So I drove across America..

I just wrapped up my second year of school and decided to make a big move. The door was open to leave my small town and head to the West Coast.. and there was no way I was staying in Ohio. My boyfriend booked a flight home (he had already been living in California) and we set out to leave that next morning. Looking back on our trip, first and foremost I miss the road but secondly, I think it went far better than either of us had anticipated. A 38 hour drive sounds pretty awful regardless of how you want to look at it but I was hopeful that as long as my best friend was at my side, I would see sunny California in no time.

Days before I was set to leave, I had all of my family get together for dinner, and more importantly cake and ice cream. All of my family being together at once is an extremely rare and risky occasion and throwing the fact that in less than a week I would be living on the other side of the country, there was plenty of room for it to go less than smoothly. Thankfully it went great and the cake was phenomenal. Looking back, I’m glad that we had our goodbyes then instead of right before I left. If I would have waited to see everyone right as I was setting out to hit the road, it would have been so much harder to take off without looking back. I saw my grandparents and my pups the morning before I left and as they waved us off with watery eyes and bittersweet smiles, I held it together far better than I thought I would. So my first tip of advice is get your goodbyes out of the way because if you’re anything like me, waiting until the day of would result in crying until there was nothing left to cry and about a two hour pounding headache.

my brothers & I

Our first stop was the Windy City of Chicago. From where I lived, Chicago is about a 6 hour drive without traffic. I decided to drive the first leg of our trip and it wasn’t all that bad, except for one thing: tolls. All in all, getting to Chicago and through Illinois I would bet it cost more than $30 in tolls, to me that seems outrageous but it seemed like a good trade off at the time for continuing on the fastest route. East Chicago was a little strange to say the least. A section of the highway was closed for construction and the detour took us through what I would assume to be a small town on the outskirts of the city,  except for the sole fact that we did not see a single person for miles. It was like a ghost town, an old rusty industrialized ghost town that seemed to be out of an episode of The Walking Dead. We got dinner at The Chicago Diner in Logan Square. They pride themselves on being meat free since ’83 and that’s totally awesome not to mention the food was great. We walked a little downtown after dinner, I really wanted to see The Bean but it was so late that it was closed. We drove a couple hours outside of Chicago the first night before we got some sleep. We pulled off in the middle of nowhere in Illinois to get some gas and decided some sleep was necessary. Sleeping in the car is not the most ideal nor comfortable plan, but I was so refreshed the next morning after such a long day the day before.

Denver, Colorado was our next destination but to get there we had to drive through the rest of Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. Let me tell you now, what. a. drag. Chicago was a nice change in scenery because without that, it would have been 18 hours of farm lands and flat fields.

Driving through Colorado was beautiful and I really don’t know how to put it in to words. It was a terrain that I had never seen before. The skies were so blue and the clouds were white and fluffy for as far as you could see. The rolling hills were endless and we got to see a couple tumbleweeds, which was cool. I also got to drive it as the sun slowly falling which was so unbelievably beautiful. The city of Denver had never been a place on my travel radar but after being there I so desperately want to go back. Granted we did not get to see much of the city but what we did see we both loved so much. The people that we encountered were very laid back and pretty namaste. Most people seemed to have tattoos which is very different than the place that I am from. We had some great eats for a late night dinner and breakfast the next morning. We will definitely be making a road trip back there. The Rocky mountains were another high point through Colorado. I had never seen the mountains before and I really wanted to see the national park but now I think that driving them was enough. We drove through all the of peaks and valley’s and winding roads of the snow capped terrain and it was awesome. The change in elevation did make us really thirsty and made our ears pop for what felt like forever though.

Utah was our next feat that had plenty of beauty to offer as well. There were endless rock formations and viewpoints that we drove passed, another refreshing change in terrain. One specifically was called Black Dragon canyon that we stopped at for what ended up being a couple of hours (even though it was just a viewpoint it was so nice to be out of the car). Through this state rest stops were really far apart and cities were scarce. We got down to two pegs on my gas gauge, driving through some really big rocks at night with little cell service before we really though twice about it. Luckily we made it to  gas station that was only (ONLY) about 40 miles away.

Vegas was the next on our hit list but I don’t have much to tell of it. We were driving through Vegas at about 2 am and decided we needed food or the closest thing to it which landed us at taco bell. We drove through what I assume to be the bustling downtown area of Las Vegas with all the flashing lights and high profile brands but that was about it. I have never had the desire to see Vegas and it was late so we did not bother to get out. Thinking back, Las Vegas is a place you have to see even without the booze and gambling, because it is such an epicenter for true American culture on every level, plus that was the brightest city I have ever seen in my life.

After hitting Vegas, the end was in sight. It was the middle of the night and the last leg of our journey was to drive through California, from the Mojave to the Bay Area. Driving the Mojave was beautiful, and I can only imagine what it would have been like if we drove it in the daylight. Seeing the looming mountains in the distance under the glow of the moonlight was something that I will never forget, don’t get me wrong, but a trip back is certainly due. I never knew how long this state was and I don’t think I ever want to be reminded. The change of scenery from desert to the golden rolling hills was great but it seemed like the hills went on forever especially having been driving all night, the last three hours was gruesome.

My journey was one that I had never anticipated I would actually do and so early on in my life. It was quite the experience and one that I believe everyone needs. Staying in my comfort zone was never my thing and I have always wanted to see different places. There is so much to see and you certainly don’t have to move across the country to start adventuring. If you do however, let this be your warning, you’ll finish one journey itching to start your next.

 

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Big Basin Redwoods State Park.hiking

Hey guys! Long time no talk, I know. Life has brought me down for the past couple months. Aaron and I were apartment searching, went back home to Ohio for a week, had to leave our place after two weeks, only to go through the apartment hunting process all over again.. this time it had to be done within a week! But thankfully alls well that ends well; we found a place with a great vegan couple, school is finally back in session and work is fairly regular. I finally feel like I have the chance to breathe again and with that being said I have some catching up to do!

sky

A couple weeks ago my boyfriend and I made a trip to Big Basin Redwoods State Park in Boulder Creek. Being only 40-some miles away we weren’t expecting too much from the drive into the park but boy we were wrong. Entering into the redwoods left us climbing a mostly single lane road for 15-20 miles. That being said, it took us nearly an hour and a half to get down to the HQ and visitor center. Despite the treacherous drive up the shoddy one lane road on the side of the mountain, every minute of our adventure was worth it.

Big Basin is California’s oldest state park. With its 80 miles of trails, multiple waterfalls and giant redwoods, its guaranteed to be an amazing trip. We started with Redwoods Loop Trail, a 0.6 mile easy hike in which we got to see two of the largest trees in the park. The Mother and Father of the forest and massive redwoods that reach up to nearly 300 ft tall. Many of the trees are hollowed from forest fires, and in those you can see the sky from the inside of the trunk, which is pretty amazing.

 

We had a long day/night the night before so our intention of completing the Berry Creek Falls hike fell short. The Berry Creek Falls trail is 10.5 miles of nature including some more of the tallest trees in the park as well as four water falls. Bummer that we didn’t do it, I know. Instead we settled for the much easier Skyline to the Sea Trail, to Dool Trail to Gazos Creek Road. My legs were barely moving before we started and the Dool Trail seemed to be entirely uphill, the whole time.

Aside from my frivolous complaints, everything we saw on our hike was beautiful. There was so much diversity in plant life and as far as the wildlife goes, we saw a couple squirrels (which is plenty for some and in my case not nearly enough wild animals) but the trail being pretty central to the main camp area as well as campsites and picnic areas in the park, it was to be expected. We walked along the Opal and Redwood Creeks on our hike which added to the serenity of our surroundings, but did add some serious moisture into the air.

All in all, having been our first time in the Redwoods, Big Basin was actually amazing. I have always wanted to walk alongside the looming giants in the forests of California so now I can officially check that off the bucket list!

giants

 

 

Banana Nut Bread with Maple Cinnamon Icing ⓥ

Okay, so this recipe is certainly one for the books. I could easily eat this whole loaf in a day all alone. Its so good I have made it four times in the last two weeks (Aaron will literally put a whole loaf down in a day). Side note: its super simple too. If this was some big gig that took a significant amount of time and effort, I would not be messing around with this twice a week crap. Uh uh, no way.

Most importantly, this banana bread is vegan! No eggs or dairy in this bad boy.  Just 100% yummy. It is so crucial to take control of your health, and that doesn’t always mean eating oatmeal and munching raw carrots. While this certainly is not the healthiest of dishes, substituting refined for unrefined sugar (which isn’t necessary to make it vegan) omitting the eggs and saying no to the possible dairy additions makes it a heck of a lot better than the alternative. Also, a cruelty free dish always leaves a happy heart and a happy belly!

Okay so now, lets get into it.

First and foremost, preheat the oven to 350º.

Second and just as important, bananas. For a single loaf, we need to mash 4 bananas. Once the bananas are mashed (little pieces of banana is okay, while huge chunks, not so much) you can add in 1/3 c. coconut sugar or your sugar of choice and 1/4 c. of coconut oil melted, once again or sub your preferred baking oil. Stir until combined.

In a separate bowl, sift 1 1/2 c. of flour, 1/2 tsp. of baking soda, 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder, and a generous amount of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Add dry a little at a time into the banana/sugar/oil mixture folding in until combined. Slowly add all of the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix well.

Add 1/2 c. crushed walnuts, or to your desire, into bread mixture. Stir until evenly combined.

Grease the bread pan and pour the mixture in. Spread evenly. (If desired, a few banana slices can be thrown on top of the bread to add to the aesthetic if you are not going to use the icing.)

Bake on 350º for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and the top of the loaf is golden.

Meanwhile, we can prepare the icing. In a large bowl, combine 1/4 c. of melted butter (vegan, of course), 2 c. powdered sugar and 1 tbsp of milk. Mixture should be thick enough to not drip off your spoon but not as thick as a frosting.

When bread is cooled, spread maple cinnamon icing to your desire, slice, & serve!

It’s good. Like seriously good. You have to try it. But this is your warning because there’s no going back!


Banana Nut Bread with Maple Cinnamon Icing 

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes + cooling time (15 – 20 minutes)

Delicious banana walnut bread topped with a maple cinnamon icing. Vegan, egg-less, butter-less, 100% delicious! 

For the bread:

4 bananas

1/3 c of coconut sugar

1/4 c. of coconut oil

1 1/2 c. of flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

generous amount of nutmeg

sprinkle of cinnamon

1/4 c. of walnuts

For the icing:

2 c. powdered sugar

1/4 c. melted vegan butter or margarine

1 tbsp. non-dairy milk

1/2 tsp maple flavor

1/2 tsp vanilla flavor

Directions:

For the bread:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350º.
  2. Mash bananas in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add sugar and oil to banana mixture, mix until well combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg and cinnamon together.
  5. Slowly incorporate dry ingredients into wet ingredients, folding in small parts of the dry mixture to ensure it is well mixed.
  6. Once combined, fold crushed walnuts in to mixture.
  7. Grease bread pan and evenly lay in bread mix.
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until loaf is golden and a toothpick comes out clean.
  9. While the bread is baking, mix icing ingredients together in a bowl.
  10. Once bread has cooled, ice the top of the loaf with the maple cinnamon icing.
  11. Slice bread and serve warm (optional: add fresh banana slices on the side, totally yummy!)

The Potato Cleanse – Week 2

I’m sitting here thinking about how I want to start this post and quite frankly, I do not even want to think about potatoes anymore. Week one was great- don’t get me wrong. But week two has came and went and with that so did my desire to stick this out any longer. Two weeks (well 13 days), mainly eating potatoes is quite a feat that most people can’t say they have accomplished (or ever wanted to do) but I’m glad that I decided to take the plunge. I learned quite a bit  about my eating habits and my body from the potato cleanse which I’ll get into after outlining what week two looked like eating only potatoes.

Day 8:

Breakfast: russet potato hash browns

Lunch: garnet yam sweet potato fries

Dinner: more sweet potato fries

Day 9:

Breakfast: baked sweet potato

Lunch: baked sweet potato

Dinner: mashed russets with peas and gravy

Day 10:

Breakfast: mashed yukon golds

Lunch: garnet yam fries

Dinner: russet fries

Day 11:

Breakfast: russet fries

Lunch: mashed russet

Dinner: mashed russet with peas and carrots

Day 12:

Breakfast: russet hashbrowns

Lunch: russet hashbrowns

Dinner: diced russet with peas and teriyaki sauce

Day 13:

Breakfast: diced russets with peas and teriyaki

Lunch: baked sweet potato

Dinner: russet hashbrowns

Totals:

25 lbs of russet potatoes

10 lbs of sweet potatoes

7 lbs of Yukon golds

Once again, crazy typing out those numbers and thinking that Aaron and I went through 40+ pounds of food. And also keeping in mind that he was not on the cleanse with me, so naturally I ate more potatoes than he did!

I was really trying to stick out the fourteen days, but day 14 we had a road trip to Sacramento planned to go to a concert and if there would be a day to break the potato cleanse, this one seemed like a winner.

Take aways from The Potato Cleanse:

  1. potatoes are so satisfying and filling
  2. incorporate more potato meals into my normal diet
  3. eating is not a pastime- food is fuel
  4. eating whole foods makes me feel my best
  5. listen to my natural hunger
  6. only eating potatoes save a lot on groceries!!

Eating this way for nearly two weeks and being mindful of how I felt through it all was crucial. I felt (and saw-acne) my body detoxing from all of the processed junk I was eating two weeks ago. I made sure to stay hydrated and listened to my natural hunger signals. It was crazy how many times I wanted to eat something when I wasn’t even hungry just to fill the time, or as a way to spend my time and share time with others. Eating only potatoes also cut down cooking time and the process of deciding what to eat because if you’re anything like us, no one can make a decision. I found myself spending more time on the things that I wanted to do during the day because I had more free time. I had so much energy after only just a few days, and I always woke up refreshed. And not to mention, score one for the great digestion.

Coming out of the cleanse I plan to slowly incorporate new foods back into my diet. Eating really clean makes me extremely sensitive to highly processed foods and foods with a lot of sugar. Trying to tackle those right away will forsure leave me with a stomach ache and a bad breakout.

I feel better, have more energy, and have a new found appreciation for the relationship we should have with food and the foods that we choose to fuel ourselves with. If I ever did do this again, I would stick to only eating white potatoes. Incorporating all variations of sweet potatoes provided me with too much variety and it was fairly easy when I had a lot of sweet potatoes to eat. I don’t know if it’s just my new found love for potatoes of that the sweet potatoes made me enjoy the cleanse way more, but I think I liked it too much. Just a thought, who really knows. Because after all, a potato is a potato.

One last note: I didn’t do this cleanse to lose inches off my waist or lose any weight but just for the heck of it I did measurements of before and after and here’s what it looks like!

Before

Arms- 15″

Bust- 40″

Chest- 33.5″

Waist- 33″

Hips- 39.5″

Thighs- 25″

Body Fat percentage: 26.1%

After

Arms- 15″

Bust- 40″

Chest- 33.5″

Waist- 32″

Hips- 38.5″

Thighs- 25″

Body Fat percentage: 25.9%

Super Moist Strawberry Cake! ⓥ (easy & delicious vegan hack)

Strawberry has always been my favorite flavor. I was the weird one who would get strawberry milk instead of chocolate everyday for lunch in school. Strawberry anything was bound to be the best flavor if I had anything to say about it and this cake is certainly no disappointment.

Going down the baking aisle there is certainly no shortage of options. Whether it be cake, cookies or brownies, every brand has 300 flavors and the what’s awesome is most are accidentally vegan! The “suggested” ingredients, and I do say suggested, never seem to be though. Eggs, butter, butter. eggs, milk, etc., etc.,  are the baking staples and if you’re not vegan, there’s a good chance that you have no idea that you can make a cake without these things. But the great news is that there are so many substitutes, some a little more unconventional than others that require a leap of faith in comparison to a safe substitute of vegan margarine for butter but in the end, whatever dessert you choose can turn out just as yummy when made vegan!

A favorite of mine that is straight from the box is strawberry cake. I use the Pillsbury Moist Supreme Strawberry Cake Mix, with a few modifications, and I promise you, OMG.

The recipe calls for a cup of water, okay, vegan-check, 1/2 cup of oil-check, and three eggs. In this case, the eggs are the problem, who would have guessed. Eggs are just so versatile in baking that they show up literally, everywhere. But luckily a great hack is upon us.

Instead of three eggs, simply add 1/2 cup of applesauce to the dry cake mix, 1 cup of water and 1/8 cup of oil. Its necessary to cut back on the liquids to keep the ratio of dry to wet ingredients suitable for a moist and fluffy cake.

This mix makes a perfect cake in a 9×9 pan, following the baking instruction on the package. Frosted with cream cheese frosting, which is also unexpectedly vegan (although it makes me question what cream cheese frosting really is) and some strawberry garnish on top, YUM! Subbing out applesauce for eggs makes for an (almost) guilt free dessert. There is no doubt about that, so just because it happens to be vegan, doesn’t mean you have to be vegan to eat it (Dad I’m talking to you.)

In a 13×9 baking dish, I find the cake to be too thin for my liking. Doubling the recipe would certainly make for a thicker cake however, I haven’t quite mastered the ratio of ingredients for doubling this recipe without leaving the middle slightly undercooked. But expect a solution in the very near future, because the more cake, the better.

Let me know in the comments your favorite cake recipes/ flavors and if you try this awesome vegan hack for a delicious strawberry cake!!

We Spend All Of Our Time In Coffee Shops

Forager

Freshly brewed coffee is sipped slow

Under lights strung through the rafters above.

 

With your arm around my shoulders

And your fingers in a tangle of curls,

 

We utter secrets of our pasts,

 Strangely spoken in an air of comfort.

 

And it is in these shared moments

I know home will always be at your side.

 

6/30/17


 

Hi guys! Thanks for reading my piece called, “We Spend All Of Our Time In Coffee Shops.” I wrote this after spending an evening last week with my boyfriend at a shop downtown. Whenever we have free time, we always find ourselves hanging out in coffee shops. Some of the greatest times have been shared with the comforting smell of coffee in the air. The photograph is one I took of a shop that we really like to hang out at called Forager in San Jose, CA. It’s huge with comfy couches, large tables, high strung lights, and dope rosettas.

 

The Potato Cleanse – Week 1

Only eating potatoes sounded pretty bland, but bland was what I wanted and when it comes to food I can be really disciplined. I thought I could stick out the plain and boring for the sake of my skin and my health for at least two weeks without complaining too much. Turns out, I’m starting to love potatoes way more than I ever did before. I’ve always been high carb low fat and from what I have seen, you’re either a rice person or a potato person, or a fruit nerd.. but we’re talking complex carbs here people. I loved my rice and Aaron loved his potatoes and it worked that way. But this week we (well mostly me, he only lasted a day or two) ran through 35 pounds of potatoes. Its pretty crazy quantifying all of the food I ate in the last week like that, but it was a delicious 35 pounds. I didn’t finesse any crazy potato recipes this week, I mostly ate fairly simple; baked potatoes and mashed potatoes were the staple for week one and it wasn’t that hard. Here’s the rundown:

Day 1

Breakfast: baked russets

Lunch: baked purple majesty potatoes (purple skin and flesh)

Dinner: more baked purple sweet potatoes

Day 2

Breakfast: yukon gold homefries

Lunch: baked golden yams

Dinner: a mix of russet, red and yukon potatoes mashed with mushroom gravy and peas

Day 3

Breakfast: baked garnet yams with agave and cinnamon

Lunch: baked purple sweet potatoes

Dinner: baked red potatoes

Day 4

Breakfast: yukon gold potato wheels with ketchup and a head of romaine

Dinner: baked garnet yams

Day 5

Breakfast: baked garnet yams with agave and cinnamon

Lunch: baked yukon golds with romaine and ketchup

Dinner: mashed russet potatoes with mushroom gravy, broccoli and peas

Day 6

Breakfast: baked garnet yams

Dinner: diced and broiled russet potatoes with a veggie stir fry mix and teriyaki sauce (life changing good!)

Day 7

Breakfast: baked garnet yams with agave and cinnamon

Lunch: leftover diced russets with veggies and teriyaki sauce

Dinner: mashed yukon gold potatoes with mushroom gravy and asparagus

In total, we went through 10 lbs of russets, 5 lbs of yukon gold potatoes, 5 lbs of red potatoes and 15 pounds of yams and purple sweet potatoes! Still crazy, and what’s even crazier is how cheap our groceries were this week for how much we got in volume. This cleanse is magical! I haven’t been keeping track of calories or how much I have eaten and I don’t plan to because one that gets me a little neurotic and two, one of the points of this cleanse is to get back in touch with my natural hunger and satiation so I don’t need to count calories. I’ll be back with another update next week!

 

 

The Potato Cleanse

So this week I’m deciding to do this crazy thing called the potato cleanse. What is the potato cleanse you ask? Well great question, but it’s simple really, you only eat potatoes for however long it takes to reset yourself, which is exactly what I need.

Aaron’s parents just made the cross-country trip just in time for his graduation. They stayed for about a week before making the trip back to Ohio so they got to do the whole touristy charade, which was great don’t get me wrong but being a going site seeing and always being in the care doesn’t really include too many meals at home. We had vegan pizza, and vegan burgers, and vegan sausage, and vegan pizza, and vegan BBQ and Chipotle and did I mention vegan pizza.. and ice cream.. oh, the ice cream. It was incredible, that’s not what I’m saying. It’s amazing that there are all of these vegan options available for us to smash on but moderation is key. So a detox of all of the processed goodness that has been the last two weeks of my life was entirely necessary.

The potato diet or cleanse or whatever you see fit is not the most popular way to reset the systems but as far as I’m concerned, it damn well should be. A juice fast or detox is probably what most would consider when needing a cleansing but potatoes man, turn to the potatoes. The diet first got big when Chris Voigt decided to eat 20 potatoes a day for 60 days to stand for the potato when everyone else was against it which you can read more about here: Getting Well on Twenty Potatoes

Chris’s story is a great one for sure, but watching High Carb Hannah on YouTube is what inspired me to give it a try! Hannah intended to do the cleanse for 2 weeks but ended up hanging in there for 30 days. On her channel she has an entire playlist for the challenge and has some pretty crafty potato recipes included.

The rules of the potato diet are easy peasy:

  1. Eat potatoes: russets, reds, yams, sweet potatoes, yukons, etc.
  2. Non-starchy vegetables are also allowed to make for less bland meals, in as much volume as you care for but most of your calories should be coming from potatoes
  3. Leafy greens are also allowed following the same lines as the veggies
  4. 2 tbsp of sweeteners like agave and maple syrup are allowed per day
  5. Fat-free condiments are also okay as well as herbs and spices
  6. Stick to drinking water, cut the caffeine and the artificial flavors
  7. Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full

No special kit or teas to buy, no gimmicks, just spuds. Potatoes are so close to being nutritionally complete that you don’t need to worry. A full day of eating only potatoes gives you ~40 grams of fiber, 50 grams of proteins with complete aminos, vitamin C, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamin, and zinc, 220 mg of calcium and not to mention potatoes are so filling and satisfying. Whether you want to try a cleanse, or an elimination diet, kick start weight loss, or just challenge yourself to start healthier eating, the potato diet is where to start.