Friday, February 25, 2011

basic chili

I tend to overload my chili with too many ingredients, sometimes -- too many veggies, too many different kinds of beans, cooked grains, TVP, etc. Sometimes this can be too much of a good thing . . . once when I put a bunch of kale in chili, Dan commented, "this tastes really healthy." Uh-oh . . . in my book, healthy food shouldn't "taste healthy," know what I mean?

So, when I set out to make some chili last weekend, I chose NOT to use a recipe -- mostly because many of my chili recipes are complicated enough, without my temptation to add extra things. :) My goals with this chili were as follows:
1. To use up an extra red bell pepper that was starting to get a little "wilty" in my produce drawer
2. To have a basic, "beans-and-tomatoes" flavor

Short story long, I succeeded:

As I was digging around looking for that past-its-prime bell pepper, I found five cremini mushrooms that needed to be used up, so I decided to mince those and toss 'em in, too. (I can't EVER leave well enough alone, can I?) But this addition turned out to be a VERY good thing, because the minced mushrooms mocked ground meat in an almost eerie way -- and from now on, I will add minced mushrooms to my chili!

Here's the recipe:

Saute in a splash of olive or canola oil:
1 cup finely-chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, finely chopped
up to 1 cup of minced cremini or white button mushrooms (I'm guessing a food processor would make quick work of mincing mushrooms . . . I just don't have one)

Add, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20+ minutes:
4 cups cooked beans (I used half black, half kidney)
28 ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, with liquid
about 1/3 can water
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon veggie broth base
2 tablespoons hot sauce (whatever you like best will work fine)
2 tablespoons tomato paste

I have been eating this almost all week long, topped with a little monterey jack cheese and scooped up with copious amounts of tortilla chips. :) A yummy, filling lunch!

Sometimes simpler really is better. :)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

organization for the tea-obsessed

As many of you have read, I recently purchased a load of new teas . . . and subsequently, have long outgrown what used to be my "tea cupboard." Now, keep in mind that I could fit about 12 boxes of tea in my old cupboard, plus a couple of different honeys and a small tin of sugar. Initially, I decided to leave some of my new teas unopened for a while, until I used up some of what was in the cupboard. Today, however, I had a total "a-HA!" moment, and solved my tea storage dilemma:

Yes . . . that is a cheap plastic over-the-door shoe organizer, holding my entire tea collection! Explain to me WHY I have never thought of this before? Each box of tea fits perfectly into its own little pouch, I can see everything I have and can organize it by brand/type, (nighttime teas, fruity teas, spicy teas, teas for sickness, etc.), I am using previously un-used space, (which is always a bonus in a 550 square foot apartment!) AND I freed up an entire kitchen cupboard!

Who knew $7.75 could make a girl so damn happy. :)

Nicoise, anyone?

Having a few steamed potatoes leftover from our Valentine's Day fondue instantly made me think about making salade Nicoise! Isn't it funny how certain things can trigger other things? Anyhow, I made them!

Romaine topped with hard-boiled egg, kalamata olives, steamed green beans, seasoned tempeh, steamed potatoes, and cherry tomatoes, all topped with a homemade vinaigrette. I would have included capers, too, except we're out -- the horror! ;)

I realized this week that I am REALLY ready for spring. I was looking at the berries in the grocery store this week, thinking, "I can't WAIT for the farmer's market!!!!" Anyone else ready for fresh, local food?? I know I am!

Monday, February 21, 2011

new tea!

LOTS of new tea! I went a little overboard the last time friends and I ordered from Vitacost, and ended up with nine different teas in my "shopping cart." But hey, we had free shipping, so I HAD to stock up, right? :) The big boxes arrived today, and I couldn't wait to bust them open and see my purchases!

First, the Celestial Seasonings selections . . .

"Mint Magic" and "Moroccan Pomegranate Red" are both old favorites of mine that I have had trouble finding in my co-op lately; Target seems to carry a wide variety of Celestial Seasonings teas, but truthfully, I'd rather give my money to a business I care more about! I tried the "Tropic of Strawberry" earlier this afternoon, which is fruity, coconutty, and just plain delightful, and am sipping on a cup of "Honey Vanilla Chamomile" as I type. When I first saw that tea I thought, "OH . . . how soothing!" And, I was right! A nice change from plain chamomile, with a slight citrus fragrance and barely sweet taste. Mmmmm!

And now, the Yogi Teas!

"Ginger" is a must-stock at my house at all times, since you never know when you'll have a slight tummy ache, or just want a cup of spicy, gingery goodness! "Tahitian Vanilla Hazelnut" is another of my favorites, and randomly, always makes me think of camping. (I think this past summer, TVH was one of the only pre-wrapped bagged teas I had on hand, so I drank a lot of it during camping trips! Funny, eh?) I'm so excited to try the red chai, "Mayan Cocoa Spice," and "Sweet Thai Delight!" I'm especially intrigued by the "butterscotch flavor" included in the Thai one. I think that's going to be my next cup! :)

Have you tried any of these teas before? What are some of your favorite herbal teas?

So, I'm going to keep drinking tea here, because it's STILL snowing, and I'm crossing my fingers school will be closed again tomorrow for Dan and I! Please please pretty please????? We just want to lay around and watch movies all day!!!! Here's hoping!

taking it to the next level

Oh, snow! There's quite a bit on the ground this morning -- and right now, I can't tell you how glad I am that I don't have a car, (don't have to worry about driving/parking in it,) don't own a house, (don't have to shovel,) and don't have to go to work today! Woo!

Since Dan didn't get home until 10:00 last night, (sigh,) we had dinner extremely late. But it was still awesome!

"Chickpea Cutlets" and "Mustard Sauce," both from VCON, with garlic-mashed potatoes and Kale Slaw! Oh kale slaw, how I love you so! I think I could eat an entire plate of this stuff as a meal, it's so good! (I also think I've realized that I prefer kale raw -- if I'm wanting cooked greens, I like chard or spinach or beet greens better. Who knew?) I also chose to bake the chickpea cutlets this time 'round, instead of glopping up my stovetop pan-frying them, and I think I prefer them this way! They get firmer and crispier in the oven, and there's no chance of having a gummy, glutinous center with the oven-baked method. Yummmmmmm!

I had to take an already awesome dinner to the next level, with an extra-awesome dessert:

Blueberry crumble with vanilla ice cream . . . easy and delicious! Even though this used up nearly all of the blueberries left in my freezer, it was totally worth it. Mmmmmmmmmmm!!

Off to enjoy my snow day! Wahoo!

Sunday, February 20, 2011


I can't believe it . . . it's been snowing since noon, and we're expecting 15 to 20 inches before it stops snowing tomorrow! Holy macaroni! I'm extremely thankful my boss called me earlier this evening to let me know we will NOT be open tomorrow -- whew! I was a little concerned about how I was going to get to work if MetroTransit stops busses again, like they did during the last blizzard!

Anyhow . . . best thing to do when it's pouring snow outside? BAKE!

Delicious, comforting oatmeal cookies, loaded with walnuts and dried cranberries. Yum yum yum! I sent Dan off to the recording studio today with a supply of these . . . I hope they were well received! (And I hope he can get home from St. Paul in one piece!)

UPDATE: I forgot to post the cookie recipe -- sorry! Here it is!

This is a pretty basic recipe, but just goes to show how a few high-quality ingredients can combine to create something other-worldly!

Cream together:
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar

Beat in until smooth:
2 eggs

Combine, then stir in to butter mixture:
2 cups regular rolled oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups sweetened dried cranberries
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts

Bake at 375 for 10 to 12 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies. Cool on wire racks, and enjoy!


I have a wonderful dinner planned for later, whenever Dan's able to roll in, and something else baking away in the oven! Later!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

what I've learned from studio yoga

I don't know whether I've really blogged much about my first experiences with studio yoga this year, but I just wrapped up a six-week series today that was titled "Yoga for Back Health."

In case you didn't know, I've had chronic back pain most of my adult life, and started seeing a chiropractor in 2007 to help. After a lengthy "healing" process with the chiro, some flare-ups here and there, and a smattering of yoga done at home to try and keep things loose and aligned, I'm feeling like I'm at a point where I'm pretty much pain-free most days. Weather changes, stress, and doing silly things like carrying three loads of laundry up and down the back stairs at once will cause stiffness and soreness, but overall, I'm feeling pretty good!

SO . . . after that lengthy ramble . . . now you know why I was ready to try a yoga class that focused entirely on keeping my back healthy, strong, and flexible. This also happened to be my first ever studio yoga experience, and it was SUCH a positive one! Let me first wax poetic about the studio I chose . . .

I have been attending One Yoga, a nonprofit yoga studio on 26th and Lyndale. (They used to be located across the street from the Wedge, for you locals that might have seen the studio signs before.) What do I love about this organization?
~ Both studios are gorgeous, calming, and cheerful. I'm partial to the "sky studio," but I think that's just because it gets better light. And I like the color blue.
~ They have complimentary tea available at all times.
~ They are incredibly environmentally-responsible, including having low-flush toilets! (Seriously, they have two buttons on the top, and less water is used for just pee.)
~ The organization offers a sliding fee scale to its students, based on income.
~ Teachers do outreach into the community, including providing free yoga classes for staff and clients of other local nonprofits, and offering free yoga classes for prisoners.
~ Students can sign up to volunteer in exchange for free yoga classes!
~ Mats and props are available to borrow during class, so students don't have to lug around their own equipment (unless they want to.)

After wrapping up this first session, and being several classes into the philosophy class I also signed up for, (we're reading the Bhagavad Gita -- in English, thankfully!), I've learned quite a bit about myself already!
~ If I sign up and pay for yoga in advance, I go! I'm not so good about doing yoga at home, (I always seem to be too tired and/or have excuses in other things I could be doing,) but somehow, having to leave the house to go do yoga is easier! Who knew?
~ I have EXTREMELY tight hamstrings. Like, freakishly tight. This is common in people with back problems, I guess.
~ My torso is slightly longer than my legs. This is really odd to me, since I always thought it was the other way around!
~ I have super-weak arms. Like, floppy-wet-spaghetti-weak. Bianca, my back health teacher, taught me dolphin pose today, which will help me strengthen my arms. I am also supposed to do lots of downward facing dog.
~ My core is stronger than I thought.
~ My general walking/standing posture isn't as bad as I thought, although it could still use some work. :)
~ I am surprised in my level of openness when it comes to meditation. I had an exciting experience in yoga nidra a couple of weeks ago -- I felt like energy was pulsing out from a circle in the middle of my forehead! Neat.
~ Despite being very open to meditation, silly things pop into my head sometimes; for example, "wouldn't it be funny if the fire alarm went off right now?" Good gracious!

So, to put a long story short, let's just say . . . I'll be BACK! I'm considering purchasing a monthly pass and frequenting a couple drop-in classes starting in March, to see how that goes.

Have you done any studio yoga? What have your opininons/experiences been?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

belated Valentine's dinner

Due to band practice, Dan and I ended up celebrating Valentine's Day on Tuesday night instead, with brie fondue!

We had homemade baguette, apple slices, steamed broccoli, cremini mushrooms, and steamed potatoes for dipping, and let's just say this meal was a hit . . . Dan ate so much cheese he had to take a little pepto before bed! :)

Hope you had a nice Valentine's Day, whether or not yours included fondue!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

In honor of the holiday, I made some cutesie cookies yesterday:

I am taking a few to work today for the kidlets as part of our Valentine's Day celebration, (we're also having pajama day!), and the rest will go to church choir practice on Wednesday . . . it's my turn to take treats for our break. I'm thinking about throwing together a pan of brownies too, since I didn't get quite as many cookies as I think 50 or so hungry singers need. :)


Although I didn't get quite as much cooking done this weekend as I would have liked, I did manage a couple of wonderful, veggie-full meals!

"Indonesian Sweet Potato and Cabbage Soup," from Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers:

Seriously, this is one of my favorite cookbooks EVER -- the recipes are all so simple, but so dang flavorful! This is a nice change of pace from the usual bean soups, a tasty way to use up half a head of leftover cabbage, and tastes like it's simmered all day, even though it's ready in a half-hour! Mmmmmmm.

And here's a Vegetarian Taco Salad:

I'm certain that adding sour cream (well, sour "lean,") guacamole, and traditional tortilla chips to this otherwise healthy recipe destroys the nutritional profile a bit, but I don't care! This salad is SOOOOOOOOOOOO good -- truly, there's something "magic" in this recipe that just hits the spot every time. I'm so excited to have leftovers for lunch today. :) (And probably tomorrow, too!)

Hope you will have a fun and chocolate-filled Valentine's Day! Dan and I aren't doing anything today since he has band practice, but we will probably have a special dinner tomorrow night (fondue!! Woo!)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saturday morning project

Stress, at least for me, means that I don't sleep much. I know that I will eventually get back to a place where I'm sleeping 8+ hours a night, but for now, I just don't think that's going to happen. I choose to look on the positive -- waking up early in the morning just means I have more time to work on projects, like making homemade instant oatmeal packets, right? :)

Inspired by this post from Crystal at Cafe Cyan, I picked up a few key ingredients earlier this week, (instant oats, maple sugar, and snack-sized ziploc baggies,) and had plenty of fun being an "oatmeal chef" this morning. :) I ended up with nine packets total, using about 3 1/4 cups instant oats. It was kind of fun, digging through my container full of different bags of dried fruits, assembling the packets and choosing different ingredients that I thought would "go" together. I thought briefly about labelling the packets, but then decided having a "surprise" might just be more fun. (And also qualify as the "lazy person's" approach.)

I did make a few subtle adjustments to her recipe, including omitting the protein powder (since I didn't have any on hand,) and I also reduced the sugar in each packet to two teaspoons. I know I'd LOVE to have a full tablespoon of sugar in my oatmeal, (and I'm sure there's WAY more than that in pre-packaged stuff from the grocery store,) but I also know I don't need it. :) Two teaspoons seemed like a decent compromise!

Weirdly, I discovered that I had purchased dried cherries WITH PITS! What the hell? I didn't know such a thing existed? I ended up using cherries in just one packet, meaning I only had to pit 2 tablespoons of cherries. I ended up just sort of peeling the fruit off the pit with my fingernail . . . messy, but it worked. WHAT should I do with the rest of the cherries? I can't see myself wanting to pit these, for some reason -- usually I'm fine with fussy kitchen projects, but this is a bit over the top. I might try and just snack on them out of hand, but that seems like a lot of work, too. Waa! Suggestions?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

cupcakes, stress, and FLOGging

Whoa -- I promised cupcake photos a million years ago, eh? Here are the tasty treats I made last weekend:

Dark chocolate cupcake, topped with a simple coconut buttercream. Nothing too fancy, but sweet, moist, and delicious! Yum!


I think I have hinted at the level of stress I've been under this year, and I'm starting to see my stress reflected in my diet -- I have been eating way too much processed food, (even though it's mostly been decent processed food,) "junk" food at work, and have also fallen prey to eating out far too many times. I haven't cooked a single thing this week, and have been eating mostly salads, sandwiches, cold cereal, and quesadillas. The horror!

I'm really looking forward to this weekend. Why? We don't have much going on, and I will actually have time to COOK! I'm looking forward to making a few nice meals for Dan and I, (including a celebratory pre-Valentine's Day meal,) some cookies to take to work for the kids (for our Valentine's Day celebration,) and homemade instant oatmeal packets. (More on that in a future post!) I'm excited to get my hands (and teeth!) on some gorgeous veggies, healthy whole grains, and quality proteins.

I'm considering starting to FLOG (i.e., "food log") on a daily basis, just to get back on track a bit -- but I'd love input. Have you ever FLOGged? Do you read others' blogs who do? Do you find it interesting, or monotonous?

It's nearly Friday . . . wahoo!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

sandwiches and a salad

Normally, I'm not much of a sandwich girl, but I must have been craving 'em today, because I've had two!

I made myself a fried egg sandwich for breakfast . . .

(I also added some pepper jack and local microgreens)

And a hard-boiled egg, "Garden of Vegan" tapenade, cucumber, and microgreens sandwich for dinner:

(The tapenade recipe is from the Tassajara cookbook Lunches, Picnics, and Appetizers.)

All of the sandwich action was interrupted by a salad at lunchtime:

More caesar, but topped with marinated, cast-iron browned tempeh. MMMMMMM!

I made cupcakes tonight, too, but haven't gotten a decent picture. I'll try again in the morning when the light is better!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

30 Healthiest Foods

I have been seeing and hearing quite a bit about a recent article from Real Simple -- The 30 Healthiest Foods. Have you read this article? What do you think?

There are some foods suggested in the article that I probably won't be including in my diet any time soon (chicken breasts, sardines, salmon, skim milk,) others that I already eat a lot of (almonds, black beans, broccoli, olive oil, mushrooms, oranges, whole-grain pasta,) and still others that I know I don't pay enough attention to (barley, chard, eggs, kale, lentils, pumpkin, etc.)

How do you feel your diet stacks up to these recommendations? What might you consider changing?

(Personally, I think anyone who tells me to eat more avocadoes makes a lot of sense! :) Yum yum yum avocadoes!)

Friday, February 04, 2011

a very satisfying dinner

I managed to slip out of work a few minutes early tonight, which means I caught a slightly earlier bus and got home about fifteen minutes earlier than usual -- wahoo! Dan had band practice tonight, so I used my extra time to get a few things done in the kitchen, and fix us a delicious Friday night meal!

The first course . . .

Whole-wheat spaghetti topped with homemade marinara and "Nate's Meatless Meatballs." I'm not big on processed foods in general, but we REALLY like these. They are kind of expensive, so I don't really buy them, unless there's a coupon in the co-op circular. (Which reminds me . . . I never got my circular in the mail from the Wedge! I grabbed one at Mississippi Market during my break, though, so I guess I didn't miss out!)

And, the second course . . .

Caesar salad! With homemade dressing! I used the recipe from Veganomicon, (which is AMAZING, by the way,) and then promptly un-veganized it by adding some shaved parmesan and croutons. This was SOOOOOOOOO good, and definitely a big treat for us! Yum yum yum.

I also marinaded some tempeh tonight, to fry up and go on more caesar salad to turn it into work lunches for me this week. Mmmm! Have you ever tried the "Seasoned Tempeh" from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home? It is seriously my favorite tempeh marinade ever, so flavorful yet basic, it seems to go with just about everything. Every cook who likes tempeh should have this recipe in his/her repertoire! Go find the cookbook at a bookstore and jot down the ingredients on the back of a reciept or something . . . be sneaky and enjoy tempeh!


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

odds-n-ends stir fry

Last night's dinner was truly an exercise in using up odds-n-ends -- 3/4 of a package of leftover tofu, some broccoli and green onions, and just about every other leftover veggie I had lingering in the fridge, including red onion, ginger, garlic, cabbage, white button and shiitake mushrooms, celery, carrots, and red bell pepper!

Between stir-fry and beans and rice, it has been a week of brown rice for me.

I made my sauce from scratch, too -- here's the recipe:

1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 1/2 tsp chili-garlic sauce
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

I just combined everything, and then added it to the wok at the last second, folding everything together until the sauce thickened and coated the veggies nicely. It didn't seem spicy at first, but it "caught up" with me halfway through the meal. I don't really like commercial stir-fry sauces, since they always seem too sweet and/or too salty for my tastebuds, so I have been playing around with making my own. This one was a super-success! I think I will keep the sticky note I jotted the ingredients on next to the scrap of paper I have written my homemade pasta sauce variations. :) More stir-fry in the future!