Do you ever feel like you experience true happiness from a certain food? I thought I would share with you all a food that gives me great joy the moment I take my first bite. My all-time favorite sandwich is the #9 veggie classic from Nhu Lan Bakery on Lawrence in Chicago. It’s a game-changer. A life-changer! Here is a picture of me enjoying my favorite sandwich and possibly my favorite food ever (no other banh mi can compare):
In my line of work, people talk a lot about self-care to ensure that you do not forget to take care of yourself while being so wrapped up in taking care of others. Now that I have worked at my job for over a month, I have started to notice changes in my self-care routine. My nightly journal entries are often rushed. Sometimes there are long lazy lines my pen made as I started to doze off mid-sentence. If I exercise twice in one week, then it’s considered a good week. I eat unhealthy food late at night. My body struggles to recover from staying up all night for work. I find that I spend most of my days off inside, behind a computer screen. It has been weeks since I have done something for fun with friends. My job is going great, but my self-care is not.
All of the self-improvement goals I thought were firmly implemented into my life have been thrown off balance by my new employment. There are a little more than three months until I turn 24 and, by then, I want to be on the right track in terms of my mental and physical health, my social life, and my rate of creative output. Hence, I think it is fitting that I update my goals to reflect my self-care goals. I want to be able to work full-time and also really focus on my own well-being.
The following are preliminary ideas I have for a quality self-care routine:
1. Pack healthy food to bring for work. With my current schedule, there are five meals I have to eat at work per week (one lunch, three dinners, and one breakfast). The breakfast is pretty easy to skip or to get away with just eating a piece of fruit, so it’s really those three dinners and one lunch about which I’m concerned.
a. Bring a healthy entree, but also bring healthy snacks in case there isn’t time for a full- blown meal.
b. Make a salad from the salad bar and eat a vegetable side dish to satisfy your appetite long enough before you get a break.
c. If the dessert looks like it’ll be really worth it, then eat a few bites or half of it.
2. Make plans with people for your days off. Find the people in your social network who may be free at any time during your free days and make a plan. See a movie. Get coffee. Get lunch. Go bowling. See a play. Something.
a. If no one is free, plan out your day doing something that is productive. Clean your room. Go to the bank. Go to the doctor. Complete a task that has been looming over your head.
b. Additionally, make plans to do something that just makes you feel good. This can be watching a TV show or lying outside or going for a bike ride. You name it. There are ways to be absolutely happy and content that are not dependent upon others.
3. Exercise as often as you can. Something I have discovered about myself is that I feel so good after a workout. It gives my whole day a brand new, shiny outlook. Based on my current schedule, my exercise schedule should be Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday before lunch, and then Saturday during my break at work.
a. Sign up for a fitness class on your day off or before 1:30 on weekdays to meet new people and peer pressure yourself into the workout.
4. Leave work at work. In other words, be completely present in work while at work, but leave it behind during my days off. Beyond a few sentences on how my day at work was, it should be out of my mind so I can relax.
a. Check work email once a day, but not before bed! This should reduce the frequency of work-related dreams.
5. Use overnights for creative output. I’ve already started a few experimental writing projects during my two overnights so far. I would love to continue this, as the overnight is a time when I’m not supposed to be doing anything else. I can’t exercise or go outside. It’s the perfect time to sit behind a screen and write something!
6. Use those 66 hours well. Sometimes, it feels like I’m working ALL the time, but it’s not true. I did some quick math and discovered that I have 66 awake hours per week that I can use in whatever way I want!
You know how some people do make your own ice cream sundae “bar”? Well, my family enjoys creating our own individual homemade pizzas every once in a while because it is cheaper and much healthier than ordering pizza out. My mom usually makes the dough, a recipe she has been using for many years (it came with the pizza maker). This Saturday, we enjoyed a wealth of options for our pizzas: mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, feta cheese, mushroom, green pepper, onion, spinach, tomato, or jalapeno. Of course, there were also several other items to add a special kick to pizzas like minced garlic, crushed red pepper, and cayenne pepper. The sauce pictured below is my favorite homemade recipe, which I’ll undoubtedly post here in the future.
Pop it in the oven until the crusts are perfectly browned and you have yourself a custom-made pizza!
I wasn’t sure what to call this recipe, as it is my own invention (yeah!). I have finally started to get accustomed to blending up tasty smoothies and/or bowls, so I have gotten adventurous in trying different ingredients. I usually eat these as a meal substitute for lunch, often after a light workout.
1 cup organic baby spinach
1/4 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup frozen organic blueberries
1/8 cup raw unsalted almonds
1/4 cup granola
Coconut milk (as needed)
1. Add spinach, yogurt, blueberries, and almonds into a food processor.
2. Add an initial few pours of coconut milk and then add more as needed.
3. Blend away! This is when you add the additional coconut milk.
4. Pour contents into a small individual bowl and add the granola.
5. Eat and rejoice by how you can’t even tell you’re eating spinach!
As a vegetarian who occasionally moonlights as a pescetarian, I have a surprisingly low appreciation for vegetables. Yes, I eat them every day. Yes, I often choke my way through them. Part of my mission in becoming a healthy person is to truly integrate vegetables into my regular diet. This means I need to eat many more servings. In fact, the USDA recommends between five and thirteen servings of vegetables per day. I know I don’t get remotely enough of that into my 112-pound body every day.
One of my attempts in getting myself to really enjoy eating more vegetables has been to create a pretty presentation and to photograph it. That’s just what I did earlier this week. Can you say food porn? 😉
In February, I had just moved back home after finishing student teaching. One day, I checked Yelp for reviews of a restaurant I was thinking of dining at with a friend and it clicked that all those reviews are written by actual people! It dawned on me that I could easily write reviews on the places I ate and also about anything from the local grocery store to concert venues to my alma maters. I started reviewing up a storm and eventually I applied to become an “Elite” for 2013. My application was approved and since then, I have met a ton of incredible people and tried a ton of incredible food all thanks to complimentary Yelp Elite events. One of my goals to maintain is to try a lot of new food, which Yelp has really enabled me to do. For example, through Yelp I have tried vegetarian sushi and Afghan cuisine, just to name a few new dishes I may not have tried. Additionally, Yelp has been incredible in helping me get out of my comfort zone when it comes to socializing. I’ll never forget my very first event. I took the L train with three different transfers when I had scarcely ever ridden that train alone before, let alone figured out transferring train lines. Once I arrived, I learned that there were going to be about fifty people there. I took a deep breath and started introducing myself. I ended up making some great friends and I even got to roll my own sushi for the first time!
But more than anything else, Yelp has taught me to really value and pay attention to what I eat. I find that I am much more observant and thoughtful about the food I eat because I know that I will write a review later. This has also transferred to my everyday eating, which contributes to my being mindful of what foods I put into my body. So, in a roundabout way, Yelp has inspired me to be healthy. In my quest to improving myself in a number of ways before my 24th birthday (and beyond!), I’m happy to say that Yelp has been and continues to be an important part of the journey.
Have you ever heard of an acai bowl? Have you ever tasted one? If not, you’re in for a treat! I had my first (and only) acai bowl when I was at a health bar in Honolulu two months ago and I’ve been craving them like crazy ever since. After not finding any being sold around Chicago, I decided to make my own. Follow these easy steps and you’ll be able to enjoy this popular Brazilian treat:
You will need:
1 packet acai berry puree (I used the Amafruits brand)
Half cup frozen raspberries and blueberries (or any other)
Dash of fruit juice (i.e. apple, cranberry, orange)
Drizzle of honey
Quarter cup granola
1. Mash up the frozen acai puree into smaller chunks, then deposit contents of the packet into a blender or food processor.
2. Add half the banana, half cup of frozen fruit, and dash of fruit juice to help with the blending. If you have a powerful blender, the fruit juice is not necessary.
3. Blend until the contents don’t have chunks. Be careful not to over-blend (I actually did) because the mixture will take on the consistency of soup more than like frozen yogurt.
4. Pour into a bowl (or three if you want to share tastes with anyone else). Garnish the top of the bowl with granola, fresh strawberries, blueberries, and the rest of the banana. Drizzle with honey and voila! You’ve just made a fresh acai bowl.
Warning: You may become addicted to this sweet frozen treat, but not to fear! It’s very healthy and low cal as long as you don’t overdue it on the granola or honey.