Vegan Red Velvet Cupcakes

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This past week was my mother-in-law and father-in-law’s birthday. It’s sweet to think they are high school sweethearts who were born in the same year, in the same week. Their birthday’s are 2 days apart, which is pretty awesome to me. Anyhow, today we had a joint celebration for them, which turned out to be more of a casual get-together. Regardless I wanted to bring dessert that vegan friendly for my brother and sister-in-law. I didn’t make these from scratch, and in fact used Duncan Hines Red Velvet cake mix. Duncan Hines cake mixes and frosting have no dairy or animal products in them so it makes it much easier for me. I also replace the egg, water and butter with 10 oz of coke. You can use any dark soda, and it works just as well as the real ingredients.

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I love how vivid the red is in this mix. I was also going to add a cherry jam in the core of the cupcakes, but cherries are hideously expensive right now, so I settled for adding raspberries as decoration. They’re in season right now and I almost ate them all before I could use them.

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I also tried a decoration idea from Pinterest but it didn’t quite translate as well as I thought so I didn’t end up using them. It’s actually why I had the raspberries because I was going to make a flower using them and almond slivers as the petals. I had a few different styles, but stuck with the raspberries in the end.

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Steamed Salmon & Salad

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When it comes to salmon I can be pretty picky. I mainly like salmon raw as sashimi or sushi. I very rarely like Salmon cooked in terms of being fried or baked in an oven. There was one time my husband made salmon that was a complete freak accident, and it was amazing. The skin on each side was perfectly seared and crispy, while the inside was perfectly cooked. Never again have we been able to recreate it. Never. No matter what we do the sides do not come out crispy, so I gave up. But last week I tried steaming salmon in the rice cooker and it came out perfect! This is now in rotation for dinner because it’s so easy and only takes 30 minutes or less. All I do is put salt and lemon pepper seasoning on top of the salmon, and then drizzle some lemon or lime juice on top and let it steam. Surprisingly the white rice option on our rice cooker perfectly cooks both the rice and fish at the same time limit. I cook basmati rice along with the fish so my husband doesn’t starve, and then we both have it with salad.

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For the past few weeks I have really been liking putting kale into our salads. Kale has a bitter taste that adds both flavor and texture to a salad. I use both kale and red leaf lettuce, with tomatoes and avocado. I also add capsicum if I have any in the fridge. I think salads are usually more appetizing when they have a lot of textures and flavors going on in them. My husband also makes a light dressing that is really good using the following:

Dressing

1/2 cup Apple Cider Vinegar

1/2 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Tbsp Steak Sauce

1 Tsp Italian Herbs

Don’t be thrown off by the steak sauce, it adds an extra bite to the flavor! Apple cider vinegar is a great alternative to store bought dressing because it has so much flavor. It’s both tart, sour and sweet. The perfect combination for salads. Apple cider vinegar has countless health benefits too, so this salad is like a superfood beast!

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The Beauty of Rejection

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In one of my previous posts I mentioned that I had a job interview with a bank. I have been wanting to work at a bank for a while because I thought it would be great experience to work for one of America’s largest bank’s. That job interview was with the bank I really wanted, and in the best location. After 3 interviews that I thought all went really well, I got a rejection email last week. I was pretty gutted because it was a blow to the ego. Everything seemed so perfect, and I thought I did so well. It was also my first mature, “grown-up” interview where I had to wear a suit. It felt very cutthroat as well, and I was the only girl there. I am always really friendly and smile at people, but let me tell you, none of the other guys were smiling back at me. The guys were pretty much sitting in the waiting area sizing each other up. Thankfully I was the second interviewee so that amazing muscle flexing experience was short lived. Anyhow, the rejection email was worded pretty poorly in my opinion, especially when I study business communication as part of my degree. The email pretty much read something like, “After having a look at you, we’ve decided we don’t want to see you here anymore.” Okay that’s obviously not what it said, but it’s what it felt like. It really said, “After carefully observing your performance during all interviews, we have decided to continue searching for other candidates.” Yeah…see where my sarcasm came from now? I feel that this is a time where I can use the abbreviation, WTF.

So, naturally I went through the various stages of acceptance. Denial. Anger. Bargaining; wondering how to convince them to hire me anyway. Then finally, acceptance. Coming from a family where depression is genetic, I do not allow myself to wallow in pity or feel like a victim…for very long. Basically, I just didn’t understand why this amazing, perfect opportunity came my way, only to blow up in my face. But, I didn’t want to see it like that, I wanted to understand why I would attract something like that, only for it to fall as quickly as it rose. It didn’t make sense. It seemed to be the next logical step into how my goals were unravelling in perfect succession.

While this was just an entry level position at a bank, it was a minor insight into the reality of the financial world. The interview process, the people I dealt with, the expectations, all of it really opened my eyes up to what this world was really like. I have worked most of my teen years helping my dad run his restaurant, and then I managed the Addiction’s restuarant in Australia. And now, seeing how I am in the retail world I really realized that I just don’t have that shark mentality. I’m expected to make sales and credit goals, but I don’t do it through pressuring or any other sales tactics. Thankfully in the retail world there are hoards of people who need to buy the latest designer this or that, especially in California. I actually quite often try to convince people that they don’t need that 50th Michael Kors watch or Kate Spade necklace made of metal that runs for $200. And yet, I still make my goals because I have product knowledge and people often respect my honesty and are also intrigued by my efforts to make them go away. I just know that anytime someone approaches me in Nordstrom’s going, “What are you here for today? Are you looking for something special? I saw you touched that purse, you want me to ring it up for you?” I am immediately going to that part of my brain that is establishing exit strategies.

Anyhow, good God I have gone off on a tangent. This back story is just necessary in what I’m trying to explain. Basically, long story short, this rejection made me look into my chosen major and what my future would actually entail in the financial world, and made me realize I don’t want it. I am about to start my Bachelor’s degree with my chosen major in a few months and so this rejection came at the perfect time for me to realize I don’t want to be a financial analyst/planner/advisor/trader/investor. While some people are really good at those jobs and make a lot of money, it just wouldn’t be me.

So to me this whole experience happened to open my eyes to the reality of the career I thought I wanted and was chasing. It forced me to really look at the major I had chosen and made me realize what I really want to study. I’m changing my major now and feel really excited about it.  Without this job offer and rejection I would have kept going down this road and gone into my BS degree doing Business Finance and gotten into a job I hate.

Sometimes rejection is necessary as a way of the universe, or God, or whatever it is you believe in, saying that this isn’t meant for you. Rejection can be a way of showing you the reality of the path you’re trying to follow, because often we have a very idealized view of what we think we want. Rejection is a way of showing you what is possible, and that there could be something even better for you. Rejection can be a redirecting tool to get you on your true path. Even if you do get rejected from an amazing opportunity, it still shows what you’re capable of, and the amazing possibilities that exist in the world. Even if it makes you reanalyze what you want, don’t ever let it stop you. After I was rejected from this bank I started applying at new places and got a call for an interview for another bank. But now, I don’t really want to work in a bank  and I actually like my job more. I get to interact with lots of people and have fun at work and that’s what I love.

What I would love to do as a career in the future is follow in my dad’s footsteps and open my own café back in Australia. It is really my dream to run my own business, and I want it to be an environmentally conscious business that supports local farmers and also serves Vegan desserts. I also just love interacting with people and meeting new people, so maybe one day I’ll be serving and meeting you!

So, I really do believe in the quote I put in my other post:

And, when you want something, the whole universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. – Paulo Coelho

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Everything in life is relative, and it’s up to us to see it as good or bad, right or wrong. Like the Buddhists say, life is in a constant state of flux but it’s exciting and unpredictable.

Questa bella vita.

There is also a quote in my culture that basically translates as,

To appreciate a rose, you must also appreciate it’s thorns.

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I hope you enjoyed this post and the beautiful flowers I had to photograph 🙂

Cilantro & Parsley Meatballs

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Ingredients

1 cup cilantro

1 cup parsley

1lb ground turkey

1 egg

1/2 onion grated

Salt, pepper, and 1tsp cumin

1 jar pasta sauce (I used Spicy Marinara because I love spicy food)

Instructions

These are really easy to make and pretty quick. Just heat up the pasta sauce in a pan or pot on low heat. Finely cut up the cilantro and parsley. Combine all the ingredients together and then form into balls. Once the sauce is bubbling a bit in the pan then add the meatballs and cover. Let it cook for about 15-20 minutes on medium heat.

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I make this with a bit of pasta for my husband, but I just have it with salad. It’s really light and healthy, and it’s so full of flavor because of the fresh herbs. I love making this too because it’s so quick, which is nice for when you have to make dinner after work/school/LIFE etc.

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These were so good I may have to make them again for dinner tonight. I’m also going to find a way to make them vegan for my in-laws. The mixture of the herbs and the pasta sauce is too good to miss out on. I think I may just have to replace the ground turkey with a chickpea and potato mixture perhaps. But try this, it’s awesome! You can even make your own pasta sauce, but nobody got time for that!

Reality of Success

It’s funny how scary success can be when it finally comes. All we strive for is success, and we keep visualizing how amazing it will be and how everything will change. But, when it comes around often we don’t even feel ready for it. I actually think success can be just as scary as failure. I think it’s scary because success doesn’t really mean you’ve arrived, it means that now you have to step it up. It’s probably why a lot of people, including myself, put off doing things for so long. When you’re working on a goal you have to realize that achieving that goal isn’t the end, it just sparks off a new path; more opportunities. Success means having to now maintain that new lifestyle. It’s the same way with good things happening in your life, it can make you anxious. When too many good things start coming into your life you start getting worried that something is wrong and that something terrible is sure to follow. I know this isn’t the case for everybody but it seems fairly common.

Since I decided to live  more purposefully and consciously, my life has been going really well. I finally feel like I’m on the right path and that I’m not wasting my time and watching life go by. When you start following all the things you believe in and are consistently working towards your goals everything seems to fall into place.

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I still have a ways to go before I achieve most of my goals, but certain little successes have been coming my way. Today I saw that I have lost a total of 15lbs so far, which is really awesome. I also recently have been applying for other jobs, namely at banks because my major at Uni is business finance. I haven’t had luck for a while, but after applying for the 3rd time to the same bank I finally got a call back for an interview yesterday. I initially missed the call and listened to the voicemail, and I actually asked myself whether I even wanted to call the staffing agency back! It scared me that I would actually have the chance to change jobs and get into something that was more in line with my goal. I have worked at the same department store for 4 years and gotten into a comfort zone there. I don’t really like my job but it’s predictable and doesn’t involve much effort from me. It was just scary to think that I’d have to start all over and learn new things and meet new people. It could also be related to the fact that I suffer from anxiety and used to have a much worse anxiety disorder. Nevertheless, it just surprised me that I was more scared than excited at first, and whats more, hesitant to even accept it. I did of course call back and now I’m set up for a second interview. I’m still very anxious and it’s funny to think that being in an unsatisfactory situation is easier than a good one. But the fact is, there is an element of fear when you put yourself out there and actually participate in life. When I was most overweight or depressed even, the number one thing I did was hide and use every excuse possible for why I didn’t have to participate in reality. I think weight and depression, or anxiety are all just types of protective layers than allow you to make excuses for why you won’t apply for a job, or go to a party, or do the things you really want. You wish you could do certain things but you also know that the reality of it is scary, and it’s much easier and more comforting to live in the dark.

One of the many things I’m working on is trying to say ‘yes‘ to more things. If you know anything about anxiety you know it’s all about avoidance. So, I am attempting to go against that. Even if you don’t have anxiety, and the saying ‘yes’ thing is kind of corny now, there is a profound reality in it. When you do say yes to more things and accept that good things in life are abundant, then you can let go more and just be grateful when they come. Whenever I feel really anxious now and I don’t want to do something, I just make myself say yes anyway and then force myself to sit back and wait for the consequences (positive or not!). I have a minor panic attack and imagine things blowing up in my face (catastrophic thinking at it’s finest), but it usually ends up being amazing. It usually ends up in me having a new opportunity I could not even have comprehended with my best imagination. You always hear cliche terms but when you live it, you realize how true they are. I think it’s important to do the things that scare the hell out of you and make you feel like your heart is going to beat out of your chest and your stomach is going to turn into one big knot. That’s how I feel now waiting for my second interview but I’m going for it because it can mean a lot of great opportunities.

The only thing scarier than success or failure is regret, because you can’t do anything about regret. Regret is done, but fear is happening now.

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Vegan Bean Patties and Zucchini & Quinoa Bites – A slight fail

I once again tried my hand at making vegan food for family get-togethers. I am not vegan myself but as someone who is allergic to dairy products I definitely can appreciate the food. I also try to make as many environmentally conscious decisions as I can. Even though it’s more expensive I try to buy organic animal products. I have been cutting back on red meat and haven’t eaten it in a while. I’ve mostly been eating turkey and seafood. I love a lot of vegan food but I am also anemic so the one time I tried being vegetarian my anemia got so bad that I had to visit my doctor once a week to have iron injections. I still have some bruising from that! At the same time I am aware of all the iron sources in food, my body just absorbs iron differently to most people so I have to be careful. Anyhow, I didn’t go too far here, I just tried making one appetizer from some pictures I saw online and some bean patties.

Zucchini & Quinoa Bites

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These can actually be made with cucumber which may be a better option considering the small amount of people who actually like squash. My husband absolutely hates anything to do with squash but he still tried one and said it wasn’t bad. I’m sure that will sell you on them! I am a fan of all vegetables so I love squash myself, and I love quinoa. On top I just put some chili paste because everything has to be spicy for me. These are really easy to make as you can probably see, and they are a good appetizer to have that are healthy. Because I used zucchini I first slightly seared the zucchini in a pan with a tiny amount of olive oil.

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The quinoa is easy to cook and there are various ways to cook it but I was a bit lazy and just used my rice cooker. Quinoa is also really good because for those wanting to avoid starchy carbs this is actually a seed. So it’s very light! The chili paste really adds most of the flavor here as well, but you can add whatever sauce you want really.

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All you have to do is then carve out little holes in the zucchini and add a small teaspoon of the quinoa.

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And that’s it!

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Mixed Bean Patties

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I’m going to be honest and say these were a slight fail. I wanted to create a mixed bean patty that was crispy on the outside. I however will be the first to admit that I am not the world’s greatest cook. I was really trying to create a patty without too many ingredients and definitely without the use of flour or potatoes. I used black beans, lentils and barley for these with salt, pepper, chili flakes (of course), and some coriander. I first just cooked all the beans and grain until they were soft. I used a small crockpot (slow cooker) because I wanted to just leave it and not have to watch it. Then I just blended all the ingredients and used flaxseed mixed with water to replace egg, just to make it hold better. Unfortunately this was not the case and it ended up being too wet. I ended up adding half a cup of whole wheat flour, which isn’t that bad anyhow. I tried frying some in a pan but they were still too moist so I ended up just baking them in the oven for 20 minutes.

The barley and lentils cooked.

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I actually learnt from http://ohsheglows.com that you can replace egg using the mixture of a tablespoon or  more (depending on your recipe), mixed with water. It works really well.

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So anyhow, while they didn’t end up that crispy on the outside they were still pretty good and strangely addicting. Even my husband who is a big meat fan brought them to work today to eat instead of his usual lunch! He was also a champ for eating zucchini when he says the thought of them usually makes him gag. So this wasn’t a complete success but I’ll just have to try again or maybe stick to my vegan falafels.

For a much better vegan cook check out: 

http://http://ohsheglows.com”

Leaving sanity behind for Vegas

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So last week a slight back injury forced me to be extremely inactive, but thankfully made me finish my papers before the weekend. I therefore felt it was only natural to go to Vegas and go crazy. My husband recently won a remix competition so we had some extra moola to take a much needed break. In the past anytime I would take any kind of a holiday/vacation I would see it as a “diet-off” period of time. But that always led to me completely ruining any efforts I had made. I don’t do that anymore because when you do it right, you see your new diet as a lifestyle. A vegan doesn’t eat meat while they’re on vacation! So, while certain choices may have to be relaxed because you’re eating out and have less control over what you eat, you can still make conscious choices. Let’s be real though, I was not a saint. I was in Vegas for one night after all, staying in the Hard Rock Hotel, so I felt like I needed to live like a rocker as well.

The main meal we had there was at P.F.Changs. I wanted sushi as usual, but sushi in Vegas is just…no. We also arrived in Vegas early so had a meal at senior citizen hour. Thankfully this meant lunch deals and smaller portions! I had orange shrimp with brown rice, which was really good and light.

Let’s have a look at our awesome suite, that looks better than my own damn apartment.

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This hotel was definitely more rock, and a little less family friendly. I usually stay at Luxor, and have stayed at MGM and Excalibur which are more family friendly. This hotel was definitely only geared for adults. As we were waiting in line to check in a lot of the other guests looked like they were musicians ready to play a set. Or at least, living in the delusion that they were musicians. The latter of which I’m assuming to be more likely. But it was very awesome and I wanted to take more photos of the decor and amazing rock memorabilia, but the inside of these hotels is very dark so I thought there was no point. Our room was amazing though, and had two TV’s on both sides of the middle partition. I was brainstorming ways of stealing one of them without being noticed, but assumed it was probably going to result in me going to prison. There were cool photos of musicians everywhere, and the large photo on the wall was of Fallout Boy, including Pete Wentz peeing I suppose. Remember how I said this was not a family friendly hotel?

So, I just thought I’d share the fact that we’re all human, and need a break once in a while. It really helped me to decompress since I don’t get a break between semesters. My life has to operate in a very compressed way, so this definitely helped recharge my batteries. I also wanted to mention that, although my inactivity last week was involuntary, sometimes when you hit a plateau you should take a break from working out. I’m not sure if I lifted weights that were too heavy for me, but I definitely overstrained myself. I am clearly not at bodybuilder status yet. My girly arms need to leave the 7lb weights alone and use measly 3lb weights for the reps I’m doing. But the break has actually helped me lose more weight. Who would have thought taking a break would help me see results better? I’m not saying not exercising is the key to losing weight, but taking a break can help shock your muscles when you start working out again.

Overall, two lessons learnt: Hard Rock Hotel is a new favorite stay for my jaunts to Vegas, and 2, don’t overdo your workouts. Build up on weights gradually. I was going to say take a week off from working out once in a great while, but I don’t know. I feel like a lot of fitness experts would not agree…What do you think?