foodie

Cinnamon-Roasted Veggies

If you are familiar with my Instagram account @balancingserena, then you would know that my diet is FULL of vegetables because I love them! I have always thought of vegetables as a savory food… but I have found a way to incorporate them in my meals as a sweet factor! I have become obsessed with roasting them in the oven with cinnamon!! It is such a simple process that can be used on soooo many different vegetables. If you try this, I can promise you that it will turn what many see as a ‘boring’ ingredient into the game-changer of your meals! All you have to do is follow this simple list:

  • Preheat your oven. I usually set mine around 400 degrees. However, I know people that set their oven to 350, others at 450… It is up to you and your oven!
  • Then I prepare my veggies. That normally means I will wash them, chop any that need to be, and then lay them on the pan.
  • After I season them. I always use Chosen Foods Avocado Oil spray to start. After I spray my veggies, I will either choose to add cinnamon, pink himalayan sea salt, or both**.
  • Last I stick them in the oven! The amount of time that your veggies need to roast will differ depending on the veggie, your oven, the temp you choose, and your preference as to how soft or crispy you would like them to be! A general rule of thumb that I like to live by is to stick my pan in for about 15 minutes and then I will check whatever is in there. At this point my food is usually ready to be flipped and put back in for about 10 more minutes. Some veggies will require a bit more time if they are bigger, thicker, etc.. It is always a bit of a guessing game!
  • After they are done I take them out and allow them to cool completely before putting them in the fridge, otherwise they will become soggy!

**The veggies that I enjoy roasting with cinnamon for a sweet effect include carrots, sweet potatoes, some types of squash (such as acorn), and even sometimes zucchini! Of course there are some veggies that I love to roast that I do not season with cinnamon because, well, I just don’t think it would turn out well. Those can include broccoli, peppers, some squashes (such as spaghetti), brussel sprouts, and so many more. I also suggest trying sweet potatoes, carrots, and zucchini to be roasted without the cinnamon, they are good prepared with just the avocado oil and salt!

We are all aware that when you roast your veggies in a savory way that they can become an ingredient or apart of your meal… but what about when they are roasted with cinnamon? How do you eat them? My favorite way to enjoy these sweet treats are in yogurt bowls with some fruit, peanut-butter, maybe some granola, etc. You can also enjoy them the way you would normally without the cinnamon and they are just as great! There are endless ways to get creative with your vegetables. Healthy eating can be so much fun and delicious, it doesn’t have to be hard and boring! It is all dependent upon your mindset and wether or not you are willing to take the time to prepare them! I hope this was able to spark some ideas so that you now feel like running to the kitchen and having fun while fueling your body in a healthy way!

 

Self-Care Ideas

As many of you know, I am a huge advocate for taking time for yourself!! Self-care is such an important priority that so many people neglect now-a-days. We live in a go-go-go society where we are always participating in some activity or another, and rarely remember to just slow down and enjoy the quiet moments. I used to always be like that, I wouldn’t ever take time to rest until it was literally time to go to bed. When I was living like this though, I was always tired, I wouldn’t ever check-in with myself and ask myself how I was feeling… I wasn’t ever aware of my own needs. But now-a-days: I literally set apart time in my daily schedule to do take part in some kind of self-loving act!! By doing this I have become a much happier person and have become more in-tune with myself and with my needs! Today I decided to throw together a post with some ideas of different ways I like to show myself some love and hopefully allow you to get some ideas as to how you can take time for yourself as well!

 

  • Walks + Podcasts

The first of a few different forms of self-care that I regularly take part in are walks! Ever since the snow melted, I have started finding some time everyday to get outside for a stroll. I normally take my dog with me as well (he is in the photo at the top!). Most of the time I like to put in headphones and listen to a podcast! Some of my favorites include Food Pysch, The Balanced Blonde, Actually Adultish, Bulletproof Radio, and The Chasing Joy Podcast! I love getting out of the house and connecting with nature. There are some days when I don’t even bring my phone. I love to just take that quiet time to be mindful and spend sometime with myself, reflecting on all the different things going on in my world! This really allows me to connect with what is going on around me and what is going on in my mind as well. It also allows me time to relax while getting some fresh air and some sunlight!

 

  • Journaling

This one is a big one for me! I have allows been a girl who is on the more ‘sensitive’ side, and by that I mean I have lots of emotions! There was a time when I would bottle them up and not express them anywhere…which was a huge mistake. Now-a-days, I like to take out my journal every single morning. I write down anything big that happens, any thoughts I have, anything I am feeling, any ideas that pop into my mind, basically my whole life is recorded in that book! Writing down my feelings has become such an amazing way for me to get them out there whether I am feeling happy, sad, mad, stressed, etc. It allows me to express myself and feel as though that news isn’t just sitting on my shoulders waiting to be heard.

 

  • Reading

I have always loved to read, so this is a great one for me as well. Allowing myself that time to relax, sit down, and just tune into a different world is a game-changer.  I love to read mostly nonfiction books, as I am a big nerd when it comes to learning. Giving myself time everyday to just be able to absorb new information that I did not know beforehand is something that makes me so very happy and calm. If you aren’t a big reader, this one may not be for you.. But if there is something else you like to do such as just listening to some music or watching the daily news, but don’t normally allow yourself the time to just sit and do that, I suggest that today is the day you try it!

 

  • Face Masks

Along with this one could be any type of spa treatment that you enjoy whether that is painting your nails, doing a hair mask, maybe taking a warm bath, or perhaps it means going to an actually spa! I think literally taking care of your body, or pampering yourself every once-in-a-while, is so important! Everybody in this world is there own special person, and everyone deserves to feel that way as well! Our bodies are constantly working so hard to fuel our daily lives that I believe we should work at appreciating that by giving them the TLC that they deserve! Doing face masks on Friday nights while watching New Girl and eating a yogurt bowl has totally been my jam lately! It gives me time to relax and to thank my body for all it has done for me throughout the week, and it is such a great way to spend the night verses going out to a party and drinking! (Although if that is your jam, by all means!)

 

  • Treating Myself to Something

This one is a bit more on the ‘creative side’, meaning it is going to look different for everyone! By treating myself, I mean spend a little extra money that you normally wouldn’t so that you can enjoy something that you normally wouldn’t! For some of you this is going to mean finally buying that pair of shoes that you have been eyeing up forever! For others this will mean going to your favorite bakery and ordering an expensive latte and delicious brunch that you don’t usually like paying for. For myself, this always varies. Sometimes it is when I decide to purchase a more spendy book that I have been dying to read, or it might mean giving myself permission to tap into the money I have been saving to get a massage that I am long overdue for! Whatever it is that you really love, but don’t normally allow yourself, I am giving you permission today to go and spend that little bit of money. In the end, you only get to live once, so why not enjoy this life and allow yourself a gift every now and then!

 

There are so many other ways that I like to take care of myself by doing such as going to bed early some nights, powering off my phone for a day, baking, and many other things! Every single one of you might have a list that looks completely different, and that is perfectly okay! The point of self-care is to take care of YOU. Find whatever it is that makes (insert your name here) feel amazing, relaxed, important, and loved, and do that thing! I hope that I was able to maybe give you some new ideas to add to the ways in which you care for yourself, or maybe I was able to convince you to finally just set-aside some extra time for some self-loving practices! Where ever it is you are at in life, just know that you are important and you deserve all the love and support that you give to others every single day!

 

 

My Life as a Barista

As many of you might know, I am a barista at Caribou Coffee. I just recently, in April, had my one year anniversary as an employee for the company, and I am now going on 13 months! I have only ever had two jobs, this being the second one. I get so many people asking me all the time what it is like to be a barista, so I have decided to talk about my job and why I have stuck with it for so long!

 

Before I get into the topic too much I want to address something. In my opinion, I believe that being a barista at a ‘chain’ coffee company, or a franchise, is much different than the life of a barista at a hole-in-the-wall coffeehouse, or a coffee shop. I have never worked at what I would consider to be a genuine coffeehouse before, however I have been to MANY (of which I eventually plan to do little reviews on), know a few people who have worked at one, and have also read many blogs written by baristas from them! In my opinion, and do not get me wrong, I still love the coffee that I serve and I am very passionate about making each cup a work of art, but I believe that franchises are all about being fast and making money. Whereas a coffeehouse spends time to do the little extra things such as putting your coffee into a beautiful mug and making a unique design on top. They are not so worried as to how long it takes, they are more about really making each cup of coffee to be as beautiful as possible (such as the lattes that are featured in my image at the top of the post. No, they did not come from Caribou…they were the lovely beverages my friend and I enjoyed from Black in Minneapolis a bit ago. They were amazing for anyone who might be curious to know!!). Franchises also tend to have hundreds of options, many do not even have any coffee or aren’t tea related at all! However when you get to a coffee shop, you will only find, for the most part, your very basic and regular caffeinated beverages such as a latte, a cappuccino, along with a few alternatives such as a smoothie or a cocoa steamer along with some teas for the individuals who aren’t about that caffeine life.

 

I have three different occupations that I would consider pursuing when I am an adult. The first, and more practical, is becoming a registered dietician or take up something in the nutrition field. The second would be to really devote myself to my instagram @balancingserena along with this blog and possibly make them my full-time career one day! However, the third option that I do not tell many about, for no particular reason, would be to open up my own coffeeshop. I would love to own my own business and become a full-time barista. I would never want to work at a franchise where I do now, nor would I ever want to have to deal with a drive-thru (aka my worst nightmare) again. I would want to open up a little shop that serves amazing coffee drinks, maybe makes some fresh pastries, and is a place to go that will bring you good vibes. It will be a place where you feel welcome. You will feel as though your beverage was crafted especially for you each and every time by someone who really cares and takes that extra minute to make your chai the best one you’ll say you’ve ever had, every time you come. I would love to do this because I am so passionate about what I do.

 

So what is it like to be a barista? Why do I love it so much that I fantasize about doing it as a full-time career option one day? First I would like to mention the negative sides of the job. With every rainbow that you come across, there was a rainstorm that preceded it. So of course with a wonderful job, you are going to have those negative aspects that are there as well.

  • Being a barista can be exhausting, in many ways. The first way being because it is quite the mental game. Especially working at a franchise where we have hundreds of drink options, that is hundreds of recipes you have to memorize. Of course, it gets easier as time goes on, but I never fail to have a day once-in-a-while when I question if I remembered to hit grind on the beans or if I never even poured them into the grinder in the first place. It can also be physically exhausting as well. When you get hit with a rush, whether that be the early-morning crowd rushing to work, or the Sunday afternoon church crew that are getting their caffeine fix after a long service, it can be tough. As I said earlier, we also have a drive-thru at my store. So this means there can be days where we have a line of customers weaving throughout our narrow entrance and a line of cars outside just as long weaving around the building. You can imagine this gets to be chaotic at times. Throw in a shortage of employees, or the occasional episode of running-out-of a staple ingredient such as vanilla or mint, and it becomes a barista’s worst nightmare.
  • The other downside to working as a barista can be the customer aspect. Now don’t get me wrong, this is also one of my favorite parts as well!! But I will mention that side later. When it comes to customers, you will occasionally get some that tend to be more difficult to work with. Sometimes you might get someone insisting that they want a latte with caramel and want to add some whipped cream on top. That beverage, equivalent to the Caramel High Rise that my store makes. When you try to tell people that though, they will insist that they don’t want your Caramel High Rise, they want a latte with caramel and whipped cream… Okay mam, whatever you’d like. You also get customers that can never be pleased. I have had times where I have had people ask me to re-make their beverage two or three times, have another employee make the same thing, and still walk out unhappy. Or maybe you have a customer that is furious because you cannot make them a certain item or use a certain product such as coconut milk, because we simply do not carry it. There is never a shortage of problems that a barista has to deal with when it comes to working with the public, especially considering many customers may be cranky and they are coming to us in the first place to receive their morning caffeine so that they can function normally!

 

You might be able to ask another barista, and they might be able to tell you many other things about their jobs that they despise. But for me, those two factors are the only ones that I have ever had as a reason to complain about my job. The best part is that I have many more reasons to love my job than just two. That is why I am so passionate about being a barista, I have found so many different aspects of the career to love and appreciate that I simply don’t have reasons to not love what I do!

 

  • First of all, I love the knowledge that I have gained. Honestly, before working at Caribou, I knew almost nothing about coffee. I knew that you put in water and grounds, and out comes black liquid. Now that I have been working at Caribou so long, I have become so much more educated on coffee. I have learned the types of drinks, how it is made, the origins of many coffees, what it takes to perfect roast, I have learned about the different ways in which coffee can be made…there are so many different things that I am now knowledgeable about that two years ago even, I would have been scratching my head at!
  • The love of coffee has got to be hands done one of my favorite perks of being a barista. Now I am not talking about your fluffy drinks with chocolate, caramel, whipped cream, candy pieces, and few shots of espresso with milk….I am talking about real coffee. I do love my lattes, and my mochas, but I never used to be able to sit down and enjoy a cup of black coffee, without at least enough sugar to a point where it wouldn’t pass a coffee DNA test. But when you spend countless afternoons having to make, talk about, work around, smell, and taste a certain beverage, you learn to enjoy it. I do not only enjoy it, but I also appreciate it. I appreciate the benefits that coffee can have such as the antioxidants, I appreciate the aroma that I now associate my peaceful, quiet morning times with, I appreciate it for so much more than just the Cup-of-Joe that some people consider it to be.
  • The benefits of working where I work are also something to be mentioned. As an employee at Caribou, I receive quite a few. I get a free beverage when I work plus a discount when I stop there as just a customer. It has definitely helped save me money! I also receive some free coffee grounds, or tea bags, each week. There are many different perks that being a barista can get you versus just being the girl ordering on the other side of the counter!
  • The community is hands down my all time favorite reason ever of being a barista. If this was the only positive part of doing the job that I do, honestly, it would be enough. I can not tell you how many countless people I have been able to meet through working where I do. Yes, I have befriended all my fellow coworkers, but so does everyone else at all other jobs. I am talking about all the people that I have met that are coming through for a cup of coffee. If you were a tourist, you might not ever make an effort to stop at McDonalds on your way through Hibbing, but coffee? Most people are always down for that! There are so many different characters that I have had the pleasure of meeting that I have never seen again. There are also the regulars that I see all the time. Many are people I always used to see, the difference is that we now know each other’s names and each other’s stories. We have a relationship and a friendship that was not there before. It always brings me so much joy when I see familiar faces walking through the door of the shop. I also get to see many friends, and even some of my family, more often than I might have if I had just been sitting at home. However, when I am there serving them coffee, or taking their order, I have an extra chance to say hi and see how they are doing! Being a barista has caused me to become much more of an extrovert. It has also allowed me on any given day to walk out of my house and almost always know the people that I run into at the store or on the street! I have the opportunity to touch other’s lives and try and make their day with a smile and their favorite beverage. I am also touched many times when a customer smiles back at me and thanks me as if it means the world to them that I was so polite or that they now have something delicious to sip on!
  • The coffee is another amazing perk.. duuuh! This is a bit of a mix between the benefits of working at Caribou along with the appreciation for coffee that I have inquired. I mean, the fact that I work at Caribou Coffee has just opened up so many more opportunities for me to really get a good cup of caffeine. Maybe I need to run in to check my schedule, or stop by to just say hi to someone I know is working that day. Those are both reasons that I never had before to stop into Caribou. There are so many more excuses along with those that I am now able to use to make my way to the store!  And of course, as you can imagine, I do not think there has ever been a day when I walked in without walking out with a cup of coffee in my hand (unless I finished it while I was there.. Even then I will usually get a refill though, or get a different beverage to go).
  • Connecting more to who I am is another benefit that I have reaped since becoming a barista. I do not know how many of you have experienced this before, but the moment that I was given the job title ‘barista’ something clicked. I felt like apart of me was finally becoming who I was meant to be in a way. When I got that dream job, or the best job I could think of as a high-school sophomore living in a small town without many opportunities, I felt as though it allowed me to start embracing other parts of myself. I started slowly realizing that it was okay that I was more of an introvert. I realized it was okay that I tend to usually be the girl who does her own thing and does not always fit into the crowd. I was able to be accepted into that environment, verses my regular high-school environment where I normally felt out of place, I was treated as equal as everyone else. I could be Serena.

So when people ask me why I love my job, why I would consider serving others a cup of coffee for a living, this is what I tell them. I do not think that just any old soul off of the street has what it takes to be a barista, or at least not a good one anyways. Yes, maybe anyone can make a cup of coffee, but it takes passion and dedication for someone to turn that cup of coffee or tea from just a beverage into an experience and a moment to be savored. When you go to a real coffeehouse that possess this rare and amazing quality, you will know. That is what I like about being a barista. I do not just like making coffee, but I love creating beverages that tell their own stories and hold their own meaning.

IMG_1093

Here is my favorite photo of myself enjoying a cappuccino at Kunnari’s. It was pre-grey hair, but I love the smile that I am wearing. I believe that is what every cup of coffee should bring!

Current Favorites: Snack Edition

I don’t know about you, but I am a snack-type of girl! I love to prepare myself healthy and nutritious meals that leave me satisfied, but with my go-go-go lifestyle, I get hungry very easy. That makes snacks a must!! I need all the energy that I can get to perform at my best potential! So I decided to put together a small post giving you some ideas on my favorite healthy snack options for whenever your hunger strikes!

IMG_6583

Snack Idea 1: Hummus!

I recently made the discovery of hummus after hearing about it for soooo long, and I have not been disappointed. Hummus is so good! There are so many flavors out there as, making it something that almost anyone can enjoy. I love to dip carrots or celery into my hummus. Another idea is to dip any other veggie, crackers, bread, or hard boiled eggs into it! It is also great to add to any dish as an extra flavor source. I really like this organic Hope Hummus, however I traveled an hour and a half to get it (small-town girl problems). When I don’t have access to this brand, I usually enjoy Tribe Hummus.

img_6559.jpg

Snack Idea 2: Kombucha!

Now I am aware that this is a drink and not an actual snack for munching on, but sometimes you don’t want to munch…sometimes you just need a good beverage, which is where this comes in! There are so many brands of kombucha out there and so many flavors as well. Kombucha is a fermented tea and it is jam-packed with probiotics! That means it isn’t only tasteful, but it is amazing for the health of your gut as well. And due to the strong connection between your mind and your gut, a happy gut equals a happy mind! This beverage tastes great and it is just as great for you! I love GT’s organic komucha, but there are many other brands out their that have products just as great.

IMG_6567

Snack Idea 3: Peanut Butter!

For anyone who knows me, you know I am OBSESSED with all things peanut-butter. I will never not suggest this as a snack option. It is so tasteful, full of healthy fats and some protein, comes in many flavors, and can be eaten in so many ways. My favorite ways to eat peanut-butter are with apples, on toast, or in yogurt bowls. There are millions of other options though! There are so many brands I could rave about, but I’ve currently been hooked on these two: Justin’s and Peanut-Butter & Co. My all time favorite is definitely Wild Friends however. These brands not only taste amazing, but they have such great ingredient labels. They do not add all kind of sugar or unhealthy oils, they are very natural!

IMG_6577

Snack Idea 4: Yogurt!

I loooove yogurt, I love it almost as much as peanut-butter. I tend to have at least one yogurt bowl a day! You can eat it plain, add fruit, add granola, add nuts, add peanut-butter or nut-butters, add veggies like sweet potatoes, or there are hundreds of other ideas. You can also use yogurt in baking or use unsweetened, plain yogurt in cooking to substitute for things like mayo. I really like Siggi’s yogurt. There is hardly any sugar, lots of protein, it is very thick , the ingredients are great, and it just tastes yummy. I also enjoy other brands as well, however I always make sure to check the label for the ingredients and the amount of added sugars!

There are so many more snack ideas out there, but these are just the ones that I am currently obsessed with! I tend to be a creature of habit though so you’ll probably be able to catch me eating any of these at any given times for the next long while! Whether you like these kind of snacks, or you taste buds go in a different different, the most important thing in my opinion is to know what the ingredient label says! When choosing your snacks, make sure you are going for the brands with labels that have whole ingredients, and words you can pronounce! You want to make sure to be fueling your body in a healthy way! I hope you were able to get a new idea for your next afternoon snack! Have a great rest of your week, and good luck if you have started taking finals as I have!(:

Sweet Potato Bowl

Do you ever wake up in the morning and crave something different than your normal go-to breakfast? I face this problem almost every week… I enjoy a certain meal for a bit, but then it gets boring and soon I am looking for something new! But I have found one morning meal that I have not yet gotten tired of, every morning it is as delicious as the first: Sweet potato bowls!! They are very healthy and offer good carbs, protein, and fat for you to get loads of energy to help fuel your activities for the day!

What you will need:

  • Greek yogurt
  • Any type of nut butter
  • Sweet potato
  • Toppings that include any type of spice (I love cinnamon), granola is also a wonderful pair (I suggest Purely Elizabeth), or anything else that your heart desires!

Directions:

This breakfast is fast and simple! You can either steam your potato (as I did in the cover photo) or you can roast it (as I did shown below). If you will be in a time crunch in the morning, as many of us are, it is best to prepare and chill the sweet potato overnight! Otherwise this step can be done it the morning. If you prepare it in the morning you have the option to chill it or to keep or potato warm (my personal favorite!). Whether it is steamed, mashed, hot, or chilled, the rest is a piece of cake! Just scoop your greek yogurt into your bowl along with the potato. Next add your nut butter of choice (I am a peanut-butter girl all the way) and then add toppings!

This is a very flexible recipe! For instance I often will do cottage cheese instead of yogurt!  Another personal favorite of mine is to switch sweet potato for acorn squash! The options are endless! I hope you all enjoy this healthy and quick breakfast idea! Have a great week(:

IMG_2175