Overnight Oats + Thoughts on Fear...

A lot has happened in the last month here in good ol' Austin, Texas. It was a month of fear, sadness, and despair, but also one of newfound passion, inspiration, and motivation.

Let me explain.

If you keep up at all with the news, you'll probably have heard about the Austin bombings. Looking back, I can pinpoint each moment where my anxiety about the situation heightened, the fear and feelings of hopelessness punching me in the gut over and over again. 

I was at lunch with my mom. She walked away to pick up our order and as she walked back over to me, musing aloud, "Did you hear there was a second bombing?", my phone buzzed. It was the news station. There had been a third.

I was at dinner with my boyfriend week later. We were trying a new (to us) Indian food restaurant off of Southwest Parkway after a long, beautiful afternoon of hiking. As we were driving home, our phones both buzzed. The news, again. There had been another bombing, off Southwest Parkway. They were getting closer, both in distance to me and frequency.

We were on our way to the grocery store off Brodie Lane a couple days later, when our phones buzzed, again. Brodie Lane was shut down. There had been another bombing.

It was a rough couple of weeks. I was afraid to walk my dog. I was never fully present anywhere I went during SXSW, with dark possibilities lurking in the back of my mind. And now that it's all over and done with and I feel like I just stepped out of an episode of CSI, I feel sad that I let fear put a halt on my life, my livelihood, for an entire month. That is, after all, what the bomber wanted, isn't it?

Fear is a very powerful thing. It keeps us safe, maybe, but it blocks the path to so many wonderful opportunities. Fear will keep you from going after the career you've always wanted. Taking the trip you've always wanted to go on. Fighting for the relationship you know you deserve. It will keep you from pretty much everything worth living for, if you let it. 

They say if it doesn't scare you, it's not worth it.

Not to say that if your neighborhood is being bombed that you should say F it all to hell and traipse around with your eyes closed with not a care in the world. Not my point. But more to say, fear has the ability to give you this false sense of safety, in return for you sacrificing what it is you really want. And most of the time, your fears? Irrational. 

You can choose how fear affects you. You can let it rob you of the person you want to be or living the life you want to live, or you can let it motivate you to push past it and see what incredible opportunities await you on the other side.

Anyways. Oatmeal.

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I really like oatmeal. Not the soupy, sugary instant oats that come in a packet, but classic rolled oats, simmered low and slow over the stove with almond milk, vanilla, and spices, until they're fluffy and thick and ready to be topped with whatever you fancy.

Unfortunately, it's already 85 and rising in Texas and I can't really stomach the thought of warm oats anymore. Enter: overnight oats. The love child between chia pudding and oatmeal that still yields the thick, fluffy texture I desire, but cold and almost pudding-like, and super filling. Also, still a perfect canvas for all the toppings.

The best part? You mix everything up in a jar, pop it in the fridge overnight, and in the morning it's READY TO BE DEVOURED at your discretion. How novel.

Coconut-Vanilla Superfood Overnight Oats

  • 1/2 c oats
  • 1/2 c almond milk
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2-1 Tbsp honey or sweetener of choice
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp coconut cream (or coconut-flavored greek yogurt)
  • 1/4 tsp ashwaganda or superfood powder of choice (optional)

Mix everything in a jar or Tupperware bowl. Let rest overnight in the fridge. In the morning, top with a healthy dollop of peanut butter (or nut butter of choice) and banana (or other fruit of choice).

Enjoy! And remember: do something that scares you today!

 

The Only Banana Bread Recipe You'll Ever Need

I have no words. Or maybe too many? I have been experimenting for years--YEARS--to find the perfect banana bread recipe that is light, fluffy, moist, soft, sweet, not totally unhealthy...I'm a lady with a lot of standards.

I called everyone when this loaf came out of the oven. And I mean, everyone. I called my roommate, my best friend, my mom, and my boyfriend, just to rant and rave over how perfect this banana bread was. 

It was gone in 2 days.

I think the trick is technique, some extra TLC. First creaming together the butter and sugar, adding each egg one at a time, then the bananas, and then slowly sifting in the dry ingredients. It sounds tedious and unnecessary but really, it took this beautiful, gluten-free loaf into a whole new, cake-like dimension. Talk about heaven.

 

  • 2 cups All-Purpose (I use gluten-free) flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • 10 Tbsp butter or coconut oil
  • 1/2 c coconut or brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 very ripe bananas
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Turbinado sugar for topping

method to the madness: Preheat oven to 350 and either line a loaf pan with parchment or grease. In a bowl cream together butter and sugar. Add in the eggs one at a time and continue to beat using a hand mixer. Next, add super squishy bananas and the vanilla and blend until thoroughly combined. Add in all dry ingredients that have been pre-mixed together in a separate bowl, slowly, until the batter becomes thick and well mixed. Pour into greased or lined loaf pan and top with a layer of turbinado sugar for that perfect crunch on top. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted.

Devour in a mad frenzy. You won't be able to help yourself. 

My Go-To Green Smoothie

There really is nothing like starting your morning with a good ol' green smoothie. 

It's like your best friend that's always there to tell you your butt looks great in those jeans. 

You know?

No one has a delicious, filling, nutrient dense, green smoothie for breakfast (or any time of day, really) and feels bad about themselves.

Not that you should ever feel bad about consuming anything. Just saying. You want pancakes instead? I'll give ya a recipe for those too.

Back to the smoothie. I am obsessed with this. It has all my favorite things in it. My favorite flavor combinations. And it can easily be turned into a smoothie bowl (see:my favorite thing ever) and piled high with all things crunchy and sweet, as I most often have it. Aaaaand, it has one secret powerhouse ingredient.

Cauliflower.

Because what makes you feel better than knowing you just got an extra serving of veg FIRST THING in the morning so you don't have to worry about it later on? And you don't even taste it. Or have to chew it. Come on, people. Hear me out.

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The recipe:

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/2 c frozen cauliflower florets
  • 1 large handful of fresh spinach/greens of choice
  • 1 heaping spoonful peanut butter
  • Protein powder of choice (vanilla)
  • Heavy shake of cinnamon
  • 1 - 1 1/2 c almond milk (depending on if you want it thick and bowl-ready or easier to sip through a straw)

That's it! A few quick ingredients thrown in a blender, whizzed up for a minute or so, and then there you have it, the creamiest, dreamiest, most satisfying breakfast. Mine often goes straight in a bowl, and then decorated with granola, coconut flakes, chia seeds, and sometimes cacao nibs or fresh fruit slices.

By no means do I eat healthy and perfectly all day, every day. I let that toxic (yes, toxic) lifestyle go a little over a year ago and never looked back. But I will never not love a healthy breakfast in the form of my precious green smoothies that always love me back. Kick-starting my day with something filling, chock-full of nutrients, not too high in sugar, and absolutely delicious gives me the brain fuel I need to help me power through even my longest of days. 

8 Simple Steps to Mastering Zen

Let me just preface this post by saying I am by no means a self-declared "zen master." Honestly, I'm probably anything but. By nature, I am high-strung, over-stimulated, and anxiety-ridden almost constantly. Every day I must remain aware of this fact and find ways to clear my mind and stay grounded, or else I become easily overwhelmed and am content to curl up in a ball and hide from all responsibilities and human contact for the rest of the day. It proooobably happens more than it should. Working on it. However, I have acquired several techniques that I've found to help bring me back down to Earth and re-center when it seems my sanity is slipping and away and life is becoming a bit too fast-paced. 

  • Set aside time to plan your week. I have made it a ritual every Monday morning to pack up my laptop, my planner, a baggie of business cards and contacts that I have acquired in the past week, and my favorite fancy pens, and settle in to my favorite coffee shop to get organized for the week. I work slowly and efficiently, usually making myself a to-do list first thing when I sit down, comprised of all of the emails and correspondence I need to take care of, tasks I want to knock out, and pencilling in all important meetings and events for the week, or even the month, in my planner. I even have cute stickers to label what kind of appointments or meetings I have. I've found that starting my week this way takes so much stress off my shoulders--for the rest of the week I simply have to check my planner to stay on top of things, and don't have the names of people I need to contact or emails I need to send constantly floating around in the back of my mind, nagging me not to forget them. I can begin my week clear, motivated, and excited for what's to come!

 

  • 5-minute meditations. I've never really been good at 'meditating.' My mind is so active, and when I sit down for long meditations I get easily frustrated with myself that i can't just chill and get my zen on with the effortless ease that so many seem to have down pat. I also usually find myself making the excuse that I 'simply don't have time' to meditate--I mean come on, I'm so busy!!! But 5 minutes? Who can't find 5 minutes in their day to just take a step back and breathe? When I start to feel overwhelmed, I take a deep breath, set a timer on my phone for 5 minutes, close my eyes, and pick a word to focus on, such as 'clarity' or 'energy' or 'positivity.' For 5 minutes I repeat this mantra over and over again silently, at a pace that feels good and natural, until I am awakened from my transcendental state by the ringing of my phone to much calmer yet energetic version of myself.

 

  • Use your meal times as a time for relaxation. Step away from the screen. Put away your phone. Put a little bit of extra prep into your packed lunch the night before, making it pretty in its container and getting creative with its contents. Use your lunch break as a sacred time to relish in your meal, appreciating what you're putting in your body for fuel, and not thinking about whatever responsibilities await you when you're done eating. Spending quality time with your food may sound a bit odd, but it's a fantastic way to remove yourself from life for a bit and will actually also motivate you to make healthier decisions as you become more aware of what you're eating every day!

 

  • Disconnect and go for a walk. I'm not one that can typically stay put in one place for long. I get stiff and antsy, sitting and staring at a screen for more than just 30 minutes. My favorite way to combat this? A walk outside is the perfect remedy for any stuffy office space or stiff legs. I relish in the outdoors--the fresh air, the greenery and plants, the hustle and bustle of the city or the quiet escape of nature. It's a natural reset for my brain + a great way to get in some extra exercise-- bonus points if you work from home and bring along your pup! 

 

  • Don't begin your day checking your phone. I've always been guilty of reaching straight for my phone as soon as I blink my peepers open in the morning. Immediately I am slammed with a flood of emails to weed through, and after I've scrolled through all of my social media feeds, I feel panicked and overwhelmed with all I have to do today + all of the inspiration loaded onto me first thing in the morning. Not to mention I've wasted 30 minutes just laying in bed, staring at a screen, forcing me to rush through the rest of my morning. Avoid your phone until you've settled into your morning and are somewhere comfortable and unhurried--you won't find yourself feeling as frazzled and frantic throughout the rest of the day!

 

  • Get up earlier. I truly savor my mornings. The quiet start to my day. Slowly cooking breakfast, savoring it. It sets my day up with a peaceful energy that carries through to the very end. I despise nothing more than oversleeping and having to run around frantically trying to gather my thoughts and things and prepare myself for my day. I often forget something (or lots of things) and begin my day frustrated and in a bad mood. No bueno. A simple solve is to set your alarm 30-60 minutes earlier than usual. The peace you find may be more useful than the few extra minutes of sleep.

 

  • Yoga anywhere! Finding yourself short on time, unable to make it out for an afternoon walk or a lunch-break yoga class? Good thing yoga really only requires a space only a little larger than you and is something you can do any time, anywhere! A few simple sun salutations, downward dogs or vinyasas, or event just some standing crescent moons really do have the power to reset your entire day for the better and help you feel centered and clear.

 

  • Take things one task at a time (make a list). Unpack your brain by making a list of all of your daily tasks and responsibilities you need to complete, as well as writing down any ideas or spontaneous thoughts you have throughout the day, instead of making mental notes and filing them away for later. This will keep your brain clear and open to thought-flow instead of bogged down and sluggish. Adios, writers' block!

Following these 8 simple practices every day has made me a more successful, productive, and happier worker. When I am overwhelmed, I tend to rush through my tasks and responsibilities, eager to just get it all done and out of the way. Remember that your attitude and energy is often reflected in your work each day. If your mind is cluttered and frantic, your work may display the same qualities. When life is moving full-speed ahead, don't be afraid to disrupt the momentum by taking a pause to re-calibrate and re-center. You may be surprised at the new-found creativity and thought flow that follows!

The Only Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe You'll Ever Need

There are some basic recipes that you spend forever searching for, determined to find 'the one.' I know I'm not alone. Those staple meals and recipes that you can file away in your memory and make in a pinch, without stress or the need to reference anything. They're no-fail, sure to impress anyone and satisfy any craving. Wouldn't it be the icing on the cake if your 'one' recipe was also healthy? Guilt-free, no need to think twice about downing the whole pan or worry about anyone's dietary restrictions if you're cooking or baking for guests!

I've been searching for my 'one' chocolate chip cookie recipe all year. I've experimented with paleo versions, vegan versions, sugar-free versions, got really frustrated and went through a phase where I bought pre-made refrigerated dough (some favorites include Immaculate Baking Co. and EatPastry which is vegan and can therefore be eaten in all of its raw glory). ANYWAYS. You won't need to bother with store-bought dough because after many frustrating evenings spent in the kitchen covered in various different flours eagerly assessing my roommates' faces as they sampled my different versions...I have finally found THE ONE. Even better? It's gluten-free, paleo, can be made vegan, and totally guilt-free. 

'THE ONE' CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES: 

(Makes 12 cookies)

 

 Special thanks to my dear friend Desiree of  Elkk Photography  for photographing!

Special thanks to my dear friend Desiree of Elkk Photography for photographing!

  • 1 c almond flour
  • 1/4 c coconut flour
  • 3/4 c coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 c pure butter, ghee, (I like to do a mixture of both), vegan butter (I like Earth Balance's soy-free brand) or coconut oil, softened
  • 1 egg or flax egg (1 Tbsp flax meal + 3 Tbsp water, mixed and left to sit for 5 min)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 c dairy-free chocolate chips (I like Enjoy Life's brand)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt, divided

Method to the madness: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Mix together dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another, omitting the chocolate chips and half of the sea salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix until thoroughly combined. Fold in chocolate chips gently to evenly disperse among the batter. Scoop tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, flattening slightly with the back of a spoon. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until edges are browned. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle each cookie with remaining sea salt. Allow to cool completely (cookies will set and become firmer as they cool). 

Tasty tips: Double the recipe. You're going to want as many of these as you can get your hands on. I also enjoy freezing the dough and later adding it to home-made ice cream, or using them as vehicles for a scoop of ice cream sandwiched in between...

 

this post was originally published on Soul + Spoon on July 9th, 2016