Recipe time · Uncategorized

Recipe: Asian-Inspired Vegetable Soup

My boss at work is currently taking a plant-based cooking course, so she brings in all kinds of delicious recipes for the office to try. Last week, she made a great traditional vegetable soup for everyone with lots of potatoes, onions, white beans, and cabbage.

After trying her soup and seeing how easy it was to make (she made it on our lunch break with one pot!), I decided to try my hand at making my own this past weekend but with an Asian-inspired twist. It turned out really, really good and is filling and full of vegetables which makes for a great diet food! I’ve been bringing it for lunch at work all week, and I’m not tired of it yet.

Asian-Inspired Vegetable Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 large sweet potato, diced in 1″ pieces
  • 3 large carrots, sliced into 1/4″ rounds
  • 1/3 head of green cabbage, roughly chopped
  • 1 container shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
  • 1 block of extra-firm tofu, drained, pressed, and diced into 1″ pieces
  • No-Chicken bouillon or broth (8 cups worth)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon Earth Balance buttery spread
  • 1/3 of a sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
  • Sriracha to taste

Directions:

  1. Bring no-chicken stock to a boil in a large pot.
  2. While the stock is heating up, saute the onion, garlic, and ginger in Earth Balance spread on medium-high until onions are translucent, then add mushrooms and Hoison sauce. Stir to mix, turn down to medium low and cover until mushrooms are soft.
  3. Add mushroom mixture, tofu, and other vegetables to boiling stock. Reduce to a simmer and cook for another 20-30 minutes.
  4. Add sriracha to taste. Serve hot.

Serves 6

Budget shopping

How I Repaired my Credit Score and Bought a House in ONE Year

Last month, I became a first-time homeowner. I bought a cute little condo just barely into the suburbs of Atlanta, and only ten minutes from the house where I spent my formative years. I’ve finally gotten all the furniture moved in, and I’m excited to finish decorating and organizing!

Last February, however, I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to become a homeowner, much less get approved for a mortgage just one year later. Why? Because my credit score was under 550. 

I couldn’t qualify for a credit card, much less a mortgage! I ran up a low-balance credit card and defaulted on that and a gym contract in my early twenties. That made me afraid of credit, so I avoided checking my score or looking into my credit options for the next 7 years. In 2016 I finally made a commitment to myself to clean up my financial wreckage, and I’m proud to say that I accomplished that goal.

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A few disclaimers before I jump in to the steps I took to repair my credit: I am not a banker and have no training in finance, and I started from having basically no credit rather than multiple derogatory remarks on my account. I also did have a lucky break that my only derogatory remark fell off my credit report in July 2016.

With that said, here’s what I did to boost my credit score from by almost 200 points in one year.

  1. Know your end goal. I set a very clear goal to get my credit in good enough shape to qualify for a mortgage. That meant that every step in my plan lead me closer to becoming an ideal candidate for a home loan.
  2. Research. I researched first-time home buyer programs and spoke with realtor and lender acquaintances about what I would need to qualify for a home loan besides a down payment. I learned that I would need at least two to three credit lines, and a FICO score over 680.
  3. Make a plan. I knew my only shot at getting a line of credit was a secured card, so I used my tax return for the refundable security deposit. I also made a plan for manageable spending on the card so that I knew I could pay it off every month. Initially that meant that I put just my utilities on the card. Because I was responsible with my payments, I was upgraded to an unsecured card after six months and my credit limit was doubled at the same time.
  4. Monitor your credit. I watch my credit with Credit Karma, and I monitor my FICO score through my bank once a month.
  5. Use the shopping cart trick. This trick allowed me to see exactly what store card offers I was prequalified for. From there, I opened two low-balance store cards that I use a few times a year when I need new clothes and pay off in full when the balance is due.
  6. Ignore extraneous offers. Once I had my three credit lines, a multitude of offers started coming to me in the mail – sometimes three or four per day! It was easy to get excited about all the opportunities, but I forced myself to focus on building credit with my three existing lines (although after I closed on my condo I did get a card that offers significant bonus and travel points).

These may all sound like simple steps, but I definitely didn’t know how much went into building credit before last year. Thankfully, I was starting from a place of no credit versus bad credit, and the one bad remark fell off my report in the middle of last year. Both of those circumstances contributed to the meteoric rise of my credit score, but I do believe that planning and researching are essential for responsible credit use.

Let me know if you have any credit management tips of your own!

 

Professional and Personal Development

Why I Joined the Junior League

Growing up in the South, I heard the term “Junior League” a lot. I associated it with the ladies who lunch and as I got older just thought of it as an adult sorority. However, a few years ago, I did some research into the Junior League of Atlanta but decided to hold off on joining. Through this research, I learned that the Junior League is “an organization of women, committed to making lasting transformation in the Atlanta community.” However, old stereotypes die hard, and I couldn’t shake the idea that as a single woman with a wild past, I wouldn’t fit in to the Junior League mold.

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Fitting in just fine with my JLA small group

Then, while I was working for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society last spring, my coworker Meredith found out I had considered joining the Junior League and said she had just applied for membership. Thanks to her encouragement, I decided to apply and see what happened. After all, I could always quit if it wasn’t a good experience.

Initially, I joined the Junior League to make friends and to have access to a wide variety of ways to volunteer in Metro Atlanta. What I found was a group of women who are passionate about their careers, their community, and issues that I care about deeply. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the women in Atlanta’s Junior League aren’t shy about having difficult conversations about generational poverty, human trafficking, or their own privilege. In fact, these conversations seem to be embraced by the members.

I also discovered how many opportunities are available to me as a JLA member. I was able to attend a five-class fundraising course last fall, met women in my field who have taken the time to network with me and mentor me, and after being encouraged to apply for a leadership position, accepted a position on the Grants & Foundations Committee next year to find additional ways to hone my professional skills. The Junior League also offers opportunities for women outside of the league to have opportunities. My boss, who is not a JLA-er, is attending our women’s forum this week.

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I got to learn from these two extremely intelligent fundraisers who have both taken the time to mentor me as I’ve navigated my first year in the league

A lot of my girlfriends have been asking me about my experience, and every time I respond that I LOVE it so far! The way the provisional program is set up helped me meet other women through my assigned small group (which was an awesome group of ladies!). Through all of the community service and personal and professional development opportunities, I was able to meet women of all ages and league experience who have similar interests to me.

If you’re thinking about joining the Junior League, I highly recommend it. My experience has made this past year so much fun, and I can’t wait to see what my first active year with JLA holds!

If you have questions about the league, feel free to shoot me an email at fabfitfoodfungal@gmail.com.

Have you ever joined a group like the Junior League? How did you like it?

Get fit · Healthy living · Running

Running Update: What’s New and Next

I ran a marathon in 2014. It was hands-down one of the proudest moments of my life. I worked so hard and overcame so much to get to that finish line, and I know without a doubt that I left a piece of myself at Fort Benning on the Avenue of Flags.

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And then…I stopped running. That piece of me that I left or lost during the marathon training cycle was too big and I couldn’t find it within myself to lace up my shoes and even go for a short jog. So I didn’t. For two and a half years.

During the last few years, I tried a bunch of other activities: spin, yoga, barre, and even an aerial silks class. I loved all of them, and using ClassPass (back when they still had their unlimited option) let me take tons of classes and get back into working out without feeling the pressure to run again.

Recently, I’ve pretty much been purely doing yoga 4-6 times per week. I love power yoga, but I do miss the variety that I got from ClassPass. And then I got the opportunity to get guaranteed entry to the Peachtree Road Race through Northside Hospital.

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My first Peachtree in 2013

The Peachtree is one of my favorite races. It’s definitely not a race where I go for a PR, and I’ve always been able to just run and enjoy myself along the course. That’s why it seemed like the perfect opportunity to start running again. I’m taking it slow right now. Just 3-4 times per week at whatever pace feels easy for somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes. Over the next couple of months, I’m planning to start stepping that up to 30-45 minutes 3 times during the week with a 5-6 mile long run on the weekend. I’ll still incorporate yoga with two power classes during the week, and a gentle/yin/power combo of some kind on the weekends.

I don’t want to push myself too hard and keep myself from learning to love running again. I really want to rediscover my inner fire and inner passion for it, even though I’ll always be a mid-to-back-of-the-packer. I know that the girl that used to run for fun is still in there, and I can’t wait to meet her again.

Have you ever run the Peachtree? What is your favorite race to run every year?

Budget shopping · Just for fun

Paris and Rome (and how I spent 8 days there on the cheap)

Last week, I was lucky enough to spend eight days in Europe with three of my closest friends. We spent two days travelling, three days in Paris, two days in Rome, and took a day trip to Pompei.

And we saw so much stuff.

And ate so much food.

And somehow, I did it all pretty cheaply.

Cheers
Photo credit: K. Roth
Cheers to that!

Disclaimer: I am a young, single professional. For me, this was a budget trip. Whether it is for you or not, I hope you can find some of my experience useful.

My friends and I managed to jump on one of those crazy Groupon travel deals. Here’s a similar trip at a similar price. Because AirFrance was running a deal with Delta, we were able to fly nonstop out of Atlanta for a $20 fee, instead of having to find additional airfare to New York or Boston. We were also able to book tours through our travel agency, which cut down on time trying to find reliable vendors in the cities. From what I saw in the cities themselves, we got about the same deal booking ahead of time that we would have gotten booking on-site.

I chose to take 100 Euro per day that we would actually be in a city for the trip, but I came back with money left over, and could have bumped that amount down. I was able to eat, drink, and bring home lots and lots of souvenirs on that budget.

For transportation, we took the metro everywhere in these two cities. Even though we weren’t staying directly in the heart of either city, we were only a short metro ride away. It was so refreshing to be places where the public transit was effective and efficient! We even took a high-speed train to Pompei. Side note: Atlanta’s public transit is…not efficient, and I spent three years of my life riding it.

Finally, I saved money on food. Partly because I’m vegan, and pasta arrabiata is always one of the cheapest Italian options, but also partly because as a group we decided to eat one nice meal in each city, and go cheaper for all our other meals. We also always ate the free breakfast at the hotel.

I know that none of my ideas are groundbreaking, but for a long time I thought travel was too expensive for me, and that I would never be able to make it work. By carefully prioritizing my trip and my savings account, I was able to make a dream vacation happen for $1800, with different payments spread out over 9 months.

No that I know it’s possible, I’m so excited to find my next travel adventure!

Where is your favorite travel destination? Do you have any dream vacations?

Healthy living

Seven days raw vegan

I went vegetarian in late 2013, and spent the next two and a half years playing with a mostly vegan diet. After attending Asheville’s VegFest last year (it was awesome, and you should absolutely go if you get the chance), I took the plunge and went 100% vegan.

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Eating banh mi at VegFest with my vegan soulmate

Now, I want to experiment with a high-raw diet.

So what exactly is a high-raw diet? According to Google, a high-raw diet is classified as “eating more raw food than cooked food.” I have always felt phenomenal when I have eaten lots of fresh fruits, smoothies, veggies, and salads. I want to see how good I can feel if I really try to make raw fruits and veggies the central part of my diet.

I’m not pledging to go 100% raw for any lengthy period of time; after all, a lot of my blog is about balance. However, I am going to try to go completely raw for one full week (except for a cup of coffee in the morning, because I’m just not willing to give that up).

What’s the point of going totally raw for a week? Mostly, I want to reset my taste buds and see what I like and don’t like about raw recipes and meals. Then, I can reintroduce whole plant foods back into my diet as I see fit.

I know this seems extreme to a lot of people, but I’m really excited to see how I feel, how I budget for this dietary shift, and what it does for my body and my energy.

Have you ever tried a diet other people saw as extreme? Have you ever eaten a raw vegan meal? If you have any good recipes, leave them in the comments!

Get fit · Healthy living

New me, new blog?

Someday I’ll manage to write a blog post more than once every 2-3 years. Hopefully now is that time.

I quit blogging in 2014 because I didn’t feel like I had anything left to say. I had gained weight back, gotten burned out with running, and had no more motivation to eat healthy. I was backsliding, and going back to school and taking on a new job were much bigger priorities in my life than my health. I had no balance in my life, which meant I didn’t feel like I had anything worthwhile to contribute to the blog-o-sphere anymore.

But over the last year, that’s changed. I took newer new job fundraising for an organization that I absolutely love. I joined my local Junior League to make friends, meet mentors, and get more involved in my community. I went vegan, and started regularly working out again. I will finally graduate from college in six weeks. Somewhere along the line, I became a morning person and made yoga an important part of my weekly routine. I’m closing on my first home next week, and have made amazing friends who have become a second family. I went overseas for the first time ever. And I finally started running again.

It’s been a hell of a year. I finally feel like I have something to say again. Not just about health or fitness, but about figuring things out and learning how to be a functional adult. How credit scores and yoga, hiking and public speaking, and smoothies and networking all combine to create a balanced and fulfilling life.

I’m still figuring things out. But I do know I’m ready to write again.