Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Visit to Sprig!

Disclosure: All opinions below are my own. Sprig provided me with lunch in exchange for my feedback on their service. I asked and received permission from Sprig to post some fun facts about their service on my blog. All images courtesy of Sprig.

It's no secret that I am crazy about Sprig. When I first heard about it from my best friend, I immediately downloaded the app that night and ordered my first delicious meal after a long day at work. Twenty minutes later, my meal was delivered to my apartment by a smiley server who also handed me a delicious gourmet dark chocolate truffle. 

You may be asking, what is Sprig? Sprig is an app that allows you to essentially dine on demand. Right now, it serves San Francisco. But I have a good feeling they'll expand...

Each day, the simple Sprig app features three homemade lunches and three homemade dinners for you to choose from. Lunches are priced at $9 a meal and dinner is priced at $10 a meal, plus tax and delivery. Meals are clearly labeled such as "vegetarian" or "paleo-friendly" and there is always at least one veggie and one gluten-free option, which I appreciate. There are many things I love about Sprig, but what I love most is that their meals are made with real food, which is local, sustainable, and organic, and they are very fairly priced, in my opinion. I could easily drop at least $12 at the Whole Foods hot bar. But these days, I much prefer Sprig to that. 

Grilled local peaches on a bed of watercress and spinach, topped with toasted hazelnuts, prosciutto, and a smoked tomato vinaigrette - Source

Bavette steak crusted with peppercorns, grilled and served with a red wine dijon vinaigrette. Served with roasted sweet potatoes and asparagus - Source

I received an email from one of Sprig's co-founders, Morgan, asking me if I'd like to come to Sprig for lunch and provide feedback on the service. I was pretty pumped to get this email, because I obviously get excited over anything good-food related, so I happily obliged. And better yet, Morgan also kindly agreed to answer a few questions about Sprig for the blog. 

I pranced on over to Sprig's 'office' which is located in an old Chevy's restaurant in San Francisco. The office is absolutely beautiful, spacious, and features a huge commercial kitchen in which the dinner meals are made (lunch meals are made in a different location in the city). Over lunch, which was a delicious "Irie Bowl" featuring greens, rice, roasted chicken, pickled veggies with a cumin dressing, I sat with Morgan and answered his questions about Sprig, and then, he answered a few of mine!

Me: So, what exactly is your role at Sprig? 

Morgan: Good question! I am one of the co-founders and I work a lot on visual design, menu design, and the overall culinary strategy. 

Me: Since I'm studying nutrition, when is Sprig going to have nutritional information available for the meals?
Morgan: Nutritional information is on it's way soon. This means, you'll be able to review calories, fat, protein, etc... for each meal on your mobile device. 

Me: How on earth do you keep your prices so very low for the excellent quality of food? 
Morgan: Honestly, it's all about efficiency, scale, and relationships. And, we pay fare wages to our servers. Our head Chef, Nate Keller, has great relationships with local farmers. We believe in and practice responsible sourcing. This can translate into using the whole animal for the meal, rather than just certain parts.*
*(When I heard this, I liked it immediately. Who would want to eat chicken breasts every night anyways...?)

Me: What are you seeing in terms of trends of how San Franciscans like to eat?
Morgan: Our customers continue to surprise us! We'll think something will perform well, but then something else will perform even better. We have data scientists working on figuring out trends, but our customers really do continue to surprise us in terms of what they do and don't order.

Me: Has there ever been a dish that didn't sell very well at all? Which dishes sell really well?

Morgan: We did a kale and ricotta sandwich on focaccia bread. We thought it was great because it was so simple and delicious. However, it was just too simple, and didn't sell all that well. The chefs loved it, but apparently it wasn't as appealing to the customers. As far as top-selling dishes, customers love our Beef Bourguignon and Coq au Vin.

What is your favorite Sprig meal?

I tend to prefer fruit-forward dishes, and I really like the Kale Sunrise Salad. Who would think to put granola on a salad? It just works though. We came up with this idea late one night while working. 

San Francisco friends: have you tried Sprig? They've got some incredible guest chefs lined up in the near future...just warning you! Past guest chefs included Stuart Brioza of State Bird Provisions and Cortney Burns of Bar Tartine. Of course, they always have their own great Executive Chef, Nate Keller (former EC at Google). You can use this code to get $10 off (basically a meal!) when you sign up: Duggan929

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Sprig has continued success and expands across the states, beyond San Francisco. I just really love that they are committed to making it easy for anyone to eat well, and by well, I mean, eat real, darn good food.  

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Day in the Life of a Student

5:31am: Alarm goes off. Thank goodness for the time change this past weekend! Time to get ready for yoga, with the boyfriend (I always enjoy this more than he does).

6am - 7am: Vinyasa flow class. I haven't made it to a 6am yoga class in a while, but this was a lovely way to start my day. Sweat, sweat, sweat with a fabulous teacher. I freshen up a bit after class.

7:10am: I convince Brent to grab a quick coffee to go with me across the street before driving home to drop him off and then to school.

7:50am: Park at school and walk to O-Chem class. I'm a morning person, and my favorite part of the morning is drinking coffee or tea and perusing my favorite blogs and websites, before O-Chem of course. 

8:10am-9:30am: Sit in O-Chem lecture, nod my head a lot, though I am really, really confused. My Professor moves so quickly through PowerPoints, and I begin to think about my final midterm next week for this class. Oh, this class...

9:30 to 10:50am: I have a break Tuesdays and Thursdays between classes, so I usually head to the library to study and print various things out. I also eat my overnight oats in a jar! Now that the weather is cooler, I am craving heavier foods. 

Overnight oats with gluten-free oats, flaxseeds, almond milk, coconut butter, and almond butter.

11am to 12:15pm: Foodservice Systems Management class.

12:20 to 12:40pm: After my class, I swing by my O-Chem professor's office hours. Then, I walk back to my car. I'm starting to get hungry so I eat a hardboiled egg that started cracking in my backpack. 

1:30: I decide, last-minute, to drive to the VA Hospital as I need to get an antibody test done and turn in some paperwork before becoming a volunteer in their Nutrition department. When I arrive at the VA, I unfortunately have to sit there for an hour and a half only to find out that I can no longer get this testing done there for free. Major bummer. Majorly frustrating when I could have been using this time to be more productive. And now, I'm majorly hungry! At 3pm, I drive home.

3:30pm: Get home and eat eat eat! I didn't plan to go to the VA this afternoon, so I was beyond starving when I got home. Some things piled up on me today and I kind of lost it, alone, at one point in my car. Sometimes when I'm stressed, it takes just a tiny thing to tip me over. So when I got home, I decided to chill out for a bit and take some yoga breaths (for reals). 

Trail mix from Trader Joe's. If only there were more pistachios in it...

3:45pm to 4:15pm: I heat up leftovers from dinner last night which includes zucchini and carrot noodles with jalapeƱo sausage and tomato sauce, topped with Pecorino Romano. This tastes so good! I eat while watching the last half of Revenge from the other night. (PS: Revenge has gotten pretty bad...)

4:15pm to 4:45pm: I get ready to go to a volunteer gig I just started. Tonight, I am observing a weight loss support group for morbidly obese people at a medical clinic near my apartment. 

5pm to 7:15pm: I observe the weight loss support group. I absolutely love the RD who I am volunteering for. I take notes and ask lots of questions. After feeling rather frustrated earlier today, as well as overloaded by the thought of my looming O-Chem and Physiology tests, I feel grateful to be pursuing the career I love. Sitting in on this group makes me feel excited to do what I want to do. 

7:30 to 9pm: I walk home and work on my first draft of my budget paper for my Foodservice Management Class. This class involves writing a full business plan, and this budget paper is one of the main components. I have to admit, with all the science involved in my program, I look forward to anytime I get to write. 

9pm: Eat dinner. I know, I know. This is probably too late. My schedule got screwed up today by my spontaneous trip to the VA and my late lunch filled me up until 9pm. I heat up some PaleOMG beef and broccoli (without cashews since I didn't have any), also known as the most delicious dinner. Ever!

9:30pm to 10:30pm: Work on my paper a little more, then catch up on emails. Munch on a large piece of this while thinking to myself that I think I may in fact have a mild food allergy towards bananas...that's another story though.

I go to bed around 11pm. This day was good, but long and emotionally draining for some reason. Probably some built-up stress.

It's a reminder that 1) I worry and stress too much. And 2) There will be challenging days but I must be kind to myself and remain positive. And 3) I need to have a better snack stash in my car and backpack! 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Coconut Dreams Green Smoothie (gf, dairy-free/vegan)

And just like that, it's almost November. 

I had to take last week off from blogging because my school work had to take priority.  My professor/advisor told me October would be the hardest month of the semester and she was exactly right. Two tests a week on average, large projects due throughout the month; it was non-stop! 

In all honesty, October kicked my booty and completely exhausted my brain. I finished the hardest few weeks today and I've felt slightly deliriously relieved ever since. Even though I only took a week off from the blog, I really missed writing it! And because I am all about keeping it real, just so you know, this entire month involved lots of coffee and sugar and probably not enough sleep or yoga. I feel as though I fell, hard, into the student slump. But that's okay; no one is perfect right? I'm certainly not. Lets just say, I can't wait for yoga tomorrow! 

So I know it's Fall, but it's still super nice in San Francisco. And, throughout this busy month, on days where I wasn't making the greatest food choices, I found myself trying to sneak in greens via my smoothie. Ya'll know I love smoothies. They are super quick. And can be super nutritious. And it's still just warm enough to enjoy them. 

Though I absolutely cannot wait for the crisp Fall air, big pots of soup, and Holidays, I'm still savoring these beautiful days. And drinking this smoothie a lot! 

It's got lots of greens from the frozen spinach and added (optional) Vega One powder. I buy frozen organic spinach for my smoothies now for both cost and texture purposes. As I've mentioned in the past, sunflower seed butter is best used in smoothies, in my humble opinion. But what I love about this smoothie is it is loaded with healthy fats. It will sustain you for a long time, with or without the protein powder. Have I mentioned I love fat? This smoothie is all about the coconut + healthy fats.

I hope you love it as much as I have been loving it! I thought of it as my brain food on days where I just couldn't comprehend any more information on neurotransmitters or organic chemical equations. 

And I served it in a fancy wine glass because sometimes, a girl who's studying in workout clothes at her kitchen table just wants to feel fancy.

Coconut Dreams Green Smoothie
Gluten-free, vegan, hydrating, delicious.

1 1/4 cup coconut water
1 heaping cup frozen spinach
1/3 frozen banana
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 heaping tablespoon sunflower seed butter
3/4 scoop Vega One Vanilla powder, or greens/protein powder of choice, optional (recommended - a Vanilla flavor)

Blend all ingredients together, serve in a fancy glass if you choose, and enjoy!

Friday, October 17, 2014

On a 29th Birthday, 29 Things I've Learned

A few things I have learned in the past 29 years...

1. When in doubt, put an egg on it. Preferably a runny, free-range, farm-fresh one. Get that yolk!

2. Tell someone when you are proud of him or her. We all can use a little boost and extra support. Life can be really tough sometimes. When I am proud of someone, I say it and I mean it. With my recent life and career change, I can't even express how much it means to me every time one of my friends tells me they are proud of me. 

3. When at a wedding, it is totally appropriate to start a Conga Line while dancing to Lionel Ritchie's "All Night Long." If you don't like Conga Lines, then you don't like fun.

4. Pay it forward.

5. Do more yoga. Om om om om om. [But really, I know I rave about yoga all the time. I truly believe it's benefits are beyond amazing. The key is finding a teacher / studio you enjoy. And if you can't do that, try a short 20 minute yoga session via you tube or Yoga Glow.]

6. Eat dinner without the TV on once in a while. Smell your food. Appreciate your food. Practice mindful eating. Rest and digest.

7. Try to find an activity you enjoy for exercise. I think of my dear friend Lauren, who bought a Groupon for classes at a boxing gym earlier this year. Now, she does the boxing boot camps and absolutely loves them. It took her a while to find her exercise jam, but she found it. And she loves it!

8. Find ways to relax your mind. For me, this means yoga or watching my "bad" TV shows like Revenge or Scandal. After a hard day's work, my brain needs a break and frankly, I don't feel badly for watching bad TV for an hour or two.

9. The spiralizer will change your life. Just do it.

10. Handwritten thank you card > Email thank you. When I was still working in my advertising job, one candidate, fresh-out-of-college, wrote and mailed me a handwritten thank you note. It was well-written, relevant to our conversation, and kind. He got the job. I never forgot it, either! It's an old classic.

11. Don't skip breakfast. And make sure your breakfast involves protein. I repeat, do not skip breakfast.

12. I am still a cat person. Sorry I'm not sorry. 

13. Group texts with good friends are necessary. They make me smile.

14. Felicity is still really, really good. Team Ben then. Team Noel now.

15. Be a little more self-forgiving. Hot damn we can be hard on ourselves. I am extremely good at this! No one is perfect, we all make mistakes, and learning from our mistakes really is the best way to learn. 

16. Learn to say no. And own it. <-----This is one of the greatest things I have learned in the past two years. My wise and beautiful friend Zoe told me this one morning while on a run and I will never, ever forget it. At some point in your life, you realize that you really can say no when you need to, and you shouldn't feel so guilty about it. You can't do everything. And you can't be everywhere. When I say no, I struggle a lot with feeling guilty, however, I'm working on this. 

17. Help other people and be kind. Karma is real. 

18. Always save the bacon fat. Fry some greens in it. So. good.

19. Grown-up sleepovers are totally a thing. Two of my very best girlfriends somewhat regularly sleep over when my boyfriend is out of town. I feed them (cinnamon raisin toast with butter for Jaqui and zoodles for Julie). They make me laugh. We giggle. We're silly. It's the best.

20. Don't ever trick your midwestern boyfriend who is afraid of eating Indian food for fear of public digestion-disaster issues into going out to dinner and surprising him with an Indian Food feast. You will owe him many, many things. 

21. Eat more bison burgers. Bison tastes like a lean beef and is full of healthy fats. I love a good bison burger.

22. It still isn't always your fault. Really. Ease up a little. 

23. Hydration is so important. So simple, but so important. Keep drinking water throughout the day (critical for good digestion) and avoid plastic water bottles. 

24. For all my San Franciscans - I can't believe I'm spilling this, but I think my favorite restaurant in the city is totally Cocotte. Don't tell anyone...but tell everyone. The roast chicken and cocottes are ridiculous. And the restaurant makes me feel like I am back in Paris. 

25. Not all trips have to be trips. Some can be vacations. Do you know what I mean? I used to be all about the traveling to see a new place. And while this is still usually my preference, sometimes, you just need a relaxing, Vitamin-D filled trip. Poipu, Kauai is my happy place. 

26. This guy is my happy place too. He laughs with me and comforts me when I worry too much, lets me listen to The Today Show with the volume way too loud every morning, and 98% of the time trusts whatever I'm putting on his plate (see number 20).

27. Spread love. Tell whoever you love, how much you love them. Tell them often. 

28. It's probably not too late for you to go for it - your dreams matter and please remember that. You can do it! Please don't give up.

29. Always have gratitude. As the homeless man on the corner once told me two years ago: too blessed to be stressed. 

Too blessed, to be stressed.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Event Recap: An Evening of Empowerment - Holistic Breast Health Empowerment & Breast Cancer Prevention

Last week, I was lucky enough to attend an educational event in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, which is in October. It was kindly hosted by Senspa, a local spa in San Francisco. The event was moderated by Naturopathic doctor Claire Graser, and featured a variety of alternative medicine practitioners, including a Naturopathic Doctor and Oncology Massage Therapist. 

When I received the email invitation with the agenda for the event, I knew I absolutely had to go:

· Learn about external harmful estrogens in our
daily life from Dr. Claire Graser, ND
· Why breast cancer rates in Sonoma and Marin
Counties are among the highest in the world and what you can do
to protect yourself - Chris Holder, Oncology ND
· A participatory class that will incorporate gentle
movement and lecture on lymphatic system function. - Ollie
Lobeck, Fajardo Method® Practitioner

I was especially interested in hearing from Dr. Holder, as he attended the renowned Bastyr University (just outside of Seattle, Washington). Bastyr University is the leading school in alternative medicine in the United States. I was fortunate enough to tour the campus last year, and although I couldn't make it work to attend their RD program, being on their campus had a significant impact in my decision to go back to school to become an RD

Dr. Chris Holder's talk on breast cancer prevention was incredibly thought-provoking and inspiring, as well as backed up by lots and lots of research. He is one of the most eloquent, detail-oriented, yet unpretentious speakers I've come across. There were many take-home points for me, but among the highlights, included the following:
  • At the root of cancer, there are three things: DNA damage, growth signals for cells to keep growing, and immune system suppression
    • Keep in mind, stress suppresses the immune system
    • Certain things can sit on our estrogen receptors and cause unwanted cellular growth - things such as pesticides (many are stored in fatty tissues), phthalates (what makes plastic soft and brittle and is also in many cosmetics, nail polishes, enterically coated pills, just to name a few), Bisphenol A or BPA (did you know this is in receipts?!)
  • Lets shift away from a mammogram being considered the only "preventative" measure but rather, more used for detection. A mammogram detects calcification in the breast tissue. Just because a mammogram is negative, does not mean you don't have cancer, especially if there is a lump; it's not perfect (nothing really is), but we should feel empowered to take preventative measures in other areas of our life. 
    • Note: There is a lot of controversy over mammogram use. Some argue that excess radiation can cause cancer, while others say that mammograms use such a small amount, that the risk is small. However, there are other options for those who choose to opt out of a mammogram. A Thermogram does not expose a patient to ionizing radiation and is considered an alternative to mammograms. It is not perfect either, but uses infra-red technology instead of radiation. Thermograms are FDA-Approved but still considered "investigational" in the US.
    • MRIs are an excellent way to detect cancer, however, they are so expensive that it is not as practical to utilize them in this way.
Though the subject was serious, the tone was educational and empowering. We can all educate ourselves and make small changes to help lead healthier, less toxic lives. Here are some recommendations:
  • Avoid using plastic or styrofoam containers (and avoid heating in them); opt for glass containers
  • Avoid food from cans lined with BPA, especially acidic foods such as tomatoes 
  • Check to see how your cosmetics rate in terms of toxicity 
    • In all honesty, this is the hardest one for me to do because cosmetics are expensive. So rather than do an overhaul of all my cosmetics, I have slowly, over time, purchased less-toxic alternatives. I love 100% Pure facial products, by the way!
    • The Environmental Working Group has a consumer-friendly Skin Deep cosmetics database, which rates cosmetics on a scale of 1 to 9 in terms of toxicity:
  • Buy mattresses that do not have flame retardants
  • Diet: eat real, whole foods. Eat organic and avoid pesticides. Limit refined sugar and processed foods. 
    • Unfortunately, eating organic isn't always available or accessible. Try checking out the Dirty Dozen list to help prioritize which foods should be bought organic:
    • Also, remember that you can often find frozen organic produce for cheaper than fresh. The freezer can be your friend!
When I left the session, I felt inspired, empowered, but also, frustrated. Deeply frustrated. During my time at Bauman College, I learned a lot about food politics and the corruption in the food and farming industries. And attending this session further emphasized how prevalent corruption in these industries is, especially in the United States. Just the simple fact that the European Union has banned so many foods that are sold widely in the US frustrates me. Or that it is nearly impossible in the US to get clean research funded to support alternative health approaches that might not make certain companies billions of dollars. 

But alas, I digress. 

Like I said, I left feeling inspired and empowered to keep educating myself on disease prevention. I believe in approaching health holistically or "wholistically" as my lovely mentor always says. This event was a reminder that we must continue to nurture both ourselves and others, and respect the body, mind, and spirit connection.

*Note: This event at Senspa was free and open to the public. I was not compensated for this post. I did ask permission to post about the event. All opinions are my own. The information discussed in the above post was presented in slides and referenced; I am not a Doctor but simply wanted to share my take-aways.