So long, 2015!

You had your time. You saw me through some new adventures – hiking a 4000 footer, trekking through Hawaii, going backstage at a Broadway show, playing my guitar in public. You held with me through fun and hard days at work, the snowiest winter ever, and a return to my favorite summer camp. You were the end of my fearless 20s and the beginning of my confident 30s. You were there as I cried over political unrest and cheered for the better future I still believe is possible. 

  

It’s been real – and I’m thrilled to see what 2016 brings! Starting with a delicious dinner at a local restaurant with one of my favorite former Bostonians and her loved ones, and then the unknown adventure ahead. 

Happy New Year!

Kitchen Adventures: Easy Vegan Banana Muffins

In this VB6 phase, oatmeal will only take me so far. So I’m always on the lookout for other delicious vegan breakfast options to carry me through the week.

This weekend I dove into a new recipe: vegan banana muffins. And they were a HUGE success. I think they might be the best muffins I’ve ever made, vegan or otherwise!

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Check out the recipe at AllRecipes – my version was modified slightly:

  • I replaced the cup of canola with 1/2 cup olive oil (because I didn’t have canola) and it gave them a great depth of flavor
  • I filled in with the other half cup of oil by just adding more coconut milk
  • I only used lite coconut milk – it’s fatty enough anyway!
  • I used 2.5 bananas (having eaten half on the way home from the gym…) – I don’t think you can have too much banana in a banana muffin!

For next time, I’m going to try to cut down on sugar, which this recipe has a lot of. Overall, this made 24 medium-to-small muffins, which is how I like them – you could easily make one dozen plus a loaf of bread if you wanted.

What’s your go-to breakfast option? Bonus points if it’s vegan and thus can make my mornings brighter!

Vegan-ish

I love food. Baking. Cooking. Eating. Seeking out the best doughnut and the tastiest quiche.

But starting in November, I’ve been trying something new in my approach to food. After years of dabbling in Weight Watchers or trying just to limit sugar / eat more veggies / cut back on cheese, I’m taking a new perspective and trying Mark Bittman’s Vegan Before 6 (aka VB6) diet / lifestyle.

My coworker Theresa turned me onto the idea, and now my mom and aunt and I have all adopted different versions of it. The basic idea is just as it sounds – eat vegan until dinner each night, and avoid processed food and white sugars / carbs when possible. Eat whatever you want for dinner (which doesn’t mean eating until you’re sick, but it does mean you can have steak and fries if that’s what’s calling your name). The basis is that vegan food is better for lots of bodies and also better for our environment, but eating is also a highly social experience and any lifestyle that doesn’t recognize that and give you soon room to adapt to it is ultimately doomed to fail.

Unlike going totally vegan, this means that you can still just as easily digest milk and meat and whatnot when you do want them – that part of cutting something out of my diet never appealed to me (if I want ice cream, I don’t want it to come with an immediate stomachache). But it also means that for 3/4 of the day, you’re eating vegetables and grains and other whole foods.

The best part: it’s super easy to stick to. Yes, it means more oatmeal. But it also means that if I really love eggs (which I DO), I just eat them for breakfast and look forward to them starring in that meal. Dinner is just as easy – you can make a delicious meal with a side of meat / cheese and then just eat it without that piece for lunch the next day (like James’s delicious black bean soup mom and I made over Thanksgiving!). And because it’s flexible by its very nature and meant to be a sustainable lifestyle rather than a plan, if you decide that brunch is your non-vegan meal of the day or find that you need to make some swaps based on business travel restrictions (see last post), you don’t have to feel guilty, as some other tracking programs would have you do.

Mark Bittman said that when he moved to this model, it changed his perspective on life – he stopped just writing recipes and started writing more about food policy and production. And I can see it. By changing how I look at cooking and eating and dining out, it makes me want to focus on other, more interesting parts of my life – my guitar! Exploring new neighborhoods! Calling my friends who don’t live in Boston when I would otherwise be slaving over the stove!

It’s also opened my eyes up to how hard true vegans and vegetarians have it in mainstream food options. I was at the airport, looking for a healthy snack to take on the plane, and my only options were nuts or bananas. Not even an apple to be seen, or anything that wasn’t yogurt-based or a baked pastry. Or the time that we ordered pho and all the broth was chicken-based, or when wanting no egg in my pad thai meant that I couldn’t have any of the dozen lunch specials. It makes me want to cheer on people who serve almond milk along with the soy, or who offer tofu scrambles as an alternative to other breakfast items.

After doing this for a month, I feel better, lighter, and more free when it comes to what I eat, despite this new restriction. It makes me think – what do I really WANT now? That’s led to me leaving Bloody Marys sitting on the bar when it wasn’t the right thing for me, or spending more money to get two small vegetarian sides as a meal because nothing else was clicking.

Stay tuned for more vegan recipes ahead and other culinary adventures. If you have any awesome suggestions for vegan meals, please send them my way! And if you thought you could never be vegan, just wait until you hear about the muffins I made yesterday!

Trying on another life for a night

That’s my philosophy about Halloween. It’s a time where everyone can be whoever they want – whether you’re a bus driver by day and black swan by night, or the total reverse. It’s also a chance to get crazy creative – and if you’re not ready to put your name on your creation, you can just add a mask and remain anonymous. 

Last year, I spent Halloween minimally dressed up with friends in Barcelona, where we drank in underground bars and resisted invitations to parties on the beach that started at 3 am. 

This year, the celebration started with an office costume contest in which we were all declared the nerdiest winners of the land. 

  
In addition to the inside jokes (dads@ and the hilarious hot dog, we also had a pivot table (Joey turned from side to side), #slack, and Internet explorer (me!), and a spam trap. And a pirate pulled from our costume bucket. Surely every office has one of those, right? Halloween nerdiness reached its pinnacle when we made a graph outlining each person’s vote for best candy. Reese’s forever!

Then, for a major throwback, I celebrated on the day-of with high school friends in Manchester, near where we grew up. This was my most exciting costume (favorite in years) as snapped by my dad, which made me feel like I was 10 and about to go trick-or-treating.

  
I’m Katniss from “The Hunger Games”, sporting my first ever side braid and my beloved mockingjay pin. And yoga pants. I decided that every costume I ever wear from now on has to include yoga pants because I was SO comfortable. 

This continues my trend of dressing as awesome heroines – from Nancy Drew to Cleopatra to Julia Child. Who will be next??

We celebrated Halloween and Rachael’s upcoming 30th at Strangr Brew, which was nothing short of magical. I love how Halloween tears down walls and makes it possible for me to go talk to the trio dressed as the Sanderson sisters, or to ask Rob Stark where he got that amazing cape (he made it!). Where I can do the wobble with a basic b*tch and laugh at black swan prancing around wearing Big Bird’s head. I had a crowing contest with Rufio, we shared our loaf of French bread with a very convincing joker, and a good time was had by all. 

I wish there were more days where we could express ourselves without worrying what other people think – and speak freely to strangers without bring creepy. Until there is, I’ll just start plotting my next costume… 

What’s your favorite costume you wore or saw this year?

**Also – shout out to my grandma for her chef costume and for winning the retirement community’s costume contest YET AGAIN!!**

Where we’re going, we don’t need roads

It’s finally here. The moment we have been waiting for these almost-30 years (of you know, the fifteen since I first saw the movie) – WE ARE LIVING IN THE FUTURE!

 
Back to the Future II is one of my favorite movies (just ask anyone who has seen my OKCupid profile!). I love the campiness, the simplicity of its time-travel logic, and the specificity of what the future will hold. Doors that open based on your fingerprint! Holographic movies! Lots of frozen “food”! Video calls instead of just talking with our voices!

And of course, hover boards and self-tying shoes. 

We’re still working on those final two – but some of those other cinematic predictions really have come to pass. Drones are used in reporting. Our phones unlock through fingerprint scans. And the Cubs are still (temporarily?) in the running for World Series champs. 

Part of what I love about these movies – once I get past my crush on Michael J Fox – is that in this vision of the future, the world isn’t perfect but hope also isn’t totally lost. I feel like the narrative I’ve seen in movies lately is a bit more helpless – either because the world is wasted by overpopulation or climate change or that ever-possible asteroid. While our leaders debate whether or not God has endorsed them as a candidate and what server one should use for work emails, our films show the real issues that line our fears of the future – and the threats that go far beyond the danger of a simple sports almanac. I prefer the BTTF version, where any challenge can still be overcome, to the modern idea that the future is set… and looking pretty gray.

Raise a glass of Pepsi Perfect to the film that somewhat accurately showed us what this day could hold – and reminded us that even in 2015, our densities… I mean, destinies… can still change.

Secret popover

Some spirit inside my phone desperately wanted to share this… So since it already emailed all you lovely readers anyway, here’s a haiku about that cryptic image:

Popovers and tea / On the lawn at Jordan Pond / This is my heaven 

(Taken in Acadia, Sept 2015)  

Thrilling thirty

It’s here.

And it’s even better than I expected.

30 brought me a huge birthday card from my officemates, calling out their 30 favorite things about me (everything from “she always shares her time, even when she’s busy” to “she found my underwear!” to “she keeps AOL in business”). It gave me brownies and cookies and people to enjoy them with. It meant I was walking through Davis Square after live music, dinner, and a movie – with my awesome dad – as the clock chimed into my new decade. It fed me breakfast at my childhood kitchen table with my family old and new (HI WES) around me. It saw me cheering over birthday cake with my family at our lake house, keeping warm by the fire and playing on the beach, then sipping the night away at a new speakeasy-themed bar in ManchVegas.

In a way, my life isn’t that different from when I started this blog in 2010. I still live with my awesome roommate Katie. I am weeks away from hitting my 5th year with my awesome job. I still love Boston, and peanut butter, and running on the bike path. But I’ve learned a lot, seen a lot, taken risks and hit my stride.

I can already tell – thirty is going to be my best year yet. The dress rehearsal is over, the stage is set – now it’s my time to shine and show the world what I can do. Including even running for Senate if I feel like it (5 more years until the Presidency is mine, baby!)!

Stay tuned to see what happens next!