Saturday, April 30, 2011

FarMar opening day and coconut milk soft serve

Today was the official opening day of the Minneapolis Farmer's Market, and true to the "spring" weather we've been having, it was cold and pouring rain. I braved the elements anyway, and picked up a few things:

A dozen eggs, some cheddar cheese, a few wintered-over parsnips, and freshness! Lettuce, green onions, thyme, parsley, and chives. I did also see some spinach at the market this morning, but didn't think I could get through the huge box of lettuce AND a big bunch of spinach, so I chose the lettuce.

Even though it was slim pickings this week, I'm so glad the Farmer's Market is back! I am so happy to see some local, fresh veggies after our long, hard, snowy winter.

ALSO, I ran up to the Wedge this afternoon to pick up a few things, and while there, tried their new coconut milk-based soft serve ice cream -- I tried the vanilla straight-up, and also in a milkshake made with the soft serve and rice milk. The soft serve alone is excellent! It does have a hinty-coconutty flavor, so if you detest coconut, this probably wouldn't be for you, but I love coconut, so I loved this. The texture is lovely, it is just the right consistency, and not cloyingly sweet, either. Blended into the milkshake, the coconut flavor was less present, but it did have that slightly gritty rice milk texture. Despite the grittiness, I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon treat! I'm thinking a milkshake might need to become a grocery-shopping mainstay? What do you think? :) (I do still have to try the chocolate, after all!)

The rest of my day has been filled with more cat drama, (his follow-up appointment resulted in another procedure, a very messy Oliver, and a very messy bathroom after we got home,) and a little baking (I'll take a photo later, promise!) Off to clean up the kitchen so I can turn around and mess it up again!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

millet polenta!

Way back in December, a recipe for Millet-Cheddar Polenta with Roasted Vegetables from Fine Cooking caught my eye . . . I really don't eat much millet, but am always looking to diversify my diet, and I LOVE polenta (and cheese, obviously!) so I thought this recipe would definitely be worth a try.

Our foul weather today dictated something warm, creamy, and comforting for dinner -- and this recipe fit the bill perfectly!

As ever, I can't follow a recipe exactly as written, so I made the following changes:
~ I used a totally different combination of veggies, (wanted to use up some things I had on had, plus also wanted more color in the meal,) and tossed them with a simple combination of olive oil, salt, pepper, and plenty of minced garlic
~ I cut the amount of butter in the polenta down to two tablespoons; the polenta still seemed extremely rich to me, and I'd probably cut down to just a single tablespoon in the future
~ I found the polenta's texture benefited greatly from a few minutes beating from the stick blender -- more creamy, less lumpy :)

Now, I don't think I'll make millet polenta every single time in the future, but this was a definite winner! I'm happy to find another way to enjoy a grain that doesn't get much attention in my kitchen, for sure!

What are some ways you enjoy millet?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

how to: miso soup

I have gone off and on miso soup through the years, but lately, it's defenitely been one of my "go to" quick and healthy meals. Who doesn't love a bowl of salty, brothy veggies, with a little tofu or noodles thrown in on occasion? Sign me up!

Over the years, I've tried a variety of recipes and approaches towards miso soup, and have run into several road blocks -- mainly, that traditional miso soup relies heavily on a broth containing bonito, which does not fit in with my "strict" vegetarian diet. (Plus, I just think it tastes nasty. My preference, and all!)

Recently, I've discovered what I believe to be the perfect vegetarian miso soup, using a quick, homemade broth that is both clean tasting and complex. Observe:

1. Per serving, bring 2 cups of water, one dried shiitake mushroom, one strip of konbu, and as much ginger as you would like to a boil:

After the broth boils, remove it from the heat and allow it to steep as long as you'd like -- at least a half-hour, preferably an hour if you have the time. (This is an easy thing to do in advance, if you'd like.)

2. While your broth is steeping, prepare your other ingredients:

Tonight, I used a big pile of sliced shiitake mushroom caps, some asparagus from my freezer, and sliced green onions. I also like sugar snap peas, pressed and cubed tofu, soba noodles (broken into 1-inch pieces,) and julienned carrot in miso soup. I try to limit myself to three additional ingredients, just to keep the whole thing from turning into a stew. :)

3. Remove the dried mushroom, konbu, and ginger from your broth. Return it to a boil, and add your additional veggies:

Lower the heat and simmer the soup for at least five minutes, unless you are using noodles, then check the package and simmer until your noodles are cooked through.

4. Stir in a spoonful of miso:

I don't like the mess of removing some of the broth, dissolving the miso in this broth and then returning it to the pot, so I press my miso through a small strainer directly into the soup.

5. Enjoy!

Have you ever made miso soup before? What is your preferred method?

Friday, April 22, 2011

the longest week of my life.

Good lord, folks, this has been a LONG week. It all started last weekend, really -- let me tell you what I've been up to . . .

So, I had a choir concert last weekend -- four hour rehearsal on Saturday, and then regular church on Sunday, plus a concert that evening.

Monday night I had my beginning Ashtanga yoga class -- I enjoyed it, of course, but my hips and knees were sore from all of the standing over the weekend. (I rested more than I usually would during a class.)

Tuesday night is when the true intensity began. I don't think I've ever mentioned this on the blog before, but my apartment building has had bedbugs, off and on for a year and a half, and my apartment has been one of the units affected the entire time. This week Wednesday was my THIRD heat treatment, in an attempt to rid my apartment, once and for all, of bedbugs. This heat treatment was especially stressful because my management company, (who shall remain unnamed, until I move out this summer,) tried to make me PAY for the treatment, to the tune of $1200! No way! I actually saw a lawyer a couple of weeks ago, who helped me assert my legal rights in a very professional, but strongly-worded letter. Following this letter, I no longer had to PAY for the treatment, but still had to suffer through it. Oliver spent the night on Tuesday at my friend Tiffany's house, and two friends came over to help me prepare my apartment for the treatment, including moving all furniture into the middle of the room, removing all pictures/posters/paintings from the walls, and collecting anything that would melt or be otherwise damaged by the heat and transfer it to the fridge. (SHOUT OUT TO ANN AND CHRISTINE!) Both left around 10:30 PM on Tuesday night, which is WAY past my bedtime for a school night, but was necessary to get the job done.

Wednesday night was recovery from the heat treatment. That took until 11:30 PM. (SHOUT OUT TO ANN AND COURTNEY!) I don't even want to go into how badly my apartment was trashed . . . let's just say, it was beyond overwhelming, and I felt like sitting down and crying a few times. But it's over, and nearly everything is back the way it should be. (Well, that is, except for the things that were BROKEN during the treatment . . . again, don't get me started!)

Thursday, I had a cat scare -- Oliver has been having difficulty going potty lately, and needed to be rushed to the vet for an enema. (Gross, I realize, but he was throwing up while trying to poop, so there you go.) $350, two sets of x-rays, and a very long wait later, he's "all cleaned out and ready for action," so says the vet! I now have to add more fiber to his diet, since he is "geriatric!" Who knew?? :) Do you think I'll have an easier time getting him eat applesauce, or canned pumpkin?

Today marked the first good thing that happened this week -- I GOT A NEW JOB!!!! Wahoo! I won't go into detail, but let's just say my current employment situation is less than ideal, and I found something else I believe will be a good fit for me -- much, much, MUCH closer to home, $1.50 an hour raise, better benefits, more flexibility with time off, better hours, (7 - 3:30!) and a whole host of other good stuff. I'm so excited for this, but I have been biting my nails for WEEKS, in anticipation of that phone call! I'm so happy!!!!!! Wahoo!

In conclusion, I'm EXHAUSTED tonight. Too much excitement in one week for this Catherine, let me tell you! I'm looking forward to a whole lot of nothing tonight, before the busy Easter weekend, thankfully! I think all I can manage is some miso soup, a shower, and maybe a movie before I pass out. :)

Hope your week was quieter than mine! Have a good weekend, all!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

non-traditional pasta salad

I'm facing yet another super-busy week this week, and wanted something ready to get me through lunch, at least for the first few days! "Tex-Mex Pasta Salad" was born:

This was definitely a non-traditional approach to pasta salad, but it's mighty tasty! I tossed cooked pasta, black beans, a diced red bell pepper, a diced green bell pepper, some finely chopped cilantro, half a diced red onion, and some cubed pepper-jack with a dressing made from the juice of one lime, two tablespoons of olive oil, two tablespoons of Vegenaise, and 1/3 cup salsa, pureed, and topped the lot with sliced avocado just before serving. Delicious! I only wish I had thought to pick up some corn as well -- little pops of yellow would make the salad even more gorgeous than it already is, I think!

I will definitely add this to my summer repertoire -- it's always nice to have plenty of salad ideas!

evil, naughty, monster cat.

When I woke up yesterday morning, I felt like baking, and my last four cups of frozen sour cherries I ordered from a farm in Michigan last summer were calling my name . . . I didn't have quite enough cherries left to make a pie, and didn't feel like mixing the fruit with anything else -- really wanted those cherries to shine in all of their tart-sweet glory. Mmm. Anyhow, so I decided to make a simple cherry crumble -- all of the juicy, fruity goodness of a pie, with way fewer calories and less complication, too!

I had a very busy day yesterday, so I made sure to protect the crumble from the cat until it was completely cool, (my cake dome often comes in really handy for this purpose,) and then tightly wrapped the crumble in heavy-duty foil. When I got home last night, I wasn't very hungry, but I wanted to try a bite of my crumble -- and it was SO good! Yum yum yum! Cherry has to be my favorite fruit dessert of ALL TIME.

Surprisingly, when I was in the shower last night, I heard an extremely loud THUD in my apartment. I popped out of the shower, grabbed a towel, and guess what I saw in my kitchen?

Yes . . . the evil, naughty, monster kitty managed to knock the entire crumble off my kitchen counter, smashing my 9-inch square Pyrex to bits, staining my kitchen rug, and ruining all of my baking efforts!

Now, I'm not really all that upset about the baking dish, (I can always buy another,) and I can easily wash the rug. But the cherries? I can't replace the cherries! Sigh. I guess I'll have to wait until July, when I can buy another 10 pounds, and from now on, I'll have to put something grippy under ALL baking dishes, to keep them safe on my kitchen counter!

Damn cat. Damn, damn cat.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

curry + noodles = happy me!

If you read my blog at least infrequently, I'm sure you've seen at least one post about curry -- I love it all, especially coconut-based Thai curries. I love the sweet-spicy-salty-creamy-flavorful goodness!

I have pretty much always served my curries over either brown or Jasmine rice, but then a recipe for "Thai Curried Noodles with Broccoli and Tofu," from the most recent issue of Vegetarian Times, caught my eye. Now, my love affair with curried noodles has begun.

Confessionally . . . I'm really not much of a rice person. I make rice because it goes with things, not because I like it. Pasta, however? I LOOOOOOOOVE any noodle, any time, any where! It's as if my curry prayers have been answered . . . I can now enjoy a big bowl of curry without any of that annoying rice getting in my way! :)

Good thing this recipe generated quite a bit of leftovers, because I'm not home the next two nights in a row . . . being busy can be a good thing, but it is hard to maintain sometimes! What are your best tricks for getting through busy spells?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

simple lunch, delightful snack

I had been thinking over how I was going to make "salsa chickpeas" all week long, and today, I finally threw a few things in a frying pan and came up with a simple, healthy, delicious lunch!

"Salsa Chickpeas," served over some leftover brown rice, and a side of steamed sugar-snap peas, tossed with a dot of butter and a pinch of salt.

How did I make Salsa Chickpeas?

1. Saute half a large yellow onion, chopped, in some olive oil until it is just beginning to brown. Add 2 cloves garlic, minced, and cook for a couple more minutes.

2. Add a spoonful (about 2 tsp? maybe more? maybe less?) of curry powder and a small handfull of sliced almonds to the pan. Continue cooking, toasting the nuts and spices, for a few more minutes.

3. Add about 3 cups of cooked, rinsed/drained chickpeas to the pan, and about a cup (or more? or less?) of prepared salsa. Heat through.

4. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and serve over rice.

I was pleasantly surprised by this experiment! I was worried that I wasn't much going to care for it and would end up with tons of leftovers, but that's not the case -- I will definitely be enjoying this dish again later this week! Yum.

I also felt like baking today, and made a delightful pile of snacks:

After reading Ali's post about these "All-Inclusive Breakfast Muffins," they just sounded too good to be true . . . I had to try them! These muffins did NOT disappoint . . . while they are definitely more complicated than most of my ordinary muffin recipes, they are totally worth the extra effort -- moist, slightly sweet, and wholesome, without tasting "healthy." I'm also extra-excited to have discovered Anja's blog! Her recipe for Almond Butter Granola Bars is calling my name, man!

Discovering new blogs is so much fun, isn't it? :)

impromptu dinner party

I sent a couple of friends an email yesterday, offering chili for dinner . . . and surprisingly, two of my friends were free and came over! Wooo-hoo impromptu dinner party!

I made my basic chili and a pan of cornbread, and my friend Tiffany brought a delicious salad of mixed greens with two cheeses, homemade lemon vinaigrette, and croutons -- yum! We enjoyed hortchata to drink, plenty of conversation, and three hands of "Old Maid" -- all three of which I lost. Oh well!

I spent most of my day having fun yesterday, so I have tons of work to do today. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

a favorite lunch

I like to believe that I'm some sort of lunch-packing pro. You see, I pack a lunch every single day without fail, due to the nature of my job -- I eat with the kids, so there's no time whatsoever to go out and pick anything up, so I must pre-plan. Typically, I have leftovers from dinners over the week for lunch, but every once in a while, I make something special just for my lunches -- ingredients for fancy green salads, pasta salads, special sandwich spreads, etc., and then I look forward to lunch even more!

Today, I have one of my all-time favorite lunches packed up and ready to go:

This may seem super weird to some, but trust me -- it's really, really good! I top a baked sweet potato with a pinch of salt and a few dashes of chili powder, some cooked black beans, steamed broccoli, salsa, and shredded cheese. Colorful, healthy, fiber-rich, a variety of textures and flavors, pretty much everything one would want in a packed lunch!

Baked sweet potatoes are one of my favorite avenues for healthy meals, actually -- I find they are also REALLY good topped with leftover chili. What's your favorite baked sweet potato topping! (I'm going to need to be eating a LOT more sweet potatoes, since I bought ten pounds at Costco!)

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

hello, pizza.

It feels like it's been AGES since I've made a pizza -- and boy, was I happy to make one this evening! Despite this pizza's gorgeous appearance, it was made entirely of leftovers and stuff I already had on hand, which makes it even better!

Half whole-wheat Artisan Bread dough, (leftover from my first calzone experiment,) topped with organic pizza sauce, (from the freezer,) leftover sliced provolone, leftover onion, cremini mushrooms, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, spinach, kalamata olives, and leftover feta.

Plated, with my favorite salad of late on the side:

A pretty respectable Tuesday night dinner if you ask me! :)

a break from the FLOG

Hello blog friends! I knew this would happen when I started the FLOG a couple of weeks ago, but well . . . I'm sick of the FLOG. Aren't you? Personally, I find FLOGs sort of tedious, both from a writing and a reading standpoint. How much can one really write about cold cereal, smoothies, toast, salads, sandwiches, quesadillas, and other things that make up the foundation of my diet, anyway? :) (And frankly, how much do you really want to read about those things?) So, goodbye for now, FLOG. Hello to regular posting again! Maybe if I'm less concerned about photographing my daily meals, I'll actually cook something again soon? :)

Monday, April 04, 2011



cereal, with homemade, unsweetened almond milk

biscuit with butter (not pictured)


MORE peanut noodles . . . and can you believe I still have a serving left? Sigh.


a raspberry-oatmeal bar and an orange
and a tapioca pudding cup (not pictured)


spinach salad with cranberries, pecans, buttermilk blue cheese, and homemade balsamic vinaigrette


a cranberry-spice cookie from Common Roots (I ate half before yoga; this is the half I saved for when I got home!)


I start my new yoga classes this week! Woo! I'm excited to have something to look forward to on Monday and Thursday nights. (I have been desperately reminding myself to pack pants today!!! They are out in the "work pile," so my zaniness must have worked.) :) I have found in my limited time doing formal yoga, one of the only things I can eat within two hours of a class is a salad -- anything else I've tried, even if I give it a full two hours, makes me feel kind of sick during class. Do you have any pre-yoga meal recommendations?

ALSO, if anyone has any interest in taking a beginning yoga class, my Thursday night session won't happen unless three more people sign up. :( Boo! Hiss! Let me know (my email's on my profile page) if you'd like details -- I'd be happy to provide them!

Sunday, April 03, 2011

FLOG and weekend hilights

Today was one of those days where I never felt like eating a full meal. So, seven snacks later, it's night-time, and I'm full and happy! :)

Here's what I ate today . . .

A peanut butter sandwich on wholegrain bread:

A pumpkin smoothie:

A spinach salad topped with cranberries, pecans, buttermilk blue cheese, and homemade balsamic vinaigrette:

A bowl of cereal:

A quesadilla, made on a sprouted tortilla, stuffed with refried black beans and habanero-jack cheese:

Sweet potato fries, with a drop of Vegenaise for dipping:

And, the last artichoke:

The last artichoke is bittersweet. Since artichokes are so expensive, I've never really had the opportunity to "burn myself out" on them. How many artichokes do you think it would take? I'm thinking at least a dozen (not all at once, obviously . . . but one a day for a dozen days? Maybe I would finally hit my saturation point!)


One of the fun things I did yesterday was head down to the flower show at Macy's! I didn't take my camera, but took a couple of pictures using my friend Ann's iPhone, and they turned out beautifully!

If you are local, I'd highly recommend this year's flower show -- I've been several years in a row, and this one was impressive! Tons of orchids, gorgeous color, and very interesting arrangements.


Another event of note from the weekend . . . I cleaned out, re-organized, and inventoried my freezer today! That has been needing to be done for a LONG time, let me tell you! What did I discover? Um . . . . TEN jars of homemade jam, (a variety of flavors,) three jars of mole (what am I going to do with all of it?), and the complete makings of an Indian meal for one (one naan, four samosas, and a cup of homemade dal,) among many other things. What didn't I find? Cooked beans of any kind! (Well, except for 2 cups of black-eyed peas, which are not a high-frequency bean in my house.) What to do!!?!?!? Planning to stock up on chickpeas, black beans, cannellinis, pintos, and kidneys next weekend, and cook up a storm.


I still have some dishes to wash, almond milk to make, and lunch and dinner to pack for tomorrow, so I better get to it. Hope you had a nice weekend!

Saturday, April 02, 2011

FLOG, sort of.

I had a crazy intense day today, most of which was really pretty good, (spent lots of time with friends, catching up, walking around, etc.) so lunch went unphotographed. However, I have breakfast and dinner to show!


pumpkin smoothie. Given how long and physically-active my morning was, this guy held me over really well!

I picked up a burrito, (whole-wheat tortilla stuffed with brown rice, black beans, cheese, pico de gallo, red onion, avocado, lettuce, and sour cream) from the Wedge deli, which included a side of organic corn tortilla chips. And if that wasn't enough, I just HAD to get a cookie from the bakery, too!

Lunch was so huge and satisfying, I had no need for an afternoon snack today! Shocking!


jerk tofu, an artichoke, and baked sweet potato. Triple-yum.


a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with candy-coated fennel seeds

Today was a beautiful day, weather-wise, and I'm glad I got out and ran around a bunch today -- tomorrow is supposed to be rainy and awful. Good day to stay in and cook and do laundry, if you ask me! Hope you are enjoying your weekend. :)

Friday, April 01, 2011

FLOG and April Fool's!

I made brownies for the kids last night, (this is part of my "April Fool's" joke, which I'll explain later,) and of course, had to sample one as I was cutting and packing them this morning:

And I also had a bowl of cereal:


big Greek-ish salad with homemade balsamic vinaigrette, and an orange
(and Erica, to answer your question, my salad was mixed baby greens, tomato, sliced mini bell peppers, chickpeas, marinated artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, and feta -- thanks for stopping by my blog, by the way!)


made a big batch for the kids, and had to enjoy multiple handfulls myself!


Taco time! I stuffed a sprouted tortilla with refried black beans, habanero jack cheese, cast-iron fried bell peppers and onions, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and mixed baby greens. I still insist that there is no one out there who doesn't like tacos! Anyone know anyone who doesn't like tacos?


a teensie pinch bowl of Jelly Bellys!


So, here's the April Fool's joke I played on the kids -- as I mentioned earlier, I baked a batch of brownies for the preschoolers last night. I had been telling the kids all week that I was going to play a trick on them today, and that I had it all planned out -- the suspense has been driving them nuts! I didn't tell my coteacher what I was doing, so she was tricked, too. I told a couple of the kids this morning that I felt like baking last night, so I made us some brownies for a treat. They told all of the other kids; everyone was excited. SO, at lunchtime, I put a pan covered with foil in the middle of the table, and let them get all excited while they were eating their cheeseburgers. As the kids were finishing up, I let one of the older girls take off the foil . . . and inside, were a bunch of letter "E"s cut out of brown construction paper! Brown "E"s! Ha ha ha ha ha. They all laughed, and practiced how they would take their brown E home and trick their families. "Mommy, I made you a brown-E at school today . . . APRIL FOOLS!" Then I pulled out the real brownies . . . it was a success!

Did you try and fool anyone today? Did anyone fool you? Do share!


My awesome Friday night is going to consist of a shower, a pot of "Sleepytime" tea, and either a movie or my book. I am so worn out and overtired . . . I hope I can start sleeping decently sometime soon! Gah. Anyhow, happy weekend!