Birthday Bites and Reflections

Hello friends! The weeks just seem to keep getting busier, though at the moment busy is a good thing. When work is busy, it means I'm earning a living and helping people work on their health and fitness goals. Life being busier otherwise is actually quite welcome after this last year of it being, well, not. At least on the social side. Despite being an introvert, I do very much enjoy being with MY people. If anything, the big C has made me cling to that small group even more. Not to brag, but I've got some amazing friends. ;)

In case you didn't guess by the title, I just celebrated a birthday. My belly is quite full of treats that I couldn't help but share, and my heart is even more full with gratitude for the time I've gotten to spend over the last week with friends and family. This time last year we were all at home, missing what we call "birthday season" in my family as almost all of us celebrate our days from February through to May. For a while in the spring, it seems we're getting together every other weekend to enjoy some good food and company. Last year we went without. A small price to pay given the losses others suffered, but it is making the cautious return to small get-togethers that much more precious this year.

My sister hit a milestone birthday last year, so we opted for a re-do this year. Thus the -ish! I ordered a vegan cookie cake from local cookie master Jamie's Cookie Dough to mimic the one I got last year that was divvied up without a proper party. An oatmeal cookie base, vanilla icing and strawberry cookies to garnish. If you didn't know this was vegan, you would not be able to guess from a taste of this truly indulgent treat. A little slice of this goes a long way. Everyone enjoys this treat, so it might just become an annual March birthday tradition. Plus, I am always happy to support a local, female-owned business!

To balance out the sweet, I also brought a new tray of savory nibbles that was an absolute hit. I'm still well on my mushroom kick, so these Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Shiitake Bacon were calling my name when I saw the recipe. For something so simple to make, they tasted fantastic. A perfect bite on their own, but even better with the mustard dressing that went with.

I highly recommend checking out the recipe linked above from Zen & Zaatar. I already sent it to all of my family as they really enjoyed them. My family loves food, but even more so when we get to enjoy it together. I know I'm trying hard not to take this time for granted.

For my own birthday, between clients and friends, I'm still feeling very humbled for all the love and thoughtful gestures received over the last few days. One dear client brought a homemade carrot bread made by his wife for me to enjoy. A gift made from scratch with love and care. Does it get much better?

Another very dear, long-term client and friend insisted on treating for breakfast Friday morning. It's not often a celebratory day falls on our training day, so who am I to decline the offer? I found a spot called Cultivate here in Atlanta where we had never been. Even better--they have tons of vegan options! No small feat for breakfast since most places only have the traditional egg, dairy and meat-laden dishes. I got there early and enjoyed a Chaga latte with oat milk. Then he arrived and we both settled on the vegan hash...

I'm not quite sure my picture does it justice. Another totally loaded bite that gives the traditional a run for the money on taste and satisfaction. I usually save my treats for the sweet side, but I have to say this really hit the spot for a rare savory indulgence. Potatoes, veggies, and all vegan "eggs", sausage and cheeze. We both almost cleared our plate despite being stuffed to the brim. I was worried I might not be able to move while teaching a noon class, but luckily I digested well enough to hit my birthday burpees with the online group!

He also brought me a tray full of plant-based, mostly (if not all) raw, treats from one of our other favorite local spots, Strive. As sweet as the tray was, the time with such a true gem of a friend was even better. We're also celebrating 10 years of working together, making the meal even more of a treat. Very thankful for clients who have become a part of my family and close circle of friends.

Finally, a meal at home on the porch with a few friends Friday evening. We couldn't have asked for better spring grilling weather. The bugs are already coming out, but thank goodness the mosquitoes are still asleep for a few more days, haha! The boyfriend hopped on the grill for the first time in a while to cook up my lentil burgers. Loosely based on this recipe I've shared previously. Though I used the spices more so from my pinkeye pea burgers.

I also made a wheat berry salad with cucumbers, kohlrabi, dried cranberries and spinach. The dijon sauce recipe from the Brussels sprouts above was so good I made a fresh batch for my salad! I've made similar recipes with dijon mustard and tahini before, but I liked the ratios for this one a lot.

I'm a sucker for any grilled veggies, so we did a medley of baby fennel bulbs, red onion, broccolini, and yellow bell peppers in a simple Lambrusco vinegar-based marinade, as well. I can't recall if we've even done any form of broccoli on the grill, but it was delicious! Our friends brought a yummy summer salad to add to the meal, but I don't have a photo since we were too busy eating Friday evening. These were all from our leftovers yesterday.

Though the food is almost gone, the memories will linger. I always get a bit reflective around my birthday, but I think the mixture of this crazy year and coming into the last bit of my 30's has made me even more so. As of right now, I honestly feel better in many ways with each passing birthday. Yes, the body needs a little more upkeep in some ways, but in other ways I feel more and more confident as I navigate life. I know better how I want to spend my time, and with that, who to share it with.

A huge thank you to all who made my day, and ever day, special--thank you from the bottom of my heart. Whether it was just a kind word, a tasty treat or a full meal shared together, it was gratefully received. I'm looking forward to another year of life and all it may bring! 💚

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