Thursday, October 16, 2014

Lately Through Photos

Things are busy with school and the rest of life in full swing, but I'm determined to keep my little blog going, even if it means checking in a bit less often.  Here's what's been going on in the month of October.

Oliver turned 6!
Now that the birthday celebration is over, it's time for doggie boot camp to begin.  The vet informed us that Oliver weighs 47 pounds, which is pretty ridiculous for a beagle.  He needs to lose at least 7 pounds stat.  Poor guy...he just loves food so much!

Wendy continues to crack us up everyday by acting like the world's most privileged princess.
I'm loving all things fall. 
Pumpkin everything!
Halloween treats for our neighbors. 
Beautiful heirloom carrots. 
Fresh-squeezed apple juice.
So much ethnic food.  Jay and I are obsessed with Ethiopian and Moroccan. 
We've also eaten dinners like this many a night.  Can't go wrong with tofu+veggies+grains. 
And this sweet potato and white bean pasta recipe from the Humane Society was a big hit earlier this week.
It sort of reminded me of my very favorite sweet potato mac & cheese, but less cheesy and sweet, more savory and creamy.  

Jay's volleyball team is still dominating the competition.  I'm looking forward to going to Dallas tomorrow to cheer them on against their toughest opponent. 
When he's not coaching, Jay stays busy with various projects around the house, like hanging the lawn mower from the ceiling.  It's genius!
Also on the agenda: a trip out to California next Thursday to visit my friend Catie!  Catie is fighting recurrent breast cancer and has been a real trooper over the past few weeks.  Can't wait to see her along with lots of other friends from college. 
I'm off to start enjoying my fall break!  

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Healthiest Green Tea Ever!

I recently read about the healthiest way to prepare green tea, and I can't believe someone didn't tell me about this sooner.

I was always under the impression that, if you wanted to make iced tea, you had to first brew it hot and then wait for it to cool down or pour it over ice.

As it turns out, you can actually cold-steep your tea by throwing a tea bag in some water and then waiting a couple of hours.  Not only does it taste less bitter, it also has significantly more antioxidants this way.

Apparently, when you make hot tea, the heat from the water may actually destroy some of the antioxidants that it pulls out.

Don't get me wrong, a hot cup of green tea is still a super healthy drink choice, but it's nice to know that there is an even easier and more effective way to prepare it.

This entire week, I added a green tea bag to my water bottle and stuck it in the fridge each night before going to bed.

Here's the before picture.
When I was ready to go to work in the morning, I had a refreshing bottle of cold-steeped tea ready to go.
It's been great to have a water alternative to sip on all day that is so easy to prepare, and all of the antioxidants are an added bonus.

By the way, this habit is not expensive.  You can buy 100 bags of organic Uncle Lee's Tea for super cheap on Amazon, or for even less at Wal-Mart.  

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Better-For-You Broccoli

Most people are well aware that broccoli is one of the healthiest veggies out there.  It also happens to be cheap and delicious.

I always keep some of these beauties in my fridge.

What you may not know is that you could be unintentionally cheating yourself out of broccoli's most powerful health benefits every time you prepare it.

The active ingredient in broccoli, sulforaphane, does wonders for our bodies.  It protects the brain, supports eyesight, detoxifies, reduces inflammation, improves the skin, and prevents cancer.

Unfortunately, much of the enzyme needed to produce this compound is destroyed when broccoli is cooked.  No enzyme means no sulforaphane, therefore no amazing health benefits.  This is also true for other cruciferous veggies, like cauliflower and brussels sprouts.

One easy solution to this problem is to eat our veggies raw.  This way, the enzyme doesn't get destroyed and all of the sulforaphane is produced.

I'm okay with an occasional raw broccoli floret here or there, but most of the time it just doesn't cut it for me.  I can eat veggies for days, but please roast them in some olive oil and sea salt first.
That's the stuff. 

Luckily, there are a couple of ways to eat our broccoli cooked while still retaining the nutritional benefits.  Dr. Michael Greger does a great job of explaining it in this recent video.

One easy strategy is to chop the broccoli up ahead of time.  When the sulforaphane precursor mixes with the enzyme, after some time sulforaphane is born.  Once the sulforaphane is created, you can cook the broccoli all you want without losing it.  You just simply wait about 40 minutes between chopping and cooking.
Frozen broccoli, however, lacks the ability to form sulforaphane even if pre-chopped, due to the fact that it has already been blanched.  It has plenty of the sulforaphane precursor, but the enzyme was already destroyed before it was packaged.

That's where strategy #2 comes into play.  Since mustard powder (along with horseradish and wasabi) actually contains the needed enzyme, sulforaphane can be created by simply sprinkling a little of this seasoning onto your cooked broccoli. You can also use this method if you just don't have time to pre-chop.  It only takes a tiny pinch of the powder, and I actually really like the flavor it adds.
This dish we had earlier this week of black beans, roasted broccoli, and Daiya cheese stuffed inside an acorn squash was a real winner.  I went ahead and pre-chopped the broccoli and added a little mustard powder, just to cover my bases.
Ever since I found out about this mustard powder miracle, I've been sprinkling it on to any and every cruciferous vegetable I see.  It would be silly to let all of the amazing benefits of sulforaphane just go to waste!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Thred Up {A Review}

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned that I cleaned out my closet and sent a huge bag of clothes in to ThredUP.

ThredUP offers an easy way to make a little extra money on clothes you no longer wear.  Once you sign up, the company sends you a big polka dot "clean out bag" in the mail.  You then stuff that bag as full as you want with gently used, name brand clothing and accessories.  The return shipping is already prepaid, so you can just drop it off at the post office or any UPS location when you're ready.
After the employees at ThredUP review your items, they e-mail you with a list of what was accepted and how much you earned.  You can use your money to shop on the website or cash out via Paypal.

For an extra fee, ThredUP will return any items back to you that were not accepted.  Otherwise, they are automatically donated to charity.

I chose the latter option and just made sure to fill the bag only with things I didn't mind parting with forever.

In the end, of the 25(ish) items I stuffed in the bag, ThredUP probably accepted a little less than half.  My paycheck came to a total of...drumroll...$50.46.  I was pretty happy with that, considering most of these items would have ended up at Goodwill had I not sent them in.  Here is a list of what they accepted:
It's a little weird to see my own clothes up for sale to the public.  I wore this dress to a wedding four years ago, and now some stranger will be wearing it out on the town.
Some things ThredUP did NOT accept:
  • A couple of Jay's Ralph Lauren Polo shirts - they were in good shape, so I'm not sure why.
  • A pair of Hudson jeans - maybe just too old?
  • A nice bridesmaid dress - the website warns that they do not accept bridesmaid dresses.  Since this one could have totally worked for another occasion, I thought I'd give it a shot.  Oh well. 
  • Numerous other name-brand tops and bottoms - probably just too worn-out. 
I can't exactly remember everything I sent in originally.  It would have been nice if they e-mailed back a complete list of what was sent in, with explanations as to why certain items were rejected.  I was really surprised that they accepted Old Navy and Forever XXI dresses but not some of my nicer, more expensive items.  I'm sure they had their reasons!  

Overall, I was really happy with the service.  Putting the bag in the mail was just as easy as taking a trip to Goodwill, and now I have an extra 50 bucks in my pocket.

After looking around the site, it's tempting to use my credit towards a little shopping of my own.  There are so many high-end items for a fraction of what they would cost in stores.  If you decide to check out the website, you can use this link and we will both get a $10 credit.  I'm sure we could all use some new things for fall!

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Week-Long Birthday

I'm not usually one to draw birthdays out, but this year has been a bit of an exception.  Since it was an extra big one (30!), I've pretty much been celebrating for the past week and a half.  I have to say, it's been really fun stretching out the festivities.
Last weekend, my dad came to visit from Las Vegas so that he could help me ring in the new decade.  My mom hosted a big family get-together on Sunday with my family and Jay's both in attendance.
It was nice to have so many family members together in one place.  I had a great time and received some really nice presents.  My mom also served a delicious spread of Mediterranean food (hummus = my favorite) and made fresh squeezed margaritas.  Yum!

Monday night, Jay took me out to dinner to celebrate just the two of us.  It was a gorgeous night to eat outside, and we stayed at the restaurant way too late for a school night talking and sharing a bottle of wine.  I wish I had remembered to snap some pictures.

This weekend, Jay surprised me with a second present (a new TV for our bedroom) and also organized a party with some of our friends at a local winery.  We were fortunate to have the most gorgeous weather and it was a wonderful afternoon.
We also carved out time this weekend to participate in the annual Heels for Hope 5K run for ovarian cancer. It always falls right around my birthday, and it's nice to have a healthy event on the calendar to balance out all the eating and celebrating.  Plus, of course, it is a great cause.  I hadn't run in a very long time (possibly since my 10k in April?), so I was really proud not have to stop and walk.  Jay and I finished with a decent time and then cheered on my mom who was not far behind.
I guess my birthday has officially come to an end, but there is still plenty to look forward to.  I love that fall is right around the corner and can't wait to start decorating!