On today's to-do list: rest

Despite my best efforts to stay healthy, I seem to have caught a touch of the cold that's been making the rounds at my workplace.

n the past, my usual reaction to an oncoming cold was to think I can't get sick right now, and to keep going at full speed.  Of course, this only made things worse, and after 2-3 days of denial I would essentially collapse.

realized recently that this pattern is a thing of the past - a product (of course) of having been out of touch with my physical self.  As I've gained a greater respect for my body's needs throughout the past year, I've discovered that I'm able to detect even minor shifts in my energy level and my sense of well-being.  Shifts that, a year ago, I went undetected amidst the constant fog of excess sugar, caffeine, etc.  And, perhaps even more importantly, I'm now inclined to listen to what my body's telling me.  And right now, my body is saying: rest.  Rest and heal.  There is nothing on your to-do list that can't wait.

o rest is the order of the day today.  Along with generous amounts of tea, vegetable broth, and ginger juice.

ow do you react when you feel yourself getting sick? 


A couple thoughts for Friday

Happy Friday, my dears.  Thank you all so much for your sweet comments on Wednesday's post.  Sadly, we found out last night that the shelter is only willing to adopt this particular pup to a household that already has another dog or is willing to adopt two dogs at once.  As much as I would love two dogs, it's just not feasible for us right now, so our search for the right pooch continues.  I must admit, I shed a tear (or twenty) when we got the news, but I woke up this morning with a sense of peace and acceptance.  I know the right doggie out there somewhere.

n the meantime, I'm playing caretaker to my husband, who is sans wisdom teeth as of this morning.  I always find cooking to be deeply therapeutic, so a morning spent making chocolate pudding, garlic cheddar mashed potatoes, and egg drop soup (Jason's no-chewing-required food requests) felt good for my soul.  Sometimes, a couple hours in the kitchen just clears the mind, you know?  I think it has something to do with the physical repetition - peeling, chopping, stirring, etc. - not to mention the comforting aromas.

peaking of cooking, I'd love for you to stop by Tranquility du Jour today to check out my Foodie Friday post on welcoming this new season.  (If only it actually felt like fall outside...thankfully it's supposed to cool off quite a bit this weekend.)

lease tell me what adventures you have planned for this weekend so I can live vicariously through you, since we'll be laying low.  Not that I'm complaining; it feels so good to have absolutely nothing on the calendar. xoxo



Guess what?  We submitted an adoption application for this little gal on Sunday.  We're supposed to hear something within the week.  I don't think I can remember a week ever going this slowly.  I wasn't going to say anything until we found out one way or another, but I'm dying of anticipation over here and needed to get it off my chest.

She's a Daschund/Jack Russell Terrier mix.  6 pounds, 100% sweetheart.  I'm trying not to get my hopes up, but well...it's a little late for that.

It's been a long-time dream of mine to adopt a shelter dog, and after much consideration, Jason and I are ready to welcome a furry companion into our lives.  It feels like we're so close...keep your fingers crossed.    


A weekend to savor

A Friday evening dinner date at the new Latin-inspired restaurant in our neighborhood.  A glass of refreshing and citrusy Albariño.  Spicy, chipotle-spiked guacamole served with crisped plantain, yucca, and tortilla chips.  Sautéed zucchini squash, roasted carrot mash, and crispy yucca spaetzle with olive pasilla sauce. A long and challenging run on a wooded trail.  A tranquil post-run bubble bath, scented with sweet orange, lavender, and sandalwood  Shopping for fresh ingredients to cook two wholesome, savory dinners.  Whole-grain spaghetti with arugula and a sauce of sun-dried tomatoes, basil, white wine, and garlic on Saturday.  Tandoori-spiced salmon with curried vegetables and brown rice on Sunday.  A suspenseful and thoroughly intriguing film. The seasonal ritual of storing summer clothes to make space for autumn's cozy sweaters, jeans, boots, and scarves.  Savoring the latest issue of a favorite magazine.  Making plans for my upcoming birthday weekend, which will be spent in Colorado with a dear friend, and for an early November sojourn to Virginia's wine country for a weekend of exploring vineyards, dining at an organic farm-to-table restaurant, and enjoying the fall foliage.  Working on several for-fun writing projects while listening to mellow tunes.  Finding the perfect black ballet flats.  Savoring a restorative, creative, and restful weekend.

hat adventures came your way this weekend?          

Image via MyRecipes.


Falling for red


In the past, I've shied away from the color red, feeling that it was somehow too strong, too assertive, too powerful.  But lately, it seems like everywhere I go, I'm falling all over myself for all things red.  (Case in point: I couldn't resist picking up these pretty russet-hued calla lilies from Whole Foods.)  

Upon the advice of a very wise fellow blogger, I began researching what my newfound inclination might mean.  One of the most interesting things I learned is that red is associated with the 1st chakra, which governs our sense of physical vitality and well-being.

Over the past year, I've made changes that have brought me into a greater awareness of my body and what it needs to feel healthy, so I was fascinated to learn that my craving for red might actually be related to this sense of "re-inhabiting" my body.  

The other day, I bought what I think is my first article of red clothing ever: a beautiful hand-knit scarf.  It might just be the power of suggestion at work, but I'll admit that, wearing this scarf, I felt a new sense of energy and connectedness to my physical self.

Do you ever feel inexplicably drawn toward a certain color?  Have you ever noticed your mood or feelings affected by particular colors?


Healthy DIY Pumpkin Spice Latte

Each September, I look forward to the Pumpkin Spice Latte's annual appearance on Starbucks' menu.  Spying the popular beverage pop up on Starbucks' seasonal chalkboard last week brought a smile to my face.  However, like any coffee shop drink these days, the cost of a daily (or even weekly) Pumpkin Spice Latte can add up quickly.  And, in the past year, as I've made significant changes to the way I eat, I find that I can no longer muster as much enthusiasm for the chain's ultra-sugary pre-made flavor mixes.  Furthermore, since I no longer consume much dairy (and prefer almond milk to soy), I'm usually limited to ordering green or herbal tea in a typical chain coffee shop these days.

ll that being said, I'll be darned if I didn't get a serious craving for a Pumpkin Spice Latte while writing this post the other day.  The craving was so serious, in fact, that I simply had to have one that very day.  What's a dairy-free, health-conscious, natural-ingredient-lovin' Pumpkin Spice Latte addict to do?

ome internet research and a trip to Whole Foods later, I was ready to satisfy my yearning and chart a brave new course for Pumpkin Spice Latte fans everywhere.  Overly dramatic?  Maybe.  Insanely delicious?  Definitely.

ealthy DIY Pumpkin Spice Latte

Makes 2 servings.  Oh, who am I kidding?  I drank the whole thing.  
2 cups low-fat plain or vanilla-flavored almond milk 
2 tablespoons canned organic pumpkin (pumpkin should be the only ingredient listed...avoid canned "pumpkin pie filling" which usually contains added sugar among other things)
2 tablespoons agave nectar
2 tablespoons organic vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon no-sugar-added pumpkin pie spice (typically a mix of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves)
1-2 shots of espresso or 1/2 cup pumpkin-flavored coffee (you can use decaf if you avoid caffeine)

ombine almond milk, pumpkin, and agave in a large saucepan, and cook over medium heat until steaming, stirring as needed.  Remove from heat, add vanilla extract and pumpkin pie spice, then whisk energetically until frothy.  Pour into a large mug, and add espresso or coffee on top.  Sprinkle a bit more pumpkin spice on top.  Best savored on a crisp autumn morning, newspaper in hand.  Enjoy!


Hike at Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary

As part of my journey toward whole health, I've been trying to get in some kind of physical activity every day, no excuses.  More and more, I find myself choosing the tranquility of the natural world over the gym.  Don't get me wrong.  I love the convenience of the gym with its array of equipment and variety of classes.  When the weather's either too hot or too cold to exercise outdoors, an hour on the treadmill or elliptical is a nice option to have.  Whenever possible, though, I've been enjoying these last few weeks of summer by getting outdoors, where I can run, hike, or kayak while enjoying fresh air, natural sunlight, and the sweet sounds of nature.

n Saturday, we took advantage of the relatively mild temperatures with a hike at nearby Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary.  I'd never been, and couldn't believe that this otherworldly little oasis exists a mere 20-minute drive from our home.  In addition to the gorgeous scenery, we spotted several toads, a very feisty crawfish, and a lizard with an electric blue tail.  It was such a nice little change from the typical Saturday chores n' errands routine.  I've decided that we need to explore more of the many beautiful parks in our area before the weather really turns cold.

o you prefer to exercise indoors or out?  How are you soaking up these last few weeks of summer?


Thoughts on autumn + slow cooker vegan chili

The past couple mornings I've awoken to weather that one might justifiably call crisp.  While it's not technically fall just yet, I revel in this transitional time of year: when the mornings turn cooler, the leaves begin to take on lovely golden hues, and the idea of autumn seems to linger in the air.  Although the air turns brisk and the days shorten in length, there is something so undeniably warm about these months.

Fragrant pumpkin pies fresh out of the oven
Warming chilly hands on steaming mugs of chai
Perusing the bountiful harvest at local farmers' markets
Cozy cable-knit blankets, slippers, sweaters, and scarves 
Baked sweet potatoes and butternut squash, flavored with pinches of of cinnamon and tiny pools of maple syrup Apple-picking, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and local fall festivals
Cool nights on the balcony, laughing with friends over hot mulled cider

I've bookmarked Caiti's tips for savoring the season, and have found myself particularly inspired by her suggestion to "add some cozy meals to your dinner repertoire."  As Caiti notes, cooler weather signals that it's time to break out the slow cooker, and yesterday, I happily found myself in possession of the ingredients for a slow cooker vegan chili.

Slow Cooker Vegan Chili
28-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (I use the organic Muir Glen brand)
14.5-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes with green chiles (again, I use Muir Glen) 
15-oz can navy beans (for beans, I like the Eden brand)
15-oz can kidney beans
1/2 cup water or organic veggie broth (the addition of water or broth will allow some liquid to evaporate during the cooking process without drying out your chili)
1 large green pepper, diced
1 large white or yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp. chili powder
1/2 tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tbsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Olive oil, to sautée garlic, onion, and green pepper
Handful of fresh cilantro, for garnish

Sautée garlic, onion, and green pepper in olive oil until just translucent.  Combine garlic, onion, and green pepper with all other ingredients in slow cooker and stir.  (I should note that this recipe fits easily into our 6-quart slow cooker, but you may need to modify if you're using a much smaller one.)  Cook on high for at least 4 hours; your house will smell absolutely divine.  Serve with a garnish of fresh cilantro, plus chopped scallion and avocado if you so desire.  


Soba noodles with spicy peanut lime sauce

I discovered soba noodles a few years ago, soon after I began dating my now-husband.  Jason's a fanatic for Japanese food and culture, and in the past three years, he's introduced me to all kinds of great Japanese ingredients, including these amazingly versatile buckwheat noodles.

espite its name, buckwheat is not actually a wheat.  It's a whole grain derived from a fruit seed, and it's packed with fiber, antioxidants, and essential nutrients.  In addition to their awesome health properties, soba noodles have a deliciously mild, slightly nutty taste and satisfying texture.  And because buckwheat is naturally wheat-free, soba noodles made from 100% buckwheat are a great choice for those with wheat or gluten sensitivities.

eedless to say, I've fallen in love with soba noodles.  They make a pretty regular appearance in our weekly meal rotation, so I'm always looking for new ways to dress them up.  Yesterday, remembering the jar of organic chunky peanut butter tucked away in the back of our pantry, I was inspired to improvise a little spicy peanut lime sauce for the soba noodles we had planned for cook up for dinner

picy Peanut Lime Sauce 

(This may make more than you'll probably need for one meal, but it stores well in the fridge and  can be re-used as a yummy salad dressing or sauce for all kinds of leftovers.)
5 tbsp. chunky peanut butter (I like Maranatha's organic, no-sugar-added peanut butters) 
2 tbsp. tamari
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for garnish
1 tbsp. agave nectar
1 tbsp. brown rice vinegar
1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. hot red pepper flakes and/or drizzle of chili oil (if you use the latter, you can decrease the amount of toasted sesame oil you use)

Note: you can tweak the proportions of agave, tamari, lime juice, and other ingredients to make the sauce sweeter, saltier, more tangy, etc.)

ombine ingredients in a food processor, and use right away or store in the refrigerator.

fter cooking up a batch of soba noodles, I topped them with sliced organic cherry tomatoes, scallions, and fresh cilantro before drizzling the peanut lime sauce on top.  The result was simple, healthy, and ridiculously good.

ave you tried soba noodles?  How do you dress them up?


Clean, green (vegan) quesadillas

After a weekend filled with fun and festivities, I was feeling the need to re-center myself with lots of simple, clean, green fare.  And I mean "green" in the most literal sense of the word.  Upon arriving home on Monday afternoon, I dropped my suitcase inside the front door, and then made a beeline for Whole Foods, where I filled my cart with copious amounts of fruits and veggies, including several kinds of leafy green vegetable.

eafy green vegetables (think spinach, kale, chard, arugula, watercress, etc.) have become my go-to ingredients for quick, detoxifying meals.  Not only are these veggies nutritional powerhouses loaded with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, they're simple to prepare and taste delicious with a minimal amount of seasoning.

o make these clean, green quesadillas, I sautéed minced garlic, spinach, green pepper slices, and zucchini slices in a small amount of coconut oil (my new cooking oil of choice...more on that soon), with a touch of Mexican seasoning (cumin + oregano + chile powder + garlic powder + onion powder + cloves + cinnamon) and a sprinkle of sea salt.  Look at all that lovely green-ness!
Next, I spread the sautéed greens atop a sprouted grain tortilla, and added some cilantro, chopped scallions, and a thin layer of Daiya.
After topping the whole thing with another sprouted grain tortilla, I placed it under the oven's broiler for about 5 minutes (just long enough for the Daiya to melt and the top of the quesadilla to get a little crispy).  
With a side of black beans, salsa, and 1/2 avocado, this was a delicious, nutritionally balanced, and vegan meal!  


Weekend in Chicago

Why, hello there!  How was your Labor Day weekend?  I realized on Thursday, while sitting on an airplane to Chicago's O'Hare Airport, that I completely forgot to even mention that I'd be in the Windy City for the long weekend.  My parents hosted a mini wedding reception at their place for all the Chicago-based friends and family who couldn't make it to our Annapolis wedding.  Jason's parents and sister joined us, and since they'd never been to Chicago, we had a blast showing them around.

Here are some of my favorite moments from the weekend.

Such a beautiful skyline, no?

Posing next to the reflective jelly bean at Millenium Park
Jason's mom and dad with their reflective alter egos
Here's a better view of the jelly bean itself
We took an architectural boat tour.  Chicago has some amazing architecture, and even though I've taken this tour several times before, it never gets old.
Gorgeous, isn't it?
Here we are, enjoying my parents' beautiful backyard before the guests arrived
There were blondies, brownies, and blueberry tarts...oh my!
Hanging out with Kaitlyn, the daughter of my mom's cousin.  Is she cute or what?
My parents' Italian neighbors have adorable little Italian sons named Luca and Mattheo.  They made me this awesome accordion card.  
It says, "Have a nice marriage!  Analiese + Jason."  How cute is that?!
It was a wonderful weekend, and I was sad to leave!  I'm looking forward to this week though, which I'm dedicating to self-care, i.e. lots of fresh and healthy foods (I'll be posting some recipes this week!), yoga, running, and catching up on sleep!


A late-summer kayaking excursion

Last Saturday, we met up with our good friends Dan and Steph for a little adventure.  We started off at nearby Quiet Waters Park, where we rented kayaks for the afternoon.
Here I am, trying to look suave in my life jacket and shades. 

We decided to each rent our own individual kayak.  I was a tad nervous about this because I've only ever kayaked in two-seaters, with someone else doing the steering.  But I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to steer once you get the hang of it.  
It was Steph's first time in a kayak.  She was a quick learner!
Jason, Steph, and I, possibly observing one of the many jellyfish that were hanging out in the water.  
(Dan was the designated photographer.)

In addition to jellyfish, we saw numerous great blue herons, an osprey, all kinds of fish, oyster farms, and one very wet golden retriever!
Between kayaking and the 3-mile run Jason and I did that morning, we'd worked up a nice little appetite.  Clearly, some sushi was in order!  
After sushi, we walked around Annapolis' historic downtown area and posed for some photos in front of the dock.
Dan finally makes an appearance!  Aren't they a cute couple?  

Dan and I used to work together, and over the past several years, Jason and I have become good friends with both Dan and his fiancée, Steph.  (They are getting married in May of 2011!)
Steph and I, with our 50-foot yacht in the background.  I can dream, right?
I've you've never tried kayaking, I definitely recommend giving it a whirl.  It's a really great way to spend some time on the water, appreciate your natural surroundings, and get a little upper-body workout.  Check out local parks for boat rental options.  Many of them will rent kayaks (plus canoes, paddle boats, etc.) by the hour.  

Now that I've tried whitewater rafting, I'm adding whitewater kayaking to the Mondo Beyondo list!  

How are you taking advantage of these last few weeks of summer?  I'd love to hear about your adventures!


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