Favorite Cruelty Free Brushes

Using the right tools for applying your makeup is essential to getting the best results.  Over time, you learn what works best for you.  Some people prefer a blending sponge, some people prefer brushes, and some use a combo of both.  I prefer to use brushes.  Every so often, I reach for my blending sponge, but 99.9% of the time, I prefer brushes.

The beauty industry is ripe with all kinds of brushes.  If you enter “Makeup Brushes” into an Amazon search, you will get thousands of results.  With this many choices, it could seem impossible.  Over the last few years, I’ve tried a variety of brands and brushes.  For YEARS, I used the same 4 (yes, 4) MAC makeup brushes.  I remember when I bought them, and it was the first time I had also bought higher end cosmetics.  I was obsessed with their black eyeshadow, Carbon, as they seemed to be the only ones at the time to have a true black eyeshadow.  Mind you, this was back when they were still cruelty free.  In fact, I still have 3 of the 4 brushes that I bought that day.  Do I use them? Nope.  They just sit in a drawer.  Because they are natural fibers, I don’t reach for them.  Since going cruelty free, it grosses me out to use brushes made with animal hair.

Fast forward to about 2 years ago when I started getting serious about my makeup.  I slowly started acquired brushes that were made with synthetic fibers.  Enter my new found love of beauty Youtubers and I soon had a collection of WAY TOO MANY brushes.  Over the last couple of weeks, I did what you are supposed to do to your closet every so often.  I took them all out of their home and put them in a drawer.  As I used them, I put them back in the cup.  I vowed to myself after 2 weeks, that I would get rid of the ones I don’t use.  Let’s just say, it was a lot.  I am keeping about half of what I have currently.  Its hard to believe that I have that much excess.  How did I get to that point?  The answer is simple…trial and error.  I would take a chance on a brush, and it would either work or not.  The result is about a dozen brushes that I cannot live without.

As a side note of this little experiment/project, I learned an important makeup lesson.  Even though a brush is labeled as doing one thing, it could very well suit me doing something else.  One of my favorite Youtubers, Laura Lee, uses this delightfully looking fluffy brush when she puts eyeshadow in her crease.  But that brush is way too big for my little monolids.  As much as its an essential to her, I have zero use for that brush.  As I started to think outside of the box, I found exactly what I liked, regardless of its intended purpose.

Here is a round up of my essential brushes. And yes, a lot of them are Morphe Brushes.  I was definitely introduced to this company through watching Youtube, but I use them every day because I love them.

Face-Complexion

Foundation 

Morphe Brushes – Y6 (Pro Flat Buffer) – $10 

*This was a generally recent find for me.  Beauty guru Laura Lee uses this brush on her channel to apply foundation.  I would see tweets about how this brush was so amazing.  I didn’t think it could be THAT amazing.  So, as I was getting frustrated with a blending sponge, I decided to try it out.  I was not disappointed.  I can’t imagine applying foundation with anything else now.  I also use this brush to blend in concealer.

Setting Powder

Morphe Brushes – Y2 (Tapered Powder) – $10

*This is a very standard addition to the list.  Everyone needs a big powder brush.  This one is perfect.  I was formally using a regular, full powder brush.  However, the Vegan Morphe set came with a tapered powder brush.  I love it. Its also dense enough to use with pressed powder as well.

Face-Contour & Highlight

Contour (Detail)

Morphe Brushes – Y10 (Detail Contour) – $8

*Again, this is another recent find for me.  This brush offers a subtle and precise way for me to put contour in my cheek bone area and around my jawline.  If I use too big a brush in these areas, it becomes too much and my face looks dirty.

Bronzer 

Morphe Brushes – Y5 (Tapered Blush) – $10

*When I first started buying Morphe Brushes, I bought an inexpensive set to start with.  I figured if I was happy, that I would invest further.  I bought the 10 piece Vegan Set.  First of all, it is extremely cute, since it has blue handles and pink bristles.  Second of all, it was $20.  In that set, there was a Tapered Blush brush.  I use this brush for 1 thing; to apply bronzer to my forehead.  I used to use it for my cheekbones, but its just too big.  I linked the set at the end, or click the link above for the version of it in the Gold Series.  Eventually, I want all my face brushes to be from the Gold Series.

Blush

Sonia Kashuk – Small Powder/Blusher Brush – $9

*I love this brush.  It is the perfect shape and density for blush.  I originally bought this brush as part of a 4 piece set that was on super clearance at Target.  To this day, its the only brush that I really use out of the set.

Powder Highlighter

Morphe Brushes – MB43 – $6

*The Basic Series at Morphe is extremely affordable.  They are exactly what they suggest.  They are basic.  Nothing special about them.  With that being said, for my eyeshadow brushes, this series is my go to.  The MB43 has the perfect shape for getting powder highlight exactly where it should go.

Cream Highlighter 

e.l.f Cosmetics – Flawless Concealer Brush – $3

*I originally bought this brush to do what it says, to apply concealer.  It worked terribly for concealer, but I found out by accident that it is perfect for cream highlighters.  I see cream highlight normally applied with a blending sponge, but this method never works for me.  But this brush really does the job so well.

Eyes

Eyeliner

Morphe Brushes – MB11 (Angle Liner) – $2.50

*Every girl needs gel liner in their arsenal.  More importantly, they need a good liner brush to apply that fabulous gel liner.  I think I went through 3 different liner brushes before I stuck with this one.  I spend too much on one from Sephora and it was painful to use.  This was also part of that first set I bought.

Eyeshadow

Lid

Morphe Brushes – MB20 (Oval Fluff) – $4

*I love using flatter brushes to apply my lid color.  The precision of a flatter brush prevents shadow getting too high and from me looking like a clown.  The one pictured is part of the Vegan Set, but there is a great one similar in the Basic Series as well, the MB20.

Crease

Morphe Brushes – MB13 (Deluxe Blending Fluff) – $5

*If I had to pick my favorite brush, it would definitely be a tie between this brush the MB13 and the next one on this list, the MB46.  I usually use this to put a lighter, base color all over my lids.  Its like Baby Bear’s porridge; just right.  It is big enough to use over the whole lid, and dense enough to not get shadow everywhere.  It is also what I use to do the final bit of blending.

Base Color/Blending

Morphe Brushes – MB46 (Defined Blender) – $4

*What can be said about this brush.  First of all, it is the perfect crease brush.  Again, with my eye shape, it can go very wrong, very fast.  But the density and precision of this allows me to create a normal crease.  I recently bought a back up of this one as well.  If you have monolids, I would say this is a must have.

Precise Primer Application

Morphe Brushes – MB10 (Concealer) – $3

*Listen, I hate using my fingers to apply makeup.  I only use my fingers to apply glittery stuff and used to use it to apply Colourpop’s Super Shock Shadows.  Used to is the operative word.  But I hate when my fingers are all dirty with colors.  This little brush is so tiny, that I’m shocked they don’t call it something else.  I suppose it could be used for very precise application of concealer, but I don’t use it for that.  I use it to apply glitter primer on top of shadow.  Yes, this is the only use I have for it.  It offers a certain precision to adding glitter primer that your fingers don’t offer.  Plus, its one less time your finger is in your eye area.

Packing 

Colourpop – Medium Shader Brush – $6

*When Colourpop first introduced brushes, they were giving them away with certain orders.  This was how I got this one.  And I was so pleasantly surprised.  Its perfect for packing on their Super Shock Shadows and diffusing the edges a bit.

Colourpop Medium Shader

Morphe Brushes 10 Pc Vegan Set 

10 Pc Vegan Set

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Finally Made My Own Cold Brew

There was a time in which coffee was not very exciting.  Most people had a regular coffee maker with regular coffee.  In terms of brewing coffee at home, it was pretty standard.  Of course, coffee houses and independent roasters have been around for some time.  But at home, the coffee game has changed.  There are so many methods and gadgets for brewing coffee at home.  One of those gadgets is called the Coffee Sock.  My friend got this for me for Christmas and I finally used it.  Truth be told, I wish I had used it sooner.  The Coffee Sock consists of a cloth “sock” or filter that sits in a mason jar.  It is definitely one of those things that is so simple that its genius.  It also helps to eliminate waste from the disposable cups from a coffee house.

I have always wanted to be that kind of person that makes their own cold brew.  I finally took the plunge.  I couldn’t be happier.  I love iced coffee, even when it is cold outside.  And I love not having to pay $4 for a cold brew at Starbucks.  If you don’t have a specific gadget to make your own cold brew, there a so many methods to do this.  If you have a large container and a way to strain the coffee grounds out, you can make cold brew.  Here is what I did.

For my “recipe”, I used 4 cups of water and 1 cup group coffee.  And I didn’t use some fancy coffee.  I used the Trader Joe’s Cup o’ Joe coffee.  When you grind it, just make sure its a course grind.  You don’t want to grind it too fine, or it won’t come out right.  You put the coffee in the sock part, and submerge it in the water.  After the initial set up, you let it sit on your counter for 12 hours.  After the 12 hours, remove the sock part.  What you do with the coffee grounds is up to you.  After making the concentrate, you can store it in the fridge for 2 weeks (or so google told me).  Now, onto the fun part!

How people take their coffee is as personal as what kind of music they like.  This is how I made my Iced Coffee.

  • *1 1/2 Cups Cold Brew
  • *1 Cup Water
  • *Creamer to taste

That’s it.  Its very simple, and not very exciting.  But I love it.

I feel like I’m late to the game to cold brew at home, but I got here, and that is all that matters. But if you need one, you can get The Coffee Sock in a variety of places.

 

Tummy Tuesdays: Quick Lentil Sloppy Joes

I am blessed to be able to stock my house on a regular basis with finds from the Farmers Market and Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.  But some weeks, (especially when I’ve been doing a good amount of Christmas shopping) I go into budget mode.  Its kind of like Battery Saver Mode on your iPhone.  All the extras fall away and I get only the essentials.  I grew up in a home that did not always have extra money, so I can default to this mode pretty quickly.

I will say this.  It does become easier to live on a relatively low budget since I stopped stocking meat in the house.  Relying on alternative sources of protein lends itself to stocking grains like lentils, farro, etc. in bulk.  A mason jar is truly man’s best friend.  Meat was eating a large part of my budget when I went grocery shopping, and storing it always skeeved me out.  Now, don’t misunderstand me.  I am not a vegan.  I’m a sucker for the chicken gyoza at Trader Joe’s.  But I have definitely decreased my meat consumption.  But I digress…this isn’t a post about the virtues of veganism.  Its about living on a budget.

When I need to trim the budget significantly, I usually get the following at the grocery store:

  • *Eggs (Preferably Organic and Free Range)
  • *Bread
  • *Cheese
  • *Cottage Cheese
  • *Canned Fruit
  • *Pasta Sauce
  • *Tortillas
  • *Salsa

I usually try to keep grains and pasta on hand, as well as some frozen veggies.  So what do I cook during these weeks?

  • *Egg salad sandwiches
  • *Pasta with sauce and cheese
  • *Quesadillas with salsa and avocado (if I can get some for a decent price)
  • *Cottage Cheese w/ canned fruit

These are just a few of the things that I keep in the rotation.  Avocados are most definitely a luxury item, but they have good fats, so I like to have them.  Sometimes, though, I like to get creative.  One of the things I love is sloppy joes.  I haven’t really had them since I stopped buying meat, but that is easily substituted with lentils or another hearty grain.  And much to my skepticism, it actually turned out decent.  I usually use a very basic recipe for sloppy joes, so I would definitely be interested in trying a different recipe down the road.  Here is the recipe I used.  And a quick disclaimer, if you do not like ketchup, I would steer clear.  I love ketchup, so I like this recipe.

Quick Lentil Sloppy Joes

Ingredients:

  • *1/2 cup split lentils
  • *1/4 cup ketchup
  • *1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
  • *1 Tbsp Mustard
  • *Salt, Pepper and Garlic Powder to taste
  • *Bread
  1. Cook lentils.
  2. Mix ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, salt and pepper into cooked lentils.  Let simmer in pan for like 30 seconds while stirring.
  3. Toast whatever bread you desire, and EAT.  I used sliced white bread with a little bit of butter.  It may not be pretty, but it was tasty and filling.

My original inspiration… https://www.eatingonadime.com/sloppy-joes-recipe/

Cruelty Free Faves

For me, makeup has become something that gives me so much enjoyment.  While sick, it was the only thing that made me feel human.  And still, even when I’m just having a bad day, makeup makes me feel better.  What also makes me feel better is when I find a cruelty free item I love.  Here is a list of my favorite cruelty free makeup items.

Face-Complexion

Wet n Wild PhotoFocus Foundation – $5.99

*My go to drugstore foundation.  I have extremely oily skin, and it is difficult to find a foundation that doesn’t turn my face into an oil slick in 5 minutes.  It goes on smooth and provides full coverage.  The only drawback is the smell.  It has a very paint-ish smell, but it does go away pretty quick.

Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation/Instant Retouch Primer – $34 & $32

*I have to mention these 2 together, as you need to use the primer that goes with it.  You can’t just use any primer.  Its a slight drawback, but its worth it for this foundation.  I love this foundation, especially for my oily skin.  If you have dry skin, this might be too much and will likely make your skin super dry.

NYX HD Photogenic Concealer Wand – $5

*After NARS lost their cruelty free status, I needed a cruelty free alternative to their concealer.  Enter super affordable NYX Cosmetics.  I read in a couple articles that this was a good drugstore dupe for the NARS one, so I decided to try it out.  Drugstore + Cruelty Free is a win-win.  And I love it.  Its not heavy and comes in a ton of colors.

Morphe Continuous Setting Mist – $15

*I never thought I would like something better than the Make It Last by Milani, but this one is great.  The aerosol eliminates the awful wetness that sometimes comes with setting sprays.  Its a little pricy for a setting spray, but it does last quite a bit.

Face-The Fun Stuff

Fenty Beauty Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter – Mean Money/Hu$tla Baby – $34

*Did anyone doubt that Rihanna would come out with beautiful highlighters?  I love the duos, as they give you a matte and a shimmer.  Mean Money/Hu$tla Baby is my favorite every day one, but Trophy Wife is beyond.

Wet n Wild MegaGlo Highlighting Powder – Precious Petals – $4.99

*This is a good drugstore dupe for the Fenty Beauty Killawatt highlighters without trying to be.  This one came out first, so it could also be said that the Fenty Beauty highlighter is a good mid-range dupe for this one.  Enough of my musings on the philosophical stiuations about highlighters.  The formula for this one is great, and they even recently came out with more colors, as well as a palette of 4 colors.  Precious Petals seems to be the most universal, unless you are super pale.

Makeup Geek Blush Pan – Heartthrob – $10

*This one is making a repeat appearance on this blog.  Previously, Colourpops Quarters was my favorite.  But as I was putting my travel palette together, I found this one.  Now, yes, the $10 price may be a lot for a blush, but is actually on par with Milani or Flower.  And it comes in a pan, which just sings to me.  I have this in a mini palette with the Kat Von D Contour pan.  Perfection.  And this color, also perfection.  Not too pink, not too brown, just right.

Eyes 

Kat Von D Shade & Light Eye Contour Palette – $48

*One of the most useful eyeshadow palettes in my collection.  With my monolid eye shape, there isn’t much contouring to be done, as too much makes me look like a clown.  I usually just follow the dark to light (bottom to top) method of applying eyeshadow.  This palette has everything set up so I don’t have to think, and truthfully, I’ve used them all in combination.  If you only have 1 higher end eyeshadow palettes, this one is the one to have.

Colourpop Pressed Powder Shadow Palette – My Little Pony – $16

*As far as color is concerned, you can never have too much.  I appreciate brands who do something different and interesting.  Pür put out a My Little Pony collaboration as well for the movie.  However, Colourpop took it back to vintage My Little Pony.  And this was a must have for me.  With that being said, I have a couple other Colourpop pressed powder palettes and I love them.  They have a decent formula that is super affordable.

Kat Von D Tattoo Liner – Trooper – $20

*Again, I bring up my eye shape.  Monolids.  There are certain things that are hard to find that work.  Eyeliner is one of those things.  There is always the dreaded transfer situation.  My little sister usually forgoes eyeliner altogether, but I need it.  This eyeliner is everything.  Previously, I was afraid of liquid eyeliner.  I never had good luck, but then pens started to become a thing.  And this one, is my perfect eyeliner.  I’m a fan of eyeliner pens with brush applicators.  Felt tip is my worst enemy.  Plus, this gives a good line, and lasts all day.

Kokie Velvet Smooth Eyeliner – $7

*While not perfect, this is my favorite pencil eyeliner.  It tends to not transfer and usually lasts all day.  The one about this one that makes me happy is that it smudges beautifully, and gives you time to do so.  While I love the Marc Jacobs Highliner, it gives zero play time.

Wet n Wild Max Fanatic Mascara – $4.99

*Again, I’m all about the Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir mascara, but the Wet n Wild mascaras are extremely good.  I’ve never had issues with transfer or anything.  Of course, it takes time to dry, but its not unreasonable.  This particular one I love because of the wand.  Its curved, and lets me get the whole lash.

Lips

Smashbox Always On Matte Liquid Lipstick – Bawse – $24

*Smashbox kills it with their liquid lipstick formulas.  When they went cruelty free recently, the liquid lipsticks were what I was most excited about.  This color in particular is a collaboration with Lilly Singh, and I hope they keep it.  I don’t really need a lip liner with this but I actually started using Colourpop’s Bossy with it.

Kat Von D Everlasting Lipstick – Nahz Fur Atoo – $20

*The perfect deep red that is super classic.  Most definitely, this color is a tie with Santa Sangre, but this one is more versatile.  I read a lot of reviews saying that this is super drying, but I have only had an issue with 1 color.  I usually use a lip balm under before I apply.

Colourpop Ultra Satin Lip Liquid Lipstick – Jiffy – $6

*This color is part of the collab they did with Amanda Steele, and may not be available.  Echo Park is one of my favorite nudes, but this one edges it out by a smidge.  Their Ultra Satin Lip formula is one of my favorites.  Its comfortable and lasts.

Jeffree Star Cosmetics Velour Liquid Lipstick – Mannequin – $18

*I love this liquid lipstick formula.  It goes on without too much effort and comes in great colors.   In the past, I’ve always grabbed nudes that had a touch of pink or mauve, but this is a straight up nude.  Its beautiful, and is perfect when I want to bring attention to my eye makeup.

Kat Von D Studded Kiss Lipstick – Sexer – $20

*Studded Kiss is by far my favorite stick lipstick formulas.  Underage Red was the first lipstick I bought at Sephora.  But I am particularly fond of the pinks she has to offer.  Sexer is a gorgeous hot pink.  The formula for the stick formula is changing and the Studded Kiss Lipsticks are currently on sale for $12 at Sephora.

Kat Von D Everlasting Lip Liner – $18

*I have several colors of this lip liner, and its great.  I love how it feels and it most definitely lasts.  And since its not a pencil, it doesn’t need to be sharpened.

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NYC: Food!!!

New York City; one of the greatest cities in the world.  And one that I had the pleasure of visiting this year.  I have only been to New York once, and it was for less than 24 hours.  I used to work at Macy’s and had the chance to be a balloon handler in the Thanksgiving Day Parade.  It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience.  However, that was quite a long time ago, and I remembered almost nothing.

My list of things I wished to do became longer and longer.  And, that list became more and more centered on New York points of interest.  Specifically, I wanted to experience many of the restaurants that can only be found there.  My trip was a full week, and a lot was accomplished.  Here is a recap of some of the great food that I had the pleasure to eat.

Papaya King

*Nothing says NYC like a hot dog.  I will say, I’m not a fan of eating off carts.  There is something about it that has always made me a little sketched out.  So, after a little research, I found a place I could get a good NYC hot dog.  And I certainly found it.  Let’s just say that it was one of the most delicious hot dogs I’ve ever had.

Papaya King

2 Hot Dogs and fries @ Papaya King

Schmakery’s

*Prior to this trip, I started to be interested again in musical theater.  After going down an internet rabbit hole (we’ve all been down one), I stumbled on this cookie place.  Every year, they hold a fundraiser called Broadway Bakes.  I also started seeing it on some must-eat lists.  After looking at pictures of their cookies, I HAD to go.  They looked ridiculously delicious.  I was not disappointed.  I got the Cookies & Cream and the Funfetti cookies.  They were the perfect pre-theater snack.  Schmakery’s is something to behold.  They have something for everyone, and especially if you love cookies.

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The Spread!

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Funfetti & Cookies and Cream

Momofuku Noodle Bar & Milk Bar

Anyone who has seen The Mind of a Chef is familiar with Chef David Chang.  And this is exactly how I was made aware of him.  I am fascinated by his culinary point of view, and he is proof that even the simplest things can be memorable.  Momofuku Noodle Bar was on my list of non-negotiable things to do in NYC.  Shockingly, I have never had ramen.  Like real ramen.  I’ve had variations of it, but never in an actual ramen place.  There is no better way to try ramen than at Momofuku.  And it was so good, and I don’t think I could ever judge ramen fairly again.

Now, under the same umbrella, but altogether different, is Milk Bar.  No, its not some pop-up Clockwork Orange place.  Its one of the most creative and well executed dessert establishments…ever.  It is the brainchild of Chef Christina Tosi.  Coincidentally, as I was becoming aware of Milk Bar, Chef Tosi started as a judge on MasterChef.  One of their specialities is the Cerealmilk products.  Specifically, the soft serve is what I tried.  I’ve never had anything like it, and I double I will ever find anything else like that.  In addition to the Birthday Cake truffles, their famous Crack Pie and the Cornflake Marshmallow Chocolate Chip cookies, I will never look at dessert the same way.  I’m forced to patiently wait for their Los Angeles location to open…soon hopefully.

Le Bernardin

I don’t think any words could possibly convey what it is like to eat at Le Bernardin.  But, I will try.  But first, a slight detour into the background behind why I picked it.  When I was going through chemotherapy, I couldn’t eat seafood that wasn’t thoroughly cooked.  One of the chefs I love is Eric Ripert.  He has a gentle soul, and an appreciation for life that is unmatched.  I admire him, as a chef and as a person.  Since a fair amount of seafood in a fine dining restaurant is usually lightly cooked, it is something that cannot be risked when you have zero immune system.  I made a promise to myself that when I beat the cancer, I would go to eat at Le Bernardin.  And eat at Le Bernardin is what I did.  It was the best meal of my life.  I had the Le Bernardin Tasting Menu and it was incredible.  Each course was delicious.  I will let the picture speak for itself.

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All in all, it was an incredible trip filled with tasty food and fantastic sights.  And one of the best things about my trip was that everything was on my terms.  I went solo, and I can’t imagine seeing New York City for the first time not solo.  I packed so much in in a week, and I don’t regret going by myself.  I’ve done a lot of things by myself, but never a trip like this one.  Most definitely something I will remember for the rest of my life.

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

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

FullSizeRender 4

*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