Happy Spring!

My photography has been lacking lately, but a recent trip to Ohio to see family before moving to Switzerland presented an opportunity to capture shots of my sweet nieces and nephew.  These heart-happy pictures of cousins Micah and Ava I simply had to share.  Happy spring from these beauties!

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Recipes

My recent recipe exploration has been based in the newly released Dishing Up the Dirt Cookbook and Naturally Nourished (cookbook from My New Roots blogger Sarah Britton).  Here are the spring inspired recipes I tried out on my family for Easter:

  • Avocado Cream
  • Strawberry Salsa
  • Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Herbed Yogurt
  • Roasted Asparagus with Romesco Sauce
  • Spicy Tomato Bisque with Pan-Fried Chickpeas
  • Strawberry Mint Smoothie

If any of these sound good to you, check out the cookbooks!  My personal favorites were the avocado cream, strawberry salsa, and spicy tomato bisque.  These will be joining my regular repertoire of recipes – whew, that’s a tongue twister!

I’ll also be reinventing Barefoot Contessa recipes (where my love for cooking began), putting a healthy spin on those with whole foods, plant-based potential.  Will see how it goes!

Next chapter…

Life has thrown Marc and I some twists and turns lately, and proven to us that just when you think you have things figured out, better plans may already be in the works.  But as the intent of this blog is to journal our story, our real story,  here’s the bittersweet truth behind our next chapter…

The bitter: For a few years now Marc has had some health issues, and trying to resolve them since moving to Morocco has not exactly been easy.  We’ve been back and forth to the United States trying to find an answer, and in the midst of this feeling the stress and reality that the best place for Marc and I both to be right now is probably not Morocco, but rather a place where we can access consistent, quality health care and a calmer lifestyle.

The sweet: Just as we recognized this need for change, I was offered and have accepted a job teaching at a Japanese boarding school in Leysin, Switzerland, a small ski resort village in the Swiss Alps.  We will be moving late June to live and work in the mountains of Switzerland!

To say that we are thankful for this move and opportunity is an understatement.  Our goal all along has been to live a small-town, simple life in Europe (not an easy goal to realize), and it seems to actually be happening.  And while I don’t think I will truly believe it is happening until we actually pack up our things and move, a trip to Switzerland for work last weekend made it come to life.

Here is the view (a rainy day view) from what will be my new office…

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And some pictures of the western, French region of Switzerland where we will live.  First, Lac Léman (Lake Geneva)…

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And Geneva…

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Another move means work, preparation, and stress over the next few months.  Watch as we say goodbye to Morocco and prepare for the next chapter of our lives, a more permanent chapter, in Leysin, Switzerland.


Recipes:

Pretty excited that Dishing Up the Dirt has a new cookbook out!  Here are more recipes from her blog that I’ve liked…

Blueberry Almond Flour Muffins

Coconut Curry Pork Meatballs – I made parsnip noodles for this dish.  I’ve discovered they are much less watery than zucchini noodles, so they’re my new go-to, grain-free noodle.

Cold Brew Chocolate & Cinnamon Shake with Coconut Whipped Cream

Kale Caesar Salad with Garlicky Chickpea Croutons

Spiced Zucchini & Honey Muffins

2016 Miller Family Christmas

Marc and I are back in Morocco after spending our holidays in Ohio!  One of this year’s Christmas highlights was a visit to Stan Hywet Hall in Akron with my mom, sister, and niece – it was a real treat and a highly recommended visit if you live in NE Ohio!

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Gingerbread Land!

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Ava Faith had had enough…

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Next was our 2016 Miller Family Christmas!

This year’s holiday season was special as it marks 5 years since Marc and I were married on December 23, 2011.  It’s remarkable to see how much our extended family has changed since then and the twists and turns that our life has taken!

Here we are, Christmas 2011:

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And now, Christmas 2016:

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(Bailey taking a break from being Santa’s reindeer…)

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In 5 years, we have celebrated the addition of two nieces and a nephew to the Miller family, Marc and I have moved from Washington to London to Casablanca, we’ve changed our careers, my parents are entering a new stage in life with my mom’s retirement, and in the midst of all of this my sweet Bailey is still hanging on and is as joyful as ever at almost 13 years old.  I love how the comparison of old and new in these pictures capture the subtle, yet significant changes that have taken place in our family, but are also a reminder of how much does not change, how many things really do stay solid and consistent, the most important of which is family…this trip was definitely a celebration of the wonderful family we have both in the US and in Europe!  We are thankful for each and every one of you.  🙂

And last but not least, this year’s New Year for Marc and I was spent on the plane in transit from the US to Morocco over the Atlantic Ocean!  In upholding our Spanish traditions, we ate our 12 grapes, we’re just not quite sure if we ate them in the last 12 seconds of 2016 – it was a little difficult to know what time it was as we were flying across time zones.  What a way to ring in the new year!  Wishing you a wonderful 2017, everyone!


Recipes

Farm Stand Meatballs with Collard Greens & Apricots – I used dried cherries instead of apricots, and spinach instead of collard greens as it’s what I had on hand.  I also added caramelized onions!  You could use either or even omit the dried fruit, whichever way I really liked this flavorful twist on serving those dark greens that are so important in our diet!

Miso Chicken with Cauliflower & Carrot Mash – Again, used spinach instead of collard greens and added carrots to the cauliflower mash – both good additions/substitutions.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup – I used butternut squash instead of kabocha squash, and added some apple and a bit of fontina cheese to this basic soup recipe…

Lemon Poppyseed Zucchini Muffins – Not necessarily seasonal, but I will be keeping this recipe around for the spring/summertime!

Kombucha – My brother gifted me a SCOBY (yay!!!) and I am now brewing my first batch of kombucha.  We’ll see how it turns out!  Don’t know what kombucha is?  Or want to try out brewing it yourself?  Check out the link for a beginner’s tutorial from My New Roots.

30 Years of Marc

This year Marc turned 30.  Over the years, we’ve celebrated him with:

a homemade chocolate cake at 21 years of age…

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champagne and presents at year 22…

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more chocolate cake when he turned 24…

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he hits a milestone, 25 years old…

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and when he turned 27, oh look, more cake!

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It’s been fun celebrating 12 years of birthdays together and this year while the chocolate cake, champagne, and presents were still in order, we were lucky enough to add a trip to Barcelona to the mix.  It was a great Barcelona birthday, complete with the comforts of home at Marc’s grandparent’s house, drinks with old friends, and dinner and a stop at our favorite waffle spot in the Gothic District. 🙂

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Feliz cumpleaños, Marc!

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And since Spain is on my mind, my niece’s interpretation of speaking Spanish has been a real inspiration in my current pursuit of learning the language.  Tio Marc is so proud. 🙂


Recipes:

Gnocchi with Chanterelle Mushrooms & White Wine & Garlic-Cashew Cream Sauce – I made this omitting the white wine, simply because I didn’t have any (buying wine in Morocco is not exactly cheap nor readily available!).  Was delicious even so!

Parsnip Fries with Rosemary-Garlic Cashew Aioli

Parsnip Fries with Tahini Herb Dip

Mustard Greens & Gruyere Quiche with Almond Crust

Banana Almond Meal Muffins

Marc’s 30th birthday cake was accompanied with vegan ice cream sundaes this year!

And here’s some new recipes that made it to our 2016 Thanksgiving table:

Jambo Kenya!

That’s hello in Swahili – jambo – so jambo everyone!

First and foremost, I cannot write this October/November post without mentioning that Marc has now officially voted for the first time as an American citizen!  He sure chose a dramatic year to make his voting debut.  Either way, our absentee ballots are in…

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And onto the bulk of this blog update, Kenya!  An education conference for work sent me to Nairobi, Kenya a few weeks back, hence the Jambo Kenya! title.  We simply couldn’t miss the opportunity to make a family trip of it, so Marc joined me for some sight seeing and safari in Kenya before the conference.  Two yellow fever vaccines, some malaria pills, and a 16-hour flight through Cairo, Egypt later, we found ourselves in Nairobi, Kenya, arriving at 3:30 in the morning.  It was quite a day of travel.  Here we are on our Egypt Air flight thankful that all went well.

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And with a safe arrival began our African adventure…

The video says it all, really, but here are some of the highlights of our trip:

  • Visiting the African Endangered Wildlife Fund where we fed and kissed the endangered Rothschild’s giraffe!

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  • Marc spotting lions (his favorite!) on safari in the Masai Mara National Reserve

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  • Andrea spotting elephants on safari (her favorite…)

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  • Picnic lunch under savannah trees in the Masai Mara – Lion King brought to life!

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  • Visiting a local Masai village

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  • Ending our trip with a visit to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Fund where we played with and adopted a baby, orphaned elephant and met a blind rhino

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We got to do some pretty amazing things on this trip, and for that we are both thankful beyond measure.  Our visit of the Masai village, in particular, was quite humbling, reminding us of how fortunate we are to not only live the way that we do, but also to have the ability and opportunity to take trips like this around the world.  But somehow at the end of all of it – Kenya, safari, the Masai villagers, the giraffes, the elephants, everyone and everything we encountered – we were taken away from our usual travel high, and, instead, brought back to earth, to a more grounded, raw, simple version of ourselves.

Travel is wonderful and we are certainly advocates for and have benefitted from the growth, flexibility, and open-mindedness that it uniquely teaches.  That being said, Marc and I seem to have reached our travel capacity and this trip quickly became the last “hurrah” of our traveling selves (at least as a couple), and man oh man were we keenly aware of how fortunate we were to get to end that chapter with a real “bang” on a Kenyan safari.

So, to Kenya, we came, we traveled, we learned, we saw and we left different people than we were before.  And while we certainly would have benefitted from a more relaxing vacation (and are both still recovering!), we’ve come to appreciate the fatigue, the challenge, the discomfort that you offered on this trip.  Our first 5 years of marriage (to be celebrated in December…!) we searched and struggled to find ourselves and filled the gaps in that time with moves, different jobs, travel, and “adventure,” all of that having culminated and led to our current African existence.  It’s time, now, to slow things down and focus on a more grounded approach to our life.  We might actually be ready to “settle down,” at least in a Marc and Andrea version, and believe it or not, Kenya, you’ve given us the green light to do just that.  So, thanks for being part of our story, for celebrating a bittersweet, beautifully demanding 5 years of marriage with us, and for welcoming a new chapter into our lives filled with adventure of a different kind.  What will this chapter bring?  Who knows.  Stay tuned, there are still many more stories to tell…


Recipes:

30-Minute Coconut Curry – Super rich, but super delicious.  I especially like the coconut quinoa.  Not an everyday-of-the-week kind of dish (because for us it was very filling), but definitely a quick and easy recipe when you have a curry craving.

Got extra quinoa?  Make this!  Dark Chocolate Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas – Love these as an everyday snack option.

Zucchini Basil Soup with Fried Shallots – In my version of this soup, I omitted the red pepper flakes (Marc does not enjoy spice) and added about a 1/2 cup of coconut milk as well just for added creaminess. 🙂

Spiced Parsnip Muffins with Maple-Cardamom Cashew Cream – Loved these muffins!

And I think Marc loved these muffins even more…Almond Spiced Honey Oatmeal Muffins.  I added shredded apple to these for a more seasonal muffin.

For lovers of coconut and a fun twist on almond butter…Almond Joy Butter

And, finally, I regularly make these raw brownies for snacks during the week.  They’re simple, easy, and freeze well… 5-Minute Espresso Walnut Brownies.  You can omit the espresso if you’re not a fan.

You might notice, and I think it’s safe to say, that my two favorite whole food, plant-based cooking blogs at the moment are Minimalist Baker and Dishing Up the Dirt.  Both my style of cooking, based out of Oregon, and offer simple, quick, and easy recipes for the home cook!  I post only some of their recipes that I’ve tried and that are preferred for my family, but check out their websites for even more if you like the recipes I’ve posted.

A Week in Portland, Oregon

Is it almost October already?!?!  Fall’s officially here, but this post on a trip I took in August to visit my cousin, Kate, and her husband, Hadrien, in Portland, Oregon is my final farewell to summer!  Thanks for having me, Kate. 🙂

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Explored downtown Portland’s awesome food scene, Pip’s Doughnuts (one of my favorite chai tea spots), Powell’s books, and the city’s rose garden…

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A food truck favorite…Wolf & Bear!

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Casablanca?  Only 5,643 miles away…

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Feel free to borrow a book and have a read on the streets of Portland.  Loved this “LittleFreeLibrary.”

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Ran into one of Marc’s best childhood friends from Barcelona.  Hola Marc y Eva!  Small world, no?!?!

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And met some of my favorite Barre3 instructors – Lisa Schale-Drake & Audrey Roloff!  Never heard of Barre3?  It’s my new favorite workout of choice, a combo of Pilates, yoga, and barre with an extensive online workout library.  Interested?  Try it out.  You’ll definitely feel the burn and those Barre3 shakes and quakes!

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Speaking of Audrey Roloff, had to make my way to see Roloff Farms – yes, I am a fan of TLC’s Little People, Big World!  Much to Marc’s dismay…

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Went on some heart-happy runs in the wildnerness.  🙂

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Was a treat to get to see this while driving down the highway – not exactly something you see in Ohio!

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Visited Columbia River Gorge & Multnomah Falls…

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And last, but certainly not least, spent a few days on the wild, magnificent Oregon Pacific coast at Cannon Beach.

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I made this trip out to Oregon on my own as it’s a place I’ve always thought would be a good fit for Marc and I to live.  I went, I saw, and while I loved it, I missed my family in Ohio and my Mediterranean life in Morocco.  I’m thankful to have had the opportunity, however, to go to Oregon and close that chapter in my heart that dreamt of a life there.  Maybe it would have, could have been right, but in another life – for now my heart is full with the life I’m living now and there’s no better feeling than to have confirmed that in my own heart…and reminded of it by this street art I came across walking around East London a few weeks ago (we were there for work and to visit Marc’s sister over our Eid break).

Do what you love, love what you do.  Do you???  Food for thought…

Happy fall, everyone!  🙂

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Recipes:

Thai Coconut Curry Hummus – A delicious spin on traditional hummus, Marc approved!

Chocolate Almond Butter Banana Shake – Replaced the peanut butter with almond butter, and added a scoop of espresso for a mocha twist.

Za’atar Grilled Chicken with Tahini Sauce – Try za’atar, and tahini sauce for that matter, for an easy flavor punch to just about any of your favorite vegetables or proteins.

Almond Butter No-Bake Cookies – Quick, easy, and sweet snack or dessert.

Spiced Carrot Coconut Soup – Used yellow curry powder instead of red curry paste and almond butter instead of peanut butter – I LOVE soup!

Summer 2016

Our 8 weeks of summer break in the United States, France, and Spain are coming to an end – and while we feel ready more than ever to get back to our life in Morocco, we had a pretty awesome summer. 🙂

Spent a week on the New York University campus in NYC for a work conference…

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Found Carrie Bradshaw’s Greenwich Village apartment from Sex & The City!!!

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And crossed the Brooklyn Bridge on June 23rd to celebrate 4 years since our wedding in Spain.  Wrote our names on the Bridge to mark the occasion – we’ll see if we can find them again if/when we ever go back!

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Then headed to Ohio where we spent lots of fun time with our nieces and nephew…

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And Bailey, of course!

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Saw fireworks…

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Went to Gervasi Vineyards, where we were married on December 23rd almost 5 years ago…

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Look familiar???

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And rode Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point, a roller coaster that shoots you from 0 to 120 miles per hour in less than 4 seconds 420 feet into the sky.  It was wild, crazy, and FUN!!!

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By the end of July Marc and I parted ways – he went to Paris and Barcelona to be with his family and I to Portland, Oregon to visit my cousin (another blog post on that trip to come!), and our time together in Ohio ended.  We started the summer needing a break from year 1 of Morocco,  a year that rewarded us, but oh most definitely challenged us at the same time.  We needed the peace, calm, and quiet of Ohio.  We needed to be reunited with our people (including Bailey) and meet the new babies in the Miller family.  We came, we saw, and inevitably it was time to leave again.

And in those last few days before packing things up and moving life again, slowly but surely familiar feelings of sadness started to surface when I realized that in a few days I would be saying goodbyes.  While from the outside it looks fun and adventurous (and often times it is), deep down the expatriate lifestyle is hard, at least for us.  But for the first time, maybe ever, Marc and I have accepted the circumstances of our life and choose to embrace them.  We accept the challenge, and with that reap the benefits of the reward.

The quote below has never been more true for us, being the Franco-Spanish-American couple living in Morocco that we are:

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” ― Miriam Adeney

Where is home?  I think we can both truly say now that home is where the heart is.  This summer, Ohio was our home, today we are in Barcelona, so Spain is our home, next week, Morocco will be our home.  No matter where we are, home is in each other, home is with our people, home is where we make it.

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Lots of recipes to share from this summer!

Chocolate Pudding Pie with Chocolate Cookie Crust – Very rich, but very good!  Would be great as a Thanksgiving or Christmas dessert. 🙂

Cashew Corn Chowder with Cilantro Cream – This soup is delicious!  Especially in summertime with fresh Ohio summer corn.  It’s very rich and filling using the cashew cream.  For a lighter version, I substituted coconut milk for the cashew cream and it turned out really well.  Same tastes and flavors, just a little less heavy.

Sweet Corn Frittata with Burst Cherry Compote – Made this with sweet potatoes instead of potatoes, and didn’t make the burst cherry compote (Marc has trouble digesting night shade vegetables, tomatoes being one of them), but it was delicious even so!  Definitely another great recipe for summer.

Zucchini Noodles with Spinach Almond Pesto – I used this basic pesto recipe and substituted the arugula for spinach (since that’s what I had available) and added caramelized onions and shrimp to the dish as well.  I also substituted zucchini noodles for the spaghetti.  I use a vegetable spiralizer to make zucchini noodles.  Here’s a tutorial on how to make zucchini noodles (except I don’t sweat my noodles in the oven – I prefer a crisper texture and find this makes them too soft, so I just lightly salt them and let them sit in a cotton dish towel for an hour or so before assembling them for dinner).

Carrot & Cardamom Soup – I love soups!  And this is an easy, go-to for any time of year.

Apple Spice Sorbet – While this was not one of my favorite recipes of the summer, it was definitely not a failure, and with fall just around the corner would be a great recipe to try in the coming months.  Maybe after a day of picking apples?  It definitely has more of a sorbet consistency as opposed to ice cream, and for me was a bit too hard coming out of the freezer (I had to let it sit for at least 15 minutes to soften up, and even then it was quite hard).  I’d best describe the flavors of the sorbet as similar to eating an ice cream/sorbet version of apple sauce – not bad, not bad at all…

Pumpkin Oat Pancakes – Speaking of fall, these were delish…I can’t get pumpkin in Morocco, so experimented with this pumpkin recipe while in Ohio.  Totally a hit!  I didn’t make the maple-sage butter, but imagine it would pair really well.

Dark Chocolate Fudge Pops – Made these with my niece, Micah, as part of the menu of the Miller family “restaurant” we opened together called Spaghetti’s Potato. Yes, that would be the restaurant name of choice of a 3-year-old. 🙂  It was super fun and a highly recommended activity for kids.  Anyway, while the popsicles were good, they did not come out of the popsicle molds easily and sort of melted into big globs when they did eventually release from the molds.  Anyway, taste was good, presentation not so much.  In hindsight, maybe not the best choice for the grand opening of a restaurant…

Almond Crusted Chicken – Really loved this recipe for breaded chicken, without the bread.  Here it is:

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup almonds
  • 1 – 10 oz chicken breast
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  • In a food processor or blender, process almonds until you have a powder/crumbs.  Using a food processor, pulse about 30 seconds until almonds are broken down.  Then process on high for another 60 seconds.  Using the blender, you can probably process about 2 minutes until almonds are completely broken down.
  • Add almonds to a plate.  Break the egg onto a second plate, and scramble.
  • Place a skillet over medium heat.
  • Cut the chicken breast in half by slicing it down the length of it.  Using a tenderizer, pound out both sides of each half.
  • Take one chicken breast and coat completely in egg.  Then, coat each side of the chicken in almonds.  Repeat with the other chicken breast.
  • Add olive oil to the skillet and coat the bottom.  Then add both chicken breasts.  Cook for 5 minutes on one side, then flip.

Dry Brushing – Lifestyle practice I’ve incorporated lately.  Read the article to find out the benefits – for me I really have found that my skin is softer and smoother after daily dry brushing.  I brush all over just before I get into the shower.

Morocco: Life, Light, & Spice – Last, but not least, I loved this post about traveling, indulging, and enjoying food, this time in Morocco!  While I love, love living a holistic lifestyle, I also love, love traveling and experiencing culture and life through food.  So while in my everyday life the food I enjoy most is the food that nourishes and fuels my body, when I travel the food I enjoy most is the local flavors and traditions.  Find what works for you, don’t get stuck in the “rules” of what you should/should not eat, and enjoy!