Saturday, April 5, 2014

This tasty vegan recipe is perfect for carnivores, vegetarians, and vegans alike! They're low in fat, high in protein, and full of flavor. Try bringing these to your next party or simply make a bunch and store in the freezer. This recipe doesn't include mushrooms for those of us not fond of fungus. 

Vegan Wontons

8 oz (or half of a 16 oz package) of Firm Tofu
A handful of spinach
1 tblsp green onion
1 tblsp minced garlic
1 tsp green curry paste
1 tsp freshly chopped cilantro
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tiny pinch (1/6 tsp) of freshly grated ginger
Sprinkle of salt and pepper
Wonton wraps
A tiny cup of water
Hoisin Sauce for dipping

All you need to do is take the tofu, spinach, onion, garlic, curry, cilantro, lemon juice, ginger, and salt and paper, and add them to a food processor. Blend until smooth. Feel free to try it and add ingredients to suit your taste. The taste of the curry, however, will come out after you cook the wontons.

When the filling is blended, it will be very green but very tasty!

Once you have your filling complete, get ready to make the wontons!

There are a few different ways to wrap it, but my favorite and the easiest wrap to learn is simple. Wet all the sides of your wonton wrap. Add your filling. You'll find that you really don't need that much: about a teaspoon.

Take opposite corners and fold over your filling. Take the remaining edges, dab them with water, and place them on the center of your dumpling to seal it. You're done!

If you want to boil them, it'll take about 5-6 minutes. If you want to deep fry them, fill a pan with about 1 inch of sunflower seed oil. Set it at medium heat, and let it warm up. Add your dumplings on their side. Flip them over after about 2 minutes.

To freeze, place on a plate and wrap with plastic wrap. Them them freeze in the freeze on the plate, about 1 hour, then place in a large plastic bag.

When you're done cooking your wontons, serve with hoisin sauce. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

7 Social Hacks: Body Language

One of the most interesting topics I've ever explored is Body Language or Non-verbal communication. This is anything that you do with your body that sends messages to people. A lot of these are learned through society, but some are biology (see number 5). Some of these are found in and article called PsychTronics: 7 Social Hacks For Manipulating People. Others I've learned in some of my classes for my communications major. Without further or due, here are a few of my favorite tips and tricks to the secret world of body language.

  1. Look at the feet and knees. Your feet and knees are the things that you use in order to "point" to the things that you are actively engaged in. So when you are talking to someone, and you're having an intense conversation, look at the ways that your feet and knees are, and you'll notice that your feet or knees, and their feet or knees are actually pointing at you! This then makes it easier to see if someone is engaged when you're on a date, or trying to talk about a serious issue with your partner. If their feet or knees are pointed away from you, they probably are not engaged and not particularly listening to you. 
  2. If someone is angry, stand to their side, not their front. This is especially potent when you are engaged with a male. When you stand to their side, you are literally putting yourself on "their side", and they will feel like you understand, and will calm down more easily. 
  3. If you want someone to agree with you, nod while you talk. This means that if you are nodding, they will start nodding along with you, and it subconsciously will make them more agreeable. 
  4. Look at their eyes. People show the most emotion with their eyes. If they have a crinkle next to their eye and their eyes close a little bit, they are truly smiling and happy. If they don't smile with their eyes, then they are faking it. 
  5. When someone is sexually interested in you, their pupils dilate and their lips actually get a little plumper. Very true. Although I wouldn't recommend staring intensely at someone's eyes to see if they are dilated, it is a little easier to see if their lips getting a little more plump and ready for a kiss. 
  6. If someone doesn't like you, ask to borrow a pencil. Asking such a small favor that they'll most likely comply with actually makes them like you more. 
  7. If someone is lying, people usually use too many details, and they will avoid looking you in the eye. That doesn't mean you say "Look me in the eye and tell me that," because you're giving them the opportunity to trick you. I can stare and anyone and not blink while saying "Yes, that shirt makes you look really manly."

Friday, January 24, 2014

How Soon is Too Soon to Move in Together? 4 Ways to Start the Discussion.

Edwin Serrano photography
This is a topic that I have been exploring for years. I've been with my boyfriend for almost 4 years now. Even though there have been periods in our relationship where we spend days at a time together, we've both felt that moving in together is something for the "later" category of our lives. "Let's let future Kate and future Jeff decide on that one".

I also know that for a lot of people, there are environmental, social, cultural and situational reasons that influence your decisions. You may feel rushed to move in together, or it just makes sense to move in together and not think too much about it because, hey, you already pretty much spend every minute together anyway.

Moving in with anyone requires planning, mutual understandings, and ground rules. You have to--have to--have a discussion about it. Here are some things to get the conversation started.

This is not a simple decision! One thing is for sure; I don't believe that just because you spend everyday together, it means that you should just move in together without having a real talk about it. But before you talk about it, figure out what it means to you. Do you think it's just a way to get closer to your partner? What "step" in a relationship is it to you? Do you think it's a step towards marriage? Do you think it's a test-run of getting married? Does it have anything to do with getting married? What expectations would you have of your partner?

Chances are, it will change the way your family views your relationship; which is a big step in the relationship.  I've always met parents that believed that moving in together was a huge step (probably because it is?). Most that I've encountered thought that it was something for after marriage. If you're shaking your head and saying "No, it's not a big deal," it really is. If moving in together isn't that big of a deal, than what steps are you missing to being married? A slip of paper? A joint checking account? A wedding album? Chances are, you're missing close to nothing. It's a commitment. To sum it up, you need to ask yourself one major question first. Can you relationship bear the weight of this new commitment to each other? This one has surprised me. I thought that I got my values of relationships and my "steps" from my parents. Not true. To me, moving in was something you do when you want to get married to your partner, but may need to wait for careers to catch up, get a good financial standing, or whatever might be in your way to getting married right then and there. It's when, in your head, you've already made the decision to marry that person. To my mom, it was something you do only after you get married. But, whether or not it means something huge and spectacular to you and your partner, chances are, it will mean something to your parents.

Are you two just moving in to save money? The fact of the matter is, moving in to save money and not because you want to start a life with your partner is no way to go about it. You'll end up putting a strain on the relationship that shouldn't be there, especially if the relationship is new. I've met more than my fair share of men and women who moved in because it "made sense" and because they needed to "save money", and it ended up getting awkward real fast. I knew a guy who moved in with his girlfriend he had been with for 6 months and was madly in love with. It just made sense for her to move in because he needed to save money on rent. They ended up breaking up 3 months into it, and she started dating other guys while they still lived together. What a nightmare!

Talk about expectations. The best piece of advice I ever got from someone was to talk to your partner about what their expectations are of you and your relationship are before you take it to the next level (this applies to marriage as well as moving in together). What if he thinks that moving in together means that you're the one that cleans? What if you don't agree who should put their stuff where (this generally applies to a situation where one partner moves in to another partners place, rather than getting a new place together)? What if she thinks this means you need to buy her an engagement ring in the next few months? What if the rules of sex, life, and fights change?

The one thing I want you to take away from this is that this is a big decision, and this is something the two of you need to talk about before rushing in. It's a big and exciting step in any relationship. Just make sure the two of you are on the same page, that you lay out some ground rules, and that you have a plan for if things go sour (I know, that part is definitely not fun, but it will make both of you relax after you have that awkward conversation).

Thursday, January 9, 2014

8 Things 20-somethings Aren't Too Old to Do

  1. Learn something completely new. In college, that's a given. You're there to learn (hopefully) but that doesn't always mean that you're learning things that you might want. Say for example that you are an Graphic Design major, but you're looking forward to traveling Europe when you're out of college. Learn a language, learn about the cultures you want to visit, learn about the history of the places you are going. In college, it's a little easier because you can pick up an elective in an area you are interested in. But when you are out of college, the solution is literally to pick up a book. This way you are learning at a pace that works for your lifestyle and you are still growing. 
  2. Have a party. I know, duh. But I know some of you are in your late twenties and are shaking your head no. I am here to tell you that it is NEVER too late to have a party. That doesn't mean I'm encouraging parties like in the Hangover or in Project X. The style of party might vary from person to person, age to age, but the principle is the same. You're never too old to have a party with your favorite people and their friends and their friends friends. It keeps things fresh and introduces you to new people, ideas, and keeps things interesting. 
  3. Have sleepovers, blow bubbles, hula hoop, dance, skinny dip, or play a board game. The point is, you are not too old to play. I remember I had an amazing impression of a girl once. The first time I met her, I was 19 and she was 21. She was on her boyfriends bed, hula hooping while eating a sandwich and listening to j-pop. I mean, talk about a great first impression! Not to mention, some of the best parties I've been to, I've whipped out a board game and had a ton of fun. 
  4. Change your mind about something. This is the time that you have a pretty darn good idea who and what you are as a person. But it's not too late to change your mind and make changes (hopefully for the better!). This could mean political issues, things you are passionate about, things you like, heck, even your favorite color. Try to keep an open mind, and keep expanding your horizons.
  5. Adopt a new style. Now which style you adopt might be up for debate, but it's never too late to change your wardrobe. Add new colors, adopt the latest trend, or change your hair. Especially when you are just beginning your life. Maybe you are still in college with a job at Starbucks. Dye your hair that crazy color, try out those short skirts, wear lots of make up (or none at all!) and just have fun with your style. This is the time of your life that you're nearly expected to have a crazy style, so just go for it. You don't want to be in your 50's and regret never having tried a style that you just can't pull off anymore, right? You're in your prime. Go for it. 
  6. Pick up your stuff, and go on an adventure. I recently read a quote that say when you're young, you have the energy and time to go on an adventure, but no money. When you're in the middle of your life, you have the money and energy, but no time. When you're older, you have all the money and time, but no energy. So make the money and go on your adventure; it's something you'll carry with you always. 
  7. Stay up late. This one is tricky. Because as your responsibilities grow, you need to be attuned to them and stay alert and rested to carry them out. But here's the thing: right now, your body can handle it. You think you're miserable now having a night out in the city and then being a little sleepy for work? Try doing that when you're 40. You'll be passing out, throwing up, and begging your co-workers to kill you. 
  8. To ask questions. This one is very important. Your parents tried their best, but there might be some gaps in your knowledge. No, in fact, there is the definite chance that there is some blaring knowledge gap that you avoid talking about because you don't want to sound stupid. My advice, ask your closest friend or your significant other about it. If they're good friends, they won't judge you for asking. Too embarrassed? Ask the internet. Examples, "What the hell is 'chic'?" or "What's the difference Champagne and Sparkling wine?"

12 Things That Will Make You Happy Right Now
We all have those days where you wake up and you're just in a bad mood. Here are some quick fixes for when you just feel like you need a small pick-me-up! It's science. Some of these things you can do at once (like sip some coffee and do some meditative walking) and others will take only a few seconds.

  1. Smell your boyfriend's shirt. Crazy, right? But according to an article written in a Cosmopolitan magazine by Anna Davies, studies have shown that any random dude's sweat can reduce tension in women. And if it's your boyfriend's shirt? It results in a phenomenon called comfort smelling that makes you feel happier. Don't have your guy's shirt laying around? Smell some sunblock. Your brain will associate the smell with lazy days by the pool, vacations and summer fun. 
  2. Look at pictures of cute animals. I know this one sounds cheesy, but there has been significant research that points to it being very effective in making you happy and lifting your spirits. Here are some adorable ones to look at: 20 Pictures That Will Make You Feel Happy.
  3. Munch on some chocolate or sip on coffee. According to an article Marshall Brian, caffeine can raise dopamine levels in your brain, and there is caffeine in both chocolate and coffee. Just don't drink or eat too much of it, as it can have the opposite effect when you crash. Just a square of chocolate or a small cup of coffee will do. In fact...
  4. Eat foods rich in Vitamin B. Vitamin B is a vitamin that is linked to energy, happiness, and your metabolism. The list of foods is long, but the foods with the most significant source of Vitamin B are fish (salmon), spinach, chicken, and blueberries. Also, funny enough, avocados have serotonin in them. Maybe a spinach salad with chicken and avocado?
  5. Take a 10 minute power nap. Power naps are your biggest tool in fighting off sleepiness and low energy levels. According to a recent article, "The 10-minute nap produced immediate improvements in all outcome measures (including sleep latency, subjective sleepiness, fatigue, vigor, and cognitive performance), with some of these benefits maintained for as long as 155 minutes." I know it might be tempting to keep sleeping after only 10 minutes, but don't! Naps lasting longer than 20 minutes have shown to have the opposite effect; they make you feel less energized and more groggy. 
  6. Have a chat with your happiest friend. Surrounding yourself with happy people might be the last thing you want to do when you're having an off day, but studies have shown that happiness is infectious! You don't even necessarily have to talk to them, just be around them. 
  7. Listen to music. Listening to happy music can actually make you happier! My personal favorite is Sea Wolf. It instantly makes me feel happy. 
  8. Stop and smell the roses. Specifically, I mean when you are walking to work, class, or when you have time, just try to be really aware of all the colors, smells and sounds around you. I generally do this on my way to class. I look at all the flowers, maybe stop and pick one, and smell the crisp morning air. This is also very similar to meditative walking
  9. Get some sunlight. Sunlight, when it hits your skin for 10-20 minutes (depending on the pigments in your skin) gives you lots of Vitamin D, which can lift your spirits. Lack of exposure to sunlight has actually been linked with varying degrees of depression. Maybe eat lunch outside, or go for a small walk. 
  10. Do a good deed. We all know that feeling we get after we help someone with the door, tell someone they dropped something, or given good news. It makes us happy! Find a good deed to do.
  11. Fake it 'til you make it. Pretending to be happy (like smiling, even if you feel like you have nothing to smile about) can actually send happy messages to your brain. 
  12. If nothing else works, watch this gif while listening to this song (don't worry, it's work appropriate).

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

5 Things You Should Do in the Morning

With all the ways things are now-a-days, there are plenty of things that get lost in the rush of life. We have to get up, catch the bus, beat traffic, get to work or school, eat lunch, get home, feed the cat, catch dinner with friends, get sleep. But there are times where just taking an extra 20 minutes in your morning to relax and get yourself ready for the day can have some great pay offs.
  1. Get up a little earlier. Not feeling rushed will help you feel more relaxed throughout the day, and it leaves time for you to...
  2. Eat breakfast. The days of skipping breakfast are over. There are studies that report women who eat breakfast weighed less than those who didn't. That's because eating breakfast within the first 30 minutes of being awake revs up your metabolism for the rest of the day, making you weigh less. 
  3. 3 minute Yoga Routine. I recommend trying this one out. Doing yoga in the morning helps you stay relaxed and calm for the day, and even regulates your sleep rhythm! Check out the 7 Benefits of Early-Morning Yoga. You could also just go for a 3-5 minute walk. 
  4. Read something. You don't have to read the newspaper or even something that impressive, just read the articles your friends post, a romance novel you're reading, or a magazine. Reading in the morning can help you focus better for the rest of the day.
  5. Get ready for the day. For some, this is a no-brainer. But for others, there are a lot of mornings that you would rather hit the snooze button a couple more times than get ready for the day. But let me tell you... you might not smell your morning breath, but everyone else can. Going straight from your bed, to a quick jean swap and out the door leaves you smelling and looking like you don't care at all about your appearance. Not to mention, it can make you feel icky all day! Just get up; hitting the snooze button doesn't actually make you feel anymore rested. Also, a tip: screens like your phone can actually lower melatonin levels and make you feel more awake. If you're having a really hard time getting up, check your facebook for 5 minutes instead of hitting the snooze button!

To Be, or Not To Be... Vegan?

"Oh great, who invited the herbivore?"
"I brought hummus."

One thing that I've learned in my years at college is the beauty, controversy, rules, and opinions surrounding the "vegan lifestyle". I've had plenty of vegan friends, vegetarian friends, and carnivore friends. I've always loved to dabble in the occasional vegan meal, but I had never fully committed. 

But as of November of 2013 (so before the holidays really started rolling around) I decided that I wanted to try being vegan for real. My mom had been juicing on and off for three weeks and had maintained, for the most part, a vegan lifestyle (even if she didn't want to admit that she was vegan). She lost 16 pounds! I was amazed. I'd heard that celebrities like Kelly Osbourne had gone vegan to lose weight and then maintain their weight, but I guess with all the crazy diets surrounding celebrities, I didn't believe it to really be a "weight loss" thing. But with my mom? Different story. I'd seen all the crazy diets she had done. I'd seen her go through weight watchers, "no carbs", South Beach diet, and the like. 

Anyway, since I have had so many vegan friends, I knew a lot about the vegan diet and I essentially knew where to start. I bought myself a vegan cookbook (anyone who knows me knows that I basically carry my vegan cookbook everywhere), and I just started. 

I'm happy to say that through my ups and downs, cheats and wins, crying and smiling, my vegan diet so far has been pretty successful. I have two things to say.

First, it does work as a weight loss solution. Even through the holidays, I didn't gain a single pound. In fact, I lost 4 pounds (if you knew how much I did eat, you'd know that's a definite accomplishment). I also find that my health has improved, my stomach is happier, and weirdly, my feet have shrunk (I guess my usual diet consisted of a lot of salt?).

Second, the myth and stigma surrounding vegan lifestyle, even among the avid juicers, healthy eaters, and crazy dieters is absurd. And that's what I would mainly like to point out. 

The first thing people always ask after I inform them that I am vegan is "Why?" I have such a complex answer to that, that I still just don't have a good short, quick explanation. As I pause and fumble for the right way to respond, whoever is present shoots off and starts telling me how meat is good for you, we have canine teeth, we need meat, without meat you can't grow muscle, on and on and on. 

The one thing I've never understood is why people are so quick to assume that by informing them that I am vegan is insinuating that humans don't need meat. Of course, I know humans need meat, I know our ancestors from thousands and thousands of years ago started the evolution to the healthy and fully functioning brains we have today because of meat. But they did not eat meat and animal products for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snack, midnight snack, etc. They did not have a constant flow of meat and animal products day in and day out. Yet this is nearly the American way! 

At every usual, typical, American meal there is an abundance of animal products floating around. Why? 

Yet every time I go out with family, go to Starbucks, go to a party I don't ask the people eating enormous quantities of animal products why they are eating it. So why would you ask me why I choose not to eat it? It makes no sense to me. 

Second, I would like to briefly explain some facts about being vegan. There are many reasons to go vegan. I have always felt that there is an extreme mistreatment of our animals and I don't think it's right. For some, that is reason enough. I remember once, in a Persuasive Speech class, a girl was trying to persuade the class to go vegetarian/vegan. She made a great alternative solution if you were not willing to go vegan "If you could cut down your consumption of meat by half, you would still be making a huge statement." 

I do however, believe that humans need meat. So I have tried to not think about it, and have kind of stayed in the background, eaten less meat (because I think that's a valid point, and I think Americans eat too much meat as it is) and just hoped that the people strong enough to be vegan will make a loud enough statement that the treatment of animals will change. 

Another simple reason to go vegan? As long as you avoid TVP and vegan cheese (the vegan cheese really isn't that tasty anyway), your food is pretty much guaranteed to be unprocessed. I mean think about it. That vegan cupcake? Made with margarine, applesauce, 72% dark chocolate, sugar, whole wheat flour, baking soda. Those vegan chips? Potatoes, sunflower seed oil, and salt. Vegan beans simply forgo pig lard. Vegan bread is usually only 4-5 ingredients, all of which you can pronounce and picture in your head. In short, the ingredient list on vegan foods are awfully short. And isn't that a good thing?

The hardest thing about going vegan at first was I had to give up taco bell, peppermint bark popcorn, caramel chews, whole fat caramel lattes, and a bunch of other not-good-for-you stuff and replaced it with strawberries and sugar, black coffee, vegan french toast, and home-made tacos. So really, how can I be doing myself a disservice?

The last and least "honest" reasons to go vegan? I'm lactose-intolerant anyway, may as well avoid eggs, meat, gelatin, and all that other stuff. It's cheap. It makes you lose weight. It forces me to eat my veggies and like them. It forces me to eat less and to be conscious about what I'm putting into my body. 

Vegan diets can be done wrong, don't think I don't know that. It's a constant balance of proteins, carbs, vitamin B, etc. This balance, when planned and informed about correctly, is not only possible but quite easy once you get in the swing of things. But it's also that balance that makes you plan your visits to the grocery store, forces you to eat that damn healthy sandwich you need to eat when all you want is a nice juicy burger, a milkshake, and fries (which is, what, 2,000 calories?).

I'm not trying to convince anyone to go vegan. I'm actually just making the point that it's a choice, and you shouldn't shame someone for their choices. Especially one that is about their health! You can't argue that an unprocessed diet--full of fruits, veggies, and grains--is so bad that you need to lecture them and convince them to eat the foods they don't want to eat. 

What I want you to take away from this article is this: the next time someone tells you that they're vegan you shouldn't say "Why?" You should say, "Awesome. That takes some willpower. How's it working out for you?"