Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Do you ever have a day where you feel like biting into a chocolate chip cookie warm from the oven would dissolve your stress and make you feel waaaaay better about life? Today I had that day. This week was a long one – full of exams and general school/life stress. It’s the final push to the end of my first semester in grad school, and I needed to whip up something good to help me to keep powering through. After not being a student for six years, you quickly forget what it’s like. 😉

Being in the kitchen is my number two favorite way to relax (clocking in right behind going for a long trail run), and I find baking to be especially soothing. These chocolate chip cookies are sooo delicious – they would fool your Grandma into thinking you made them from the Tollhouse recipe. Not only are they completely dairy and egg free, but they don’t have anything weird in them – so they are easy to whip up with ingredients on hand. I hope you enjoy this vegan treat as much as I did. 🙂

L’s Delicious AF Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup vegan butter (I use Earth Balance)
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 c semisweet chocolate chips (or the whole 12 oz bag, whatev)
1 cup chopped pecans, if you feel like it

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 or 3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat (if you don’t have either of those, no worries – they work fine on regular ass baking sheets).
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Using a kitchen mixer or hand mixer, beat butter, brown sugar, sugar, water, and vanilla until fluffy. Slowly beat in the flour mixture in portions. Once the flour mixture is incorporated, add chocolate chips and pecans.
  4. Scoop about 1 rounded tablespoon of dough at a time onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each scoop. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the edges are golden. Let cool on the pan and serve.

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I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

With warmth,

L

Simple

It’s past 11 pm. According to my calculations, I should be deep into REM sleep by now. All of my things are ready: my gym bag is packed, my breakfast and lunch are sitting side by side in the humming darkness of my refrigerator. My teeth are brushed. But here I am. Wide awake.

Sometimes things don’t go the way we want them to. I could fill this white page with the clichés: you make plans and the universe laughs at them. Or something like that. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt a true aching need to tap tap tap on my keyboard, illuminated by the glare of my computer screen in my dark bedroom and let the words flow out of my fingertips. A loooong time. I’ll tell you something: I used to write a lot. When I couldn’t sleep, I would sit propped up in bed, a spiral notebook and a ballpoint pen, writing until I finally fell asleep, hoping that I didn’t wake up with ink stains on my bed sheets. When the words built up behind my tongue and buzzed up and down my nerves trying to tumble out, I would commit them to paper. When it seemed nothing made sense, or my mind wouldn’t quiet itself, with unspoken phrases pressing on my temples, I had to liberate my thoughts and manifest them somewhere physical. Spew them out. So let’s do this.

While I was walking to retrieve my laptop out of my impeccably packed work bag, I was thinking of what to write to all of you. Part of me wanted to apologize for not creating new recipes frequently enough. Or providing my detailed workouts on a weekly basis to inspire your own workout/activity. Instead I want to climb right outside of the box and share a (non-vegan, non-active) slice of my real life: change.

Let’s recap. At the end of 2015, I quit my job, left my life behind in Boston, moved to a new state and started graduate school. The first and most immediate adjustment was not being in a real job anymore. No one here cares if you wear a t-shirt that last came out of your dresser in 2006, or roll into class without showering after taking an 8 am spin class. It is so unnatural to not be Ms. Bostonian Senior Scientist anymore – my hands were constantly fiddling, looking for some work to do. The first few days I was here I felt like I was playing hooky from work and would eventually get caught, my manager calling me into his office. Just typing it out – that I’m a student – continues to be so weird and so foreign to me. I still consider myself a working professional, and have to fight the ingrained need to dress in business casual in order to attend Dairy Foods Processing Lab just to learn how to make yogurt. The second, and much deeper adjustment was the quiet. No, I’m not just talking about the fact that I packed up all my sh*t and moved to the woods (I did, in fact). I’m talking about the time available to reflect. My days were always full in Boston, a constant, reassuring cycle – I had my friends, my job, my home – that I took great pleasure in. Leaving all of that was a jolt, a break in a comfortable routine, making room for something new to arise in its place. Here there is time, quiet, and space to reflect on where I am heading and the present that I am creating for myself. My main man Alan Watts really says it best. It has been ages since I’ve read any of his work, until I came across this quote:

The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everyone rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves. 

Raises hand* Guilty as charged. For the past two and a half months, I was running around in a panic feeling the need to do, I forgot to just let go and immerse myself in the change. Sometimes we forget that. All of the things swirling around us – over analyzing, over thinking each and every one of them – cloud what is really in front of us (it’s simply us). We are only a tiny speck in the universe. We forget to embrace it, to go out and simply enjoy this beautiful experience.

Life is not so serious. If there is any way to do it right, it is simply to live life joyfully, and not worry so much about the other stuff. Create a present that you love.

 

With booyah zen warmth,

L

Getting Back to the Grind

Hey guys and dolls! I’ve recently had a reader request for my best tips for getting back into working out/eating healthy mode while still working 40+ hours a week. You’re in luck, as I’ve turned that into an art form over here at B&B. 😉 We all have had our moments of falling off the Booyah wagon, but what you may not realize is that it’s really not difficult to hop right back on (I swear). Here’s how to get right back into it:

  1. Realize that you don’t have to be perfect. Make your workout/eating healthy goals achievable, and gradually work up to bigger and tougher. Start out by setting a weekly goal that you can totally crush, such as “work out three days a week” instead of “wake up at 5 am and work out before work every day this week.” Being realistic with your goals when you’re trying to get back into it helps motivate you and gives you something to strive for. Writing them down helps, too! You can track your progress and reflect on what you’ve accomplished each week. Once you feel comfortable and start crushing those weekly milestones, reassess your goals in order to keep pushing the limits. It’s okay to start off slow – if you set the bar too high straight out of the gate, it’s tempting to get down on yourself when you can’t achieve goals that are simply unrealistic. Be nice to yourself, and acknowledge it will take time to get there – and that is totally ok. 🙂
  2. Meal prep the shiz out of your weekend and week nights. IMG_2693.JPGIt’s easy to disregard this as unimportant, but eating well goes hand in hand with exercise. I’ve definitely found a correlation between eating healthy and being motivated to work out regularly. I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but I prepare my lunch and breakfast for the next day every single night during the week. It takes less than 15 minutes and is one of the single most important ways to follow through with your healthy eating goals. Not only will it save you money and time from having to buy your lunch, but you will have something healthy and delicious to eat that will power you through your day. It is definitely worth the one hour per week to thoughtfully plan out all of your meals, make a grocery list, and get your rear to the grocery store to get everything you need to make your awesome meal plan come to fruition. I usually cook up an extensive and epically delicious feast on Sunday nights, so the leftovers can sustain me for several nights that week. With a little planning ahead, I can choose something quick, easy and uncomplicated to whip up if and when I run out of leftovers. When it comes to eating well, preparation and planning is the name of the game. And it’s seriously the easiest thing you can do to get your head in the game at the start of each week.
  3. Choose something you like to do for a workout and grab a workout buddy. photo 1.JPGIf you hate running, don’t choose to run as your workout. Pick something that you look forward to, or an activity that excites you. This should be a no brainer – life is too short to suffer through something you absolutely hate, when there are plenty of fun options to choose from. If you’re dying to shake your booty while listening to some Pitbull, hit up a Zumba class. If you had a less than stellar day and you want to kick the sh*t out of something, find a solid kickboxing class. Better yet, recruit a gym buddy to go with you to workout – you are so much more likely to stick with it. It may be tempting to skip your workout if it’s just you, but you’re not going to bail on your friend! Using the buddy system for your workouts is a huge motivating factor – you can cheer each other on and help each other stick to it.
  4. Plan your workouts. Like, literally put them in your calendar. Only you know the best times for you to get workout in, so pick what is reasonable and works for your schedule. Physically writing them down in your calendar and allotting a block of time for you to exercise is a concrete and productive way to commit to your workout. Now that I am a grad student, my days can be pretty long. I may not always have control over what time I get home at night, but I do have control over what time I wake up in the morning, so scheduling a first-thing-in-the-morning workout helps me sidestep the “shoot, it’s 10 pm and I didn’t get a workout in yet!” moment. Some days I even break up my exercise into two 20-25 minute sweat sessions. The possibilities are endless: you do what works for you.
  5. All the healthy snacks plus a water bottle. tritan-all_2.jpgOne of the best things I’ve ever done to help me stay on track with my healthy eating goals was to bring a reusable water bottle to work and keep it at my desk. If you’ve just eaten a solid meal and you think you’re still hungry mid-morning or mid-afternoon, try taking a good long drink of water first. Your body (that devil!) can trick you into thinking that you are hungry if you are simply dehydrated. Once I started setting goals for the amount of water to consume per day, I found that I was snacking out of boredom less, and generally felt more alert and awake (bonus: it makes you get up and walk around more, because you will literally have to pee 20 times a day when you’re well hydrated). Then there are those days when you might just be really, really hungry.  It happens! I avoid becoming Hangry L and eating all the food within reach by pre-portioning healthy snacks – trail mix, popcorn, fruits and veggies, you know the drill – and stocking them in a drawer at my desk for when the hungry horrors hit. It’s much easier to just say no to the candy jar when there are healthy and delicious snacks on hand.
  6. Make it easy. FullSizeRender_1.jpgIf it’s easy (no matter what “it” is), you are so much more likely to do it. I’ve already touted the benefits of meal planning, drinking lots of water and stocking healthy snacks, which are super easy ways for you to make solid healthy eating choices. I’ve suggested grabbing your gym buddy and finding a way to sweat that doesn’t make you want to dramatically avoid exercise at all costs – the easiest way to stay accountable and motivated for your workouts. Now, be honest with yourself, take a good look at your exercise/eating habits and attempt to eliminate any other hurdles that may deter you from accomplishing your goals. Everyone is different, so I may not be able to pinpoint yours, but I can share some that have helped me:
    • Pack your gym bag the night before
    • Lay out your gym outfit for the next day
    • Bring a snack to get you through the 3 pm hangry zone if you’re planning to exercise after work
    • Stock extra headphones, hair elastics, water bottles, socks, whatever in your car or work bag so there are no excuses to bail on a workout
    • Plan out what you’re going to do before you get to the gym, so you’re not wandering aimlessly
    • Make a new playlist
    • Come up with a motivating mantra to help you kick your workout in the teeth

Basically, make it difficult to come up with an excuse to skip your workout. Additionally, remove temptation that prevents you from sticking with your healthy eating goals (like getting rid of junk food that you have difficulty eating in reasonable portions – I know that I can and will eat an entire Family Size bag of tortilla chips in one sitting, so I chose to not keep those snacks on hand). If you make the choice to work out and eat well simple and attainable, it becomes a no-brainer to stick to the plan.

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7. Get enough sleep. So important, but also very difficult with how crazy our schedules can be. If you don’t get enough sleep to get you through your day, it’s going to be tough to work out on top of that. Prioritize your sleep.

8. Be your own best friend. No beating yourself up, and treat yourself like you would treat your best friend. Changes take time, and if you approach them with a positive attitude, you’re more likely to get through the rough patches and stick with it. You can do this!

I hope that these tips have helped you get pumped up and motivated about getting right back on the Booyah Wagon. Sometimes it may seem insurmountable to get back into the workout/healthy eating routine, but I promise these are tried and true methods that I incorporate into my daily life to help me stick to my active lifestyle. Break it down day by day, and you will get there. I’m human; there are days that I can’t seem to get it together – we all have them – but planning ahead and focusing on your goal will help you get right back into it. And remember: it’s never too late to start. Best of luck, I know you’ll crush it. 😀

With warmth,

L

Rest Day = Best Day

Happy Friday all! I am totally ready to enter hermit mode this evening, with yoga pants, a glass of vino and House of Cards on my TV. So pumped. It has been a long week, and I am glad to have made it to Friday intact. The stars have aligned, and this Friday is perfectly in sync with my “I need to be horizontal!” rest day. Yoga stretching video(es) on YouTube, here I come! 🙂 Now for why you really stopped by B&B today, here are some great things that I’ve been loving this week:

  1. Tituss has his own Pino Noir. YUSSSS.

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I am cry-laughing at this, because I thought his “Peeno Noir” video episode on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was perfection. He is so talented, so funny and I love him. I need to find this! The end.

2. As mentioned above, House of Cards Season 4 is out!

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If you need a re-cap like me, there is a great one in the New York Times today. I can’t wait to see what happens!  As you can see, I hate Netflix. 😉

3. I need this hydration backpack.

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This is the updated, for femmes only hydration pack designed by Ultimate Direction. I. Need. This. Sadly for me, it doesn’t really mesh with my grad student budget, so….yeah. I’ll be getting this is a few years/seasons when it goes on sale. It has collapsable water bottles in the front pockets (no sloshing!), better/roomier pockets, enough space to fit a 50 or 70 oz hydration pack in the back and is made to fit women properly. Amaze!

4. Chloe’s Kitchen

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This cookbook has lived up to its hype. I made a version of her Tempeh Piccata this week, and it was phenomenal – great flavor, texture, filling and satisfying! So yummy. I can’t wait to make some of her desserts this week – she rose to fame after winning Cupcake Wars with a vegan cupcake recipe (and it’s included in this cookbook!). All of the cookbooks I have gotten recently are wonderful and so inspiring. I’ll be posting my version of her recipe this week or weekend, so you can see what it looks like when B&B makes it. 😉 Vive Vegan Cooking!

Well that’s all I’ve got for today – my mind is on comfy pants, Netflix and total relaxation. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! This next week is “Spring Break” (yes, in quotes – grad students don’t really get a spring break, as we are expected to be here doing our work) and it will be a nice week off from classes.  The weather is supposed to be a little warmer and more spring-like where I live, and the break from sharing gym equipment with the undergrads is also a bonus! 😉

What do you guys have planned for this weekend? Anything fun? I’ll be doing all the normal stuff with some bonus rest and relaxation. 🙂

Hope you all have a weekend full of Booyah!

With warmth,

L

Things that I discovered this week…

Well hello, everyone! Happy Sunday! Normally I would tell you all about the things I was loving this week in my Friday Faves, but I was pretty over life by the end of the week and was due for a serious hermit day and as well as a night of solo Netflix & chill (and wine). So, instead of hearing about all the things I’ve been feeling at the end of the week on Friday, you get to start your week off with them instead! Here we go:

Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon

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You all know that I’ve officially retired my Boston Snob status and have been loving my boxed wine since I’ve started at grad school (great for the wallet and when you’ve had a bad day, there is always an open “bottle” of wine at the end of it). If you missed my last Friday Faves when I was touting the amazing/mystical flavors of Naked Grape boxed wine, you can check that out here. I can’t take credit for this choice, as my sister and brother-in-law were the ones that directed me to this selection but it’s too good to keep to myself. Now, let’s review. One box = four bottles of wine. It costs $24.99. It lasts for four weeks. Hi, why would you not partake in this situation? It is on the lighter side of things as far as Cabs go, incorporating Syrah and Zinfandel to keep things interesting, and has hints of blackberries and chocolate. This guy is my favorite side kick for my solo Netflix and Chill.

The Squat Rack

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I finally built up some courage this week to wade through the bros at my university and hit up the rack to get my squats, deads, rows and all of the fun barbell exercises in. I’ve missed this! There is nothing like the feeling of good, solid, “I walk up the stairs funny because I just did deadlifts” kind of soreness. If you’re looking for inspiration/wanna get REALLY bro-y with me, you can check out this Bodybuilding.com article on how to get a full body workout using only a barbell here. Also, I am just starting out and I can already squat and deadlift my own body weight! HOLLA!

Sweet Earth Foods Benevolent Bacon

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I just tried Benevolent Bacon for the first time this morning and it was SO GOOD. I love a good faux breakfast meat for brunch on the weekends, as it’s a great way to get a whole bunch of protein right out of the gate. One of my favorite standbys is Lightlife Tempeh Bacon, but this week I decided to mix it up and try something new. This “bacon” is seitan-based, crisps up nicely when you fry it and holds its shape (no floppy faux bacon here!). The hickory and sage flavor is delicious and only two slices have 10 grams of protein and 90 calories, so you can totally crush it and eat a bunch! YAS!

The Homemade Vegan Pantry: The Art of Making Your Own Staples by Miyoko Schninner 

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Um, Miyoko is officially my vegan heroine. I’ve been looking for a good vegan baking cookbook to get some ideas for a birthday cake (two of my friend’s birthdays are coming up on the same day in March and I’d love to bake them a delicious cake from scratch, but haven’t had much luck in the past) and I stumbled across this gem of a cookbook. It got outstanding reviews (and you all know how discerning the Amazon crowd is – a pack of haters, really) and so I ordered it on a whim. When it finally arrived (the longest two days of my life), I sat down on the couch to flip through it and basically read the entire thing from cover to cover. Miyoko tells you how to make just about everything – tofu, soy milk, the best vegan burgers ever, condiments, baking mixes, literally ANYTHING you can think of – from scratch. She. Is. Amazing. She has her own vegan cooking show on PBS, and used to own a vegan restaurant in California for several years, so you know she is legit. I cannot wait to go full hippie mode and start making everything from scratch – so stoked. Not only do I think everyone needs this cookbook, vegan or not, but they should hand this out to you once you decided to go fully vegan – it’s that good.

I hope you all had an amazing week this week! I’m going to fully enjoy this beautiful day today by going on my first hike in my new home base! So stoked. I hope you all enjoy your Sunday.

With warmth,

L

Just Another Manic Monday…

Hi All!

Well, I made it through my first week of exams in grad school and came out on the other side to tell the tale. I am extra proud of myself because I didn’t let all that studying derail my workouts, which meant a lot of early mornings to get my day started off on a sweaty note. I’ve really been having fun doing Amanda Bisk’s Fresh Body Fit Mind 20 minute workout circuits, and have been incorporating those with some of my own. It makes getting up at 5 am easier to know that you can just crank out a pre-arranged workout that will be O-V-E-R in 20 minutes – it makes the whole situation a lot more doable. Ta DA!

In other news, get ready for return of the recipes. I will be making and reviewing Oh She Glows Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas recipe this week. So far, so good – I made her recipe for the enchilada sauce from scratch recipe last night and literally licked the spoon clean because it was that good. I have high hopes for this recipe. My gym boo R and her bf (both meat eaters) lovedddd them, and said they were even better as leftovers. So there’s my food project for this week. Get excited to hear how that all goes down! 😀

I thought I’d share my Wicked Intense track workout, since my legs feel like lead bricks going up and down stairs today. It was inspired by some of my favorite body weight exercises, incorporating things I’ve done in small group training with Sarah that I just kind of threw together into my own workout. The distances are estimates based on my scientific observation of the indoor track at my school, so change them to suit your needs/fitness level and give it a go. Also, I really like listening to David Guetta’s One Love album while I do this, the continuous mix just goes from one song to the other without pausing, it gives my workout good flow and it’s good running music. Just a thought.

L’s Wicked Intense Track Workout

Warm-up: Jog around the track for 5 to 10 minutes, or until your legs feel warmed up.

Dynamic Exercises: Do some front leg swings, walking hip openers, high knees or whatever you feel like to get your legs ready to rumble.

Round One

Sprint: 6 – 8 x 100m with walking or slow jogging in between (I sprint down the long straight edge of the track that’s about 100 m, and walk or jog once I get to the curved section. Here’s where listening to your body comes into play: I usually repeat this without a true rest until I basically want to die, which means doing this 6 to 10 sprints in a row. You do you!)

Rest 60 – 90 seconds

Body Weight Exercises: Walking lunges and side squats

Rest 60 seconds 

Round Two

Sprints: 6 – 8 x 100m sprints (Listen to your body)

Rest 60 seconds

Body Weight Exercises: Long jumps and frog jumps

Rest 60 seconds

Round Three

Sprints: 6 x 100m sprints

Rest 60 seconds

Body Weight Exercises: Walking lunges and side squats

Cool Down: Walk or slowly jog around the track for 5 minutes

Stretch

I added a short upper body workout after: holding a plank for as I long as I could, bear crawls (which made me dizzy and I promptly stopped) and then a bicep curl/tricep dip/push-up sequence of 12 reps each repeated three times. After all of that, I literally thought I might die, so I went home and make a Purple Power Smoothie and took the best shower of my life.

I hope you all have a great week this week!

With warmth,

L

 

 

Resilience

Happy Monday, all! This week will be a true test of mental stamina. I am facing my first two exams of graduate school, and seeing that I haven’t taken an exam in about 6.5 years, I have just a teeny bit of testing anxiety. In addition, I finally feel that I have fallen into a consistent routine crushing my workouts, and I don’t want to lose my forward momentum. I’ve already passed the first test: despite muscle soreness from yesterday’s kettlebell workout, and simply not wanting to get out of bed because I was so warm and comfortable (and it was 14 degrees outside and snowing), I did indeed throw my covers off at 5:30 am when my alarm went off (it definitely helps to know that all of your Boston area friends are awake getting ready to get their ass kicked by Sarah). Score one for Team L.

Some other weekend highlights: 

  1. Saturday’s Wicked Intense Track Workout. I ran 100 m sprint repeats until I lost count and my legs were crying. In between sprints, I mixed in walking lunges, side squats, frog jumps and long jumps to really go for it with the leg workout. I will get faster and conquer the hills that have magically appeared upon moving (which did not exist in Boston – Boston hills are a joke compared to here) if it kills me, dammit. IMG_5385
  2. Sunday Super Kettlebell workout. I did a cardio circuit for 30 minutes, and then crushed a kettlebell workout with some of my favorite moves: goblet squats, one arm kettlebell swings, shoulder press, bent over rows.  I got kettle bells on sale at Dick’s! They are the one piece of equipment the campus gym is missing, and I couldn’t resist. If you’re a kettlebell lover like me, there are some great ideas here: The 6 Best Kettlebell Exercises You Need to Do. FullSizeRender
  3. Simple AF Sunday Night Dinner. After spending the afternoon studying, I was super hungry (mildly hangry) when I got home. I roasted all of the things last night, and while I was waiting for them to brown to perfection, I incorporated a quickie core workout with plank variations (walk out plank, opposite arm lifts, hip dips side to side).

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Simple AF Sunday Night Dinner

Ingredients

  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 bag of Brussel sprouts from Trader Joe’s, quartered
  • 1 cup of tricolor quinoa
  • 1 cup of dried sprouted lentils
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 2 small lemons, juiced
  • 2 Tbsp liquid aminos
  • 2 cloves of fresh garlic

Directions

1. Toss the diced sweet potatoes in olive oil and spread evenly on a baking sheet. Place the quartered Brussel sprouts on a separate baking sheet and toss with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Roast both at 400°F for 25 minutes, or until lightly browned and crispy edges.

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2. Prepare quinoa and sprouted lentils according to package directions.

3. While your quinoa, lentils and veggies are cooking, combine the tahini, lemon juice, liquid aminos and garlic in a food processor. Blend until smooth, and set aside.

4. Once your quinoa and lentils are finished cooking, combine into a large bowl. Toss with tahini-lemon dressing.

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5. Serve the quinoa-lentil mixture alongside the roasted veggies – voila! Perfect, easy meal. You can add some extra protein by adding frozen edamame, tofu or tempeh to your lentils – I had just downed a protein shake while I was waiting for my stuff to cook, so I didn’t need any extra prots.

Today’s mantra is resilience: overcoming challenges despite stress, life, everything else going on in your head. A significant part of being physically active/being alive is the mental toughness – you have to be able to put mind over matter and not quit when everything in your head is yelling for you stop what you’re doing. Resilience and consistency: the two attributes that make an athlete, which also happen to be my focus this week.

I hope you all have a week full of booyah! Happy Monday!

With warmth,

L