Pool Days and Study Daze

Top a’ the mornin’ to ya! Holy smokes… over two weeks have passed since an update post. I have a feeling this may be the single most random update post I do too. Plus I have some semi-monumental, semi-ambiguous updates for ya’ll regarding our future!

So, I’m sitting here this Saturday morning nomming down on some yogurt toast, drinking coffee, and have some old NYC Housewives playing in the background. I feel guilty though because I should totally be studying.

Yep! You heard that right- I am currently cramming for the GRE because I am hoping to go back to grad school next year to continue on in pursuing my dream of becoming a nurse practitioner. (I’ll talk more about this decision in another post sometime!). I have spent every little ounce of my free time (besides the moments I share here today), studying parabolas and words like “promulgate”. After the last 48 hours of the intensive neuro-close observation room, I am treating myself to a solid morning of blogging and horrible, no good, melt my brain television.

Rewinding (zrrrrr) back to Saturday, September 23rd. I went to a girls’ pool day with some of my great friends from Church. We snacked and chatted and fully relaxed. It was wonderful.

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In the evening, DJ and I headed to Eureka for a date night!!! WOOHOOO!!!

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I had their protein chopped salad with romaine//kale//quinoa medley//roasted beets//red onion//carrot//bean trio//feta//sunflower seeds//and red wine vinaigrette.

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DJ had their Bison Burger with bacon-infused jalapeno jam//charbroiled tri-color peppers//grilled onion//and smoked mozzarella.

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We left dinner with more than satisfied tums and walked around Main Street. I love their flowers and trees elegantly lit with lights year round.

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Sunday, September 24th after church I had an unexpected encounter and experience that would dance in my mind for the days to come. Then I came back after a long run and studied, studied, studied while DJ watched football. I love LOVE studying on the couch while football plays in the background and fall candles are lit. It reminds me of our first year of marriage back in our Indiana Toho, bring on the nostalgic feels!

Monday/Tuesday 25th-26th we both worked. Those were two of the hardest shifts I have ever had. I won’t get into it, but it resulted in my hiding behind a pyxis machine hyperventilating and covering the floor in tears. (We can’t leave the NCOR room, so I literally was trying to hide from my patients so they couldn’t see me cry). But then I had a few great shifts later in the week that made up from them. Rollaaa costa! (Ohio Players reference, anyone?!)

On another note, my hair has lost it’s umph lately. I think the stress of this year is taking quite a toll on me physically, especially lately. Naturally, I have to add to the stress by trying to apply to grad schools and study for a massive entrance exam while working on my neurosurg. research project. (eye roll). Lol. I feel like I’m epically failing at life right now- the other day I realized we were out of toilet paper, and I started crying (there’s a tear trend here) because when you hit the level where you can’t even keep on top of the TP stock at home are you doing anything right?!

Anyway- I needed some serious hair help. One of my coworkers recommended a place called Limon Salon in San Jose. I have had a hard time finding a great hair place here, but I think I finally have a winner!

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On Wednesday September 27th, I decided to go for more of an ash blonde for the fall with a balayage to the roots. This way I can go longer without having to get the highlights redone and nurse my hair back to health! (Maybe not “nurse” it back isn’t the correct word.. since I’m pretty sure nursing is what sucked the life out of it… harharhar). I sat in the chair and studied vocab while getting this bird’s nest taken care of, and was super happy with the results!

img_2049img_1890-7In the evenings lately, the weather has been the perfect temperature outside for a late night run. After work, I need to run to cope with the day. Having DJ tag along has been wonderful because it allows us to catch up and still get that stress out.

With the change of seasons comes the change in cravings! For breakfast most of last week and this week I have been alternating between sweet potatoes, avocado, spinach and an egg or my toast and yogurt combo. I actually don’t like the yolk of eggs very much at all, but for some reason I have been craving them lately. Anyone know why this is? (I think it might be the sulfites or something- I know I have some nutritionists out there!) So strange.

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I vegan meal prepped on Thursday September 28th for the week with roasted veggies (eggplant, carrots, onion, mushrooms, and peppers in garlic olive oil), roasted butternut squash, cauliflower vegan mashed potatoes, and quinoa. For lunch or dinner I mix up a combo of all the fixings with either salad, a bean burger, or meatless crumbles, hummus, and pita bread. I can’t wait to re-prep all this for the next week to come. It’s all such yummy autumn comfort food, but super(food) healthy.

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September 29th– Study study study.

September 30th- October 1st– Work.

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October 2-4th: Study, Study, Study BUT………

October 4th, I had an amazing friend come in town! You may remember Dani from when her, Tammy, and I went to LA all together! You can check out those posts here and here.

She moved to Arizona as a traveling occupational therapist, but made a pit stop back here for a couple days! Gosh, I missed her something horrible. I took an Uber to Campbell to the local Aqui to meet them. It was SO crazy because the guy picked me up in a BLUE TACOMA! Blue Tacoma was one of the songs Russel Dickerson premiered on the very first time the three of us hung out. SERENDIPITOUS. We could not let this moment pass without a picture.

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We headed into the epic Aqui (once again, how did I just find out about this place?!) and ordered drinks and apps. Dani tried their Tito’s Strawberry swirl, I tried the carlitos cadillac margarita, and Tammy also tried a mini margarita. Their drinks are fabulous. It’s what they’re known for, and they never disappoint!

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We also all split the appetizer platter with avocado Dip, Hummus and Black Bean Dip with chips. #Addictive.

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After, we headed over to Flights, a new restaurant in Campbell! DJ and I actually went here a few months ago when it was a different place, called the Socialite!

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How it works: EVERYTHING is a flight on the menu from the drinks to the food. And every single item looked too darn delicious too.

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We finally settled on their mac and cheese flight after drooling over the whole menu. It was SUCH fun and I can’t wait to go back to try more of their items.

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It’s such a genius idea for a restaurant.

Last night, DJ and I went out for his birthday!!! I will include a post separately to talk about where we went 🙂

I hope you all are having a wonderful start to your Autumn! I am back to hitting the books now. I apologize to all my friends and family for being super MIA this past few weeks and being the worst at returning texts and calls. I’m also so sorry (and in some serious withdrawal) since I haven’t been able to catch up on ya’lls blogs in a while too. I’d much rather be keeping in touch and seeing what everyone is up to rather than trying to figure out this high school geometry and memorizing the circumference of a circle. BUT it will be my reward to catch up when this is all over! LOVE YOU ALL.

xo ❤

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Lake Tahoe Travels!

HAPPY SATURDAY!

I am so excited to share this travel post with you all. There is a ridiculous amount of pictures and detail in this post, but Tahoe deserves nothing less! I also love my travel posts to be super informative for anyone that might go to one of these places in the future. It was one of the most gorgeous places I have ever been. I tried to capture the beauty, but the pictures do not even do justice! 🌲

DJ and I discovered early on last week that we both had last weekend off (6/10). It’s the first weekend we both had off at the same time since I started my job in March. We took full advantage and planned a trip to Lake Tahoe. It just sounded like the perfect, most peaceful location to go to get away from the chaos of our everyday.

The drive in alone was a special experience. The views were awe-inspiring. With every turn, ascent, and descent, we were accompanied on either side by an endless sea of trees, waterfalls cascading in the mountain sides, and snow comfortably resting atop the vast mountains illuminated by the Tahoe sun. I half expected a greeting from bobcats, rams, and fox as it felt as though we had stumbled upon a real world Cabelas.

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We had dinner arrangements, but wanted to drop off our luggage at the hotel first. I use the word hotel lightly here. With my improptu planning, I found somewhere on Groupon for dirt cheap. Ya’ll know I swear by Groupon. I haven’t had many, or any, bad experiences with Groupon. I found a place that looked decent on their site, but didn’t do too much research (A. I didn’t have any time and B. Everywhere else was $$$$$).

Welllllll—– when we arrived it was…. *dramatic pause* not quite a “romantic getaway”. The entire building was entirely dilapidated, the sketchiest of folk were hanging out in the corridors, the lobby smelled of a mix of cigarettes and mildew. I sent a quick text to DJ at check-in, “I am so sorry!”. He assured me it was fine, and we just had to see our room before making any judgement. Once we finished checking in, which took an hour in and of itself, we lugged our luggage to our room (We had to take an elevator that I was convinced was going to break under the weight of my skepticism). The whole way there I was panicking, What have I done, I thought. DJ was being somewhat optimistic, and just kept saying, “let’s just see what the room is like.” When we stepped into what I was expecting a cozy, romantic lodge with an overlook of the lake we were blasted with the most horrendous smell, a moldy bathroom, dusted furniture, and bent curtain rods with haphazard curtains that looked as though they were bought from a garage sale…. a garage sale from the fourties. I broke down in tears, not sure from emotions or from the severe allergens in the room. Our one weekend we finally had together I was convinced I had ruined. We had a reservation at our restaurant at 6:30 pm, and it was currently 6:00. We brainstormed what to do, going back and forth between staying or finding somewhere else. We finally decided that since we didn’t know the next time we would have this time together, it was worth it to make this trip something nice and decided to swallow the money.

We quickly booked another hotel at somewhere nearby and took a deep breath. Time for dinner. **PS. I hear Air BnB is a great option for Tahoe!** **PSS. One day we WILL get the full on camping gettup!**

I put on my forest green laced dress and finally had the chance to paint my nails! I don’t ever have my nails painted for nursing, but was so excited that I finally could pull out some of my favorite dark brown Zoya polish for the occasion. Naturally, I painted my nails in the car, because that’s what ends up happening 99% of the time.

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I even put on my fern earrings to really get in the spirit 😉 DJ always slightly pokes fun at how “all in” I get about encompassing the idea and essence of different events/holidays/etc.

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We headed to Edgewood Restaurant, which provided one of the greatest meals of our entire lives. That’s a bold statement ya’ll.

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The snow capped mountain and icy blue water views alone were fabulous. I felt like I could breathe for the first time since starting my job. It was as though the earth was back on it’s axis and I could actually be, exist, in the moment.

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We joked that they knew I was coming with Himalayan salt readily available, an assortment of olives, and sea salted herb and ciabatta bread. Olives, bread, and salt. OK- all we need is red wine, and this girl is set!

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It was the most tremendous start to any meal I have ever had.

Next, I know most times when we go out we avoid the meat based appetizers (considering I’m pesce). I told DJ I wanted to order something that had a meat base since we never usually do. (I also mayy have been trying to make up for the minor hotel fiasco). A bit surprised, but obliging, we ordered the lamb ragu with gnocchi and wild mushrooms.

Excuse me…

I needed to go get napkins to wipe the drool off the corners of my mouth as I reminisced..  🤤 This dish was heavenly. I didn’t try must of the lamb, but the gnocchi and mushrooms alone blew me away. The flavor was dynamically savory- bringing that word for me a whole new meaning!

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DJ and I both followed the appetizer with the Chilean Sea Bass over lobster bisque with fingerling potatoes. Basically all good things on earth on one plate. HOW. I told DJ on the spot this was hands down the best fish dish I have ever had.

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There was a couple that was looking to get their picture taken at the table next to us. I jumped in to ask if they would like us to take it for them since the waiter seemed busy. We headed outside and chit chatted briefly. It allowed for us to grab some pictures of the brilliant sunset as well.

They asked us if we had the halibut for dinner. I excitedly said “Yes! It was SOOO good”.. I went on and on about how it was the best dish of my life only for DJ to whisper to me that we had the sea bass. Whooops. 🤷🏼‍♀️😂

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When we left Edgewood, we headed to our new hotel. This one did not disappoint, not one bit. We HIGHLY recommend The Landing, voted the #1 Boutique North American Hotel, with good reason. It was absolute perfection.

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I loved the detail and care that went into each room. It was unusual, eclectic, modern, and yet cozy. The fireplace was my favorite part.

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Nowwww I may have created one more dilemma, which thankfully we laugh about now. I decided before bed I wanted to try to use the Jacuzzi, so while it was running, DJ and I stepped out on the balcony and see what views we could see from the room. When we stepped back in, I saw water overflowing from the tub. Then the phone rang. The front desk asked if we had any kind of water leaking. The tub literally filled in .5 seconds. We couldn’t have stepped out for more than 3 minutes. We frantically used every single towel we had to sop up the floor. Apparently it was leaking through to the room below. It was one of those moments where I didn’t know if I should laugh hysterically or cry.😂

To make it worse—- when we called back to see if it was taken care of below the lady informed us it was a bride and groom below us, that apparently were too inebriated to care at the moment, but we still wrote them a note apologizing and tried to compensate them for any issues. Maybe I was just trying to help?! Don’t they say rain on your wedding day is good luck?! Rain into your bedroom must be like the BEST luck, ya?!?

Two strikes in one day for me guys. ROUGH. DAY. 🙌🏻

Just kidding.. it was an absolutely amazing day, I simply share these mishaps because I think they are hilarious!

After getting a  fantastic night sleep, I got up a bit earlier than DJ and headed down to squeeze in an eight mile run before the festivities ensued for the day.

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This was the view from the Treadmill. GORG.

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On our way out of the hotel, we asked one of the employees where the best breakfast spot was. He recommended Heidi’s, and if a local says this is the place to go, count us in!

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This pancake house was super quaint, 50s/60s vibin’ with Christmas lights strung year round. I loved it. The line was out the door, and clearly was the place to be for breakfast. We only had to wait about 20 minutes, surprisingly.

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We tried their homemade blueberry muffin and biscuit.. yurm. Not quite on Cracker Barrel level (which we have lately been craving since there are none out here).

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However, this Veggie Omelette blew my taste buds away. The waiter recommended their house potatoes with onion and garlic- I understood why quickly- suh guuuuud!

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DJ ordered their short stack and said they were some of the best pancakes he has ever had. He is always on the hunt for some doggone good cakes, but it’s hard to find ones that he loves! Soo for him to say these were some of the best was both shocking and demanded that I try an obnoxiously big bite nibble.

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They were light and airy, and yet full of buttery, sugary, and delicious flavor. I agree- some of the best! Also makes sense why they deem themselves a pancake house!

After breakfast we headed to Eagle Falls Trailhead to hike and soak up some views. There are endless trails to go to in the area, but EFT seemed decently close to us (about a twenty minute drive) and had good reviews.

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After passing a renaissance fair (which I hard core tried to convince DJ to go to with me, but it was a no-go…. not even the lure of giant turkey drumsticks could get him to go, darnit)… we scoped out for a place to park the car.

Parking was a boogar, but we lucked out and found some right near the trailhead after searching for a few minutes.

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We had a blast exploring. Being in nature is 100% relaxation time for me. I love getting my adrenaline up with climbing and jumping through the cliff sides, over waterfalls, and feeling like a child again, exploring the earth’s crevices- the most magnanimous playground.

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I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves, although like I said, they still do not do justice!

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We were wrapped by the chilling, yet soft, breezes that at times carried snowflakes. I haven’t seen snow in wayyy too long. I thought I would never miss the cold moving out here, but the cold brought me solace, and I absolutely relished in it.

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After our wilderness exploration, we decided to explore the downtown area as well. To start off, we needed to refresh with some throwback sodas from the Old Fashioned candy store- Rocket Fizz (love that place. I always have to stop in when I see one!).

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I adored all the shops and downtown stores. DJ and I had fun perusing the boutiquey stores, art shoppes, and became quite inspired for Christmas gifts in this year to come.

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There was live music playing always within ear shot, and chair lifts occasionally would fly above our heads. I can’t imagine what this is like in the winter! I also love that the city seems to keep up it’s Christmas lights year round. It felt like we reverted back in time to a little Christmas vacation with the chill in the air, the lights, the chair lifts, the lodgy hotel, and the magic of the snow capped mountains.

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I keep mentioning Christmas, but it REALLY felt like December!

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After exploring little downtown Tahoe, DJ and I went back and snoozed for a couple hours. We were exhausted from the early start and hike.

It felt soooo nice to turn up the fireplace and take a NAP. Guys, I cannot remember the last time I actually took a nap. Seriously, I cannot remember.

In the evening, DJ and I took off to go to a Wine tour.

Funny story… when the Uber dropped us off at the pier from Google maps, we could not find where we were supposed to go. I watched the clock tick closer and closer to our departure time. I started freaking out and when the time hit ten minutes to departure, I went into full on panic mode. I just looked at DJ and realized we could not find the pier and I took off in the only direction we hadn’t explored. #FLIGHTORFIGHT. Literally- I was running in the opposite direction like a chicken with its head cut off. In the meantime, DJ kept his cool, called the boat, and found out exactly where to go. As I was in my dedicated sprint, I called the same number hurriedly.

Me: “HI!.. My husband and I booked a wine tasting tonight, and we can’t find the pier, and I know we are supposed to be there now!”……

Staff member: “I think we just spoke to your husband, are you by him by chance?

Me: “I am running back toward him right now”

Staff member: “Ok- see you two soon!”.

Lemme jus say- DJ gave me a hard time about that one. Heck, I can’t help it- I’m a runner. When I don’t know what to do, I just run!

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We boarded the intimate Golden Rose. There were three other couples with us, two from NY and one from Redwood City, CA. We actually ended up exchanging numbers at the end and are potentially grabbing some dinner together soon!

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The wines we tried were phenomenal, but even more intoxicating were the serene views of the lake.

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The rainbow clouds, mountains, and eagle nests all in one landscape were unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

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Just hours before we were looking down on Emerald Bay, and now we were actually on it!

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We packed cheese, crackers, and hummus as we floated along.

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Naturally, I was convinced we should move here. I inquired about the nearest hospital in our Uber. I am still pushing for it… *cough cough, hubby*….

After the tastings we had to have some good dessert. I did some serious research and found that Riva Grill had some flame options.

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We stopped by and placed orders for some insanely delish cheesecake and deep fried oreos- Hello all things good.

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We ended our evening with the hottub, which luckily we got to ourselves. I think most people headed home Sunday night because it seemed pretty quiet come Monday.

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In the morning I ran a quick 9-miler and then we headed to the Driftwood Cafe, a notoriously yummm place for brunch.

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I ordered their veggie omelette with parmesan and sprouts on top with cottage cheese and their bran blueberry muffin on the side. It was the quintessential hearty & heathy breakfast.

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DJ ordered the Carolina Connection which included two potato pancakes topped with grilled ham, two over-medium eggs, and country gravy served a buttermilk biscuit. I tried a bite of the gravy which was annoyingly good.

Let’s just say we both left with beyond satisfied tummies.

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And then it was time to head back to the real world. This trip gave me the rekindling and energy to move forward. I needed this time desperately with DJ and feel even closer to him after this trip. It also helped put things just a bit more into perspective. Life is still good. I can’t wait for the next time we can explore the world together.

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Blog Birthdays: (I thought I would have this post out last week, so I’m a bit late to sending out my love to these ladies!) I’m so thankful for all your friendships! ❤

K.M. from AnkhorYou on June 13th. Happy FREAKING birthday to this lovely lady who constantly inspires me with her vulnerable, beautiful writing, her endless pursuit of adventure, fashion, historical knowledge, and sage advice. She encourages me and those around her and spreads magic in this world with her mermaid glitter. Thank you for being here and being such an amazing friend. I LOVE YOU, dear!

Allie Zotola from LivingMyFullLife on June 14th. Ahhh- Sweet girl, Happy Birthday! I love how you share your beautiful life with us and how you always find joy in the every day. You have your priorities straight to me and are a role model of mine! Also you are the grandest cake baker and I get all my Aldi fixes from you sharing your hauls with us 😉 I hope you had the BEST day!

Tara from RunandLiveHappy on June 15th. Where to begin?! Yours was one of the first blogs I have ever followed, and I always wish we could hangout! We are kindred foodie spirits, and we must do a race together one day! Thank you for all your encouragement, especially in this last marathon! I love all your delish recipes, keeping up with your lovely family, your zest for life, and of course, the cutest pup ever- Jake! I hope this was the most perfect birthday yet 🙂

Katy from KatysLifeStory in the month of June. Katy, you are an incredibly strong and lovely woman! I am constantly amazed by you and your courage, determination, love, empathy, and ability to embrace life even when you have been through some of the hardest things in life. Thank you for your friendship and always inspiring me. I hope your birthday is perfect and you feel loved and celebrated as you certainly should be!

Last but not least,

Kori from GypsyRD on June 17th (TODAY!). HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I know we are just recently friends, but I feel like you are a kindred spirit! I love your posts, your sweet cats, your adventures, and your food combos! You are so authentic and kind and have a truly beautiful soul. I hope you have the most fun celebrating with your sister today!

Questions for you:

  • Favorite Old Fashioned Candy?!
  • Anyone been to Tahoe?!
  • What’s your favorite way to relax?

xo ❤

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Life Lately: Skating into 2017 with a Few Laughs & Vegan Eats!

Well whaddya say? Time for an update?!? I haven’t done one in the New Year, so I probably should get on thatttt before it’s 2018.

First though- THANK YOU to everyone who stopped by the Birthday Meet & Greet! Ah, it was so fun making new friends, chatting with old ones, and hearing some super interesting birthday tales too! I hope you all had fun 🙂

Also- I have been a SLACKER lately on responding to blogging awards. Man oh man, I can’t tell you how much they mean to me. I have been meaning to sit down and respond to them, but I am a little big time behind now. I would love to do something special in the future though 😉 Wheels are turning! But for those I haven’t yet thanked yet:

Thank you to Chrissey, my sassy sista with the best taste in cupcakes over at UnabridgedSass and sweet, Diam, the ultimate travel bug, for their nomination for the Liebster Award!!!!

Thank you to the amazing Chiara, who will enthrall you with every post from travels to advice, for the Blogger Recognition Award!

Thank you Meg, who is a role model mother and an instant friend to anyone, for the nomination for the Mystery Blogger Award!

Lastly, thank you to the encouraging Hangry Runner, who genuinely shares her journey through fitness with a sprinkle of real life that all can relate to along the way, for the Versatile Blogger Award.

^^^GO check them out now… don’t even read the rest of this, their stuff is more interesting anyway! 😉

Also lastly, thank you to EVERYONE who left the sweetest, most encouraging words on one of my last posts. WOW. I can’t tell you how much you all lifted my spirits, helped me find new perspective, and encouraged me beyond words! I’m so thankful for you all.

Time for an update! 

SO. Let’s see here. Welp, I made a post last week about the Daniel Fast that DJ and I are doing with our Church. I ended up putting it back in drafts for now because I want to be able to link the recipes for all the meals with the post! So I promise that will be going back up soon 🙂 He is all in on it, 100%, I’m doing a modified version, and won’t chat too much about it, but if you are wondering why our diet looks slightly different (*cough cough*, no sushi), that is why!

Here is a quick little snapshot of the week’s eats!

The first week back from traveling I ran all around town to stock up on groceries, necessities, organized for the New Year, cleaned out house, watched football (DJ more than I), and wrote thank you cards!

We also finally took down our Christmas tree last Sunday :(. It was time. *Sigh* Also, our apartment has a regulation that it had to be down by last week, so I milked that time frame for all it was worth. Otherwise I would have tried to keep the critter alive until Christmas in July.

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RIP, BB. I bet he was just pining to be with others like himself. I promise that is the first and last pun I will use this post! 😉

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I have been applying for jobs, going to hiring events, working on 5 behavioral interview questions per day, and I even went shopping for big girl interview clothes.

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Think I can fool them? I came home after this hiring event and put on the TV, which happened to have the news on. I started chopping vegetables up for dinner and I had a moment of epiphany.

I am my mother

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But in alllll seriousness,  I always said I would be honored to turn into you one day, Mother Dear

Reflecting, the event went well, but they had far too many candidates to do all the interviews in one day. They collected our resumes and said they would be giving calls back soon! *FINGERS CROSSED*.

Segue without a segue:  I’ve tried lifting more weights since the New Year! So far, I’ve lifted.. *thinks to self* one….two…….. TWICE for about 15 minutes, so…. progress, yah?

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I also FINALLY ordered new running shoes and inserts. Yes, yes, I know you are supposed to swap them out every 300-500 miles, and I haven’t changed them since last May. Big whoops. Better late than never?! I HIGHLY recommend trying out these shoes if you have shin splints. However, everyone has a different step/stride/foot, so go to an expert at a running store to fit you for your personal needs! These little guys are Brook’s Ghosts with Berry Inserts. When I was in high school I had horrible shin splints to the point where I had bruises on my shin bone. It was painful to even walk. Once I started using these with the inserts, they went away and have not returned!

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DJ also got me these for Christmas for cross training, and I am in love. They are Nike Zoom Elite 8. I love them for cross training because they offer tons of support, but are also pretty light!

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Although coffee is not technically “DF” approved, I’m doing a modified version, and still having a cup each day as I go through behavioral questions. Especially in nursing, behavioral questions (situation, action, outcome/result) are HUGE in interviews. It’s been a good time for me to reflect on my previous clinical experiences, read through old clinical journals, and remind myself why I love this profession so dearly.
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THIS IS NOT MY ULTRASOUND before anyone has a heart attack. Hahah. I won’t pull another “Our family is growing” on ya. But I did want to share this little peanut up here. One of my best friends since middle school, Clair, is pregnant and having this little bundle of joy in July. She calls me “Mo” so when I received a call from her a few months ago saying, “How do you feel about being Aunt Mo?” I was ecstatic. I asked her if I could share this with you all and she was happy to! She is having her big gender reveal on the 29th which I am devastated I won’t be able to make, but at the same time I am super sure it’s a boy, so I don’t think a reveal is entirely necessary 😉 I am ADAMANT that baby is a boy. What is your guess?!?

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In light of how random and non-sequential this post is… next topic….

The rain here has been NON.STOP. I swear we take the bad weather with us wherever we go! But Cali needed it, so I guess it’s a good thing!! I also don’t mind rainy days, especially when I have a decent amount to work on inside… or when I want to be incredible lazy (so basically one end of the spectrum or the other). I savored working through my interview prep most of the week in Peet’s with a cafe au lait and the rain falling outside.

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BIRTHDAY WEEKEND RECAP

Friday

Time to dive right into this past weekend’s birthday recap! WOW. It was a lot of fun, but unconventional from usual bday celebrations (which traditionally include Indian food). I spent the morning enjoying a nice, long run outside in the SUNSHINE! It was the first time the sun shined in a couple weeks like that, so I took full advantage.

With the fast we had to get creative for a “birthday dinner” and also for the rest of the weekends festivities. BUT we figured it out— with a little fasting compromise 😉 I was a tiny teensy bit emotional, missing my friends and family from back home horribly, but I was thankful I had Deej by my side. My friends out here and I are planning on doing something big in February to celebrate a few of our birthdays after the fast is over!

First, we went to Santana Row in San Jose to walk around, peaked in a few stores, and ate dinner.

Real quick, I just have to mention this experience at Urban Outfitters. I’ve gotta say, I know I’m not always in on the latest and greatest styles- but some of these men’s clothes now-a-days confuse me…  Like this….

I call this one, “Pay 35 dollars for someone who accidentally used bleach in their laundry” Or “I wanna be tie-dye, but I’m not sure”

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This is my next personal fave… now, you can actually purchase farmer Joe’s beat up overalls with a beat up hat, and it’s all the rage 😉 Don’t try this at home though kids, make sure you pay and arm and a leg for it… like this mannequin.
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Oh wait, I lied, this is my personal favorite… the guy who borrowed his sister’s skinny jeans, and the giant GUESS logo on their shirt. Okay, okay.. I know that “GUESS” is a brand, I’m not that fashionably inept, but this man may confuse some old ladies out there… I can hear them now, *In cute Granny voice* “Johnny, what is it I am supposed to Guess? I’m gonna guess that you stole your sister’s pants and that your jacket is an interesting color green and two sizes too small”…..

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OPE! We found the sister. Johnny should really give her the pants back, not a good look in public. Then again we do live in Cali where anything seems to go..

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But in all reality- I’m sure whoever buys those clothes pull them off well! I don’t know the first thing about men’s fashion, so please do not be offended by my… bewildered evaluation, shall we say.

Next stop: VeggieGrill! Oh how I loved this place!

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EVERYTHING on their menu is vegan. How great is that?! It *almost* fit into the Daniel Fast.

DJ ordered the Seoul Bowl with chargrilled veggie-“steak”, korean super grain + rice mix, gochujang sauce, carrots, house red onions, cabbage, arugula, scallions, sesame seeds. I had a bite and it was so good! Not sure it could pass as a real steak, but it certainly gave that savory meat flavor. DJ thoroughly enjoyed it!

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We also shared “Buffalo Wings” served with celery and vegan ranch dressing. They were out of this world. I haven’t had a chicken wing since my freshman year of college and these really gave me a wing fix. SO GOOD.

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For my salad, I ordered the Banh Mi with glazed tofu (although it came breaded, which I wasn’t expecting, but still tasty), chargrilled eggplant, carrots, white cabbage, cucumbers, daikon, fresh jalapenos, basil, cilantro, mint, and kale. I ordered the sauce on the side AND a “crab” cake which was also 100% vegan, but you could have fooled me! The thing I miss the most on the daniel fast is probably fish, so I was surprised (and excited) at how well this imitated it!

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Ok… ok. Totally breaking all the fast rules here, but it is sorta birthday tradition to get one slice of cheesecake from cheesecake factory (I’ll add a day to the fast 😉 ). DJ did not indulge, just to clarify. I tried the white chocolate macademia nut for the first time and it was OUT of this world. Anyone have a favorite flavor? The one I still want to try desperately is the lemon meringue, but this night I was craving caramel (which is in the macademia nut). Any one have the lemon meringue? Worth it? I could talk Cheesecake Factory all day long ya’ll..

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Friday night we had plans to go to a Comedy show in San Jose. We went to the location, walked in and up to our reserved seats, and people were sitting in them. Oh, here we go, I thought. Gotta’ give them the boot. I showed them our tickets and then realized our tickets were for Saturday night, not that night. With a few extra apologies thrown in for the inconvenience, we booked it out there, laughed about the mix-up, and watched Netflix the rest of the evening (We are moving through Dexter quite quickly!). We decided to give it a go again the next night for when the tickets were actually valid!

Saturday

So, we’ve been wanting to go ice skating for a while, but when we tried to go in Union Square, it looked like it was “kids only” hour, so we vouched out of that. We had heard from a friend that Winter Lodge in Palo Alto was a great place to go, so we tried it out. Once again, SWARMED with youngins. Oh well, we were there, and we were determined to get our skating fix (ok, maybe it was more my skating fix, and DJ was just a trooper along for the ride).

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^^Fun fact: The mirror in the guest room accidentally became a guest book, so we just kinda left it that way. Not sure what we’ll do when it’s all filled up- it’s an awfully large guest book to store. Ha!

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We didn’t fall once. I can hardly believe it. If nothing else, the weekend was a success simply for that reason alone!

After skating, we walked around downtown PA for a little bit and worked up quite an appetite. We decided to try a place right on one of the downtown strips called Nola. I had heard of this place before from several others, and then another SF blogger, KB, did a write up on it. I noticed they had a vegan jumbalaya that appeared to be DF approved, so we decided to try it out!

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(They have a huge mardigras party every year, hence all the beads)

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I LOVED the ecclectic, cultural fusion that this place vibed. It is unlike any restaurant I have ever been to. It’s menu has just about anything you can imagine from chicken and waffles to gourmet skirt steak. You could classify it as mostly Cajun/New Orleans cuisine. It was fantastic. We will definitely be going back to explore more of their menu. Plus the service was OUTSTANDING.

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We split their vegan jumbalaya with the sauce on the side and savored every nibble. This had roasted confetti cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and butternut squash, procini & button mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, crushed garlic, cajun spices, and scallion rice. We ordered the sauce on the side. It was perfect for a slightly chilly day and filled us right up, even with splitting it.

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We also split their Garlic Sauteed Green Beans (they were ok- I think a bit al dante for our liking). We also split their steamed vegetables which were super yummy.

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We headed back home for a short while to watch some football, then headed to Stage 4 Improv in San Jose. We actually had the date and time right this time 😉 Unfortunately, we were comparing it to Four Day Weekend in Fort Worth, so this didn’t really hold it’s own. But it did warrant a few giggles. Improv can be tricky too depending on the type of night the comedians are having… I would give the show a second chance, as they did receive five stars on Yelp!

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Sunday I got sick, AGAIN (like the cold kind)

Tonight is BACHELOR! Ya’ll know where we will from 8-10 pm tonight. Except, I can’t wait till we can start up the tradition of wine, cookies and chocolate milk, and ice cream for bachelor nights again in about a week!

(I’m starting a new thing where I’m gonna include blog birthdays at the end of my recaps)

Blog Family Birthdays this Week: 

Lacey  on Jan. 11 (A little belated, but better late than never 😉 )

Kristin on Jan. 16 (I know you don’t have a blog Kristin, but I still wanted to say a BIG Happy Bday today!)

Happy MLK Jr. Day!

xo ❤

Mack

The Daniel Fast: A Quick lil’ Guide

Hey guys! Considering it’s the twelfth of January, it’s probably time for a recap. Honestly, not too much has been going on. Just settling in after the holidays, a lot of applying for jobs and hiring events (for DJ and I), cleaning out house, and cooking.

Our church is participating in the Twenty-One Day Daniel Fast, and I was all unsure about if I should even mention that here because, you know,…. (Matthew 6:16-18), but since we are doing this as a church I think a lot of these food ideas can help someone looking for ways to recreate meals using DF ingredients. We also have created new meals that are actually pretty doggone delicious, so I wanted to record them for future reference! Fasting is a very personal conviction, so the purpose of this post is not to make any kind of statement about fasting, but simply to share some ideas with those who may be doing the fast (or just others who want to consider some new healthy ideas!!!) Everyone does the fast differently too, so some of these items may need to be tweaked based on what parameters you have established for yourself! Did I make enough disclaimers and use the word “fast” enough in one paragraph?! 😉

On the first day of the fast we had zero food in the fridge and everything in the pantry was not “fast approved” so this required a fun little trip to Whole Foods!

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The Daniel Fast Approved List

from TheUltimateDanielFast

    • All fruit – fresh, frozen, dried, juiced, or canned.
    • All vegetables – fresh, frozen, dried, juiced, or canned.
    • All whole grains – amaranth, barley, brown rice, oats, quinoa, millet, and whole wheat.
    • All nuts & seeds – almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds; unsweetened almond milk. Nut butters are also included.
    • All legumes – canned or dried; black beans, black eyed peas, cannellini beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), great northern beans, kidney beans, lentils, pinto beans, and split peas.
    • All quality oils – avocado, coconut, grapeseed, olive, peanut, sesame, and walnut.
    • Beverages– distilled water, filtered water, and spring water.
    • Other – unsweetened almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, or soy milk; herbs, spices, salt, pepper, unsweetened coconut flakes, seasonings, Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, soy products, and tofu.

    Foods to Avoid on the Daniel Fast

    • All meat & animal products – bacon, beef, buffalo, eggs, fish, lamb, poultry, and pork.
    • All dairy products – butter, cheese, cream, milk, and yogurt.
    • All sweeteners – agave nectar, artificial sweeteners, brown rice syrup, cane juice, honey, molasses, raw sugar, syrups, stevia, and sugar.
    • All leavened bread & yeast – baked goods and Ezekiel bread (if it contains yeast and honey).
    • All refined & processed food products – artificial flavorings, chemicals, food additives, preservatives, white flour, and white rice.
    • All deep-fried foods – corn chips, French fries, and potato chips.
    • All solid fats – lard, margarine, and shortening.
    • Beverages – alcohol, carbonated drinks, coffee, energy drinks, herbal tea, and regular tea

Personal Recommendations/Tips:

  • Hummus (look at long label ingredients to make sure there are no additives) is a MUST or make it from scratch!
  • PEANUT BUTTER- find an organic, unsweetened peanut butter like MaraNatha
  • Evoke Athlete Fuel Organic Muesli
  • 90 Second Brown Rice packs from 365- make sure there are no additives
  • Try a variety of potatoes! Small, sweet, regular, purple!
  • Get a combination of frozen fruit and fresh fruit. Frozen fruit is great to make mixes for “sorbet” and as a sweet treat for dessert.
  • Stock up on a variety of nuts & organic raisins or unsweetened dried cranberries to make your own trail-mix- we love pumpkin seeds, cashews, peanuts, pepitas, slivered almonds, and raisins for ours!
  • Whole grains: Quinoa, Farro, and Rice will add bulk to any meal! Get a variety and make it in bulk to eat for a couple of days.
  • Lemon juice makes a wonderful “dressing” for a salad when mixed with olive oil.
  • Bragg’s liquid aminos might sound scary… but it is a GREAT substitute for soy sauce and it’s great to cook tofu in.
  • When picking out tofu- go for the extra firm. (Firm is okay for tofu scrambles though). Before using it, wrap it in a towel, put it on a plate and put a heavy object on top (I actually use a giant nursing textbook!) and let it sit in the fridge for an hour. This helps get rid of the moisture and create a super dense, meat-like consistency.
  • Let me introduce you to Bob Mill. He is your best friend. Stock up on corn grits as substitutes to bake and “bread” food with.
  • Salsa!!! Make sure it doesn’t have vinegar added, or make your own!
  • Have a date with lotsa dates- they can add sweetness and texture to anything!!!
  • Most importantly- Don’t lose sight of what you are doing the fast for- don’t get caught up in the “dos” and “don’t”s of the fast
  • Watch God do some amazing things!

Breakfast

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Tofu scramble in olive oil with cayenne/garlic powder/paprika/turmeric/sea salt & avocado & hummus

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Coconut flour& oats & banana pancakes topped with a blueberry compote- 2 large bananas//1/2 cups of oats//splash of vanilla//splash of almond milk in a food processor to get a fluffy batter, cooked like a regular pancakes, some light syrup or blueberry compote on top, and you are golden as a goose. If you are feeding more people, just double the recipe! I also like to add a bit of plain Chobani or Fage on the side to add some protein. I tell ya what, I think I could live on this stuff.

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Oatmeal: This is SO versatile. There are endless combinations of oatmeal. Add some berries to your oats before heating them up and the fruit will turn into a nice compote. Top with cold, fresh berries on top to add a nice balance of temperature and texture.

Other oat add-ins: Unsweetened Coconut flakes, Unsweetened chopped date pieces, organic peanut butter, EVOLVE Athlete Fuel (store bought trail mix that is DF approved), nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, etc.), uncooked oats (add texture), unsweetened almond milk

Lunch & Dinner

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Packed lunches: Fruit of any kind (bananas, grapes, clementines), hummus and carrots, Mary’s Gone Crackers (Classic Flavor), and homemade trail-mix

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Tofu “Chicken Nuggets” crusted and baked with corn flour, salsa, carrots, & hummus.

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“Everything but the kitchen sink” vegetable salad topped with broccoli sprouts, hummus, and topped with lemon juice!

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Tempeh cooked in liquid aminos over a bed of farro, hummus, and tomatoes.

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Quinoa and mango salsa topped with avocado slices

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Purple sweet potato stuffed with pinto and kidney beans, broccoli sprouts, brown rice, and tofu sautéed in salt & pepper & liquid aminos.

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Purple sweet potato (or any potato)  stuffed with guacamole and SO delicious dairy free unsweetened yogurt.

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Peanut crusted tofu over mashed kidney/pinto beans with broccoli. I just put the raw peanuts in the food processor and crusted the tofu in them!

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Leftover tofu (that was sautéed in olive oil) and cooled in the fridge over a bed of mixed greens. Tofu is soo good the next day!

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This was one of our favorites! Zucchini “lasagna”. The tofu crumbles act like ricotta cheese and the ground corn flour acted like breadcrumbs- we were honestly surprised at how well you can trick your mind!

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Hempseed burger from Good Seed Burger over a bed of brown rice and steamed edamame with sea salt

Dessert 

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Fruit sorbet with 1 ripe banana, frozen strawberries, frozen peaches, & a dash of unsweetened almond milk.

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Cocoa Nibs with 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut, 6 medjool dates (de-pitted), & 2 TBSP cocoa (cocoa is slightly controversial- you may leave out!). Put in the food processor and then ball them up! Place in the fridge for a couple hours and then you won’t be able to resist 😉

Other ideas not pictured:

  • Sweet potato fries (or regular baked fries)
  • Roasted veggies: asparagus, brussels sprouts, root veggies, etc.(usually you can toss in olive oil/grapeseed oil and roast at 350 for about 35-55 minutes)
  • Mashed potatoes made with unsweetened almond milk and olive oil

I’ll continue adding ideas and recipes as we make them!!

Hopefully this helped someone trying to figure out how to navigate the fast, OR just sparked some healthy eats ideas for someone else! 🙂

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Happy Fasting!

xo ❤

Mack

Cleveland, Ohio- A Perfect Christmas

HAPPPPPYYYY NEW YEAR! Here we are the end of 2016, and before it crosses into 2017, I am going to do my best to recap our Christmas!!! Excuse the spelling and grammatical errors, because I’m sure there will be plenty considering I’m trying to whip this out in like 20 minutes.

So, CHRISTMAS!

On December 23rd, I arrived in Cleveland, Ohio. I was picked up by one of my best friend’s from childhood. We were able to sneak in a quick dinner together at BJ’s in Montrose, OH, my old stomping grounds.

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I wished we snagged a picture together, but we were so busy talking and catching up it didn’t cross my mind (but yes, taking a picture of my cherry-chipotle salmon still did cross my mind).

The rest of the evening was so nice, relaxing, and needed after a full day of travel. I spent it chatting with DJ’s mom in the kitchen while wrapping all the gifts I had shipped to their house so I didn’t have to lug them on the plane. She was so kind to let them stockpile over there for the last couple months! Sitting around and just talking away in her kitchen is one of my ALL TIME favorite things to do in the world. Since I have dated DJ since high school, that kitchen island has hosted countless laughs, discussions, decisions, and family time at it’s finest.

DJ came in on a red-eye in the morning of the 24th, Christmas Eve. Before he came home from the airport, I went out for a run. This view below defines home for me. Ya’ll have essentially seen me as a ‘Cali girl’, but Farmer’s markets, the giant swing at Szalay’s, cornfields, washed-out red barns, and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park are nearly as innate as my genetic makeup. The miles of running trails that I’m able to circumnavigate through sheer muscle memory, or rather soul memory, hold onto my secrets from years and years past. The actual footprints of my running shoes may weather away, but the memories of the struggles, trials, elations, and joy that have soaked this part of northeast Ohio is indelibly there forever. I relished every second of that cold run that brought an inner warmth nearly incomparable to much else.

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One of my friends, Annie, said to me yesterday- “Your blog cracks me up. One second you are like, guys, here is something really serious and then BAM, here’s a picture of some food!” Ha! She’s so right and that is exactly what I’m doing right now.

BAM. Here is a pic of some DELICIOUS homemade cinnamon sugar donuts that my mother- in-law made! Seriously some of the best tasting donuts ever. She should open a bakery.

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On the night of Christmas Eve, some REALLY exciting things happened. I FINALLY MET MY NIECE, Kate!!!!!!!! The feeling of holding this gem in my arms brought me so.much.joy. She is perfect. As an Aunt to my niece and nephew, the feeling of love is just truly overwhelming- I can’t imagine possibly being able to  love them more than I do, but that also provides for me a small glimpse of what a parent’s love must feel like. I also see how my own Aunt loves us like her own, and I totally get it in a new way now.

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Here’s my amazing nephew, Jack. He is one of the most intelligent, spunky, and inquisitive little two-years- olds I have ever met. I am blessed. The only way I could be more blessed is if I could have had him sit still for a picture. But I’ll take what I can get 😉

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We went to Mass at my brother and sister in law’s church. It is a breathtakingly beautiful Church in downtown Cleveland.

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My brother and his wife are some of the greatest parents I know. When my dad passed away, my brother became the rock of the family. He has constantly emphasized the importance of family, prioritizing us, encouraging us, and being there to offer wisdom and a hand no matter what. My sister-in-law is also one of the most gracious, loving, and just fun individuals to be around. I am thankful I have them as role models for when it DJ and I have kids one day.

When we got back to my brother’s house we had a scrumptious traditional lasagna, meat or veggie option, with salad and rolls. SO YUMMY! There were a good number of people here this year that we had to split into two rooms for dinner. It fills my heart to have a full house on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve has traditionally always been the night that we spend with my dad’s side of the family, but for a few years it felt that there were fewer and fewer people each year. Even my sister, Andrea, was gone for a couple years living in China. I missed her so much, and it makes me so happy to see the family growing again ❤

We spent the night playing games, laughing, and exchanging gifts. It’s super fun opening them up with my nephew now that he sort of has a handle of what is going on. Except the wrapping paper and boxes seem to be his favorite part!

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Christmas morning I did Insanity and then DJ and I got in our Christmas garb on to go downstairs!

Drumrollllll……..

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Yes- we jumped on that onesie train! We had breakfast all together and then headed over to visit some of DJ’s extended family. It was just a great day with amazing family, friends, food, and the cutest pups you’ve ever seen.

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This is DJ’s twin sister Amy’s corgi named Pool Noodle. Is that not the best name you have ever heard for a corgi, and is he not the cutest corgi you have ever seen?!?!

He is also pretty insta-famous: poolnoodlethecorgi

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The evening was filled with a Christmas dinner nothing short of holiday food deliciousness, and the desserts to follow …. well, the picture speaks for itself… perfection. I crave my mother-in-law’s pumpkin pie all year long. She is one of the BEST baker’s I have ever known. It’s not a holiday without her desserts!

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On the 26th I squeezed in another run. I would occasionally find myself on the lookout for mountain lions! It’s weird that I didn’t have to be concerned about them. DJ and I also had a bit of culture shock with the amount of space, land, and lack of people! We kept feeling like, “Where is everyone?!”. Welcome to the midwest!

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The rest of the day was super chill for us. The best kind of day. I love how being home, whether in Texas or Ohio, forces me to just veg-out a bit.

On the 27th, I had dinner with a good friend I’ve known since 6th grade. She’s one of those people that it’s incredibly easy to just pick right back up where we left off. We went to Mustard Seed Market & Cafe at Highland Square. This has always been one of my ALL TIME favorite restaurants. They have an incredible selection of vegetarian and vegan options that blow me away every time.

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I had the vegan Rueben sandwich with their antioxidant salad with turmeric dressing and coconut bacon. I could eat this for every single of my whole life, not joking.

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We spent the rest of the night with the family playing words with friends, watching Secret life of Pets and hottubbing! Also Hot tubbing NEVER gets old.

On the morning of the 28th I had breakfast with Rachel! A few of you that have followed me for a couple months may remember when she visited San Fran. You can read about it here and here 🙂 I was beyond excited to see her; I was missing her mucho.

We went to First Watch which is a must-go-to place when I go back to Richfield. It’s a chain, so a few of you may have heard of it?!? Anything on their menu is fantastic. They are notorious for their massive pancakes- banana nut or carrot cake are my favorites.

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I had their triathlete egg white omelette with house-roasted crimini mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and green chilies. It’s served with housemade salsa, a dry english muffin, and fresh fruit. This is my go to easily! I also love their power wrap (minus the turkey) and their Energy bowl.

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Rach ordered their pesto chicken quinoa bowl with protein-packed quinoa mixed with kale, shredded carrots, and house-roasted tomatoes topped with grilled all-natural lemon chicken breast, basil pesto sauce, feta crumbles, and fresh herbs. This is a favorite of a lot of people I know! Rachel loved it too.

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She also ordered their daily juice selections, it was simply revivifying. You cannot go wrong with a First Watch juice- they are fantastic.

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Rach and I hung out at her house after for a bit. Her house is like my second home to me. I always miss her and her family tons being so far away, but I was thankful that I could at least see her for that small amount of time! ❤ ❤

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Also she wins best gift giver of the century award. For any occasion, she thinks of the MOST creative, thoughtful gifts. For example, for our wedding, Rach had cornhole boards with our last name and the date of our wedding personalized in our wedding colors made. That’s just one of many,many examples, and this Christmas she once again blew me away!!!!! We have an inside joke of “just read the blog” when I either run out of time to tell her something, or I have a long story- I’ll always just say “just read the blog”. We occasionally throw out #ontheblog or #justreadtheblog as sorta a joke now. So look what she made me…..!!!!!

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She even had my sign-off! GUYS! Is she the best or what?!?!? She MADE this herself. I can’t get over it. She is starting to get a business off the ground so when she does, I’ll share her info with you all!

That evening we went to Burntwood Tavern in Fairlawn with DJ’s side of the family. It was such a rustic, and yet elegant, place to enjoy some great American cuisine.

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After dinner we packed up our bags (cue the tears), hot-tubbed one more time, ate as much of the desserts that we could for one last night, and then tried to snag a couple hours of sleep. At 3 AM we hit the airport and were on our way back to California.

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I am so thankful for the time to get together with our family and friends. We definitely missed those that couldn’t make it, but we treasured dearly the time with the ones that could. Nursing may consume my holidays in the future, but I’m grateful for at least this last one. More than anything too, I’m thankful for what Christmas means. It’s easy to get caught up in the hum-hum of holiday festivities, but the message behind Christmas is what is most important ❤

I cannot wait to read about how everything is going for all of YOU! I am so behind on reading, but I am truly looking forward to catching up this week. Getting those blogger cravings. Anyone else?

Currently DJ and I are on our way to SF to celebrate NYE!!!!!!

Happy New Year to everyone! I am thankful for all of you, for everyone I have met this year through blogging, and I wish you all nothing but joy, love, and blessings in this year to come!

xo ❤

Mack

SURPRISE: San Antonio, TX!

HOLAAAAA!!!!! To say I’m ecstatic to share this post would be an understatement. I arrived in Texas late Thursday night, so I will share the very beginning of those festivities in my next update post. BUT for now- guess what we have?!?!?…. A TRAVEL post!!! And the best part was how unexpected this one was!

On the Thursday that I arrived, my mom handed my sister and I each envelopes with the CUTEST notes inside….

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My sister is fluent in Spanish, has lived in Dominican Republic and Honduras for brief periods of time, and has been dying to use her Spanish lately, so she was beyond excited about this “hispanic adventure”. 🙂

My mom also knows how much I love blogging about our travels, and so she thought it would be a fun place to go to take lots of pictures, experience authentic culture and cuisine, and make some amazing family memories.

DJ had to stay in Cali for work, and my stepdad (Pete) insisted that we make this a girl’s trip… hence, we had the most epic girl’s trip to San Antonio for a literal 36 hours. We left at 7:30 am Saturday and returned 7:30 pm Sunday, on the nose.

Also fun fact: the last time I was in San Antonio was with my mom and dad when I was 23 months old. Now here I am, almost 23, going back to San Antonio on the exact same weekend I did all those years ago ❤

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As soon as we arrived, we took our bags up to our hotel room and hit the gym for a 30 min. run to get our energy levels up after the 4.5 hours of driving. It was exactly what we needed. The sun was just beginning to peak out too when we stepped outside, so it was perfect timing.

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We walked by the river walk, but didn’t yet explore because we had other things on our minds……. FOOD.

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My mom insisted that we eat at a restaurant in the Historic Market Square. This place is just one giant festival. The colors and decorations are multitudinous and vibrant, a nice change from the neutral tones of the Bay Area. Patrons and restaurant employees line the bricked walkway in los charros and las china poblanas (traditional hispanic garb). The atmosphere was contagiously upbeat, and the smells of food lingered through the air, enticing each passerby to consider stopping in to sample their own claim to fame.

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Mi Tierra is where my mom insisted we indulge. She never leads astray when it comes to good comida, so Halston (my sister) and I happily obliged.

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We put our names in and were told there would be about a 45 minute wait. Ya’ll think I can get hangry? You haven’t met mi hermana. She can be a wildebeast when she needs food. Sorry, Hal, it’s the truth. So 45 minutes just sounded a tad too long for us to twiddle our thumbs. Rather, we decided to go to the bar and order some drinks and apps to tide us over. Luckily we snatched the last few seats next to some locals wearing Mexican palm cowboy hats.

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Frozen margaritas for me and mother bear for starters

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I’m not the biggest fan of them, but when in Rome (Aka when in San Antonio). This one was delicious and accompanied the food super well. My favorite is the salt around the rim and I do prefer them frozen better, I must say.

& Virgin pina colada for baby sister bear. 

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We decided to split their special shrimp cocktail which uses jumbo shrimp, cocktail sauce, avocado, cilantro, and a bit of something magical to create the perfect combination. I wish so badly you could have tried this, Deej, because it was RIGHT up your alley!!!!

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And naturally- we had to taste test the salsa, avocado, and chips. My mom makes some out-of-this-world homemade guac, so that’s always the degree of comparison when we try other places’ recipes. The smoky flavored salsa was fantastic, chips were great, and the guac… on.point. No worries, Momma Jill’s still takes the lead.

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We didn’t leave a morsel of food behind… and then our buzzer paged notifying us that we had a table available. Oh shoot, we were gonna eat lunch weren’t we?! We decided we were pretty darn full and would just munch on the boardwalk when we grew hungry again.

We hopped into this bathroom before heading out and I had to take a picture. It was just darlin’!

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TIME TO EXPLORE!!!!

We finished exploring the Historic Market Square and then went to the indoor Historic Market place right next to it.

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Santa was just hangin’ around.

We stopped and watched the performances going on here for a few minutes, walked through the shops, and admired the handmade trinkets that littered the walls.

Now it was time to make our way to the River Walk!!!!

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The River Walk was absolutely like nothing I have ever experienced. It takes you to another place, and you really don’t even feel like you are in the United States anymore.

With the authentic Mexican eateries every few feet, one may assume they are in Mexico. When passing the Italian Cafe’s, one may have assumed they landed in a Venetian oasis.

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After exploring the River Walk we went to the Alamo. This holds a special place in my family’s heart. We have an Uncle who voluntarily came down from Kentucky and was killed in the battle. We found his name on the wall, took a picture, and discussed how sobering this moment was. All these years later, here are his great-great-great nieces were still coming to this place and discussing his memory because of his service.

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After exploring The Alamo, we hit the road and went to the Shops at the Rivercenter.

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I know where some of my blogging ladies would be spending their time 😉

The mall wasn’t insanely huge or anything, but it was awesome because you had a spectacular view of the river walk the entire time you shopped! We also picked up some Timberlands for my sister while we were there from Journeys!

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We did a bit more exploring around the awe-inspiring architecture and Cathedrals.

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———————-

TIME FOR A BREATHER.

We went back to the hotel and spent about 15 minutes resting our feet and recouping our energy. My mom kept saying, “Ya’ll better not fall asleep! I mean it!”.

Ok- we are good to go.

LET’S HIT IT!

———————-

We headed back out as it started getting dark and decided to do the Riverboat Tour, because it’s like a requirement in San Antonio, honestly.We waited for a bit over an hour before we finally were able to get on the boat, but it was worth every second. The way the lights lined the gargantuan trees that loomed over the water, the jovially boisterous noise from all angles as people settled in for dinners and drinks, the music reverberating off the ancient brick, and memories being created for lifetimes all around us made the wait pleasantly bearable.

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The tour itself was one of my favorite parts of the trip. The air had a gentle breeze that was soft enough to just about put me  to sleep (coupled with the fact that we probably walked about six miles in a day). The coaxing of the boat down the water and the smooth rocking enhanced the experience of seeing the River Walk in an entirely new way. I loved the history that the guide provided about gems of San Antonio. Buildings we would pass by without a single glance now demanded a thought in space and time.

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We were able to get up close and personal to a monologue of Ebenezer Scrooge. This moment took me back to feeling like I was five years old again. The magic of Christmas was thick in the air.

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It cooled down incredibly quick, so I threw on this cardigan that I have been anxious to use for a night just like this!

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I know that you are all wondering- what about dinner?!?! I was wondering the same thing too by the time I got off that river boat! Most of the places on the River Walk are chains, and the ones that aren’t have a tremendous wait. We decided to try Yard House. This is one of my sister’s favorites. I have never been, but I will certainly be going back. The ONLY negative is they don’t serve bread, and my sister and I live for the bread at the beginning of meals.

We all basically have the same taste in food between my mom, sister, and I. We ordered a few things and then just shared them. We had the red quinoa salad bowl which included kale, parsley, brussels sprouts, roasted beets, cauliflower, pomegranate, feta, baby tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, and blood orange olive oil vinaigrette. Oh my lanta. I could eat this every day for the rest of my life I’m pretty sure.

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Next we shared the Mediterranean Salmon which was za’atar crusted with spicy tahini sauce and red quinoa with cauliflower, kale, golden raisins, and pistachios. It was YUM. I have never known what to use za’atar for (I have a bunch in my cabinet), so I am so pumped to start using it to crust my salmon!!!

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Last was the INSANELY delicious BBQ “Chicken” Pizza. It included Daiya (vegan) mozzarella, cilantro, red onion, and BBQ sauce. **Usually it just comes with normal mozzarella, but we asked for the substitute. This reminded me of the pizza samples we had from Morning Star at EAT/DRINK SF in August!!! Just fantastic.

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Next, we had to face the cold. The temperature had plummeted from the time we went in for dinner to when we left. Good thing giant blankets are back in style. LOLZ.

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In the morning on Sunday, we worked out for an hour, and then hit the River Walk for brunch.

But before we actually ate, we had to commemorate little sister’s first steps in her Timberlands 😉

When Halston read this ^^^ she said “Kenz, you make it sound like I’m a two year old! Take that off your blog!” Hahah. Tough luck chuck. I like it so it’s stayin’.

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Isn’t she the cutest in all the land?

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In other news, I hit a new level of basic. Didn’t think that was possible did ya?

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And on that note…Off to brunch!!

We decided to try this amazing place called Ostra. Momma Jill went in the past with Pete and said it was the bomb dot diggity. Just not in those words. We basically skipped in there we were so hungry and excited to eat their food.

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My sister ordered a hot chocolate while my mom and I ordered mimosas and coffee. Why coffee too? Because coffee never needs a reason, but also it was PEETS!!!!! Yes they serve Peets!!!!!!!

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We decided to do the breakfast buffet. They had about four tables of delicacies to choose from and an omelette bar. It hit the spot! We tried their special Chilaquiles, jams, fruit, toast (they had Fage to put on my toast, so I was pumped), granola, etc. etc. For meat eaters, they were not lacking in options- they had a plethora of delicious and unique options like blueberry sausage!

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We ate our fill (and then some) then headed out to the Natural Bridge Caverns. My sister and I have never been to Caverns before, so we were in for a real treat.

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Everything felt prehistoric and although we were freezing our tooshes off outside, the caverns themselves were toasty warm. Also, it’s a third degree felony to touch the cavern objects, so don’t do that.

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The pictures below cannot do justice to just how mammoth these caverns were. They were breath taking. Despite how my sister and I stood with our mouths agape the entire time, my mom swore that these didn’t even compare to the Luray Caverns in Virginia. Anyone ever been?

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Just a couple of cave-dwellers.

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We headed home after thirty-six hours that we will each forever treasure ❤

Thank you again, Mom!!!!

See ya’ll on the next post on my time here in Fort Worth!!! 🙂

xo ❤

Mack

Vegan Tacos

So I made Tacos for the first time last week. I know, I know. Super late to that fiesta. Anywho, they smelled sooo good so I decided to whip up a vegan (vegetarian) version. I say vegetarian because the only non-vegan ingredient is the Chobani which acts as sour cream. This could easily be replaced with a vegan sour cream!

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My husband said he didn’t know if he liked these or the or regular beef tacos better. This is coming from a non veg-head, ya’ll. So that alone says just how delish they are 😉

Grocery List:

  • 1 TBSP Olive Oil
  • 1 Medium White Onion
  • 1 Jalapeño pepper
  • 11 oz. Beyond Meat Beef (Feisty Crumble)- I bet Boca Crumbles would work well too (Thank you Heather for the suggestion!)
  • Daiya cheese Classic Blend
  • (1) 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
  • Tomatoes (I like to use Wild Wonders, but any will do!)
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Taco Shell of Choice (hard, soft, or butter/bibb lettuce)
  • Plain Chobani or vegan sour cream of choice **Optional
  • Cilantro *Optional

        Taco Mix

  • 2 TBSP chili powder
  • 1 TBSP ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons hot smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

  1. Wash all produce
  2. Dice onion
  3. Thinly slice and dice jalapeño
  4. Dice tomato and thinly shred lettuce
  5. Make taco mix
  6. In a large skillet, add 1 TBSP of Olive Oil over medium-high heat
  7. Add the onion and jalapeño, sautee until white onion and jalapeño are soft and fragrant (may take about 6-10 minutes)
  8. Stir in the beyond beef until evenly mixed with the onion and pepper.
  9. Stir in tomato sauce
  10. Allow the tomato sauce to evaporate and absorb into the meat, while stirring occasionally- may take up to 20-25 minutes
  11. When all tomato sauce is absorbed, add about 3 TBSP of taco seasoning and stir evenly
  12. Plate your taco shells/lettuce as desired (some may recommend heating in the oven prior)
  13. Add cheese first (Reason: with vegan cheese it is harder to melt, so add some on the bottom of the shell first and the hot “meat” melts it)
  14. Add taco meat on top
  15. Top with lettuce, tomato, cilantro, and “sour cream” if desired

Nutrition (per serving, 8 servings total)* Using Beyond beef, 1 TBSP chobani, 1/4 cup of Daiya cheese, and no shell per taco

Calories: 221

Protein: 13g

Carbs: 16g

Fiber: 3g

Sugar: 4g

Fat: 11.5g

Enjoy 🙂

xo ❤

Mack