Protein Power // Tuna and Egg Salad (with Hidden Probiotics!)

Hi everyone!  How were your weekends??  I've been enjoying a few days off of work even though I have to admit that the weather here in Portland has been pretty disappointing.  Of course it was sunny and gorgeous each day that I worked last week.  Grrr.

I tried to make the most of it by going outside on at least one of my breaks. 

Today is supposed to be lovely, though, and I plan to make the most of it.  A picnic could definitely be in my near future.  And no picnic is complete without simple, satisfying, and pack-able food.  I have some leftovers of today's recipe in the fridge and I think it will be perfect on some good slices of bread or perhaps just loaded on top of some nice crispy pita chips.  It's also great by itself, making it a good option for anyone looking for a satisfying low-carb meal.

My favorite thing about this Tuna and Egg Salad is that each serving actually contains a healthy dose of probiotics, thanks to the pickle relish and/or sauerkraut.  I will warn you, though, that not all condiments are created equal and you will want to make sure that you are using a brand that is not pasteurized after packaging or created by just curing in vinegar.  My favorite relish is definitely Bubbies and right now I'm using Pickles Planet Dill E Gent (I think maybe it's just an Oregon brand) for the sauerkraut.  Both of these jars are just loaded with good-for-you probiotics that are much tastier than popping a pill.  

I hope everyone is having a good week.  I'll be back soon to post a green beauty product review.  Ciao bellas!

Tuna and Egg Salad (with Hidden Probiotics)
makes 4 generous servings
(To reduce the number of ingredients, feel free to just do 1/2 cup of pickle relish or sauerkraut instead of 1/4 cup of each.)

- 2 cans tuna (consider this low-mercury option)
- 3 hardboiled, pastured eggs, peeled and diced
- 1/2 cup goat yogurt
- 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
- 1 bell pepper, chopped fine
- 1 green onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
- 1/4 cup pickle relish
- 1/4 cup raw sauerkraut
- 1 Tbsp mustard
- 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
- sea salt, to taste

Mix it all together.  That's it!  Enjoy on pita chips or just out of the bowl.


What I Read in April

April was a wonderful book month for me.  I got through a pretty diverse little pile of books (and audiobooks) and I truly enjoyed each and every single one of them.  Lately, I've been a little more difficult to please when it comes to what I'm reading and so it was refreshing to feel like all of the books on shelf, in my e-reader, and on my phone were worth my while.  

In order of most- to least- favorite, here's what kept be busy in the last month.

"David Copperfield" by Charles Dickens
Honestly, I only started in on this book because I think it's good for me to read a classic once in a while.  What I didn't realize what how great an observer of human character Charles Dickens was and just how funny this book would be.  I listened to an audiobook version narrated by Ralph Cosham and it was fantastic.  Yes, it is a little long and it took me over a month to finish it (also, I had to return it to the library a couple of times) but I always looked forward to coming back to it and all of it's unique characters (and a few caricatures).  If you're looking to brush up on your classic novels, I'd really recommend this one.

"Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear" by Elizabeth Gilbert
I felt like she changed my life once with "Eat, Pray, Love" (don't judge, I was going through a hard time) and now she's done it again.  "Big Magic" is a call to action for everyone to find that artist inside and let her out to play.  I put off reading this because, after hearing what it was about, I felt like it really wouldn't be for me.  Sure, I dabble in some (terrible) painting and about once a year I'll decide that I should write more, but I don't really think of myself as an incredibly creative person.  It's just kind of intimidating to describe oneself that way when there are so many people doing what you wish you could do, only they're doing it about 100x better.  But, for me, the real message of "Big Magic" is not to take yourself too seriously.  So what if your paintings never get good enough to sell in a gallery or if your blog only gets a few hits a week?  That's not the point.  The point is to commune with the magic that is inside you and all around you in order to lead a full and beautiful life.  This is something that anyone can do no matter their age, talents, or history.  Read this if you're feeling a little stuck and need a warm reminder that there is more to life than work, laundry, and internet-shopping (er, or was that just me?).

"True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart" by Thich Nhat Hanh
In any other month, this book would have probably made it to the top of my "favorites" list.  This month, it was up against a lot of competition but I still recommend it highly.  I first learned about Thich Nhat Hanh in college for a class I was taking about Buddhism.  His is one on the only books that has survived multiple moves and purges and still sits on my shelf today.  I don't know what took me so long to pick up something else he's written but I am glad I finally did.  It's a quick read (only 120 pages) but I feel that it's a book that I can return to time and again for advice about how to be more present in all of my relationships.  Thich Nhat Hanh's writing is deceptively simple - he makes the concepts seem so obvious but the challenge comes in actually applying them to daily life.  

"Someone" by Alice McDermott
This is just a beautifully told novel telling the story of a woman's life in fragments that are somehow woven together perfectly. I feel like it's a bit of a hard sell since the plot sounds so ordinary (girl grows up, gets her heart broken, gets a job, gets married, has kid, grows old), but don't let that stop you from reading this.  As it turns out, ordinary lives can be filled with immense joy and sorrow and Alice McDermott masterfully captures all this quiet beauty in less than 300 pages.

"Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter" by Tom Franklin
Sometimes, we all just need a good crime novel.  Or maybe that's just the Nancy Drew-loving child who still lives inside of me demanding to be fed.  I really enjoyed this book, especially the fact that part of it was written from the point of view of an isolated and misunderstood Boo Radley type of character.  There are surprises up until the very end, which helps keep those pages turning, but I also felt like there were some plot holes that lessened my overall enjoyment of the book.  I listened to it as an audiobook and it kept me good company for house chores but I probably wouldn't tell anyone that they need to go out and read it.

So there they are, the books that made my month.  I feel like this was a pretty diverse selection, each book with its own charms.  Have you read any of these?  What did you think?  What was your favorite book from the last month?

Almond Sesame Nut Milk

I find myself frequently swinging back and forth between trying to DIY as many things as possible and wanting to say "f**k it, I'll just leave it to the experts".  It's true that I believe that there are many situations in which it is worth my hard-earned money to let someone else do the work.  Kale chips?  I'll buy 'em, thanks.  A well-crafted cocktail?  Leave it to the bartender.  Almond milk?  Well, maybe that's a different story. 

Don't get me wrong.  If you look in my pantry, you will almost always find a few back-up boxes of shelf-stable almond milk.  Nothing worse than running out in the middle of cooking something.  But, in the interest of consuming as much fresh, homemade food as possible, I am slowly getting into making my own nut milks (or mylks as some people like to call them) at home.  I swear I can taste the difference and, what's more, there seem to be unlimited options for creative new concoctions.  

For this iteration, I wanted to stick somewhat close to traditional almond milk but to add a little something extra.  Sesame seeds add a nice, nutty flavor as well as a good deal of calcium and magnesium.  According to an ayurvedic perspective, "Sesame helps to contain body heat, reinforces blood, and strengthen your bones, muscles, and even willpower" (from Joyful Belly).  Talk about a superfood!  

To me, sesame has a pretty strong taste for everyday use, which is why this recipe calls for a good deal more almond than sesame.  I felt like the 4:1 ratio allowed the taste of the sesame seeds to come through without overwhelming.  I really enjoyed using this nut milk in smoothies and coffee elixirs with coconut butter.  I decided to use honey for a mild sweetness, but you could definitely use a few dates instead if you would like.

Sesame-Almond Nut Milk
makes about 4 cups

- 1 cup raw almonds (soaked overnight)
- 1/4 cup raw sesame seeds
- 1 Tbsp raw honey
- pinch sea salt

Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender with 4-5 cups of water (4 cups for a richer milk).  Blend on high for at least 2 minutes.  Strain through a nut milk bag, gently squeezing out excess moisture.

Store nut milk in a clean glass jar in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Thanks Mom! // Ethical and Eco-Conscious Mother's Day Gift Ideas

Somehow, Mother's Day has always managed to sneak up on me.  Well, to be honest, pretty much any occasion where I have to get something in the mail on time sneaks up on me.  My gift usually ends up arriving a few days late and I have to make an apologetic phone call to let my sweet mother know that I haven't forgotten her.  I don't think she really minds...she knows she raised a slightly scatterbrained and disorganized daughter :)

This year, though, I'm planning ahead.  Luck has it that I'm flying home to Albuquerque just a week before Mother's Day and, while I won't still be there to spend the actual day with her, I can bring her a few things to show her I care.  I think I've decided on a (not really green) make-up primer that she's mentioned she would like and some teas from a local shop here in Portland.  The best part of the gifts, though, will be to be able to give them to her in person.

In my search for gifts, I ran across a few other ideas.  Many of them are good for our Mother Earth as well.  Here's to Mom!

Kat and Roger Ceramic Planter - Ceramics and I are having a moment.  Lately, I've been wanted nothing more than to fill my house with beautiful plants in equally beautiful pots. I love the look of this pot, with its retro colors and texture.  It's hand thrown and painted in California, so each will be one of a kind.  Add a low maintenance house plant and you've got a gift that's both gorgeous and practical, just like Mom.

Loving Earth Salted Caramel Chocolate - What's always an acceptable gift?  Chocolate!!  Especially when it's fairly and sustainable sourced.  Loving Earth has a lot of mouthwatering options made only with whole food ingredients.  This Salted Caramel bar only contains certified organic fair trade virgin cacao butter, raw cashews, organic coconut nectar, and pink salt.  

Reusable Sandwich Wrap with Wooden Button - Lately, I've been questioning my frequent use of plastic bags for lunches.  With summer coming, I can't imagine a more adorable way to start switching to a more sustainable lunch than these adorable sandwich wraps.  The button is a great touch, too!  Why not skip the horrendous Mother's Day brunch lines and pack a picnic to enjoy in the sunshine?  Maybe buy some extra sandwich wraps for yourself :)

Mountain Rose Herbs Peace Tea - Finally, I'm sure there isn't a mom out there who couldn't use a little more peace in her life.  This Peace Tea contains chamomile, spearmint, lavender, cinnamon, passion flower, and rose petals.  It's 100% organic and from a company that I really trust.  It's as beautiful to look at as it will be to drink.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Mother's Day!  I hope this makes gift-finding just a little bit easier!

Cooking from the Pantry: Sweet Potato Curry Hash (Paleo Option)

I love grocery shopping.  Too much.  I was recently putting together a personal budget and did some investigation into how much I spent on groceries in the last year.  I was floored.  It's clear that I need to learn to do more with less.  In the spirit of that resolution, I'm practicing the art of cooking with what I have.  Yes, I still put together fun menus that will require a hefty trip to the grocery store.  But I try to also keep in mind that I can put together a perfectly good dinner without buying anything at all.  That's where this curry hash came from.

I'm blessed with a pretty well-stocked pantry: There was a lonely sweet potato asking to be eaten up, a can of coconut milk from when I stocked up a few months ago, spices, and some frozen (mildly freezer-burned) edamame that I didn't even remember existed.  Armed with those ingredients and a couple frozen salmon patties from out last Costco trip, I was ready to make a quick and thrifty meal.  Perfect to be enjoyed with a glass of cheap rose on the back porch.  

Sweet Potato Curry Hash
serves 2-3

1 large sweet potato, peeled
1 Tbsp coconut oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp ginger, finely grated
1/2 cup frozen edamame beans, defrosted (omit for paleo)
1/2 cup coconut cream (coconut milk would probably also work)
1 heaping Tbsp of your favorite curry powder
salt, to taste

For the sweet potato, boil a pot of salted water.  Chop the sweet potato into short matchsticks (the thinner they are, the quicker they'll cook).  When the water is boiling, drop in the sweet potato and continue to boil for 3-4 minutes.  Drain.  

While the sweet potato is cooking, heat coconut oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add garlic and sauté for a minute until fragrant.  Add ginger and sauté for another minute.  Add edamame if using, coconut cream, curry, and salt.  

Add drained sweet potato to coconut milk mixture and stir gently until everything is combined and heated through.  Serve immediately.


What I Read in March

This was an interesting month in reading.  Somehow I managed to read a couple "self-help" style books and a couple YA novels.  I'm not usually much of a YA reader but I've found that the books are usually pretty quick and satisfying and they transport me back to my younger self.  I have LOVED books by Rainbow Rowell but the ones I read this month didn't quite stack up.  Read below for my take on my month of reading:

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed (audiobook version)
This was by far my favorite book of the month.  I'll admit, I've never read "Wild", which is the book that made Cheryl Strayed a household name, but I was completely floored by this collection of advice columns that she wrote anonymously under the moniker of Sugar.  She writes with such compassion and wisdom, and isn't prone to glossing over the messiness and beauty of life.  I cried.  A lot.  I met a girl at a party recently who described this book as her bible.  I think if you are in need of a bible, this would be a great place to start.  Oh, and make sure you listen to the podcast, which is ongoing.  It's definitely not to be missed.
Rating: 5/5 gold stars

I Thought it Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame by Brene Brown (audiobook version)
really like Brene Brown's work and I think she has a really good perspective about how we can rise above fear and shame in a culture that seems to do nothing but tell us that we're not good enough.  However, I found this book to be a bit repetitive and preachy at times.  Brene Brown is a researcher and it shows.  I'd say this is great for Social Work and Psychology students but just o.k. for the casual reader.  There are probably a lot of people who would argue with me on that (just look at the awesome ratings on Goodreads and Amazon), but if there's one thing I've learned from the book, it's not to be shamed into being quiet about my opinions :)
Rating: 3/5 gold stars

Reality Boy by A.S. King
Overall, I quite liked this one.  I don't think it was perfect, there were some places where I felt I was trying pretty damn hard to suspend my disbelief.  But there were other parts in the book where I felt sucked back into what it felt like to be a teenager.  I am always amazed when adult authors can so perfectly encapsulate and experience that to me seems so distant.  It was a quick read but did start feeling like kind of a slog near the end, which is why I had to knock off a couple of stars.
Rating: 3/5 gold stars

Sabriel by Garth Nix
Speaking of a slog, I had trouble getting through this one.  Again, it gets rave reviews on Goodreads but I almost gave up on it several times.  There is a lot of action in this book but, to me, it seemed like there was very little depth.  In spite of battles with zombie-like creatures and travels into the land of the dead, this book didn't do a great job of keeping my attention.  
Rating: 2/5 stars

And that's my reading wrap-up for March!  Lately, I've been drawn to nonfiction and self-help so we'll see what I get into for April.  I'd love to hear about what you've been reading in the comments below!