A Day in Eureka Springs, Arkansas- What to Do

I’ve stumbled into many of my favorite places with absolutely no idea what to expect. I am the queen of taking a recommendation, putting it in my trusty maps app and heading out on an adventure. I heard of Eureka Springs while looking for a fun way to kill time while I was a travel journalist’s conference in Branson, Missouri. This was my first time in the Midwest and I had the urge to see as much as possible in my little amount of time there. So there I was on a beautiful Thursday morning in the midwest with my coworker- running off a suggestion, a few hours to kill and being in close proximity to a state we’ve both never been to. It took one google image search full of cobblestone streets to convince us.

The drive into Arkansas is a culture shock for an Upstate New Yorker. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more mega churches, cows or curvier roads in my whole life. After a little motion sickness from possibly the most scenic but most turn-laden ride in existence, we arrived in Eureka Springs. The beginning of the town reminded me a little of something you would find in a New York mountain town but when we got to the heart of the destination I realized it had a flare and uniqueness all of its own. The first thing I noticed about Eureka Springs is that it’s a stairstep town with stairways functioning as named streets leading up to paved streets lined with gorgeous brick buildings and people strolling. The next thing I noticed is that the LGBT community is celebrated and supported as rainbow flags adorned many of the establishments. It was a breath of fresh air in the Midwest to see people of all sexual orientations and genders to be able to have no holds on who they are in this haven.

If you walk around you’ll find memorialized springs that were once claimed magic, healing people suffering from all sorts of ailments. Bath houses that once gave those an opportunity to experience the magic are still existing as luxury spas and places for those visiting to rest their head. Yet there is no shortage of healing still happening present day in this town- shops claiming to spiritually heal are plenty and alternatives to western medicine like CBD oil are sold throughout the town. If anything, the tranquility that Eureka Springs offers is healing in its own way and the spirit of the town will certainly lift yours.

There were so many places to eat in such a small town but having been so hungry my coworker and I picked a place at random and were really glad we did. The restaurant, Mud Street Annex, advertised all-day breakfast and donned a beautiful neon sign inside deeming itself the “home of Ozarka water.” We were captivated by every little decoration but what the waitress excitingly showed us when walking to our table stole the show. In the floor there was a window looking 20-feet below where a spring resided, a hidden gem just like the town itself. We had lunch with the spring in view and I was pretty content with an iced tea and gluten-free turkey melt in hand.

After lunch came more exploring and admiring architecture. During our wandering something that made my whole trip happened- I was admiring the music of an old man playing acoustic guitar with his pup and balloon animals in tow- when I went to tip him for the free entertainment, the sun came out and lit up the park. He exclaimed “this town really is magic” in response and in that moment I was very sold on that notion.

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The cutest little park pup in the world, you’re welcome.

If you get the opportunity to visit this town, please do. It is an absolute gem full of locally owned businesses, adorable cafes and enough history to make your head explode. The whole town is like a giant art park, my favorite pieces included a memorial to a made-up goddess and a humpty-dumpty sitting on top of a wall on a hill. It was a great escape from the evangelical vibe of the Midwest, even with an artsy giant Jesus statue on an adjacent hill overlooking. My best advice is to talk to the locals, they really make the town and have the best facts to share, they’ll provide you with history you wouldn’t have known. Wander the streets, take in the music and take advantage of every photo opportunity. Next time I’m in the Midwest I plan to make a trip out of it and stay at their treehouse resort (yes, they have one of those awesome, right?) or spend the night in their haunted hotel that gives you a “ghost tracker” as a companion for your stay.

Arkansas isn’t all cows, mega churches and dirt roads. If you check this state off your travel bucket list, make sure to pay a visit to Eureka Springs- you’ll be glad that you did!

For more history, things to do and fun in Eureka Springs click here.

 

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A Very Real Experience with Celiac Disease: Gluten Exposure

I’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease for two years. I can’t have gluten and when I do my body starts attacking itself and it causes a few days of autoimmune issues. I basically feel like I have the flu AND a stomach virus. It’s not fun. I’m on a strict gluten-free diet that I never break. No, I don’t really miss gluten, I don’t even remember what real bread tastes like. I miss more of the convenience of not having to explain I’m not on a fad diet and I actually need to live this way. I’ve only had accidental gluten exposure a couple times, and it was more like a smidgen of soy sauce in a recipe that I wasn’t aware of until the symptoms hit me the next day. Definitely nothing major but enough to feel awful for a couple days. I never really had a huge issue until this past week.

It was my boyfriend’s birthday a couple weeks ago, my mom decided to make him a chicken riggie dinner (an upstate NY thing). Of course she made the usual gluten-free version for her and myself, along with assorted cheesecake bites that were both gluten-free and not. After a great dinner I aimlessly started eating cheesecake bites. Big mistake. I mixed up which side was gluten-free and not. When she brought this to my attention I immediately ran upstairs and made myself vomit until I couldn’t anymore. This is definitely what you shouldn’t do but I was at least 8 mini cheesecakes in and panicked. I went home to my house 45 mins away and for some reason thought I was in the clear.

That night was my friend’s birthday and I didn’t want to miss it so I assumed I was okay and went out anyways. I knew to keep the drinking to a minimum so I made a mixed drink and eventually started on another when I got to the bar. Midnight hit and as I was bopping around to the music of an unexpected 90’s themed night at the bar I started to feel sick to my stomach. I knew I wasn’t drunk so it had to be something else. I grabbed the boyfriend, an uber and as I went home, hell hit.

That night and the next day was a fun mix of feeling like I was getting repeatedly stabbed in the abdomen and having the arthritis pains of a senior citizen. I expected it was the gluten and just rolled with it. My first line of defense was a strong probiotic, water and assorted vitamins. I had a very important Monday and Tuesday at work that I couldn’t miss and a business trip to Ottawa coming up that Friday so Monday I felt pretty awful but went to work and grinded it out until Wednesday. Wednesday morning after my two busy days I had to stay home, I felt like I had gotten hit by a train. This had already surpassed my normal feelings of sickness that come with gluten exposure and the length. I started to worry, especially about my business trip. I went to work Thursday but left a little early.

I started to worry it was something more, started googling every sort of bowel disease or complication. My stomach and small intestine were legitimately in pain that I did not think was possible. I woke up Friday the day I was supposed to leave for Canada and had to go to urgent care, from there the doctor sent me to the ER because I was really dehydrated. I sat in that ER for hours getting poked and prodded at for any hint at what could be wrong. At the end- nothing, just a notion that it was inflammation from who knows what. Six days after gluten exposure I finally started to look more in celiac and what it can entail.

I found out that really no matter what you do, gluten stays in your body for 14 days. And I had a lot of gluten. I started reading into the experiences of other people and learned that it is not uncommon to be bedridden for two weeks. Everything started to make sense so I knew I had to finally let myself rest. I started off loading up on antioxidants, adopted a grain-free, vegan diet for the next few days and let my digestive system rest. I stuck with the probiotics, added slippery elm supplements in and started taking epsom salt baths (the best thing to ever exist, the magnesium calms you and detoxes your body). I didn’t leave bed for two whole days, not like I felt like I could. Monday I felt crappy still but significantly better. I was able to go to work and take it easy. I’m now on day 11 since gluten exposure and I’m not 100% but I’m getting back to where I was. The hardest thing to kick was the depression related symptoms, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried these past two weeks for reasons unknown.

Overall, I’m sad I missed my trip to Ottawa. Travel is by far the most important thing to me usually and I’m lucky I work in a job that supports it (woo destination marketing) but I really needed the time to rest and heal. I hope that this post finds anyone who might be insane googling their symptoms like I did. It can take forever to feel better, especially if you have a fast-paced life like I do. In the end, I’ve learned that celiac disease can be a b*tch but I need to focus on putting my health first more often. There will be days when I accidentally put myself in bed for two weeks and it sucks but that’s the hand I was dealt. I am eternally grateful for the people in my life that were so eager to help and send me well wishes. I wouldn’t want to relive it for a second but it puts in perspective that people do care about me even when my faux depression induced by celiac convinces me they don’t.

There is always something to take away from these misfortunes and I’m glad I’m starting to feel better. If anyone ever needs any advice on how to deal with this annoying disease, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. It is a lot better when you’re not alone.

What I Eat In a Day: Vegetarian and Gluten-Free

Hey all! Lately I’ve been trying to get inspired to make new meals that aren’t boring to me because I’m definitely not the type of person that can eat the same thing every day. I also need food that is going to shock my taste buds from time to time preferably something with hot sauce or lemon, I could really eat anything with those two.

I’ve been extremely busy lately with one month to graduation and trying to figure out this whole adult thing (if anyone can teach me how to real world, please let me know), this has made grocery shopping a bottom priority as of late. So I decided to whip up lunch with literally whatever I had left in my fridge, luckily a package of extra-firm tofu was one of those things. So here we go, this is every glorious thing I consumed April 12th, 2017.

Breakfast-

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So I decided to start my day off with some Southwest Tofu Scramble Breakfast Tacos. I completely made up and winged this recipe and I’m kind of proud of the end result. This was a game time decision, as I made these with 15 minutes to spare until I had to leave for my internship. These were fairly simple to make, and my first experience with cooking with tofu for breakfast. I have no idea the measurements of what I actually made this with because I threw it together in 10 minutes but here is what you’ll need:

  • Bell peppers
  • Red onion
  • Mushrooms
  • Zucchini
  • Extra-firm tofu
  • Taco seasoning
  • Corn Tortilla
  • Avocado oil
  • Optional: Hot sauce and Avocado

So how do you make this you might ask…how did you make all of these random ingredients you literally found in your fridge last minute taste like pure magic in your mouth?? Well, I’m here to tell you. Step 1, cover skillet with avocado oil on medium heat and start sizzling that corn tortilla. While you do that, chop up your veggies and crumble your tofu. You can really use any veggies you want, this is just what I had leftover from making shish kabobs the other night (we had one 70 degree day and I tried to be grill master). When your tortilla is nice and crispy you’re going to want to take that baby out of the skillet and throw it on a plate. Next I just put a little more avocado oil in my skillet and put down the veggies and tofu. When the veggies start to look cooked I add in the taco seasoning, which I kind of just guess how much I think I’m going to need (unprofessional cooking with Mary Kate tip). More time passes and as I start to realize I’m going to be late for my glamorous unpaid internship I take the veggies out and put them on the tortilla, add some sliced avocado and put more hot sauce than I really should on it. With this meal I also had a cup of Fit Tea, which I’ll most likely be posting on in the future after this trendy teatox is over and I look like a Victoria’s Secret model because that’s how these things work, right???

Lunch-

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My lunch was pretty simple to be honest, but really filling surprisingly for a salad. Nothing flashy about this besides the roasted tofu I made that tastes like perfect mix of crispy and godly.

LIKE LOOK AT THIS

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I made up this recipe the other day, and I kind of guess that this is how one would roast tofu but you never know. All you need is extra-firm tofu, soy sauce, rice flour and avocado oil or whatever oil you have on deck.

So here’s how you make it:

  1. Preheat your oven to 450, it’s about to get hot in here.
  2. Cut up yourself some extra-firm tofu cubes but first try to press as much moisture out as you can with paper towels and your hands. We want these nice and crispy.
  3. Put tofu cubes in a bowl and drizzle on mixture of soy sauce (I used gluten-free because I don’t hate myself) and avocado oil. I shook this all up then let it sit and marinate for like 10 minutes. Made myself a cup of tea and got distracted by bad Bravo reality TV.
  4. Drain your excess marinade and sprinkle some rice flour on your tofu, it’ll help it get extra crispy.
  5. Put on parchment paper on a tray and pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes and watch them get golden brown and beautiful.

So after you have your tofu the rest is fairly simple. Lay out a bed of spinach, cucumber, avocado and almond. Add tofu. For the dressing I did an easy go to of 3 parts apple cider vinegar, 2 parts agave nectar, and 1 part lemon juice. Once your salad is dressed and plated you’re ready to feel like a fit goddess because you’re eating a salad where chicken tenders is not a main topping.

Dinner-

So for dinner my housemates and I decided to go out for our lovely sister Sam’s birthday. Sammi is a gem and one of the funniest humans I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing so it was only necessary that $2.50 margs were on deck to celebrate. There’s a place in my college town called Water Street Cafe, at night it functions as a bar under a different name but by day it is a hot spot for the best food around. Highlights include: homemade gauc, wings, burritos and salads to die for. It was taco night when we went but I decided to go with nachos. I usually don’t eat animal byproducts but I’ve been good so why not. These nachos consisted of corn tortilla chips, pico, black beans, cheese, jalapenos, sour cream and a side of gauc (of course I added hot sauce too). These were 10/10 and if time travel was a thing I would go back and re-eat these 12 times over.

Besides the nachos, I was able to stay relatively healthy with my meals of the day. Adopting a healthier lifestyle can be rough but letting yourself binge eat nachos and drink margs once in a while really keeps you sane, trust me, I’m a doctor. Overall, a fun day of eating considering I had the bare minimum to work with. Stay tuned for more recipes and fun as I continue to fulfill my most basic human need and feed myself.

Travel Journal: Jacksonville Beach, FL

I’m on my last semester of college and I feel like a major milestone in that is spring break. I didn’t have the funds to dish out over a thousand dollars to go do the typical college spring break in Mexico but I am so so so happy I didn’t. I ended up a month before break booking a flight to Jacksonville Beach, my housemate Megan’s new hometown, with her and my friend Nikita. It was an absolute gem of a place and I will definitely be back. There were 3 major things there that stood out to me: the food, the bars and the people. We landed on probably the only warm day of our trip but spent the majority of it going from beach bar to beach bar and trying to lay out anyways. Most of our time was spent at this bar right on the ocean called The Pier where we ate our weight in free(!!) chips and salsa, and drank whatever drink special they had. By the end of the trip we were pretty close with the manager and many complimentary tequila shots were taken.

If you go to Jax Beach I also really recommend going to Safe Harbor Seafood. We had the best shrimp nachos in existence there and it’s right on the harbor so the views are great. Another highlight was spending only $8 for bottomless mimosas at Zeta Brewing Co. All of the places we went were full of really genuinely nice people too. Maybe that’s just because I’m a New Yorker and everyone is a little more rough up here but the whole place just radiated happiness. Another honorable mention of a bar, is Surfer The Bar, it’s generally new to the area and highlights a dope indoor food truck and large screen that plays surfing films on repeat. Every bar had unique character and many opportunities to eat while you drink or vice versa.

Another highlight was I met some incredible people down there, and am still in consistent communication with one cool surfer in particular. Everyone I met was so easy going and made you feel right at home.

All in all, I will definitely be back, if not to eventually stay for good someday. It was a vacation that I am so glad I took, definitely a place that you can go to and be like wow I found my people. So if you decide to visit Jax Beach, bank on eating lots of fresh seafood, drinking tequila and maybe meeting a cool surfer.

What I Eat In a Day: Vegan and Gluten-Free

Hello! So unfortunately, I am the queen of dietary restrictions but luckily this has forced me to be extremely innovative with what I eat. I have celiacs disease so I am restricted to a gluten-free diet (I’ll post more on that later), and right now I have realized I feel my best on a plant-based diet. I can’t consider myself a vegan because I do consume dairy and seafood occasionally but I am constantly challenging myself to create the best meals I can that are cruelty-free. Eating this way recently helped me drop 25 pounds in a few short months. Here’s a basic walk-through of a normal day of eating for me, and some dank recipes that you can recreate if you like yourself.

Breakfast:

Screenshot 2017-04-11 at 12.54.21 PMI have to admit that I am not much of a traditional breakfast food eater, as you can see from the photo above. I’ve seriously been known to eat anything from nachos to salads for breakfast, ask my housemates. I like to start my day off with something carb and vegetable heavy so I have the energy and right nutrients to get me through my day. Today I started off with some potatoes o’brien (you can literally get them frozen at any grocery store, I suggest this) and some brussel sprouts and asparagus. After I cook this all up, I throw it in a bowl and cover it in ketchup and hot sauce (I’m a savage) and sprinkle it with nutritional yeast (vegan cheese substitute from the gods). I usually follow this with a huge mason jar of lemon water and some tea or coffee with almond milk. This keeps me full for a few hours, gets me ready to start my day and satisfies whatever morning craving I have.

Lunch:

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I’m not a huge snacker and I eat pretty big breakfasts so my next meal is always lunch. This recipe isn’t super involved but tastes like it took a huge amount of time to prepare. The most time consuming part of this meal is the “meat,” for this I dice up white onions, bell peppers and baby bella mushrooms. I saute this on medium heat in avocado oil until the onions starts to brown then add in either some TVP (vegan meat substitute) with taco seasoning or Beyond Meat’s Beyond Beef Fiesty crumbles. I continue to saute this all in a couple tablespoons of salsa until the TVP or beyond beef crumbles look cooked through. I then add this to a bowl with some fresh romaine, corn, avocado, blue corn tortilla chips and usually some frozen tropical fruit like mango (the mixture of sweet and spicy is great, trust me). As usual, I tend to douse this with hot sauce (tapatio is a favorite) and sprinkle on the nutritional yeast for some B12 goodness.

Dinner:

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Dinner is always interesting for me, I try to get the most creative here because I am usually done with class work and interning decently early. This meal is something I completely winged once but ended up becoming a favorite. I try to have a little more carbs with dinner than lunch because if I don’t I end up late night snacking until I fall asleep and ruin whatever progress I’ve had all day. The base of this meal is essentially just rice noodles and assorted cold veggies. I slice up some mushrooms, avocado, red cabbage, radishes and zucchini and layer them up with the noodles in a bowl. The dressing is what really brings them together. It’s hard to find a good Asian dressing that is gluten-free because many include wheat-based soy sauce but Annie’s makes a really good sesame ginger one! I like to finish this off with some hemp or sesame seeds and call it a day. Definitely one of my favorite bowls and really fills me up.

That’s pretty much it for what I eat in a day, when I decide to snack it’s usually on some almonds or popcorn but when I eat large meals like this I usually never have to. I drink a lot of green tea in between meals and I’ve found it keeps my appetite in control. Hope these recipes inspired you and you enjoyed my weird eating habits!

An Introduction: And so the adventure begins!

and so the adventure begins!

Hello! Welcome to my blog where I will ramble about food, whatever adventure I go on, life as a 20-something and the inner working of my mind. It feels right to have a place to finally organize my thoughts into something palpable. If you’re reading this, I hope you stick with me on this crazy journey I’m about to embark on. Please stay tuned and expect to see lots of healthy eats, pretty travel pics and a whole lot of personality.

Best,

MK