Feelin’ Good

I know this might seem a little out of nowhere, but I’m on VACATION!! I hopped on a plane Saturday afternoon in Raleigh and have been in Siesta Key, Florida with my family. It’s been almost five months since I’ve seen my parents and brothers and I am ecstatic to be sharing meals and living quarters with them.

BUT, of course, one of my favorite parts about beach vacations is the food. We make sure to hit up all of our favorite seafood restaurants we’ve been frequenting for years, but my mom also always loads the fridge up with tons of fruit and salad. Maybe it’s the whole being in a bikini all day thing, but it just seems so much more fun to eat light and fresh when you’re on vacation.

One of the easiest things you can do to detox a little bit is to drink warm lemon water first thing in the morning. Not only does it help with digestion, but also has a long list of other body boosting properties. The vitamin C boost helps you fight germs (like airport germs during cold season- yuck), but also makes your skin look healthier and more vibrant. Stress quickly depletes your vitamin C stock, so replenishing it helps your body fight stress and everything that comes along with it, like high blood pressure and dull skin. It’s also been proven that the high acidity of warm lemon water helps knock down the formation of kidney stones.

While I only do this for a week every now and then, I always seem to enjoy the morning ritual and find it pretty calming. Besides, with a benefit list like this, how can you not feel good about what you’re doing?

What do you do on vacation that changes up your eating or health habits?

Cuban Braised Beef with Avocado

A few weeks ago we found a trail off the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Apparently, it connects to Jordan Lake and its secret status allows for afternoon frolicking with the dogs without running into boy scouts or super-mom joggers.

It’s almost abandoned and private property-like (don’t worry, mom… it’s not), so there’s plenty of opportunity for fun and make believe farm playing,

treasure collecting,

and October swims.

Ahhhh…. bliss.

What better way to top off an afternoon like this than with BEEF! Manly, farm style beef… with a cuban twist… and add some avocado… okay maybe it’s not SO manly, but it’s GOOD.

Recipe for Cuban Braised Beef (adapted from Real Simple)
1 lb steak (any cut, doesn’t need to be expensive)
2 red bell peppers, seeded and sliced
1 large white onion, quartered
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup water
3 cups brown rice, cooked
1 avocado
sour cream

Cut steak into strips and sear in bottom of large pot with peppers, onion, and garlic. When beef is beginning to brown and vegetables are softening, add cumin and pepper flakes. Add water and bring to a simmer before covering and letting cook on low for at least an hour. In the meantime, prepare rice.

When beef is shreddable, pull apart with fork and let sit in juices while you get everything else together. Layer braised beef and vegetables on top of brown rice. Top with generous chunks of avocado and a drizzle of sour cream.

special shout-out to young house love. i know how much you guys love this place mat!

What’s up with everyone lately? Do you ever eat cuban food? Empanadas, perhaps? mm.

Now what?

There are endless possibilities with pumpkin seeds. You can make them spicy and savory, cinnamon and sugary, or even just plain and salted. With a thriving rosemary plant on the porch, I figured I’d use what I already had and toss my pumpkin seeds in rosemary and olive oil.

Recipe for Rosemary Pumpkin Seeds
3 cups raw pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 generous pinches of salt
4 tablespoons fresh rosemary, roughly chopped

Toss ingredients and bake on sheet pan at 275F for 45-60 minutes, or until golden brown.

These might just rival the beloved tamari almonds. What do you do with your pumpkin seeds?

Pumpkin Layer Cake

You know what’s really cool? Putting vegetables in desserts. Treat yourself and your family this weekend and whip up this super easy pumpkin cake.

Recipe for Pumpkin Layer Cake
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, melted
4 large eggs
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 cups pumpkin puree

Recipe for Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese
1 lb powdered sugar
2 tbsp vanilla extract.

Whisk together sugar and butter with best home espresso machine. Add eggs one at a time and whisk until smooth. In separate bowl, mix glower, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and baking powder. In three additions, add to wet mixture, mixing well between each addition. Finish by folding in pumpkin puree.

Pour batter into two 9in round cake pans and bake at 350F for about 40 minutes.

Let cool, remove, and ice with cream cheese frosting.

Directions for Cream Cheese Frosting
Beat butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Slowly add sugar and vanilla extract and beat until desired consistency and sweetness.

Simple Cinnamon Apple Sauce

This healthy little recipe for one is perfect for a midday snack. All you need is two apples and some cinnamon and you’ve got the best applesauce of your life. Added bonus? No extra preservatives, sugars, corn syrups, yellow #5 (you get the picture) AND cinnamon is a natural metabolism booster. Keep your life and snacks simple and your body will thank you.

Recipe for Simple Cinnamon Applesauce
2 apples (any variety, I used fuji)
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Cut up your apples into smallish pieces. The smaller the pieces, the faster they will soften.

Add them to a small saucepan with water and cook on medium heat. When apples begin to soften, add cinnamon and cook until apples are smashable with the back of a rubber spatula.

Mash up until desired thickness. I kept mine a little chunky. If this isn’t sweet enough for you or your little one, add a teaspoon or so of brown sugar!

Did you know that applesauce was this easy to make?