Monthly Archives: January 2014

Do you suffer from OCCS?

Do you suffer from Overactive Cerebral Cortex Syndrome, also known as OCCS?

Individuals with OCCS report symptoms including but not limited to: relentless rumination of regretful experiences, waking phantasms of future fortuities, diurnal episodes of spiritual somnambulism, a dogmatic belief that the eloquent raconteur within dictates one’s external existence, and, last but not least, deathbed discoveries that the entirety of life was driven by unexamined assumptions, a dense fog that dulled even the most vibrant sensual experiences.

If you have experienced any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor about Panacea®, an elixir that has been proven highly effective to treat OCCS. Long term studies of patients who have taken Panacea® report an improved sense of well being, highly successful careers, unparalleled sexual stamina, perfectly symmetrical facial features, an immunity to most modern diseases, a sizable bank account, a comfortable social status, and a guaranteed spot in a white and bright afterlife.

Side effects included nausea, headaches, dizziness, diarrhea, sensitivity to light or sound, increased appetite, decreased appetite, liver disease, kidney disease, heart disease, throat cancer, brain cancer, lymphoma, cancer of the soul, impotence, burning or tingling urination, room-clearing flatulence, unexpected growth of extra nipples, anxiety, paranoia, drooling, and shortness of breath. Talk to your doctor if any of these side effects are persistent or severe.

Tell your doctor if you have a history of cultivating mindfulness, practicing meditation, or living in the present moment, as interactions with Panacea® can be life-threatening or fatal.

Everyday Makeup Look with Neutrals

Products Used:

FACE –

  • Foundation: Makeup Forever High Definition Foundation in N110
  • Concealer: MAC Pro Longwear Concealer in NC15
  • Highlight: Smashbox Soft Lights in Shimmer
  • Contour: Dior Bronze in Amber Matte
  • Blush: Nars Blush in Luster

EYES –

  • Base: MAC Pro Longwear Concealer in NC15
  • Crease: MAC Soft Brown and Swiss Chocolate
  • Lid: MAC All That Glitters
  • Under Brow and Inner Corner Highlight: MAC Shroom
  • Gel Liner: Maybelline Eye Studio in Blackest Black
  • Pencil Liner: NYX SPE906 (White)
  • Mascara: DiorShow Waterproof and L’Oreal Paris Voluminous Lashes in Carbon Black (Waterproof)
  • Brows: Anastasia Brow Wiz in Ash Blonde

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One of my eyebrows always raises in pictures…No idea why

LIPS –

  • Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Fiend
  • NYC Lipstick in 320 (Mahogany)

HAIR –

  • Aveda Air Control Hairspray
  • Got2B POWDER’ful Volumizing Styling Powder
  • To style, I simply slept with it in a bun while it was damp.

 

Fried Chicken and Waffles

A true Southern classic: crispy fried chicken served atop fresh buttermilk waffles, drizzled with homemade honey mustard and syrup. Sweet and savory is one of my favorite flavor combinations, and this dish hits the nail on the head. My fried chicken is adapted from one of my favorite Emeril recipes; you can find the original here. I also used a traditional waffle recipe from AllRecipes, which you can find here. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup of bread crumbs
  • 2 Tbs. garlic powder
  • 1 Tbs. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. red pepper
  • 1 tsp. rosemary
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce
  • 1 quart vegetable oil

Whisk together buttermilk and hot sauce. Submerge chicken in the mixture, cover with plastic wrap, and marinate in fridge for 1-4 hours.

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After it marinates for a few hours, mix together flour, bread crumbs, herbs, and spices.

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Remove the thighs from the buttermilk mixture and place in a large plastic bag. Add flour mixture to the bag. Seal the bag tight and shake it up until chicken is thoroughly coated.

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Remove thighs and place on a wire rack. Let sit for 15 minutes. While it rests, heat up vegetable oil over medium-high heat.

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Flick some water droplets into the oil. Once they start to bubble, the oil is hot enough. Place half of the chicken in the oil, and cook until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes, or until juices run clear.

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Drain on paper towels.

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Use any waffle recipe of your choice, or my favorite, this one:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/3 melted butter
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl until evenly combined. Whisk buttermilk and butter together in a separate bowl; add eggs. Stir buttermilk mixture into flour mixture until just combined and batter is slightly lumpy; add vanilla extract. Preheat a waffle iron according to manufacturer’s instructions. Pour enough batter into the preheated waffle iron to reach 1/2 inch from the edge. Cook according to manufacturer’s instructions.

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I made a few adjustments to this recipe: I added 1 tsp. of salt instead of 1/2 tsp. Also, I added the buttermilk to the flour mixture first, stirred it up, then slowly stirred in the butter, and then whisked in the eggs. It’s also best if the eggs are room temperature. I found that pouring the hot butter directly into the buttermilk made it curdle, and of course, if you pour cold eggs into hot liquid, it will scramble.

To make the honey mustard, simply combine equal parts Dijon mustard with honey.

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To assemble, place four waffles on a plate, top with fried chicken, and drizzle with honey mustard and syrup. Yummm!

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Fried Cod Tacos

Here in San Diego, fish tacos are a rite of passage. You can’t truly call yourself a San Diegan until you celebrate a Taco Tuesday with wahoo tacos (or yellowtail, shark, mahi mahi… and so on) and margaritas. I prefer mine fried instead of grilled. It’s also traditional to top it with cabbage slaw. So, here’s a slightly lighter recipe for panko-crusted, pan fried cod tacos. I topped it with a cabbage slaw and sour cream. Feel free to add salsa or pica de gallo. Pour up the margarita (or, in my case, Crabbie’s Ginger Beer), and dig in.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cod filets
  • Corn tortillas
  • Sour cream
  • Half a head of green cabbage, chopped
  • Half a red bell pepper, diced
  • Half a yellow onion, diced
  • 2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2-3 eggs, beaten
  • 2-3 Tbs. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 vegetable oil
  • 1-2 limes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

First, prepare the cabbage slaw. Chop up the cabbage, red pepper, and onions. Add vinegar, mayonnaise, and salt and pepper, to taste. Stir and let marinate in the fridge.

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Prepare your fish. Cut cod filets into strips (like the size of small fish sticks). In a shallow dish, mix 1 cup flour, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper. In another dish, whisk 2 eggs with some salt. Finally, in a third dish, mix together panko, the remaining flour, 2 tablespoons garlic powder, paprika, 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. It’s important to season every layer. Dredge fish pieces in flour, then dip in eggs, then toss in the panko mixture. Let sit in the panko mixture for a couple of minutes.

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Set large saucepan over medium-high heat, and drizzle with vegetable oil. Gingerly place the first batch of fish into the oil (I made three batches).

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Cook on each side for 2-3 minutes, until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

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If you have a gas stovetop, I toast my tortillas over the open flame. Otherwise, you can lightly fry them in a pan with vegetable oil. Top the tortillas with fish, cabbage slaw, sour cream (and salsa or pica de gallo, if you please), and finish it off with the juice of a lime.

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Mmmmm mmmm good! Happy Taco Tuesday!

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

I’ve decided to expand this blog beyond just recipes and fashion… Don’t get me wrong, I love to cook, I love to bake, I love makeup, and I love clothes… But in my personal life, I have been going through myriad challenges, and I thought that perhaps it would be mutually beneficial if I showed my followers a more vulnerable side of myself. I want to be able to connect with you all, so I am going to open up about my personal struggles in hopes that any of you out there, in the far-reaching corners of the internet, who deal with similar struggles, may not feel so alone.

I have struggled with overwhelming anxiety for as long as I can remember. I have let it hold me back from doing so many things that I wanted to do. Worry and stress have been a constant in my life. But up until recently, I had only occasionally experienced what I now know is diagnosed as a panic attack. Since moving cross country, though, I have been suffering from full blown panic disorder with agoraphobia.

Some of you may have experienced this, whether you knew what it was or not. (The NIMH estimates that over 6 million Americans suffer from panic disorder.) For me, I develop tunnel vision. My heart starts pounding out of my chest. I start to feel faint, I break out in a cold sweat, my stomach churns, my breath becomes short, and all my thoughts become focused on how I can escape whatever situation I am in, in that moment. Perhaps the worst one I experienced was my first day on a new job soon after I moved here. It hit me hard; it felt like I was dying. I told my supervisor I had to leave, that I just wasn’t ready to take this step. At the time, it was humiliating. In retrospect, I’m almost glad I didn’t make it through the day. It felt like rock bottom, and that was the motivation I needed to get help.

For months, I was scared to leave my house, save to go to the grocery store from time to time. Before we embarked on a weekend trip to Las Vegas, I started gagging. It took every ounce of will power within myself to not turn back around and go home.

I realized that I was wasting my life away. Someone close to me recommended Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT (pronounced like the verb – this is important). I researched psychologists in my area who specialized in this form of therapy, and made an appointment with one who seemed good. My first session with her, I knew she was the perfect fit for me. We shared a similar background (and a similar love of Harry Potter), and she was incredibly warm and compassionate. This was, admittedly, a relief. I have had some sour experiences with therapists. I saw a psychiatrist in Baton Rouge, who, after I gave him my family history, he laughed dryly and said, “Well, you’re fucked.” I saw another woman who judged me harshly within the first 10 minutes. As such, it was a welcome experience to find such a friendly and impartial ear. She diagnosed me with panic disorder with agoraphobia, and she wondered if I had something she called “neophobia” – a fear of new things. I thought this was pretty spot on.

We began by reading Russ Harris’ “The Happiness Trap,” over a period of several months, a book which I vehemently recommend to anyone and everyone. This book, along with the skills I have learned in ACT, have dramatically changed my life.

Harris starts by arguing that our general definition of happiness is fleeting and unattainable. When we define happiness as just positive, joyous feelings, we are doomed to remain in a constant game of cat and mouse. However, what if we were to redefine happiness? What if happiness is the more sustainable sense of fulfillment that comes by acting on what we value? This is a process that is not always pleasant or comfortable…for instance, if you value being healthy, working out at 5 a.m. will not always be a pleasurable experience. But the rewards that come as a result of living in accordance with this value are far more indelible.

We, as a society, are constantly searching for a quick fix to what we perceive as our problems. We do everything in our power to avoid uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, emotions, and urges. We take a pill for everything, we distract ourselves with reality television, we eat our feelings, we abuse substances, we we are workaholics, we sleep our days away – all this to avoid feeling bad. But these avoidance measures merely beget more painful and uncomfortable feelings. ACT teaches that instead of running from these feelings, we should embrace them – anxiety and depression are completely NORMAL emotions in the vast spectrum of human experiences. In this day and age, it is more abnormal NOT to ever struggle with such things. To experience these uncomfortable feelings is to be fully human.

There are several important tenants to ACT that Russ Harris describes in his book. The first of these is defusion: you must understand the fact that your thoughts, feelings, and urges are just that – thoughts, feelings, and urges. They do not have to define reality. If you think in your head, “I cannot stand up right now. I can’t do it. I can’t stand up,” does this thought actually prevent you from standing? Your thoughts do not have to feel threatening or scary. The metaphor he uses is a radio: your thoughts are background static and noise on the radio. We need only tune in when the thoughts are helpful.

Another important exercise Harris describes is expansion. When you feel an uncomfortable sensation or urge in your body, focus on where you feel it physically. What color is it? What shape is it? Spend a few minutes just observing it as it is, without judgment. Then breathe into it. Welcome it into your body. Let it exist.

Defusion and expansion operate on the idea that the more we actively struggle against uncomfortable feelings, the worse they will become. The more we try to control them, the more they control us. When we devote so much time and energy into trying not to feel bad, we take away precious moments that could be spent doing what we value. This is why ACT is pronounced like the verb, act, and not A-C-T. At every turn we have a choice. We can stop and realize we are fusing with our thoughts. We can commit to taking an action in a valued direction, instead of in a direction that is intended to avoid “negative” feelings. And then, we ACT. We move forward.

Mindfulness is incredibly important in ACT. You are encouraged to connect with your “observing self” as often as possible, as opposed to your “thinking self.” Merely observe where you are, what you are doing, and how you are feeling – without any judgment. My therapist always reminds me that whenever I get caught up in some thoughts, to ask myself: “Where are my feet?” Right here. Below me. Feet flat on the ground. This is mindfulness.

Before you can act in any way that is meaningful, of course, you must define your values. These are different for everyone, and there are no wrong values. You can value family, work, leisure time, romance, education, exercise, and so on and so forth. Determine the values that make up your ideal life. Remember that values are different from goals: values always exist, goals have a definite end (they end when you accomplish them). If you value education, one of your goals might be to get a bachelor’s degree. But your value doesn’t stop once you have graduated. Throughout your life, you can act in accordance with that value.

One exercise that helps you to decide what kind of life you truly want to live is to write your own eulogy. You can write a eulogy of what people would say about you if you died today, and then write a eulogy of how you would want to remember people you. What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?

The point of this post isn’t to judge anyone. It is completely natural to have uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, and it is just as natural to try to avoid these feelings. I certainly had (and sometimes still do have) many methods of avoiding feelings of discomfort. I took lots of naps, took various medications, procrastinated, spent countless hours watching Law and Order: SVU. But I am learning to face uncomfortable feelings head on. I am learning to take the thoughts that fly in and out of my mind with a grain of salt. I am learning to welcome unpleasant sensations into my body, instead of fighting against them. I am learning what my values are. Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional. So, I am ACTing. I am embracing life. I am moving forward.

 

What struggles and experiences have you had with anxiety, panic, depression, etc.? Please, feel free to comment or send me a private email. I am happy to answer any questions, give advice, or simply provide a listening ear.

 

Chicken Burrito Bowl

One of my favorite things to get from Chipotle is a bowl with rice and chicken. I thought, why not make it myself, with all my favorite ingredients? I used a combination of my preferred toppings (salsa, sour cream, and guac), but you can add all sorts of goodies – pica de gallo, black beans, pinto beans, salsa verde, and all sorts of meat or tofu. I made my own version of their cilantro-lime rice, and whipped up a quick corn-onion-cilantro salsa.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups rice
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1-2 limes
  • Half a bunch of cilantro
  • Half a red onion, diced
  • 1 can golden corn (or you can use frozen)
  • 2 avocados
  • Salsa
  • Sour cream
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • Salt and pepper, to taste.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season chicken with cumin, chili powder, red pepper, paprika, salt, pepper, and 1 tsp. of the garlic powder. Bake for 20-40 minutes, until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

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Meanwhile, combine the rice and chicken broth. Season with salt. Once it’s finished cooking, add a few teaspoons of chopped cilantro, as well as the juice of half a lime.

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To make the guacamole, I scoop two very ripe avocados out of their skin. Add the juice of half a lime, salt, and 1 tsp. of garlic powder. Mash with a fork until smooth.

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For the corn salsa, drain and rinse a can of corn. Add chopped red onions, a few teaspons of chopped cilantro, and the juice of half a lime. Mix well.

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Now assemble everything together! Top rice with chicken, salsa, sour cream, guac, and corn, and mix it all together. Enjoy!

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Mediterranean Pasta Salad

So sorry for my hiatus from the blog – sometimes life just gets in the way. And by life, I mean grad school applications – yeesh! All my applications are submitted (*fingers crossed*) so now it’s time to get back to the kitchen.

This recipe is a cinch to make. It’s the perfect dish to bring to a potluck or party, or you can munch on it all week long. I use a mix of fresh and marinated veggies, plus plenty of lemon juice and lots of feta. Enjoy!

 

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. bowtie pasta (or pasta of your choice)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cucumber, sliced
  • Half a red onion, sliced
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 jar sundried tomatoes, with oil
  • 1/4 cup of sliced kalamata olives
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 6 oz crumbled feta
  • Juice of 1-2 lemons 
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil

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While pasta is boiling, chop veggies. For the cucumber, I peeled the skin of in strips to maintain some of the green color. Spoon out the seeds with a spoon, then chop.

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Cut the marinated veggies into bite size pieces.

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Drain the pasta, and rinse under cold water. Mix with vegetables, and add feta, lemon juice, and olive oil. I also used some of the oil that the sundried tomatoes were marinated in. Season with oregano, salt, and pepper. Serve cold or room temperature.

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