Sunday, November 27, 2011

time for a new camera, I guess!

I think I've officially reached the point where it's time for me to buy a new camera. I love my Canon, but it's getting OLD. It's the only digital camera I've ever owned, and it's just not making the grade any longer! (And I'm finding photos taken with my phone have a weird greenish tinge to them -- why is that?)

Am I going to be able to afford an SLR, or will I settle on another point and shoot? Time to start price-comparing. I'm sure I'll just end up ordering something from Ritz Camera again, but it's not going to happen tomorrow, obviously. :) Let me know if you have a camera that you absolutely love -- I'd enjoy any input!

In the interim, enjoy some slightly blurry, low-quality food photos:

Sweet-and-Sour Tofu:

My, oh my, does this taste just like Chinese restaurant take-out! Super quick and super easy, to boot! Here's the recipe, courtesy of the Betty Crocker Cookbook:

Combine, and bring to a boil:
1/2 cup sugar (!!!! Yes, that's a lot! It's junk food!)
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, minced or grated on a Microplane

Combine, stir into sauce, and cook until thickened:
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp cold water

Fold into sauce, and return to a boil:
1 package extra-firm tofu, cubed and browned
1 medium tomato, cut into wedges or large chunks
1 medium green bell pepper, cut into large chunks
8 ounces canned pineapple chunks, drained well

(And yes, the tomato is take-out traditional, but a little strange, if you ask me. I might switch things up next time, using a red bell pepper and broccoli instead of the green bell and tomato. Might even improve the nutrition profile a little, right?)

Serve over brown rice, which will make you feel much better about the quantity of sugar you are about to consume. :)


Dinner last night was a good, basic, homemade chili:

I think I've written about this ad nauseam in the past, but really, when it comes to chili, I like to keep things simple. Here's the recipe I made last night:

Saute in olive oil until soft:
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
about 2 cups of minced white mushrooms
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 canned chipotle chili in adobo sauce
a few pinches kosher salt to taste

Add to chili, bring to a boil, then simmer until you are ready to eat:
28 ounces diced tomatoes with liquid
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 tbsp hot sauce (I used Crystal, since that's what I had on hand)
enough water just to cover

I ended up adding a little too much water to my chili last night, so I simmered the whole thing uncovered for a while, until it thickened to my liking. Shredded cheese, green onions, and sour cream are my favorite chili garnishes. What do you like to pile on top of your chili?

Chili is best served with cornbread, in my opinion:

I'm really starting to love Real Simple's recipe archives online -- I've found everything that I've tried to be reliable, reasonably healthy, and mostly focusing on whole, real foods -- pretty much exactly in line with my style of cooking. This Maple Corn Bread was no exception! The only significant change I made was subbing canola oil for the melted butter, since I had plenty of oil on hand, but almost no butter.


I've really enjoyed the last three days of my four-day weekend . . . and I'm so glad I have one more day left! Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Do you know what's awesome about making Thanksgiving dinner just for yourself? You don't have to make anything you don't really care for, and can focus on creating your "ideal" meal. :) Every cook should make Thanksgiving dinner just for him/herself at least once, even if it's not actually Thanksgiving!

This year, here's what I wanted on my plate of plenty:

Clockwise from the top: "Chickpea Cutlets" and "Mustard Sauce," both from Veganomicon, Caramelized Onion and Herb Stuffing, Double Cranberry Chutney, a Hasselback Sweet Potato, and roasted brussels sprouts.

I did discover, however, the best part about a solo Thanksgiving -- if you don't overeat and actually save room for pie, you don't have to wait for everyone else to digest before you can eat pie! (Some years, I feel like that lag time is going to make me crazy! I like pie so damn much, it's hard, being polite!)

I love pie.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

banana bread and re-charging

I forgot to post about the banana bread I made over the weekend!

Now, I'm not the hugest fan of banana bread in general, but this Marbled-Chocolate Banana Bread is TO DIE FOR. I'm having a hard time figuring out how this qualifies as a Cooking Light recipe, because it definitely tastes indulgent and decadent. Best after-school snack EVER!


Things have been weird for me lately -- it's kind of hard to describe, but I'm feeling a bit . . . "off" lately. Out of balance, not quite myself. There are some exciting things going on in my life, some crazy things going on, and some totally normal things going on. I'm blaming the "off-ness" on work stress, coupled with not enough sleep, coupled with anxiety about the impending holidays, (and remembering how bad they were last year,) coupled with general laziness and subsequently not feeding myself very well. Isn't it funny that, even though I know it's a simple intake-output theory, sometimes I "forget" how important healthy eating is?

For my upcoming four-day weekend, I'm planning a big recharge. I have no plans on Thanksgiving, and although I was invited to join a church friend and her family, I declined -- I need some quiet time. I need to run, do some yoga, watch movies, loop Ladysmith Black Mambazo while reading magazines, and cook! I feel like I haven't prepared a decent meal for myself in MONTHS, and I plan to change that this weekend! I hit up the co-op tonight to restock my produce drawers and prepare for my weekend:

Meals in my plan: chili and cornbread, sweet and sour tofu, spaghetti and "meatballs," and Thanksgiving dinner, just for me! Bonus points to you, if you can pick out my impulse buys! ;)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

a first: homemade coffee syrup!

This was, quite possibly, the most amazing thing I could have had for dessert after lunch today:

Toddy coffee concentrate, unsweetened coconut milk beverage, and a couple tablespoons of Gingersnap Latte Syrup. Next time, I might live dangerously, and even double the spices! Seasonally-inspired and delicious. :)


Oliver hasn't checked in in a while, has he?

Can anyone explain the reasoning behind the cat sitting on the phone? Because I just don't GET it. How can it be comfortable? It's not like it's warm or anything . . . weird, weird cat.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

running around

I am realizing that I haven't posted on this topic, yet . . . shame on me! Here goes . . .

I have recently taken up running. Yep. I said it.

Why is this such a big deal to me, you ask?

Many reasons . . .

I, allegedly, don't like "exercise." (I still, definitely, don't like the "gym.")
I used to look at runners and think, "what's the point? Aren't you TIRED?"
I have a bad back.
I have bad knees.
I like to walk, and isn't walking better for you, anyway?
I have a bike, and isn't biking better for you, anyway?
It's late, late fall in Minnesota. We'll have snow and ice on the ground any second.

With all of those reasons, the question begs: WHY did I start running, exactly?

The real answer? I don't really know.

I had been mulling over trying running for some time, and I had an impulse one weekend -- I just downloaded a "Couch to 10K" app, bought a pair of New Balance running shoes that were on clearance, and started trying to run.

And you know what? I LOVE IT.

The whole thing started just to see if I could do it -- just to see whether I could run, whether I had a level of physical fitness that would allow me to, whether my back would allow me to, whether my knees would allow me to. Whether, in time, I could work up to running around Lake of the Isles, (about a 2.5-mile loop,) which is a short walk from my apartment. Whether, in more time, I could run from my apartment, to the lake, around, and back. (About 4 miles, according to a friend of mine.)

And you know what? I CAN!

Not saying that I went from nothing to running a 5K overnight -- in fact, I haven't even gotten that far yet. BUT . . . I can run for 10 minutes without stopping! And the road to running hasn't been paved with perfection; I had some knee aches that had to be strategized and taken care of early on. (Translation: SuperFeet saved my knees. I have always put them in my "work shoes," but I now know they are a must for running shoes, too.)

Most importantly, I "get" running, now -- I totally, completely understand why people run. After those first few minutes where I struggle a little bit, my body flips a switch. My muscles are warm, the fatigue disappears, and my brain checks out. All I do is MOVE. Nothing more, nothing less. It's an amazing vacation from my head, an incredible way to pound out particularly stressful days, and I finish feeling strong, fit, powerful, healthy, and exhausted. I'm on my way to being in the best shape of my life, (great that I can say that at 32, huh?), and am willing the snow to hold off for at least a few more weeks! (Aren't we all, for so many reasons?)

What are your experiences with running? I know it's not for everyone, and I'm still not convinced that my body can handle the impact long-term. But for now . . . I'll see you at the lake. :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

perfectly acceptable

Here's a perfectly acceptable, yet not stellar, dinner I made last night:

It was one of those meals where nothing turned out QUITE right, you know? I had big ideas, (chile-garlic roasted broccoli, brown basmati rice, Goddess-dressing marinaded tofu,) but everything was just . . . okay. Broccoli not spicy enough, rice too salty, tofu not flavorful enough . . . sigh.

Spud Puppies, though? Always fantastic. ;)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

MORE soup.

I'm a woman obsessed -- definitely in a cooking rut! Although a little soggy, I guess a soup rut isn't a terribly bad place to be! Would you agree?

I threw this together late last week, no measuring involved at all, but excellent results, in the end!

Ingredients: olive oil, onion, garlic, Italian Field Roast sausages, chili flakes, salt, pepper, white beans, a can of crushed, fire-roasted tomatoes, a splash of vegetable broth, and a load of kale.

What kinds of cooking ruts do you find yourself in?

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

another gift of produce

The same evening my friend Dora gifted me a celery root, my friend Courtney gifted me a pie pumpkin! Tonight, it was time to use produce gift #2 . . . and I just couldn't help myself. I made more soup. :)

(I had someone tell me recently that, in their experience, vegetarians only eat soups and salads. Well, while we all know that's not true, I guess my blog is reinforcing the incorrect theory! Too bad. I love soup!)

Here it is -- a curried pumpkin and apple soup:

I loosely based my soup on this recipe, but made many, many changes. Here's my version:

Toss together:
1 pie pumpkin, seeded, peeled, and chopped roughly
2 large apples, cored and sliced into 8ths
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp curry powder
salt and pepper

Roast the pumpkin and apples at 450 for about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

2 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 to 2 cups unsweetened, unflavored almond milk

Add the pumpkin to the broth/milk mixture, and puree. Finish with a capful of apple cider vinegar, more salt (if needed,) and a sprinkling of roasted cashews!

I also made some Honey Oat Quick Bread, to accompany my soup:

I actually followed a recipe for once! Well, except that I'm out of all-purpose flour, so I just used all whole-wheat pastry flour this time. (And I used a little less flour, since whole wheat tends to soak up more moisture.)

Now, here's the amazing part -- I had absolutely everything on hand for this meal, except for the cashews! Props to me for my well-stocked pantry. :)

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Sunday nights are made for baking

Wouldn't you agree? :)

Always simple, always delicious, apple crisp:

I love that I make fruit crisps often enough that I have the recipe memorized . . . no need to pull out that hefty behemoth that is Joy of Cooking, just to make a humble dessert. :)

In other news, does anyone else hate the Daylight Savings switch as much as I do? It feels like it should be SO much later than 7:20 right now! (Probably because I woke up at 4:50 AM this morning, because my body thought it was 5:50 AM! GRRR.)

Sometimes being on a predictable schedule has its drawbacks.

a produce experiment

My friend Dora gifted me a celery root last weekend. (It's becoming less and less unusual these days for me to receive gifts of produce. Does this happen to anyone else?) To quote Dora, "I just want to see what you're going to do with it!"

After a little thought and a little research, I decided on soup. (Of course. 'Cause I love soup, you know?)

Other than picking up a leek from the co-op, I had pretty much everything on hand that I wanted to include in my soup:

In addition to the leek, garlic, celery root, and potato, I also used olive oil, vegetable broth, salt and pepper, and a healthy splash of unsweetened almond milk at the end, for extra creaminess.

Even though the soup looks humble, it was fantastic!

I drizzled a little harissa-infused olive oil over my bowl before slurping, and that just took it over the top. :)

While I can't say that the flavor of the celery root was all that strong, (truthfully, the finished product just tastes like a good, creamy, potato-leek soup,) it was fun to try out a new to me vegetable. Thanks for the inspiration, Dora!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

dinner, served.

Dinner tonight:

It's nice when a few odds and ends can come together to make a delicious and healthy dinner, isn't it? Marinaded tofu (from the freezer,) whole-wheat couscous with lemon and garlic, leftover eggplant (brushed with soy sauce and olive oil, then broiled,) and roasted broccoli with chili flakes.

Sorry, folks -- I just can't come up with anything else to say about this meal! It was easy, it was healthy, it hit the spot. :) Work's been unusually intense these past couple of weeks, so I'm kinda shot . . . but I'll be back later in the week with soup! Until then.