Quick Dinner! Stuffed Portobellos

Since I’ve been trying to incorporate more mushrooms into my diet, I’m always looking for different ways to prepare them.  Sautéing them and then putting them in sauce becomes boring really fast.  I also have a secondary problem.  I buy these beautiful vegetables at the farmers market every week, but I always end up with a little bit every bit that I haven’t used.  I hate throwing away food.  HATE it!  Especially the product of the labor of local farmers.  After scouring the pages of Pinterest, I took a combo of a few things I saw and made one of the tastiest dinners.  I was also able to use more of some of the cherry tomatoes I bought at the Farmers Market.

Ingredients (for 1 serving)

*1-2 Portobello mushrooms

*2 slices of Trader Joe’s Pre-Sliced Mozzarella, cut into pieces

*About 6 cherry tomatoes cut in half

*2 tsp olive oil

*2 cloves garlic

*Salt/Pepper

Instructions

  1.  Combine olive oil and garlic in a small bowl.
  2. Scoop out black part from mushroom and brush olive oil mixture onto bottom of mushroom.  Put in 8×8 foil lined pan, cap side down.
  3. Combine remaining olive oil mixture with tomatoes and mozzarella, and salt and pepper.  Fill mushroom with mixture.
  4. Broil for 8-10 minutes.  Then drizzle with a balsamic glaze. (I reduced 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar with a tsp of raw sugar for about 10 minutes.)
  5. Serve alone, with pasta or whatever you want!  I paired it with pasta and red sauce.

 

*Tomatoes from Ellwood Canyon Farms

*Portobello Mushroom from LAFungHi

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Travel: Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture

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Tomatoes to greet you on the entrance path!

On my recent trip to New York, I knew that one of the things I had to make happen was a visit to Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.  About 30 miles north of Manhattan, in a town called Pocantico Hills, is Stone Barns Center.  It was started by the Rockefeller family more than 20 years ago.  And it has turned into a hub of experimentation and research for something that affects us all; farming and food.  In conjunction with chef Dan Barber and Blue Hill at Stone Barns (11th best restaurant in the world), they have created something very special.  After a day at this amazing place, I have grown to appreciate even more what they do there.

One of the major things that I have learned about SBC is that they genuinely believe in what they do there.  Of course, they have gained more notoriety from their collaboration with Dan Barber and Blue Hill, but the farmers have a bigger purpose than trying to get to the top of the list.  Its very simple.  They want to grow and raise food that tastes good and is sustainable.  One of their major techniques is a 7 year rotation with the crops in the field.  For example, if this year, tomatoes are grown there, tomatoes will not be in that soil for another 7 years.  They understand each crop completely.  They utilize each crop’s assets and defects to grow better food and to make it sustainable.  For example, they know that tomatoes suck nitrogen out of the soil, so they may plant a crop next time in that space that puts nitrogen back into the soil.  Or they may plant a micro green in the same bed at the same time that counteracts the nitrogen depletion.  Its an amazing technique and to see it in action makes you feel like you are witness to a food revolution. Stone Barns Center also utilizes a greenhouse.  They do this not in an effort to grow out of season, but rather to extend the growing seasons.  In the greenhouse, they have a 10 year rotation cycle instead of 7.

 

Another thing they do is create new types of fruits and vegetables.  And they do this without genetic modification.  And they do this for a better tasting crop.  They use traditional methods of cross breeding.  When I was there, I saw the pepper crops.  They had the usual jalapeños, bell peppers, etc.  But they also had a new pepper.  It was called a Habanata (not sure it that is the correct spelling).  It is a habanero that has had the spiciness bred out.  Amazing.

When you go there for a day, you also have the option to participate/observe in activities around the farm.  I chose the watermelon testing, the foraging walk and the pig feeding.  By far, the foraging walk was my favorite.  To learn about how the restaurant uses foraged ingredients made me have a new respect for the chefs at Blue Hill at Stone Barns.  It is one thing to say, “I want these ingredients to make this dish”.  It is quite another thing to say “I’ve been presented these ingredients, what will I come up with?”.  And that is what they do at Blue Hill at Stone Barns.  They are presented with or have found ingredients and they come up with something grand.  They can be presented wit a giant crop of sunflowers and have come up with a way to use EVERY SINGLE PART OF THE SUNFLOWER.  Nothing goes to waste.  This is an important part of what happens at SBC.

And that leads to my main takeaway of my visit.  They are trying to really create a better world through food.  They want to create something sustainable and delicious and in such a way that keeps you interested.  When I first read The Third Plate, I was convinced that Dan Barber was on to something.  And to see it in action is truly something awe-inspiring.  With so many horrible things going on in this world today, it is important to do things that make you happy and give you hope.  Stone Barns Center gives me hope and it made me so happy to see something like that first hand.  If you ever get a chance to go, I urge you to go.

Quick Breakfast! Scrambled Eggs with Mushrooms

I have always found it to be a challenge to make breakfast interesting to me.  Truth be told, I’m not fond of breakfast food.  My usual go-tos are eggs benedict and sometimes, french toast or pancakes.  Overall, I’m just not crazy about that meal.

Enter the mighty mushroom!  As I no longer buy meat for my house, I started to dabble in the world of mushrooms.  I’m fortunate to live in a city in which we have many mushroom purveyors.  My favorite is LaFungHi. They have both foraged and cultivated mushrooms, and they always have something different.

And for some reason, the combo of eggs and mushrooms is just so delicious.  It has even made me enjoy breakfast a little bit more.  Although its pretty simple, here is what I used.

*2 eggs

*1 small bunch of mushrooms (about 1/4 – 1/2 cup) (I used foraged Forest Namekos for this.)

*about 2 pats of butter

*A healthy pinch of dried thyme

*Salt & Pepper

First, I melted the butter in a pan, then added the mushrooms, thyme and salt and pepper.  I let those sauté for about 3 minutes.

Second, I added the eggs, a little more salt and pepper, then fried in pan until done.

It was that simple.  And it gives me an easy breakfast that takes less than 10 minutes.  It makes me happy to be able to utilize as many Farmers Market items in my normal diet.  To me, fresh produce from a Farmers Market tastes better.  And it helps to support local farms!

Ingredients

Simple ingredients

Farmers Market Haul!

Probably my favorite day of the week is Sunday.  And its not because I don’t have to go to work, or because I get to sleep in.  Its because Sundays are for the Farmers Market!  My best friend got me a tea towel that says “The Farmers Market is my happy place”.  And this couldn’t be more true.  I love it.  After I read The Third Plate by Dan Barber, I was inspired to eat more locally, and to be more sustainable.  This is where my love affair with the Farmers Market began.

Living in Los Angeles, I am extremely fortunate to have a good number of them at my disposal.  On Sunday morning, finding a Farmers Market is like shooting fish in a barrel.  But my personal favorite is the Hollywood Farmers Market on Selma and Ivar.  Its huge, and has everything you could possibly want.  Plus, its near both Groundwork Coffee, some great shopping and some great restaurants.  Not to mention, they validate for the parking garage at Arclight Cinemas.  $3 for 2 hours is just a bargain, in my opinion.  But, this isn’t about the Hollywood Farmers Market in particular.  Its about what I found there.

As I’m sure every regular patron of this weekly event of awesomeness can tell you, you end up at the same stalls every week.  There is just something about that lettuce or those tomatoes that keep you wanting more.  Its not just about the produce.  Its about the sense of community that happens at Farmers Markets.  You see the same people every week, and it makes you feel more at home.  Or at least that has been my experience.

Here is what I snagged, and from where!  (All featured farms are linked below.)

*Corn from The Garden Of.. // Cucumber from John Givens Farm

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*Yellow Peaches from Burkhart Organics // Foraged Forest Kemeko mushrooms from LAFungHi // Mixed Cherry Tomatoes & Ambrosia Melon from Ellwood Canyon Farms FullSizeRender 3

*Carrots from John Givens Farms // Shallots & Lemon Cucumbers from The Garden Of.. // Enoki and Maitake mushrooms from LaFunghiFullSizeRender 2

Farm Links!

The Garden Of…

Burkhart Organics

Ellwood Canyon Farms

John Givens Farm

LaFungHi

Lesson Learned: Take Care of Your Skin!

Let’s talk about skincare!  Specifically, let’s talk about skincare for oily skin.

I must admit, taking care of my skin has always ended up a low priority.  It doesn’t start that way.  It just ends up that way.  Its either due to cost or due to availability.  Let’s face it.  In the world of cruelty free skincare for oily skin, it can be a little challenging.  Great products made specifically for oily skin and/or acne usually come from companies that test on animals.  Two major players in this game are Clean & Clear and Neutrogena.  I grew up on Clean & Clear.  It was affordable for a teenager/young adult, and it was coming of age just as I was.

Fast forward a decade (maybe 2), and I find myself an adult buying moisturizer and cleanser from Trader Joe’s.  Why?  Its simple.  I’ve given up.  And let’s face it, I’m cheap when it comes to certain stuff.  But what I failed to realize is that I was not taking good enough care of my skin.  Its like I refuse to get more grown up with my skin care, but my skin was definitely changing with my age.

Enter a particularly humid summer and me, a girl who loves to wear full coverage foundation.  My skin looked terrible.  I needed to make a change.  In a nutshell, I went to Sephora, saying that my foundation was giving me issues.  I said I had oily skin and that I use Trader Joe’s cleanser and moisturizer.  They gave me a look that said it all.  I’m doing the exact opposite of the right thing.  HA!  After some discussion, I landed on the OleHenriksen Balance line.  The main components of this line is the Find Your Balance Oil Control Cleanser, Balancing Force Oil Control Toner and the Counter Balance Oil Control Hydrator.  After a week of using all 3, I’ve noticed such a difference that I almost feel silly for all the wasted time on cookie cutter skin care.  In conjunction with the OleHenriksen products, I’ve started to do weekly detoxifying masks.  My favorite is the Yes To Tomatoes Detoxifying Charcoal Mud Mask.  It smells nice, and it isn’t painful.

All in all, this week has taught me a valuable lesson.  When it comes to taking care of your skin, you have to get what is right for you.  Plus, when your skin looks good, you feel good.  I’m extremely excited to see the results after doing this routine for a few weeks.  I can already tell its working, and its an extremely satisfying feeling.

By the way…nothing against the skin care available at Trader Joe’s.  Its cruelty free and super affordable.  If you have normal skin, it will likely be closer to the right fit!  =)

Yes to Tomatoes Detoxifying Charcoal Mask

OleHenriksen Balance It All Essentials Set

DIY Travel Palette

Travelling.  Its either something you do often, or not enough.  As a self-proclaimed home body, I do not travel often.  And if I do, its usually somewhere close like Las Vegas or San Francisco.  Basically, somewhere that I can drive to within a few hours.  I’m not great at being away from home, and my cat, McClane.  I worry about whether everything is ok back home, and it can totally derail my vacation.  And surprisingly, this fact does not bother me.  I take comfort in the fact that I like to have a home base.

However, this year, something bigger is on the horizon.  I’m taking an actual vacation, for more than 4 days.  I also have to fly there.  I have not gone someplace other then the state of Nevada or California in at least 5 years.  This September, though, I shall be going to New York City.  I have only been once in my entire life, and it was to be a balloon handler in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  I was in the city for less than 24 hours, and it was so long ago that I barely remember much of that day.  But alas, I will be there for 5 days and 2 half days.  Since I don’t want to be hassled too much, I will only be taking 1 carry on and a backpack.  Herein lies the challenge.  What am I supposed to do about makeup?!

Normally, while travelling, I’m driving, so there are no restrictions on what I can take.  I can take as much makeup as I want.  But, with this trip, due to TSA regulations and  space limitations, I needed to seriously consolidate the makeup I am bringing.  All toiletries need to fit in my makeup bag and of course, the 1 quart bag for the liquids.  I thought about it.  Well, I could try and buy the trial sizes of everything I have, but at $15-$20 per item, that could be pricier than I would like.

Then, my sister gave me an idea.  She was going to Italy and she bought the Charlotte Tilbury Instant Look in a Palette.  It comes with eye shadows, blush, highlighter and contour.  I realized quickly that the problem with these kinds of palettes (although beautiful) is that the colors are predetermined.  And in my case, its either the eye shadows are not my colors (too light) or the contour/highlight shades are not my colors (too dark).  And so, the quest began; the quest to build the ultimate travel face palette.  And let’s just say that what I came up with is the perfect travel set for ME.  Now, if you were to buy all of this new, it would come up to around $60.  I already had a couple of the items, so it did not break the bank.

Here is what did:

Step 1:  Get some sort of empty magnetic palette.  I used the Morphe one, as it was the best priced one I could find.  I used the 6 in x 4 in size, as I needed space for 6 eye shadows, Blush, Highlighter and Contour/Bronzer.

Step 2:  Get a plan of what colors you want to put in your palette.  For me, I wear black eye shadow often, so I knew that I would want a basic color scheme of White/Gray/Black, along with a few colors to mix it up.  For blush, you want one that matches all potential makeup looks.  The same goes for your highlighter.  Contour is the easiest as your shade is your shade.

Step 3:  Locate all of the chosen colors in pan only.  Ah, pan only.  This is actually a concept that is falling by the wayside.  Some companies sell the component that allows you to pop the pan out, but its easier, in my opinion, to find them in pan only to begin with.  For eye shadow, Morphe, Makeup Geek, Colourpop & Anastasia Beverly Hills are my go-tos for this.  For Blush and Highlight, I chose Makeup Geek’s Heart Throb and Shimma Shimma (an eye shadow shade that works fantastic as a highlighter).  And for contour, I used the Kat Von D in shade Sombre.  Kat Von D Beauty came out with the refillable version in the incomparable Shade + Light Contour Palette.

Step 4:  Fill your empty palette, throw it in your bag and enjoy your vacation!

Now, of course, with an empty magnetic palette, the possibilities are endless.  Especially since you can always buy magnetic strips at the craft store to make anything stick in the palette.  With makeup, it is especially important to remember that if something doesn’t work for you, there will surely be a way to find an alternative.  It may take more effort than just buying something already made, but at least you get EXACTLY what you want.  I included a picture of what my palette looks like below, along with the links to the products.  =)

 

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Eye Shadows:  Top – Porcelain/Pink Silk, Middle – Velveteen/Magic, Bottom – Coal/Emerald

 

Kat Von D Shad + Light Contour Palette – $49

Kat Von D Shade + Light Contour Refill – Shade Sombre – $16

Makeup Geek Blush Pan – Heart Throb – $10

Makeup Geek Eye Shadow – Shimma Shimma – $6

Anastasia Beverly Hills Eyeshadow Singles – Emerald – $12

Morphe Eyeshadow Singles – Magic, Pink Silk, Coal, Velveteen, Porcelain – $2.29 each

Magic

Velveteen

Porcelain

Coal

Pink Silk

Morphe Empthy Magnetic Palette (6″ by 4″) – $6.99

 

Be Well Challenge: The End is Near

This month has been crazy, and has been such a good experience.  I loved being able to ramp up healthy habits and things that help to reduce my negative effect on the planet.  When I originally started this challenge, it was the most intensive way I could think of to gain footing in making things stick.  Although I did not do everything perfectly, I am content with the progress I have made over the last month.

Let’s start with food.  I don’t think I have ever eaten as well and as consciously as I have for the last month.  Being mindful of what I am putting in my body made me eat healthier on the whole.  And although there was the occasional misstep, I did a lot better than I thought I would.  I bought more fruits and veggies, and ate more clean.  Adding in the Farmers Market component to this challenge was extremely beneficial.  I tried some new things, and taught me to go outside my comfort zone.  Before this, I would have never tried dandelion greens or even the green plums.

Now…on to workouts.  I was almost perfect with my workouts.  Forcing myself to be consistent makes it a part of my life.  Some people really dread physical exercise.  But the truth is is that I get to workout.  After surviving cancer, it is nice to be able to do anything.  Working out is no exception.

When it comes to waste, I would say that this is where I was my weakest.  I realized quickly that there are many places that do not subscribe to the less is more philosophy with waste.  Personally, I frequently forgot my reusable cups and eating take out made this more difficult than expected.  However, I most definitely was more conscious of the waste I was producing.  And although I wasn’t able to eliminate my waste, I’m definitely moving in the right direction.

All in all, this was a very cool experience.  I learned about what motivates me and what I really enjoy doing.  And I really enjoy being healthy.  Exercising, taking care of the planet, and eating right just makes me a happier person.

Yay or Nay: Dandelion Greens

In my quest to try something new every week at the Farmers Market, I decided to try dandelion greens.  Dandelion Greens are extremely high in good nutrients and from what I’ve read, is way more of a super green than kale.  As far as greens go, he more bitter the better they are for you (or so I’ve read).  How could I not want to give these a chance?

My conversation with the farmer went like this:

*Me:  What are those?

*Farmer:  Dandelion Greens

*Me:  Sold!  I’ll google how to cook them.  This will be interesting.

*Farmer:  Usually people eat them with a little lemon.  They taste terrible.

In my head, I thought, oh great..can’t wait.  I don’t think I was even out of the stall before I had put “how to cook dandelion greens” in my Pinterest search box.  It seemed like, overwhelmingly, the preferred method to cook dandelion greens was with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper (I linked the recipe at the end).  The basics of cooking dandelion greens is to wash them, cut them into pieces (about 3 inches) and sauté in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.  Now, I put waaayyyy too much salt, like, an obscene amount.  Also of note, these cook down much like spinach.  So, you get 1/3 of what you actually put in the pan.  Cooking them took about 8 minutes.  After they were all wilted and tender, time to taste.  First bite, oh these aren’t bad.  A little bitter, but I could get used to the bitterness.  Second bite, wow, these are really bitter, the guy was right.  Third bite, how many bites until I’m done?

I know what you are thinking, how bitter could they POSSIBLY be.  If you have never had dandelion greens, I urge you to try them.  Judging by how many stalls have them at the Farmers Market, I imagine that more people than I think like them.  If I had to describe the bitterness, they are about 10 times more bitter than arugula.  With that being said, I am not ruling them completely out.  I also found a recipe for pesto using dandelion greens.  Maybe when the trauma has worn off, I’ll try that.  But for now, its a no go for me.

Dandelion Greens from: Givens Farm (Yes, they are organic!)

Recipe used:  http://www.italianfoodforever.com/2008/05/sauted-dandelion-greens/

Be Well Challege: 2 Weeks In! 

My original intention with this challenge was to update everyday about my progress. However, life happens. I was sick (I’ll talk about that), and was super busy. So, now, I’m looking at a 10 day gap in updates. So, here is a general update on the first half of this challenge.

Food:
What I have been eating has been pretty much the same every day. Instead of a detailed per day update on food, I’ve included a general guideline I use when planning my food for the day.

      *Breakfast: Usually, I try to eat   something that will get me through the morning, and not make me a crazy person. This usually consists of oatmeal and fruit. On the weekends, I usually eat eggs with toast.

     *Lunch: For work, I usually bring a sandwich, a veggie, and a fruit. Summer at the Farmer’s Market is so great. I fully take advantage of fresh strawberries and stone fruit. On the weekends, I try to get it as healthy as possible. There is no method to the madness on the weekends, but I just try to stay within the healthy set of foods.

     *Dinner: My biggest range of variety comes with dinner. Same as lunches on the weekend, I just try to keep it as healthy as possible. I will usually indulge in pasta with sauce and some kind of veggie. 

Farmers Market: The last 2 weeks have been so great at the Farmers Market. I also committed to trying something new every week. The first week was dandelion greens (I will update what I did with these in a separate post). The second week, I tried some green plums. I’m a creature of habit, and picking a green plum is not in my lane. It was delicious. They were slightly less sweet than a purple plum and worked so awesome mixed with the yellow nectarines I bought. 

Waste: The past few days have been rough on the waste front. I started housesitting for my parents in the middle of the week. And they are also having their kitchen worked on, so I’ve had to buy food every day. This has contributed to my overall waste. Also, a major waste fail over the last few days is with Starbucks. It makes me so sad about this, as reducing my waste is one of the key parts of this challenge. 

Workouts: This is one of the biggest wins over the last 10 days. Aside from the 2 days I was sick, I completed all scheduled workouts. Overall, I can tell the difference in my mood. Exercise just makes you feel better. Even if it’s just a quick walk, or stretching. 

I mentioned in the beginning that I was sick. Even prior to this challenge, I have been trying to eat as healthy as possible. My favorite food is quite possibly donuts, followed by anything else fried. I have largely abstained from eating those, as it never is good for you. But, as stated before, life happens. And sometimes, life can derail you from being consistent. This past weekend, I went on a bit of a binge. Saturday, I had 4 donuts, 4! This was followed by tacos that were fried in oil. Then, on Sunday, I had a generous portion of fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Are you starting to see a theme? Well, this all resulted in me being sick for 2 days from the bad eating. Lesson learned. When you eat healthy, then eat A LOT of bad food in a quick time frame, it will affect you negatively. You could escape unscathed, but usually, it doesn’t end well. 

All in all, this challenge has been pretty great. It has taught me a lot already about how I buy things, what my default is, and things that are hard to keep up (like this blog). I’ve also learned that even though you get thrown off course, you can just right the ship and keep going. Quitting is not necessary, and its ok if it doesn’t go exactly as planned.

Be Well Challenge: Days 3-4

Being healthy.  Its something we all strive for.  Not one person says to themselves, “I don’t want to be healthy”.  Its all a matter of how bad one wants to be healthy.  Perhaps they have always applied themselves, and making healthy choices comes easy.  Or perhaps, they have always made horribly unhealthy decisions, and being healthy takes a conscious effort.  I would definitely fall into this category.  This challenge is most definitely helping me make better choices.  When I am more mindful of making the right choice, it becomes easier.  Here is my recap of Days 3 and 4.

Day 3

Workout:  My Monday night yoga class is one of my favorites.  It is with one of my favorite teachers, and its a nice way to start off the work week.  It is also not as challenging as my Sunday class.  It forces me not push as hard as I would like to and listen to what I need at that time.

Food:  When I don’t have to work, I tend to either graze all day or eat horribly.  I tried to be mindful of everything I ate, and it seemed to pay off.  It wasn’t perfect, but hey, at least I didn’t order pizza.

  • Breakfast:  Coffee w/ soy creamer & Cottage Cheese w/ Peaches
  • Lunch:  Grilled Cheese Sandwich
  • Snack:  Banana
  • Dinner:  Tofu w/ Fried Rice & Frozen Yogurt for dessert

Waste:  As I go through this challenge, I’m realizing more and more the little things that one doesn’t think about when trying to eliminate waste.  The trash I created was limited to 2 wrappers from the cheese slices and empty bag from the fried rice.

Day 4

Workout:  Due to the holiday, my regular gym class was cancelled.  Luckily, there was one available to go to in the morning.  I met my friend at the gym, and we had a great morning workout.  It felt good to be able to get our regular workout in and also to start the day off with a little sweat (or a lot of sweat in my case).

Food:  Oh, the Fourth of July.  A day with BBQs, Fireworks, and lots of other unhealthy food to be eaten.  Other than Christmas or Thanksgiving, this is one of the hardest days to stick to a healthy eating plan.  I tried to not give myself too hard of a time, since I gave in to the temptation.

  • Breakfast:  Coffee w/ Soy Creamer, Eggs w/ Toast
  • Lunch:  Pasta w/ Ground Turkey & Sauce, Salad w/ Tomatoes & Cucumbers
  • Dinner:  Turkey Burger, Hot Dog (no bun), BBQ chips
  • Snack:  Iced Vanilla Latte, Banana

Waste:  I forgot my reusable cup to get a latte after my workout.  In total, the waste produced was the cup from my latte, and a paper plate from the BBQ.  Not the best, but not terrible either.

So far, after 4 days, this IS getting a little easier.