Chew On That

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There is a joke in my family that my grandpa was such a slow eater he would even chew his milk. We all giggle at the mental image, but turns out he might have been doing something right.

The fact is, we live in a culture that glorifies “busy”. We are always in a hurry, rushing from one thing to the next, and food has become an afterthought. Something we have to scarf down between meetings or errands. I admit, I’m number one offender in the eat-at-my-desk department. Despite my lunchtime habits, for the most part I’m a huge proponent of the mindful meal.

We should all be taking time to appreciate and enjoy the food in front of us. Turn off the TV, enjoy the company, savor the flavors, give thanks (heck, take a picture!). And chew.

That’s actually the point of this post — the chewing bit. All of the other mindful meal aspects I mentioned are equally important, but do you have any idea what an impact thoroughly chewing your food can have on your health?

We’re not going to get too serious and scientific about this, but numerous studies have shown the benefits of chewing thoroughly and eating slowly are incredible. Check it out:

  • Better digestion. Nutrients are more fully absorbed by your body–larger bits of food just slide right through your system without being much help because they can’t be fully broken down. Also, digestion begins in the mouth with your saliva and this cool stuff called amylase. Let it work its magic, people!
  • Improved feeling of fullness. Your body actually has time to tell you that you’ve had enough before you shove more down your pie hole (mmm, pie).
  • Decreased snacking. You know, because you’re full.
  • ^^Those things mean fewer calories consumed. In case that wasn’t clear.
  • Strong teeth & jaw, plaque buildup prevention. I mean, you buy your puppy all those cool chew toys that keep their teeth sparkling, right? Chew your way to pearly whites.
  • Less bloat. Eating quickly introduces air to your digestive system. No thanks!
  • Food is yummier when you actually taste it!
  • Mindful meals give you time to de-stress. Ahhhh, namaste.

We all know our body has a natural process of telling us when we’re hungry and when we’re full. The hormones that tell you what’s up need time to react, which we don’t give them while scarfing down french fries in a quick afternoon break. Twenty minutes is the rule of thumb. If you’re done eating a full meal in less than 20 minutes then you need to slow it down. Not only is that not enough time for your body to give you the signal, but it means you probably aren’t chewing thoroughly.

I realize that sometimes during the work day you may not have a full 20 minutes to enjoy a meal. I get that, I really do. (My desk is crumb central, I get it.) But let’s start somewhere — the meals you have at home should be slow and savored. If eating slowly is hard for you, try putting your fork down between bites or counting how many times you chew a bite. I learned about the benefits of slow eating a few years ago and I remember sitting at the table chewing for what felt like years. Now I’m just a ridiculously slow eater all the time. I’m always the last one to finish eating when out with friends and I always need a doggy bag! Frickin’ always, man!

 

Also, my wellness story and weekly meal plans.

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Manie

Bryce planned a special dinner at home for us on Friday. I don’t know why, I guess he’s just romantical like that. It was so nice and very delicious — he made homemade pizza (dough from scratch!) with swiss chard, caramelized onions, and ricotta. And we drank wine called Fat Bastard which made us giggle. I felt quite spoiled. Admittedly, I was a bit of a brat about it because I was hangry and pizza dough takes a long time to make and rise and rise again and again so on and so forth. I ate some bagel chips…that helped.

Saturday was my mom’s birthday and I know she’s my mother because she wanted to get brunch and go shopping at Whole Foods. Awesome! We shared monkey bread at Cafe Centraal, drank mimosas (bier mosa for me), and enjoyed green torpedo omelets. Bryce ate a black bean burger. Good times were had by all before we braved a Saturday afternoon at Whole Foods. Whew it was busy!

That night we went out for dinner (at Honeypie) and drinks (at Blackbird Bar) with our good friends and had so much fun we woke up with (slight) hangovers. You’re probably reading this, Rebecca, so I’ll say we really had a blast. I missed you guys!

I signed up for a couple of exciting things I want to share! Indulgence Chocolatiers has a group of new pairing classes coming up — we’ll be attending a wine & chocolate pairing class to celebrate Valentine’s Day. I’m really excited about it and they have several other great sounding classes that you should probably check out right here. I also signed up for Blue Apron. Our 1st delivery for 3 meals arrives on 2/4 and I can’t wait to try it out and tell you what I think. Looks like we’ll be receiving the ingredients and recipes for Shiro Miso Soba Noodles with Poached Eggs, Yu Choy & Turnips, Roasted Cauliflower Steaks with Einkorn & Crispy Sage, and Butternut Squash & Kale Minestrone with Horseradish Gremolata & Parmesan Toast. Whoa! Doesn’t that sound amazing?

And finally, I think you should know, Beatrix received a lot of snuggles this weekend. You’re totally shocked, right?

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My Airbnb Experience

I decided to do a more in-depth write up about our experience staying in two different Airbnb rental condos. I have very mixed feelings about whether or not I want to use Airbnb in the future because while it’s so wonderful to have your own space (with kitchen & laundry) and to save money, our experience wasn’t exactly what I expected it to be.

I know other people who have used Airbnb since our stay last year and have had wonderful experiences with great hosts. Every single Airbnb stay will be different, of course, since it’s just regular people renting to other people! Our stay in Seattle was vastly different from our stay in Portland, but both have given me pause when considering if Airbnb is an option for our next vacation.

Seattle Loft

We rented a loft in downtown Seattle for 5 nights. The condo was clean and as pictured in the listing. I don’t believe the host actually lives in Seattle so there were directions provided for how to get into the loft, finding the key and where to park, etc. I wouldn’t say the directions were confusing, but they definitely didn’t feel welcoming. We were directed not to enter through the building’s lobby or talk to staff at the building, only enter through the separate door of the condo plus other directions that made us feel as though we were sneaking around. Rental laws get really blurry with Airbnb so I figured this was just part of the way it has to work, but considering the way we were greeted at our Portland rental I now know that’s just not the case. I realize this isn’t possible for everyone, but if you are regularly renting out your home, either you or someone you know/hire should be there. Not only did we feel completely unwelcome, but we weren’t allowed into the condo until hours after we were supposed to be because the cleaning person hadn’t cleaned it yet. We ended up driving around Seattle for hours after just hopping off a plane. We were exhausted and irritated right from the get-go.

Like I mentioned, the condo was nice, but we soon discovered a mildewed shower curtain and disgusting, peeling couch. Frankly, we weren’t happy about these things, but really didn’t think they were a big deal. We were on our honeymoon, who cares! It only became a big deal once we were home and I wrote my review of our stay. In my mind I was very kind in my review and talked mostly about what a wonderful location it was and how much we enjoyed our stay. I briefly mentioned the uncomfortable directions, dirty shower curtain, and worn out couch because that’s what you’re supposed to do in a review, right? Talk about what you liked and didn’t like? (Apparently not in Airbnb world.) Overall, I rated our stay very high, but I soon discovered that Airbnb works in such a way that makes the renter afraid to write anything negative in their reviews. I was completely shocked when not only did the host bash me about my “negative” review on his own page, but left me a bad review on my page since the host doesn’t review the renter until AFTER the renter has reviewed their stay.

He briefly mentioned in his review that we left the place as we found it and we were clean, but then accused me of writing out my problems on the internet instead of talking to him while we were staying there so he could fix them. Um, exactly how was he planning to replace his couch from another state while we were staying there for our honeymoon? And how was he going to make his directions more welcoming after we were already there? The only thing I learned he could have done was to tell us where a spare shower curtain was so we could replace it ourselves. Ugh, come on. Didn’t we have to wait hours to get in there because your cleaning person was taking their precious time? Don’t you pay them to replace your nasty shower curtain? (Actually we paid them with our cleaning fee.)

This whole “host reviews the renter after the renter reviews the host” thing scared me out of writing what I really wanted to for our Portland stay…

Portland Loft

Our hosts for the Portland condo were really lovely. They greeted us in person with a bottle of wine to celebrate our honeymoon, gave us a grand tour of their building and even wrote out tons of restaurant recommendations. They were awesome. The condo was SUPER cool and filled top to bottom with gorgeous antique pieces. I’ve actually copied some of their design aesthetic in our home.

My only problem? The place was nasty dirty. Fur and dirt and dust coated everything including the bar soap left in shower with hairs stuck to it. Ewwwwww. We attempted to do a little cleaning just so I wasn’t sneezing my butt off the whole time and we changed the sheets to the cleanest set we could find in the closet, but seriously ew. This is another thing that bothered me, but wouldn’t have been a huge deal if we hadn’t paid a $75 cleaning fee! Yeesh, they should be paying us a cleaning fee.

So when it was time for me to review our Portland stay I had already experienced the true Airbnb and it opened my eyes as to why ALL of the reviews for every place are SOOOO good. I was afraid to get another negative review back (which impacts whether or not other hosts rent to me in the future) and ended up writing a super nice review of the place only briefly mentioning it was a little dusty.

 

It’s worth noting that both of these stays were one year ago so it’s possible that Airbnb reviewing rules have changed, but if not, watch out for big ol’ meanies in Seattle. And don’t expect all of a place’s reviews to be truthful. I’m sure other renters are scared to write the full truth just like I now am.

It’s sad that such a little thing like hosts being allowed to see your review before they review their renter can ruin such an awesome thing like Airbnb. I might be sticking to hotels in the future where I can complain about mildewed shower curtains and hairy bar soap without fear.

Weekly Meal Plans

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Almost every Sunday I put together our weekly dinner plan, write up a grocery list, and head to the store. I put together 5 or 6 dinners to get us through the week. I always want most of the meals to be quick to make so my weeknights aren’t spent just cooking, eating, and cleaning up from dinner. I’m sure you know the feeling.

I’m pretty casual about planning breakfast and lunch. My grocery list is perfectly organized until you get to the bottom where it says “lunch stuff” “snacks, maybe” and “drinks”. I usually go with what looks good for those items, but we mostly eat dinner leftovers for lunch. Lately we’ve been keeping eggs in the house and Bryce will whip up some egg salad. I also make sure to keep granola, fruit, and plain yogurt around. Drinks usually consist of an unsweetened iced tea, mineral water, orange juice, and beer (haha). Oh, and salad staples are always on my list — mixed greens, cucumber, tomato, onion.

I thought I’d share some of my weekly meals with you. I know that sometimes the hardest part of cooking at home is thinking of what to make day after day.

Week 1:

1. Fiesta Supper
Cooking this meal consists of heating up healthy bean chili and throwing some toppings on it. So fast, easy, and Whole Foods chili is pretty darn good. I like serving it with pasta, potatoes, or tortilla chips.

2. Sweet Corn Risotto
It’s not a good time of year for fresh corn so I used frozen, but it was still delicious. I also used red onion instead of white which changed the flavor just a bit!

3. Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup
Not the healthiest meal, but with a fresh loaf of bread, good cheese, and a pre-made organic soup, this is really fast and comforting.

4. Enchiladas & Mexican Street Salad
This is my go-to enchilada recipe, but it’s best if you add some extra veggies to the filling like corn and black beans. To speed it up, I often use Frontera’s green chile enchilada sauce instead of making my own. The mexican street salad is really refreshing when paired with creamy enchiladas.

5. Vegetable Fried Rice
My vegetables are always really disproportionate to my rice when I make this because I love adding extras like tons of broccoli and cabbage. This is also a fast recipe to make if you have pre-made or frozen rice. Trader Joe’s has a fantastic 3-pack of frozen organic jasmine rice that is perfect for it.

6. Traditional Polenta with Quick Tomato Sauce
Save the extra sauce for pasta later.

Week 2:

1. Veggie Burgers & Roasted Lemon Broccoli & Cauliflower
Bryce’s favorite is Hilary’s veggie burgers.

2. Creamy Polenta with Marinated Artichokes & Poached Eggs

3. Garlic Vinaigrette Potatoes & Honey Butter Carrots
I don’t know why, but every time I make these potatoes I have to make steamed carrots with melted butter and honey over them.

4. Broccoli Stir Fry
Best with sriracha & green onions on top. 

5. Corn Pudding & Mustard Greens
Southern food is a favorite in our house. I make the corn pudding, Bryce makes the greens. He cooks them up with onion, chili flake, veggie broth, and smoked salt. There might be a pinch of sugar in there too. Let me know if you want Bryce to share his recipe!

Week 3:

1. Black Bean Burgers & Potato Wedges
This is still the most popular post I’ve ever written. I will forever be confused by that, but it should be a ringing endorsement for how easy and tasty the burgers are.

2. Wilted Kale & Roasted Potato Salad
Fantastic and filling — I love this salad. One time I made it with latkes in place of the roasted potatoes and it made me so happy.

3. Fresh Pasta with Quick Tomato Sauce
Use your leftover sauce or make some more from my polenta recipe. RP’s Pasta is the greatest if you can find it at a store near you.

4. French Bread Broccoli Pizza & Salad
We always have fun making these — reminds me of those frozen french bread pizzas I loved so much growing up. Nowadays, we buy a baguette and top with sauce, cheese, broccoli, and garlic. Bake it for a few minutes and serve with a salad. 

5. Avocado Tacos, Spanish Rice & Vegetarian Refried Beans
Pre-made is good sometimes. Box of rice and a can of beans. Cheap dinner!

6. Cajun Potatoes & Collard Greens
The alternative to corn pudding & mustard greens night. I make the cajun potatoes, Bryce makes the greens.