Recipe: Vegan Cowboy Caviar Quesadillas With Pepper Jack Daiya and Guacamole

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I have been on a Mexican food kick lately, as you’ll know if you read my attempt at recreating Sugar Taco’s vegan beef tacos. Well, I was looking at one of my favourite food blogs (Budget Bytes) and I was inspired to make a quesadilla version of the Cowboy Caviar, the classic southwestern bean “dip.”

Well, I made them, and they turned out beautifully, which is why I’m sharing here. They are super easy to make and great with a little bit of guacamole! Scroll for the recipe and some process photos (these really help me when I’m cooking).

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Easy 5 Km Jog and Trying Orgain Plant-Based Organic Protein Powder

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This morning, I woke up an hour before my alarm, at about 7:45 a.m. That’s still about an hour later than I usually get up, but after a day filled with two exams, I wanted to set myself up for a good day today and get a ton of rest.

I knew I’d be going for a jog this morning, even though I hadn’t decided on the specifics. I’ve just gotten back into running with the warming April weather, and so far, I’ve played it by ear each time I’ve gone, setting a goal for myself based on how my body feels within the first minute or so of the jog.

I had a few procrastinate-y thoughts as I got up and sat in bed, thinking about the chilly 5-degree weather (41 degrees Fahrenheit, for reference) waiting for me outside. And things got even (a little) more challenging when I started getting dressed and realized, after digging deep into my closet, that I’d have to wear knee-length pants/shorts because all of my workout pants (I don’t own many) were in the laundry basket.

Continue reading “Easy 5 Km Jog and Trying Orgain Plant-Based Organic Protein Powder”

Running and Tacos — How Everything Gets Better

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A few days ago, I was feeling a little bit down. I had been going through a job recruitment process that tested me in a way that well clarified my intentions and desires in terms of the kind of employment relationships I want to create in my life. That is, I desire an employer that values my time just as much as they expect me to value theirs in the recruitment and interview stage.

During the interview stage, if I took a day to think about something, I would let these people know. If I had to create a sample of work for them, I had a deadline to follow. In return, however, I was given no timeline or expectation for when I would hear back regarding their decision. In the days following, I received many Linkedin notifications of the same two people from the company looking at my (empty!) profile multiple times without any contact to give me any type of feedback. I decided it was enough and withdrew from the process.

Part of the experience is due to the fact that I cared so much about this job. I was really excited. Before choosing to submit my candidacy for the role, I took time to research the firm and really think about whether I could see myself doing the work. I could—really well!

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Chewy Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies (Take One)

Is this what these are supposed to look like?

Every so often, I engage in the aspirational hobby of perusing recipe books and websites. I dream of what could be. Bean cassoulet with biscuits? Pumpkin chipotle chili? Seitan simmered in mole sauce? I look, I read, and I savor—with my mind’s tongue, that is.

A few days ago, I thought to myself, isn’t it a shame I haven’t ever cooked my way through a recipe book. It wasn’t a question; it was a predicament I found myself in. And so I picked up the only physical cookbook I own, from which everything I have ever made has been fantastic: Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.

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Now, a little backstory. I’ve had the book for going on a decade, and I started with high hopes that I would cook my way through it. I even placed a dainty dot beside each recipe I tried, convinced that my zest for domesticity would find me opening the crisp pages of the hardback to a dot beside every recipe title in The Contents. Mind you, there are about 250 recipes in the book, and no amount of zest can carry you through that much cooking from one place… It takes discipline, but that wasn’t what I thought.

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How I Proactively Prevent Stress Eating and Choose to Thrive Instead :D

Over the years, I have become very good at managing my mood-induced eating. I personally think I am a great candidate to write about this topic because I am emotional and I do have a history of emotional eating. I’m not the type of person who can really go any amount of time (days or weeks) sticking to a perfect planned diet. That’s because I do use eating to cope! I mean, I could technically go all healthy, if I had nothing else to do, but what I mean is that it would affect other areas of my life.

Lately, I’ve noticed the urge to cope with food more strongly. This is because one of the courses I am taking is really personally triggering. It’s something I haven’t dealt with before… School on its own can be stressful if we don’t have a good method for managing time (something I’ve worked on and thankfully have!) but this is a whole new type of struggle. The actual content of the course is triggering to me.

Since I’ve taken notice of my new food issue, I’ve been working to be really mindful about the choices I make, and I wanted to share some of my tricks. They’re really common sense, but they work. As well, I will be making a list of other coping strategies for this particular problem in a later post, but the purpose of that is to ease the burden and not rely on just ONE way of coping, especially one that can have health consequences.

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One of my strategies is to take the time to really check in with myself before making the plunge into eating. Historically, one of my worst food choices for emotional eating has been bread. Bread is high in calories, low in nutrition, and for me, it takes quite a lot of it to “hit” the spot and give me the soothing that I look to feel. So I try to stay away from bread when I do emotional eating.

If you are in a situation in which you feel that food might help you to cope, take several deep breaths with your eyes closed and try to really visualize and taste what will help to soothe your emotions and your struggle in that moment. Maybe it’s a burger and fries. Whatever it is, take a sensory survey of it in your mind’s eye. Then move on to the next thing; what else would help your emotions? Maybe it’s a falafel. Do that as many times as you can and try to give your choice a health rating. in the end, find the least harmful thing of the bunch that is still very satisfying and get that.

For me, today, it was dark chocolate chips. They are creamy, sweet and satisfying, but also relatively low in calories (I don’t need too many to feel good) and chocolate is thought to have health benefits. When I arrived at the bulk foods store, I stepped in with intention. I analyzed the food labels and chose to purchase 100 grams of their best dark chocolate chips. I am particularly satisfied with this choice because, only for these chocolate chips, the ingredients list begins with cacao rather than sugar.

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Something else I do is to try to combine health with tastebud stimulation. I’m genuinely a health-food nut, despite being an emotional eater, so I really have to keep an eye on my budget and stay away from a lot of goji-berry type purchases that can run pretty deep into my pockets. But when I feel the stress of emotional eating, I know that not only for my health but also the ensuing extreme guilt that a cycle of unhealthy eating would inspire, I need to indulge my tastebuds in some of the fun healthy foods.

One of those treats for me is dried apricots. Okay, stay with me. My favourite way of eating dried apricots is first thing in the morning. I prepare them through the night by placing five or six in a bowl and filling the bowl with boiling water. I cover the bowl and leave it in the fridge overnight. The next morning, I eat the rehydrated apricots and drink the apricot-water. Literally one of the best treats I can think of! So delicious.

This is not a call to start soaking apricots, by no means. Rather, I’m trying to encourage you to explore the health-food aisle snacks before reaching for a bag of Lays or turning up at your McDonald’s drive-thru window. There are many healthful, plant-based yummy snacks and treats by companies that are genuinely trying to create something healthy. Let yourself indulge in those mindfully.

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Another strategy that makes me less likely to “go off the rails” in times of emotional difficulty is to add variety and excitement to my meals. As a mostly plant-based eater, my diet consists of a lot of rice-and-bean type dishes, with a side of steamed veggies or salad. They’re super healthy and yummy, and there’s nothing wrong with those choices, but they can also get boring to the point where while the meal is physically satisfying, it’s not emotionally satisfying.

Tonight I decided to make something that would be more fun for dinner. I blended a large banana with pea protein, spinach, plant milk, ice cubes, and some peanut butter and garnished a smoothie bowl with some of my favourite toppings (goji berries, shredded coconut, and the chocolate chips).

 

 

Reformation Dresses I am Crushing On (Fair Trade + Environmentally Friendly)

Reformation is one of my brand crushes: they are a California-based clothing company that manufactures and develops their designs right out of their California factory, where every employee received minimum or living wages, health benefits (if full-time), and even a weekly massage—which, having gone through a brief period of physical labour, is more necessity than luxury. Their website also claims they are working to increase their wages from minimum to living for every employee.

To me they represent a vision of what can be possible: indulging our wants for frilly dresses and beautiful fabrics and clothes while treating people well! In addition to treating people well, Reformation is also known to care about the environment. One of their online reports claims that they limit their footprint as much as possible and “offset” what they can’t (by purchasing carbon offset credits, I assume), thus their manufacturing is carbon neutral.

And to add to all this, many of their clothing items are stunning. They’re not quite as feminine and frilly as the Christy Dawn dresses I absolutely love, but there are lots of items in there that I am constantly crushing on, and I window shop from Reformation all the time. They are one of my most frequented procrastination websites, and they roll out new designs frequently. So frequently, in fact, that from the time I wrote this post to today, I can’t find links to three of my picks—pretty ridiculous since it’s only a two-day difference.

Of course, the dresses tab is my most-frequented. And today I wanted to share the five Reformation dresses I am crushing on at the moment, in no particular order.

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The Winslow Dress: This is one of their “easier” dresses; it’s relaxed, long, not too tight. You can eat in it! What won me over though is that despite the “ease,” it’s still super elegant. It could be a great dress to wear to a wedding. There are so many colours, and it can be dressed up or down; it’s simple and versatile. And do you agree? You have to love a great wrap dress. (It won’t be the only one of those on my list!)

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Celine Dress: If all of these five dresses were sitting in my closet, I can guarantee that this would be the most worn one. How do I know that? Because I have one that looks just the same but it’s short-sleeved, and it’s my most-worn dress of all time. You can find a way to wear a simple black wrap dress like this to almost any occasion. It’s classic enough that it can be dressed up with heels and jewellery and the right hair, or dressed down for a summer night out to get drinks with friends—or whatever. It’s probably also the most boring one of this bunch, but sometimes the boring garments are the ones that are worn best. Not only that, the cut with this is bound to be flattering, accentuating or creating a waistline thanks to the wrap string and the skirt’s cut, which creates the illusion of larger hips, decreasing the waist-to-hip ratio.

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Flash Dress: This dress screams “dancing!” Maybe sometimes it’s hard to decide what to wear out to a club or lounge in wintertime, and it’s like this one was just made for winter dancing. It’s so easy and comfortable; it takes some booties and maybe some pantyhose (it gets REALLY cold up here in Canada), and you’d be good to go, no worries about wardrobe malfunctions in sight, completely free to dance the night away. I own several “body-con” dresses in exactly this style, and they are super flattering… This one just reminds me of how badly I need a dancing night out.

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Surrey Dress: This is by far my most scandalous choice. I mean, look at it! This dress has a conservative a-line cut, but there are essentially barely-covered by lace stripes that show off your skin throughout. I find something with a little contradiction like this (conservative cut but sexy/revealing material) to be much more scandalously sexy than a dress that outright shows off a lot of skin. It’s somehow a bit more dignified in my opinion… On the other hand, I have no idea where to or whether I would ever wear this. I love hiding in a crowd and finding my comfort zone in busy environments and this is definitively not a dress to do that in.

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Jagger Dress: This should have been called the Nancy Drew dress because it’s such a feminine, goody-2-shoes style. And I LOVE it. I can totally see this becoming a go-to summer dress. Again, I definitely considered the comfort factor in picking my “crushes” out of all of the dresses on the Reformation website.

Things That Make Me Happy

A few weeks ago, I stopped my job hunt and decided to settle into a routine with my remote work and to take on a larger course load with school. Having spent so many months in limbo, often overexcited or worried about one interview or the next, and feeling as though my entire life routine and even place/city of residence could suddenly change, I didn’t take a lot of time to just enjoy life. Now that I know that for the next year or so, this will be my life, and I will not need to look for another job, I can just settle into this and focus on everything good.

I can’t describe what a relief this realization has been; I feel like I can stop waiting to live and just live now. And this post is a list/celebration of the simple, accessible things that bring me joy.

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— A good hike with friends. I stipulate “with friends” because I recently had an awkward experience with a member from a Meetup hiking group—generally things were fine with them, though, so this is not meant to reflect badly on the website. I love hiking and getting out in nature. Depending on the season, the same trails can look completely different, and the Bruce Trail in Ontario has over 880 Km, so exploring new sections is a favourite hobby. Winter hiking is an especially satisfying experience. I feel twice as adventurous going out when it’s snowing outside (though if you plan to do the same, please read about safety and don’t go alone).

— Writing dates with myself! I’m genuinely surprised I like this one so much, but it’s true. I feel so, so good going to a coffee shop and working on my creative writing project. I am working on a story outline, but it’s been getting pushed back because it seems like there’s always something else to do. Home is just not a place where I can leverage my focus when it comes to things I don’t have to do, unlike studying or work. Well, it turns out that going to a coffee shop does the trick; it’s just so official, and once I’m there, I can focus on my project with abandon, without feeling like there’s something else I should look up or do. It feels like I’m taking time for myself, even though it’s productive time, and finishing this project would be a win professionally and personally.

—Meditating after a Tone it Up workout (and the Tone it Up workout). Hear me out! I don’t have a gym membership, and no fancy exercise equipment (I own a Weslo bike I bought two years ago for $120 CAD and some dumbbells and a yoga mat). The Tone it Up app subscription runs at about $12 CAD per month, and it offers so much. There are daily workouts that are 20–30 minutes long, and daily and weekly schedules. In addition to that, there are guided meditations available. Sometimes I’ll go a few days without working out with my TIU trainers, and I forget how amazing I feel after one of their workouts. The combination of the vocal encouragement and the exercise moves leaves me feeling like I’ve taken a plunge into a pool of endorphins and drank it all. To turn on one of their 10-minute guided meditations after that and enhance that feeling is amazing. It’s definitely the type of thing that can turn the day around for me; the hardest part is convincing myself to actually go for the workout on those days (they’re not always easy!).

—Salads and protein smoothies because they represent the purest, truest form of self-care to me. It’s true that positive/constructive self-talk and a good attitude are realistically even more important to me, but I feel a nagging sense of pride eating a salad. And as someone who eats a lot of salads and drinks a lot of smoothies, it’s weird that I STILL get this feeling every single time. But it’s been years, and the magic is still alive. That probably has something to do with why I keep going back to my super green, super “earthy” tasting smoothies. I feel like I’ve won a competition when I eat well, and that’s a positive feeling of joy that nothing else other than winning an actual competition can give me.

—Mindful Youtube or Netflix watching. That little adjective at the beginning of this is SO important. Here’s a little tid-bit on me: left to my own devices, I fluctuate between over-control and eventually, after a crash and exhaustion, under-control. So it’s important that I intentionally create balance between work and “life,” times when I put in concentrated, hard work and times where I can take it easier and live more slowly. One way I genuinely enjoy taking it slowly is watching TV shows or my favourite videos. But that can easily turn into a binge if I’m not careful, and not only is that potential lost time that should have been dedicated to other things, but it also makes me feel really guilty. So instead, I like to plan exactly what I’m going to watch before I do: is it two episodes of Lucifer? Five Youtube videos I can chuck into a playlist? Whatever it is, I make a plan for when to stop and what to do after. And then after that,  I grab a blanket and a mug of tea and rid myself of every distraction and just relax. This can be so therapeutic if done with intention and mindfulness!

I’d love to know what everyday parts of your life you find joy in. I think sometimes it takes looking over our day and finding out where we can make space to do the things we already do a little more intentionally that can make the difference between a meaningless routine and a space/time of joy. Would you agree?