Clean Beauty Favorites

clean.jpg

I've been working on swapping out my regular skincare and beauty products for clean ones. Eco friendly products work just as well as their chemical filled counterparts. It's important to me to find products that are cruelty free. It can be a challenge but I've found a few good ones. 

Before I purchase, I read reviews and double check ingredients on the ewg website. Here are my favorite items so far:

Schmidt's Deodorant for Sensitive skin  is the best natural deodorant I've found so far. It smells great and works as an anti perspirant. There is also an unscented if fragrance isn't your thing. 

Simply Sooney Tooth Powder is weird stuff but I love it. It's a tooth powder so you just dip your wet toothbrush in the cup and start brushing. I love this company. It's very difficult to find truly non toxic, safe tooth pastes that are made without carrageenan, glycerin, sulfates and fluoride but this powder doesn't have any of those things. (I really can't believe all the toxic stuff that's put into even 'natural' toothpastes.) This one is made in small batches and has a short, sweet ingredient list. My teeth feel great - super clean with happy gums. I have the cinnamon clove flavor but peppermint might be a good training wheels flavor if you're new to tooth powder. 

I also just realized that the toothpaste in the photo, which is out back up toothpaste, sadly has so many lame ingredients in it. Glycerin, SLS and carrageenan. Ugh. I just looked it up as I realized the ingredients are not listed on the tube. It photographs better than the Sooney Powder. Just an FYI. 

Mascara is a terrifying product to research. First, find a company that does not test on animals, that is vegan, doesn't use a long list of chemical based ingredients and actually stays on your lashes the entire day. Pacifica Stellar Gaze Mascara fits the bill, strengthens lashes and costs less than almost every mascara at sephora. 

If Biossance sent me a t shirt, I would wear it. I've been using the Biossance Eye Gel for about a month and my fine eye wrinkles have started to disappear. Mostly I like it because it feels moisturizing and refreshing when I put it on so I'll consider the above a bonus. The big ingredient is plant derived squalene which is naturally high in antioxidants and promotes cell regrowth. 

In the colder months, I like to use Radha Rose Hip Oil instead of a night cream. It smells great and smoothed out my skin. I like that it's organic and can also be used in my homemade DIY beauty recipes. If you want something in a spray bottle, Nourish Organic Rose Hip Oil Mist is for you. I use it in place of body lotion or a tiny bit on the ends of my hair after straightening to smooth it out and fight frizz. 

I love dry brushing. I bought this inexpensive natural dry brush when I was having some unhappy lymph node issues and they cleared right up after a week of dry brushing. Right before I shower, I brush from my feet to my chest then from my fingers to my heart with small, circular strokes. It's a rush, like an electrical current or fire all over your body. So damn invigorating. 

I never thought this stuff would be as good as it is natural but it is. Cameron and I both use Dr. Bronner's Shaving Soap. It's a thin liquid that lathers up like crazy and gives a close, smooth shave. I like the lavender scent but there is also peppermint and unscented. 

I run a quarter sized amount John Masters Organics Rose Hair Milk through clean wet hair to moisturize and protect it from heat styling. It's smoothing and has a light smell. 

I tried a sample of Mineral Fusion Foundation over the summer and will be purchasing a full size when my current one runs out. It has a similar texture to Mac Studio Fix Liquid but without the icky chemicals. The foundation is part of an entire line so you can also find primer, blush, brushes, everything for your whole beautiful face. Packaging could be updated but that's my only complaint. I have the powder compact and it's great. 

I'll post again as I find and try other clean products but in the mean time - How about you? Any clean, green, eco friendly, cruelty free, vegan products you're smitten with? 

Buon Weekend!

IMG_1780.JPG

Happy Friday! What are you doing this weekend? My parents are Brooklyn bound so I know there's going to some crazy good meals and lots of laughter heading my way very soon. If you feel like a bit of internetting, here's a few interesting things: 

Can't wait to read this. Who doesn't love a good biography? 

Just started this crime podcast. 

If I was in a jacket wearing mood, I'd go for this one. 

The sound of art. 

Have some time to volunteer? Orientations starting soon!

This is a great list of salads perfect for lunch. 

Cooking for One Small Dog

ChibiFood.jpg

We still have one meat eater in the house. Her name is Chibi and she's our tiny, charming Chihuahua Pomeranian. We cook for her. I don't specifically make her breakfast every morning but about once every two weeks, we make a big batch of her 'wet' food in the slow cooker. What she will eat in the next few days goes into the fridge and the rest we freeze in small containers. 

Some people think it's crazy but this is what we do. I like knowing what goes into her food, its healthy and she loves it. As a 7 year old pup, it's important to keep her at a healthy weight which will help her live longer, be less likely to develop diseases and make sure her aging joints are not burdened. Who wouldn't want that for their little friend? 

Cut food into pieces that are appropriately sized for your dog. Chibs is very small so I have to painstakingly cut up chicken thighs into one million tiny pieces. I find this maddening and will probably start grinding her chicken instead. 

Chibi's Dog Food

1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 sweet potato

1 small apple, peeled, stemmed, seeded

1/3 cup peas, frozen or fresh

1/3 cup chopped green beans, fresh or frozen

1 carrot

Chop vegetables and meat to desired sizes - smaller is better. Place all ingredients in slow cooker. Cook on high for about 3 hours. Chicken should be cooked through and vegetables will be soft. 

Let cool completely, portion into 8 oz containers. Chill one in fridge and store the remaining in the freezer. 

Ramen Soup Jars (Vegan, GF, DF)

rjar02.jpg
rjar03.jpg
rjar01.jpg

Aka your new favorite lunch. Who doesn't love a cute little jar lunch. It's so portable and easy to eat anywhere. All you need is hot water. You can definitely change customize these to your liking. Want spice? Add a bit of chile paste or hot chile oil. Want carbs? Add a ton of noodles. 

I'm calling these ramen jars but you can definitely make them with out noodles for a lighter, grain free meal. You can't see them in the photos, but we used these aip friendly Shirataki noodles. They are a dried noodle, made from tapioca starch, konica powder, calcium and citric acid. They taste just like a glass noodle. I found these at whole foods but they are also available online.  Feel free to use any noodle you like but precook them if they will need more than a few minutes in hot water to cook. 

Just remember when you're prepping the vegetables that everything in the jar is cooked by pouring boiling water into the jar, sealing and letting it sit for a few minutes. This means that everything should be sliced small and thin. 

Here's grocery list what you will need to make 8 jars:

4 carrots, cut into thin matchsticks

1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced

2" knob fresh ginger, grated

4 cups thinly sliced green beans (about 1#)

4 cups chopped broccoli, in bite sized pieces

1/2 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen

1/2 cup shelled edamame, fresh or frozen

1/2 cup miso paste

1/2 cup tamari soy sauce

1/3 cup sesame oil

2 teaspoons garlic powder

noodles, amount is up to you, I used 8 shirataki dried noodle nests.

Here's the recipe for ONE jar:

Vegan Ramen + Vegetable Jar

1 tablespoon miso paste

1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon grated ginger

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 scant tablespoon thinly sliced scallions

1/2 cup carrots, cut into thin matchsticks

1/2 cup thinly sliced green beans

1/2 cup finely chopped broccoli

1 tablespoon corn kernels, fresh or frozen

1 tablespoon shelled edamame, fresh or frozen

1 serving of noodles (cooked or uncooked - see note above)

Line up 8 clean glass jars with lids. Fill each jar with the above ingredients. Seal and store in fridge. When ready to serve, fill jar with hot water. Stir, to loosen miso paste. Replace lid and shake lightly to mix ingredients. Let sit for about 5 minutes. Carefully remove lid and enjoy. 

Buon Weekend

IMG_0093.JPG

After my last week's post Cameron and I realized we have been speaking different languages to each other. He says 'bon' in French and I say 'buon' in Italian.  I had no idea we were so trilingual. 

What's everyone up to this weekend? We are heading off to Minneapolis for a family get together. I'm looking forward to seeing Cam's mom, dad and sister, meeting more of his (our!) family and exploring a new city. Hilarious antics to follow. 

Here's some fun internet things:

Zara is killing it this season. This, this, this and this are all on my wishlist. Gah! This too. 

This is the holy grail of lotions.  

I found this podcast so helpful

Why we should all be kind to each other. (Old article but I love it anyway.)  

How to Support DACA Program here and here.

DIY Makeup Remover

rounds05.jpg
rounds06.jpg

I really don't have a good nighttime skincare routine. I'm really more of a morning person. My new thing is once I know I'm home for the night - which is usually when I get home from work and any additional errands - I wash my face. It goes like this: I walk in, take off my shoes, kiss Cam and Chibi and go wash my face. If I don't do it then, it just won't happen. Yes, I'm that lazy. Look, what can I say? You get to a point in life where you know how you are and have to work around it. 

Most makeup removers bother my eyes so I decided to make one myself. This DIY version whips up in about 2 minutes. You'll spend more time digging through the pantry for rosewater than actually making this. It takes make up right off, is chemical free and smells great. 

This is an oil based remover so it will leave an oily residue that will either need to be followed with a warm washcloth or a cleanser. Your skin will feel nice and moisturizer afterward. 

I made my own reusable cotton rounds which was super easy and very satisfying. Any time I get out the sewing machine, locate the foot pedal that I store in a different area of the apartment and re learn how to thread the bobbin always leaves me with a probably not completely deserved, very good feeling of accomplishment. You can make your own, purchase them on Etsy or Amazon, or use disposable cotton rounds. 

Makeup Remover

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 tablespoons tap water

1 tablespoon witch hazel

1 teaspoon rose water

14 reusable cotton rounds

To Make: Warm oil to liquid state. Blend all ingredients. Transfer to clean jar. Add stack of cotton pads. Press pads firmly into make up remover. Flip and press again to make sure all have absorbed some of the makeup remover. 

To Use: swipe pad all over dry skin, massage into skin with pad. Follow with cleanser of choice. Gently pat dry and follow with toner, serum and/or face cream. 

DIY Reusable Cotton Rounds

rounds03.jpg
rounds04.jpg
rounds01.jpg
rounds02.jpg

I hate creating waste. As you might recall from posts Kitchen Detox and Reusable Replacements, it's important to me to be mindful of what goes into the garbage bin. This is why we use cloth kitchen towels and napkins, totes instead of plastic shopping bags and now these cute little cotton rounds instead of cotton balls or cosmetic rounds. I made 14 so I won't run out. (I can't go longer than 14 days without doing laundry - I'll run out of the socks I like.) I would've made more but I ran out of the thread colors I wanted to use. Make as many or as few as you like. The instructions work for any amount of rounds.  

Supplies:

Cotton fabric

thread

pins

scissors

rotary cutter

cutting mat

paper

pencil

sewing machine

---

Instructions:

Wash, dry and iron fabric. Find something circular that is just over 3 inches across. I used a drinking glass from Ikea. Trace the form onto a piece of paper and cut out with scissors. Make two or three of these - you may end up needing them. Lay fabric out flat on your cutting mat. Place the paper pattern you just made on a corner of the fabric. Hold in place while you use your rotary cutter to cut out the pattern.

Continue until you have two circles cut out for every cotton round you wish to make. I made 14 rounds so I had to cut out 28 fabric circles. If you accidentally maim your pattern - use one of the backups. When al the needed circles are cut out, take a moment to clean them up. They do not need to be prefect but try to get rid of any jagged edges. 

Line up one circle on top of another, with wrong sides facing each other on the inside. Right sides will be facing out. Secure with a pin. 

If you have a serger, serge the edges together. I do not have a serger, just a regular sewing machine so I did a little faux serge by selecting the zigzag stitch and sewing off the edge. Use a piece of scrap fabric to try the technique first. Once you get the hang of it, move on to the prepared pieces. 

Line up your pinned round so the edge is in line with the middle opening of the presser foot. Sew a few sitches, back stitch a few stitches and go around twice with the zigzag stitch. You want one side of the zigzag to land on the edge of the fabric and one side of the zigzag to land off the edge. Once you've made it around twice, back stitch a few stitches and cut. Repeat until you've gone through all the prepped rounds. 

Trim any loose threads. 

Buon Weekend

unnamed.jpg

Happy Friday! What's everyone up to this long weekend? Cameron and I are heading up to Cold Springs, NY for a kayaking trip. I can't wait. Here are a few fun things to click on:

This is my new favorite podcast. 

Read a great review of this movie. 

I love this brand's story. Ordering myself a bottle!

Now is the time to join this organization. 

This toast guide is genius. Not to mention delicious. 

Somehow, these are the most flattering things ever. 

Kimchi Soup (vegan, paleo, GF, DF)

kimchisoup4.jpg
kinchisoup2.jpg
kimchisoup3.jpg

I think I have a soup addiction. I made this earlier in the week after returning to Brooklyn from a weekend in Ithaca to a house with almost no food. I keep meaning to freeze a pint or two of each soup I make so that I'm not caught with nothing to eat but I never remember. 

Luckily, my mom sent us back here with a bunch of veggies from her garden and the local farmer's market. The haul also included a new jar of kimchi. Cameron had mentioned an idea for a kimchi soup earlier in the week and after a quick fridge inventory, I realized we had everything we needed for a healthy, late summer vegetable kimchi soup. (Thanks, mom!)

This is a great fridge clean out recipe since it will work with most stocks and vegetables. I happened to have corn, carrots, zucchini, kale and green beans but most other vegetable would work too.

Kimchi Soup

small splash oil

1/2 red onion, chopped

small 1" knob ginger, peeled and grated

2 garlic clove, grated

1 quart vegetable stock

1 1/2 cup kimchi with liquid (I chopped mine first) 

2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce

1 cup chopped zucchini

1 cup chopped green beans

1 cup chopped carrots

3/4 cup corn kernels 

1 cup chopped kale

s + p, to taste

Warm oil in a pot, over medium heat. Add onion, ginger and garlic. Cook until soft, stirring frequently. Add stock, kimchi, tamari zucchini, green beans, carrots and corn. Simmer until vegetables are tender. Time will depend on how thin vegetables are, these took about 8 minutes. Stir in kale. Season to taste. 

Buon Weekend

IMG_1684.JPG

'Buon Weekend!' is something that Cameron and I say to each other every Friday afternoon when the work is over and the weekend antics can begin. It's an exclamation and a sigh of 'ah'. I hope everyone has some fun things planned.

We're taking a spur of the moment trip up to Ithaca, NY to see family, eat tasty CalMex food at Viva Taqueria, swim in Cayuga Lake and pick/eat as many blueberries as we can.

Now that we all have a bit of time to sit back and shamelessly internet out little hearts out - here's a little list of things I've found interesting across the internet: 

If you're feeling nerdy read this.

I've been listening to this newsy podcast daily.

Wearing these while I still can. 

This recipe has to happen soon. Because chocolate. 

This group is Fighting Hate and Teaching Tolerance. Let's show them some support!

Run 10k, feed 10 people.  

Irish Vegetable Stew (Vegan, GF)

stew06.jpg
stew08.jpg
stew07.jpg

As much as I like the plant based diet, it left a void in the slow cooked braised, stewed soup department - which is a big department! We made a slow cooked roast, beef stew type thing about twice a month. Even though it's summer, I wanted a plant based version of my favorite comfort food. 

I have two words for you: tomato paste and gluten free stout beer. More than 2 words but you get the idea. These things are magical together. Browning the tomato paste and deglazing with the stout create a beautiful base for the stew. Vegetarian or not, you will not even miss the meat in this thick, gluten free stew. 

I can't wait to make it again. It's good on it's own but also over cooked spaghetti squash. 

Get a gluten free stout like Murphy's. If gluten isn't a concern you can use any stout just keep n mind that if you use a chocolate stout or coffee stout, that flavor will be incorporated into the stew. 

Serves 6-8.

Irish Vegetable Stew

splash olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

6 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup tomato paste

4 ribs celery, chopped

4 carrots, peeled, chopped

10 oz cremini mushrooms, chopped

2 plantains, peeled, chopped

1 bay leaf

1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon sage

1 bottle gluten free stout

1 quart vegetable stock

2 1/2 cups green beans, chopped

s + p, to taste

splash apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, to taste

In a 6 qt stock pot, over medium high heat, warm olive oil. Add onions and brown, stirring as needed, about 15 minutes. Add garlic and tomato paste and brown. Stir as needed, about 5 minutes. Add celery, carrots, mushrooms, plantains, bay, thyme and sage. 

Add stout. It will bubble, scrap up any bits from bottom of pot if you can. Add stock. Bring to boil. reduce to a simmer. Simmer until vegetables are soft, about 40 minutes. Add greens beans and cook, 5 minutes more. Season with salt, pepper and about 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar. 

Black Bean + Kale Tacos with Pepita Cilantro Salsa (Vegan, GF)

taco03.jpg
taco04.jpg
taco05.jpg
taco01.jpg

Here's a healthy option to get your taco fix. Garlicky kale and cumin scented black beans in a soft corn tortilla. Cameron and I had these for lunch a few times last week and they were so good. I love it when I eat lunch and get a nice kick of energy. These will give you that. 

The salsa almost didn't make it to the tacos because I ended up eating about half of it with some tortillas that I had over crisped to the point of making chips. If you eat it all or skip it altogether, feel free to substitute any jarred salsa. I'd recommend a bright tomatillo one.

Serves 8.

Black Bean + Kale Tacos

olive oil, as needed

2 14oz tins black beans, rinsed

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon chile powder

s + p, to taste

10 cups of chopped kale, about 2 bunches

6-8 cloves garlic, minced

juice of one lemon

corn tortillas, about 16

Pepita Cilantro Salsa

1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds) 

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup olive oil

juice of one lime, about 3 tablespoons

pinch ground cumin

pinch salt

In a medium sauce pan, warm oil over medium heat. Stir in cumin, oregano and chile powder. Add black beans and two tablespoons of water. Cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 15 minutes. 

In a 12" saute pan, bring 1 cup water to a boil. Add kale, cover and cook 2 minutes. Strain. Return to stove over medium heat. Push steamed kale to on side of the pan. On the empty side, heat a splash of olive oil. Cook garlic in oil, stirring frequently. Do not brown, just cook to soften, about 1-2 minutes should do. Stir in the kale. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper

To make the salsa: combine pepitas, cilantro, water, oil, lime juice, cumin and salt. Blend until smooth. 

To assemble: spoon beans, kale and salsa onto toasted tortillas. 

To store: keep beans, kale and tortillas separate, building as needed. When packing lunch, I scoop 1/3 cup beans and 1/2 cup kale into a container and top with salsa and pack 3 tortillas separately. At lunch time, I assemble the tacos just before eating so they don't get soggy. 

 

Plant Based Life and Diet

I'm vegan now? I am and so is Cameron. Chibi is staying an omnivore. 

I know there's been a bit of radio silence around here for the past two weeks. Let me fill you in on this new change. I was vegetarian for years - mostly because I didn't like the taste or texture of most meats. My only previous experience eating vegan was for about a week in eighth grade. I was hoping to lose weight that I definitely did not have nor need to lose. This pretty much had the opposite effect as I just ate bread for the entire week. Thirteen year old me was not my most logical self. 

As an avid Paleo/AIP person and lover of meat, a vegan diet never even on the table. It never crossed my mind and I did not consider it something I would ever elect to do. 

But then I watched What the Health, a food documentary about the impact animal based diets have on our health. The film points to research stating that eating meat, dairy and eggs directly contribute to obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. I've seen food documentaries and read books on the related subjects but this one was riveting. I'm not going to go into but just watch it. No matter what your eating habits are, it will get youl thinking seriously about what your own diet is doing for you.  

There have been many changes since I started living the plant based life. First, I've lost weight. Not a lot, more of a de-puffing, especially in my legs, stomach and hips. My skin is looking better. Both my energy and mood are great. I feel good. 

Still following my own version of AIP: no gluten, eggs, refined sugar, processed food, very little nightshades, only the occasional grain and now no meat and fish. For me, it wasn't too difficult or a switch since I usually only eat meat once a day, don't like eggs and already avoid dairy. I think the best way to start eating a plant based diet is to just do it. You can always try it for a month and see how you feel. We are trying it for the next indefinite long while and will see how it goes. Even though this is what feels right for me now, it may not be next year. Trying new things - even what makes us uncomfortable - and being open to new ideas is what helps us grow.

Strangely, it has not been difficult. I've learned I really like vegetables. A plate of crudités and guacamole or a big salad are my new favorite lunches. When I'm hungry and imagine a meal it's a big pile of veggies cooked however sounds good. Maybe a stir fry or grilled veg tacos.

After I eat, I feel energized and ready for whatever is next. This is the way I want food to make me feel. Fueled. You can roll your eyes at this one but my healthy plates of food are beautiful with their bright, vivid colors. I love opening up my lunch container and seeing these crazy pinks, oranges, greens and so on. Simple joys, you know? 

If you asked me a month ago about how switching to a vegan diet would go for me I would have told you I'd really miss meat. The strange this is that I don't. Sometimes I get a feeling for a slice of pizza or nachos (because don't we all) but I want a vegan version. Isn't pizza with only crust, tomato sauce and a pile of veggie toppings just as satisfying and delicious as one that has cheese? Cameron is silent when I asked him this question but I think I'm right. It's mentioned in What The Health that meat and dairy are addictive substances. Once you eat it, you just want more. I feel this is true. Since stopping, I don't want it which is truly, surprising as I'm very food minded.

We're still prepping our meals and batch cooking. Eat week, we shop for and prep:

Breakfast: Something like a fruit bowl, smoothie, gf avocado toast. I've also been on a homemade unsweetened coconut yogurt making kick and have been eating that with pomegranate seeds for breakfast all week.

Lunch: It's usually a salad for me and a grain bowl for Cameron. This week we made black bean and kale tacos with a cilantro pepita salsa. Recipe coming soon!

Dinner: Probably a soup. Sometimes a stir fry, curry or something fun like steamed artichokes and veggie fritters.

Yum! Who's getting hungry? 

Thinking about trying out a plant based diet? To get started do a kitchen clean out, start a vegan recipes Pinterest board, pick up a new cookbook or two and make yourself a long list of vegan things you might want to cook for yourself. This is what I did and it was very helpful. 

What does this mean for Meats and Sweets? Well, I'm keeping the name. And as far as recipes go, I'm looking forward to sharing new, healthy, gluten free, plant based recipes that are still Paleo and AIP friendly. 

In the meantime, here are some favorite vegan recipes: 

Mac + 'Cheese' 

Mac + 'Cheese' 

Lentil Soup

Lentil Soup

Brownies

Brownies

Veggie Soup

Veggie Soup

Golden Cauliflower

Golden Cauliflower

Pesto Portobello Salad

Pesto Portobello Salad

3 days in Raleigh Durham - a City Guide

Cameron, Chibi and I took a little trip down to visit family in Raleigh, North Carolina a bit ago. We had a great time and I thought I'd share our itinerary.

We took a long weekend and had three glorious days of eating, drinking, exploring and relaxing. This trip is particularly focused on food. 

First, some tips:

1. Rent a car. Raleigh is spread out and doesn't have much of a public transportation service. There are busses but I can't imagine using them to get around. There is uber if you don't want to rent.

2. Be mindful of where you are. Durham especially has some unsafe neighborhoods so be aware of your surroundings when you're parking and waking around. (The areas in this guide are all very safe.) 

3. Be nice. People are very friendly and well mannered.  

4. Prepare for hot, humid weather if traveling in the late summer. In the late spring and fall, the weather is very sneaky. It can be a cool 60 but hike to 90 by 2pm but back to 60 by 9pm so pack some layers.

5. Sundays. As a non religious person, I forgot to consider what affect being in the Bible Belt can have on businesses and blue laws. In Raleigh/Durham, there is no booze on sundays before noon and many businesses are either closed completely or open after 12. Bars close at 2am. 

6. Events. Lots of events in Raleigh. Check websites for any parks, malls, breweries, anywhere you'll be going as there seem to be events (many free) all the time. 

7. Dog friendly. You love your dog and so does Raleigh. We saw many dogs with water bowls on outdoor cafes and many bars and breweries that welcome leashed dogs. We took Chibi with us and had no trouble bringing her into shops and beer gardens. 

IMG_1329.JPG

Day One

Get yourself downtown for a little lunch followed by exploring and shopping in Raleigh's Moore Square or Capitol Square neighborhoods. Start with lunch at Centro, pictured above, a fun mexican restaurant with beautiful folk art decor and a festive playlist. The signature margarita was strong and balanced with fresh lime juice and a reposado tequila. 

Caffeinate at Morning Times, the coffee bar adjacent to Raleigh Times - a neighborhood classic serving lunch, dinner and late night drinks in an old newspaper office.  

During our trip, Artsplosure was going of downtown. It's a live music and art fair. We got to meet many talented local artists. I picked up a beautiful etching from John Furches and am deeply regretting not taking home a mug from the very talented Gretchen Quinn. My mom bought a beautiful 14k gold love knot ring from a local jeweler.

One thing I noticed about Raleigh was how friendly its residents are. The artists at Artsplosure were so open and talkative. Everything we saw was so affordable, too. There's a huge importance placed on the local and handmade in Raleigh and it's very accessible.

Be sure to check out favorite local shops Moon by Moon Apothecary, The Holy Rose and Deco Raleigh while you're downtown. 

The Norh Carolina State Capital Building is open to the public and is free to tour. It's right across from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. The museum is also free and has a living butterfly conservatory, indoor 2 story waterfall and dinosaur skeletons.

Walk over to Moore Square, an original park from the original 1790s city planning. It's small but beautiful. Admire the oak trees.

At the bottom of the Park, on Martin Street, is the beginning of Blake Street. Walk down Blake to Davies Street and find Artspace. It's an artists' studio that's open to the public. Wander in and take a look around. You can see artists working and chat with them about their processes.

For dinner, you want to go to Bida Manda. Make a reservation or enjoy drink at the bar while you wait for a table. Bida Manda is a Laoation restaurant and it's incredible. Everything was superb. Baskets of puffy white chips are served to each table. They are made from shrimp and tapioca flour and taste like a mild fish cake and rice cake. Loved these! Other favorites were to Manda Chicken Curry, Crispy Rice Lettuce Wraps, Pork Belly Noodle Soup and Cucumber Cooler.

After dinner, pop next door to the Brewery Bhavana whose beautiful, soft, airy space is a taproom, flower shop and dumpling restaurant in one.

If you're in the mood for live music instead, Pour House is also next door with shows generally starting at 9pm. 

Finish the night at Fox Liquor Lounge, an unmarked underground speakeasy bar with sophisticated cocktails and lively atmosphere.

Day Two

Get yourself down to Boulted Bread for the best baguette you will ever have. Boulted makes all their bread and pastries from local, organic grains. Grab a cold brew, a bag of counter culture beans, a baguette and a pastry. Sit outside on their side patio. Wander through the space next door, a shop I didn't catch the name of but that has many beautiful things from local craftsmen like leather goods, jewelry, ceramics and clothing.

Now that you're caffeinated. Head over to the State Farmers Market. Start on the garden side. Smell the teddy bear magnolias, find the Japanese maples and pick up some air plants to smuggle back home. Walk down the produce stalls and sample anything you can that's in season. We were lucky to arrive for peak strawberry and peach season. The tent on the end of the market has baked goods and flowers. If the pretzel people are there, get a cheese pretzel. I mean it. 

It's probably time to cool off with a beer and revitalize yourselves with a snack.  Do this at Raleigh Beer Garden. It holds the Guinness World Record for most beers on tap. Three separate bars hold all the different taps. Sit outside or on the roof. There's not a printed beer list but you can bring it up on your smart phone.

Head over to the warehouse district. Take a tour of Videri Chocolate Factory where you can learn about the chocolate making process from harvest to eating while sampling delicious locally made chocolate. If you go - please be sure to bring me a sea salt dark chocolate bar.

Across the street is Boxcar, an arcade bar. It's fun, loud and has everything from skeeball to duck hunt. There's an outdoor patio with a ring toss and giant connect four.

When you've worked up an appetite, head next door to The Pit where Ed Mitchell's whole hog BBQ waits to pull you into a lovely, deep food coma. The pulled pork and brisket entrees were the favorites of the table.

Roll yourself across the street to Crank Arm Brewery. If it's nice out, they'll have the doors open to the street so you can take in the warm Raleigh night air. Their Motivator stout tastes like a coffee filled Milky Way chocolate bar.

Day Three

Durham day! Start your day off right with the brunch buffet at Greer Street Garden. It's a surprisingly beautiful bar in an old auto service station with outdoor beer garden style seating out back. On Sundays they put out an incredible brunch buffet with coffee, bacon, sausage, grits, quiche, biscuits, fruit... everything you want a brunch buffet to have. Walk in and see the bartender to pay for your buffet and order a Bloody Mary. There's a self service Bloody Mary garnish bar with olives, bacon, pickles, celery...all the things you want a garnish bar to have. Then fill your plate and find a table.

Head down the block to Full Steam Brewery for a tour and tasting. When you're done, grab one of the many unique coffees to go from Cocoa Cinnamon across the street.

Sarah P. Duke Botanical Garden is a magical place. Stop in the visitor center for a map and a water bottle refill. Take your time strolling through the rose and asiatic gardens. We saw koi fish, turtles, herons, a hummingbird, chickens and doves. It's 55 acres so be sure to wear comfortable shoes. Dogs are allowed before 10am and after 5pm.

I imagine it's time for a sweet treat. Parlour serves locally made ice cream in delightful flavors like sea salt caramel, prickly pear or strawberry cheesecake.

As I mentioned, this is an eating and drinking trip so what's one more bakery? Since you're there, head over to Scratch bakery for a little bite of carb heaven. Their crackers are great.

Down the street to the Durham Hotel for a drink on their rooftop bar. Admire the view of Durham while enjoying sips of your hand crafted cocktail.

Take a little time to walk around the American Tobacco Campus, just a few blocks away.

Its probably around dinner time, isn't it? If you want to stay in Durham, there are a bunch of great restaurants and bars on or just off Main Street: 

Viceroy - english pub with indian cuisine

Mateo Bar de Tapas - southern inspired tapas

Pizzaria Toro - pizza! 

Dames Chicken & Waffles - comfort food

If you're up for a quick drive, no visit to Raleigh is complete without a meal at Beasleys. It's back near the site of your first meal at Centro in downtown Raleigh. Beasley's is a casual fried chicken place with clever cocktails, seasonal menu items and amazing comfort food. Highlights were to mac and cheese, spicy fried chicken sandwich and pork shoulder meatloaf.

Work off dinner with a few rounds of tabletop shuffleboard at Bare Bones

That's it!  There are is so much great food and fun things to do in Raleigh and Durham - I don't think we even scratched the surface. Looking forward to my next visit. Leave a comment if there's something I missed!

DIY Aged Terracotta Planters

We have a pretty good amount of plants in our apartment. It's so good to have plants around and plants seem to do better when there are other plants around so that's how we've gotten where we are. The fact that I've gotten better at not killing every green thing that comes into the apartment might also have something to do with it. Rosemary is the exception. I cut myself off after the third poor, poor helpless rosemary plant I killed. If someone knows the secret to talking those things down - please leave a comment! 

Several pf these plants are living in glasses of water or the original, flimsy plant pot they were born in. I decided that these little things need a proper home. I found a small stack of terra-cotta pots hiding in a cupboard and decided to try to dress them up a bit. 

I know if you really want to distress a terra cotta pot, you make a paste of garden lime and water, paint it on the pot, let it dry and spray it with a sealer. I don't have garden lime or sealer. I also really didn't want to go all the way down to the garden store and then be married to an eight pound bag of garden lime that I would probably end up moving with. 

Oh, white acrylic paint. It solves so many problems for me: strangely colored picture frames, end tables I've gotten rid of, Branch jewelry holder DIY, spice jar tops, actual paintings... In this case, a simple squeeze of paint in a splash of water. They look great - a nice refresh from their original look. 

You can see from the photos that I did not clean my pots out from the last time I tossed whatever rosemary plant probably died in it. I also didn't clean them before I started painting. It was fine - what's a little dirt? 

Supplies: 

terra-cotta plant pots

white acrylic paint

water

paint brush

a cup for mixing 

paper for your work surface

How to:

Mix about 1/2 a teaspoon and 1 tablespoon of water in a cup.  I like to soak my brush in the paint mixture and cover the pot with it, sometimes adding just water or more extra paint to the brush and using that here and there. You don't want it to look uniform. You can always wash some of it off with water or add more paint to areas that need it. Play around with it. After the first one, you'll get the hang of what works for you. 

Let the pots dry before cleaning up as they change a lot from wet to dry. Once dry, add your plants. 

Summer Cabbage + Vegetable Soup (Paleo, Vegan, GF, DF)

Generally, I don't eat nightshades because I have a sensitivity to them. I have, however, reintroduced potatoes and haven't had any issues with a bite of tomato something here and there. Also, it's summer and I'm dying for a beautiful summer vegetable soup with a tomato base.

If I'm being truly honest on why I made this soup (and the healthy meatballs posted previously) it's because I've been eating very poorly and not exercising. Which if you know me, is crazy because I love healthy a healthy meal and a good workout. I know exactly where things went wrong. I took a little trip to Raleigh, NC at the end of May and ate everything I could get my biscuit hoarding hands on. (Seriously, so many biscuits!) 

While it was a great trip, I returned to Brooklyn puffy as I like to call it. Somewhere around that time I lost the will to get myself to the gym. Honestly, I think I was bored with going to the same place every weekday. So I continued on with this lazy girl routine and things got a bit wider and squishier

This week is totally different. Poof! I'm excited to establish a new routine of running outside every morning, saying 'no thank you' to unhealthy foods and cooking delicious, nutritious food for Cameron and myself. It's a good feeling. 

Does this happen to anyone else? What do yo do to shake things up when your off your healthy game? 

Serves 8. 

Cabbage + Vegetable Soup

splash olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

3 carrots, peeled, chopped

3 celery ribs, chopped

1 14oz tin diced tomatoes

2 quarts vegetable stock

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

4 cups shredded cabbage

2 cups chopped green beans

1 summer squash, chopped

juice of one lemon

s + p, to taste

In a large pot, over medium heat, sauté onion and garlic in a splash of olive oil until soft and glossy, about 8 minutes. Add carrots, celery, tomatoes, stock, oregano and basil. Bring to a boil, add cabbage. Reduce to a simmer. Simmer until carrots are tender, about 10 - 15 minutes. Stir in green beans and squash, cook 5 minutes more. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper. 

Turkey Meatballs + Basil Pesto (AIP, Paleo, GF, DF)

paleomeatballs.jpg

Meatballs! Since I don't eat tomatoes or pasta, I almost never make these little things anymore. What am I thinking, right? They're so tasty and delightful. My new solution: basil pesto and spaghetti squash. A nice healthy meal for those time when I'm missing spaghetti and meatballs. 

For Cameron and I, I picked a small spaghetti squash. To cook it: cut off the stem, stand the squash on its new flat end and halve from navel to stem end. Scoop out seeds. Lightly rub cut sides with olive oil. Roast cut sides down on a lined baking tray in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes (small squash) to an hour (larger squashes). Flip over and shred with a fork, Discard skins. 

To make this AIP, omit almond flour or substitute with coconut flour. 

Serves 6. 

Turkey Meatballs + Basil Pesto

for the meatballs

2 lbs ground turkey 

1/4 cup almond flour

1 yellow onion, grated

5 cloves garlic, peeled, grated

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

for the pesto

1 large bunch basil, leaves only

2 garlic cloves

juice of one lemon

1/2 cup olive oil (I like half olive oil, half avocado oil, personally)

salt, to taste

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking tray with a silpat or parchment paper. Set aside. 

In a medium sized bowl, combine all the ingredients for the meatballs. Mix well. Form into tablespoon sized balls and arrange on prepared tray. Roast 15 minutes, flip and cook 15 minutes more. 

While meatballs are cooking, make the pesto by blending all pesto ingredients in a blender or food processor. Serve with meatballs. 

Pickled Red Onions

This is possibly the quickest, easiest way to transform your meal into something special. It's true - imagine a simple taco, now imagine said taco with pickled red onions on it. Let's think outside this taco for a minute and explore what else you could improve with these onions. Sandwiches, salads, grilled cheese, fried rice, quesadillas, hot dogs - there are many more but I'm starting to get too hungry thinking about it. 

I like to keep a jar of these in the fridge and put them on everything. Since I can't have hot sauce, (why are you a nightshade, chile pepper???) I use these instead. They're not spicy at all but fulfill the same need with their sharp, briny punch. 

Feel free to add more aromatics if you like -  bay leaf, chiles, other seeds. I leave everything free floating in the jar but you can wrap the aromatics up in a piece of cheesecloth to keep things tidy. 

Pickled Red Onion

1.5 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

1/2 cup or so white vinegar

1 red onion, thinly sliced

Add kosher salt, sugar, peppercorns and vinegar to a 12-16oz jar. Shake or whisk to dissolve. Add onion slices to jar, pressing down to fit if needed. Top off with water so onions are covered in liquid, if needed. Leave them alone for one hour. After that, they are ready to eat. Store in fridge. 

Lemon Poppyseed Bread (Paleo, GF, DF)

I love that we can call this 'bread'. Bread sounds so much healthier than snacking cake, which is what this really is. I tried to keep things simple - no weird flours or anything. Just the usual paleo ingredients. 

There is no added sugar - just the sweetness of the banana. I like to use super ripe bananas that are soft and heavily spotted. They are nice and sweet. For me, it's a sensible amount of sugar but feel free to add 2 - 3 tablespoons of honey, agave or maple syrup if you're looking for that sweet fix. 

Makes one thin loaf. 

Paleo Lemon Poppyseed Bread

1 super ripe banana

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

zest of two lemons

2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

1/2 cup coconut flour

2 teaspoons arrowroot powder

2 teaspoons poppyseeds

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

pinch salt

pinch nutmeg

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or paper a loaf pan. Set aside. 

In a medium sized bowl, very thoroughly mash the banana. Add eggs, vanilla, zest and oil. In a small bowl, whisk coconut flour, arrow root powder, poppy seeds, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Be sure flour is hydrated. Transfer to prepared loaf pan. Smooth top and bake 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in pan. 

Father's Day Gift Guide

It's Father's Day this Sunday. Are you ready to fire up the grill, enjoy some family time and raise a glass to Dad? I've rounded up a few gift ideas any pop would love. 

1. A fun summer shift. The crazier the better, in my opinion but I'll leave that up to you. I aim for something he will like but wouldn't necessarily pick out for himself. 

2. Meat. It's a little cliche, but seriously, who wouldn't be thrilled with a jerky of the month club membership? Or a small cooler filled with a selection of grass fed meats each sealed in vacuum packs? You can ask your butcher shop to cryovac everything individually. 

3. Grilling Tools. You can either go fancy with a monogramed, james bond style case of grill tools, practical with a portable mini charcoal grill or fun with campfire roasting sticks. 

4. A hammock for relaxing in outside. Napping, reading and star gazing are all better in a hammock. 

Hammock with Stand, Ikea, $110

Hammock with Stand, Ikea, $110

5. An unusual plant. Think bonsai, fruiting tree, cactus or something unique. 

I hope you enjoyed the list! Gifts are nice but the most important thing is just calling to say hi and send love or if I can, spending quality time with the lovely people who raised me. (Thanks Mom + Dad!! I think you're so great!)