Travel Adventures: Puerto Rico

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My boyfriend was born on the island of Puerto Rico, in a city called Carolina. His grandparents, aunt, godmother, and other relatives still call Puerto Rico home. Since his grandmother is not doing well and he is extremely close with his family in PR, we decided to make a trip there (we went last week for six days).

Shown above is a photo of Condado Beach in San Juan, which was our front yard for five glorious sunrises and sunsets. I loved the pulse of San Juan, the enthusiasm and pride of its inhabitants, and the ever-present wonder of the ocean.

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I fell in love with Old San Juan. The brightly-painted rowhouses, the stately Capital building, the gorgeous Governor’s mansion, the sprawling lawn overlooking the ocean, the Princess walk, the cobblestone streets, the charm and the beauty of it all captivated me.

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We borrowed John’s abuelo’s truck at 5:30 am on Thursday morning, drove it an hour from San Juan to the town of Fajardo, where a ferry would take us to the island of Culebra. Culebra happens to be the 3rd best beach in the WORLD. Needless to say, John was excited to take me there, and I was more than happy to travel to the famous beach. Standing in line with other tourists and islanders, we heard an announcement. I don’t speak Spanish, but John does fluently. I saw his face fall. He didn’t need to tell me. I knew the ferry to Culebra had sold out, and we wouldn’t be going.

There was, however, an alternative. We went to the island of Vieques. It was beautiful. There were wild horses grazing in the grass, palm trees served as our umbrella and relief from the scorching sun, and crystal clear water that felt like a bath.

I would recommend a trip to Puerto Rico to anyone who wants to experience fantastic beaches, food, and culture.

My next project: learn to speak Spanish fluently!

xo Steph

The Miracle Mushroom: Red Reishi

During my stay in Puerto Rico last week, a relative of my boyfriend’s (who is a holistic health enthusiast and vegetarian) presented me with some organic tea and coffee…all of which were the brand Organo Gold. Upon scrutinizing the packaging and ingredients as I always do, I noticed the ingredient “Ganoderma lucidum” was included in the green and red teas as well as the instant coffee. Being a curious consumer, I naturally had to Google this!

What I found was extremely exciting – Ganoderma lucidum is the name for the Red Reishi mushroom, which in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) is regarded as a herbal supplement yielding extraordinary health benefits.

The Red Reishi mushroom is said to enhance the immune system when consumed regularly, and aid in alleviating anxiety, increasing blood circulation (which is huge for me, as I suffer from Raynaud’s syndrome), easing the symptoms of allergies, reducing high blood pressure, and helping with insomnia in addition to asthma. It is a normalizing substance that supposedly balances the body and returns the organs to proper functioning. Also, the Red Reishi mushroom is said to have anti-tumor properties.

Who knew a mushroom could be so powerful? I plan on purchasing these Organo Gold teas and coffee through Amazon ASAP! If I find they are truly effective, I’ll let you all know!

More information on the Red Reishi mushroom can be found here:

Namaste.

xo Steph

4 Day Cleanse

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Happy Monday friends! I hope you’re ready to kick Monday in the rear and keep that positive momentum going throughout the week. Buds are budding, flowers blooming, and warm weather on the horizon. Spring is the perfect time to cleanse your body, mind, and spirit. So to honor myself and rid it of the toxins I’ve likely accumulated from the long winter, I’m doing a 4-day kick-start cleanse.

I’ve done this cleanse before, and will tell you exactly how to do it and where to find more information so you can always have this effective method of healthy eating at your fingertips. It’s gentle, and fantastic for beginners or those who have never tried a cleanse before. Disclaimer: you WILL be hungry. But if you space out the allotted foods throughout the day and drink a massive amount of water, you’ll do great and 4 days will go by in a flash.

Credit: I found this cleanse in a book by Dr. Ian Smith (you may remember him from the TV show Celebrity Fit Club) called The 4 Day Diet. He calls it the “Induction Phase” in his book, which you can find on Amazon or at your local bookstore. The first time I tried this cleanse, I lost 8 pounds in 4 days and felt brand new. It really works if you follow it precisely. This time, I will be making some slight modifications, and will let you know the result of those adjustments and whether it’s as effective.
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DAY 1
-2 cups of coffee. Limit sugar to 1 packet and cream or milk to 1 tsp per cup
-2 cups of raw or cooked green leafy vegetables (i.e. spinach, kale, collard greens, Swiss chard)
-1 cup of freshly squeezed lemonade with no more than 1 tbsp sugar
-1 tbsp psyllium husk powder*
-4 servings of fruit (1 apple, 1 banana, ½ cup berries all count as 1 serving)
-One 6-oz low-fat or fat-free yogurt
-1 medium-size green salad (about 2 cups – veggies only) with 3 tbsp low-fat dressing
-1 cup of cooked beans (chickpeas, lentils, etc.)
-1 ½ cup of cooked brown rice (measured after cooking)
Unlimited water or seltzer. Be sure to drink 1 cup before each meal
Exercise – 40 minutes of cardio (can break up if needed with a 20 min session in am and 20 min session in pm)

DAY 2
-2 cups coffee
-2 scrambled eggs or egg whites (can add ¼ cup veggies if you want)
-1 cup of freshly squeezed juice (I substitute Naked juice I got at the grocery store since I don’t have a fancy juicer…sad face)
-3 servings of fruit
-1 large-size (3 cups) green garden salad with 3 tbsp low-fat dressing
-2 cups of green leafy vegetables
-1 cup of vegetable juice from the cooked vegetables
-1 cup of cooked brown rice
Exercise – 40 minutes of cardio

DAY 3
-2 cups of coffee
-One 6-oz low-fat or fat-free yogurt
-3 servings of fruit
-2 cups of green leafy vegetables
-1 cup of freshly squeezed lemonade
-1 tbsp psyllium powder
-1 medium-size green garden salad with 3 tbsp low-fat dressing
-1 cup of cooked beans, chickpeas, lentils, etc
-1 cup cabbage soup**
-Unlimited water or seltzer. Drink one cup before each meal.
Exercise – 40 minutes of cardio

DAY 4
Unlimited fruit of any kind
-1 cup of green tea or regular tea
-1 large-size (3 cups) green garden salad; add garlic, and 3 oz. of walnuts, cashews, almonds, or sunflower seeds; also 3 tbsp low-fat dressing
-1 cup of freshly squeezed carrot juice (can substitute pear, apple, or orange juice)
-1 tbsp psyllium husk powder
-2 cups of cooked brown rice
-1 cup of cabbage soup**
-2 servings of cooked or raw vegetables
Unlimited water or seltzer.
Exercise – Rest Day

*Psyllium husk powder can be found at Vitamin Shoppe. It can be mixed with water or lemonade. I recommend trying to get psyllium-enriched cereal instead. I believe Whole Foods carries it. I personally hate the powder version, it can kind of be difficult to get down just because of the texture. But it definitely works and is known to mop up and remove toxins in the body.
**Cabbage Soup:
1 tbsp oil 3 medium carrots, sliced
2 medium onions, diced 1 ham hock (can omit if vegetarian)
1 medium green cabbage, shredded 3 tbsp wine vinegar
1 ¼ quart chicken broth ½ tsp sage
3 small potatoes, cubed ½ tsp thyme
In a large pot, heat the oil and cook the onions until softened. Add the cabbage and cook, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Add the chicken broth, potatoes, carrots, ham hock, vinegar, sage, and thyme. Cover and simmer for 50 minutes. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper as desired.

So there you have it. The 4-Day Cleanse. I will let you know how it goes…wish me luck!!

Guilt-Free Penne alla Vodka

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Who doesn’t love a decadent pasta dish? Only problem is, the calorie count tends to get a little scary. I’m here to tell you that you CAN have the best of both worlds with this dish. The satisfying comfort of rich pasta, without all the cream, fat, and bad feelings. I can’t believe how much this tastes like the real thing! And so, so unbelievably quick and easy.

-2 cups store-bought marinara sauce
-1 7 oz container plain Greek yogurt (Fage will forever be my favorite)
-whole wheat penne
-pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
-fresh basil
-Parmesan cheese

Boil water, add a generous amount of salt to water and throw in your desired amount of penne pasta. Meanwhile, heat marinara in a separate saucepan over medium heat. Add crushed red pepper if desired. Place yogurt in a bowl. When sauce is heated, add a small amount to the yogurt and stir well (this will temper the yogurt and keep it from curdling). Then add yogurt mixture to the rest of the marinara (off the heat) and stir well.

Drain pasta. Add sauce to pasta. Place in serving dishes and tear some fresh basil over the top. Grate Parmesan cheese over as well. Enjoy!

xo Steph

Healthy Fried Rice Recipe

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Fried rice is a great way to use up any leftover veggies you have rolling around in your crisper. This version is made with brown rice, so it’s good and good for you.

Healthy Fried Rice Recipe

-2 cups cooked brown rice
-1/2 cup chopped carrot
-1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
-1/2 cup chopped asparagus
-1 cup chopped onion
-1 egg
-1 tablespoon soy sauce
-1 tablespoon vegetable oil

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I used the microwaveable brown rice shown above as a short cut. In a few minutes you have perfectly cooked brown rice! So much easier than waiting 40 minutes for it to be ready.

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add chopped veggies and sauté until almost tender. Season with salt as desired.

Create a well in the center of your vegetables. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and soy sauce. Add egg mixture to pan in the well you created. Cook the egg until opaque/scrambled. Add the rice, stir everything together and heat through.

Yum!

xo Steph