Uniquely~Me

A Lifestylye Blog


Rice: A food that has gotten a bad rep in the health food, diet world. But, if I may, I'd like to redeem this wholesome dish and turn it into something that can work for us no matter what or where our health goals fall. What's great about this "fried" rice dish is that it is versatile, can mold to fit the veggies of the season, packed with your choice of protein and can be flavored and spiced to create a delicious and satisfying meal. I learned to perfect this recipe from a dear roommate of mine when living in LA who gave me the missing ingredient that I could never pinpoint to make it resemble the rice I would crave from the restaurants. See below for more details and a sample recipe structure!




Recipe (serves 5):
 1 1/2 cups pre-cooked brown or forbidden black rice
2 cups protein of choice (I used chopped pre-cooked chicken breast)
2 cups veggies of choice (I used 1 cup chopped carrots and 1 cup snap peas)
4 cloves finely chopped fresh garlic
2 eggs
1/2 cup green onions
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon avocado oil
3 tablespoons Braggs Liquid Aminos or 1 tablespoon MSG-free soy sauce
1 tablespoon MSG-free oyster sauce (or fish sauce as an alternative)


Preparation: Begin by sautéing garlic and carrots in avocado oil for about 5 minutes until garlic is lightly browned in large pan or wok if available. Then add rice, chicken, liquid aminos and oyster sauce and mix well. Let cook and heat for another 5 minutes. Create a circle in the middle of the pan by pushing the rice contents to the sides of the pan. Crack and place two whole eggs into the middle of the circle and let cook until well done. Then scramble eggs in this small circle by whisking spatula around. Once completely scrambled, mix eggs into the surrounding rice. Lastly, I like to add snap peas at the end to prevent overcooking them and to maintain some crunch and texture. Then add sesame oil and let cook for another 2-3 minutes. Plate and serve onto your favorite dish and garnish with fresh green onions for an extra burst of flavor and refreshment to the meal. 

Bon Appetit and Enjoy! 









Being a work-from-home mom, it can be easy to overlook the need for some intentional mommy-and-me dates and outings. I mean, we already spend so much time together! But planning special outings that are outside of our usual routine add some color and variety to our time together. It also reminds me of why I chose and fought for the opportunity to work from home: to make memories, foster early learning, participate in bonding and just have more fun!

This past week we ventured to Sacramento's Crocker Art Museum. It is only a few blocks away from us living in Midtown which helped make timing our visit less overwhelming. Museums like the Crocker Art Museum may seem too advanced or irrelevant for a near 2 year old, but I was so impressed to see that there were special children's' areas with some creative activities. And aside from the children's spaces, Chaya also enjoyed walking around, mesmerized with each room and space providing many different shades of lighting and colors. A perfect recipe for a nap to come soon after!

Our main event for this visit was to attend the children's story time and tour. There was plenty of variety of walking, sensory play, reading and problem solving. A few of the questions asked were indeed too advanced for Chaya, but toddlers are such sponges and she fed off of the intellect of the older children in the group.

Overall, it was a wonderful time! Sacramento's Crocker Art Museum has made their venue so inclusive for all ages. And as a parent, I am always reminded that it can also do us adults some good enjoying being a kid again too. Some basic tips I followed which helped make our Mommy-and-Me visit to the museum just that much smoother:



1) Check calendar of events prior to visit

2) Be ready for lots of walking (bring water and snacks!)



3) Plan to visit a few hours before nap time



4) Keep an open, go-with the flow mind











With the warmer weather we've been having here in sunny Northern Cal (70 degrees!), tacos have been such a refreshingly sounding dinner option for the family vs the usual cozy winter soups.



After weeks of heavier cooking and dinner recipe experimenting, I can always rely on the quick, easy, and healthy option of tacos to give me a break and still fill my family up in a balanced way. This recipe can be made in so many different ways depending on what your family likes or what is on hand in the fridge. I aim to make sure there are components of lean proteins, healthy fats, complex carbohydrate and some fresh veggies involved (yes, I know tomatoes are technically a fruit!). On weeks where we've already had enough red meat, I like to go for a fish meat option as a nice and different change from chicken which is our most eaten meat choice. Some of the best fish options for fish tacos include tilapia, halibut or cod.

For fresh veggies, our local Co-Op grocery store had these delicious heirloom tomatoes in season and we took full advantage of using them as a beautiful highlighting topper to the tacos. For healthy fats there is a homemade guacamole (==> recipe) full of flavors of lime and garlic. Avocados are a great option for healthy fats vs the usual cheese topping. For spice, I usually just buy the pre-mixed taco seasoning and look for packets that have minimal preservatives, pesticides etc. The goal here is to be quick! So I am okay with the occasional pre-packaging for spices in this instance. We love the organic artisan corn tortillas from Mi Rancho for our complex carbs. Next comes some sliced red onions, a sprinkle of chopped jalapeños and a spritz of fresh lime juice for a flavor bursting mouthful with each bite.

On the side, for additional fiber and protein, I like to mix some refried beans and brown rice for a nice take on the traditional casamiento dish. I add some himalayan pink salt and fresh garlic for additional flavor. This rice and bean dish is a great, easy to chew option for getting more nutrient-dense calories in my toddler daughter who can be quite the picky eater at times.

So this is a very basic show of some thought processes involved when meal prepping and whipping up dinner on the go! Lean protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs centered around some fresh veggies. Tweak it, make it just as is- you've got options to keep things flavorful and fun in the kitchen with (hopefully) minimal effort. See below for more pictures!















College graduation, marriage, new jobs, moving to new cities, pregnancy and childbirth. A list of my major life changes that have really challenged my drive, motivation and ability to establish healthy fitness routines for myself. As organized as I desire to be, I've learned that my personality struggles with establishing routine schedules and structure for myself. I'm not sure if this is because I lived by structure all my life for 18 years of schooling and higher education and just burned myself out. Or if it is because of my highly-sensitive personality that gets easily stimulated and overwhelmed when I feel trapped by rigid rules and schedules without cushion and room for flexibility. So over time I've learned how to gently push myself because ultimately, it does take some planning and scheduling and goal setting in order to be confident in how I feel about my life and what I'm doing to take care of myself well. Below are some steps I've embraced to help get me going- without guilt, pressure or setting myself up for burning out.



1) Starting with Kindness and Body Positive Affirmations- When I start a new goal out of negativity toward myself, my drive is built on my feelings which sometimes lie to me and go up and down depending on the day or time of month. But when I remind myself how strong and competent and deserving I am, my drive is built on a commitment to doing what's best for me and surpasses my feelings which can change by the hour. 
2) Setting Short Term (next 2-3 months) and Long Term Goals- My goals have really taught me patience. It helps me temper my expectations and gives me something to work toward. My process for my fitness goals went a little something like this: This time next year I would like to be able to do 5 pull-ups. In order to do this, I need to work on x,y,z muscle groups 3 times per week.... Keep it S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound). 

3) Establishing My "Why"This includes why I set the goals I set. I have had to make sure my "why" aligns with my goals. Sometimes I'll find that my "why" and my "goals" are going in two different directions and this means I need to sit down an re-evaluate what I'm doing. It also includes writing down why the goals are important to me, what happened before my big life change vs what is different now and how my "why" will fit in to this new place of life that I'm in now, etc.


Okay- now some more action oriented steps. 



4) Choosing My Gear- This includes workout clothes and a good pair of cross-training shoes. I have about 4-5 sets of simple workout clothes that are comfortable, well-fitting, conducive to movement and easy to put on, store and clean. Some may prefer to focus on style, which is okay and can help you feel good! Just make sure you are not sacrificing style for injury risk if your shoes are not properly supportive. And also for us ladies, if our bra is not well fitted, good posture and form can be sacrificed!


5) Choosing the Most Optimal Time of Day-  Although I prefer exercising in the mornings, when I was in school, after class later in the day worked best for me because certain required classes were only offered in the morning. When I started my first job out of grad school, my clock-in time was 8AM! This challenged me to my core and I had to be in bed by 9:30pm/10pm to be up by 5am to get a decent workout. Most of the time I was not successful in this. Now that I am not staying up late writing papers or studying for exams, being able to exercise in the mornings relies mainly on my discipline with getting myself and my daughter to sleep. It also includes picking the number of days per week that are most realistic. For me, it's four days per week. And that is okay! I don't need to be at the gym every day to be healthy. I've learned that optimal doesn’t always mean easiest, but the best time that will set you up for success. And with a realistic number of days comes some flexibility to move things around if some thing comes up and throws off our day.


6) Choosing the Type of Exercise- I've had to predetermine what exercise activities I am most interested in engaging in. The types of activities I choose need to be aligned with goals determined in Step 2. Depending on goals in Step 2, activities can vary from walking (if just starting off after surgery or having a baby, or needing mental relaxation, etc) to weight lifting and high intensity interval training (weight loss, fat loss, muscle gain, etc). Do you need music? I've found creating a playlist the night before to be helpful in building some excitement and giving me something to look forward to.


7) Knowing My Sleep Needs-  Do you need 7hrs of sleep or 9hrs of sleep? If I lived in a world all by myself, I feel 100% with 9 hrs of sleep. But I am a mom of a toddler and I have life and work commitments. So on a good day, I get 7 hrs per night. It's always helpful if we can arrange our sleep schedule to support our energy needs. For new moms, this can be really hard. Perhaps this step will need to look more like arranging our sleep in chunks vs expecting long stretches of sleep. And plan our activity around the bit of energy we get after a sleep chunk. It’s not the best or ideal sleep, but it’s the most optimal. And a little physical activity even on little sleep many times feels better than no activity at all on little sleep. This step for sleep may be the most important and can make or break our long-term goals.


8) Stretching and Foam Roll- I didn't realize how many places in my body were tight, imbalanced and sore until I dedicated some time to getting acquainted with my body. My hips are a major area to be exact. Foam rolling and stretching will really help us get back in touch with our bodies and feel out all our spots so that we know what areas are tight, loose, sore, still in pain, etc. and need extra attention or care.


9) Nutrition, Nutrition, Nutrition- So much can be said on this topic alone. But at the same time it really doesn’t have to be too complex. Starting out, I rein myself back in with sticking to whole foods. I ask myself how much processing and packaging the meal I am about to eat went through before I eat it. I try to aim to make sure half of every single one of my meals consists of vegetables. The rest I fill in with lean protein and complex carbs. For those looking to achieve a certain look, more focused attention is needed and an understanding of personal macronutrient (i.e. macros) needs could be very beneficial. There are many free macro calculators out on the web nowadays, or feel free to reach out to me for a free consultation if you are interested in learning more about your individualized needs. But just remember: more veggies, lean proteins and complex carbs. Plan your meals and snacks around your chosen workout time. Try to eat within 30-60 minutes before and 60-90 min after. 


10) Keeping Track- I have loved using apps like My Fitness Pal to get me started and give me a birds eye view of where I am starting out- my baseline. I had some specific muscle growth and fat loss goals, so I was particularly focused on tracking my macros (fats, carbs and protein intake). Tracking also helped me keep track of my habits, cravings, moods and hunger/fullness based on whether I got enough protein, fiber, water, etc during the day. It can be so helpful to look back and see the trends over time so we can celebrate our wins and/ or troubleshoot our challenges.



We should be so proud of ourselves and our body for the journey it has taken us on this far in life. Every step our body has led us on to today whether through addictions, child birth, stress, competitive injuries, etc has made us that much stronger. We need to thank our bodies for bringing us this far and know that everything that’s happened has perfectly primed us for this journey we’re looking to begin in pursuing even better health. 




Hola! We're back with another fun, flavor-bursting soup to keep us warm as we round out this winter season. This recipe features my nutrient-rich homemade broth base. With homemade broth, more nutrients are transferred to the pot from the bones, marrow, cartilage, etc. Rich in iron, protein, and other immune supportive nutrients, this healthy soup is a great go-to choice as we are all ducking and covering to avoid this bad flu going around.  This recipe is also budget and crockpot-friendly and goes a long ways! See below for more details and the recipe!



Recipe:

Broth:
6-7  free-range chicken drumsticks
3-4 quarts of water
1 tablespoon oregano 
1 tablespoon thyme
1 bay leaf
1 large chopped yellow onion
1 tablespoon red chili pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
himalayan pink salt to taste (about 4-5 teaspoons)

Soup Contents:
1 - 14oz can diced tomatoes in water
1 4oz can diced green chiles
1 can black or pinto beans
1 can corn
4 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
3.5 teaspoons chili powder
4 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon paprika

Toppings (optional):
chopped cilantro
avocado
nutritional yeast
shredded Mexican cheese
fresh lime juice



Preparation:
Broth- Place chicken drumsticks into large pot and add 3 quarts of water or fill pot according to amount of soup broth desired. Add chopped onions, oregano, thyme, bay leaf and 2 teaspoons of salt to start. Add more salt or increase water to taste after meat is fully cooked if staring with raw meat. Bring broth to a boil. Once broth has reached boiling point, reduce to low and let simmer for 3-4 hours. After 3-4 hours taste broth and adjust seasonings: water ratio to preferred taste. Meat should be falling off the bone at this point and very easy to hand shred once liquid has completely cooled down. This process can also be done in a crockpot set on high setting for 6-7 hours first thing in the morning if needing to leave the house. After broth is completed to desired flavor, see soup recipe below.

Soup- Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, corn, beans and diced green chiles to broth. Let these contents mix into soup. Then add chili powder, cumin and paprika

The longer the soup simmers, the better it tastes. Once soup has reached desired taste and temperature, serve into your favorite bowl and top with some fresh cilantro, a squeeze of lime juice, avocado, your favorite tortilla chips, nutritional yeast or shredded cheese and Enjoy!












Permission. To take the hard way...
I've spent weeks. Months. Searching for the words to tell this part of my story. I've written so many variations and drafts with dramatic titles like: "Christian and Pregnant Before Marriage!" And I deleted them all. I want to broaden it out a bit. Because I don't want it to be all about me. There's a bigger picture here. A bigger message to share...



This post has been the cry of my heart in re-connecting with my blog again.

It originated with the non-traditional start of my family. In my own pain, confusion, guilt and disorientation what I found most healing was giving myself permission to not feel like I have to live life according to a formula.


We all have times in our lives where we want to fly. We push the boundaries of our lives and we explore our resilience and the tides of life. Sure, we know the “rules.” We know the laws of nature. But our hearts are searching. To learn. To feel. To experience. To connect.


We all need that space to explore what the world means to us. What our faith means to us. What our values mean to us. This may mean going against the grain. Asking "why?" Trying on a different hat. It is in this space that we truly understand and grow to know ourselves. At our innermost core. We take all that we've been told and all that we've learned and have been taught and we say: Let me see.


We all have a yearning for permission to fly.


To get face-to-face with our Creator and say: "Here I am. Let me see." 
Maybe for some of us it's a: "Let me try."



This isn't about abandoning our conscience. This is about expanding our horizon beyond the confines of what they say is black and white. To shatter the box. To stand in the gray and say: Let me see.


Permission to experience independence. To break from the mold of systematic thought and learn about ourselves in the freedom that comes from thinking individually- out of our own volition.


Will we give ourselves the right to get out of our comfort zone?


I followed all the rules. I did what they told me to do. As a matter of fact, following the rules became a part of my identity. A sort of self-righteousness, honestly. I followed all the rules and hit all the milestones. But 
in living life under that process, I lost a bit of who I was. Or rather, I never had the opportunity to really find myself. In my mid-twenties, there I was floating around feeling like an internally unadjusted and unseasoned teen who had never embraced the opportunity to ask "why" and push the boundaries. On the inside I was crying out for the chance to be able to step out of my tidy world. 

So I did. I finally started to step out. My journey to self-discovery began. 


And ohhhh, what a hell of a journey it has been. It created some friction. Friction in my relationships, friction in how I saw the world and my career. I even dropped everything and traveled the world solo for 30 days. In my journey to giving myself permission, I learned some of the best lessons I've ever learned in life. Some were really hard (pregnant before my wedding) and some amazingly blissful (my daughter is amazing!). And my Creator was with me the whole way through it all. Never letting go. Showering me with grace and kindness. Kinder than I was to myself at times.  


When we feel stuck in our process, no matter how mundane it feels, the time we spend in the plateau is never a waste. When it takes what feels like forever to understand our questions, the pursuit is not all for nothing. The journey is ever moving forward. 
Sometimes it's a tug-of-war with ourselves. Being misunderstood. Sometimes it means stumbling or crawling. Doing whatever it takes to find our way to a place of meaning and peace. It's okay to ask questions! And to not know the answer right away. To be in the gray. But there is hope in remembering that we're not alone as we do. As we learn, as we ask more questions, as we run, as we fall, as we get back up again only to fall once more our Creator never leaves. 

Who do you turn to?

So in all of this, it may mean trying something the hard way, taking that risk with that idea we've been sitting on, giving that person a chance, exploring a new relationship-seeing where it takes you, leaving that job, saying yes to the job, packing up and moving...

The point is that we learn
When we give ourselves permission to fly- sometimes the hard way. And it will be okay. We will come back full circle. Stronger. Wiser. Full of more life.










It's been cloudy and rainy these past few days here in Sacramento. While soups are my usual go-to meals to cook during the winter season, it's nice to have another accompaniment just as soothing and warming, but in a different shape and form. My husband and I like to enjoy a good Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwich from the local shop every now and then. I've been interested in learning how to make some of our favorite takeout foods at home and this one was another hit!

What makes this Vietnamese Bahn Mi so warming and soothing are the fermented vegetables with ginger, chopped jalapeños, and fresh mint leaves. Ginger is a known stomach soother and warming herb boasting in many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Probiotics from the fermented vegetables further contribute to helping the gut digest and soothe itself after the meal and even throughout the day.

This sandwich is an all-new winner in our home and very easy to put together. We've also been experimenting with homemade miso soup, which we have been enjoying along with our Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwiches. See below for more details, a special garlic sriracha sauce recipe along with how to make the sandwich!









Sandwich Ingredients:
sourdough baguette 
chopped jalapeño (decision to keep seeds is optional based on preference for spice/heat)
1/4 cup farmhouse culture orange ginger carrots
1/4 cup farmhouse culture kimchi
fresh cilantro
fresh, chopped mint leaves
protein of choice (we used garlic basil seasoned chicken breast)

Garlic Sriracha Spread:
3 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons sriracha sauce
1/2 cup mayoniase (we use organic canola oil mayo)
1 tsp salt (or to taste)


Preparation: Bake chicken and slice into thin slices for size of sandwich. Cut sourdough baguette into desired sandwich length. Prepare garlic sriracha spread by combining all ingredients and mixing well.  Adjust vinegar to salt to sriracha ratios depending on taste preference. This is the beauty of home cooking! Adjusting and personalizing flavors to match your individual palate!

Next, spread desired amount of garlic sriracha sauce on bread and begin placing carrot mixture, kimchi, cilantro, mint leaves and jalapeños. Lastly, add meat or protein of choice and the sandwich is good to go! Eat alone or pair with a nice side soup and Enjoy!

Bon Appetit!




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