Not Yo’ Momma’s Pies

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I have always had a love affair with baking, but it was pies that kept me coming back for more. I loved that you could create something beautiful and complex out of, seemingly, simple and basic ingredients.

There is something very therapeutic in the act of baking, I find it to be almost meditative. In college, I used to have issues with sleeping and would turn to baking to help me to shut my brain off. I enjoyed the process of it all. That all I had to do was follow some simple rules, combined with a little patience (and a lot of butter) and the result would be something that made others happy. It was during those long, quiet hours that I developed some of my favorite recipes.

Fast forward to a couple of years later: I had returned from a year in Buenos Aires, I had found a career in marketing, was working for a travel company and I realized that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I sat down one day, took account of my talents and hobbies and started brainstorming. The glaringly obvious option was… baking. Not just baking, but pies. I wanted to have my own pie company! It was something that I had thought of doing in the past, but I didn’t want to own a brick and mortar store and was intimidated because I didn’t have any “real” training.

Thankfully, we were living in a time where the food truck was king and hand-held foods were taken seriously. Cupcakes had had their moment and I was certain that hand-held pies had the potential to be the next new craze. Now, pies are nostalgic, everyone’s mother makes “THE BEST” pies. I am sure yours does as well. That said, I am not your momma, and my pies aren’t hers. As a result, “Not Yo’ Momma’s Pies” was born. I didn’t know how to start and run a business, I was learning as I was going and boy, was it a steep learning curve. I was accepted into the Arvada Farmer’s Market and was successful. On average, I was making around six hundred mini and a dozen large pies, per weekend. I was able to create a solid following and sold out all but one weekend.

I did all of this while still working full-time at my “real job”, by the end of the summer I was burnt out. I took a trip to decompress and reflect on the whirlwind that I had just walked out of. I realized that mass production wasn’t something I was interested in. I had spent most of my time baking in a sterile commercial kitchen and I lost the part that made me happy: the process – kneading the dough with my hands, manually juicing a lemon, all the parts that require a little extra care, the bits where you add the “love”.

In the end, I decided to hang up my apron. I still love to bake and I still love to create something from scratch. I am grateful I gave it a shot and find satisfaction in knowing that ten years from now I won’t look back and wonder “what if”.

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On Grief

My dad in his element. The life of the party

To lose a parent is to lose a limb. One of the shocking passages of life. – Unknown

Grief isn’t linear. I still feel the sting of losing my dad, often at inopportune moments like when I’m at the grocery store and come across something he loved to eat. Or when watching a show he would’ve liked and I can hear his laugh. These moments sting my nose, my chest and throat tighten, and I have to avert my eyes out of fear that someone will catch the tears welling up.

You don’t experience grief the way they tell you-you’re going to. It isn’t a 7 step process where you graduate from one level to the other: denial becomes anger becomes depression etc. It is all of those emotions and none of them all at once. It lingers. It swells up like a wave and cuts off your air supply. Sometimes it dissipates as quickly as it arose and other times it clings to your skin like too much humidity in the middle of August: so heavy it weighs you down. Most days, I find myself numb and eager to be “busy”, trying to normalize.

It has been a year since he left and the clock has been spinning erratically ever since. Time can now move forward and backward.  The calendar has shifted, I have a new way of tracking the seasons, April 1st will from here on out be the marker of the “new year”.

It has been an interesting journey to grieve, and then begin to mourn, with the absence of religion. I have never been one for it, and throughout this process, I don’t find myself needing it, yet everyone speaks as though I should. Speaking to him is my new form of prayer. I meditate often and find calm in my yoga practice. Interestingly enough, I do, however, find myself needing routine and rituals, two things that, historically, I have been too “free-spirited” to commit to.

I have become very good at compartmentalizing. I don’t cry in front of my mom, yet I do cry often, in short, quick bursts. I can’t watch movies where fathers die, Guardians of Galaxy II left me sobbing quietly on the corner of the couch.

I worry about his legacy.

I dream of him often, we never speak, but each time he looks younger and younger.

April 1st marks the beginning of a new year and none of us are the same.

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My Adaptogen Potion

Ladies and gentlemen, I did it. It started with a simple google search “what is Ashwagandha?” The next thing I know, I’d fallen down the rabbit hole and had 6 adaptogens in my cart, I was sucked in eager to try everything. What started this new obsession?

It’s no secret, I am not a coffee person. Don’t get me wrong, I love the smell, I love the idea of coffee – the ritual of making it – but I do not have the palate for it. I only really started drinking coffee a few years ago, and I realized, I was only drinking it because I enjoy drinking the copious amounts of cream that I was putting in my cup. I LOVE dairy, it just doesn’t love me back. So I went back to my old roots: tea.

I love tea for the same reason I enjoy the idea of coffee. I love the ritual of it: boiling the water, waiting for it to steep . . . I am not a major caffeine junky, but like everyone else, I need a little kick in the morning and my dandelion tea, while great for detoxing the kidneys and liver, isn’t going to add any pep to my step.

As a result, I have been searching for an alternative. Something that will provide health benefits, while increasing my energy and doesn’t tempt me to add heaps of sugar and 1/2 a cup of cream. After falling down a deep internet rabbit hole (hours and hours of research) I stumbled upon an article on adaptogenic herbs. The hook, line, and sinker was that they labeled it as a “potion”. I am such a sucker for magical marketing and once I read that, I knew I had to find out what all the fuss was about.

What are adaptogenic herbs? Ginseng, aloe vera, and rosemary are well-known adaptogens. Adaptogens are natural substances that work with your body and help it adapt to stress. They help you deal with stress and fatigue by working to regulate important hormones. Depending on the adaptogen they can:

  • Offer a boost for the immune system
  • Support for managing a healthy weight
  • Increased physical endurance and mental focus
  • Reduction in discomfort caused by poor health
  • Encouraging a balanced mood

How do they work?  The chemicals that adaptogens contain help to normalize adrenal fatigue. If you’ve taken a yoga class, then you’ve probably heard a lot about adrenal function. Adaptogens calm and nourish and support the adrenal glands and support the processes that are controlled by adrenals: from blood sugar and immune system regulation to hormones and blood pressure. It is important to keep in mind that, while you are going to get an immediate “boost”, the real benefits come from long-term, consistent use.

Think of it this way, stress is a hormonal reaction, if you are stressed out most of the day, it’s going to throw your hormones out of balance and that can affect everything from your digestive system, your mental well-being, and your energy levels. If you know you’re going to encounter stress throughout the day, arm yourself with some adaptogens to counter the stressors.

Now that we have that out of the way, I have found that drinking my morning “potion” does help provide a boost of energy and I handle things like traffic, and annoying emails in a much calmer, composed way.

These are the herbs I take on a daily basis:

  • Ashwagandha: Benefits brain health. Protects the brain from degeneration and improves symptoms of Alzheimer’s, depression, and anxiety.
  • Reishi: Helps the immune system, treats anxiety, high blood pressure, hepatitis, bronchitis, insomnia, and asthma
  • Cordyceps: Improves respiratory health, increases oxygen uptake, boosts heart health, detoxifies the body, slows the aging process, increases energy, and improves the immune system.
  • Mucuna Puriens: Supports a healthy central & peripheral nervous system, helps the body’s ability to handle stress. Is a natural source of levodopa (L-dopa)*. Improves energy and endurance.

Keep in mind, these herbs do NOT taste good. They are earthy and can be strong, so it took some trial and error to find a recipe that I actually enjoyed drinking. Lucky for you, I will save you from the bitter taste tests and provide you my recipe:

My Adaptogen Potion (Or my chai recipe with Adaptogens)

  •  ½ teaspoon ashwagandha
  • ½ teaspoon cordyceps
  •  ½ teaspoon mucuna puriens
  • ½ teaspoon reishi
  • ½ teaspoon collagen
  • 2 servings of chai: I use Blue Lotus 
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla (vanilla powder works too)
  • 1 date, pitted
  • splash of almond milk

Boil some water, enough for a cup, add all of the above to a blender and blend until smooth and frothy. Drink slowly.

I am not a doctor, nor am I an herbalist or a nutritionist. Please speak with a doctor before incorporating any adaptogens into your diet. Most of my adaptogens are from Sun Potion, I got the reishi and collagen from Thrive Market.

There it is, do some research, find what you think will work for you. There are so many ways to consume adaptogens, you can take them in pill form, or add them to soups, you can make a matcha latte with them. The possibilities are endless. If you try my recipe above, let me know what you think!

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A Lazy Girl’s Guide To Healthy Living

Let me start by saying that I am not a nutritionist nor am I a health care professional. I am just a woman who loves to eat, nearing her 30’s and battling an ever-slowing metabolism.

That said, these are the tools/actions that keep me slim, healthy and happy.

Eating healthy and staying healthy is a STRUGGLE. We’ve all had our own variation of joining a gym, hitting it hard, eating clean, and for that first month we are on our best behavior but, over time, you start to slack off. You think “well I am seeing changes, one slice of pizza won’t hurt”. Then the next day you say “well. . . those nachos won’t hurt “. Then you do the one thing that puts the nail in the coffin – you skip the gym! The next thing you know, it’s been a month since your last workout and you’re back to the point where your clothes don’t fit, you don’t remember the last time you had a salad, and the only time your gym clothes are getting used is for those lazy Sunday’s binging on Netflix.

Sound familiar? This was my pattern. Now, I am not perfect, I have days where I overindulge. I have weeks where I only work out 3 times a week. And you know what? That is OK.

Step #1: Practice Self-Love

Please, stop beating yourself up. So, you ate some pizza, and ice cream and had a few beers. Did you hurt anyone? Did you hurt yourself? If the answer is “no”, you’re good. The minute you stop beating yourself up is THE very minute you step into the right direction of LIVING healthy. We need to have a positive relationship with ourselves. We need to have a positive relationship with food! We shouldn’t shame ourselves for treating ourselves to the food that we enjoy. Now, mind you – everything within reason. My motto is “everything in moderation”, but if you love pie, then go eat some pie! But consider this:

Step #2 Get to Cookin’

Bake that pie yourself. You’re less likely to funnel a piece or two of pie down your throat if you’re the one who baked it. You will savor it. You will share it. You will not overindulge, because you know the time and effort that went into that beautiful piece of pie – or cake- or cookies – or pizza.

If you want to be healthy and not drain your bank account, you have to LEARN TO COOK. If you’re lazy like I am, you’re not going to take the time out of your day to make pizza from scratch. Nah, I’d rather cook up some quinoa, roast some veggies and call it a day. Once you start cooking from scratch you’ll notice a difference in how food tastes. Soon all of those boxes of mac and cheese, and frozen meals will start to taste . . . like plastic (because they practically are). You have more control over what goes into your food and before you know it, you might enjoy cooking!

Not sure how to cook healthy food? Don’t worry, I get it. It’s intimidating AF. The first step is knowing how to shop:

Step #3 Shop the Perimeter

Avoid anything that comes in a box/package. Except for beans, butter, etc. Pass on that tasty, high sodium, preservative laced, chana masala package that you can throw in the microwave and in 5 minutes, BAM you’re in India. Don’t do it. I know it’s easy, but there are so many preservatives and added ingredients that go into pre-made meals. They might tell you it’s healthy – but guess what – that’s just MARKETING. Think about it. You should be questioning every label that tells you something is “healthy” or “natural”. If they have to tell you that it is good for you, it probably isn’t. When it comes to brands, just like people, you can always tell when they’re trying too hard.

I rarely shop the middle of a grocery store, unless I am buying my cooking building blocks like olive oil, or spices. How does this help? If I don’t keep it in the house, then I won’t eat it. Why? Because I am lazy. If it’s not within reach, it’s not going in my belly.

OK, now that we’ve addressed that, where do you go to find inspiration for nutritious meals? Find a company that sells healthy meals (for ex. Fit Kitchen). Look at their menu and copy it. They normally list all of the ingredients, so follow their lead. Pinterest is another great place to find motivation. Let’s be honest, this can be overwhelming. It can even be annoying and you might want to quit. That’s OK. Remember, be kind to yourself. Take a step back, treat yourself to some chocolate and try again tomorrow. Another great resource is the gym. If you’ve joined one, ask a trainer about healthy eating. See what they recommend. I guarantee they have a resource that you can use. Which takes us to our final step:

Step #4 Workout

You have to move your body. Our bodies are incredible. They do amazing things. Intimidating? Yeah. Worth it? HELL YEAH.

We’ve all been there. Even that yogi that can fly from crow to chaturanga was a beginner who couldn’t touch her toes and thought that binds were for those that didn’t have bones in their bodies. I remember walking into my first yoga class, my first barre class, my first HIIT class. It sucked. I didn’t know what to wear. I didn’t understand proper form, but I kept going back. I kept trying new things. Until I found a routine that worked for me.

There is no “one way” to work out – some people love boot camp style workouts, cool. Some people like Zumba, cool. Explore. Figure out what you enjoy and get into it! Don’t try to push yourself into a style that doesn’t work for you. Why? Because you’ll never go.

Have a bad day? Couldn’t quite get into the groove? Forgive yourself. Take a deep breath, thank yourself for GOING to the gym, treat yourself to some chocolate, and try again tomorrow.

But, please don’t give up. Don’t stop. You owe it yourself to keep going!

You’ve probably gone through this list thinking, “there isn’t anything lazy about these steps!” I hear you, but once you start to introduce these 4 things into your daily life, you’ll see it’s not that hard! You’ll find that you will be healthier and happier. You WILL start to see change. It won’t be overnight, so be patient and be kind to yourself. Just remember, everyone’s definition of “healthy” is going to be different, listen to your body, if something doesn’t feel right, stop doing it.

What are your “lazy girl” recommendations for healthy living? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear them!

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Atole – My Favorite Winter Breakfast


I know what you’re thinking, it’s May, why would I write about my favorite winter breakfast? On April 1st, my dad passed away while playing the congas. My father was a lot of things, an artist, a musician, a poet, but he was also a really great cook. My love for food has a lot do with him and his cooking. While he introduced me to so many dishes, it’s the memory of him making “atole” that I really hold dear. What’s atole? In the southern United States, you have grits. In Mexico and New Mexico, we have atole. It is usually made thick like a porridge or thin and drinkable. While you can make it using regular cornmeal, I grew up eating it made from blue cornmeal.

I am the youngest of 3 and by the time I was born, my mom was ready to go back to work, and my dad happily volunteered to be a stay-at-home dad. I was lucky to have this time with him. While I could go on for hours with memories and hilarious “dad-raising-daughters” mishaps (allowing me to dress myself – think polka dot shirts with contrasting striped pants and the ever present ” my dad did my hair” messy side ponytail) it is him making me atole that I will offer up today. After my sisters would go to school, my dad would make us breakfast and it was often our favorite – atole. No one else in the family liked it. My sisters were put off by the color, my mom didn’t like the flavor. My dad and I loved it, it was our thing. He would make it with milk, cinnamon and maple syrup (I would sneak extra sugar when he wasn’t looking).

As I grew up, he’d send me to school with a thermos of atole to drink until I graduated from high school. As time moves on, I find I am reflecting on “little” memories the most. The everyday moments we shared.

Every time I eat atole I will make a little extra for him.

So, here it is, an adaptation of my dad’s Atole:

Ingredients:

2 cups water
1 cups atole (blue corn meal)
2 cups milk (less for a thicker porridge style. I subbed almond milk because reg. milk doesn’t love me anymore)
Maple syrup and cinnamon to taste (you can sub honey, agave or sugar)

Bring your water to a boil in a saucepan. Slowly whisk the Atole in, avoiding clumping.
Bring to a boil and add the cinnamon and syrup; reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk in milk as desired (no more than ½ cup for porridge style Atole).

You can flavor this however you want. Add vanilla? Sure! Make it savory? Why not!

 

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WEEKLY FAVORITES: IX

This week I have a few new items and some long time favorites. With spring fast approaching, I’ve been leaning towards a more natural look and as a result, the theme is pretty neutral:

Black Pearl & Gold Eye Patches by Petitfeé – If you follow me on Snapchat (s0njablade), then you see me using these all the time! If you’re visiting and staying with me, I’m making you try them because they are so amazing. I will use them on long flights, when I’m hungover, when I don’t get enough sleep, or just when I need a little extra pick me up. Buy these now, and thank me later.

Double Wear Foundation by Estée Lauder – This foundation has a cult following for a reason. It’s buildable, has great coverage and feels so light on the skin. It has serious lasting power and looks so natural! I’m in the shade ”Ivory Beige and know that I will be reaching for this one time and time again. The only caveat, it needs a pump. Luckily the MAC foundation pump fits this bottle, so it’s a quick fix.

Time Revolution Essence by Missha – This is a great dupe for SKII’s famous essence. It helps to hydrate, improve skin elasticity and brighten. I will use this after toner and pat into my skin with my palms.  I love it and the fact that it doesn’t have a scent.

Sun Fluid by Dr Jart+ – This is a skincare sunscreen, so you don’t have to worry about it breaking you out. With an SPF of 30 you can trust that this can provide you with protection for everyday use. It doesn’t have that sickly piña colada smell that most sunscreens have, doesnt ball up under makeup, and is slightly mattifying. I have a sample size but will purchase the full size once I run out.

Mineral Blush in ‘Wild Honey’ by Becca – Like the rest of the world, I love Becca’s highlighters and this blush has a lot of the same qualities. The powder is finely milled, it blends like a dream, is pigmented and so beautiful. This has become my everyday blush. It’s perfect for a quick wash of color to bring some life back into my face.

Sculpting Lipstick in ‘Intense Nude’ by Estée Lauder – I received this as a gift when I purchased the foundation above and it’s quickly found a permanent place in my bag. My natural lip color is a bit maroonish and this is my perfect nude. It’s really pigmented, hydrating and comfortable.

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Weekly Favorites: VIII (The Mask Edit)

Happy March everyone! This week, I am focusing on my favorite skincare step: MASKS! I love to mask. It’s a great way to treat yourself (and your skin) and turn an average skincare routine into a spa-like experience. As I previously mentioned in my Products to Avoid for Acne Prone Skin, I am constantly on the hunt for products that will keep my skin clear, reduce my pore size and keep the sebum at bay. As a result, I have put so many masks to the test and these babies are my TRIED AND TRUE! If you want to know what other products I use in my skincare rotation click here. . . OK, let’s get to the good stuff:

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur – No, this is not a mask. It is a beautiful collection of poems. It is split into four different sections and depending on your vibe, you can choose to skip around or read it front to back and let the story unfold.When I’m masking I like to disconnect, and I’ve been dedicating this time to poetry. (For those of you that don’t know, poetry was my first love and it’s a part of me that I have neglected for too long. This book is bringing it back!)

Pore Refining Solutions Charcoal Mask by CLINIQUE – THIS mask. If you purchase any of these products, may it be this mask! This is hands down the best charcoal mask on the market. Yes, better than GlamGlow and better than Boscia. This mask actually does what it’s supposed to. Mattify? Check. Unclog pores? Check. Refine pores? Double check. If you’re oily, acne prone or just in need of a detoxifying mask, look no further. I will typically use this once a week and I am always so happy with how my skin looks and feels afterward.

Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay – This is a hefty one and has a cult following for good reason. Not only is it insanely affordable, you get 1lb of product for $6 dollars, this mask is intense. Because of the bentonite clay, this is a deep, deep cleansing mask and you don’t want to use it too often. Typically, I will use this about once a month, or when I really need a skin detox like after I’ve been traveling etc. The only annoying part (lazy girls raise your hands) is that it’s a powder, so you have to mix it into a paste yourself. I like to mix mine with apple cider vinegar and let it do it’s magic!

Botanical Mask Pack by Bonvivant – Because I do rotate between clay masks, I like to balance out with a moisturizing/healing/repairing sheet mask once or twice a week. I love Bonvivant’s sheet masks! They are so affordable ($1!) and they have a wide range to suit your skincare needs. The sheet itself is really thin and sturdy, so it adheres to the skin really well! I also appreciate that they don’t have a strong scent. Another sheet mask that I love, but isn’t pictured because I used it last week, is the Donkey Milk Healing Gel Mask. It’s a great mask for when your skin is irritated or if you have an active breakout.

Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask by Milky Piggy – I feel like when Korean skincare became popular in here the states, this was the mask that everyone gravitated towards and wouldn’t stop talking about. This innovative mask will start to bubble and foam (ie carbonation) as it oxidizes with the air, making this one of the most entertaining masks you can purchase. While it might seem gimmicky, it’s actually packed with really great ingredients such as charcoal, pomegranate extracts, green tea, and collagen. Not only do I enjoy the experience of this mask, I also really love the glow this mask gives me. I recommend applying this mask when you’ve had a particularly trying day, as it’s guaranteed to lift your spirits!

Original Skin™ Retexturizing Mask with Rose Clay by Origins – When I am looking for a luxurious experience, I reach for this product. With ingredients like Canadian willowherb, Persian silk tree, Mediterranean rose clay and exfoliating jojoba beads – how can you go wrong?! Not to mention it has the most pleasant and soothing scent. This mask leaves my skin so soft and radiant! It isn’t as powerful as the aforementioned clay masks, so I will use this about twice a week. I absolutely love this mask. Love. Love. Love

So tell me, what are some of your favorite masks?!