Hi There.

Its been such an awfully long time since I’ve visited this space. A new calendar year has passed, holidays were celebrated, parties were had. I’m sure you understand such things.

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But! I have also been spending some time over in another nook; a place we like to call steph + marilet. Yes, we! My nearest and dearest friend (yes, you guessed it,  she goes by Marilet) and I have launched beautiful beginning of a blog over here. I still plan to keep this space to keep everyone updated on personal ventures such as workshops, nutritional counseling (coming oh so soon!), and other such fun things. But, please check out our new joy. Its so fun. We feel so nerdy  cool.

I hope you all are happy and well!

xo
Steph

Also! Check out my workshop page for my up and coming health and wellness workshop. We will be learning how to make delicious green smoothies, raw desserts, and more!

 

 

photo credit: hanni liledahl

Tarte aux Epinards

I know, “real” cooks aren’t suppose to follow recipes. They substitute with their intuition; the fresh & local flavors that are offered from the season’s bounty. Well guess what? I’m a baker.

There is something about following a recipe verbatim, that brings me into the moment. Its something about potentially learning a new technique or ingredient, unable to revert back to my same old tricks… my same old combinations.  The meditation and relief of just simply being told what to do. Don’t get me wrong, there is something oh so valuable about being able to use what you have and making last moment subs that sometimes make the recipe even better than its original. Creativity! But in making this spinach pie, I tried not to run too much off track and try something new. It kept me present and engaged.

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But, then again, I don’t know what I’m talking about…. I used butter instead of olive oil, added prosciutto, and cracked three eggs on top of this beauty that strayed from the original instruction. But in my defense, the recipe nudged me to reach for the red pepper flakes I rarely give attention to, and even forced me to go to the store to buy a shallot. I guess I’m just meandering somewhere between cook and baker. Regardless, the sure thing is, this is flipping delicious. You must try it, rule breakers and rule followers alike.

Spinach Pie with Butter Cracker Crust

serves 4-6 ; adapted from June 2013 Martha Stewart Living

Crust

1 ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1/3 cup melted butter

1/3 cup water

Filling

1 ½ pounds spinach, rinsed well

1 tablespoon butter or coconut oil

1 large shallot, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 ounces goat cheese

¼ cup prosciutto, optional

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

3 large eggs

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon sesame seeds

  1. Crust: Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Whisk together the flour, salt, and sesame seeds in a large bowl. Stir in the melted butter and water, then knead until a ball forms. Roll out dough into a 12-inch round and fit it to a 9 ½ inch tart or pie pan. Trim any excess length and if using a pie pan pinch the edges to look lovely. If using a tart pan, trim any excess length. Prick bottom all over with a fork and bake until crust is golden brown and crisp, about 35 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.
  2. Filling: Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Place spinach in a large pot and add a splash of water and cover. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until just wilted, about 6 minutes or so. Transfer to a colander to drain. When cool enough to handle, wrap in a kitchen towel and squeeze to remove excess water. Coarsely shop and transfer to a bowl. Wipe pot dry and heat butter over medium heat. Add shallot, garlic, red pepper flakes, and prosciutto; cook, stirring, until shallot is softened, about 4 minutes. Add goat cheese, beaten eggs, and salt; stir until combined.
  3. Pour filling into crust and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Bake for 10 minutes and then crack the 3 remaining eggs on top of the tart. Bake until the eggs are fully cooked, about 20 minutes more. Serve warm or at room temperature with red pepper flakes and a dollop of sour cream if you dare.

Bachelor in Paris

Moments that make me the happiest usually involve a couple of reoccurring concepts: simplicity and beauty.

After taking a break from the my world and resting on vacation with my parents, sister, and fiance in Hawaii, I could feel myself re-inspired again. I don’t think it was even so much being in a paradise (which didn’t hurt of course), but the ability to relax and be with my family, smile together, and let go of worries….had me finding inspiration wherever I looked.

And now; refreshed and back home, in the midst of spring, I have again been finding beauty everywhere. Flowers, color, longer days, the fresh, and the new. I was particularly inspired by my simple lunch… sauteed cabbage and farmers market green onions in butter and salt/pepper topped with sour cream and smoked salmon. It made me feel simple and decadent at the same time. (not to mention pretty darn great!) I sat and ate it, imagining the same meal being nonchalantly grazed over by a bachelor in Paris on his teeny front steps, where the fabulous and simple are showcased at their prime.

 

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Right now, Im just so happy for the simple beauty I see (and dream) in my everyday life. Its just lovely. What have you been seeing lately?

Extra, Extra Shop All About.

Greetings Everyone. I hope you are all doing well. I’m so excited to announce the launch of a new venture… my Etsy shop! I’ve been eyeing this site for such a long time. I love the opportunity it gives the hand-made world to easily promote, share, and tout their creations. I just love it. Its the first place I look for my wedding knick knacks, birthday & holiday gifts, et plus.

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I’ve put up Bliss Balls so far, a stand in for granola/power bars, healthy dessert/snack…..they are so nutritiously delicious. They’ve been such a hit at Happy Girl that I’ve decided to make them available (to order!) to people beyond the Monterey area. I’m excited about the packaging as well…. design is so fun! Anywho, click on over to the shop and check it out. 🙂 Feedback welcome! Coming very very soon (like, today): Superseed Granola. Gush.

Love, Steph

8 Ways to Get Better Sleep

Ah, ze sleep troubles. So many people have them. (sad face) Peaceful and restful sleep is one of the best things you can give your body. Sleep is your body’s time to repair and renew itself, so if you are looking for ways to make it happen…here are some tips:

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1. Create a peaceful, stress relieving nigh-time routine. Routines are a great way to help start signaling to your body that is time for bed. Good ways to wind down include: meditation (free podcasts and audios are available on-line and through iTunes), gentle stretching and yoga, reading a book, making yourself a cup of herbal tea, taking a bath, etc. Experiment with different ideas and create a simple routine that works for you. 

2. Explore the possibilities of Lavender. This wonderful plant has relaxing and sedative qualities that can help you get a better nights rest. Diffuse a few drops of lavender oil in water when going to bed or apply to the bottom of your feet or on your temples and neck for a calming and relaxing sensation. A few drops of lavender in the palms of your hands and cupped over the nose can quickly and easily eliminate stress and anxiety as well.

3. Avoid caffeine and other sleep inhibitors, especially in large amounts and in the afternoon/evening. For those of us who have problems sleeping, caffeine is normally a culprit. Too much coffee or black tea stimulates the system and should be used very little if at all if you have trouble sleeping. Other foods that have the capability of hindering a restful night are chocolate & soda (also caffeinated), sugar, excessive alcohol, and refined carbohydrates. Try switching to herbal tea (i.e. mint, rooibos) and sticking to a whole foods diet.

4. Tryptophan helps! Tryptophan is an amino acid found in certain foods that has natural sleep inducing compounds. Turkey, milk, cottage cheese, chicken, eggs, and nuts (especially almonds) have substantial amounts of tryptophan.

5. Try Valerian Root. If you are looking to go down the supplement path to help with your sleep, know that valerian root has been used historically for insomnia relief. Unlike drugs, valerian root actually helps improve sleep quality and latency (the time required to go to sleep) and leaves no “hangover” feeling in the morning. Suggested uses:

dried root (or as a tea): 2-3 grams

Tincture (1:5, root to water ratio) 5-7 milligrams

fluid extract (1:1) ½ – 1 teaspoon

6. Stop eating at least 2 hours before bedtime. The night is your body’s time to rest and repair and the less food your stomach & digestive tract has to work through during these hours, the better. Let your body focus on repairing itself for the next day, rather than breaking down a heavy dinner.

7. Make your bedroom a retreat. A clean and uncluttered bedroom promotes a relaxing and calming atmosphere that will create the space for you to unwind and peacefully fall asleep.

8. Eat a nutritious, whole foods diet. Your body is designed to function on nutritious whole foods, and the better and more active you are during the day, the more likely you are to get a restful nights sleep.

Resources:

Murray, Michael T., Joseph E. Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York: Atria, 2005. Print.

Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic, 2002. Print.

Carper, Jean. Miracle Cures. Boston: Wheeler Pub., 1998. Print.

(Green) Vanilla Date Shake

 

I’ve forced myself to “like” a lot of healthy stuff. Kale/apple juice? YUMMMMM. (not) Spirulina Green Smoothie? Fantastico. (c’est miserable) BUT this. This is not a “force the greens” down kind drink. This my friends, is delicious. More vanilla milkshake than green smoothie. More (much, much more) delicious than icky. This, is what Ive been searching for. And I’ll even share it. Thank me later. (I love flowers, raw chocolates, and anything from Anthropologie by the way.

Lifechanging (Green) Vanilla Date Shake

serves 1

nom nom

nom nom

1 (or 1 ½) handful fresh, organic spinach

1 heaping tablespoon of almond butter

2 tablespoons organic whole milk yogurt

½ teaspoon vanilla

2 dates, pitted

1/3 cup milk of choice (cow, almond, soy, etc)

ice

Place all of your ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Drink your greens; they’re delicious.

 

Dessert, Revisited.

Lord knows, I love desserts. Not only do I have a sweet tooth (thanks mom AND dad), but I bake the lovelies for a profession. And believe me, I enjoy them on a regular basis. But every once in a while I take a step back and look at the sweets I’m eating and the type of sugars that can be harmful to your health.

Sugar gets a bad rap in our society, for good reason I must say, but there is undoubtably a time and a place for it. Sweets are an amazingly delicious end to a meal and every so often a perfect treat to start the day. I guess we get into a bit of a problem when we eat refined sugar 3 times a day, everyday. Refined sugar seems to be in everything, everywhere : bread, energy bars, juices, breakfast cereals, yogurt….even dried fruit? Excess sugar not only leads to the obvious: type II diabetes and weight gain, but is a host to so many other chronic culprits: comprised digestion, gum disease, osteoporosis, cancer… and the list continues. And while a treat from time to time wont hurt you, moderation seems to be tricky for most. So in between your favorite cake or weekend ice cream scoop, how about a delicious (and I dare say nutritious) dessert. I promise, its amazing.

Raw Lemon Pie

yum

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Crust:
½ cup macadamia nuts
½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon coconut oil, softened
2 tablespoons raw honey

Its easy. Simply place all of the ingredients in a food processor and process until the dough comes together; about 2-3 minutes. Press tart dough into a pie pan and move onto the filling…

Lemon Filling:
1 cup Meyer lemon juice
2 cups cashews, soaked 6 hours, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup raw honey
3/4 cup coconut butter, softened
1/4 cup coconut oil, softened
2 teaspoons Meyer lemon zest

This part requires a bit more forethought (soaking the cashews ahead). But when that is finished, place all of the ingredients in a high speed blender (a food processor may work as well) and process until your lemon filling is smooth and silky. Place the filling in the tart shell and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight so the tart can set up. Easy. Delicious. Nutritious. Dessert.

Check out some other healthy desserts over at….

My New Roots: Almond Butter & Jam Sandwich Cookies

Edible Perspective: Peanut Butter Banana Soft Serve

Resources:

Murray, Michael T., Joseph E. Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York: Atria, 2005. Print.

Get Real.

I love being inspired. I love the way information, beauty, people, and various experiences make me feel alive and human. School was always more of a social event for me growing up. It was something necessary for the volleyball team to exist, for friends to interact daily, to be able to score the cafeteria cookies that were rarely allowed under my mom’s household supervision(with good reason I must say). But now, I have a new found love and excitement for school beyond the sneak attack sweets. I actually love and am interested in what I am learning. What a novel discovery.

real food.

Anywho, today we spent a fair amount of time talking about fat. And being someone who reads nutrition and health books for fun, I thought I had a good grasp on fat. Yeah, we need it. Yeah, its good for you. And all those things being true, I just had to share with you some of the great things that expanded my knowledge today… and for some reason, just plain excite me.

1. Eat traditional, whole foods. People have been eating for some time now. Look back to the ancestors for key clues on how to eat a healthful diet. Did they have GMOs and chemical pesticides to help grow their foods? NO. Buy organic. Could people turn whole milk into 1% without heavy machinery and heavy processes? NO. Eat whole fat whole foods. Fats are highly nutritive. Of course we shouldnt be eating them in huge quantities, something the Standard American Diet loves to tout, but high quality fats are wonderful for you. But there’s a catch. Butter isn’t just butter. Toxins are transported via fat molecules, so that low-grade poor quality butter (or worse MARGARINE)  you are buying at the supermarket just isn’t cutting it. Buy great butter (Kerrygold, Strauss are examples) quite whining about the price tag, and simply eat a bit less of it. Low grade butter is simply bad for your health and the environment, great quality butter can be highly nutritious. Great, I’m glad we figured that out.

2. High Quality, Organic Fats Aren’t the Problem. It’s so crazy that good and nutritive fats seem to get a lot of flack these days. Why don’t we look to the real problem foods. The stuffs people call foods, but aren’t even really foods. Packaged crap (excusez-moi) from pop tarts to oreos don’t even contain recognisable ingredients. If you couldn’t figure out how to make the ingredients in your kitchen, put it back on the shelf.  High fructose corn syrup. Natural Flavors (hello MSG). Dextrose? Yellow #6? What the hell has happened to us? And people blame butter for our problems? Unbelievable. The additives, colorings, excess sugars, and chemicals that go into our foods are major players in modern-day problems ranging from hormone imbalances to ADD in the kiddos to cancer. . Modern day problems…. modern-day foods? Our bodies weren’t designed to handle coke and cheetos. Wise up and eat real food.

3. Eat whole fats. High quality oils are great don’t get wrong. Especially olive, sesame, and coconut oils. YUM. But look to get the majority of your fat from whole foods. Enjoy avocados, nuts, seeds (so important!), wild salmon, cultured organic dairy, and olives just to name a few. Eating the whole food gives you the great fats, along with the fiber and multitude of vitamins, good bacteria, and minerals that come along with the whole stuff. Feed your brain, feed your body. You actually need these stuff to function properly.

I could go on and on. But I wont. I rather make soup. With real food.

I think Michael Pollen summed it up best:

Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Thoughts?

On Cabbage.

Oh the wonderous crucifers! Brussels, kale, broccoli oh my. I’ve long been a fan. Amongst these lovelies you will also find the amazing cabbage to be a part of the cruciferous family. With a fresh and nutty flavor, brought out when it is cooked (sautéed, roasted, and braised are popular methods) it is amazingly tasty. Its versatility ranges from deliciously raw to cooked to fermented…hello saurcraut my friend. Maybe its my German heritage, but I highly doubt that I stand alone when it comes to raving about this crucifer. The nutrient profile seems endless…. high in vitamin C (goodbye winter cold). potassium, folic acid, vitamin B6, biotin (shiny hair!), calcium (beautiful bones), magnesium, and manganese. Even more impressive about this veggie is its high phytochemical content. Say what? High anti cancer compounds don’t seem to hurt these days. Its a low-calorie, high nutrient food and even is used to help treat people with ulcers. A true superfood.

Hanner’s Cabbage Salad

Thanks to my dear friend Hannah for this recipe inspiration. Simple and amazingly delicious.

1/2 head of red or green cabbage, shredded or finely chopped

1 whole avocado, cut into small pieces

4 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

sprouts, optional

sea salt and pepper to taste

Place all of your ingredients in a large salad bowl. Massage the ingredients together so the avocado breaks down a bit and the  cabbage softens. Let sit for a few minutes or refrigerate for a half hour. Serve and enjoy the deliciousness! (not to mention all those nutrients)

How do you enjoy cabbage?

On Fall.

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.

I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

Emily Jane Brontë

Gosh darnit I love fall. I love the cozy sweaters, the foggy weather, the pumpkin spice lattes, the candles and their warm scents, the way the air crisps up and the breeze makes you bundle. And as Ms. Brontë so elegantly puts it, there is even something about the dreariness that is actually rather lovely.  I just love it all. Fall is such a special time. I have always identified with it as being a time for new beginning, as summer ends and a wealth of difference is born. The different foods, changing weather, shadows shifting, cozier fashions, new school calendars… everything and everyone is making an important transition…and I just love it. But in the midst of it all, I always have to remember to make time  to take extra care…. more rest, more self-awareness, as we all witness the changing elements within ourselves and throughout the nature that surrounds us. It is at these transitions we are susceptible to sickness and imbalances. So just take a little time to pause… to rest and enjoy all that is happening! There is so much to enjoy indeed.

How do you enjoy the Fall?