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All about my Costa Rica trip!

I’m still nostalgic over my trip to beautiful Costa Rica. Since then, I’ve had a few people asking me about details about what I did, and where I stayed so I figured I’ll do a round up here to make it easier on everyone ☺.

Poás Volcano



WHERE WE STAYED
(in order of day):
Double Tree Hilton (San Jose)

Lobby at the Double Tree in San Jose


Outdoor pool at the Double Tree hotel


Hotel Presidente (San Jose)

Hotel Presidente


Volcano Lodge (Arenal)

Welcome drinks at Volcano Lodge


Outdoor pools at the Volcano Lodge

Note: One place to avoid if you’re going to Arenal is Arenal Paraiso Resort & Spa. We kept coming back to our room to find animal droppings on our bed, so we had to shift over to Volcano Lodge really late at night.
Parador Resort & Spa (Punta Quepos/Manuel Antonio)

Parador Hotel


That view!


*This was by far our favorite hotel – beautiful heated pools, scenery, spa, and gym.
Club del Mar (Playa Jaco/Jaco Beach)

Club del Mar


Club Del Mar at night


WHAT I PACKED
:
Pack plenty of comfy workout clothes (I depended on leggings), sneakers (or water shoes) for rafting, and canyoning, and extra bathing suits. By the end, every single thing I brought was drenched. There was almost no day where we didn’t get wet, either from activities, or from light rainfall.

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The Real co-host Jeannie Mai talks beauty & recycling your products

“Makeup has always been the most inexpensive way to enhance my identity,” Jeannie Mai, beauty expert and talk show host of The Real tells me. “Even at the age of 36, I can still have confidence issues. That’s why it’s important for me to partner with companies like Unilever — they teach women to not only own their beauty, but to take it a step further and do good for the planet as well.”

Jeannie Mai, beauty & fashion expert and co-host of The Real, joins the Unilever “Rinse. Recycle. Reimagine.” movement and shows off how with just a rinse and recycle empty bath and beauty bottles can take on new life and return as new items like her stylish umbrella.


The queen of reinventing herself (seriously, she’s probably sported 3,000 different looks since I first met her four years ago in NY!), shared some of her beauty tips with me below!:

Beauty and the Feast: How do you store your beauty products when you travel, and what do you make sure you take with you?
Jeannie Mai:
I love compacts, so I create my own. Once my old makeup products – blush or foundation compacts – are done, I rinse out the residue on the inside, then I use them to use my new concealers and lip glosses. For example, I finished this one blush compact, so I put new lip glosses in it, stuck it in the fridge, and it cools to make a new lip palette. I condense all my products, so I have a small makeup pouch. You can also purchase ones made of recycled material.

Once I travel, the number one thing I make sure I pack besides my lip colors is my Simple Micellar Cleansing Water. It’s the shiz! Especially when you’re traveling you don’t always have time to go to a sink and wash your face. As long as I have that cleansing water, it allows me to wash my face, so to speak, wipe off all my makeup and it leaves my skin feeling moisturized too. You know how when you’re on the plane your skin feels really tight? This is the only stuff that once I’ve cleansed my face it actually feels really moisturized and rejuvenated so I don’t have to put on additional moisturizer when I don’t have time.

Mai in West Hollywood



BATF: Do you have any beauty rituals on the plane?
Mai:
I always put a lumbar pillow on my seat for my back or even a rolled up sweater on the lower part of my back. I promise you it will make a world of difference. And I love oils or aromas, I use lavender oil on my wrist and neckline once I board. It smells so fresh and relaxing.

BATF: What are some products you have in your bag right now?
Mai:
I always have a Dove bar because it removes my makeup and doesn’t irritate my skin. Even expensive hotels might have nice products but it has so much fragrance in them that it irritates my skin. I have eczema so this works best for me. I also carry a little Tom Ford perfume with me. And I love carrying Too Faced palettes — there also made of recycled products. I always support brands that do their part.

BATF: What are some tips you learned on the set of The Real?
Mai:
My makeup artist, Uzmee, is always playing with glitter. And you know when you use glitter or any kind of sparkle and you get that one speck that travels down your face and just sticks there — like, no matter how hard you try to flick it with your nail, it never comes off? Here’s your tip: take a little piece of Scotch tape and tape it right off. If you don’t want to ruin your makeup, take the piece of tape and stick it somewhere else on your skin and take it off so it’s not so sticky and then touch that glitter and you can remove it without having to like claw your face to death.

The program is designed to educate people about recycling in the bathroom, inspire them to reimagine what empty bathroom products could become through recycling, and ultimately make a small change that holds big potential to positively impact the environment.



BATF: Finally, why is important to you to work with Unilever to raise awareness on recycling?
Mai:
We have seven billion people in this world and one planet. The average American has about eight plastic bottles that can be recycled in their bathroom. We have to take it beyond just the kitchen — think about the bottles in the bathroom. Think about your body washes, your deodorants, your creams – all these things in plastic containers. It’s not just because it’s good for the planet, but these things can be remade into products that we buy today still: your makeup bags, your hairbrushes, even your kids backyard play sets. They’re all made from recycled plastics. If we all took it a step further, we can save 29 million tons of plastic that end up in landfills every year. It’s unbelievable how much waste we produce. Unilever wants to reward you for doing your part. Just take a picture of any plastic bottles in your bathroom and post it on Instagram or Twitter with hashtag #reimaginethat #sweeps, and Unilever can award you with a prize, which is pretty cool!

Snap a photo of your bathroom recyclables on Twitter or Instagram using #ReimagineThat and #Sweeps to spread the word and be entered for a chance to win reimagined recycled prizes. Details below!


Thanks Jeannie Mai and Unilever for the interview!

More details on the Unilever Sweepstakes: Go to brightfuture.unilever.us to learn more about bathroom recycling and how to get involved! http://unileversweepsrules.com/reimagine/ read more…

Recipe: Avocado banana breakfast smoothie

Sorry, sorry. Technology and I — we’re just not friends. I tried to post this recipe for you guys yesterday but [insert chain of excuses here]. As I mentioned on Instagram, I’ve been drinking this smoothie after I workout in the mornings and it gives me so much energy and is filled with nutrients. And it doesn’t hurt that it takes two minutes to make. Just mix the following together in a blender:


Ingredients
:
1/2 an avocado
1 banana
1 tsp ginger, raw/grated
1 tsp honey
1 cup brewed green tea
1/2 cup of spinach
1 tsp of Carrington Farms organic chia and flaxseed mix (optional)
ice

Avocado breakfast smoothie

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Neutrogena’s Earth Month #WipeForWater campaign

Neutrogena’s doing their part to help conserve water: they partnered with Kristen Bell and The Nature Conservancy for a new #WipeForWater campaign. For seven days, Bell has pledged to only clean her face using Neutrogena Naturals wipes [she's their brand ambassador], saving 35 gallons of water in the process.

The wipes are really gentle (I tried it for the first time last night and it even powered through waterproof eyeliner).

The day after a shoot -- some serious de-caking happening

You can pledge too using #WipeForWater and here’s why you should at least make the effort: for every pledge, Neutrogena Naturals will contribute to the Nature Conservancy to support water conservancy.

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Cafe El Presidente in Flatiron

If you love Tacombi, a Mexican restaurant in Nolita and one of my favorite spots, you’re going to love its younger sister, Cafe El Presidente. It has the same menu as the former, but with expanded options and an even more airy, open atmosphere — if Tacombi is someone’s backyard, Cafe El Presidente is the whole city. They have the same practices though — food made from scratch with fresh, local ingredients.

Inside Cafe El Presidente


Central kitchen area with spectator seats


On a Friday night, it was buzzy and crowded but with a bigger floor plan you’re not rubbing elbows with fellow patrons. I went recently with a friend and we basically ordered…everything.

Starters to order: Guacamole, esquites (grilled corn con cotija cheese & chipotle mayo), and ceviche guerrero (fresh local fish in lime juice)

Guac and creamy esquites


Guacamole


Ceviche


Creamy esquites

If you’re going to order one (why, but OK), the esquites are not to be missed. Cafe El Presidente has a lot more taco options for vegetarians too: maize y poblano (Grilled corn and poblano chile topped with chihuahua cheese), black bean and sweet potato (sautéed sweet potatoes over Rancho Gordo beans), bongos chamula (sautéed mushrooms), and frijoles con queso (beans with chihuahua cheese)
. Of course, they’re known for their Baja Crispy Fish (Baja-style local cod battered and fried), so if you’re new you have to at least try this with their homemade sauces. If you’re not, try their picadillo de angus regio (beef picadillo tacos), or pollo yucateco (slow roasted free range chicken).

Mini tacos here start at $2.49 each


Crispy fish, shrimp, and mushroom tacos

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Recipe: Chicken korma

Hope everyone had a great weekend! I felt like it was a busy weekend for most people I know. My wonderful mama was in town so I spent it with good company, playing lots of card games, and consumed copious amounts of chai. I figured I’d learn a new recipe while she’s in town, and since I was cooking for some friends when I got back to the city, she gave me a quick breakdown on how to make an Indian dish, chicken korma.

Chicken korma


This was my first time trying it, and it turned out delicious. When my mom makes it at home, she adds more yogurt and/or water to make it more saucey, but I left it so the gravy is a little thicker. Totally up to you. This, with a little brown rice made it a nice, quick dinner. (Some of the amounts of ingredients are based on what my mom gave me, but some I’m guesstimating on others based on what I did yesterday):

Ingredients

1 lb of boneless chicken
Fried onions (I cut ½ red onion and fried it)
2 tsp Coconut oil (or olive oil to fry)
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
½ tsp crushed red pepper
½ green chili pepper, minced
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp turmeric
2 tsp coconut and almond (my mom crushed these together in a food processor, so I’m referring to the mixture)
1 cup plain yogurt

In a pan, warm up the oil, and fry onions and cardamom. When the onions are transparent, add the chicken and the rest of spices (ginger-garlic paste, red pepper, cinnamon, salt, turmeric, coconut and almond), as well as the chicken and sautee. Mix in yogurt. If you want to make it more saucey, add a few tablespoons of water.

Prepared brown rice to eat with it and a samosa :)


Easy dish that I made in 15 minutes, and the spices balanced out the flavors a lot. I’m sure there are a lot of different ways to make this dish, but I’m curious if anyone out there makes it differently.

Enjoy!


x
Shy
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Veggie side dishes trial run: the kale and cauliflower chapter

I had a couple friends over for dinner last night and grilled up some rosemary burgers with caramelized onions and mushrooms and a parmesan crisp, which I’ve posted here before (side note: this time I used soy sauce to caramelize the veggies and it worked wonderfully). I always try to serve burgers using whole wheat sandwich thins to skimp on carbs, but I also wanted to incorporate a healthier side dishes than just fries. So, I decided to take a stab at kale chips (which I realized are ridiculously easy to make), and a new maple-sriracha roasted cauliflower recipe I found. The kale chips came out great, the cauliflower though…I felt like something was missing in the flavor. Have any of you guys tried roasting cauliflower? I’m curious what you seasoned it with, or if you had any suggestions on amping up the flavor. At one point, we started mixing the extra caramelized veggies with the cauliflower that made it taste a lot better. Anyway, would love your thoughts in the comments below!


KALE CHIPS RECIPE

Kale Chips



INGREDIENTS

2 bunches of kale
2 tsp olive oil (more if needed)
3 garlic cloves minced (or more if you like)
Sea salt
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Pre heat oven at 350 degrees. Rinse kale in a salad spinner. Remove dark ribs and chop kale roughly. Put leaves in a big bowl, toss with olive oil, garlic and salt. Spread leaves on a one large rimmed baking sheet. Kale does not need to be in a single layer,as it will shrink in volume as it cooks. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring once or twice while it’s cooking, and until leaves are tender, crisp on edges and slightly browned. Optional if dairy-free: Sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving

MAPLE-SRIRACHA ROASTED CAULIFLOWER RECIPE

Maple Sriracha Roasted Cauliflower



INGREDIENTS
:
1 (approx. 2-pound) head cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce + more for serving if desired
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS
:
Preheat oven to 450 degreed F. In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, maple syrup, Sriracha sauce, salt, and black pepper. Add the cauliflower and toss until well-coated. Spread on a large rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring once, until tender and golden brown, about 25 minutes. Serve with additional Sriracha sauce, if desired.

x
Shy
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Breakfast toast: Cottage cheese, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes

I’ve been telling myself for weeks months that I need to train myself to be a morning person. The thing is, I’m not one at all. I’m a creature of the night, and sleeping at 4am is totally normal for me. With evening events and commitments, it’s been hard to get my workouts in by the time I get home (or when I do, I end up putting less effort in because I’m so tired). SO, this week I’ve started to make a considerable shift to waking up early (6am early…who am I?) to move my workouts in the morning and having breakfast right after. This is all very new, so I’m hoping putting it out in the internetS will force me to heed this new routine. In order to do that though, I knew I needed some motivation and I figured my biggest one is still the same: food. The more varied I make my meals, the easier it will be to get through my runs to get back home and eat…right? Simple math :D .

I’ve been looking up meals that contain more protein, and less sugar and came up with this simple meal:

Breakfast


Ingredients:
2 whole wheat slices of bread, toasted
2 hard boiled eggs
cottage cheese
3 cherry tomatoes
kosher salt
garlic salt
black pepper
extra virgin olive oil

.


Slice hard-boiled eggs, and tomatoes and set aside. Toast two slices of bread (I used whole wheat). After it’s toasted, spread low fat cottage cheese over both slices. Top with eggs and tomatoes, and season with pepper, kosher salt, and a pinch of garlic salt. Drizzle with a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy!


x
Shy
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National Ravioli Day + easy way to donate food using #RanaRavioliChallenge

When Giovanni Rana, makers of delicious, authentic, Italian pasta, told me they’re partnering with food banks to fight against hunger in their latest challenge, I told them to sign me up. The initiative is two-fold: not only are they making it easy to donate food, they’re encouraging spending time with family and friends for their Rana Ravioli Challenge by making food at home.

Giovanni Rana products

They sent me some of their products to prepare a ravioli dinner with friends recently, using a mix of their Ravioli Cheese Forte with their Marina sauce and their Ravioli Mushroom with their Basil Pesto sauce. The food was prepared easily, and was so tasty. I tried different combos, with thyme-pepper chicken (recipe here) and rosemary-garlic bread. On another occasion, I topped the mushroom ravioli with sundried tomatoes.

Mushroom Ravioli with rosemary-garlic bread


Basil Pesto ravioli with chicken


Cheese ravioli with marina and topped with parmesan

They all made delicious meals (and FAST). But the best part — there’s an easy way to donate to feed the hungry. TODAY on 3/20 in honor of National Ravioli Day, use the hashtag #RanaRavioliChallenge on your social platforms (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook), and each time the hashtag is used by a different account, Giovanni Rana will donate 1 pound of pasta to the Food Bank For New York City.

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What are your favorites from tarte?

If I had to play favorites, tarte would be one of the brands that would bubble up on top. To me, the quality and ethos of being cruelty-free “high-performance naturals” (without parabens, mineral oil, phthalates, sodium lauryl sulfate, gluten, and triclosan) match up. Let me re-introduce you to some of their products I pretty much always have on me:

Tarte favorites


Light, Camera, Lashes Mascara



Lights, Camera, Lashes 4-in-1 mascara
($20). This vegan-friendly mascara does everything and I’ve been using it for years with good reason – it lengthens, fattens, curls, and conditions. It’s mini bristles grab onto every lash and the formula is so smooth (thanks to its olive esters, which help condition as well) so your lashes won’t end up looking all spidery.


Skinny smolderEYES Amazonian clay waterproof liner
($19). This liner does justice to its vivid shades of bronze and emerald, but it’s the black onyx I love for everyday. The sponge on one end lets you smudge it for a smoky effect, but you can leave it straight and bold and it’ll stay in place. It’s so hard to find liners that won’t end up all over your face by the end of the day. Even my sister-in-law converted to it once she found that it’s one of the few liners that won’t irritate her eyes.

Cheek stain



Cheek stain
($30). I never used a balmy cheek stain until I came across this in Tipsy. Its’ a beautiful peach stain that gives you a dewy finish but has just enough color to give some life to your complexion. It’s also doing double-duty with its antioxidants like maracuja, goji, acai, and pomegranate which have skin-restoring benefits.

LipSurgence skintuitive lip tint



LipSurgence skintuitive lip tint
($24). I keep this at my desk because it helps condition my lips with its emollients and helps boost collagen, but also works with your natural pH to give an adjusted amount of tint.

The ones above I wear almost every day, but I need to give some honorable mentions for their Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Airbrush Foundation, and Clay matte palette eyeshadows which I’ll use on occasion and haven’t failed me yet.

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