December 1, 2020

CHRISTMAS 2020 GIFT GUIDE

Photo by: Ayaka Sano (2019)

Today is Giving Tuesday, one of my favorite days of the year! Generosity is a quality that my parents nurtured in me, and for that, I am so grateful. 

*WARNING: SPOILER AHEAD*

As my sister and I grew old enough to know Santa doesn't exist, our parents told us that we wouldn't be receiving gifts from them anymore. Instead, we could use the money they would've spent on our gifts in a way that would benefit others. The very first cause I donated to was sponsoring a child through World Vision. And over the years, I've given to other organizations with missions near and dear to my heart.

But I do love giving gifts. And my favorite gifts are those that are not only beautiful & thoughtful, but also make a difference and positive impact globally and locally! So I thought I'd put together a quick gift guide to share some ideas for gifts that give back! I've ordered the brands alphabetically to make it easy to sort through. 

If you've been following me for a while, you would know that I have been a fan of 31 Bits for years. They hire talented artisans in Bali who create beautiful jewelry out of metal and pay them fair wages. I always know I'm going to be receiving quality pieces whenever I order from them. Most of the necklaces and rings I wear on repeat for years are from this company. They recently released a new Winter collection and I want every piece! But here are a few of my favorites:

  

One cause very dear to me is ending human trafficking. I can't imagine my own friends, sisters, or daughter being sold into sex trafficking. But it is a very real reality for so many people globally and in our own backyards. It is estimated that 20-40 MILLION people are enslaved today. A21 is fighting to seek justice by not only rescuing those enslaved, but also convicting traffickers and providing holistic aftercare to survivors. 
You can donate to A21 or shop their products to contribute to freedom for another life! Here are some of my favorite products:



Now you may know that I love products that are not only stylish, but also ethically sourced. My friend, Abby, has a huge heart for artisans in Kenya and ethical sourcing & practices. So not only are her products fashionable, they are also socially responsible. She sells minimalist jewelry and luxurious bags that are all of high quality and so beautiful! Here are some of my favorites:



Another company you may already have heard about if you have been following me for a while is Elegantees. I am so in love with this company and their big, beautiful heart for bringing an end to human trafficking, but also bringing hope to survivors through employment with fair wages making beautiful clothing. You may remember that I have designed an entire collection with them and a dress last Winter. It was a dream come true and I love that I got to design for a company I truly believe in! Here are some of my favorite pieces that are currently available. And yes, there are tees for men too!



As I mentioned before, ending human trafficking is a cause I will always support. As I live my life in freedom, it's heartbreaking to know that millions of people don't have that freedom. International Justice Mission, or IJM, is an organization I have been supporting for years through monthly support as a Freedom Partner. They have been hard at work by partnering with local law enforcement and justice systems in areas riddled with human trafficking to end it for good. You can make a one-time donation, become a Freedom Partner, or donate to specific causes on behalf of your friends or family. Here are some causes that are important to me:

The Little Market is an amazing gift shop for homemakers, kids, and accessories. I love their heart and vision for a world where all women have the opportunity to earn a fair and dignified income. And every item is ethically made and sourced. Here are some of my favorite items:


Preemptive Love has been a necessary light in this world in the places that are the darkest and hurting the most. They are often the first to respond in war-torn countries, such as Iraq, Iran and Syria. They bring relief to displaced families. They bring hope by creating jobs for vulnerable families and coach them to help them become self sustaining. They are working to unmake violence and be the peacemakers in this world. Here are some gifts from their shop:


I've continued to support World Vision. I love their mission to go to the hard to reach places and to help communities tackle issues like poverty and injustices. They value people and respond to life threatening disasters and emergencies around the world. They have equipped millions of kids through their child sponsorship program and provided clean water for millions of people in developing countries, just to name a few things they have accomplished with the help of donors. As a gift, you can make a donation to specific causes in the name of a loved one. Some causes are: U.S. Coronavirus Family Emergency Kits, Hunger Relief Fund, and giving a struggling family a goat and 2 chickens.

I always love learning about other amazing organizations doing good and other companies/brands with products that give back. If you know of more, please let me know in the comments below!

September 25, 2020

Five Ingredient Friday: Pumpkin Chicken Sausage Pasta

When Al Fresco asked me to participate in a Five Ingredient Challenge using their fully cooked dinner chicken sausage, I knew I had to create a cozy pumpkin dish (I know, so basic!) to celebrate the start of Fall. And wow, I'm going to be making this dish all season, especially when I need a quick and easy weeknight meal!

It's not only the simplest recipe that uses ingredients you likely already have in your pantry and fridge, it's also so delicious, creamy and cheesy! Who knew a five ingredient recipe could be so flavorful! This recipe is also pretty adaptable to utilize whatever healthy ingredients you have on hand.

I used rotini pasta, since I always have rotini on hand, but you can use any kind of pasta for this recipe. You can also use different blends of shredded cheeses. And if you want to sneak in some greens, you can easily add them in! Plus, if you love spicy food like me, you can give it a kick of heat with crushed red pepper flakes.

Al Fresco's fully cooked dinner sausage is an ingredient I always keep on hand in my freezer or fridge. Not only do they have delicious flavors, they're easy additions to pasta, salad, pizza, breakfast scrambles etc. So far this recipe is my absolute favorite use of their chicken sausage! I really hope you give this a try and let me know what you think!

PUMPKIN CHICKEN SAUSAGE PASTA

Serves 3-4 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (16 oz) of Rotini Pasta, uncooked (You can use any kind of pasta you have on hand)
  • 4 Al Fresco fully cooked Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage links, slice into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 12 oz canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup fat free half and half
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (You can use any blend of Monterey Jack, mild cheddar, mozzarella, and/or parmesan)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • Optional: Spinach or any kind of greens you have on hand (ex: broccoli, asparagus)
  • Optional: Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste, for a spicy kick

Instructions:

  1. Cook pasta per directions on the box. Once cooked, drain, run under cold water so pasta doesn't stick and set aside
  2. In a non-stick pan or skillet, heat olive oil on medium heat. Once oil is glistening, add chicken sausage rounds and cook for about 5 minutes. Occasionally stirring so both sides of rounds brown.
  3. Once sausage is browned, add pumpkin puree, half and half, cheese, garlic powder and optional crushed red pepper flakes and greens. Stir and cook until heated through. 
  4. Add drained pasta to pan and combine.
  5. Enjoy!

#5withalfresco #ad

August 31, 2020

Sweet & Spicy Popcorn Shrimp Dinner

 

Meal prep. Anyone consider themselves adept at meal prepping? If you do, please send me your tips my way! I wish I was good at planning my meals for the week, then grocery shop with those specific meals in mind and never having to feel the panic of not knowing what meal I was going to make for work the next day. But, I've learned to make sure I shop for a variety of vegetables and protein. Some fresh and some frozen or canned, so I have a variety of food to work with when I cook last minute.

My go-to last minute meals are sheet pan meals. I love that they require very little prep, leave only a few dishes and utensils to wash and are simple and quick. 

I'm excited to partner with Gorton's Seafood again to share a sheet pan meal using their delicious popcorn shrimp! As I mentioned in my Shrimp Tacos recipe post, Gorton's Popcorn Shrimp is preserved for freshness, non-GMO and full of good protein, vitamins and minerals. I try to always have their popcorn shrimp in my freezer since it's so easy to create a variety of delicious snack or mealtime recipes with it!


This sweet and spicy popcorn shrimp sheet pan meal is simple and full of flavor! I love serving it over rice, but you can serve it over plain noodles or by itself. It's a great recipe for dinner parties or for everyday meals. And leftovers can be packed up for work the next couple days! You can swap out the vegetables for anything else too (snap peas, asparagus, etc). Let me know what you think of the recipe if you give it a try!

SWEET & SPICY POPCORN SHRIMP

Serves 3-4 people

Ingredients:
  • Gorton's Popcorn Shrimp (I used about 3/4 of a package)
  • 1 head of broccoli cut into florets
  • 1 head of cauliflower cut into florets
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup sweet Thai chili sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Sriracha
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (or spray cooking oil)
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 425F
  2. In a small bowl, mix garlic, sweet Thai chili sauce, Sriracha and honey until well combined.
  3. Spread out vegetables on a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over vegetables. Toss to coat.
  4. Add Gorton's Popcorn Shrimp to baking sheet. Drizzle sweet and spicy sauce over shrimp and vegetables. Toss to coat.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes. Tips of florets should be browned.
  6. Enjoy!

August 28, 2020

Tie-Dye Whimsy

 

I've been wanting to share this whimsical tie-dye dress, but haven't had the energy or time to sit and write a blog post. What a wild season these 6 months have been! So here's this look without any deep thoughts tied to it. I want to say, "I'll come back to write something here one day in the future", but we all know that likely isn't going to happen. But here's a reminder I've been needing to hear a lot: You are enough and you are so loved!!








August 9, 2020

SHRIMP TACOS

Happy August! It's wild to think that we are about to face month SIX of quarantine. If I had to quickly sum up each month, this is what I'd say.

Month one - two: As I'm sure was the case for everyone, the start of quarantine was rough. I thought time would pass by really slowly. 

Month three: I felt like I was getting into a rhythm. But then everything kept changing as we stepped through each phase.

Month four - five: Life got crazy as people were adjusting to the "new normal" and cases of COVID kept climbing.

We will see what month six brings! But one thing that remained the same throughout quarantine life was how much more cooking I was able to do. And my love for tacos and seafood never waned.

I've made many variations of tacos throughout this season, and the newest variation is one of my favorites because it incorporates shrimp. I'm excited to collaborate with Gorton's Shrimp since their products are delicious. Plus, they are often a freezer staple in my house because they make food prep super simple!*

Gorton's shrimp is great to keep in your freezer since it's preserved for freshness. I can easily cook up a smaller portion of the package for a snack or a larger portion for a shared meal. Lately I've also been focusing on eating foods that are filled with goodness. Gorton's Shrimp is filled with protein, vitamins and minerals for immunity boosting. Plus, it's non-GMO!

This shrimp taco recipe is perfect on a summer day! It's topped with mango salsa and sriracha sauce for a sweet and spicy kick.

SHRIMP TACOS:

Serves 2 people

Ingredients:

  • Flour/Corn tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded cabbage/lettuce
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup diced mango
  • 1/4 small red onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, diced into small pieces
  • Lime juice
  • Small bunch of cilantro, minced
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced/diced
  • Gorton's Popcorn Shrimp
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp Sriracha
Directions:
  1. Prepare Gorton's Popcorn Shrimp as directed on package.
  2. In a small bowl, make salsa by combining tomatoes, mango, red onion, jalapeño, cilantro and lime juice.
  3. In another small bowl, make Sriracha sauce by combining sour cream and Sriracha.
  4. Warm tortillas over the stove until browned.
  5. Top tortillas with cabbage/lettuce, salsa, avocados, as much shrimp as desired, then drizzle on Sriracha sauce. 
  6. Add a squeeze of lime and enjoy!
Let me know what you think of this recipe if you try it!
*Sponsored by: Gorton's Shrimp

March 18, 2020

SWEET FREEDOM


**This post was supposed to be published the week of the Fourth of July...of 2019, but being in the middle of the ocean without internet at the time thwarted my plans since it never actually published when I hit the "publish" button. And yes, it is March of 2020, but this is a post worthy to be read & shared any time of the year, so here it is! I've also added some more to this post regarding current events in light of the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic in italics. Also, crazy to think that I was on a cruise ship when I originally wrote this post.**

Freedom sure is sweet!

All of my life, I have lived a life of freedom. But often I forgot to acknowledge and appreciate my freedom. I thought I lacked freedom when I had to follow my parents' rules. I thought I lacked freedom when I had to sit in a classroom and listen to my teachers. I thought I lacked freedom when I was enduring 30 hour calls during residency. I have fleeting thoughts that I lack freedom when I'm confined to my home during social distancing.

But in reality, I have had all of the freedoms. The freedom to play outside, the freedom to learn, the freedom to speak my heart, the freedom to love, the freedom to choose my career, the freedom to travel, etc.

Many years ago, my eyes were opened to the injustices that 40+ million people around the world face as they live as modern-day slaves. And it is not only happening in developing countries. It is happening in your own cities and backyards!

Human trafficking is an injustice that we need to stop turning our faces away from and fight for the freedoms of these people. When it comes to issues this large, it often seems daunting to face. What can I, a young woman living in the land of the free, do to bring an end to human trafficking? Where does one even start?

Well, good news! There are many organizations doing so much good around the world. I know that there can be a lot of negative connotations when we think of organizations moving into developing areas, because many times, these organizations are doing more harm than good unintentionally.

However, there are SO many incredible organizations helping instead of hurting. They are rescuing men, women and children from slavery. They are providing safe homes for those rescued. They are providing resources to help them recover from the horrors they faced and bring them hope with therapy, training and jobs. They are spurring on governments and law enforcement to crack down on perpetrators of human trafficking.

Some of my favorite organizations that I support are:


While some may feel confined or feel like it's "unfair" to be told to stay home, remember that we are SO blessed to have the freedoms we do have. We can still vote for our leaders, we can still learn, we can still choose our careers, we can still go outside for a walk, we can still speak freely without fear of being incarcerated or beaten or killed, etc. And we will again have the freedom to travel the world, to eat out at restaurants and to meet with friends. But for now, we have the freedom to love others well by making wise decisions about where we go, who we are around and choosing to stay put. I've found it helpful to start each day with thankfulness and focusing on what I DO have instead of the restrictions I may be facing. Today I'm thankful for my freedoms, my health, for Facetime, for my community, for my friends and family who have been texting/calling to encourage me and pray over me as I go to work and care for patients in this time, and that my grandparents are still healthy and can still smile through this season of life.

Some friends have also reached out to me asking about how they can help those in need during this time or have given me information about which organizations need our help from afar. So I compiled a list and will be adding more as I find more:









Photography: Ashlee O'Neil
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