Friday, November 11, 2016

Let's travel!

I'm back! I know it's been awhile since I posted, but I've been bouncing around for the past few months and scarcely in one place long enough to get a post up. Since traveling is my jam (ok, and my bread and butter, literally--> I travel a fair bit for work), I thought I might share a little bit of what I have learned about traveling and airports over the years. Sometimes I feel like airports and airplanes are actually designed to be as uncomfortable as possible, so I am constantly looking for better ways to be more comfortable and efficient when I travel.


I was bit with the travel bug early. I traveled a lot growing up, in part for my dad's job and in part because my parents loved it. I used to love going to the airport because I felt so grown-up and important- I had somewhere I needed to be! It was thrilling.

Fast forward to now. I still love to travel, but I do not love airports (I also still don't quite feel like a grown-up, but we'll save that for another time). Now, I spend a fair amount of time traveling not just for fun but for my job as well. I literally consider packing a suitcase one of my more refined and fine-tuned skills (let's pretend this is a real skill, ok?).

Below are a few tricks I've picked up for long-haul or international travel.

  • Get TSA pre/Global Entry. I have Global Entry for international travel, but it also gives me access to TSA pre security lines in domestic airports. DO IT.  Even if you don't travel a ton, it is worth the $100 and the 10 minute appointment. I absolutely love that I don't have to wait in crazy security lines or remove my shoes. I especially love that I don't have to wait in any customs lines when coming back to the US (and I have literally waited hours before). I'm a fairly anxious traveler, so the peace of mind that I won't get stuck in a ridiculous security line is worth ever penny
  • Wear compression socks. Ok, this is really more for longer flights, but still one of the best things I have ever done and right up there with TSA pre/Global Entry. I literally love my compression socks to a point where my husband has asked me to please stop saying the words 'compression socks'. A few years ago, my legs suddenly started to swell after long-haul flights (and yes, I am getting old).  Now I put on my socks as soon as I'm in my seat and I don't have to worry. I also purposefully ask for an aisle seat so I can get up and move as much as possible on a plane without disturbing anyone.

  • Drink water. And only water. Ok, I will be the first to admit that I will sometimes drink coffee if I have a long layover, especially if I'm on overnight flights or if I am in any European airport (why is European airport coffee so much better?). However, staying hydrated is very, very important to me and I make sure to drink a ton of water before, during, and after the flights (see above about aisle seats). It's always tempting to drink alcohol on flights (I'm a sucker for anything free) or in airports, but I avoid it at all costs. Airplanes are very dry and it's so easy to get dehydrated, which makes jet lag much worse. I like this water bottle, because it's easy to store when it's empty.  Additionally, if you are going to a place that doesn't have drinkable water, this water bottle the perfect solution.  
  • Sanitize everything. I completely wipe down the seat before I sit down and I mean completely. I wipe down the headrest, the arm rests, the seat belt (yes, this too!) and my tray table. I don't leave anything to chance. Just in case,  I also drink an Emergen-C on every flight. 

  • Pack snacks for the plane and possibly your destination. Sometimes the airline forgets my special diet meal. Sometimes (and more often than not) the airplane food is inedible (especially said special diet meal). I always pack snacks, not only for the plane, but for my trip as well (this varies depending where I am going and availability of food there). For in-flights, I like to bring dates (because airports ALWAYS make me want junk food and this satisfies my sweet tooth), nuts or trail mix, nut butter (for carry on I bring these, but I have also brought this in my suitcase) and accompanying apple,  some sort of hydrating vegetable like sweet peas, and protein bars for backup. To answer the question some of you might be wondering: yes, I usually bring a small shopping bag for my many snacks. I have also been known to bring a homemade dry oatmeal mix that just needs water for morning flights. I try to find out the food situation at my destination and plan accordingly (options can be especially limited as I have diet restrictions). I often bring extra peanut butter, protein bars, oatmeal, and nuts with me to eat at my destination. 

  • Wear comfortable clothes for the airplane. I always been impressed by people who look amazing after a 22 hour flight. I've accepted that I will never be one of these people.  I wear Toms (I can easily slip these off for security lines), yoga pants, and layers as I get cold on flights.
  • Have toiletries handy. I put dry-shampoo in my hair before flights to minimize greasy hair after long days of travel. I always have this facial mist to keep my face moisturized and my toothbrush and face wash handy. Washing my face and brushing my teeth always makes me feel slightly less gross. 
  • Have frequently used personal items handy. I have a bag with facial mist, hand lotion, sanitizer, lip balm, my kindle, adapter plugs, and other electronics that I can store easily in the seat pocket in front of me, which saves me from going into the overhead bin all the time.
  • This airplane pillow. I will fully admit that I spent many hours researching airplane pillows. I never liked airplane pillows sold in airports, as they don't have enough neck support for me and you can't wash them. This pillow is the perfect solution. I love that you can wash it and it can even double as a regular pillow if needed.
  • Pack smart. These travel cubes save SO.MUCH.SPACE. I love them. 
  • Longer layovers.  Did I mention that I'm an anxious traveler? My husband hates that I do this as he does not like layovers, but I refuse to sprint to my next gate or miss another connection.  I now make sure I have AT LEAST 2 hours to make a connection (ideally 3 if you have to go through customs), which has greatly reduced my stress and anxiety. You never know what might arise:  flight delays, different terminals, or additional security lines. If I'm coming back to the US, I'll allow even more time to clear customs before heading to my next flight. 

Did I miss anything?  What are your travel tips?

Happy travels! 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Roasted sweet potato smoothie

I love smoothies (as in: here and here). It's a great way to make sure I get my daily fruit and veggies, especially when I'm on the go. And yes, I am one of those people who likes to eat my smoothie out of a bowl with a spoon (really, I love to eat most things this way). It makes smoothies seem more like a meal to be and makes it less likely I'll gulp it down in one minute flat. But I digress: I love smoothies. I try to have a green smoothie every day, but my tastes change with the seasons. I move from things that are cold and green to things that are warmer and richer. I tend to opt for more roasted veggies and vegetable based soups, rather than green smoothies and salads.



This smoothie is a product of that shift. I adore sweet potatoes. I find that roasted sweet potatoes gives them more depth and sweetness than if I just microwave them. It can be time consuming to roast them, so I usually just roast a large batch to last me through the week, ensuring I always have roasted sweet potatoes to blend for breakfast, stuff for lunch, or fry for dinner.

Sweet potatoes for days! 

This smoothie is my go-to smoothie for the fall and winter. Sweet with a bit of a kick from the spices, it will be sure to warm you up and power you through your day.



Ingredients (serves 1-2):

1 roasted sweet potato, cooled
1 frozen banana
1 scoop chocolate protein powder
1 cup water
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2-3 dashes nutmeg
2-3 dashes cloves
2-3 dashes allspice
3/4 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
4-5 ice cubes (optional)

Optional toppings:

chopped walnuts
cacao nibs

Using a high powered blender (I use a Vita Mix), add all of the ingredients. If using, add ice. Turn machine on and slowly increase to the highest speed until you reach desired consistency.



Garnish with option toppings and enjoy!



Thursday, September 22, 2016

Tomato and Peach Cobbler

I know summer is on its way out, but I can't seem to let it go. I'm clinging to summer produce as long as I can before it disappears for the long winter. There's something magical about fresh and juicy tomatoes and once you've had them, it's hard to go back to the bland variety that line produce shelves all winter.

I'm taking advantage of the last precious tomatoes and trying to cook up a storm, or at least enough to hold my appetite until next spring. First up: this gorgeous tomato and peach cobbler. Caramelized onions, sweet peaches, and bursting tomatoes combine with cheesy biscuits to make the perfect summer wind-down meal that you can easily pull together.




Ingredients:

Filling:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 quarts cherry tomatoes
3 peaches (or nectarines), sliced
1 large onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
sea salt and pepper to taste

Topping:
This Biscuit recipe
1 cup shredded cheddar (blue cheese would also be good)
1 tablespoon melted butter for brushing (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion slices and stir to coat the onions with the oil. Spread the onions out evenly over the pan and let cook for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally until caramelized. Add salt and pepper. When the onions are soft and browned, add the  garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds more. Add peaches and gently stir to combine for about 1 minute.

In another bowl, combine cornstarch,  cherry tomatoes, and caramelized onion mixture. Mix to evenly combine. Transfer to a large casserole dish and bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the biscuit dough using 3/4 cup of the shredded cheese, setting aside the remaining 1/4 cup. Remove the casserole dish from the oven, and place small rounds of biscuit dough on top of the tomatoes. Melt butter. Brush the biscuits with melted butter, then sprinkle  with the remaining cheddar. Bake for another 20-25 minutes, until the biscuits are cooked through and the tomatoes are bursting. Let cool in pan slightly. Serve warm.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Biscuit Heaven

I love biscuits. When I was young, the only thing I ate at Thanksgiving (literally- I always hated turkey) was huge plate of biscuits.  Homemade, canned, or bisquick- I loved them all. However, since I've been GF, I haven't found that 'perfect' biscuit I craved as a child. Any GF biscuits I found (and these were few and far between) were seriously lacking. Apparently, there isn't a huge market for GF biscuits.

Anytime I thought about making biscuits, the numerous different types of flours intimidated me. Side note: do you know how many flours and flour combinations exisr? I've always been more of a cook than a baker and the multiple types of GF flours required for most baking recipes just enforced this. Specialty flour are expensive (and inevitably went to waste as I  never used them all) and when every recipe I saw called for a different type of flour blend, I lost patience and gave up.

Lately, I've been embracing baking using just one flour (coconut flour, almond flour, or chickpea flour are usually my go-to's). Extremely versatile, they haven't failed me yet (knock on wood). Not wanting to suffer through another Thanksgiving without my beloved biscuits, I decided to attempt biscuits once again using my trusty almond flour. I'm so glad I did- the result was amazing. Moist and tender biscuits that begged to have jam slathered on them. If you're looking for a delicious drop biscuit, this one's for you.


Ingredients (yields approx. 8 biscuits)

2 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
3 tbsp butter, melted (or melted coconut oil)
2 tbsp buttermilk
2 large eggs (room temperature is best)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine almond flour, baking soda and salt.
Add remaining ingredients, whisking together until thoroughly combined.  Drop biscuit dough (I used a large spoon) onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper approximately two-inches apart.
Bake about 15 minutes, until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.


Serve warm with butter and jam. Enjoy!



Monday, September 12, 2016

Summer Sippin'

I start to get in the summer groove just when summer is winding down. Growing up in California (as if I needed an excuse to talk about how wonderful California is), I took for granted the amazing climate on the best West Coast climate. Summertime=being outdoors. Now that I live on the East Coast, summertime=staying inside with the A/C on. Heat and humidity are a vicious combo, my friends. As soon as the humidity starts to die down in September and October, I come alive. I now fully embrace all of the activities that I  avoided because of the oppressive heat and humidity.

Enter this drink. This is perfect for sipping on your roof deck as you bask in the low humidity. It tastes like a pina colada, only better (side note: this winter was the first time I ever tried a pina colada. OMG. Why didn't someone tip me off about these earlier???)  A tequila shot is optional, but highly recommended. I also mixed some of this (sans alcohol) with some soda water and it was quite tasty.





Ingredients (serves 1):

1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tsp fresh grated ginger (optional)
1 1/2 cups watermelon
1/2 cup pineapple
1/2 cup basil
Ice (optional depending on desired consistency)

Add the ingredients to a blender (I use a vita-mix). Blend on highest speed/power until blended at desired consistency.


Enjoy (preferably on roof deck)!

Friday, September 9, 2016

The BEST banana muffins

You guys. Can we just take a minute to talk about muffins? I know it's Friday (TGIF!) and everyone is busy making plans, but for real: we need to talk about these muffins.

I love banana bread, but not all banana breads are equal. Being the banana bread expert that I am, I need to taste the banana.  I need to have the crunchy texture of walnuts. Lots and lots of walnuts. And of course, a few handfuls of chocolate chips never hurt.

These muffins are all that and more. Other than the chocolate chips, they are jam packed with healthy goodness and don't contain any refined sugar or dairy. They definitely don't taste as healthy as they are (this is a good thing, especially for my sweet tooth). I took these to work and they disappeared. And before you ask: no, I did not eat them all myself. Have I convinced you to try these yet?


How about now? 


INGREDIENTS (makes 12 muffins)
4 medium ripe bananas
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons coconut oil
3/4 cup almond flour
1/3 cup packed coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
1.5 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas. Add eggs, coconut oil, and vanilla to the bowl and stir until well combined. Add almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt to the same bowl and stir until well combined. Next stir chocolate chips and walnuts into the mixture, reserving a few tablespoons of chocolate chips. Evenly distribute batter into a muffin tin and sprinkle remaining chocolate chips on top. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Once done baking, let cool and enjoy!



On a completely different note, I've been struggling with how often to post and what content to include. I started this because cooking and writing are two of my passions, but I never realized how much work goes into a blog (spoiler alert: a lot). I've watched more YouTube videos on HTML and website design than ever before, though to be fair, I'd never seen a HTML or website design YouTube before. On top of that, I CODED something- I've never been much of a technology person, so this is a pretty big deal. I'm learning how to balance my IRL job with this blog and I haven't found the happy medium yet. I'm also learning to balance how much I share about my real life. My natural inclination when writing is to just write and let whatever is happening with my life come out, but just like life, TMI is real and there is such a thing as too many pictures of my dog. That's all to say: this is definitely a work in progress. Thanks for bearing with me.  

Monday, September 5, 2016

Lazy day pancakes

I adore long weekends. I equally adore having a lazy breakfast on long weekends while I read the paper and catch up on the current state of the world. Growing up, my mom made the best pancakes on weekends. I think things are always better when they're made by moms (sorry, dad), but her pancakes really were the best. They always made the day extra special.

In honor of the long weekend, I decided to try to re-create her recipe and was pleased with the results- I think it's a keeper. Buckwheat flour is naturally gluten free and lends a nutty, rich taste. I prefer thinner pancakes, but they could be thicker with less buttermilk. I love to top my pancakes with peanut butter, jam, and Greek yogurt, but these are also good on their own.

Ingredients (serves 2):

1 cup buckwheat flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups buttermilk
1 cup cottage cheese (I used non-fat)
1 large egg
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Butter for the skillet

Toppings:

Peanut butter
Blackberry jam
Greek Yogurt


In a blender (I used a vita-mix), add all the ingredients and blend at a low speed until thoroughly mixed.

Preheat your skillet over medium-low heat and coat with 1½ teaspoons of butter.  Pour (or spoon, whichever you prefer) the batter onto the warm skillet. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until small bubbles form across on the surface of the pancakes (I wait until there are bubbles in the middle and close to the edge), and flip. Cook on the opposite sides for approximately 1-2 minutes, or until golden brown.

Transfer the cooked pancakes to a baking sheet and place in a preheated 200 degree F oven to keep warm. Repeat the process with the remaining batter, adding more butter when needed. Serve immediately with desired toppings and enjoy!



Life is always good when there are pancakes involved.