Uniquely~Me

A Lifestylye Blog


Calling all dairy-free lovers of this mediterranean novelty! The gyro, one of my favorite mediterranean treats, is one of the best pairs for this sauce and yet, due to my dairy-free lifestyle, I've been avoiding including it in my orders. The refreshing flavors of the tart, mint, dill and crisp crunch of the cucumber in this sauce make it hard to not notice when it is not there. I had enough of going without and decided to give it a go at trying my own dairy-free version. There are many recipes out there nowadays for a vegan, dairy-free alternative and I combined a couple different ideas to create this perfectly delicious hack to still enjoying tzatziki.

Some recipes call for silken tofu and varying types of non-dairy yogurt. I decided I would go with the So Delicious brand of unsweetened plain coconut yogurt. I was aiming to maintain as much creaminess as possible and coconut based products tend to give me the best texture when it comes to creaminess. See below for more details and the recipe!

Recipe: 
1 chopped English cucumber 
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
fresh squeezed juice from 1/2  of a lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (optional)
3 cloves chopped fresh garlic
1 teaspoon salt (we use himalayan pink salt)
4 cups unsweetened coconut yogurt (or unsweetened non-dairy yogurt of choice)

Preparation: 
Chop cucumber in to small chunks about the size of a kernel of corn or to your desired size preference. Set aside in another bowl and let chopped cucumber drain for 20-30 minutes to prevent excess liquid from pooling in final tzatziki sauce. In medium sized mixing bowl fold in drained cucumber, garlic, dill, lemon juice, white wine vinegar and salt. Take notice on the ingredients list that your yogurt is truly unsweetened. I found a lot of hidden sugars in the form of concentrated white grape juice and evaporated cane sugar in other "plain" yogurts and didn't notice until after I got home from the grocery store.  Unsweetened yogurt is the best version for this recipe in my opinion taste-wise as the sweetness of other yogurt styles tends to throw off the flavors in the sauce. There is cushion to adjust the lemon juice and white wine vinegar proportions depending on how tart or not you like your tzatziki. Allow sauce to sit in fridge for up to an hour to allow flavors to blend and further develop. Serve with your favorite wrap or pita chips and hummus and Enjoy!

Bon Appetit!








The inner athlete in me has been through a journey of many seasons of fitness and relationship building with my own body. Some may already know the background if you've read my transformation story. With each turn of season from high school champion scholar athlete to shifting out of organized sports in college to becoming a working professional and now a working mama, my body has been through many shapes, mental capacities and fitness regimens based on the capabilities each stage of life provided. Some have been extreme (single, college student running marathons obsessed with body image) to slow and steady (pregnant with all day sickness and no energy, barely able to walk some days- still obsessed with body image). As the seasons of life turn, we grow and we adapt and we get to step into another phase that will challenge the core of who we really are. We get to decide if what we say we believe is truly what we believe. 

As much as we know at an intellectual level that we are more than what our bodies look like, it is an ever-pressing challenge that requires intentional discipline and regular mindfulness to actually live that out and believe that we are truly more than what our bodies look like. 

#guardyourselftalk



There will be times in our life when our idea of what our body "should" look like will not align with the reality of what it actually looks like. I've consciously been on this journey to self love since high school. Puberty, as many others can relate to, hits and our eyes are open to a whole new world of feelings, emotions, self-awareness, hormones, etc. I've been that awkward overweight, can-barely-walk-I'm-so-out-of-shape young girl. But pregnancy. Pregnancy. The changes I experienced during pregnancy turned my world Up. Side. Down. There's something about having a baby that just rocks your world and confronts you face to face and gets you to question who you really are, how confident you are about yourself and what you're going to do about it.

On a very practical level, where do we begin when searching for that inner strength to push us into self-confidence that goes beyond the exterior and binds so that our mind and spirit are in alignment with loving our body for what it is, where it is and for what it can do?



1) Body Positivity Step #1- Our bodies are powerful. The way they look sure can mean a lot; we're primitive beings, let's be honest about that. But they are powerful for what they can do! They help us walk, they house our bones and organs, they're incredibly smart, they keep our heart beating, they keep us alive and breathing by pumping in oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide. They digest our food and turn it into fuel. They create beautiful art, compose and perform soulful music and our brains solve complex problems and build amazing things. They spread compassion, love and happiness through a hug, a smile or a thoughtful gesture. My body grew and gave birth to a child! Theses are things I need to declare and remind myself daily. Multiple times a day on some days

2)  Body Positivity Step #2- Knowing that our bodies are powerful, find something you are proud of your body for doing. For me, I experienced devastating knee injuries that have pretty much retired me from the running community. I was honestly depressed about it for quite some time. I didn't know what to do with myself. This running injury actually highlighted some disordered eating and exercise patterns that I was exhibiting and allowed me to deal with them upfront: In the kitchen. Late at night- 2am. Bingeing on my roommate's chocolate birthday cake. In that season I learned that my body deserved better than the crazy binge eat, running cycles I was putting it through and I learned to be proud of my body for what it could still do even though long distance running was no longer an option. I learned to appreciate a slower pace. Really a more reasonable, sustainable and enjoyable way of approaching exercise. I learned how to craft an exercise regimen out of roadbiking and trying new strength training exercises. Our bodies thrive on new challenges. I experienced confidence building in defying the barriers of my knee injury.

As a mother, my biggest pride and joy and sense of accomplishment comes from the amazing baby it grew and continues to feed to this day. I am proud of how strong my body is. My first day back at the gym was sobering. I could barely do one single push-up. Looking back, I am amazed at how adaptable the body is. My confidence comes from my appreciation of what my body does for me. Today. That comes first. The results come after which leads into the next step.

3) Body Positivity Step #3- Respect your body. Talk nicely to it when you look at it. Love it. Appreciate every roll, dimple and blemish. Treat it like you would your best friend. Our bodies need to be treated well. We only get one. They need and deserve quality fuel and our muscles, our heart and our mind deserve and thrive when they are subjected to healthy movement and activity. However, I have lived through the differences between respecting my body after achieving a certain weight goal or look versus respecting my body for what it is today. Results from the former don't last long. Results from the latter last a lifetime; because, then what I do for and with my body becomes a way of life. Regardless of where I am in life, I don't stop, I just adapt. My exercise is more enjoyable. I look forward to it. I find my strength and confidence in the journey. I am not punishing myself. It becomes a treat to participate in a workout. When I am waiting to respect my body after I achieve my weight/body goals, my motivation is wavering and not on solid ground.

In the day and age of instagram models, photo-editing apps so easily at our disposal and the comparison it all insinuates, it's unreal how cruel we can be to ourselves without even knowing it most of the time. It becomes a mindless thought pattern. And it subconsciously affects the way we view and judge others too. I'm learning to be nicer to myself in every stage my health, my life and my body goes through. I want to be the nicest person I've ever met. Will you join me in kindness, pride, and respect for ourselves and the amazing power that lies within our body?





Photo and Video Credit: Zach Boyd (my husband)
Film Editing: me!
Film Location: Ethos Strength and Performance- Sacramento, CA


Today is National Coffee Day and a great opportunity for everyone who loves coffee to celebrate, drink up and share their favorite ways to enjoy this popular beverage that transcends across almost every culture around the world!

I've been dairy-free for over a year now and this really challenged my go-to coffee drinking pleasures and recipe. There are many different styles to drinking coffee from cappuccino to espresso, americano, macchiato, mocha and latte. All have varying levels of water to espresso to milk or milk foam ratios. Out of these six different styles for drinking coffee, the latte has been favorite method. The warm creaminess mixed with the rich espresso flavors is so very satisfying to me in the morning as I get a jump on my day.

My milk preference of choice has been flax milk. I used to be a heavy soy milk drinker as I appreciated the protein content. But my personal and professional health convictions have been keeping an eye on the research coming out and I need some more data for me to feel less uneasy about the long-term repercussions of consuming soy. I've experimented with many different types of milks and my satisfaction has wavered on the texture, sweetness (too much or too little), protein content, and chalkiness (too much graininess or too watery). But flax milk has been the best one out there for me so far. Being non-dairy, I have had to get very creative with filling the gap in my protein intake- especially being a weight-lifter. The Good Karma flax milk brand I enjoy has a whopping 8g of plant protein per 8oz serving. It is creamy, not too chalky and perfectly smooth. I opt for the unsweetened version as I like to control how much sugar I add to my drink and foods.




My morning method:
1) Heat up milk in saucepan on light heat until warm (about 5 minutes- stir often)
2) Portion coffee grounds ~approx 1/4 cup into aero press (I use decaf- my body is too sensitive to caffeine. Jitters, restless sleep, anxiety, etc)
3) Boil water (The trick here to avoid overly bitter and burnt coffee is to bring water temperature down after boiling by re-adding some warm/cool water. The water should be hot to touch but not scalding. Or you could buy a thermometer and measure to 195-205 degrees fahrenheit for accuracy)
4) Add hot water to coffee grounds in aero press (The aero press has been my favorite tool for creating espresso coffee. It makes compact little shots of espresso for me, takes up very little space and is so easy to clean)
5) Transfer espresso shot from aero press to saucepan containing warm milk
6) Add 1/2 tbsp of maple syrup and 1/2 tbsp of hazelnut flavored organic cane sugar (If I must use some sweetener, pure organic maple syrup is a nice option that mixes well with coffee and a little goes a long ways)

and Enjoy!!







*Health Tip*
Coffee by nature is quite acidic- especially depending on how it is processed. Some people may experience upset stomachs or indigestion among other symptoms due to over-consumption of coffee and the compounds it contains. A solution for this lies in a fairly new and popular option on the shelves of many stores now called cold brew. Cold brew coffee is known to present with lesser acidity and can also be a refreshing cooler option for enjoying coffee at any time of the day. Cold brew can also be made at home by steeping and soaking coffee grounds in cooler water overnight and enjoying the next day.

Another consideration for improving the acidity issue in our coffee is to incorporate and add some dried cardamom pods into our coffee. Cardamom contains compounds that naturally help neutralize the acidic nature of coffee which in return helps improve the way our body digests and responds to the beverage. This is an age old custom and is widely practiced in many Indian cultures. Starting off with 1-2 pods and building up as taste becomes acquired is a good start. Cardamom has a naturally sweet yet spicy flare to it- very warming and soothing to consume.




Plantain!
Being Nigerian, this delicious snack brings back a lot of memories from when I was a child growing up at home. While commonly fried in a lot of households, I have enjoyed a different variation of baking my plantain. By baking, it's a bit healthier with less unnecessary fats added. What makes plantain healthy? It is a great source of natural sugar, potassium and magnesium which work really well together in the body. Both are needed for cellular metabolism and cellular message transmission along with muscle function and bone health. Very important especially for the fitness enthusiasts and a great way to replenish glycogen stores after a workout.

My method for baking my plantain is quite simple: I lightly coat in a high-temp stable oil like avocado oil and sprinkle with a little himalayan pink salt. Bake for 20-30 min at 375 degrees fahrenheit until golden brown. Some pieces may require being flipped or turned over. The coating of oil helps give a nice crispness on the outside while keeping the inside soft and chewy. The saltiness complements the subtle natural sweetness found in plantain. The best state of ripeness for cooking plantain is when the plantain skin/peel is yellow with black spots- almost fully brown/black. This may seem overripe when thinking about its cousin, the banana, but it is actually quite perfect when cooking with plantain. You will likely find this fruit in bright green state at the store so it may take a few days for it to fully ripen and reach cooking readiness. When underripe, the plantain will be bitter and very hard to chew. See more pictures below for before and after!

Bon Apetit!






Note the color of the plantain skin/peel for perfect baking sweetness and texture

Brown on the outside skin/peel, but still perfect color and firmness on the inside of fruit














Stretchhhhhy! That's all I have to say about this dress. Okay, there's more: I am enjoying accepting that I need a little stretch in my wardrobe. Embracing this gives so much flexibility to those like me who are looking to feel confident and love their body today, but are also working toward some health and body goals for the future. This dress that I am wearing is actually a maternity dress. But because it has such great functionality, this Old Navy jersey dress can be worn in any season, any change my body will experience now or in the future. It is slightly fitted so after I popped out baby, it adjusted back down with me. Postpartum mamas may also appreciate tops and necklines that are easy to pull down for nursing. This dress accomplishes that for me which is why it is such a clutch basic in my wardrobe. Breastfeeding has been an around the clock job and it is so important to me to have nice clothing items in my closet that I can grab, go, feel good in and not have to think twice about whether it's going to work if I am feeling bloated, engorged, tired, or just want to lay low and run some errands. If I want, I can cover it up with an open cardigan sweater- which I did a lot after delivering my daughter and learning how to be comfortable with the mommy tummy that I gained.

Buuuut, a basic like this can also be dressed up with a leather or jean jacket, a trench coat, a sweater scarf and some nice sandals or heels (this tall mama sticks with flats most of the time) and still give a fantastic look for days when we are feeling like doing more and taking some risks with our fashion expression. Solid block colors are also easier in some ways to reuse and rotate into endless combinations for other outfit ideas from our closet; hence, why I am loving this black dress even more. Basics. Make them work for you!

For those of us going through changes in our body, are on a budget and are looking to keep life minimal all at the same time, basics like this can take your self-confidence from 0 to 100! It takes a little intentional thought and planning when shopping and committing to our wardrobe. I have been learning to love my body in every stage it goes through and sometimes having something as simple as a well-fitting and comfortable "go-to" outfit changes the way I feel. It helps when things are not feeling too tight and out of place. Embrace the lyrca, spandex, elastic, etc.! Many clothing lines are getting really inclusive and fashionable with their styles having these types of fabrics woven in.

What do you do to help you feel comfortable and fashionable in the now when your body is going through changes?

If you missed Part 1:)














Photo Credit: Zachary Boyd- my husband

Outfit Items:
Dress- Old Navy- maternity
Sweater Cardigan- H&M
Shoes- Nordstrom Rack
Sunglasses- Aldos

Healthy. Easy. Delicious. That is exactly what this bowl is. This meal prep recipe is inspired by Love and Olive Oil's buddha bowl creation. My husband introduced and made many of these bowls for me this time last year when I was struggling to keep my head above the water working outside of the home at a nonprofit. Working while breastfeeding and pumping around the clock, raising an infant, lots of meetings all over town, community organizing, late nights grant writing and maintaining my relationships with the other people I love in my life really challenged and wore me down. Something as simple as having healthy food options that were affordable and grab-and-go style were so clutch for me.

Once the ingredients are prepped, they are easy to distribute to individual containers and stored in the fridge for a few days. I am actually enjoying one of my bowls right now as I write. This meal prep bowl is so well-rounded with protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs. The flavor is amazing and refreshing. One of the special ingredients used in this recipe is black rice which is a fun unique varietal that provides additional Vitamin E to help with immune support in addition to skin and eye health. See Dr. Axe's article for more information on the benefits of black rice. More details and recipe are below!



Vinaigrette Ingredients


Recipe

Bowl- Makes about 4 bowls
2 cups chopped Dino Kale
1 cup frozen, shelled edamame 
12 ounces baked, chopped and cubed chicken breast (or protein of your choice)
1 English cucumber sliced into half moon crescents
1-2 avocados pitted and sliced
1 cup black forbidden rice
1 tbsp sesame seeds

Sesame- Sriracha Vinaigrette 
2 tbsp rice vinegar
4 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp sriracha (or more to taste)
1/4 cup avocado oil (or oil of your choice)


Preparation: Bring 1 and 1/2 cups of water to a boil and add black rice. Let cook for about 20 minutes until soft yet still firm. Cook edamame according to package instructions. While rice is cooking, mix all vinaigrette ingredients together well. The vinaigrette is the real source of flavor in this recipe. No extra salt is needed outside of what the vinaigrette provides.
       Some may prefer to massage the kale with oil or rice vinegar to tenderize it and make it easier to chew. I think Dino kale is quite nice and palatable as is and so I prefer not to do this; but it is an option and a nice idea. Portion cooked rice, kale, cooked edamame, cubed chicken, cucumbers and sliced avocado into individual bowls. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top for a nice aesthetic. Pour 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette atop of bowl when ready to eat and Enjoy!




Bon Apetit!








Yesterday my husband and I celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary and I am sure we can both agree that these past few months have brought so much healing. Our first wedding anniversary didn't go down quite as well and actually ended in a huge fight- the type that leaves you feeling just so defeated. This time last year we were both under major, major stress. Having Chaya so soon after getting married really impacted our bond and life was moving at what felt like a million miles an hour. I was working outside of the home as an 80% FTE and my husband was at home with Chaya. We both carried our own frustrations about that and I was so tired, sleep-deprived, overwhelmed, and felt like I was a chicken running around with its head cut off most of the time. With a baby, a lot of dreams, plans, ideas, and priorities that you think you've got together get flipped upside down, dropped, or enhanced depending on how you look at it. Our first two years of marriage have been a whirlwind. We've experienced so much growth and a lot of that has been attributed to some of the habits I share below.


1) Asking: Can I Afford It? 
And I'm not just talking about finances here. I am talking about the stress, the negativity, and the responses and reactions we give to situations that upset us. Too many times I have responded with a reaction that has cost me a high price. Sometimes that price is a breakdown in the connection with my husband, a restless night of sleep, getting sick from being under so much stress, accidents and mistakes from being distracted by anger, anxiety, etc. I have been reading this really great book on Emotional Agility by Susan David and the point here is not to suppress our feelings and emotions but rather to respond externally or internally with a response that matches our value system; and to think of the cost vs the benefit that that response will give not only to the people in our lives, but also to ourselves and our own mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. I value connection, health, and peace. So I have been working really hard this past year to respond to situations that will be in alignment with those values. I fail many times, but I keep working at it. And just the commitment to being better in this area is already a response I am giving to a situation (poor emotional reactions) that aligns with my life's value system. I've decided that negativity is simply not in my budget anymore. I can't afford it.

2) Forgiveness 2.0 
Forgive, forgive, forgive. Forgiveness in marriage seems to take on a whole different level of strength and commitment. There are so many opportunities to be offended when you share your life so closely with someone. I've learned that being the first to say I'm sorry will always bless and benefit me just as much as it blesses and honors my husband. Maybe even more. I am not weak and my identity is not impacted when I apologize and forgive. When I am holding on to some resentment and blame, it never feels good to win. Instead there usually is this build-up of voltage that gets stronger and stronger until it feels like I'm going to blow. The act of forgiveness and apologizing first for any wrongdoings I may have contributed to the situation has really helped bring a tense moment from 100 all the way back down to 0 in a split second. It releases that voltage. It is disarming. And I need to do it more often.

3) Investing in Quality Time
Going beyond the date nights and planning extended periods of time together has been so important for us. This has been especially important with our little Chaya being in the mix. It can be so easy to overlook time together when distracted with caring for and raising her. Having fun trips planned ahead has helped give us some relief and something to look forward to when we're burned out and life is feeling a little busy. We don't always get the fancy hotels. We will AirBnb it or stay with a friend out of town. We're only just now getting better at doing this. 

4) Praying and Dreaming Together
There is something about dreaming together that connects us with our partners and puts a unified vision and mission on our purpose being married to one another. We've been seeing the beautiful and powerful destiny placed on what we get to accomplish together using both of our strengths, gifts and talents. We were brought together for a reason! And praying together regularly about that puts this excitement and hope in our lives and drives our thoughts and actions toward one another. Having a baby has really turned our world upside down and we are learning so much about each other in our new roles as parents.

5) Pursuing Learning and Growing Together
I highly encourage anyone and everyone to invest in regular therapy! And it doesn't always have to be when a problem comes up. We enjoy going when things are going well too. Zach and I can't always afford the therapy fees so we have had to get creative. We explore reading books together and most recently have gotten so much out of a weekly marriage class at a local church in the area. Many churches offer similar venues and it is such a great place to meet other couples, receive encouragement and know that we are not the only ones who have gone through certain situations that can feel isolating or discouraging. Many times, we learn just as much if not more simply by being around other couples who we admire and look up. Reaching out to other families and our community has enriched our lives beyond the cost and fees for therapy.

Tahoe Northstar Village on our Marriage Retreat

6) Being Each Other's Biggest Cheerleaders
Things have changed so much for me after getting married and having Chaya. Learning myself again as a woman and now a mother and wife has been a whirlwind. Being okay with that change and bringing my husband into the mix to support me as I step into my old and newfound strengths has been so healing in my postpartum journey. As a matter of fact, Zach has been my biggest cheerleader in encouraging me to get back to writing and sharing on here again. And I had to learn to do the same for Zach. We have pretty different jobs and it took me some time to accept and honor my husband for the work he does which is heavy in the sales department. For a while, there was a lot of pressure I put on Zach and it did not help at all. All it did was break down our connection and safety with one another. We both do so much better in our work when we root each other on- honoring each other for our hard work and faithfulness to our craft rather than micromanaging each others' success. And this is a big deal for entrepreneurs and those that are self-employed.

7) Celebrating (not just tolerating) Our Differences!
Many times those differences we once loved when we first started dating now drive us crazy in marriage. At a class we once attended, they shared the theory that the differences we see in a prospective spouse attract us because it complements weaknesses in our own person. And that over time we are subconsciously irritated by those differences because we are frustrated with ourselves for not being better in that particular area of their strength. Now that's pretty deep and not all differences are desirable or that deep. But it's something to reflect on. I'm sure many of us do not desire to be messy, OCD, forgetful, uptight, etc. But I have learned to celebrate Zach for all the ways he is different from me and it really changes the way I think about him, show him love, and hence react and respond to him. 
Tahoe Northstar Village on our Marriage Retreat

8) Prioritizing My Own Self-Care and Personal Development
This is probably the most important habit out of all the others. When I stopped expecting my husband to be the source of my happiness, I became happier and my joy was more deeply rooted. It kinda sounds counter-intuitive, but it is not up to my husband to be the ultimate source of my happiness. For me, self-care means making sure I spend meaningful time with God, getting enough sleep, hygiene, eating well, and spending time developing my interests/passions. When I am filled up in my own personal self-care, I can fully enjoy my husband to much deeper places of love and passion. Of course I share with him my needs in which I need his help fulfilling, but it comes from a much healthier place rather than a place of deficiency. 


Marriage has been a crazy ride! But it's also been the best journey and adventure I get to share being with the love of my life. I'm so thankful for this new year of marriage and that it keeps getting better and better








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