Pesto Paradise

There are 3 magical ingredients that can be paired with any food to transform it from delicious to borderline crack cocaine: (1) chocolate;
(2) bacon; and (3) pesto. Chocolate, duh. Bacon, obviously. Pesto, hm? Let me elaborate on this love affair. I've always enjoyed a good healthy helping of pesto, but recently discovered how easy it is to make from scratch (now if only I could make my own chocolate and bacon, I'd never leave my house).

My adventure begins on the way to my local greenery. I must of been undergoing mental photosynthesis because I asked the owner where his pesto plants were. Go ahead, laugh. And those of you who are wondering what's so funny--pesto is made from basil leaves. Thankfully I was in a non-judge greenery zone, and the owner helped me pick out the perfect pack of basil plants. It was love at first smell. My basil plants are currently thriving with all this monsoon rain, and I never get tired of the "Italian restaurant" aroma. Amore.

I got hooked on home-made pesto because it's really easy to make, and if I can master it then anyone can. I found a pesto recipe that only requires a few simple ingredients: 2 cups basil leaves, 1/2 cups of olive oil, minced garlic cloves (No cloves? I used garlic seasoning before and it tasted equally delicious), salt and pepper (to taste), and I use 1/2 cups of Parmesan cheese (Romano works, too). Also, you can add 1/3 cups pine nuts or walnuts! Throw all of these in a blender or processor and mix it, baby. This makes about 1 cup of fresh pesto sauce. Put it on your whole-wheat pasta, egg-white omelettes, or just eat it plain. Go crazy.

If you want to keep your pesto throughout the year (and why wouldn't you?), I found a clever freezing tip online! Line an ice cub tray with some plastic wrap, then pour the pesto sauce (omit the Parmesan or Romano cheese because it'll get yucky when thawed) in each ice cube compartment. Freeze, then remove plastic wrap along with frozen pesto and store in a freezer bag. To eat, simply defrost and add in cheese! Nom, nom, nom.


Good Search: Step Aside Google

I am a Google-holic; to the point where I use "google" in my everyday vocabulary as a verb (I was googling until late last night), noun (I am obsessed with Google), and adjective (His name is definitely googleable). If I need information, Google is my man (woman?).

On a different note, I do my best to donate to charities and do what I can to help them (I promise this will all come together). I am a charity's dream because I can't say "no", especially when it has to do with helping children or animals. When Santa rings that bell outside of Wal-Mart, he is really ringing the emotional strings of my heart. Even if I only have pennies, I try to give what I can at that time.

So you have learned two things about me: (1) I'm unnaturally addicted to Google; and (2) I am a sucker for a good cause. If only these things could be unified, together as one. BUT WAIT! So, I came across this search engine called Good Search (I made it click-able for easy navigation). It's like Google and the bell ringing Santa had a love child. This search engine will donate to any cause of your choice for every time you make a legitimate search. Bam, you no longer have to go to church (kidding). But, seriously, this is such a great site. They are donating to a charity of your picking for every search you make. And think about it, how many searches do you make within a normal day? It is such a great idea, and it is so easy peasy!

Please check out this site. I highly recommend it. I know muscle memory causes you to start typing Goog.., but just adjust that "g" to a "d" and you're half way there! Or set it as a bookmark like I did for an easy reminder. If you go to the site, scroll down to the lower left section that's titled Success Stories. Check out the difference a few "clicks" have made. Even if you just use it once, it's one more donation that you wouldn't of made that day. Now get searchin' you good samaritan, you.

I used GoodSearch to search for a picture of GoodSearch. Clever, eh?


Organic Gardening: My Backyard Supermarket

Update! I took advantage of the first sunny day we've had in the past week and a half, and I finally got my garden up and running. Blimey, ain't she a beaut! I bought most of my plants at a local greenery (which proved to be the cheapest and best quality) and a few at Home Depot (which was almost double the price of the greenery). I've impressed myself for not going plant-buying overboard, but I definitely crammed in as many vegetables humanly possible. I've got lettuce (I've had some already and it's incredibly crisp and delicious), red and yellow onions, zucchini, and eggplant in the front bed. Then my back bed is pretty much an ode to tomatoes (Early-girl, Roma, and Celebrity), and then some cucumbers and bell peppers (yellow, green and red) squeezed in. Hopefully my grid layout proves successful but only time will tell. I feel like an expectant mother (Try me, Octomom), and now all I can do is wait.

I love having my own fresh food source right in my backyard. Having a garden has increased my cooking ability (like a Sim who fulfills a skill point), and taught me patience and hard work; every vegetable is an accomplishment. Hopefully my green thumb expands into a full arm accessory.


Happy Food comes from Happy Animals

After reading this title, you may be thinking a couple things: (1) animals aren't particularly happy if they're dead; and (2) why does my food need to be happy? Before I go on, let me say something: I love animals. I wanted to be a vet my whole life (except from ages 6-8 when I wanted to be a tattoo artist). But, sigh, I instead took the business route because I'm a wimp and didn't want to rough it in school for another several years after graduation. But anyways, like I said, I love animals but I am not a vegetarian. I do eat meat, but don't agree with companies wrongly treating animals for the mere goal to mass produce food. I can understand that it may be cheaper financially (and I'm sure I'm naive and not rightfully representing other reasons), but I believe it is possible to treat animals with respect and still be economically savvy.

There is a movie called Food, Inc. It's a documentary that examines corporate farming in the United States. Take it with a grain of salt because it can be a tad controversial, and people may say it only provides a one-sided perspective. Regardless, I think it illustrates a lot of great points and I recommend it to anyone. One of these points talks throughly about chicken farming (a clip is posted below, and it depicts the reasons why I don't buy Tyson). When I go to the supermarket, I always try to buy my eggs or chicken meat "cage free" or "free range". This means that the chickens are raised in a more natural setting then cooped up (no pun here) with other chickens. Usually when chickens are "free range", their diets are less chemically infused; therefore, healthier and happier eggs and chickens. The video below is a clip from Food, Inc.--Just a disclaimer: this clip isn't the easiest to watch, especially if you're a big animal lover, but it depicts the scary realization of corporate farming.

I try to apply this same concept to cows. When buying meat, I always try to purchase "grass fed" beef (I recommend Laura's Lean Beef). These cows are fed, well, grass and you may be thinking, duh. But, as crazy as it sounds, not all cows are fed a grass diet. Many are fed corn feed with a mixture of antibiotics, growth hormones, etc. (this was how mad cow disease came about, kidding). Also another thing to think about, what the animals eat is more or less going into your body as well. Icky. All I know is, cows were constructed to live on a mostly grass diet. That is the way nature intended it, and I wouldn't mess with Mother Nature.

Call me crazy, but I believe happy food comes from happy animals. Call me even crazier, but I can almost feel a difference between eating meat from a happy, grass-fed cow and a sad, corn-fed cow (and in chicken eggs, there's a physical difference between the mass produced and "free range" eggs). Many people don't put this much extra thought into what they eat and that's okay, but this is something that I'm passionate about. I can't change the world, but I know I can illuminate the change I'd like to see. I've always treated others how I've wanted to be treated, so why should this limit animals?


Facebook would be really annoying as a person..

This has nothing to do about being healthy (possibly living well), but I just saw this video on someecards.com and had to share it. This is not to bash Facebook (because I use it just as much as Mark Zuckenburg), but rather a reminder on information sharing. As sad as it is, the video below is pretty on point with how publicized information is via Facebook. As much as I wanna trust Facebook with my privacy, I constantly have to change my settings to stop them from having marketers, other websites, and Donald Trump accessing my information. 

Knowing all this, I still have Facebook set as a "favorite" on my laptop. So, in a way, I guess Facebook wins. The video below is great, and just a reminder to be smart about what information you share. It's true that employers go straight to social media sites to do background checks, and I can almost guarantee that no one will hire you if you're "shot-guning" a beer in your default--then the only thing you'll be "shot-guning" is the front seat of your mom's car.

"Angus is apparently drinking a Coke", ah love it.


The Post-5K Experience

My parents, as well as the rain, came out to support me. I give the Half-Marathon runners a ton of credit because they all got poured on (my "runner's high" isn't yet immune to such weather conditions). Luckily, the rain tapered off by the time we lined up. I soon realized that all running levels were apparent within the 5K group--this eased my nerves and my "nervous pee" (my urban dictionary definition: the urge to pee, caused from feeling nervous and anxious before an important athletic event). Once the race began, it was energizing to have everyone around you. I went through phases of "I feel great" to "Ow, my aching calves". When I hit the 2 mile marker, it fueled my motivation to keep chuggin' along. I felt like an Iron (wo)Man.

My parents were hooting and hollering near the finish line--this is what they captured during their fury of picture taking. My first thought after seeing this picture: holy brightness, I was easy to spot; and my second thought: everyone was right, my shoes do look funny.

It felt great to hit the finish line. I ran it in 28 minutes! I came in 18th out of 84 in my age group, and 172nd out of 604 overall. Not too shabby for my first race--maybe I'll run the Half Marathon next year (or that just may be my "runner's high" talking).

Every sport I have ever played was team-orientated; every victory or defeat was shared amongst other teammates. I have never participated in a solo athletic event where I can appreciate total personal achievement.  I pushed outside my comfort zone to accomplish a task that would have been too physically and mentally challenging a year ago. I feel fantastic.


The Pre-5K Experience

To even think that I would have entered a race to run would have sounded crazy a year ago. I used to hate running--the thought of a 20 min. run after softball practice would ignite a miniature panic attack; but last year, I decided to face my running demons. Let me tell you, going from a non-running individual to trying to become one was a long and grueling process. Maybe it was just me (and I wouldn't doubt it), but building my running stamina took forever. If I ran Monday, and didn't run again until Thursday, my stamina pretty much evaporated and I'd be huffing and puffing again on the treadmill. But I stuck with it, and running went from an asthma-induced stressor to, surprisingly, relaxation; that "runner's high" that crazy people spoke of, became a somewhat reality (still working on it). One mile slowly became two, which eventually became four, and now I'm registered for a 5k. Bam.

The race I'm registered in is a 5K, 3.1 mi., and a Half Marathon, 13.1 mi., (I'm not on that level, yet). I'm running with over 600 strangers; & being my first 5k, I'm a tad nervous. The extent of my running has been on a treadmill with the luxury of cruise control, so I'm hoping I'll be able to keep my pace. I also think it was a mistake to do a KettleBell session yesterday (all of my leg muscles are screaming)--not my best attempt at planning ahead.

The race is tomorrow (cue the dramatic music: dun, dun, dun). Bring it on 3.1 miles of pavement, my FiveFingers; Jock-Jams playlist; and I are ready for ya.

I'll publish my post-experience tomorrow, after I catch my breath.


Gardens: Fresh and Cheap Food

I started an organic garden last summer, and I have been dreaming of pruning my plants all winter. Gardening has been a great experience, and I love the feeling of growing my own food and living (somewhat) off the land. The taste of a freshly grown tomato doesn't compare to one bought in a supermarket, plus it's rewarding to know that your hard work has deliciously payed off. But now that it's summer time, I am ready to get my garden pants on. Being my second year of hoeing around, I have learned from my past gardening mistakes.

Mistake #1: This wouldn't be a mistake persay, but rather poor planning due to weather conditions. Believe it or not, it was really hot at the end of last spring (hot? no monsoon? weird). Not taking this into consideration, I grew my pea, spinach, and pepper plants from seeds. Usually this is a wonderful way to start a garden; but I, being a first time gardener and not yet having acquired my green thumb, failed miserably. After replanting the seedlings I grew inside all winter, they burnt to a crisp after a week of sun exposure. All I got was one sad little pea (I was proud of that pea, though). After this depressing realization, I decided to go to the plant store and buy 6-packs of pre-grown plants. They were more mature and welcoming to the sun. Success. But, plant selection lead to my next mistake.

Mistake #2: I wanted to grow everything. When I got to the plant store, I went plant crazy insane. I started grabbing every plant I saw---I grabbed hot peppers (Not the brightest idea when I tear up after one medium chicken wing). I ignored all plant criteria including sun exposure and time of the season to plant. My failure selections: broccoli (they grew minimally, and the heat influenced this), acorn squash (this is more of a fall plant; and the mere nugget of a squash that I finally grew, my dad ran over with the lawn mower), and mixed lettuce (it was so hot that it grew upward and not lush and full). I did, in order to redeem myself, have huge success with: eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, and little onions. I recommend these to any first time gardeners. They flourished.

Mistake #3: My last mistake: plant cluttering. I mentioned above that I bought a lot of my plants in 6-packs. Well my garden bed wasn't huge, and to squeeze all those seedings together would be difficult and stuffy for harvesting. Well I, avoiding my boyfriend's advice and me not wanting to listen, decided to plant every single plant in my itty-bitty bed. How can you plant 4 of the 6 plants and say no to the last 2 plants? I wasn't going to abandon my children, so I made it work. In the end, it didn't hurt the plants but my garden was chaotic (especially the tomatoes, who monopolized the garden bed). To avoid cluttering this summer, my boyfriend built me a second garden box (aw) to add on to my first. It was like an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition for my veggies. Below is the new garden mansion. Ignore the state of my garden beds--I majorly need to weed and the new bed still needs dirt, but soon it will be a work of art.

After learning from past mishaps, I am ready to start fresh. I recommend gardening to anyone. It is a cheap and fun way to grow food, and you don't realize the difference in freshness and taste until you experience a home-grown vegetable. Can't have a garden but want fresh food: Buy locally. Visit your closet farmer's market for fresh produce. It's a great way to support your health and community!

I will post pictures of my garden's progress as it grows!


Dark Chocolate & Its Tasty Benefits

I love chocolate. I would drizzle it on everything if socially acceptable (and if I didn't inflate into a blimp). I was (am) one of those girls who, if a chocolate craving struck, would turn green & become tunnel-visioned until some form of chocolate was in my possession. Snickers. Twix. Reeses. Kit-Kats. You name it, I consumed/inhaled it.

Until the last year, I only purchased mass-marketed chocolate products and ignored all ingredients and nutrition. Like most highly processed foods, I could never pronounce half of the ingredients in what I was eating. Real dark chocolate is still processed, but much less than the mass marketed brands (the only way it wouldn't be processed, is if you were eating the cacao bean straight). This is when I decided to turn to the dark side. I never liked dark chocolate growing up because I thought it tasted like chalk and poo (& the first time I had 80% cocao, I spit it out--definitely an acquired taste), but I've learned to really like it! And it's really good for you. Yes, chocolate that is good for you--it's like God answered a pms-ing woman's prayers.

True dark chocolate is considered anything above 65% cacao; the higher the percentage, the more bitter it'll taste (real cacao has a really rich and defined taste, totally different than a Hershey's bar). And the higher the level of cacao, the more benefits and nutritional value it contains!

Here are some reasons why high quality dark chocolate is a healthy choice:
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Lowers bad cholesterol
  • Contains serotonin (which boosts your mood)
  • Contains a ton of antioxidants (usually higher than red wine and green tea!--80% dark chocolate has the highest level)

I like 70% dark chocolate the best, and am slowly moving up the chocolate tree to 80%. Also, a block of rich dark chocolate tames my sweet tooth more than a Twix bar (which would only ignite my chocolate cravings and send me into a chocolaty downward spiral). I am a huge fan of Green&Black Organic Chocolate, and if you wanna step over to the dark side then I recommend this brand. They have dark, milk, and white chocolate. They also have flavors with peanuts and toffee (when you're feeling a little crazy). They're all delicious. They're all organic. It's true what they say: once you go (green&)black, you never go back.

(Those are all Green&Black chocolate bars)


Today: Mums the Word

Happy Mother's Day to everyone and their wonderful Moms. 

I remember when I was little, I used to complain that there was a Mother's Day, Father's day but no Kid's Day (I was a snot)--that was until my mom informed me that everyday is kid's day. She won that argument. Our moms do so much for us, that it seems almost selfish to only nationally recognize them once a year.

I am so, so lucky to have my mom, and I don't know where I would be without her support and guidance. She is my best friend, and I hope to follow in her motherly footsteps (hopefully not right away, she would say). 

Today is not only a day to honor our mothers, but also a reminder to appreciate them every day. Tell your mom, aunt, or the motherly figure in your life that they are the bomb (substitute bomb for another word of endearment if on or near a plane). We wouldn't, literally, be here without them. Enjoy your Sunday turned Mumday!


Vibram FiveFingers: An "I love you" gift to myself, and an investment in my health

I decided to buy myself a little "I love you" gift, and what's a better reminder of my self-love than a new pair of Vibram FiveFingers (FiveFingers has a better ring to it than FiveToes). For those of you who have never seen a pair of FiveFingers:
(1) yes, they are sneakers and;
(2) yes, you're correct, they do look funny.
And you're probably thinking: No way, they look like frog's feet. And I say hey!, don't judge a sneaker by it's web toes! These little beauties are worth the investment. This is my second pair and I'm hooked.

Why do they look like frog feet? Well, the structure of the shoe is suppose to mimic the feeling of running barefoot. The first time you wear them, you'll be sore because you're using different muscles than a pair of non-webbed sneakers would. PLUS (my favorite attribute), you don't need to wear socks with them (they do make FiveFinger toe socks for you, non-foot nudists). Stink up these puppies as much as you want because you can just pop them in the washing machine. Yes, they're water-proof (perfect water or dorm-living shower shoes). They're pretty much 5 shoes in one, and I'm sure if Jesus wore shoes, these would be it. I basically run in mine, but they're also great for hiking, swimming, climbing, biking, casual, dancing, prancing, and pretty much anything else ending in an -ing. They're just plain comfy--like a beer cozy for your feet.

They are a little pricey, but you'd pay the same amount for a quality pair of Nike sneakers. They have been a huge investment in my health. I used to hate despise running (I would have an asthma attack at the mere thought of the suicides after basketball practice), and have weak knees (say "hi" to the knees). But after wearing my FiveFingers, I have learned to love running and my knees no longer hurt.

So if you're okay with your feet being stared at by strangers,
then I would definitely make the investment--join the growing trend and treat your feet to some sock-less t.l.c.


Recommendation: LUNA Bars

I love Luna bars--no, not boozing on the moon or moon pies (though they do come in equally delicious flavors). These nutritional bars are focused towards women because they include the DV of folic acid (good for when woman are ready to pop out babies), and other essential nutrients and vitamins that are geared towards females.

The equivalent of a Luna bar for a man = Clif bar. I steal bites from my boyfriend's and they're scrumptious (don't worry ladies, you won't wake up with a beard or a penis--I actually like them when I'm outdoors-ing).

All of Luna's different flavors kinda make me feel like the women in the Yoplait commercials-- Where she's on the phone with her friend and yakking about all these mouth-watering desserts in her fridge: strawberry cheesecake, apple turnover, key lime pie...which we sneakily find out are yogurts (to her husband's poor dismay)!

In all seriousness, I vote Luna. They are so yummy (I recommend Blueberry Bliss and Dipped Chocolate Coconut) and less than 200 kcals! So that's my Luna pitch, and I'm enjoying one right now (Iced Oatmeal Raisin, if you were curious).

 I'm over the moon for Luna and you should be, too! Over and out.

The Scary Side of the College Cafeteria

Forget what you know about the happy-go-lucky tales of a Bob and Larry. This gruesome tale is about vicious vegtables on steroids and...with vampire fangs (sounds more like the Twilight Zone than Twilight, and you're right). So last week, I went to my school's dining hall for some laxative-infused grub. Thought it would be a positive experience, enjoyable even. No. Above is the sheer madness I encountered--- a picture of the nutritional value of a (*gasp*) vegetarian item....

Here are a few comments (not calories *cough-cough*) I would like to interject:

(1) 3,770 calories is more calories than Michael Phelps eats at dinner time (Yes, I looked it up), and not to burst anyones hopes and dreams, but I don't think we're all gold medalist swimmers.

(2) I now know why my school is in the middle of a rainy season....to negate all that sodium

(3) It makes you wonder how many calories are in the non-vegetarian dishes!...What are we? A pack of wolves? (oh, wait...)

(4) The real reason for the Freshman 15 500

(5) and finally my last plea...why, dining hall, why. As stressed out students, we already eat enough of our feelings. No need to encourage us, we got it under control.

I am all for eating healthy, but beware--not all vegetarian meals are people friendly (unless you're Michael Phelps). Remember: Not all Veggie Tales end happily

Food Labels: Keep it Simple

I never watched what I ate until the beginning of my sophomore year in college. Not that I downed boxes of Twinkies (though I'm sure I could have), but I was one of those people at our school's dining hall who needed a slice of pizza as a warm-up while paroozing the other food options. I was the epitome of a foodie. I still live the happy life of a food-lover, but I've learned to indulge more simply.  

My eye-opening experience was:
(1) I found out I was lactose-intolerant (so 4-cheese pizza and I were no longer on good terms); and
(2) a shopping experience at Wal-Mart (sadly, no Wegmans close by) with my boyfriend.

My boyfriend, who at the time was (& still is) Mr. Organic, and I initiated our shopping adventure aisle by aisle. We landed upon the frozen foods. I, trying to impress him, picked out frozen smoothie mix. Healthy, right? WRONG. You would think a 3-berry smoothie mix would contain berries, correct? He showed me the ingredients: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, trioxygliceride, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, rat poison, dirty diapers, tiger blood, etc. Gross. Then he showed me a frozen strawberries package, ingredients: strawberries. That's it. From that day on, I read food labels.

My goal when shopping: try not to buy something that includes ingredients you can't pronounce. Think about it. All that shit and tiger blood are going in your body, and no one wants to be like Charlie Sheen. #winning


Western NY Rain Festival: Jan. 1st - Dec. 31st

Clouds, worms. and puddles the size of kiddie pools. I know April showers bring May flowers, but how can the flowers even breathe when they're being drowned in wet depression. Sigh. Screw the flowers, how about some real Mayflowers so we can stay afloat (the pilgrims had the right idea).

We get it Mother Nature. You win. We don't wanna play any more.

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