Dandelion tea

My only memory or thing to relate to when it comes to dandelions is when I was a kid and we’d rub it on other kid’s arms to make it look like pee. I don’t remember why this was so entertaining, as it really looks absolutely nothing like pee. But nonetheless, I would squeal and wheeze in fits of laughter over it, who knows. I was am a strange kid.

Well now I’m learning that all those hours of making fake pee was a complete waste of what is actually a super beneficial green vegetable. Is your mind blown? Dontchya just wish you could go back in time, sit yourself down and be like “Look, little Lydia, I know pee is literally the most hilarious thing ever for some weird reason, but one day you’re going to be drinking this stuff because Instagram told you to. So don’t be wasting all those dandelions, aight? Here’s a Flintstone vitamin. Go on, little Lydia. Oh hey and also, Ask Jeeves about Google and start investing your allowance in it. Just throwing that out there.” And then I’d skip off and become a millionaire. Anyhoo, I hinted at this tea infusion into my nightly routine in my Instagram Rabbit Hole post, and I know it’s been killing you.

I told ze boyfriend about ze tea, and he was into it too (he’s also started drinking lemon water in the morning, so proud). So during his trip to Central Market one day he called for tips on what he was looking for. After no success, he instead bought some chocolate chip cookies that I proceeded to completely inhale two times daily. Not quite the nightly routine I was looking for (but oh my God it was a delicious one).

So during one of my all too often Whole Foods excursions, I hunted it down. Mission completed. Also why are women better at finding things in a grocery store? Another question for another day.

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Only because it was the brand featured on the Instagram post I saw about the tea, I went with Traditional Medicinals brand. They also had a PMS tea that the boyfriend suggested that I get, har har har. (But I do kinda want to get it)

I had low expectations as far as taste goes when I started on this venture and I suggest that you do the same. I’m sure I stuck a dandelion in my mouth at some point as a kid, and I don’t remember swooning over the taste. It doesn’t necessarily taste bad, but it’s not something that you’d crave if not for health benefits. It’s herb-y, but I kinda like it. It grows on you (pun intended). And it’s the correct taste for sitting in bed curled up with a book, if that makes sense.

Speaking of health benefits, “they” say there are a ton. I’m no scientist but here were the ones that drew me in:

  • Helps promote weight loss (can’t hate it)
  • Helps digestion (this seems like it’d be important before going to sleep, especially if you had a big dinner)
  • Improves liver function
  • Eases bloating
  • Helps achey joints & muscles (I’m 24 going on 60 some days)

If you’re interested, I got my facts here, and here.

I can’t lie, I didn’t feel much of a difference. I love an excuse to drink tea at night, and I think it’s a great way to calm down after a busy day, but my body didn’t feel too different. In its defense, I also haven’t been as strict with this habit and I don’t think “improved liver function” is something you can feel. Morning routines are easy for me to keep up with, but those nighttime ones are often much more difficult. My nights are less predictable. I stay at the boyfriend’s a lot and it that can throw me off, and if I go to a late yoga class I usually spend the evening hydrating and protein-ing to recover. There usually isn’t time or room to enjoy a hot cup of heaven.

So I wanna work on this. With the investment of a to-go cup, I feel like I could improve this routine. I need it. For instance, my back was killing  me all last week after some intense Monday evening back bends and I am sure dandelion tea could have helped me get passed it.

After I chowed down on a juicy burger and fries at Nick & Sam’s (I can’t eat clean all the time, that’s just boring), I enjoyed a hot cup of tea to apologize to my digestive system. I hope to keep up the habit, and then hey, maybe my liver will forgive me for college.

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Adventures in Quinoa

gluten-free, dairy-free, mostly sugar-free apple crisp dessert recipe

Somehow my busy weekend managed to feel slow-paced, which brought some much needed de-stressing to stop my lungs from attempting to squeeze my sternum right out of my body (…too graphic?). After some sunny, windows-down drives listening to my 90’s Pop Pandora station and admiring the buildings through downtown Dallas, I settled in for another one of my favorite stress-busting activities – baking. I put in a DVD from The OC: Season 1 and got to work.

While apple crisp is commonly a fall dessert, the lemons in this recipe make this a refreshing dish. Plus the fact that it’s gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free (okay, so there’s maybe just a tiny bit of optional honey) make it a light treat that also happens to be relatively healthy.

healthy, vegan apple crisp dessert

Ingredients

  • 2 granny smith apples
  • 2 small lemons
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup gluten-free flour (Ex: Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour)
  • Cinnamon, nutmeg and salt
  • Oil spray

Quinoa

Combine rinsed quinoa with the water, vanilla, honey, one squeezed lemon juice, its lemon zest, olive oil and a dash or two of cinnamon. Bring to boil, cover and reduce to simmer. After 15-20 minutes, test-fluff the quinoa. If it’s still a little wet / clumpy, just recover, turn to low and let sit until dry. When ready, turn off stove and leave covered.

healthy dessert recipe

Prep

Very lightly coat pan with oil spray. Peel apples (I only partially peeled mine to get a little mixed texture from the apple skin). Thinly slice apples – the thinner, the easier they’ll cook through. Fill the pan halfway.

Dust with a handful of flour then with nutmeg and cinnamon to taste. Squeeze a little of the second lemon and sprinkle a pinch of salt over the apples.

Mix cooked quinoa with flour then sprinkle the mixture evenly until all apples are covered. Spray one light coat of oil over the top.

Bake

350 degrees until top is crispy and edges are starting to brown (25-35 minutes).

healthy apple crisp recipe

Enjoy!

Inspiration: Gwyneth Paltrow

gwyneth paltrow gwyneth paltrow

I can’t say I’ve given much thought to Gwyneth Paltrow in the past aside from the occasional movie, red carpet dress or snicker at her daughter’s name (Apple). But all that started to change when I read about her new cookbook, It’s All Good, on one of my favorite blogs, A Piece of Toast. Celebrating all the reasons they love Gwyneth is a fond pastime for their blog, and I have to say, I’m starting to get it. I love that she’s family-focused, seemingly very genuine and follows her heart in pursuing a variety of interests instead of pigeonholing herself or letting others do so.

True, her cookbooks have come with some criticism. The Huffington Post likened the cookbook to flipping through a  J. Crew catalogue (um, why is that ever a bad thing?). Others have made fun of some recipes’ obvious or simple nature. But you know, that’s exactly why I like it. Pouring through the pages as the type of cook who has youtube-d “how to cut broccoli” and “how to cut eggplant” in the past couple months alone, I find the way she describes the book, organizes the recipes and details them quite helpful. Does she have a “recipe” for how to hard boil an egg? Yes. But I’ve seriously had some bad egg boiling experiences in the past so I welcome the break down! She also has a great section about stocking your pantry, which taught me a lot about different types of food and their uses / combinations.

Gwyneth (after this many nights reading her book we’re on a first name basis) is…

  • Inspiring me to learn more about food, nutrition and cooking.
  • Inspiring me to continue living a healthy life starting with what food I put inside me.
  • Inspiring me to look for more opportunities to love on people through food and hospitality.

Tax-free treats

gluten dairy free turnover recipe

Doing your own taxes is an adulthood rite of passage all must face at some point or another…unless you happen to be one of those girls whose dad does it for you until you get married, at which point your husband does it for you.

I am not one of those girls.

Entering the “Adults who do their own taxes” club is particularly celebratory because of how deeply I dread it each year. Last year I was supposed to do my own taxes, only to practically cause my phone water damage from tearfully calling my dad until he took pity on me. But this year, I vowed to confront my fear of taxes like the independent, most-of-the-time intelligent woman I am…after months of procrastination of course.

I can’t really explain my somewhat irrational fear of taxes, but it probably has something to do with the shaming from seeing my total made versus the total in my bank account, the fact that I literally don’t understand a word of IRS-speak, the frustration from not understanding, the feeling of stupidity that follows for getting so terribly lost in those forms and the pressure of sending it off to the government, who I hear could really make my life hell if I screw it up. It’s all an awful lot for a perfectionist to take.

Despite my best efforts, some tears and multiple phone calls to my boyfriend, bank and TurboTax later, I finally filed my own taxes. Now let’s just hope I did them correctly?

It’s enough to make a girl stress eat, but my allergy elimination diet (ONE more week!) has me avoiding a lot of my typical edible solutions. Fruit is pretty much my only allowed source of sweetness, so I adapted my favorite low-fat pie crust recipe to make fruit turnovers. This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free / vegan and added sugar free, so eat, eat eat away!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 cup Gluten-Free Flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill Mix)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 3 tablespoons non-dairy milk (I used flax milk)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Fruit of your choice (I used peaches, strawberries and blackberries)

Directions:

gluten dairy free turnover recipe

  • Slice your desired fruit up into small bits.
  • Mix the dry ingredients in a medium – large bowl.

gluten dairy free turnover recipe

  • Mix the wet ingredients in a small bowl.
  • Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix well – It should look just like pie crust dough now, so if it’s still crumbly add equal parts milk (for crisp flakiness) and oil (for soft, anti-crumbliness) until it is malleable and crumble-free.

gluten dairy free turnover recipe

  • Roll out the dough and use a small bowl to cut the bottom of the turnover out. Sometimes this dough is hard to maneuver, so I rolled mine very thin straight on the cooking pan sheet.
  • Place your fruits of choice in the center of the dough circles on the pan.

gluten dairy free turnover recipe

  • Peel the remaining dough off the pan and roll out on your counter to cut the turnover tops out with a slightly larger bowl. The tops will probably need to be rolled thicker than the bottoms and picked up with a spatula so they don’t rip.
  • Seal with a fork pressed around the edges, then cook at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes. You may want to bake them for an additional 5 minutes at 425 or 450 for extra crispness (I did). 

gluten dairy free turnover recipe

Enjoy your basically healthy treats and cheers to ten months of no taxes!

Kicking a sweet habit

sprinkles cupcakes

Hello, my name is Sarah and I’m a functioning sugar addict. I was living in a world dictated by cravings that controlled when, how often and what I ate. I was never satisfied or “full” until having something sweet, no matter how small, after every meal. I couldn’t say no to food junk that was anywhere within about a 25-foot radius or if I was alone, stop eating it until it was gone, I felt sick or both. I say “functioning” because despite this weak spot, no, weak crater, I still ate relatively healthy, well-balanced meals and have always been one those much-hated people who maintain a pretty thin figure with low to moderate exercise. I know…disgusting.

I even–this is embarrassing–resorted to eating cookies for breakfast…on more than one occasion. Thinking back on those times I can’t help but hear Kate Winslet in my head from The Holiday scene where she sniffs stove gas after learning douchy Jasper is engaged, “Low point…low point!”

I’ve read plenty before how damaging sugar and even “healthy” or “natural” sugar substitutes can be on our health. So, after some fear and quite a lot of skepticism of my own willpower, I made the commitment to give up sugar for three months. That’s right, I haven’t eaten added sugar, dessert or even food with over 5 grams of sugar (if I could help it) since January 4.

Of course, I’ve been dreaming for April 1 to come around, trying to decide which dessert will be my first back in the game, and let’s not kid ourselves, is there really any competition where Sprinkles cupcakes are concerned?

Meanwhile, I was still dealing with quite a lot of compounding chronic issues that were really starting to bring me down physically, emotionally and mentally. After countless hours of research and doctor visits, I finally landed on some au natural health solutions that have made a HUGE difference in how I look and feel every day. In addition to taking about 16 supplements and drinking 90+ ounces of water a day, making my own soap with baking soda and rinsing each load of laundry with vinegar, this treatment plan also includes a strict (and temporary, thank God) diet. Interestingly MIRACULOUSLY enough, after not eating processed food, wheat/yeast, dairy, sugar and so much more for only just one week, my issues have all but vanished along with literally all my cravings (which people claim disappear when you just give up sugar, but mine held stubbornly intact).

So ironically, today would have been the first day I could eat sugar again, and I actually don’t even want any. Ladies and gentleman, this is what real freedom looks like.

Another fun side effect of this new diet is the unavoidable need to get creative in the kitchen. So I’ll be having some of those tasty results coming your way soon. In the meantime if this sounds familiar, you want to jump on my health bandwagon or are just plain curious here are my two favorite resources: I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson (the e-book) and Allergies: Disease in Disguise by Carolee Bateson-Koch.

quote - she believed she could so she did

A Nickel For Your Thoughts

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The most magical thing about writing (and reading) is that moment of perfect synchronicity, when the reader goes “YES, me too!” I have this moment of understanding and connectivity with books and other bloggers (unbeknownst to them) often, and it is exactly that which has always motivated me to write as well. I can only hope that somebody stumbles across something I write and is encouraged, excited or if nothing else, left with a little more feeling of belonging than they had before. So it is with this hope that I broach a topic that has been weighing on me a lot lately.

I think I can speak on Lydia’s behalf when I say that healthiness is an important part in Finding Tiffany’s for us. When you feel 100% you’re better equipped to go out in the world and live life to the fullest. Whether through yoga, running, eating less sugar or finally making it to some doctor appointments, we’re always looking for ways to incorporate more of a healthy lifestyle.

health quote

So…what happens when everything you thought was eating healthily turns out to be actually slowly diminishing your immune system?

I found out this week I’m allergic to nickel, among other things. I’m afraid I’ve grown pretty boring since then, since all I’ve done ever since is research what this means and what I can do about it (Did you now 15% of the population have some sort of nickel allergy?? See, full of fun facts). You see, nickel is in basically everything. Keys, jewelry, zippers, buckles, metal buttons, pens, paper clips, cooking utensils and pans, door knobs, hangers…It’s also in food: wheat, ALL vegetables (including my favorites, spinach and mushrooms), nuts, soy, oatmeal, tuna and beans. And of course my favorites: wine (only red, thank God), chocolate and beer.

I can’t tell you how confusing it has been to retrain my brain these past couple of days. Everything I eat (and enjoy) on a daily basis that filled me with pride for taking care of my body (minus the chocolate and alcohol) was actually building up against my immune system the whole time. Huh.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I do firmly believe that having a healthy body is paramount to living a happy, fulfilled life. Because I believe that there ARE answers out there, no matter how many times you have to visit doctors who make you feel like a crazy hypochondriac. Because I want you to know that other people know whatever it is you’re going through, whether it’s people on our blog, another blog or a random message board. And hopefully, knowing that gives you some comfort. Helps you feel understood and accepted. Makes you feel at home, wherever you are, however you are.

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As my friend told me this week, after I kinda thought I was going to be murdered while using the sketchiest bathroom of my life in an otherwise fun, quirky place (Lee Harvey’s) only to look up and see someone else had already hit my feelings spot on with the words scrawled on the bathroom wall, “This bathroom is f****** creepy as s***”…..

….Life is all about the shared human experience.