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Usana 5-Day Reset.

December 18, 2014 by Carolina

Usana Reset

Vacationing is awesome. Want to know what’s not so awesome? Having limited options as a vegetarian. I just got back from Iceland a couple of weeks ago (more on that later, the trip was amazing!) & though I loved every single minute being there I’m going to be honest & come clean: my eating was abysmal. The Icelandic diet is very meat-centric which left me with very little options while there, let’s just say I ate a cheese sandwich pretty much every day! For someone like me who eats mostly gluten free my post vacation body wasn’t happy, I was feeling very bloated, craving carbs galore & came back a couple of pounds heavier. The good news is that I got back ready to hit the ground running & do a reset to balance my body, get back on the clean eating train!

I did a ton of research as to which detox or reset program to try, & after a lot of reading I settled on Usana’s Reset Program. Why did I pick this program? For starters, it sounded super simple: snacks, shakes, fruits, vegetables & being active. I also liked that it included a vitamin pack, to really help you get your body to a balanced point. To top it off, I liked Usana‘s overall mission, the company as whole is science-based, they approach nutrition & health analyzing all of our body’s functions & addressing them at the root. A lot of times we deal with diet & exercise at the surface, that’s part of the reason why many of us lose & gain weight in a vicious cycle. I was optimistic in trying a different approach & see how I felt after a five day commitment to follow the Reset program.

I completed the program today & I have to admit it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. The shakes were delicious (you get chocolate, vanilla & strawberry), the protein bars were too (especially the chocolate one. Yes, I know, I’m a chocoholic), and the vitamins came in two packs, one to take in the morning & one at night. I made the shakes every day, ate one serving of fruit & one serving of vegetables, had the snacks, drank tons of water & went on walks or did yoga for 30 minutes. Day one was super easy, day two was probably the hardest one but I find that’s always the case when doing cleanses, detox or reset programs. Days three through five flew by & before I knew it I was done! I’m now 1.5 pounds lighter, lost 3.5 inches & curved those crazy carb cravings I was having. A big win all around!

So what’s next? I’m getting back to my clean eating routine & mixing up my exercise routine. I know it’s a crazy time of year to think of eating clean & exercising, after all the holidays are all about indulgence, but why delay what you can do today? I will do my best to eat clean most days, give myself some grace for Christmas & New Years, & stay healthy through the holidays because it is possible. Trust me, it really is. If you’re looking for a little inspiration to commit to a healthier lifestyle, over the holidays or to start the new year, I hope this post inspired you to do so. Do it. You can do it! If you’re not sure where to start, here are my thoughts on a few programs I’ve tried. Do your research, pick the one that works for you & persevere. Good luck!

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Gluten Free Chocolate Meringue Cookies.

December 8, 2014 by Carolina

gluten free chocolate meringue cookies

Don’t you just love this time of year? Decorations, parties, cookie exchanges…it really is the happiest time of the year. My department hosts an annual cookies exchange & today is the big day when we get together, enjoy a potluck lunch & go home with over a dozen cookies to share with our loved ones. In the past I’ve made Lemon Ricotta Cookies, Rasberry Coconut Cookies & Nutella Biscotti but this year I wanted to go gluten free. Not only that, I wanted to make my cookies as healthy as possible. After an extensive search & a lot of asking around I finally found this year’s winning recipe: Gluten Free Chocolate Meringue Cookies. These cookies are made with just 5 ingredients, no flour & are very easy to make. Plus, they’re light, airy & gooey inside, in other words this recipe makes the perfect cookie. I have to give credit when credit is due, this is not my recipe, its Ron Israel’s (the dessert genius himself). I made a few alterations to his recipe but for the most part stuck to his instructions. Let’s bake!

Ingredients (makes about 48 small cookies)

14 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped & 2 ounces separated

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 large egg whites

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325F & line three cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a pot, boil water to create a double boiler, melt 12 ounces of the bittersweet chocolate & once it’s melted remove from heat so it doesn’t harden. Mix in the vanilla extract, mix & let cool.

In a mixer, beat the egg whites on medium speed until they are foamy (about 2 minutes). Change the speed to high & gradually add the sugar, mixing the sugar & egg whites until they form hard peaks (about 8 minutes). You’ll know it’s ready when you try to turn the bowl upside down (I know that sounds crazy but trust me) & the merinque stays in the bowl.

Begin folding in the meringue into the melted chocolate, fully incorporating it before adding the next amount. do this until you’ve mixed in all the meringue, then add the remaining 2 ounces of chopped chocolate & the walnuts & mix. Place cookie batter in a zip-lock bag & cut one edge off to pipe the cookies onto the cookie sheet.

Make cookies about 1 inch & make sure to separate each cookie for expansion. You should be able to pipe 16 cookies per cookie sheet. Place in oven immediately & bake for 10 minutes until cookies develop a crust. Remove from the oven & let cool for at least 10 minutes before handling.

Enjoy hot or cold & if you’re anything like me, be amazed these bad boys have no flour. Forewarning: these cookies are addicting. Buen provecho!

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Black Bean Stuffed Peppers.

November 20, 2014 by Carolina

Black Bean Stuffed Peppers

Want to know what’s the easiest dinner to make? Stuffed anything! It’s no secret Katie & I love stuffed peppers, we’ve shared how to make Mexican & Cauliflower stuffed peppers already — today we’re adding another recipe to your stuffed peppers arsenal. Readers,  meet the Black Bean Stuffed Pepper, your new favorite & easiest dinner to make. when I say these are easy I mean super simple guys, it’s almost a set it & forget it recipe. I made these for my girlfriends this week, had them over for dinner & a Hunger Games movie marathon (we’re ready for Friday’s premiere!). The girls loved these, had seconds, & even asked me for the recipe to make these for Thanksgiving. Yes, they’re that good. Plus, they’re gluten free, vegan & healthy, you really can’t go wrong. Here’s how you can make these delicious peppers for your next meal!

Ingredients (makes 4 servings)

4 bell peppers

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small white onion, chopped

2 cups brown rice, cooked

1 can black beans, drained & rinsed

1 can diced tomatoes

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon paprika

Salt & pepper, to taste

Your favorite salsa

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While the oven gets hot, bring water to a boil in a large pot. Cut off pepper tops, hollow out each pepper & once the water is boiling cook the peppers in hot water for 5 minutes. Drain & place peppers on a baking dish. Chop pepper tops to include them in the stuffing & set aside.

In a skillet, heat olive oil & cook onions until translucent (about 3 – 4 minutes). Remove onions from heat & place in a large bowl. Add the chopped pepper tops, rice, black beans, diced tomatoes (with liquid), chili, cumin, garlic, paprika powders, salt & pepper to taste & mix until fully combined. Spoon black bean rice mixture into each pepper & bake them for 30 minutes until peppers are cooked.

Serve with a side of salsa & enjoy. Buen provecho!

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Goat Cheese Polenta.

October 23, 2014 by Carolina

goat cheese polenta

Friends, meet quick cooking polenta, this bad boy will change your life! If you’re looking for an awesome starch option that can easily replace rice or pasta polenta (corn meal) is it. The corn meal is gluten free & super easy to make. You’ll have a delicious, hearty base in just minutes, & if that wasn’t good enough I’ve upped the ante by adding goat cheese to this recipe. Yes, creamy, decadent goat cheese. Are you drooling right now? Because just thinking about goat cheese makes me hungry, I love it! I also love this Goat Cheese Polenta recipe, which I typically enjoy topped with a chickpea marinata sauce, veggie ragu or eggplant ragu. A delicious, hearty, satisfying meal you can have on the table in no time at all. Let’s get started!

Ingredients (makes 4 servings)

4 cups vegetable stock

2 cups water

1 3/4 cups quick cooking polenta

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese

Salt & pepper to taste

In a saucepan, bring the vegetable stock & water to a boil with a pinch of salt. Once liquids have reached a boil begin pouring in the polenta, constantly stirring. Reduce heat to low & continue to stir until the polenta thickens, about 4 – 6 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the butter, goat cheese, salt & pepper to taste & you’re done!

Spoon the Goat Cheese Polenta into a bowl, top with your favorite sauce & sprinkle some goat cheese on top for extra creaminess. Buen provecho! 

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Creamy Cilantro Dressing.

October 21, 2014 by Carolina

creamy cilantro dressing

Is there anything better than cilantro? I think not! No matter what I’m eating I always feel like cilantro can make it taste better, I blame my Colombian roots. As I mentioned previously, I’ve been reading Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good book & have been having a lot of fun experimenting with some of her recipes. One of the recipes that caught my eye was her creamy parsley dressing recipe. As a vegetarian I eat a a lot of salads; I have a salad practically every day. I try my best to stay away from pre-made dressings & enjoy making my own, not only do they taste better but I like controlling the ingredients in them & knowing they’re as clean as they can get (store-bought dressings have a ton of sugar in them). I decided to modify Gwyneth’s recipe (you know, her & I are on a first name basis now, ha!) & use cilantro, my favorite herb instead. The result was an amazing dressing I’ve been putting on everything — & I mean everything. Salads, eggs, pasta, rice…I just love it. And I think you will to!

Ingredients (makes about a cup of dressing)

1 cup fresh cilantro

1/4 cup mayonnaise (or vegenaise if you want to make it vegan)

1/4 cup good quality olive oil

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons agave nectar

1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender & mix until all ingredients are incorporated. I like my dressing to still have some of the cilantro leaf chunks so I pulse it for just a minute or so. If you like it creamier let it go for 2 – 3 minutes until totally smooth. Pour this bad boy over your favorite salads & enjoy. Who said salads have to be boring? Buen provecho!

creamy cilantro dressing 2

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Fourth Time’s The Charm?

October 8, 2014 by Carolina

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It’s no secret I’ve taken a long hiatus from running. The last half marathon I ran was the Iron Girl, that over two years ago — can you believe that?! After running the NYC Marathon & having a knee injury running just hasn’t been the same for me. Every once in a while I go out & run but I haven’t ran regularly like I used to a few years ago…that is, until this past month. I don’t know about you, but I’m the type of person who requires a goal to constantly stay motivated. For running that goal comes in the form of a race, a date to shoot for & a schedule to follow. A friend of mine & I have been talking about getting back into running & doing another half marathon (it would be my fourth) & after going back & forth I decided why the heck not? It’s about time I get back out there!

And so I began to train, realizing very quickly that running is not like riding a bike: it takes a while for you to learn it again. The breathing, the rhythm, the “zone” you get into once you’ve ran for a while, those things don’t just come right back. They take a lot of time, a lot of dedication & a lot of work. After my first run I became super discouraged because I was slow, I barely go through it & hated almost every minute of it. But after the second week I caught myself thinking it wasn’t so bad & actually enjoying portions of the run. And that’s saying a lot considering I live in humid Florida where we still have temps in the high 80s! Here’s the schedule I’ve been following/will continue to follow, focusing on the number of miles & not the speed I run them in. The date is the start of each week:

  • 9/15: 3 / 3 / 4
  • 9/22: 3 / 3 / 4
  • 9/29: 4 / 4 / 5 *I did not actually run this week, more on that below*
  • 10/6: 4 / 4 / 5
  • 10/13: 4 / 4 / 6
  • 10/20: 4 / 4 / 6
  • 10/27: 4 / 5 / 8
  • 11/3: 4 / 5 / 8
  • 11/10: 4 / 5 / 10
  • 11/17: 4 / 5 / 12
  • 11/24: 3 / 4 / 7
  • 12/1: 2 / 2 / OUC Half

So you know that second week of running that felt pretty good? The Sunday when I did the four mile run ended with severe back pains. After doing a lot of Googling & asking around I think I pinched my sciatic nerve, which is oh so unpleasant! All I could do was take it easy, ice it & do some stretching when I could bare it. My back put me out of commission all week, afraid to make it worst by running. This Monday I woke up with full range of motion again so I’m going to try out running & see how I feel, going really slow & building back up to my regular pace. I’m also going to get fitted for running shoes again, I think that may be part of the reason why my back was hurting but I don’t know for sure. It’s been a while since I bought running shoes & since I plan on running a Half Marathon in December I know it’ll be a good investment.

Runners, have you experienced back pain like the one I describe above? Would love to hear your remedies, I don’t want to give up on training for this race!

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Avocado Toasts.

October 6, 2014 by Carolina

Avocado Toasts

Have you ever become obsessed with eating the same thing for days on end? I’m not typically someone who likes to repeat meals but these Avocado Toasts are different, I could eat them all day every day. I got the recipe for these from Gwyneth Paltrow’s Its All Good cookbook & let me tell you, they’re so good! Since I’ve been eating these non-stop I figured I’d shared the goodness with you guys, because lets face it, avocado makes everything better. Plus, these toasts are super easy to make, vegan, gluten free & the perfect treat to enjoy with a cup of coffee to kick off you morning. Let me introduce you to my new obsession!

Ingredients (makes 1 serving)

2 Gluten free slices of bread (I used brown rice bread)

1 teaspoon soy-free vegenaise 

1/2 hass avocado, sliced

Juice of half a lemon

Himalayan salt & fresh cracked pepper, to taste

Toast the two slices of bread then spread the soy-free vegenaise (or mayonnaise if you don’t mind them not being vegan). Place the avocado slices on top of the toasts, squeeze half a lemon over the avocado slices & season with freshly cracked Himalayan salt & pepper. It’s that simple!

Please make these, then let me know how much you love them because I have no doubt you will. Buen provecho!

 

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Devil’s Food Bakery & Cookery: Denver, CO.

October 1, 2014 by Carolina

Devil's Food Bakery and Cookery

First things first: Happy World Vegetarian Day to all our fellow veggie lovers! Hug your neighborhood vegetarian today & enjoy delicious vegetables in their honor.

Sometimes the best things happen accidentally. My friend & I explored the Washington Park area in Denver a couple of weeks ago & decided we wanted to go to brunch. His original idea was to go to a corner restaurant, however, when we arrived we realized it wasn’t open. So we took a stroll down the street & discovered Devil’s Food Bakery & Cookery – what a wonderful discovery it was! On quaint Gaylord Street, Devil’s Food is the perfect place to grab delicious coffee & pastry. If you’re looking for a sit down meal no worries, they have a full, delicious menu. I went for brunch & was excited to try the many vegetarian options they offer. After drooling a little while reading the menu I settled on the Quinoa Cakes: Lemon ricotta, zucchini & thyme quinoa cakes on arugula with a poached egg, romesco sauce & pecorino romano on top.

Devil's Food Bakery

It was as delicious as it looks! The egg was cooked perfectly, the quinoa cakes were crunch on the outside, soft on the inside & the arugula brought everything together beautifully. My taste buds were ecstatic! We liked our meal so much we went back a second time before I flew back home, it was that good! The second time there I had Belgium Waffles with fresh fruit. The batter was light, the fruit was really sweet & fresh, a really nice treat on a Sunday morning. One of my favorite things about Devil’s Food Bakery & Cookery (besides my meals) is their commitment to staying local & supporting businesses nearby. After your meal walk down a couple of blocks to Washington Park & enjoy it, it’s gorgeous & worth the trip.

Next time you’re in Denver support the local economy & pay a visit to Devil’s Food Bakery & Cookery!

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Attitude Adjustments & Postures.

September 25, 2014 by Carolina

carolinayoga

You may have noticed I haven’t been blogging regularly lately. I know what you’re thinking, you miss me right? Truth is I miss you too! If you’re not thinking you miss me & just “where has Carolina been?” the answer is I’ve been getting smacked around a few times by the beautifully tragic thing that we call life. I say it’s beautifully tragic because despite hardships life always has beautiful under currents. And despite how hard life may seem, it’s important to stop every once in a while & look around, take the beauty of the world in, & smile. Because this too shall pass & everything works out the way it should in the long run. Am I right?!

I won’t go into details about my personal life but I will say this: life has gotten in the way of my physical yoga practice lately. After completing my fourth yoga challenge (picture above) I had the best of intentions to keep the momentum going & continue to go to my yoga studio several times a week. Unfortunately my time & emotional being have been all over the place but that’s slowly starting to change. Slowly but surely I’ve started to come out of my funk, seeing past the dark clouds hanging around & noticing that life is just too short to be sad or angry. I needed an attitude adjustment & life gave it to me!

I am now ready to get back into the swing of things: do a lot of yoga, go running, cook often & be with my loved ones. I picked a half marathon to train for at the end of the year & though running is hard for me right now I’m staying consistent. I’m going back to my studio this weekend & can’t wait to get on the mat! I’m even thinking of signing up for teacher training & getting certified in January. All of these things make me smile & let me know that everything will be okay.

I tell you all this because there’s a chance one or some of you may be going through a funk like me. I’m here to tell you to breathe through it & know you’ll eventually be back to yourself. I don’t know what curve balls your life may bring but I do know this: we live in a beautiful world full of love, all we have to do is look for it & there it’ll be, clear as daylight for us to see. So pick yourself up, do things that make you happy & try to smile. You can & will get through this!

In yoga we often say the words “Om Shanti” (that’s what the shirt I’m’ wearing above says), it means peace for all human kind, all living & non-living things, everything in the universe. I leave you with those beautiful words, a positive attitude & a hunger to do yoga again. Come along with me!

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Rocher Nutella Cupcakes.

September 10, 2014 by Carolina

nutellacupcakes2

My sister recently had a birthday & I took the opportunity to bake the best cupcake I’ve ever made: Rocher Nutella! Ferrero Rocher has always been one of my favorite chocolates to enjoy & this cupcake recipe elevates their taste even more — seriously incredible cupcakes. From the very first bite my family was ooh-ing & aah-ing, licking their lips, you name it, everyone loved this recipe! Are you ready to please the cupcake lover in your life? Here we go!

Ingredients (makes 24 cupcakes)

Gluten Free Cupcake Recipe (my go-to gluten free option but you can always go the pre-made vanilla cake route)

24 Ferrero Rocher chocolates

1 cup unsalted butter

2 cups powder sugar

3/4 cup Nutella

3-4 tablespoons heavy cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Chopped nuts for decorating (almonds or hazelnuts)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Follow cupcake recipe to create the batter. Spoon one tablespoon or so of the cupcake mixture into baking cups then add one Ferrero Rocher chocolate per cupcake & cover with the remaining batter. Bake for 20 – 22 minutes, remove from heat & cool.
nutellacupcakes3
In a bowl, beat unsalted butter until fluffy with a stand alone or hand mixer. Add the powder (confectioner) sugar & continue mixing. Add the Nutella, vanilla extract & mix until fully integrated. Begin adding one tablespoon of heavy cream at a time, mix completely before adding the other, & continue mixing until you reach a butter cream frosting consistency.
Pipe nutella icing on the cupcakes (if you don’t have a pipping bag, place icing in a zip-lock bag & cut the end off to pipe) & place a Ferrero Rocher chocolate on top. Sprinkle nuts around the top for decoration & enjoy. Buen provecho!
nutellacupcakes
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