Friday, May 30, 2014

Pinto Bean Hominy Chili

I love corn and corn based products. Especially paired with Mexican food. Grits, arepas, hominy and tortillas are some of my favorite foods. I made a great batch of chili this week and wanted to share my secrets (one of which is hominy!).

Pinto Bean Hominy Chili
1/2 large red onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium large poblano pepper, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1/2 pint mushrooms, chopped
1 chayote squash, chopped (can sub zucchini)
1 chipotle chili, diced (omit if you want it less spicy)
2 cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can hominy, rinsed and drained
1 can diced tomatoes
2 squares dark chocolate (with chilis if you have it)
Red wine vinegar
Spice blend (salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, chili powder, garlic powder)

Saute the onions and peppers in a large stock pot for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another 3-5 minutes until the onions are turning translucent. Use water or red wine vinegar to deglaze the pan as you saute.

Add the mushrooms, squash and chipotle. Saute for another 3-5 minutes. Add the dark chocolate and spice blend. Stir to combine.

Add the beans, hominy and tomatoes. Stir until combined. Saute on very low heat for at least 15 minutes to let the flavors blend.

Serve the next day if possible.

Tortilla chips

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What I Ate Wednesday

I'm surprised at how many photos I have this week. I've had some good eats, both at home and out. Hope you enjoy!

A meal in three stages: salad before the cooked food, with the cooked food, and the perfect bite of leftovers.

Indian dinner with a friend. Not worth mentioning where - it was mediocre. Top is medu vada, left is Mulligatawny soup, right is my mixed veg. 

Friday night we had a game night and pasta bar at our house. Mine is spaghetti squash topped with roasted veg, artichokes, tomato sauce and vegan parm. 

Almond milk froyo from TCBY!

Soba noodle and edamame salad. 

The making of strawberry vanilla granola. I need to post my recipe but I don't really measure so it's tough!

I think I need to eat cauliflower at least once a week. 

This is why I look forward to the weekend! Smoothie bowl topped with the homemade granola and kiwi. 

Random meal that came out delicious! Sauteed peppers, onions, mushrooms, and kale mix mixed with soba noodles, tomato sauce and chopped veggie burger.

The making of pinto bean hominy chili. 

The finished product! 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Rocks in a River

When I was in my deepest depth of despair over the end of my eleven year relationship (coupled with not being able to run and having health issues) I was listening to/reading/seeing the message that adversity fuels success in various media. At the time I made a note of it but continued feeling sad and not really believing that it could be true. Now that I’ve had time to process and heal, I can see this coming true in my life.

I’ve always harbored a secret passion for writing and desire to be an author. I was never sure of what, but I knew that writing felt good and fulfilling. As I’ve written more on this blog and my work blog I’ve received amazing feedback from colleagues, friends, family, and internet strangers. I wrote poetry occasionally in my youth, and when I was grieving my loss I started writing poetry again. The first few poems I wrote were full of sadness, and they have evolved as I have moved through my healing journey.

Now that they’ve started coming, they won’t stop. I find myself getting struck by a word or a turn of phrase several times each day. I make note of them or stop and write a poem when they come. I read “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield this morning (yes, just in this morning. It’s a short book and I read while I cycle at the gym). I’d heard a lot of laudatory praise about it and I thought it was great if not quite as impressive as I’d expected.

After reading the book I’m convinced that I need to continue to pursue writing and make it a daily effort. I need to embrace the muse that is visiting me daily, thank her, and do the best work I can. I don’t know that I would have been able to do this without experiencing a great loss, and without being forced to spend time with myself. I feel like I’m discovering new parts of myself and have had the freedom to visit some old parts that had been hidden.

New me, new shirt. It says let your dreams set sail.

I’m starting to honor myself and treat myself to new experiences. I am putting myself in new situations and embracing the inherent awkwardness. I am still struck by sadness every now and then, but this week I’ve felt happier than I have in years. I started a blog with my poetry and photography. I hope to fill it with more writing and art.

The point of this post is to say that we never know where our lives will take us. We are like rocks in a river. We may get stuck in place for months or years, but new experiences will keep moving us along. We’ll retain our integrity but may change shape. We can’t go back to the past or know what the future holds, but we can embrace where we are on our journey.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Small Step Sunday: Minimize Choice

My goal with these Sunday posts is to quickly convey something you can do to achieve your health and wellness goals. I also aim to find things that are easy steps that can build incrementally to a healthy lifestyle. Many of the posts in this series have hinted at today's tip: minimize the choices you make in your life. 

I've had this on my list of things to write about for a few weeks, and was inspired to go through with it when I heard Tim Ferriss read his essay "The Choice-Minimal Lifestyle: 6 Formulas for More Output and Less Overwhelm" on his weekly podcast. It's worth the time to read/listen because it outlines the science behind minimizing choices.

Essentially you only have so much mental energy to expend on making decisions each day. You can call it motivation or willpower or another term of your choosing, but it's all on the same spectrum. If you can automate many of your daily choices, you will use less of that energy. This can make you more productive and feel happier in general.

Here are some easy tasks you can turn into routines:

1. A daily meal - I know I always eat a smoothie for breakfast, and that I bring oats and fruit with me if I'm traveling.

2. Your commute - You know what type of commute fits your personality, and if you can automate the route you take each day and the time you leave.

3. Exercise - Even if you can't control your daily schedule you can control your workout routine. You can set a plan to alternate forms of cardio and do the same strength workouts in a pattern.

4. Clothes - Take 10 minutes on Sunday to hang your outfits for each day of the work week in your closet in sequence so you don't have to decide in the morning.

5. Shopping - There are a ton of great free grocery apps for phones and tablets. You can put them to work for you - they remember what you've bought in the past and you can easily tap your most common items to add them to your list. You can also set quantities to help make your store experience as easy as possible.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


I was looking for a word that could express my deep gratitude and sense of awe at the love I've gotten from the readers of this blog and from the places that have shared my story. Namaste is a Sanskrit word that means bowing to you. I think that's appropriate here. I decided to collect all of these stories in one place because they all give a slightly different perspective on my journey.

Huffington Post

Fit Sugar

The Weigh We Were

Fitness Motivation Podcast

Indice (in Spanish)

If you are a new or old reader I'd love to hear from you. Comments go directly to my email or you can find me on Twitter and Instagram.

Namaste to you <3

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What I Ate Wednesday + Relationships

I am on a mission to start building and fostering relationships locally. I have amazing family and friends in my life, but the majority of them live more than 8 hours drive away. This is probably a topic for an entire post, but this is my way of saying that I'll probably be eating out more and taking less photos of my food than in the past. I've had a couple good meals this week that didn't get captured digitally, and I'm okay with that. Onto the food.

Fajita salad

Saw my first double rainbow this week!!!

Got to spend a night with my sweet beagle <3

Couldn't pass up the local corn! Served with roasted sweet potatoes, lentils, and a salad. 

Garlic broccoli at Lac Viet. 

Box of gluten free, vegan goodies from Raphsodic Bakery.

Sunday night I went to a potluck with a bunch of my librarian co-workers, and they all made vegan food even though none of them are vegan! So freaking awesome. I made a wild rice edamame salad. I also had lentils, baked polenta with veg, two chickpea salads, roasted veggies, fresh fruit and of course several samples of the desserts pictured above!

Spaghetti squash topped with a tomato sauce with onions, artichokes and peas. Nooch and olives for garnish. 

My Southern homage: grits, black eyed peas and collard greens. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fat Carrie and the 175 Pound Ghost

For some reason Fat Carrie has been making quite a few appearances lately. In this case when I use Fat Carrie I'm referring to my debit card. It has a photo of me from the day I opened the account sometime in the summer of 2005. I probably weighed close to my heaviest then. It's a small photo, but it's easy to mistake it for a totally different person. I usually carry it with me in social situations, so it's my go to when people hear about my weight loss and want to see proof.

Fat (& happy) Carrie

When I pay with that card I say/think "Fat Carrie's got this!". My bank won't issue a new photo, and it used to bother me. Now I've embraced it, and I find it humorous. We have to be able to move on from our past, and now I like having a reminder of my success in my pocket or purse all the time. Most of the time I don't think about the weight loss, but other times feel like there's a 175 pound ghost lingering with me in the background.

My instinct is to avoid narrow passageways and clothes shopping as vestiges of this former self. When I catch myself doing it I usually laugh it off, but there are times when it feels deeply unsettling. There's always a fear that I could get there again, and I think that worry fuels my motivation and willpower. Some more concrete vestiges of this past include my ceaseless appetite and the physical markers of significant weight loss like stretch marks and saggy skin. I've learned to work on and work with these limitations.
I always carry food and try to eat every few hours. I can't operate successfully when I'm hungry, and as stated above that is something I can't avoid. I started and continue to lift weights to slowly chip away at the skin that hangs from my arms and stomach, and to shrink my thighs to a point where the muscle can peek out. I am a work in progress and I don't always love myself, but I feel satisfied knowing that I'm doing what I can.

I read recently about a test that was developed at Harvard to measure implicit preferences. You can choose to measure your preferences (realistically, your biases) on topics like age, gender, race, disabilities, religion and weight. I wanted to try it out, so I took the test about weight. The essence of the test is that you're shown photos and words. You have to press a key on the keyboard to associate all the fat/skinny photos with a certain letter, and all the good/bad words with a certain letter. There are several rounds, and later in the test you are shown a mix of images and words. You have to associate the good word key with skinny images and then switch.

Here were the results:

I had no implicit bias toward weight, and fell into the "Little to no automatic preference..." category, which represents only 19% of test takers. I think this is because of my unique experience of having been clearly obese followed by my current reality where people refer to me as skinny/thin without being prompted. It's hard even as a former fat girl to not place judgment on overweight people and to assume qualities of their character based on their external experience. I hope that as we realize how entrenched the societal factors that contribute to weight gain are, society will be more willing to assign blame to them and less to the individuals who are prone to weight gain.

This post isn't one of my more focused or helpful, but there are times I need to express myself honestly on topics that I cogitate on frequently. Thank you for staying with me if you're still here, and you can look forward to food photos tomorrow!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Small Step Sunday: Connect with Nature

Humans evolved to co-exist with nature. There are direct psychological benefits to spending time in nature. A 2013 article by British researchers published in Global Environmental Change used a unique GPS based collection method to study the effects of nature on happiness. The study found that "On average, study participants are significantly and substantially happier outdoors in all green or natural habitat types than they are in urban environments." 

A pretty yellow flower at Leu Gardens in Orlando

My personal experience has always been that nature has a calming, grounding effect on my feelings. One of the reasons I chose to move to Orlando was to have weather that would allow me to spend a lot of time outdoors and in the sunshine. An article from Psychology Today titled "Does Nature Make Us Happy?" discusses several other current research findings about this topic if you're interested. 

The Blue Ridge Mountains, photo taken outside Asheville, NC.

It isn't hard to find opportunities to connect with nature, even in urban environments. Many cities have parks, nature gardens, and other dedicated green spaces within the urban setting. The photo of the flower I posted above was taken at Leu Gardens in Orlando which is right in the middle of the city. 

One of the many gorgeous beaches of Curacao

Here are some easy ways to get time in nature:

  • Take a walk or a hike
  • Ride your bike in a new area
  • Go for a scenic drive and stop to take photos when you feel inspired
  • Find a park or beach to have a picnic
  • Invest in some cheap outdoor games like bocce ball or lawn darts
  • Sit on the beach with a good book
  • Take a child in your life or the child in yourself to a playground
  • Sit in outdoor spaces at your home when you're reading, writing blog posts, or playing on the computer
  • Find an outdoor fitness class
  • Look for local festivals and events held in parks
  • Sit quietly outdoors in your favorite setting and listen to the birds

Friday, May 16, 2014

In Other Words

There’s been a lot of great content floating around on the Internet lately so this post is a bit longer than some of the others.

Does Your Fitness Regimen Pass The Test? Why You Need To Be Able To Answer Yes! To This One Question
The first of two Nia Shanks posts on my list. I love her no BS approach to health and wellness. This post is short and sweet – she talks about the main criteria of a fitness plan, and I will leave it a surprise for you to go read!

The Best Sources of Vegan Protein
I feel like I need to post something about veg protein sources every now and then so my family knows I will not die eating only plants! This article is really comprehensive and I love that it goes beyond tofu and beans in its list of sources.

How to Fit Exercise into Your Routine—No Matter How Busy You Are
Hopefully you read the Nia Shanks post already, but this is kind of on the same theme. It’s easy to say/think “I’m too busy for…” but we have a lot more time in our day than we realize. I like to use my time to move my body!

Back to the Basics: the Urgent/Important Matrix
ProfHacker is a great blog series for anyone interested in higher education. This post talks about the Urgent/Important matrix from the 7 Habits plan. It’s a great way to look at the big picture of your life, personally or professionally, and make decisions based on what really matters.

Honest Health and Fitness Advertising
Kat Whitfield is another blogger I love for her straightforward approach and critique of the health and fitness industry. This post is amusing and scary at the same time – she rewrites real headlines to reflect a more honest interpretation of the article. This is a must read. 

Let Go: How To Get Rid Of Anxiety Caused By Health And Fitness (And Why Doing So Can Help You Achieve Better Results)
Here is the second Nia Shanks post, and one that I sorely needed to read. I've written recently about my struggle with being too rigid with my health choices, and I realize now that I was desperately trying to control something in my life. I’m healing physically/emotionally every day and finding it easier to relax. My favorite line from this post “What is the absolute worst thing that could happen if I eat (and enjoy!) a PB and J?”

Safe to eat? Common ingredients banned in other countries, but OK here
I typically don’t trust the major news media to report on health and fitness in an accurate and non-salacious way, but I had to share this. It blows my mind that the food industry in the US is still so dedicated to feeding us foods and additives that are harmful to our health. This is why I advocate eating whole, real foods regardless of your dietary preferences!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What I Ate Wednesday - Mom Edition

What a week! I attended a conference Wednesday-Friday and then my Mom came for a visit from Saturday-Tuesday morning. I've done more eating out this week than I have in months. I did my best to make good choices, but have also been better about allowing myself to relax about my food. One or two meals isn't going to ruin a pattern of healthy eating.

Post-conference dinner - comfort food!

A similar meal on night two, plus Brussels sprouts!

Lunch at Whole Foods

Vegetarian plate at Black Bean Deli

Falafel plate at Habibi - this place is super close to the Orlando Airport & I highly recommend it to anyone traveling this way!
Mom and I at brunch.

Raw brunch on Mother's Day at Vitality Bistro. L to R: Bluberry cream cheeze crepes with eggplant bacon, fruit bowl, maca pancakes with bananas and candied walnuts
Vegetarian Bun at Lac Viet Bistro

Lunch at Infusion Tea: 1/2 tempeh taco salad and 1/2 fruit salad.

Dinner at Tartini Pizzeria & Spaghetteria - they were great about answering my dietary questions and offer gluten free pasta. This pizza had zucchini, roasted peppers, tomatoes, onion, olives and arugula. 

Finally got to eat at home last night - made my Lentil Sloppy Joes (without mushrooms, the ones I bought didn't last!) with gorgeous purple cauliflower.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Small Step Sunday: Mother’s Day

I have a tendency toward cynicism, and I think most holidays have been created or monopolized by marketers to sell products. Fortunately, we can choose to celebrate holidays in unique ways that don’t buy in to the mass marketing ideal. Today is Mother’s Day and I am incredibly blessed to spend it with my Mom for the first time in at least 8 years. It is also the first time she’s been able to come visit in the year since I moved to Orlando. 

Me & my amazing Mom this summer

I know that many of us aren’t able to have our mothers with us on this day, or have mothers who are no longer in our lives or have mothers that never were in our lives. Some of us have other strong women in our life who have taken a motherly role. We can all choose to honor the women in our lives who have been important in helping us navigate through the ups and downs of life. 

One of my favorite photos of my Mom's parents. 

On this Mother’s day I encourage you to take some time to reflect on the important women in your life. If they are still alive, find some way to connect. If they aren’t, find a way to honor them - maybe listening to their favorite music, visiting a special place, or just sending a silent thought of deep gratitude. 
Me and my Grandma on my Father's side

I hope you all are able to make this holiday meaningful for yourselves and the mothers in your lives. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What I Ate Wednesday

It's been a strange week for my schedule, which makes it difficult to get into a new routine with cooking for myself. I'll be at a conference today and for the next two days. For those of you who are plant based, you know that being forced to eat in different settings can be a challenge. I'm going to attempt to bring my own food at least today so I can scope out the options. This is one of those times when I'm thankful for quick snacks like roasted chickpeas and pre-made bars!

Rawsta with an Italian flair, pre and post mixing. I sauteed mushrooms, onions, green beans, spinach and crushed tomatoes with Italian spices. I also threw in some pre-marinated tofu and olives. Super good!

I'm experimenting now that I'm cooking for one. This is a weird blend of raw slaw with peanut dressing topped with steamed broccoli & eggplant mixed with thai chili paste and rice vinegar. I threw in some kimchi for extra weirdness but it all worked!

This is what my typical weekend smoothie looks like (before I add the almond milk and blend). This one ended up with romaine, spinach, collard greens and kale! 

I was inspired to make summer rolls for lunch on Saturday. I used brown rice wrappers and filled them with raw veggies and teriyaki tofu.

On Saturday night I took my new roomie out for Indian. We started with samosas and I had this delicious vada and uttapam for my entree. If you're in Orlando or Charlotte check out Woodlands!

Rice island casserole from Vegan on the Cheap. I only made a few small modifications (like adding kale). It's been delicious for lunch as well. 

I love Mexico. I think I was Mexican in a past life. Even though I know Cinco de Mayo means little to Mexicans, I appreciate having a day to celebrate. I made this bomb fajita salad. Since I didn't want to open a whole can of beans for one meal, I used Smoky Chili Lime chickpeas from Good Bean. Great idea - added flavor and crunch.

I've been in the mood for Brussels sprouts. I roasted them with some mushrooms and tossed them in a big salad with chickpeas, hummus and fresh veg.