So Delicious Ice Cream

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If you follow me on pretty much any social media you may have noticed one “classic” summertime photo missing…the ice cream cone & sprinkles shot. Although I do love ice cream, over the years I have realized that the ones I was choosing made me really sick. When I was younger I used to eat chocolate and ice cream at any opportunity I got. Somehow, however, I never noticed the correlation between the massive amounts of dairy and the resulting hours of feeling sick to my stomach.

It wasn’t until a dermatologist appointment while I was in college, that I made the connection between dairy and the resulting sickness. At the time my skin was pretty terrible and he recommended that I remove all dairy from my diet. At first I was completely overwhelmed at the idea of cutting out Greek yogurt, cheese, and milk (and the list goes on!). But in an effort to help my skin, I stopped cold turkey. This happened right before I went abroad to Sydney, Australia and thankfully it was summertime there and I had tons of fresh produce to choose from at meals. Once I cut back on all my typical dairy choices, I noticed the connection to my stomach too. There are a lot of documentaries out there that document the impact that dairy has on the human immune system, and after watching these films I realized that my symptoms (and the feelings once I removed dairy from my diet) weren’t that crazy! I could go on a lengthy rant about the dairy industry and its impact on the human immune system, but that would be a VERY long tangent.

That all being said, I wouldn’t necessarily categorize myself as lactose intolerant or strictly vegan. But once I removed dairy from my diet I noticed a HUGE difference. My skin got infinitely better and I wasn’t constantly feeling sick after meals. Instead, I felt energized and light rather than stuffed and nauseous. I will admit that I do still eat slices of pizza or have cheese on my burger or sandwiches, but when it comes to ice cream I without fail get sick. As a result, I have been on the hunt for the best dairy free dessert option…and I’ve found it!

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So Delicious is truly the perfect name for this nondairy brand of ice cream. I have tried tons of different soy, coconut milk, and other non-dairy options for ice cream. Most of the time they end up feeling to thin or watery rather than creamy (as ice cream should be!). I also tried to go into the realm of sorbets but after a few bites those always ended up being WAY too sweet for me. I picked up So Delicious on a whim at the grocery store near my apartment and after one bite I knew that I had found the perfect option. It is creamy, delicious, and tastes like real dairy ice cream. Having tried pretty much all the flavors, my go to is always the So Delicious Coconut Milk Chocolate Frozen Dessert. I always have at least one container in my freezer (especially this summer!) and it is the perfect end of day treat while watching TV in bed.

Not only does So Delicious make dairy free ice cream, they also have dairy free beverages (Almond Milk, Coconut Milk and Cashew Milk), dairy free creamers for coffee lovers, and a variety of frozen dessert flavors made from all of the above milk options. I am personally looking forward to trying out their Minis Neapolitan Sandwiches and the Cashew Milk flavored desserts, with flavors like Cappuccino, Dark Chocolate Truffle, and Snickerdoodle they sound too delicious to pass up!

So although I can’t grab an ice cream cone from the ice cream truck in Central Park, I know I always have a container or two at home that will hit the spot!

For anyone out there who is lactose intolerant or just trying to cut back on the dairy in their diet, I truly cannot recommend So Delicious enough!

This post is in no way sponsored, I just love the product and wanted to share it with all of you!

Meal #2 for Cooking Newbies

I’m back again with another easy (and budget friendly!) recipe! So here it goes, round two of my Meals for Cooking Newbies. A few weeks ago I shared my recipe for pasta with spinach in a red sauce. Today’s recipe is SUPER easy and perfect for summer time…

Quinoa veggie mix

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Ingredients:

  • Quinoa
  • Red Bell Pepper
  • Corn (canned)
  • Black Beans (canned)
  • Cilantro
  • Lime juice

Directions:

  1. Boil a pot of water over medium/high heat.
  2. Cook quinoa according to box instructions, stirring occasionally.
  3. While the quinoa is cooking, cut up the red bell pepper into small chunks.
  4. Once the quinoa is done, drain any leftover water and return the pot to the stove top.
  5. Since canned black beans and corn are precooked, simply open the cans and drain the liquid. Combine both veggies into the pot of quinoa.
  6. Add the red bell peppers and put cilantro on top.
  7. Squeeze a little bit of lime juice to the combination…and voila!

This meal is both colorful and delicious! It combines all of my favorite vegetables and is the perfect light summer meal. Again, like all my recipes shared here…it is super easy! Try it out for yourself and tell me what you think!

*As with this and all future posts, I am NOT a chef and do not claim to be an excellent cook. These are simply meals that I have come up with to get by on my budget!*

Meal #1 for Cooking Newbies

Recently I had dinner with my good friend Toni. She works in Connecticut, but is at her company’s Manhattan office every few weeks. On these nights we always get together for dinner and drinks. Toni has been my support system in more ways than one over the last year. We have both been trying to navigate the post graduate world and unlike many of our friends on the grad school route, we are trying to figure out this whole “real job” and next chapter thing. This most recent dinner was long overdue and we had a ton to catch up on.

During dinner, one question Toni asked me reminded me of one of the biggest concerns I had about moving out and living on my own…how the heck am I going to feed myself on a budget?! She asked me about the meals that I prepare and what I tend to make now that it’s all coming out of my pocket. This sparked an idea to start writing posts on the latest meal I concocted for myself to make it through the week without starving.

Every Sunday afternoon I have started a routine of preparing meals for the week. I go through my refrigerator and pantry to see what I have leftover and what ingredients I need to get at the store. I create a shopping list and stick to it, then return to make food for the week.

So here it goes, Meal Idea #1 for the Cooking Newbies.

Pasta with spinach in a red sauce

This is hands down one of the easiest meals that I make on a regular basis. Pasta is incredibly cheap and a great meal to prepare in large quantities on Sunday to use throughout the week. I try to make at least 3-4 lunches a week so I don’t waste money on those ridiculously overpriced $10-12 salads at nearby cafes. This recipe takes very little time and is a filling option that is perfect to pair with a side of fruit for lunch at the office.

Ingredients:

  • Box of pasta of your choosing
  • Fresh Spinach
  • Jar of red sauce

Directions:

  1. Boil a pot of water over medium/high heat.
  2. Cook pasta according to instructions on the box (typically 8-12 minutes depending on the pasta type)
  3. Drain pasta and keep in strainer.
  4. Add spinach in batches to the pasta while it is still hot. The spinach will wilt.
  5. Pour sauce into a pot and bring to a boil.
  6. Add sauce to the pasta/spinach combination.
  7. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
  8. Eat delicious meal!

This is seriously one of the easiest recipes I know and it is delicious! I prefer less red sauce and parmesan cheese but you can use to your hearts content! Pasta is a staple in my diet and this is a simple twist on the classic pasta in red sauce.

*As with this and all future posts, I am NOT a chef and do not claim to be an excellent cook. These are simply meals that I have come up with to get by on my budget!*

What I’m Watching: Healthy Eats

forks-over-knivesThe other night I was able to Skype with one of my best friends from college, Tara. She has made a few cameos on the blog before because she is a pretty amazing human being. Besides being an awesome friend, Tara works for a really incredible organization called Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (remind me to do a little blog spotlight on her soon!) which focuses on promoting a vegan diet as a preventative medicine. As a result, Tara is very knowledgeable about the food industry and how it impacts our health. Oh and she is also a marathon runner (casual!). Whenever we get time to catch up we inevitably get to the conversation of health, which basically means me asking a ton of questions and Tara patiently telling me things she has probably already told me a hundred times before (and yet it never stops being helpful!)

In the past few years several members of my extended family have had serious heart problems. Luckily everyone is okay today, but it was certainly a scare for all of us. The silver lining to all of these health concerns is that both of my parents (and extended relatives) are now making a conscious effort to be healthy. My parents both wear FitBits (which I am still kind of skeptical of, but as long as it gets them moving that’s all that matters!), go to the gym regularly, and are working on drinking more water.

As I told Tara this, I was explaining my frustration that many of the things my family is doing now, are things I have said many times before (ex: My dad up and decided a few months ago to stop buying large cases of water bottles and instead use a reusable. I have been saying this for YEARS!!!). Tara wisely said that when it comes to health, most of the time parents and relatives won’t listen if it comes from you, but instead an outside source. This could be a trained professional, a documentary, news article, etc. As long as you can provide those resources, they can hopefully take them and make their own conclusions. And I realized… wait Tara had done this for me before! She had mentioned the documentary Forks Over Knives multiple times before I ever sat down and watched it. Instead of forcing me to watch something that is incredibly eye opening, she allowed me to choose to watch it whenever. She has always be a resource for me, and a very understanding one at that. I love how open and knowledgeable she is about the health industry, and her lack of judgment on my own decisions. I may not be a vegan, but Tara is always willing to give me insight and healthy tips that I can easily implement into my own life.

Now that you have some background, there are some amazing documentaries I have been rewatching recently. All of these are available on Netflix/YouTube and are incredibly eyeopening to where our food comes from.

Forks Over Knives – Forks Over Knives examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us (diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancer etc.) can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods. The major storyline in the film traces the personal journeys of a pair of pioneering yet under-appreciated researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. This film shines light on the simple solution to all our health concerns, the solution that we overlook without fail…a plant based diet!

Food, Inc – A 2008 documentary, Food, Inc. examines corporate farming in the United States. This film shows the environmentally harmful conditions and abusive nature of these “farms” as well as the negative health implications it has for humans. It shows the industrial production of meat, grains & veggies, and the economic/legal ramifications of the food labelling regulations of major food companies. If you want to know where your food in the grocery store is coming from, this film shows every step in this gruesome system. You will never look at your dinner the same way.

Hungry For Change – Similar to the other two documentaries, Hungry For Change sheds light on the deceptive nature of industry diets, designed to keep people from losing and keeping off weight. Less of a focus on the “farms” but more so on the marketing and strategies to keep people craving more and more, this film shows the industry trap we are all in. If you want to find out what’s keeping you from having the body and health you deserve and how to escape the diet trap forever, check out this documentary ASAP.

Vegucated – This documentary follows three self-professed meat and cheese loving Americans as they adopt a vegan lifestyle for six weeks. I really enjoyed watching this film because it shows all viewers that it is not as difficult as we may think to become vegan! It was also much easier for me to relate in comparison to other films that are based more on the facts, this gave it a story I could follow. Each participant in this documentary dealt with the changes very differently so it was interesting to watch their stories simultaneously.

Jamie Oliver Ted Talk -Technically this isn’t a film, but it is very informative (and available on YouTube!). You may remember the show Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution (2010-2011) where Jamie Oliver traveled to the most obese city in the United States, Huntington, West Virginia to change the way Americans eat, and address their dependence on fast food. If you didn’t watch the show, it is definitely worth the time. His Ted Talk in 2010 shines light on the serious health problems we have created for the younger generations based on fast food, school lunches, and our lack of a focus on this dangerous health concern.

Each of these films are incredibly eye opening in their own way and I highly recommend them! The more we know, the sooner we can break this cycle. Also, given that it is Earth Day, I hope that these films show you the serious impact our food industry has on our planet! If you take the time to watch these, I hope that they each help to shine some light on what you eat and the impact it will have on your life and the rest of the world.

Although I don’t think I will be converting to veganism tomorrow, these films have inspired me to focus more on what I put into my body!

Healthy Office Snacks

My friends and family will attest to this…I eat pretty much every two hours. I don’t know why, but I am constantly snacking. I always have a snack and a water bottle in my purse, just in case. It is like my security blanket, so just in case my car breaks down or I’m stuck on the train, I have something to tide me over. As I always tell my mom who laughs at my weird habit, my boyfriend/husband/kids etc. will be very thankful for my snack bag one day. As a result of my constant snacking, I have found tons of options that work seamlessly into my crazy schedule. However, seeing as how not all snacks are created equal on the health scale, I thought I would round up my favorite healthy snack options that I keep within arms reach at my cubicle.

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Peanut butter & whole wheat crackers – In my world, peanut butter is its own food group. I like to spread peanut butter on crackers or on a banana for a filling snack anytime of day. It is the perfect combination of savory and sweet which calms cravings. Almond butter is another great option!

Pretzels – Pretzels are pretty much a staple in the Shook home. My mom discovered this family run brand in Pennsylvania that are awesome! I don’t know what it is about them, but they are seriously the best. If you want to try the perfect pretzel check out Tom Sturgis Pretzels. Dipped in hummus, peanut butter, or simply by themselves, pretzels are a great afternoon snack.

Craisins – Craisins are a good snack option if you are craving something sweet. My personal favorite is the Pomegranate flavored Craisins, a nice twist on the classic.

Nutri-Grain/Granola bars – Since I used to wake up at 6am to catch a train and didn’t get to my desk until quarter to 9am, I pretty much needed two breakfasts. Although my commute is much shorter, I always have a box or two of blueberry Nutri-Grain bars stashed in my desk to keep my stomach happy until lunch.

Oatmeal – I have never been an oatmeal person. Mostly because I used to think that it was just gross mush, but recently I came across the Special K Hot Cereal packs! They are a great morning snack option between breakfast and my typically late lunch. These packs have inspired me to experiment with oatmeal at home in the mornings to find other great breakfast combinations. Oatmeal is the perfect mid morning snack when I wake up too late to make a filling breakfast.

Apple sauce – Okay, so try not to laugh at this one, because I promise that it is a really good snack. Apple sauce lasts forever and is another quick and easy snack that is a little sweet and can tide you over. I recently had a jaw issue so I wasn’t able to eat hard foods, so this was a daily choice.

Fresh fruit – Another great breakfast option that I keep nearby! I typically have a few clementines, bananas, and apples in my desk drawers. Bananas are a great morning snack and apples are perfect in the afternoon. Clementines, like bananas have their own natural packaging and don’t take up a ton of space. Plus, they have the added benefit of leaving your desk smelly deliciously citrusy.

Popcorn – A salty snack for when your energy starts to fade by mid afternoon. Beware, you may have many colleagues stopping by your desk to grab a handful.

Veggies & hummus – If you have an office fridge consider leaving some carrots and hummus in there. Another great way to tide yourself over when you face serious cravings.

These are just a few of my favorites but I am constantly finding new snacks to keep nearby. What are your go to snacks during the day?

Coffee Mugs on Coffee Mugs

I am a HUGE coffee drinker. I have at least 2-3 cups a day, and have lately noticed that when 3pm roles around on Monday I need a few more cups. I started drinking coffee my junior/senior year of high school, but back then my coffee was more milk and sugar than actual coffee. However, nowadays I take my coffee black. An addiction like this needs a pretty container. Whenever I am out shopping I am always drawn to the home sections of stores. This may be because I am slowly becoming an actual adult, but probably more likely because I love coffee mugs. Over the years I started to create my own collection of beautiful coffee cups. One day I cannot wait to have a massive shelving unit in my dream kitchen to display all my cups. In honor of this growing addiction I thought that I would showcase a few of the coffee mugs that I have been coveting as of late! Plus, tis the season for hot cocoa…why not gift yourself a cute container for your favorite warm delicious drinks?

  1. Ashley Brooke Designs

I discovered Ashley Brooke Designs a few months ago and have been dying to add one of her mugs to my collection. They are all so cute, making it way to difficult to decide. I love that she has a mug gift set so you can mix and match which mugs you want. They also make great presents! Browsing through the mugs I instantly know who these mugs belong to, and I cannot wait to send them to my friends! My cousin Lori recently got engaged so I am also planning on sending her and her fiance the Mrs. Fancy Pants and Mr. Handsome mugs to congratulate the two of them!

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2. Anthropologie

Anthropologie always has the cutest home collection, their coffee mugs included. I am sure you have seen these two monogram mugs around! I love the mixture between colorful and more simple mugs and their tea cups are adorable.

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3. Mod Cloth

Although you probably think of Mod Cloth for cute vintage inspired clothes, it also has a great home and gifts section! I always find a couple coffee mugs that have a unique retro flair to them!

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4. Urban Outfitters

Urban Outfitters has a really unique home section, which includes a few great coffee mugs. Here are my favorites!

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5. Kate Spade

Kate Spade…need I say more?

Screen Shot 2014-11-22 at 12.32.14 PM6. Pantone

Although most of us think of Pantone in regards to a system for matching colors, used in specifying printing inks and paint colors, they also include their colors on products. Find your favorite color and add it to your own collection.

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7. Evelyn Henson

I started seeing Evelyn’s art pop up on The College Prepster and Design Darling and was so drawn to her style. She creates beautiful floral paintings (which I am dying to buy and include in my future apartment one day!) but she also creates her designs on journals, phone cases, and mugs! These three mugs are so cute and a great addition to any coffee mug collection!

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Clearly I will need a MASSIVE shelving unit one day for all my coffee mugs. I cannot wait to find and discover a few more to add to my collection! What are your favorite things to collect?