last night baking away.

But first, let’s back up for a second.  It’s time for a little honesty.  Over the last couple of weeks I have really been slacking with my workouts and with putting energy into eating clean.  My workouts have consisted mainly of the classes I teach and a couple sporadic short treadmill runs, and my eating has included a few too many Amy’s frozen burritos.  There has been so much going on here as of recent, and I’ve been hanging on by a thread as far as taking care of myself.  I’ve been getting an average of about 6 hours of sleep a night among other things….and it’s really starting to wear on me.

So this morning I got up with the best intentions of really making the extra effort to treat my body really well and start replenishing my energy. As many of you know, I believe that just because you slack a little in any area of healthy living for awhile, doesn’t mean that you should give up or be discouraged. It’s all about whether (and when) we get back on track.  There’s no way I’m going to eat, sleep and exercise perfectly for the rest of my life, so I’m adamant about cutting myself some slack when life gets crazy.  But there is definitely value in getting back on track when you feel like you’ve derailed a bit.

So, things started off really well this morning in regard to eating; I made up a bowl of oats cooked in water, and then added a few spoonfuls of soy yogurt and a sprinkle of Kashi Go Lean Crunch.  It definitely was lacking a bit in the fruit and veg department, but otherwise made me pretty happy.

The rest of the day continued on a pretty good track, but then I started feeling a little crazy, oh…sometime after dinner.  I got this serious craving for a cinnamon roll. How do these things happen? lol.

Even though it was nearing 9pm and I still had some tasks to complete before bed, I naturally started brainstorming how I could get some vegan cinnamon rolls stat.  Oh boy.

After a few moments I suddenly remembered this recipe from Project Food Blog several weeks ago.  At the time I thought it looked awesome, but I just wasn’t feeling cinnamon rolls. But this is the kind of thing that I tuck safely back in my mind to be pulled out on a perfect night such as tonight.  While I realized that this recipe would no doubt be outrageously delicious, I didn’t realize just how involved the whole process would be.  Let’s be real…do I ever?

But once I get started on an idea like this…there’s nothing that can stop me.  And for the next 3ish hours I was mixing, chopping, kneading, sifting, stirring, rolling, flossing and of course baking.  And man oh man was it worth it.

These rolls were like everything that is good in the world being wrapped up in a soft and doughy little spiral, baked at 350 degrees and coming out just the right shade of golden brown.  They were chewy and hot, with the mingled flavors of pumpkin, cinnamon and butter baked into the inside.  To. die. for.

I used this recipe…and only made a few changes like maple syrup instead of vanilla extract, organic cane sugar instead of regular white, soy milk instead of almond milk. I also replaced two cups of white flour with bread flour, and I did not put Earth Balance in the Pecan Cinnamon Streusel filling (I was buttered out!).  It still worked just fine!  Lastly, instead of the cream cheese frosting on the recipe, I simply mixed a little bit of powdered sugar with some soy milk for a nice, thin glaze.

Hey – at least I did have a green monster on the side this morning.  I am trying to clean it up around here after all.

Obviously my biggest problem now is how to not eat the entire pan in the 48 hours.  Thankfully, I do have a few ideas up my sleeve.

So, aside from sabotaging myself by staying up until 2am making cinnamon rolls, I am really trying to step it up and take better care of myself, even during these crazy times.  Because when it seems that so many things in life have been turned upside down, my health is the one thing I can still control. The one thing I can still hold onto that makes me feel sane.  And vibrant.  And like I can take on anything.

So tell me, what are your tricks for keeping these things in order when life gets crazy?

Are you a cinnamon roll fan?  What’s your favorite morning baked treat?


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Project Food Blog Challenge #2: a Vietnamese Classic

It was July of 2008.  The husband and I had just finished up a year-long stint in Thailand and were spending our final days in southeast Asia.  Vietnam to be exact.

During our time there, we walked the streets of Hanoi, taking in the smells of motorbike exhaust and meats from the street vendors.  We sailed Halong Bay, relishing the beauty and feeling the hot sun soak into our faces.  We watched the people as they went about their lives, and even though the setting was quite different than our country, there was a particular charm that simply couldn’t be captured in a photo.


We left feeling enamored with the Vietnamese culture – the food, the landscape, the somber, yet smiling people – and yet also sad to be leaving after only three short days.  I’ve reminisced about our time there many times since, but it wasn’t until today that I felt I was transplanted back to those days.  As my kitchen was infiltrated with the aroma of ginger, basil, chili peppers and mushrooms I was suddenly once again meandering down the streets of Hanoi, sidestepping tiny children and stray dogs, and taking it all in.  And that first bite of Vegetarian Pho – oh that first bite!  My mouth was filled with noodles and warm broth.  My eyes began to water as I felt the heat begin to spread.  I tasted Vietnam.


Vegetarian Pho – a classic Vietnamese dish
recipe adapted from here

Ingredients for broth

  • 8 cups water
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 12 sliced rounds of fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
  • 3 tbsp low-sodium tamari
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 star anise
  • 5 fresh basil stems – set aside leaves
  • 5 cilantro stems – set aside leaves

Ingredients for Pho

  • 8 ounces Thai rice noodles
  • 8 ounces extra firm tofu, pressed and sliced thinly
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 2 tbsp low sodium tamari
  • 2 cups soybean sprouts
  • 4 green onions, cut in 2 inch sections
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup spicy basil leaves
  • 1 chili pepper, sliced
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 cup arugula

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place tofu slices into a shallow baking dish.
  2. Combine olive oil, 1 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar, molasses and tamari and mix well.  Pour marinade over tofu, and turn tofu to coat both sides.  Bake for 25 minutes (I like mine well-done!).
  3. Fill a large stock pot with water.  Add vegetable broth, shallots, onion, mushrooms, anise star, garlic ginger, brown sugar, vinegar, pepper, cinnamon sticks, 3 tbsp tamari, basil stems and cilantro stems.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Prepare to be engulfed with the smells of Vietnam.
  5. With about 5 minutes simmering time remaining, bring a small pot of water to boil.  Add rice noodles and allow to boil for about 3 minutes.  When soft, drain and rinse with cold water.
  6. Strain broth and return to pot.  Discard solid ingredients.
  7. Divide noodles among 6 bowls.  Pour broth over noodles and top with arugula, green onions, chili pepper slices, tofu, and bean sprouts.  Serve cilantro, basil and lime wedges on the side to be stirred into soup as desired.

The husband and I enjoyed this dish with a side of vegetarian summer rolls and a spicy peanut sauce.  A perfect pairing.

Thank you all so much for putting in a vote for my entry in the Project Food Blog Challenge #1! I was so honored, happy and admittedly a bit surprised to advance to the next challenge.  When I first began to plot my take on challenge #2, a classic dish from another country, I knew without a doubt what I wanted to do.  That was the easy part.

The hard part was finding all the right ingredients!  I first stopped by my farmer’s market for the fresh herbs, cilantro, peppers and onion.  Next, I headed to our local ethnic foods store where I picked up many of the rest of the ingredients.  I had a little trouble finding watercress, so I opted for arugula plus a dash of black pepper instead.

I loved making this dish – it’s something I probably wouldn’t have taken the time to make had it not been for this challenge, but recreating an experience that was so impactful completely made my day.

And I have a feeling I’ll be reliving it for days to come considering the large amount of Pho in my fridge and the smell that has reached to the far depths of my house.

I would love to have your vote for this challenge if you deem my entry worthy.  You can vote here starting tomorrow!!

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