Changing Your Diet

Changing Your Diet

I am definitely no stranger to changing diets. If you have followed the blog, you’ll know that I experimented with vegetarianism and pescetarianism in middle school. For the past year or so, I’ve cut numerous foods out of my “diet” and substituted them with other foods–and it’s not as hard as you would think!

One thing I do not drink is dairy milk-I’m slightly lactose intolerant (my entire family on my mom’s side is lactose intolerant!) so during the summer, when I went on a backpacking trip with an organization,  I thought it would just be easier to tell them that I was dairy free. As a result, they packed me lots of dairy free cheese, and I found no difference from dairy cheese at all! A week after the backpacking trip, I decided to avoid dairy all together. I realized that it was very easy to substitute foods I could not eat for ones that I could. After all, I already didn’t drink dairy milk, so avoiding other forms of dairy was a natural next step. And my decision was also because the week following my trip, I had eaten 2-3 pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream all by myself. Although the ice cream was amazing, my body did not feel great afterwards (passing gas, feeling bloated, etc.). Avoiding ice cream was actually not as difficult as I had thought because I learned to substitute the dairy ice cream with vegan ones like So Delicious. Still, the vegan ice cream took a toll on my health, and after avoiding ice cream for a month, I found myself not even craving ice cream at all! Oh, what the power of avoidance can do!!

Another food-bagels. Now, I wasn’t as obsessed with bagels as I was with ice cream, but whenever there were bagels available, I would never pass up the opportunity. So, in the beginning of this year, I started to avoid bagels, subconsciously, after hearing about how bagels were the equivalent of 5 pieces of white bread because of the overwhelmingly high carbohydrate content (which results in high blood sugar levels). After months of not eating a bagel, I finally had half of an everything bagel during finals week, as a sort of reward. I remembered how much I used to love the savory taste of the everything bagels, and when I tried it…it was completely not what I remembered. The bagel didn’t taste exceptionally good or satisfying, it just filled me up. So, avoiding bagels made it not taste as appealing, and this experience furthered my avoidance of bagels.

A month ago, I became pescetarian (not eating meat except for fish) again, as a result of conversation with a friend whom I did not know was vegan. The result was similar to the bagel experiment. At first, it was a bit difficult to not be eating juicy, savory baked chicken wings, but as I went longer and longer without meat, when I tried a small piece for Thanksgiving, it was nothing special.

So in conclusion…

1.) Once I made those choices, I found that it was easier to eat healthy because I would avoid foods that were not “allowed” in that diet, and find healthy substitutes. For example, when I decided to reduce my dairy intake, I could not eat supermarket cookies, chocolate, or ice cream. But out of my desperation for those junk foods (especially the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream), I quickly found substitutes. I made healthy vegan cookies, chocolate bliss balls, and nice cream very frequently. It’s often difficult to make a big change in one’s diet because it feels restricting and depressing. However, I found that restricting myself helped me find better options for the unhealthy foods that I loved.

2.) After avoiding the unhealthy foods, I developed an indifference towards their tastes, and healthier foods became much more flavorful. I know…weird right?!

What is one food you are trying to avoid?

Love,

Serena

 

 

Relax & Refresh

Relax & Refresh

Sometimes, you just need a couple hours to yourself. School or work might have been overwhelming, you might have issues occurring in your relationships, or maybe you just had a grueling week and want to reward yourself. Regardless, in my experience, relaxing and refreshing can be very effective in productivity and feeling a sense of well being. Here are some of the things that I have done in the past to pamper myself!

1.) Hike or take a walk in nature. Even sitting in nature and taking it all in clears my head and makes me feel better.

Views from an awesome hike
Acai Pomegranate Bubble tea

2.) Go out to eat. Yes, sometimes food can be a wonderful reward! This past weekend, I went to a restaurant called Asian Bistro to have delicious hot stone bibimbap, and then I also had lunch at a Japanese restaurant where I had avocado sushi. For snack, I got myself a raisin croissant and an acai pomegranate bubble tea. Everything was so delicious and I felt so happy afterwards!

Vegetarian bibimbap

3.) Go on a run. I’m not a big runner (especially compared to Stephanie), but running helps me “run off my stresses” and “run away from my problems”!

Views from a recent run
Custard pudding- almondy and delicious!

4.) Cook and try out a new recipe. My friend and I made egg custards together, and we had an amazing time bonding and cooking. Even if you’re cooking by yourself (as I often am), cooking is a great way to relax. Seeing and eating the final product gives me an amazing feeling. See my first ever blog post on Why I Love to Cook 🙂

5.) Hang out with your family and/or friends. Whether it’s playing board games together, watching a movie, walking around town, or just talking, being with other people makes me feel happier.

6.) Take a long shower, put on a face mask, and listen to music. Your skin will thank you and you’ll feel super refreshed!

7.) Take a half-day trip by visiting a farm, going to the city (if there’s a city near you), visiting a museum, going to a flea market, or something else.

Farm trip
KALE Heaven

8.) Try something thrilling-like white-water kayaking, or rock climbing 🙂

9.) Take a nap-cause sleep is amazing and I can never get enough of it!

Now that I’ve shared my tips, I hope you feel super inspired.

In the words of my mom: “Work hard, play hard!”

Love,

Serena

Canada Part 4: Quebec City

Canada Part 4: Quebec City

Check out Canada Part 1,2, and 3. This is the last in the series 😉

On the second day at Quebec City, we took a bus tour and visited the Old Port Market, Plains of Abraham, and Old Quebec. 


I finally bought some Canadian maple syrup! It may seem touristy, but I thought the syrup tasted pretty good!

Hiking the Plains of Abraham while eating an amazing croissant. Probably the best idea I’ve had…

Next, we drove to the Montmorency Falls and hiked all the way to the top!


Views from the top 🙌 plus a rainbow!

We hiked until dark and headed back to the Old City for dinner. 

We dined at Mistral Gagnant, a very authentic and homey French restaurant. The food was very decently priced and I would definitely suggest coming here for a pleasant experience!

Lamb with potatoes and veggies

This wonderful dinner finally concluded our stay at Quebec City and Canada. Until next time!

Love,

Serena

Canada Part 3: Montreal and Quebec City

Canada Part 3: Montreal and Quebec City

Check out Canada Part 1 and Canada Part 2!

Montreal offers many attractions, and my family and I visited the most famous ones:the Notre Dame Basilicca, Jean Talon Market, and Mont Royal.

Notre Dame Basilicca: where Celine Dion got married!
A yummy dessert in the Jean Talon Market
Views from Mont Royal
 

Our first stop was Mont Royal, a park that is often compared to Central Park in New York for its location in an urban area, and it’s beauty. My family and I walked around the park for a couple of hours, and it was definitely a workout! There were numerous people running up and down the countless steps of the park. It’s a great place for marathon training!

We only spent one day in Montreal, I wish we could’ve walked around longer at the Jean Talon Market! There were numerous fruit and veggie stands with loads of samples. I couldn’t get enough of them!
Next, we drove a couple hours north to Quebec  City. 

We had dinner at the Table restaurant. 


I had a salmon tartare, which tasted amazing because I love raw salmon! I also ordered an arugula salad with raw tuna, potatoes, green beans, and olives. There was too much tuna for the amount of arugula! Also, the addition of the potatoes, green beans, and olives didn’t really fit. I also tried a bit of poutine, a dish that Montreal is famous for. Essentially, poutine is fries with gravy and cheese curds. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I didn’t think the poutine tasted very special. Maybe I just went to the wrong place to try it.

We spent the rest of the night strolling around Old Quebec, and we took pictures of the elegant and gargantuan Chateau Fromtenac, a grand hotel that was named a national historic site.

Plains of Abraham (Battlefields Park)
Views from the Plains of Abraham

The Old City stole my heart, it was breathtaking, and my family decided to stay another night in the beautiful city.

More on Quebec City coming soon in Canada Part 4!

Love,

Serena

Canada Part 2: Byward Market in Ottawa, Ontario

Canada Part 2: Byward Market in Ottawa, Ontario

Canada Part 1: Green Door Restaurant in Ottawa

Canada boasts numerous specialty food markets, and the first one I visited was Byward Market in Ottawa, Ontario.

One of the shops along the market that caught my eye was a cute fruit store that sold some mini fruit.

“Buddha’s Hand”
Mini pineapple!
Fruit Heaven and they’re all on sale 🙂

I also visited Moulin De Provence, a bakery that is famous for it’s Obama cookies. The story goes that Obama ate a maple leaf shaped shortbread cookie at the bakery, and exclaimed, “I love this cookie!” The cookies now symbolize a new relationship between the US and Canada.


Aside from the Obama cookies, they offer tons of other spectacular-looking pastries!

Fresh baked bread. Yum!


I wish I could’ve tried the pastries, but I only had American dollars, and the bakery doesn’t accept the exchange rate. My heart was broken and my family and I went to the bank immediately after!

Watch out for Canada Part 3 tomorrow!

Love,

Serena

Life Update! Finally Home…

Life Update! Finally Home…

It pains me to realize that I haven’t posted on the blog since July 30, almost a month! However, I am finally back from my traveling and I have a lot to tell you!

First, I did promise to post a series about my trip to Ontario, Canada and Vermont, I still intend on doing that. In the mean time, enjoy this picture of my ice cream at the Ben and Jerry’s headquarters!

IMG_3116
Non-Dairy PB and Cookies and EmpowerMINT in a chocolate coated sprinkles cone. Utter indulgence…

Second, I also took a small trip to Sacramento and San Fransisco, so I’ll post about that too!

Third, I just came back from backpacking with Outward Bound in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Yes, I’ve literally been eating peanut butter jelly pitas and drinking powdered milk for 14 days. I also was experiencing major vegetable-withdrawals…we didn’t have a green veggie until the last day!

But now that I’m home, I’ve been eating a lot of veggies, yummy home-cooked Chinese food, and ice cream (Ben and Jerry’s and SO Delicious). My mom stocked the freezer with ice cream because she knew that I would want some after not having it for two weeks…now I’m treating myself WAAY too much. “Out of sight, out of mind” is definitely true!!

Also, I got attacked by bugs and now my legs, arms, and face are scarred by no-see-um (sandfly) bites! I’ve been applying a “mask” of 1/4 cup coconut oil, 1/4 cup olive oil, and 5 drops of tea tree oil to my skin. It seems to be working slowly…any suggestions or tips for reducing bug bite scars?

Anyways, look out for posts! Hopefully, I’ll get them out this week and next week.

Love,

Serena

Canada Part 1: The Green Door Restaurant Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Canada Part 1: The Green Door Restaurant Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

I just came back from a vacation to Ontario, Canada and one day in Vermont and I’ll be writing a series of posts about the food I encountered there 🙂

My first stop was The Green Door restaurant in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. One thing I learned about Ottawa is that practically all of the good restaurants are super expensive. I found the Green Door when I was searching for a highly rated restaurant and I was pleasantly surprised by the entire dining experience.

First of all, everything is displayed buffet style, and it’s a sort of vegetarian-vegan cafeteria. The food is priced based on weight.

This was great for my family because my parents hate waiting a long time for food. Plus, you don’t have to pay tips because it’s self-serve.

I was extremely pleasantly surprised by the amount of healthy choices there were. Some of the dishes were even vegan!

Side soup and a dish with (clockwise from top left) spanakopita, falafel, marinated mushrooms, sauerkraut, (hidden) tofu, Japanese (cold) noodles, sweet potato puree, pasta with pesto, edamame bean salad, spinach (?) puree.
The best part for me was the dessert bar! I have a major sweet tooth and a lot of times, I have to admit that I don’t resist the desire for sweets.

Cookies, pie, brownies, and all the good stuff

More pie-like fruit desserts, tofu chocolate cake, chocolate hazelnut bliss balls.truffles, chocolate swirl cheesecake, vanilla cheesecake
A lot of these desserts were vegan, so since I don’t eat gelatin, I didn’t have to worry about it. The amount of desserts I saw was so inspiring, especially since a lot of people label the vegan diet as eating rabbit food. Also, I was happy to see vegan dark chocolate hazelnut bliss balls. I have a similar recipe on the blog!

So because I love desserts so much, I did have dessert for breakfast. I know, not the healthiest 🙈 I had a slice of berry pie, and, at first glance, the pie-filling looks exactly like gelatin. I wonder how they were able to create such a jello-like consistency without gelatin?? Let me know your thoughts!

A slice of berry pie with almond milk and cherries
So basically I definitely recommend this restaurant!! I hope you check it out if you’re in the Ottawa area.

Love,

Serena

Kale Veggie Soup Recipe and my lunch

Kale Veggie Soup Recipe and my lunch

Coming back home from a food-loaded vacation, I needed something to “cleanse my system”. Today for lunch I made a kale soup and beautiful grilled yellow zucchini.

Kale Soup Recipe

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 bunch kale destemmed and chopped

2 tbsp olive oil

2 heirloom tomatoes cut in cubes

2 tbsp garlic

1 yellow onion

1 15oz can chickpeas

1 cup potatoes (I used assorted baby potatoes) peeled and cubed

6 cups vegetable broth

Salt and pepper

Parsley, Oregano, Basil

Process

Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil. When softened, add kale. Once wilted, add the rest of the ingredients (tomatoes, potatoes, chickpeas, vegetable broth, seasoning). Simmer for 25 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked. Enjoy!

I paired the soup with grilled zucchini that I purchased at an organic farm close to my home. I just discovered this farm and was so excited to find out about it!


What is your favorite soup?

Love,

Serena

Raw Vegan Brownies

Raw Vegan Brownies

After trying my raw vegan brownie recipe many many times, I think I’ve perfected it! These brownies are a lot like my bliss ball recipe. It is adapted from Minimalist Baker’s recipe.

soak dates to make it easier for your food processer!

dirty hands? no problem!

Ingredients

1/2 cup walnuts

1/4 cup almond meal

1/4 cup cocoa/cacao powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/4 cup of dates pitted and soaked

1 tbsp or more of water (see step 4)

Optional:

Cacao nibs, more nuts, chia seeds and other add-ins!

Steps:

1.) Process walnuts

2.) Add almond meal, cacao powder and salt and mix

3.) Transfer dry mixture to a bowl and process dates

4.) Combine dates and dry mixture using your hands-it gets sticky! Add water as necessary

5.) Press brownie mixture into a pan lined with parchment paper and press in the optional ingredients as desired.

6.) Refrigerate for 1 hour and enjoy!!😋😋

This recipe only takes 15 minutes to prep. The finished brownies and be stored in the fridge or at room temperature in a sealed container.

So much Love,

Serena

Quick and Easy Vegan Lunch Ideas

Quick and Easy Vegan Lunch Ideas

Need some lunch inspiration? Here are two lunches I made this past week that I loved!

Green bowl: quinoa, avocado, kale, pine nuts
“Chicken” salad and avocado sandwich + sweet potato + dragon fruit

To make the sandwich, I used Whole Food’s vegan chicken salad that was purchased at the cold food cases. It tastes amazing! Certainly not the healthiest option, but a very convenient way to whip up a delicious sandwich.

I also used one of my favorite breads- Alpine-Valley’s Multigrain Omega 3 bread! I love using it because it tastes very hearty and its perfect when toasted.


What are your favorite lunch ideas?

Love,

Serena