Side Effect #1: Self-Love Allowed Me To Love My Body

IMG_0626This one might seem like a no brainer; when you love who you are you most likely will feel better about the way you look; the mind and body are connected in very deep ways. But the way my body looks hasn’t been as much of a concern as how my body feels. Before I go into the difference between the two ideas, I want to explain my background with body positivity. I mainly want to go through my history so you can all understand that this is something I will always be up and down with, and I hope that you can find it relatable and realistic. Body positivity is the hardest part of self-love for me and it always will be.

I was never ashamed of my looks, until I was. I grew up on stage so I found confidence in myself very early on. I never felt like I was different or wanted to change the way I looked until high school. Bullying started when my weight began to change. Halfway through Freshman year, my body began to hold weight differently and gain weight easier. I was a cheerleader and heavily involved in theatre, and that was when I first started getting severely bullied for my size. I am sure that it was happening behind my back for much longer before it started being said to my face. But when I was finally told to my face by a classmate that I was too fat to play the part in the show that I wanted to play, I felt like that was what every person thought about me. I will never forget that moment and how it made me feel. It sent me into a downward spiral and it seemed to open a door of never ending comments about my only worth being my weight. It made me a mean, unhappy person who strived and begged for acceptance by my peers, which turned into manipulative and verbally abusive “friendships”.

I was told I shouldn’t cheer or dance because no one wants to see my fat jiggling around. My senior year (the heaviest weight I have ever been) I was called a whale in front of a majority of my classmates. I was told by my “friends” at the time that I was too fat to love, and that I needed to do whatever I could to make myself skinny before college began. This started another downward spiral. By the time college had started, I had already been accustom to hiding the fact I wasn’t eating and I was working out way too much. But I didn’t let anyone know this was happening because I “wasn’t skinny enough to have an eating disorder.” I believed this too, as the people in my life who I knew had eating disorders just so happened to also be smaller than I was. But starving myself and running 3 miles a day is a problem. Trying to hide it from others by occasionally eating a cupcake or half a burger but secretly hating myself for eating those calories and trying to run them out is a problem. Losing 50lbs from restriction is self-harm and it is a problem. But I was losing weight, so no one seemed to know happening in such a dangerous way. This story is one I will get into more in-depth someday, but overall my point is that just because someone who is “bigger” is losing weight does not mean it has been in a healthy way. Check in on them.

Suddenly, things changed. I got myself out of a toxic living situation, and out of toxic relationships by being cast in my college musical, and it brought new meaning to eating. I started dance classes again which made me feel whole. I knew I needed to actually eat in order to get through the classes, and with this slowly came weight gain. But it was at first in a positive way. I was gaining weight by going out to eat with friends and socializing. I felt good about my body because I was happy with my life. Surprisingly, I was okay with this. I realized that I loved that my body could create art and that the way I was built was just different than others. And my new friends never made me feel anything less than beautiful, smart, and strong.

Then things changed again, more stress and toxic problems happened causing my next struggle with eating: binging. I would restrict myself by believing coffee and bananas were enough to live off of until dinner, then eat 3 orders of Taco Bell. I was restricting then binging, and this was much harder to stop. I hated myself for it, but eating a ton of food at one time made me feel better mentally. I could eat a Chipotle burrito and chips for dinner, eat 4 pieces of cake afterwards, and tell myself that it was solving all my problems. But in the morning I would be disappointed when I tried to slide my jeans on that no longer fit. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the way I looked, because I still liked parts of my body, but I wasn’t feeling good. It didn’t feel good to not fit in my clothes and to wake up with pain in my stomach and bloating around my face.

Now, I will also explain that although I was eating bad, I also gained so much weight from the hormonal treatments from my chronic condition, adenomyosis. If this condition is new to you, read my post about my story here. I was on and off so many treatments, it messed with my body and mind. It created so much stress and imbalance that my weight gain was deemed normal by medical professionals. It was something I begged to not happen, but the doctors told me I would (while also telling me to lose weight…this was very confusing!). I allowed myself to use this as an excuse just to avoid talking about my binge eating issues. This went on until December 2017, when I weighed almost as much as I did my senior year in high school.

When I started my most recent health journey, it was because I was tired of feeling so incredibly awful. Feeling, not looking. I didn’t feel like myself anymore. It was partially stress/anxiety, but also partially my adenomyosis. So, my new, more understanding doctor and I made a plan. She wanted me to eat an anti-inflammatory diet. I became gluten-free and dairy limited. This was a main part of my inspiration for this blog, to make my new lifestyle a positive experience for myself. Through this, I’ve learned about eating foods that are simple and actually beneficial for you. I’ve tried new foods that are now a major part of what I eat, as well as began craving my own cooking verses eating out. Why? Because eating my own foods made my body feel better. Through this, I’ve lost 20lbs. Not by tracking calories or by restricting what I can and cannot eat, but by learning about balance and realizing how to properly fuel my body and better my relationship with food.

IMG_0488The thing that people don’t often associate with body positivity is weight loss. Because body positivity is all about loving the skin your in, which I stand behind 100%. But there is also the fact that sometimes the skin your in is unhealthy and is causing more problems than you realize. Even though I was okay with the way I looked 20lbs ago and definitely still flaunted what my mama gave me, I was extremely unhealthy. Body positivity, in my eyes, goes hand-in-hand with self-love. And with self-love comes self-care. And with self-care comes healthy habits. I started eating unprocessed and healthier foods as a way to take care of myself because I knew I wasn’t getting the nutrients I needed. I started working out again and pushing what I thought were my exercise limits in a healthy way because I knew I needed to move my body and gain muscles.

I realized I wasn’t losing weight because I hated my body. I was losing weight because I wanted to take care of my body.

So yes, weight loss has helped me love my body. But it isn’t just because I look better, but because I feel better. I feel strong, I feel healthy, and I don’t wake up feeling bloated and with a stomach ache that lasts all day. There is absolutely nothing wrong with losing weight for health reasons. There is absolutely nothing wrong with loving yourself and your body enough to realize you need to change the way you eat and live your life. Do I still eat potato chips and Taco Bell? Sometimes, yes I do. But I have learned to eat in order to fuel my body, not to make my mind feel better. The way I choose to eat and exercise was made out of self-love and self-care. My weight loss has made me more body positive because I am taking care of my body. I am allowing myself to lose fat and gain muscle, and I will not apologize for loving my body then, now, or in the future.

August 2017 vs August 2018

I know that all of this was a lot, but the bottom line is that my body positivity and confidence is at the level that it is because of the relationship I have created with myself. Over the past 10 months, I have worked so incredibly hard at changing the inside of me and how I thought about myself, and I truly believe that it is showing on the outside. I know how cliché it sounds to say that the inside is what matters and that your inside will shine brighter than your outside, but I am convinced that this is true. I feel healthier, I love who I am, and I love the way I look.

Advertisements

Side Effects of Self-Love: A New Blog Series

IMG_1930It’s no secret that this year, and to be honest the past 23 years, I have tried my best to practice self-love. It isn’t always easy, but when you do get to that point of freedom, it is a beautiful place to be. I am proud to say that I am fully in love with myself, even on days where I don’t think I am. How did I get to this point? What is the magical key ingredient that has allowed me to be able to state what I did as a fact? How was I able to do this when so many people told me that I shouldn’t?

As I am sure you already guessed, there is no magical key ingredient. Just a lot of time spent with myself, even more time spent reflecting, and of course, learning to accept the things that I cannot change. I have taken the time to be selfish. And I say this without fear of admitting to you that it is me being selfish. As someone who used to go out of her way and make herself be selfless, saying the word “selfish” doesn’t roll easily off the tongue. But I mean this in the way that I focused on needs and what made me feel like the best version of me. I did this because my relationship with myself should always come first. Your relationship with yourself should always come first.

IMG_1936I want to be a therapist. That’s not a secret to those who follow my blog or my Instagram either. It is one of the biggest goals I have for myself. Through plenty of research on how to become a better therapist, I found that the number one way was always the same. You have to not only practice what you preach, but go into this career with your pitcher full. What I mean by this is that you cannot expect to help others if you cannot help yourself first. My pitcher of self-love, acceptance, wellness, and health has to be full before I pour what I have into others. Because no matter what anyone says, you cannot fill glasses with an empty pitcher. So, I quickly realized that I would need to do what it takes to fall in love with myself. And I did.

I cannot explain to you specifically how to do it, because there is no cookie-cutter way. Everyone will have different wants, needs, desires, and situations. But what I can do is tell you what has happened in my life and what I did to fulfill myself. So, I decided to make a new series for my blog about the side effects I’ve had since I began loving myself.

Paleo Gluten-Free Apple Fritter Bites

Fall is my favorite season, and I am so glad that it is finally here. From the color changing leaves to the seasonal holidays, I love all things fall! As a recipe creator it is even easier to create yummy foods when you love all the different flavors. From apple cinnamon to pumpkin nutmeg to rosemary and thyme; this is where my taste buds want to live!

To begin my wonderful fall recipe series, I wanted to take advantage of the delicious apples a family friend brought over, fresh from her tree! They are Macintosh, so they are a perfect balance of sweet and crisp. I couldn’t wait to use cinnamon as a pairing flavor to the perfect apples, but I knew I wanted to be a little bit more creative than an easy apple muffin.

I woke up this morning craving donuts with my coffee. When I would get donuts in the past, I would always get a glazed old-fashioned and an apple fritter. I love the sweet and fruity surprises that apple fritters brought, and that’s when it hit me. I should make an Emilee friendly apple fritter. Aka Paleo, gluten-free, no refined sugar, (and mainly dairy-free)…Thus my creation!

I didn’t want these to be overly sweet or overly heavy. Instead, I wanted an apple fritter that I could use as my morning carb so I would be less tempted to make a breakfast quesadilla (I got addicted and my body deserves better lol). So, I chose to make apple fritter donut holes so I could eat 2 or 3 and be satisfied while also having a properly portioned amount. I also didn’t want to have to try to figure out yeast or anything like that because I am not ready for that kind of commitment. But these little babes turned out amazing! I had no idea that on the first try I would get something so perfectly yummy and my craving satisfied. Not to mention, I now got to have donut holes with breakfast for the next 4 days without ruining my dietary needs. It’s overall a win win.

Paleo Gluten-Free Apple Fritter Bites

I was able to make about 16 2-inch Apple Fritter Bites from this recipe. I probably should have doubled it because my family ate a fair amount as well! And mind you, my family usually questions what I make (but then they try it and are in love!)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of finely chopped apples (Granny Smith or Macintosh work best!)
  • 1 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1/4 cup all-natural honey
  • 2 tablespoons almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon liquid coconut oil mixed with 1 tablespoon cinnamon (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Then, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine almond flour, coconut flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking powder.
  3. Next, add the eggs, vanilla extract, honey, and almond milk. Be sure to mix this well so all the ingredients are fully combined.
  4. Carefully fold your apples into the mix and try to get them evenly dispersed in the batter.
  5. Using an ice cream scoop or spoon, take about 2 tablespoons of batter and roll it into a ball. Place the balls on the lined baking sheet about an inch apart from each other (they should not expand!)
  6. This step is optional, but helps bring moisture into the donuts. Melt 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and mix in cinnamon. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat each donut with the coconut cinnamon mix.
  7. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the tops are golden brown.
  8. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes to cool down. Another optional tip: drizzle a tablespoon of honey across the top.
  9. Enjoy while wrapped in a cozy knit blanket, smelling a fall scented candle, and while sipping a pumpkin spice latte (;

Should I Stay, or Should I Go?

IMG_0570I grew up with parent’s who took me on adventures. I do not mean that we always went somewhere exciting or new, but they made even the short walk down the block to get slurpees an adventure. Adventure runs through my veins similarly to the way blood runs through; rushing to my heart quickly, and then my head soon after. However, I never experienced the adventures of constant travel until after I graduated from college. Being bit by the travel bug has brought me through unforgettable experiences and leaves me feverish for more. I guess you could say I really and truly relate to Belle when she sings about wanting “adventure in the great wide somewhere” and wanting it more than she can tell.

Let’s back track a bit to after I graduated from college. I wrote an entire post about it that you can read here, but let’s go over the basics! I went to college in Ventura County and had the time of my life. I then got offered what I thought was a dream job back up in the Bay Area, where I grew up. It was in a small mountain town about an hour from my parent’s house. At first, it was an ideal situation. I was working a job that I thought would be something that would last forever, while also getting to heal from some situations that occurred within my last few years in college. I loved it at first, then suddenly, things took a 180 and now I am doing what I do now. And as wonderful as my life currently is, I am starting to feel way too routined.

But this post isn’t just about having a craving for adventure, but more about what the next step in my life should be. Currently, I am studying for the GRE (which I will be taking mid-September so it’s coming up quickly), as well as applying for my top graduate schools, working for the dance company, building my online health/fitness coaching business, and also volunteering at the hospital and breast cancer center…so it’s going to be a busy fall season! However, I will not be attending school until Fall 2019…so yes, I have an entire year to do more amazing things; and I will not waste that year. I want to travel more, experience life more, and give myself some new beginnings.

Initially, my plan was to move back down to Southern California in January. As of now, the schools I want to attend are down in the LA area and I think it there is a possibility of spending the rest of my life there. I love the communities and friendships I’ve made while down there and I love being able to jump in the car and go to the beach, mountains, and city within 3 hours. Yes, I get that in the Bay Area as well, but I think that I have simply outgrown this area. Especially now that a majority of my closest friends in this area have now moved away. I’m itching to begin a new lifestyle; I am ready to move out of my family’s home (even though they are the best), be on my own, and be living in my twenties!

Like I said before, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the life I am currently living. I have a wonderful family, a great job, I’m getting to work hands on with patients, and I am saving money…but the other day I realized that just because the life I am living is fine, doesn’t mean it is the life I should be living.

IMG_0569In the past, I had a lot of fear when it came to living in new places. I lived in the same house, in the same room, until I moved for college. From there I had living drama and some crappy roommates (but also a really great one <3). It gave me a lot of experience but also made me nervous to live with new people and in new places. However, I overcame my fear when I moved back up to the small mountain town because I worked at a camp and lived on-site in a cabin. Now that cabin barely had electricity, had no bathroom, and no cell phone service. This cabin was basically a studio apartment with no kitchen, bathroom, or balcony. Just a plain room. As much as I loved to hate that cabin, I also loved the experience of living in a new town and making new friends and starting a new life..even if it was just temporary. It made me realize that there is a lot of adventure out there and I am young, single, and in need of living my life to the fullest before settling in on a career.

When I start graduate school, it will be a lot of focusing on getting my career where I want it to be. I finally know what I want career wise and I am ready to work towards that…next fall when I start school. But right now, I am not truly sure what is stopping me.  The main things being:

  • Leaving and failing.
  • Money.
  • Disappointing myself/family if I fail.
  • Falling in love with somewhere that isn’t necessarily CA.
  • Not loving where I am living and hating it all.
  • Not making friends.
  • Getting a job I hate.

But these reasons are all “what-if’s”. They are all things that could happen. I’ve always been a planner, and over the past year, I worked on my becoming so much more spontaneous and I love it! But, maybe this is too spontaneous. Maybe this is too much. But what if it turns out to be one of the best experiences in my life? What if it allows me to grow as a person in absolutely brilliant ways? Again, it is filled with what-if’s.

So, what better way to blurt all my thoughts out than blogging? I have so many wonderful people who follow this blog and email me or comment about what I have written. I am hoping maybe, just maybe, I reach someone who has done something like this before. Moved for about a 5-6 month time span in a place where they know possibly no one and have maybe never even been. What would you do? Would you stay where it is safe, where you can save money, and where you can continue your typical routine…or would you change it all for an adventure that may or may not be successful? Comment below or send me an email!

What I Ate During My 6 Days In New York (and only gained 1lb!)

If you follow me on Instagram (@wellnessandwelldrinks), you know that I went on a crazy, whirlwind adventure to New York (Manhattan and Brooklyn) and I want to share with you as much as I can. Food was of course, a major part of the trip and my family had a great time trying all sorts of New York favorites. Unfortunately for me, I do have dietary restrictions due to my adenomyosis. My body needs certain foods everyday, and I need to stay away from many foods including gluten, most grains, most dairy products, and too much red meat. Anything that can cause an abundance of inflammation is not my friend! I was still able to indulge and enjoy even with my dietary needs. And the best part? I enjoyed myself while only gaining 1lb! Most likely from all the walking I did, and that most days I had my Shakeology for breakfast…but it still impressed me. I did not take a picture or write notes for every meal I ate, but I did try to get as much as I could with all of you in mind! So, I hope you enjoy some of my favorite foods, drinks, and restaurants I discovered while in the city!

The Good

GF Avocado Toast from Grass Root Juicery.

IMG_8522This is probably one of the best things I have ever put into my mouth. I will forever crave this creamy and perfectly spiced avocado toast. The most dangerous part? This place was only one block from where I was staying in Willamsburg, Brooklyn. They had so many goodies, but I knew this was the right choice because ya girl needs her greens to function. I was grateful that they could accommodate gluten-free needs by offering all toast on a gluten-free bread alternative. On the menu, it says the gf avocado toast is topped with sunflower sprouts, crunchy seeds, and aleppo pepper…as you can see in the picture, they were very generous with all of the goods!

While I waited for my toast, I looked around the store. They had many delicious sounding juices, as well as a ton of different holistic wellness products. Aka, it was my dreamland. Sadly, the service left more to be desired as I waited over 20 minutes in the less than busy shop for my toast. But, I will say that it was 100% worth it. In fact, it was so good, I ended up stopping by again on my last morning. I got their dreamy avocado toast yet again, and I tried their Berry Green smoothie. What I loved most about the smoothie was that it tasted so natural and I could tell there was no added sugars. The ingredients in the smoothie were filtered water, blueberries, raspberries, banana, spinach, organic almond butter, cinnamon Puffins cereal (which is GF…and delicious.) I was stuffed until lunch later that day.

Overall, I would highly recommend this delicious and nutritious place. I have heard that they have a location in San Francisco as well, so I might just have to drive to SF one day (;

GF Roasted Eggplant and Bell Peppers Sandwich and Side Salad from Fabiane’s Cafe.

IMG_8403Another one of my favorites, but I think I will say that to all of the food I ate…but on a real level, this was absolutely to die for. I love eggplant, but I hardly ever cook it (hmm maybe I need to make an eggplant recipe soon..) But, when it is an option at a restaurant, I almost always order it! I am so glad that I did, because this was just WOW! Fabiane’s Cafe and Pastry is located in Brooklyn not far from East River State Park. I loved that they had gluten-free options all over their menu. Not to mention how cute the location was on the corner of Bedford and N 5th street where there was plenty of people watching to do.

I loved the flavors in this sandwich. Along with the roasted eggplant and bell pepper, there was some sort of cheese and sauce that really brought it all together. The salad was a perfect side salad containing a mix of greens and delicious balsamic dressing. What I liked the most was the bread. It was the best gluten-free bread I have ever had and it was toasted like a panini which made it crispy on the outside but still have a soft layer on the inside. My mouth is honestly watering still thinking about this delicious meal and pretty healthy meal!

My mother enjoyed a Greek salad and said it was also to die for, while my older brother indulged on their all day breakfast Strawberry French Toast. I liked the service, the food, and the location, so there is no reason for me to not recommend it to you!

Avocado Cobb Salad from Max Brenner.

Yes, Max Brenner is known for their delicious chocolate, and don’t you worry…later on you will learn what chocolate treat I indulged in. But, we actually went there for lunch and sadly, they were seriously slacking on their food for those with dietary restrictions. However, that does not mean their food wasn’t fantastic. I was craving avocado and a salad even before knowing my limited options, so it all worked out for the better.

IMG_8548I am not usually someone who eats bacon because I am extremely picky with it…and honestly I am just not a fan of pork products in general. But, for some reason, in New York I had bacon not once, but twice. Honestly that’s more times than I have it in an entire year. So, yes, this salad had crispy bacon and grilled chicken (sorry veggie and vegan followers.) I have absolutely no regrets about this order either. The salad also included chopped egg, avocado, mixed greens, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, bleu cheese crumbles, and a side of citrus dressing. That dressing was a life changing dressing. It was tart, but also added some sweet and fresh flavors to the vegetable heavy salad. What I also appreciated was the amount of protein this salad had between the eggs and meat. I would definitely recommend it.

My family all ordered delicious meals too. My younger brother ordered a BLT, my older brother ordered fries and lots of chocolate treats, my dad had their mac and cheese, and my mom had the chicken Alfredo. There was nothing but happiness around the table and the venue was really cool too. I would recommend this place if you are in the mood for chocolate and all sorts of delicious food.

The Bad

Okay, just to clarify, I mean “bad” as in it no health benefits whatsoever aside from the happiness in my soul. They were not bad at all, just absolutely delicious!

Basic Burger from Williams Burger.

Okay, this was a local spot in Williamsburg that was a couple of blocks from our home base. My family was in the mood for warm food after a day of being caught in a storm, but more importantly, we wanted to be somewhere causal, comfortable, and a spot where we could people watch the locals. Williams Burger (we fell in love with the witty name) had high reviews online, so we decided to take the walk over. It was the calm after the storm, and right when we walked in, we knew this was the place to be.

IMG_8521The staff honestly made this experience that much better. They were warm and welcoming the second we walked in. But it wasn’t that fake kind of welcoming, it was genuine and made me want to stay as long as I could. I took a look at the menu and was pleasantly surprised that a small place like this had a gluten-free bun option for their burger. Score! I ordered the Basic Burger with gorgonzola blue cheese on a gluten-free bun. It came with all the fixings (lettuce, tomato, red onion, and house cured pickles) along with a hardy side of fries. I ordered the burger cooked medium and it was cooked to perfection. I loved how juicy and meaty it tasted (again sorry veggie followers) but it wasn’t overly salty or greasy. It was honestly a perfect burger!

A funny experience we had here happened after I had devoured half of my burger. I looked at my mom and dad’s burgers and noticed my bun was the same as my dad’s but my mom’s looked different. Immediately, my family and I panicked because we thought I got the wrong burger (my mom ordered the same on a regular bun.) It was terrifying because my body reacts horribly to gluten now that I am gluten-free and I had eaten so much of it already. We called the waitress over and she immediately went to check with the chef and manager. They had gotten the order wrong, but luckily, it was in our favor. They gave my dad a gluten-free bun by mistake, so it was all okay! And get this, my dad even truly enjoyed the bun lol. But the staff were amazing about the situation and it only made us adore them even more.

I highly recommend this restaurant for a casual, and laid back night. They had a great beer/wine selection (we didn’t drink, but could have!) as well as many options on the menu. It is a cute and cozy restaurant and I hope to one day go back and experience more time there!

Marshmallow Chocolate Chip Shake and Fries from Shake Shack.

IMG_8638Okay, I know some of you might think this is nothing special, but Shake Shack is an East Coast delicacy and I come from the land of In-N-Out…aka it was necessary to go here and experience a shake for all that it is. This day was my favorite. I ended up seeing Spongebob: The Musical with my best friend Anissa, and after the show she took me to her local Shake Shack. I have absolutely no regrets about the amount of calories I consumed here and can proudly say I will probably never pass up one of their shakes. They are just too darn good!

I ordered the Marshmallow Chocolate Chip shake which I believe was one of their specials. Wow, that baby was sweet. It was the brilliant flavor of marshmallow without the sticky mess, and the chocolate chips added a nice crunch and depth of flavor. The whipped cream wasn’t that gross, “fake” tasting whipped cream, it was delicious and tasted so fresh. (I am not even trying to be dramatic when I write this; I am seriously analyzing their food!) I also ordered their fries because why not? My immediate reaction was that it tasted what I imagine frozen fries will taste like when I cook them…but they are actually crispy. I appreciate good fries because if I am going to indulge in something like that, I want them to leave me feeling on top of the world. That’s what crispy In-N-Out fries do to me, and luckily Shake Shack’s did the same. Not to mention I got to enjoy it with some really amazing company.

Of course Shake Shack is recommended. definitely one of the best shakes I’ve ever devoured!

Coppa Catalana from Cannoli King.

IMG_8512
This was another really hilarious and fun experience. My family is Italian by marriage (my grandmother married into a HUGE Italian family), so we wanted to expereince Little Italy. We wanted authentic food, the delicious smells, the warming accents…we wanted all the cliche and fun. We were not disappointed when we entered Cannoli King. We decided to go here because we wanted some delicious sweets, and I am so glad that we came. The service was awful, but the experience was one of it’s own.

IMG_8513We read the menu probably about 5 times (it’s HUGE!) and we each decided to get something unique. I initally wanted creme brûlée (I know it’s French lol), but fate was not on my side…they were out! So, I tried something that I honestly did not know what it was…but it was gf and I was going for it! Coppa Catalana is essentially creme brûlée, but theirs was a frozen custard and it was absolutely refreshing and amazing. It was a hot day, so the creamy and cold custard cooled me down quickly. The topping (aka caramelized sugar) added a great flavor and texture to the custard. It was different than anything I have ever had, so I really enjoyed every bite! My mom had some sort of homemade coconut sorbet (I tried it and WOW!) while my dad got a sampler of their cannolis. He wished they were bigger, but he still said they were yummy!

But what made this experience the Italian experience we wanted was the owner. I mean this in the best way that he was just like The Godfather. His accent, personality…it was perfect. Overall, I recommend this dessert palace for all of the Italian goods. I wish I got to try their gelato, but during my next trip I will have to!

The Naughty

As you know, I drink. I mean obviously because part of my blog name is “well drinks”…so of course I had some alcoholic treats while in NYC and wow they were one-of-a-kind deliciousness.

Watermelon Margarita from West End Bar & Grill.

IMG_8424My mom, older brother, and I met up with my best friend Anissa before my mom and I headed to my first official Broadway show: Chicago (yes, I was lucky enough to see two shows!) We decided to find a place where we could share some appetizers and get drinks. We came across West End Bar & Grill because it was right near the subway AND theatre. The atmosphere of this restaurant gave me bougie yet modern city vibes and I was loving every moment.

The watermelon margarita was part of their happy hour and wow was it delicious. Not too strong, not too sweet, but just what you look for. The salt around the rim made it even more delicious. In fact it was so good, I had two. We also ordered a Mediterranean plate with cucumber salad, hummus, some sort of dip, and olives…and it was so refreshing and delicious. Plus, their fries and siracha aioli (my obsession tbh) were just as amazing. We actually devoured one round of fries and needed more! Our server was very kind and made our time their even better. It seemed to be busy after work spot for most, but it was one of those places where you just feel really great about the vibes.

I would definitely recommend this place, however I will warn you that their food is pricey. We actually didn’t even look past the appetizer section of the menu, but judging the price and portions, it’s a little bit more than we typically spend. Worth the deliciousness though!

Dark Chocolate Martini from Max Brenner.

IMG_8549I told you would let you know what chocolate treat I indulged in. Again, Max Brenner is a restaurant dedicated to chocolate goodness. I loved how diverse their chocolate menu was, especially that they had dark, milk, and white chocolate choices on nearly everything. They understand the chocolate taste bud diversity!

So, my mom, older brother, and I decided since it was his graduation day (and because we are us) that we would get a drink to celebrate. Now, I am not a sweet drink kind of girl to begin with, so this was really stretching my limits. But, I was there and I wasn’t going to bail out on my drinking pals, so I chose a martini because in the past I’ve had decent martinis. Now, I used to be a huge vodka gal…until I discovered tequila and realized alcohol doesn’t have to taste horrible, but I do occasionally have a drink with vodka in it. I am also not someone who likes the idea of creamy alcohol, in fact it really grosses me out, but again, I was here to try it. I do not know the specifics, but what I do know is that it came in a dark chocolate or milk chocolate option. I will never not choose dark chocolate.

When I was served this delicious drink, I was in awe of how pretty it was and how amazing that chocolate covered strawberry looked. I took a sip of the martini and that baby was strong. It wasn’t awful though, it was chocolatey and good for what it was, but it definitely wasn’t my thing. But, that strawberry is something I will dream about for the rest of my life. It was covered in chocolate with crunchy, crispy hazelnut pieces. I literally savored every bite and was close to tears when it was gone (again, I am not being dramatic…) That was one of my absolute favorite foods I have ever tasted. Just WOW.

Again, I would recommend Max Brenner for a fun, chocolatey experience! If you’re there and drink, try one of their specials for the fun of it!

Cauliflower Gnocchi with Creamy Roasted Vegetable Sauce and Italian Turkey Meatballs (Gluten-free, Low-Carb, Dairy-Free, Paleo-Friendly)

I grew up in a household where I was constantly exposed to so many different dishes and foods; I guess that’s what happens when your father has a passion for cooking and food. A classic choice was always some sort of Italian dish, so naturally this became my comfort food (well, that and mashed potatoes/French fries bc who doesn’t love those?) As most of you know, I recently went to New York (Brooklyn and Manhattan) where I allowed myself to eat a little less restricted while still trying to stay balanced. One thing I wanted the whole time I was there was pasta. Sadly, everywhere we went for dinner didn’t have pasta at all or did not serve gluten-free pasta. Even somewhere that said online that they did told me at their location they don’t! It isn’t always a choice to be gluten-free!!

IMG_8808So, naturally, the moment I got home my recipe creator mind went crazy trying to think of a delicious dish I could make to satisfy my craving. When I create recipes, I like to think of a dish and write down all my favorite flavors that match with that dish. For this recipe, I started with the sauce…because that is my favorite part! I wrote down a list of flavors that I wanted to taste, some extra veggies I could throw in to add more health benefits, and how I wanted to use the ingredients. Then, I moved on to what kind of pasta I wanted to match it with, and I needed to think of a protein to add so it would be a balanced meal. Thus, I created this beauty…okay the color is a little odd, but it comes from the mix of roasted veggies…yum!

I have heard about Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi all over the BeachBody Instagram world. They are gluten-free and made with a base of cauliflower (veggie pasta? Yes please!) One of the best parts about them is that they are frozen, so you don’t have to worry about them going bad before you have your next pasta craving. I was finally ready to try these babies after reading about them for about a month now. When I got to the store, I was pleasantly surprised that they were only $2.50 a bag! That’s such a great deal, especially if you are gluten-free like I am and you are used to buying products for way more than the typical prices.

IMG_8809Next came thinking about a protein. I remembered how much I liked the meatballs I made a couple of months ago, and I was excited when I discovered ground turkey in the fridge that needed to be used. However, this time I wanted to do something different from the pesto flavor, so I used two of my spices from RawSpiceBar. If you have never heard of this company, I highly recommend looking into their spices. It is a quarterly subscription that sends fresh, high quality spices to your door and gives suggestions on how to use them. I love receiving the spices because they always inspire me to create things that I normally wouldn’t! I’ve cooked a variety of middle eastern and asian foods I would have never tried without these spices. I am not sponsored by them (a girl can dream) but I have been featured on their Instagram/Twitter pages and recommend them on a serious level! PS: Who can spy a hungry puppy in the bottom of this picture??

Now that I’ve blabbed enough, I am ready to share this recipe! My mom said this was some of the best sauce she has even had and I was so proud. The sauce is creamy without any added cream, and it was purely veggies, some spices, and olive oil! Pretty amazing what vegetables can do on their own! Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Cauliflower Gnocchi with Creamy Roasted Vegetable Sauce and Italian Turkey Meatballs Recipe

This recipe yields about 3 servings of sauce and gnocchi, and 12-15 meatballs depending on their size.

Ingredients

Gnocchi:

  • Cauliflower Gnocchi from Trader Joe’s

Meatballs:

  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 package of RawSpiceBar New York Italian Seasoning (or your favorite Italian Seasoning)
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds (I used RawSpiceBar’s)

Sauce:

  • 6 tomatoes (I used Roma because that is what grows in my garden, but feel free to use beef or any other large tomato)
  • 1 whole sweet onion, sliced
  • 6-9 cloves of garlic (depending on preference)
  • 1 whole bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 3/4 cup fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 °F. Line two baking sheets with foil for easy clean up.
  2. For your meatballs, in a mixing bowl, add egg, garlic, almond flour, spices, and fennel seeds. Mix until all ingredients are combined.
  3. Add your lean ground turkey. Be sure to mix really well so all of the turkey is covered in flavors, egg, and flour!
  4. Using a tablespoon for measurement, take a scoop of turkey and using your hands, roll into a tight ball and place on your baking sheet. If this thought totally disgusts you, you can also use a cookie scoop so you aren’t touching the raw meat. When making your meatballs, remember to try to make them all a similar size so you can be sure they cook through all the way.
  5. Put baking sheet in the oven and allow your meatballs to cook for 20 minutes.
  6. Using tongs, flip your meatballs so they brown on both sides. Cook for 10 more minutes. When done, take them out of the oven so they are ready to plate later.
  7. While your meatballs cook, you can begin to prep your veggies for the sauce. Chop your onions, tomatoes, and bell pepper, then lay them all out on your second foil lined baking sheet and season with a drizzle of olive oil, sea salt, and cracked pepper. Your garlic can be placed in whole cloves on the sheet as well!
  8. Place your veggies in the oven with your meatballs. They will take less time to roast than the meatballs, so keep a close eye on them. Mine took about 25 minutes and came out perfectly!
  9. In a sauce pan, add 1/4 cup of olive oil and your fresh herbs. Let this begin to warm up on a low heat so the herbs infuse their flavor into the olive oil.
  10. When your veggies are ready, add them to the sauce pan and begin to break them down while mixing it all together.
  11. In a blender, pour your sauce and blend until smooth. A hand held blender works just as well. I personally use my NutriBullet and love it.
  12. Pour your sauce back in the pan, add sea salt, cracked pepper, and crushed red pepper. Stir well and let simmer for 5 minutes.
  13. Cook your gnocchi according to the directions on the package.
  14. Pour gnocchi, sauce, and meatballs into a bowl and enjoy the heck out of it!

365 Days Ago I Graduated College

One year ago today, I celebrated the biggest life accomplishment I have made. 365 days ago I earned my BA in Performing Arts: Dance and my certificate in Psychology from California State University Channel Islands. I earned this along with University and Program Honors. To this day, I am still overwhelmed by what these accomplishments all really mean.

Let me tell you a little bit of history about how I got to this place. Starting off with the fact I didn’t actually know if I wanted to go to college or not. I grew up thinking the only thing I was capable of ever pursuing was my theatre career, because I was afraid of being seen as smart due to the restrictions society made me believe I had. I was a cheerleader, I had a pretty face, and I was amazing on stage…I didn’t see or understand the need of being educated. However, my parents wanted more for my future. They didn’t go to college, so they wanted to help me have the opportunity no one in my family ever did. So, I applied to colleges as a way to get out of the town that felt too small and continue to build my acting career. Mind you, I didn’t get into my top college choices because of my poor grades. So, it was between CSU Channel Islands and University of the Pacific. I knew after stepping foot on CSUCI’s campus, that was going to be the place for me.

Located near LA and a small performing arts program meant I had many opportunities to shine. I soon became aware that performing arts wasn’t about shining, but about the power behind creating art and the good that you could do for the world. This is where I fell in love with dance, and this is where I would begin to learn that being a pretty face no longer made me feel good about myself, but that becoming educated in so many fields on so many issues made me feel empowered. I started taking harder classes, being told by professors that I have an intelligent mind that deserves to grow and flourish. This is how I discovered my love for psychology and developed my Capstone thesis and research.

I presented my Capstone theory, research, and actual findings on Dance/Movement Therapy that changed the way others thought about how artists can change the way the world views and treat mental health. I ended my college career with a 3.65 GPA and earned University Honors for my academic achievements. I also earned Program Honors for Performing Arts for both my academic and humanitarian accomplishments. I was never prouder of myself or more excited/terrified to be in the “real world.”

After graduation, I was still working for YMCA as I had been for the past 2 years. Through this job, I developed a passion for creating communities and helping families build strong bonds. I loved that going to work meant changing lives, and I decided that performing was no longer going to be the career path I followed. Instead, I came to the realization that this world needs to incorporate finding a balance between a healthy body and a healthy mind to help with communication, expression, and emotional behavior. I found that working with the youth of YMCA, I was able to practice these skills. I loved working for a company that allowed me to do what I loved while also grow as an individual and professional.

What I failed to mention before is that during my first year of college, the beginning of a 4 year long stalking and sexual harassment incident that changed my life forever. It began slowly, and as time went on, became worse and worse. Police and Title IX became involved, and things still continued to get worse. It is extremely hard to go to school when someone watches your every move and claims that you are their girlfriend in both a sexual physical and romantic way even though you’ve never had any romantic or even overly friendly contact with them. It is hard to focus in class when he is sitting outside waiting for you to come out. It is hard to even finish school when your stalker and harasser is ALLOWED to roam around campus and continue to violate agreements and faces no consequences. But that story is for another blog post; for another time when I am strong enough to have fully overcome what gave me ptsd. I mention this because it not only played a huge role in my academic career (one point I almost dropped out from feeling so unsafe, and my grades slipped noticeably in the middle of a semester) but it also was a part of what happened after graduation.

I was working my usual summer position at the Y, and although I had graduated, we were still working on the case I mentioned above. There was a lot that went into something like this, a lot of time, unanswered questions, interviews, and exhaustion. I began to not only just have anxiety, but showed signs of ptsd. I was afraid of being alone, scared of him finding out where I worked and lived, but most of all, I was afraid of the school and town that had become home because he was there too. I knew I had to get out, but I was working that summer. So, I began applying for jobs at other Y’s away from CSU Channel Islands in hopes that I could escape.

That’s when I was hired to be a full-time Residence Life Coordinator at a camp not far from my hometown. This would get me away from the pain and fear, and give me a newer beginning. This job, I thought at the time, would be THE JOB. You know, the one you get right out of college that seems like a dream because of have a fancier title, get benefits, and feel like an actual adult. I was only at this job for 3 months due to a long chain of unfortunate circumstances and realization that this was not what I wanted to be doing.

During those 3 long months, I did learn a lot about myself. I learned I was stronger than I believed, a really good person, and capable of pushing myself in ways I never imagined. I made some lifelong friends (s/o to Laura, Lizz, Gabi, and Thomas) who I still tell everything to. But I also learned that my anxiety and fears couldn’t just vanish by running away to live in an awful cabin in the middle of the Santa Cruz Mountains. I found out the closing statements of my case from college. They were not what we had hoped for, but I had won the case. However, this sent me spiraling in ways that I didn’t know I could. I began eating terribly once again, never wanting to move or even get out of bed, and I lost my passions because I didn’t know my purpose anymore. I honestly gave up for awhile. I was unemployed, feeling at loss, moved back in with my parents, and absolutely miserable.

Then, in December, I found my place in the dance studio world. I began helping run one of the studio locations and then started teaching. I had fallen in love with movement, dance, communities, and connections again. I started becoming happier with myself and my life. I started researching more and more about grad school and what I wanted to do with my future. Although I am still unsure about what I specifically want to do, I have a better idea now.

I am currently still at the dance studio, but I also signed a year long commitment to volunteer at a local hospital where I am working on bringing more communal aspects, as well as the arts, into patient long term care. I started this blog after having the idea for months and finally saying, “screw it, I want to write and share my life!” That lead me to finding online health/fitness coaching where I am able to help others with their goals while also being on my own journey. I have strong friendships and bonds, and knowledge that although my future is unknown, I am working hard to make it bright and beautiful. There is a lot I still need to discover about myself and heal, but that personal journey is incredible and truly humbling.

365 days have past since I made the biggest accomplishment of my life thus far. 365 days of emotions, changes, irrational and rational decisions, and finding myself after not being in school for the first time in my life. There is no guidebook to tell you exactly how that first year will be, but this is how my first year out of college went and I couldn’t be happier that I have amazing health, a wonderful job, and ambition for the future, even if it took a lot of hard times to get here now.

Future and current college graduates, let me leave you with this: you are going to have a hell of a first year. Your life is going to change, and it will be different from what you have now and probably what you think it will be. There is no shame in not knowing what the right path is. This is tryout time to try everything and anything out! This is your time to apply what you learned in school to the real world by taking on jobs with flexibility so you can travel, create a life for yourself, and discover what it is like to no longer be a student! This year is going to take you crazy places, but you will get through it all and find so many things out about yourself if you just hold what knowledge you gained tight!

I had a tough year, but I also had a year that allowed me to become a better friend, a better daughter, a better sister, a better teacher, a better role model, and overall a better person. Yes, there were MANY downs and rock bottom points, but where I am now is worth every single one of those low points. Believe in the power of your education, believe in the power of your journey, and believe in yourself. Cheers and namaste to my one year anniversary since completing my under grad studies and becoming a CSU Channel Islands Alumni!