Healthy Mind

Healthy Mind

Big Big (HUGE) News

March 10, 2015

A few months back, I stood up in my best friend’s wedding. A few days ago, I held my other best friend’s brand new baby boy in my arms. And, there’s one more life-changing thing that happened two weekends ago. What was it? Oh yeah…

I got engaged!

Wow. Yeah. Let that sink in.

Remember how when you were younger – on your birthday – people would always ask you if you felt older? I always said yes, but I didn’t really. Nothing was different afterwards. You were still in same routine with the same responsibilities (go to school, play with friends, go to bed). But when somebody asked me the other day if I felt different after being engaged, I said yes and I FELT yes.

(Cheese alert, I know, bare with me).

Not only am I so ridiculously excited to get married to my favorite person in the world, I do indeed feel very grown up and ready for the next stage of our lives. 

And part of being grown up and responsible is planning ahead. I’ll be the first to admit – when it comes to my personal life, I am NOT good at this. I often find myself double-booking dinners and birthdays, and always leave trip preparing and gift buying till the last minute.

But something hits you when the thing you need to plan is your wedding

It’s like this weird addiction that you catch, that you think you’re exempt from. But when it happens to you, you truly cannot stop. Pinning and Googling and magazine-flipping…there are so many ideas, so many places, so many options. Ahhhh!

I’ve got a growing guest list, beach ceremony dreams and very high standards for the wedding dinner (I’m thinking fresh herbs, grass-fed meat and fresh-caught seafood). To match with that, I’ve got some big numbers looming over my head that my grown-up self has to save up for. Welp. As of last week, I have put aside a good chunk of my paycheck on auto-deposit so I can save up for the big day. Which means a new challenge for this blog. 

For the next 14 months, please meet…


The health blog that teaches you how to live, eat and shop healthy for LESS.

Here are the rules of the game:

  1. If you can make it for cheaper, you can’t buy it. There are so many fun and tempting health snacks and convenience foods out there that are easy to get swept up in. But they’ll charge you an arm and a leg for them. I’m always happier when I make my own homemade snacks and treats anyways. Goodbye Go Raw sprouted flax snacks, Coconut Chips,  and Kale Crunch.
  2. Stick to a list. NO WANDERING THE AISLES. Especially at Whole Foods.
  3. You can go to Whole Foods – with limits. Only shop here for good organic produce and the things you can’t get anywhere else (turmeric root, plantains, etc). If you do buy packaged, stick to the 365 Brand and the Value-labeled items. And stay away from the snack aisle (see #1).
  4. Cost compare online grocers with brick and mortar grocers. Find out where you can get the cheapest prices at each. A few good ones I’ve heard of are Vitacost, Door to Door Organics and Thrive Market.
  5. Only stick to the Dirty Dozen for organic foods. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, the Dirty Dozen is a list of warning foods created by the Environmental Working Group (an organization of scientists, researchers and policymakers). The produce on the Dirty Dozen has the highest amount of pesticides and other harmful chemicals, so it is highly recommended that you stick to organic when buying them. They have found that, just by eating organic for these 12, you can reduce the amount of toxins you consume on a daily basis by as much as 80%. Awesome. On the other side of the coin is a money saving opportunity. The Clean 15 is a list by the same organization. These are the foods that pose much less concern by buying conventional. CHA-ching.
  6. Shop the Farmer’s Market (as soon as the season starts, CHICAGO psshh). Not only can you can save a ton of money on seasonal produce, the experience of sampling foods and chatting up the farmers and artisans is one of my favorite things to do in the summer anyways. On it.
  7. Use coupons. I am SO bad at this because I find it so tedious and time consuming. But brands and stores are making it easier and easier for the shopper to save money. Apps like iBotta, RetailMeNot and Cartwheel from Target are all currently downloaded on my phone. Now it’s time to actually use them. And BONUS, Whole Foods is one of iBotta’s retailers.
  8. Consult other health nuts like me who are showing me up in the savings department. A simple search helped me find these gems that I can’t wait to try out:

Alright. That’s all she wrote. I’m trusting you people to hold me accountable. This can and should be about more than just a wedding savings fund. It’s my chance to show you guys that you can eat healthy without going broke (and maybe, just maybe it can actually help you SAVE money).

Comment below with healthy saving ideas – especially all you Coupon-ers out there! I’m pretty sure it’s a ninja skill you are born with. But if not, I’d love to be taught. 

Healthy Mind

A Food Fight for Scleroderma

May 13, 2014

I thought with my last post being about my new love for butter, that this post should be about one particularly spectacular food event that I'm sure relied heavily on butter and fat. And I'm so glad it did.

Two Sundays ago, I got the privilege of attending a fundraiser that could not have been more up my alley. It was called Food Fight.

It’s intention: to raise awareness and money for Scleroderma.

The concept: Pair top Chicago chefs against each other and let the guests decide whose dish wins the Food Fight.

My reason for attending this event was by word of my good friend who has had one too many people in her life affected by the disease. I have to admit – I really knew very little about it myself. I soon found out that unawareness is a big part of the problem. So for everybody reading today, we can at least fix that part by reading on. 

SCLERODERMA: An autoimmune disease in which a person's body attacks its own tissue.
THE CAUSE: Unknown
THE EFFECT: Life-threatening
A CURE: Not yet

The ladies who put on this event call themselves Two Daughters on a Mission. Stephanie and Jennifer's mom was diagnosed with Scleroderma back in 2005. As they so eloquently put on their website and in the event video, their response was, "What the heck is that?" With little treatment of the disease available and a lot of questions unanswered by the medical community, they made it their mission to raise money and awareness. Although their mother lost her battle in 2010, their mission lives on. In honor of their mother's love of cooking, they created Food Fight.

The event was perfect. It was small enough to talk with strangers, but big enough to make an impact. I could tell that everybody in attendance was there for the right reasons. I didn't cross one person who didn't seem genuinely happy to be there, and somehow personally invested in the cause.

Good smells, great chefs and food gurus were everywhere. From the MC, Amanda Puck who was the former host to Channel 11's Check Please, to the wonderfully gifted Chicago chefs making their dishes on stage for all to see. I was in my element talking to people like Rick Gresh, the James' Hotel's head chef and Chef Heather Terhune, Executive Chef of Sable Kitchen & Bar and recent contestant on Top Chef Texas. I may have even jumped into a picture with all of the chefs onstage (above). They called for chefs and food bloggers so I really had no other option.

Here’s what was on the menu.

Lobster Bruschetta with Pistachio and Grapefruit

Grapefruit = sweet, citrusy and summary, Lobster = rich, buttery and summary, Pistachios = crunchy, earthy and summary. This reminded me of being on a yacht with P. Diddy wearing white linen pants and sipping a beachy concoction. And I liked it a lot.

Spring Vegetable Ragout, Creamy Goat Cheese Grits, Kale, Balsamic Reduction

Creamy and cheesy with pops of fresh greens from the peas and a hearty bite from the kale. This was my clear winner, but even more impressive was it was also my meat-eating boyfriend's first choice (major props to Heather Terhune for being able to get his vote over lobster and duck). 

Duck Terrine, Pecan Toffee, Pickled Ramps, Citrus and Lavender

I love nuts in pretty much everything, but add them to duck and it's like cheating it's so good. I didn't taste the lavender as much as I would have liked to. But overall, a solid dish and I love the neon green speckled plate.

One last thought before I leave you. It blows my mind that people like Stephanie and Jennifer's mom had to go through multiple diagnosis before they arrived at the correct one, all because many doctors don't recognize Scleroderma's symptoms. It just shows you how low awareness of a disease can negatively affect it just by not giving the medical community enough reason to do research and find out more. I hope by reading this post that, at the very least, your awareness stays with you. Could we do one better, though, and pass it on to somebody else? 

Visit the Scleroderma Foundation website to learn more. 

Thanks for reading – As always, I appreciate it. 


Healthy Mind, Healthy Reviews

The Joys of Being a Girl at LUNAFEST

March 2, 2014

I absolutely love my boyfriend to death. We have this crazy relationship where we actually enjoy spending time with each other. He’s one of the most energetic people I know, and it never ceases to amaze me how he can take an unplanned Sunday afternoon and turn it into a crazy adventure. On top of that, his endless knowledge of current events, and my passion for deep conversation, could keep us talking for hours. We spend A LOT of time together. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Because of this wonderful man in my life, I often forget the importance of girl time. You know, chit-chatty, dream sharing, clothes obsessing, emotionally charged, GIRL TIME.

Take that as a warning that I’m about to get pretty mushy on you.


The film festival put on by women, for women, and about women. It is, of course, sponsored by that delicious nutrition bar, we all know and love that is specifically formulated for women (LUNA Bars).

This past week I got the honor of attending LUNAFEST as a health food blogger. Besides attending the event itself, I was also provided with LUNA gift packs to giveaway to you guys (see MAKE IT UP MEAL CONTEST!).

I’d like to play it cool and act like this happens all the time for But it totally doesn’t. So can I just say, in all seriousness…YAY!!!

LUNAFEST was established in 2000 by LUNA to simultaneously promote women filmmakers, raise awareness for women’s issues, and support women’s nonprofit organizations. Best of all, 100% of the net proceeds go to charity.

I felt good vibes from the moment I stepped through the door. The room was absolutely packed with women and healthy food and drink and laughter. After an hour or so of mingling and eating (including food from LYFE Kitchen – a place I’ve been dying to blog about; it is so nutritiously good), we sat down for the film festival portion.

There were 9 films total. From a team of women in their 70’s playing competitive basketball, to an adorable story of unrequited love with the mailman, each story made an impression on me. But my favorite one would have to be Flying Anne.

Flying Anne is a story about beautiful 11-year-old Anne, who is lanky and awkward just like we all were at that age. But her discomfort with her body is triggered by more than just puberty; Anne suffers from Tourettes Syndrome. Throughout her day, she twists and twirls and even licks nearby objects because of an uncontrollable function of her brain.

Her favorite thing to do is “fly.” Flying could mean riding her bike, climbing the monkey bars or shimmying up fences. It’s only when she’s up high or gliding through the air that she feels free because nobody is around to judge her.

Ever since I saw this film, I can’t help but think about the long and hard road to self-confidence. I am 28 years old, and I am JUST NOW feeling comfortable in my own skin. I love the way I look, I love the way I feel, and I know how to treat my body to keep it that way. But holy shit did that take a lot of work (and I still continue to work on it). If I had to add an uncontrollable twitch or twirl in to the mix, or any physical or neurological disorder, I’m not sure I would have made it.

As the film progresses, you see how this little girl copes. You see her pain and embarrassment, but you also see her happy moments (including an adorable little boy with a big crush on her). At the very end, she is asked if she could get rid of her Tourettes, would she? And she oh-so-maturely says, “No, because then I wouldn’t be Anne anymore.”

Wow. I’m impressed. This 11-year-old just schooled me. It’s taken me a lot of years to figure that out for myself. But I know now, with all of my flaws, anxiety and weird idiosyncrasies, that I wouldn’t want to be anybody else.


But this is what I’m talking about. Every once in a while, we need to get emotional and mushy and be girly. So if you’d like to join me in this girl time, I’ve compiled the websites of the films here so you can see them for yourself. Not all of them had a website, so a few are just links to articles or website mentions. My top recos would be Sidewalk (animated story of a woman's changing body), First Match (heart-wrenching story of a young girl determined to wrestle with the boys and impress her father), and Tiny Tiny Magic (sweet story of an unexpected love connection with the mailman). 

Last but not least, thank you so much to LUNA Bar for hosting my MAKE-IT-UP MEAL recipe contest. Congratulations to the winners…

  • Maggie Bronny for her Bowl of Randomness
  • Margaret Hutson for her Mega Sandwich
  • Michelle Fairbrother for her Vegetarian Roasted Mediterranean Salad

So go watch a rom-com, make a healthy lunch and eat a chocolate brownie LUNA Bar. In the words of a wise group of scantily-dressed British women: