Roasted Eggplant

As someone who loves eggplant I constantly try to find new ways of making it. Eggplant is not the easiest thing to cook because it has a weird texture, and the seeds inside make it very bitter. My mum would always make this casserole with eggplant and it always tasted perfect. If I try to make the same thing it doesn’t taste anywhere near her cooking. But I’m Persian and Persian cooking is usually an all-day affair. A lot of times they actually advise you to let the eggplant sit while soaking in salt but I just don’t have the patience for that kind of thing!

So anyhow, I wanted to try roasted eggplant because it sounded delicious and searched for a few recipes online. After trial and error I found that the best way to cook eggplant is at 420°F for 1 hour. It is also best to cut the eggplant in half and cutting the eggplant in diamond cross-hatch patterns. It is also a good idea to use a good amount of salt to reduce the bitterness from the seeds. A lot of the recipes also called for a lot of oil but that didn’t sound entirely healthy so I actually found that cooking with Earth Balance (dairy free) butter was best. I simply spread about a tablespoon of the Earth Balance butter on each half, which isn’t terrible especially if you are just eating the eggplant. The Earth Balance butter is usually made up of good fats also. For some reason the butter also made the eggplant come out better than the oil to me.  And for other seasonings you could pretty much put anything you wanted on it like thyme or lemon. Being the spice freak that I am I of course put chili flakes on mine. I honestly think eggplant when roasted tastes best simple, with only salt to season.

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So after an hour the eggplant looked like this using oil:

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With the Earth Balance butter it came out like this:

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So I think you can see a difference. With the oil the eggplant was still somewhat dry. With the butter the eggplant came out perfect and even the skin ended up crispy, which was delicious. You may think you shouldn’t eat the skin but it actually contains a lot of vitamins. The skin of the eggplant actually has a phytonutrient called nasunin, which is a powerful antioxidant that is highly beneficial for your brain, cardiovascular health, and even for women who can lose a lot of iron. So overall this was a really easy way of cooking eggplant that came out really well. I’ve tried slow-cooking it in my crockpot and it didn’t turn out great, so this is definitely something I often make now to eat for lunch.

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Hiking up Mt. Rubidoux

The dog park I take Sonic to has a hike right next to it up Mt. Rubidoux. Today I finally did the hike instead of taking Sonic for a walk around the neighborhood. It is actually a pretty full on hike and it has several options for going up it. There are more hardcore trails that go directly up the mountain. Then there are trails that slowly wind around the mountain, or do a zig-zag up it. I usually don’t have a problem with heights but I have to admit this hike had me nervous a few times. I kept looking over the side and feeling like it would be so easy to accidentally fall over. A man recently fell there and was trapped between rocks for almost a week! The other thing is that it isn’t in the best area and so I don’t think I’d ever go by myself. Even the dog park, which is actually really nice makes me nervous. It seems like an area that shady people like to go and participate in shenanigans. So, moral of the story is, don’t go alone or near sunset, and if you do, bring a gun.

Mt. Rubidoux, California

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Reaching a milestone

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A few weeks ago I achieved one of my life goals of completing my degree! That is also why I have been missing from my blog because leading up to my finals I was extremely stressed out. One of my final classes was about information systems and it was both boring and difficult; a dangerous combination for school! But I worked my butt off and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. It was definitely an achievement for me because I gave up on Uni the first time I went straight out of high school. Even though my parents urged me to just complete my degree at that time and get it out of the way, sometimes you need to live life a little and figure out what you want first. While I do wish I had listened to them, I also realize that going to Uni this time around I really valued my education a lot more. So although I am 27 it really is better late than never. I really think that everyone’s journey is different and things do not need to be completed in a perfect succession of events.

Anyhow, this achievement is also only the half way mark for me but it was such a good feeling to graduate. My graduation ceremony is in a month from now and I was honestly considering not attending. I am kind of embarrassed to admit that I completely abandoned my health goals while in my finals. I just do not do well with stress, it has always been my downfall. I get sick when I usually never get sick, even in flu season. I also get lazy with my eating because I usually spend five or more hours straight writing papers and doing research, and then once I’m done I just eat whatever is around. But getting to the point, I realized that the fact that I was considering not going to my graduation ceremony is another reminder of just how much my weight affects the quality of my life. It sounds really vain but just like with any major event where lots of pictures will be taken, I just didn’t want to have all my graduation photos to be of me when I am not at my best.

But the fact is that I am really sick of missing out on things in my life because I am unhappy with the way I look. My graduation ceremony is a pretty important event and it would be ridiculous to miss out on it. So, I have given myself a challenge to really step things up and get pretty  close to my goal in time for my graduation. Because it is a month I’m not going to kill myself and starve in order to lose all the rest of my weight, but I think I could get pretty close. While I did abandon my goal during my finals I didn’t do serious damage. I was not losing any weight for sure, but I also gained about 5lbs. I am already getting back on track though and today I did a pretty difficult hike. When I got home I was actually craving a salad and had that for lunch. Even though I had abandoned my goal for a few weeks I still craved healthy food, and it seemed like my diet was more out of convenience than anything else. That’s no excuse though and I am ready to do this, so it’s good to be back!

Thai Mango Salad

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A girl I follow on YouTube called Leyla from Getfitwithleyla occasionally posts recipes for healthy meals, namely vegan. This salad was one of those recipes I’ve been wanting to try for a while. It looks so colorful and full of flavor, and I’ll eat pretty much anything with mango in it. I also like trying new salad recipes to keep me motivated to eat salads and keep vegetables interesting. It turned out pretty well, and the flavors were pretty interesting because there were so many in this dish. It mixes sweet with salt, and spice with tartness. You can also adjust this to your own liking if you’re not a fan of spice or anything else in this dish. I didn’t follow Leyla’s recipe exactlty because i forgot to buy red onions, so I used shallots/green onions instead. I rarely follow instructions so I’m sorry I don’t have exact measurements of things. My measuring involves, “Yeah, that looks about good.”

Ingredients

  • Bell peppers/capsicum: assorted colors.
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1 Mango
  • 1 Cup parsley
  • Bean sprouts

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Dressing

  • 1/2 Jalapeno pepper
  • 1 Tbsp grated ginger
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

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Directions

First is the painstaking task of cutting the mango, bell peppers and cucumber julienne style. Julienne is a fancy way of saying cut stuff into long thin slices. They make machines for this process but I like most people I imagine do not own such a machine. It is also quite trying to peel the mango, but I think my years of working in a restaurant have traumatized me from having to peel and cut onions and potatoes en masse.

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So, two hours later after you’ve completed this step you need to finely chop the parsley and green onions.

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Now set these ingredients aside to prepare the dressing.

Grate the ginger and cut up the jalapeño peppers finely. In a small bowl add the soy sauce, olive oil, salt, pepper, jalapeño peppers and ginger and mix together.

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The dressing may sound odd, but it’s what really creates the thai flavor in this. If it sounds too weird, you really could add whatever dressing you’d like to this…it just wouldn’t be a Thai salad anymore.

Now you just add all the ingredients to a large bowl and mix together. Leyla suggested to add cashews to this dish to add even more of an Asian flavor. That would be a good idea if you are eating this salad on its own. It is a pretty filling salad. I didn’t add cashews because I was serving it with steamed cod.

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This salad was pretty good to me but I like weird flavors and have a love for mango. I was actually pretty surprised with how much it had that signature thai flavor. I honestly thought it was going to just taste like a salad with soy sauce, but all the flavors work really well together. I actually think this would be a hit with my vegan in-laws so I’ll definitely be making it the next time we get together. I have to admit my husband didn’t warm to it immediately. There was a bit of slow chewing and a look of befuddlement going on, but he only likes about 3 of all known vegetables. He also is not a fan of mango.

But if like me you are drawn to the weirdest thing on the menu, are adventurous and have 5 free hours then give this a go!

Note: It really only took me about 45 minutes to julienne the ingredients, it’ll be okay.

Reenergized and Motivated

After eating really healthy and working out for over two months I felt so frustrated that I had hit a complete plateau. I was saying to myself, “How much less can I possibly eat?”. I already felt like I was barely eating anything, especially since my schedule means that I often don’t eat lunch at all. So once I had finished my last semester and went on a small vacation I started off good, but by the end of it I was so fed up and feeling burnt out that I started eating poorly. I have to admit there are times in my weight loss journey where I wonder what the difference is in eating clean and eating junk, because either way I wasn’t losing any weight! But after eating poorly for about two weeks now, I have the answer to that question. There is a huge difference. Since I have been eating complete rubbish again I have noticed that I feel foggy, unable to concentrate and more than anything, I just feel lazy and disappointed in myself. Even though I wasn’t losing weight as fast as I wanted to, I should have reevaluated my goals and readjusted what wasn’t working. That’s what you do with any plan. You observe your progress along the way, and anything that isn’t working you have to go in and figure out why. Then you implement a better approach to produce real results. When I look back there are a lot of things I could have improved upon. I recently found a really inspiring blogger called The DMMD Lifestyle Revolution http://dmmddiet.wordpress.com/2013/08/12/weekly-photo-update-week-7/ and he conducted an SWOT analysis on himself. I thought it was a really useful tool in analyzing the efficiency and progress of your goals. So I’m going to try it here myself and I actually found that some of my answers were the same as his.

Strengths

  • Past success with losing weight.
  • Determination to succeed.
  • Available resources to aid in exercise and a healthy diet (free gym, beautiful suburb to walk in, my juicer, steamer, e.t.c….)
  • A partner that often helps support me to succeed.

Weaknesses

  • Not having a set schedule.
  • Having a dog that doesn’t walk well.
  • Anxiety.

Opportunities

  • Make time to eat small, frequent meals throughout the day.
  • Make exercise a priority.
  • Lead by example.
  • Eat lighter meals for dinner.

Threats

  • Living with someone who also has their own vices.
  • Anxiety
  • Work overload with school and work.

When I look at this I really realize that I have all the resources to achieve my goal, but I let little things hold me back. I don’t want to say that not living in a completely supportive environment is holding me back. The first time I lost the weight I absolutely did not have a supportive environment. My family and friends weren’t into fitness or healthy food and I actually lost a lot of my friends because they didn’t like that I was losing weight. But I was so dedicated that I focused on my goal and just did it. My mum actually said to me afterwards that she was really inspired by my dedication because I would not let anything get in my way. And now even though my husband isn’t totally into health and fitness like me, I shouldn’t let that hold me back. I think when you’re married or even living with your partner it’s easy to engage in mutually destructive behavior. You justify each other’s actions, and it becomes difficult to separate yourself from them and do your own thing. But I am the only one responsible for my actions and I need to do what I have to do. Even though life would be so much easier with a life coach and a fitness coach 24/7 that is not the reality for most people. We have to be our own life and fitness coach.

My brother shared this video on Facebook today and it really got me motivated to get back into this and turn it up. I must admit that I feel kind of lame for not being able to come on here and say, hey I lost all the weight now, and I’ve arrived. I think the reality with most goals and journey’s is that, it takes time, persistence and dedication. I like other bloggers and people losing weight have made significant progress. Katie Foley from Bringing my Sexy Back did her 5K marathon in Boston which was awesome (http://katiefoley11.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/5k-success/), Rebecca from Healthy Intentions is significantly building up her stamina (http://healthywithintent.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/still-trucking-along/), The DMMD Lifestyle Revolution continues to see weight loss and fitness progress (http://dmmddiet.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/day-52-sub-15-minute-mile/), and even I am able to do more weights and more squats than I ever have and lost 20lbs.  So I may not be where i wan’t to be yet, but I haven’t given up.

This is a short video about the beauty of hard work and dedication.

Breathing taking views in Lake Arrowhead

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One day I am going to rent a yacht, or better yet buy one and go out on this lake. Then I could be the one singing, “I’m on a boat!” and no one would understand because that reference is from the past.

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The amazing views from the edge.

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Side note: when I got home and looked at my photos I realized my husband is completely dressed in Nike and looks like a walking advertisement. If only we were getting paid…

Anyhow, definitely go and see Lake Arrowhead if you can because as you can see the views and hiking trails are amazing. I have to admit I really miss Australia, but living in California allows me to see so many different things and it’s all within driving distance. I also could not believe the cyclists that were riding up this mountain! They must have thighs and buns of steel! Just saying…

Hiking in Seeley Creek, California

One of my favorite things to do on my days off is to go on an adventure, which usually translates into going somewhere scenic and hiking. I love exploring new trails and walking off the beaten path. At the same time I have terrible coordination and usually end up falling on my butt after trying to walk down some crazy steep hill. But that’s where the best views are! I walked down into some crazy off-look today and had some kid walk past up above on the trail and exclaimed, “Mum, there’s a woman down there, can I go too?”, to which the mum replied, “Yeah and then I can come after you after you’ve fallen on the rocks and are bleeding from the inside out.” Pretty morbid and graphic, but she was trying to make a point I suppose….to an 8 year old kid….

Today we went and hiked in Seeley Creek and then went further up to Lake Arrowhead for the amazing views. The trail was pretty short and was a total of 2 miles. We were supposed to see a waterfall at the end of it with a naturally formed heart in the rock formations but the water was dried up. It’s amazing how nature creates hearts and in the photos you can see the heart shape in the rocks, and also in a tree trunk and branches.

Seeley Creek, California

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Hearts in Nature

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There’s something kind of cool about the fact that everyone on this hike wanted to see the rock shaped heart in the rocks that had been created naturally over several years of erosion.

Sonic was also a huge hit on the trail. Everyone always thinks he’s a puppy but he really just is this ridiculously small. While we were worried about taking him on a long trip we are trying to get him used to long road trips so we can take him up to Sequoia and Yosemite. He absolutely loved this trail though and I love taking him with us whenever we can because I think dogs should have adventures too!

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These photos take up a lot of space so I am going to put up my Lake Arrowhead photos in the next blog.

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