Part One: “All is Full of Love…”

…to quote one of my favorite Bjork songs ever. This weekend was definitely a special one for me, emotionally and physically. Completely banged up and tired as I am while writing this entry, all I can do is smile. Yes, I might look crazy and creepy for smiling in an empty apartment. All alone. In the dark. While all is quiet. But, hey. No one’s around to judge me, and even if there were, would I care? Of course not.
Moving on.
Yesterday, I participated in the 2015 Citi Field Spartan Race with a new team comprised of friends, old and new. Although a member of New York Health and Racquet Club for several years, this was the first time I was in an event representing them, more specifically one of their best group fitness instructors, Cedric Dujon, as one of his Fit Warriors. Some of you may remember that I participated in my first Spartan Race last year–that was with a team of over 70 people. The Fit Warriors was a team of 14 feisty and fun-loving individuals who made this event even better than I could have imagined.

PhotoGrid_1431316969604_wmNot once was there an “every man for himself” mentality; it just felt natural that we should help each other through ever obstacle and finish as a team, rather than to be competitive against one another and leave teammates behind. The comradely spirit that flowed between us gave everyone hope, strength and confidence that we could all get across the finish line, no matter how daunting the obstacles were. In all my years, this was the first time I understood what it felt like to be on a real team. Even more impressive was the fact that Cedric was the last team member to cross the finish line — our team leader made sure no one was left behind, that we were all accounted for and in good condition and spirit. Not only is this man a physical specimen, he has a heart of gold. Even now as I type, my heart swells with respect and appreciation for Cedric’s good nature and ethic. The people he attracts are all genuinely good people: caring, generous, helpful and kind. If this isn’t a testament to his good soul, I don’t know what is.
My membership at New York Health and Racquet will end soon and I’ll be at another gym through corporate subsidy, however I will support Cedric Dujon, Cedric Dujon Fitness, and will remain one of his Fit Warriors, ready for action whenever duty calls. CYMERA_20150509_172646Stay tuned for part two of my “Love Fest” Weekend…!
The Vickylicious

Avo Maria

No, I didn’t make any spelling errors. I’m referring to one of my favorite produce items on the planet, the avocado. I can avocado any way it’s given to me–plain, in a smoothie, as guacamole, on myriad savory dishes, and now…in pudding.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I have a serious ice cream problem and am on a quest to find as many healthy substitutions to assuage my cravings. Since my chia seed pudding post (click here to read), I’ve made several different variations and make batches on a weekly basis. It hasn’t gotten boring at all and the versatility of the recipe is impressive–I’ve even made a pumpkin version and fell deeper in love with the recipe as a result. However, while in Chicago a couple of weeks ago, I was reminded of how much I missed drinking avocado smoothies from one of my favorite Vietnamese restaurants, T.A.N.K. I don’t know what voodoo they do, but no one makes an avo smoothie quite like them. Trust and know, I’ve done my research and have the healthy hair, skin and nails to prove it! Sipping the green goodness triggered me to think of other ways to incorporate avocado into my diet, namely as an ice cream substitute. Once again, the internet and diet gods chose to bless me, for I came across a great recipe for a chocolate pudding that uses avocado as its base. Experimentation was calling my name! For those of you that are interested in giving this pudding a try, here’s the recipe:

Ingredients (2 servings):
– 1 large, ripe avocado
– 2 tbsp. of cocoa powder
– 1 tbsp. Stevia (or sweetener of choice)
– 4 squares of dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
– Almond milk (or milk of choice)

Directions:
– Cut the avocado in half, remove the stone and scoop the flesh into a dish.
– Add the cocoa powder, Stevia (or preferred sweetener), and mix well.
-In the meantime, melt the dark chocolate in a microwave, then pour it into the avocado mixture.
– Give it another good mix.

The texture should resemble a traditional pudding. If not, add almond milk a little at a time, until the pudding reaches your desired consistency.

Not only is this pudding delicious, it’s also loaded with healthy fats and fiber. Good times all around!

I’ve made this pudding a few times since my initial trial and am in love with the recipe. It’s simple, quick to make, and quite versatile. For second attempt, I added some coconut flakes and was very happy with the turnout. The third time, I sprinkled a small amount of pink Himalayan sea salt on top for added health benefits and because I’m a sucker for sweet/savory combinations. It. Was. DIVINE. A couple of nights ago, I was feeling ambitious and decided to combine my chia seed pudding recipe with this one and was blown away–it worked awesomely well.
20150422_223240I simply had to add more almond milk and use less seeds. I will definitely be adding avocado pudding to the dessert rotation as I continue on my quest for more easy healthy sweet treats.

If you decide to use this recipe, let me know what you think!

I’m Peeling!

Well, actually, I’m shedding. Which leads to the necessity of an at-home peel. Whenever I’m giving myself different skincare routines or treating skin problems, or even when the weather changes (as it is now, from winter to spring), my skin starts to look like a snake that’s shedding off its scales–not a pretty picture. I’m not trying to scare everyone in my office and lose my job! Therefore, I must get rid of these scales dead layers with a quickness. I ain’t got time for nature! Thank the skin gods for this Korean gel peel called IPKN Pore Essence Peeling Gel, that I came across while at my Chinese spa (why they don’t have Chinese products is a puzzlement to me, but I won’t analyze it–I love Korean beauty products).

Previously, I used a different peel that required me scrubbing my face till it was practically numb (click here to read), but I loved it because it worked. Now I don’t have to use my skincare routine to grow my biceps, so I’m a happy woman for this added bonus. I work out enough as it is. The IPKN gel is affordable, easy to use, smells nice, and it neither irritates the skin nor does it make you irritate/agitate it. One pump of this magic works like a pencil eraser on those scales. It literally makes them roll off like balls of gunk. Don’t believe, just watch!

I hope you saw the “skin balls” that I tried to show in the clip–I moved the camera too quickly. The peel took off the entire layer of dead skin that was just sitting on my face like a mask. I’ve been using IPKN for a couple of months to make sure my initial infatuation with the product didn’t wane. Nope! I’m still loving it and using it regularly. Until I find something that can top this, it’ll stay in my medicine cabinet.

So for now, deuces!
The Vickylicious

Natural Smiles Are the Best!

Anyone who’s known me long enough is very aware of my obsession with teeth. They’re on the top of my list of things I notice first about a person, aesthetically: how healthy, even, white/bright, and clean they are (because hopefully when people meet me they’re smiling, haha!). This also goes for my teeth; a hypocrite, I am not. I dutifully go to the dentist twice yearly, brush, floss, use mouthwash, and I even have a couple of my own dental tools! However, I drink a lot of tea and coffee, so keeping my teeth white and bright is a task that I must deal with carefully. Bleaching products are harsh, expensive, and dangerous, so I’m always looking for natural and inexpensive ways to handle the job. Most people brush with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide–I’ve been doing this for more years than I can count–but I want something that works better and stronger. Besides, using peroxide and baking soda long term can be too abrasive for your teeth and can ruin enamel over time. Well, my wish was some mystery god’s command!
WP Natural RinseThe above pic is all you need to naturally whiten your teeth without having to spend a fortune or subjecting your teeth to harsh chemicals. Unbeknownst to me, this concoction has been used for ages! Bonus: this recipe is also great for removing harmful bacteria from your mouth, which in turn strengthens your teeth and gums. See the recipe and directions for this formula below.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups – distilled water
  • 2 tsp – baking soda
  • 1 tsp – sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp – walnut or sesame oil

Directions:
Heat 2 cups distilled water, remove from heat and add baking soda, sea salt, and oils.

Add 1 cup distilled water and mix together until ingredients are fully dissolved. Transfer mixture using a funnel into a jar with a top and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to use. Shake well before using and swish around in mouth for about 1 minute, spit out (make sure you don’t swallow any of the mixture), and brush your teeth as you normally would.
***Because this is an all natural concoction, please remember to discard the mixture after two weeks and make a fresh batch.***

Unlike many store bought rinses, this natural method contains no bleach and is perfect for removing tartar and leaves your mouth fresh and clean. Will it whiten your teeth after one treatment? No, it won’t. It will however, gradually whiten and strengthen your teeth and gums over time in a healthy, safe and natural way that won’t harm your gums and tooth enamel. This will save you a lot of money and pain in the future when you realize everyone that’s been bleaching has to buy a whole new mouth, can’t eat or drink foods due to gum erosion and intense gum sensitivity, or worse, finds out they have mouth cancer from all the chemicals and unsafe treatments. Like most things in life: slow and steady wins the race!

Because I’m always looking for home remedies for all things health and beauty related, I will probably be posting more regarding keeping our smiles healthy, happy and pearly!

Stay tuned until then (and feel free to send me pics if you try this remedy and want to share your results)…
The Vickylicious

Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia!

Many people don’t know that I had have a serious addiction; I fight urges on a daily basis and think about it all the time, day and night, sometimes it makes appearances in my dreams. Ice cream. It makes me happy, keeps me company, can be savory, sweet, or both. Ice ream comforts me and punishes me; it can be a happy ending and yet a sad one when the spoon hits the bottom of the carton. It can be smooth, or chunky and rough; soft or hard, cheap or expensive, good in small doses, but bad in large quantities. Ice cream is a metaphor for life. Ice cream is life. Ice cream gives me life.

In order to keep from relapsing, I need healthy substitutes and activities to suppress my urges. Enter the chia seed.

Although I’m not into food trends, and chia seeds are gaining in popularity by the day, I’m a believer in these little suckers. They’re smaller than flax seeds, but even though many people compare them to each other, chia seeds are filled with twice the protein of most grains and contain five times more calcium than milk. On top of that, they are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, soluble fiber, potassium and several antioxidants, nutrients and minerals. Incorporating chia seeds into you diet will provide many benefits, such as:

Increasing Protein Intake
Most people—especially women and vegans/vegetarians—don’t consume enough protein. Chia seeds make a great source of protein for vegetarians and don’t have any cholesterol. One one-ounce serving of these amazing little power seeds has 4.4 grams of protein.

Upping Fiber Consumptions
A one-ounce serving of chia seeds has 11 grams of dietary fiber, which is about a third of the recommended daily intake. Adding some seeds to your diet is a super easy way to make sure you’re getting a proper amount of fiber, which aids in digestive health.

Providing Phosphorus (Something that’s not on anyone’s radar, let’s be honest)
Chia seeds also help you maintain healthy bones and teeth (the calcium benefits bolster this effect). Phosphorus is also used by the body to synthesize protein for cell and tissue growth and repair.

Improving Heart Health
Chia seeds have been shown to improve blood pressure in diabetics, and may also increase healthy cholesterol while lowering total, LDL, and triglyceride cholesterol. Don’t we all want to keep our hearts pumping like well-oiled machines? Yes. Yes we do.

Combatting Diabetes
Chia seeds slow down digestion. The gelatinous coating chia seeds develops when exposed to liquids-can also prevent blood sugar spikes.

Fighting Belly Fat
Chia’s stabilizing effect on blood sugar also fights insulin resistance, which has been tied to an increase in belly fat (source: Live Strong). Enough said. No one wants belly fat.

Filling You Up Faster
Tryptophan, the same famous amino acid found in turkey, is also found in chia seeds. Even though tryptophan is notorious its “Itis-inducing” property that makes you want to take a major nap, it also helps to regulate your appetite, sleep and improve your mood. Added benefit to getting full faster: making less room in your belly for bad things.

So after doing the knowledge on this super seed, of course I had to find ways to add this to my diet. Since getting rid of all the ice cream in my apartment, I had to replace it with something. Why not chia seed pudding? I had my first taste of some at a “lunch and learn” session with the office nutritionist and fell in love. It reminded me of many Chinese desserts I’ve eaten from my childhood up till now. One of my co-workers told me she’s been making chia seed pudding at home recently for health reasons and also because she loves how it tastes, (she’s also Chinese). We bonded and she gave me her simple recipe. I tried it right away and made my own little tweaks to tailor it to my taste buds.

I was surprised at all of the positive responses and requests I received from my last post, in which I referred to making the pudding for the first time (click here to read it), all of them calling for the benefits and for the recipe. So, I’ve already detailed several of the awesome ways chia seeds will improve your life, now here’s to make a healthy, quick, easy, and tasty chia seed pudding:

2 cups of coconut milk or other milk (I just tried hemp milk and it’s fantastic!)
3 tablespoons of agave nectar, or sweetener of choice (adjust according to your personal taste)
1/2 cup of chia seeds
1 teaspoon of vanilla (or to taste)
Cinnamon and nutmeg to taste (optional)

Directions:
In a quart-sized container with a lid, add all ingredients. Place lid on top and shake to mix them all together. Put container in the refrigerator for at least four hours, stirring occasionally. (I left mine in the fridge overnight and it was fine.)

20150322_201457

Since my first attempt, I’ve made a chocolate version as well. All you have to do is add about 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder.

Last night I was feeling adventurous and was in need of a filling, protein-packed dessert, so I did something a little different. I heated the pudding, then added whey protein-infused almond butter and two squares of intense dark (80% cacao) chocolate. I mixed the concoction together so everything could melt and blend, then let it cool slightly. I ate it warm with some hot tea and was in absolute heaven with my chocolate nut butter pudding! There are probably endless variations that can be concocted, like adding a cup of strawberries for a strawberry version, or you can add more spices to the cinnamon and nutmeg for a Chai Chia Pudding.

Even though the gel coating the seeds make when soaked in liquid soften the seeds, if you’re not a fan of the texture, you can put the pudding in a blender and blend until smooth. It will thicken in about 10 minutes in the fridge and will be ready for consumption even sooner.

Next up in chia seed experimentation: savory recipes! Stay tuned…

In the meantime, let me know if you tried the recipe and/or any variations. I’d love to know if you like this as much as I do, or if you’ve come up with your own versions.

…Till the Wheels Fall Off!

Today was my Cycle for Survival ride at Equinox, a fundraising event for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, whose mission is to treat and find cures for rare cancers. This was my third ride of however many it takes until a cure is found. Although our group, “A Team 56,” didn’t reach our goal of US$15,000.00, we did raise US$12,900.00 which is still a large amount.
2015-03-07 23.43.40For four hours straight, we rode, shouted, and danced our hearts out for all of those fighting, for the survivors, and for those who have lost their battles with this terrible disease. Some of you have read my previous posts about this event and know how important it is to me, so I won’t be repetitive–trust and know you will be seeing similar posts exactly one year from now. However I cannot shake the feeling I’ve had all day from hearing the experiences of those who are fighting, of those that have won, and of those that have loved ones they are sending to MSKCC currently; the mother and father that personally thanked all of us for our fundraising efforts because they have a 7 year-old daughter with a brain tumor being treated at Memorial now. The woman whose mother had a better quality of life due to the clinical trial our donations paid for last year. For Lisa Adams who passed away last night, losing her battle at the hospital the day of the first ride.
Knowing that every dollar my team and I raise, along with all of the other riders nationwide, goes directly to research and trials, compels to do everything I can for the millions of people worldwide affected by cancer in all its forms. I will urge each and everyone of you as I do every year, to join the battle with me, either by starting your own team wherever you are, by donating your time, by donating your money. Just as one of the doctors said today, “Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it definitely takes a village to find a cure for cancer.” We all live in the same village.

150307_094940This is why I rode. This was, and is, my battle cry until a cure is found.

Lift. Dead.

I love doing dead lifts in the gym whenever I do weights. I worked my way from 40lbs to start, doing 5 sets of 10 reps; now I’m at 80lbs, 90 on a good day. For the first time ever I was challenged to dead lift a much heavier weight. Challenge accepted! I put 70lbs on each side of the bar–mind you, the bar is 45lbs by itself–meaning I lifted 180lbs! I had to document this feat, win or fail.

You have no idea how proud and accomplished I felt after I finished. Will I do this all of the time? No. However, it’s good to test myself every now and then.

Next up, 200lbs!

*Music credit: “Black Card,” by Pusha T