Monday, May 30, 2011

it's my birthday!

Happy Birthday to Me! With all of the craziness that is my life these days, (you know, new job, new apartment, etc.) I was thinking my birthday was just going to pass me by this year, relatively quietly, filled full of packing or some other kind of work. Not so! I have been able to see friends, (although we haven't done much except hang out at my new place, eat peanut butter and chocolate cupcakes -- thanks, Courtney! -- put up new curtains, line shelves, and wait for IKEA to deliver some new furniture,) and eat great food!

Here was my fabulous pre-birthday dinner last night:

For the main course . . . TACO SALADS!

And dessert . . . APPLE PIE!

(Don't think I went too crazy for myself on my birthday -- the crust was store-bought, and I had a bag of filling in my freezer all ready to go from last fall! Delicious!)

Today should be filled with more good food, and hopefully some hiking, if the weather clears up this afternoon (which it's supposed to.) Hope those of you who have a long weekend are enjoying it! If you feel compelled, have a slice of cake (or a cupcake) in my honor! ;)

Friday, May 27, 2011

meet my new place!

I went over to do a final walk-through and pick up keys for my new apartment tonight . . . wahoo!!!! I decided it was finally time to take a few pictures and show you all what my new place looks like, sans furniture or stuff of any kind. :)

(I promise I'll take more pictures once I'm all moved in.)

Here's the "grand tour" . . .


There is no coat closet, (the apartment's only drawback,) so those hooks installed behind the door are going to come in handy!

Living Room:

Decent-sized, with two nice windows and a ceiling fan!


This might be one of the most exciting features of this apartment . . .!!

Dining room alcove:

Yes, it's slightly weird, having the fridge in the dining room, but heck -- at least it's a full-sized fridge! I won't know what to do with all that space!


More kitchen:

I am IN LOVE with the built-ins, (especially the broom closet, for some odd reason,) and the huge, old sink. I plan to purchase a tiny microwave cart to slip in next to the stove, in order to increase counter space. :)


Nothing too special, but at least there's a window!


A bit on the small side, but it's long and narrow, so the space can be used efficiently, I think!


Yesssssss . . . there are built-in drawers in the closet, too! I'm going to have amazing storage space!

What do you think is the best part about my new place? What do you like best about your place?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

dinner party, packing party

I have been excited to throw impromptu "dinner and games" parties lately -- basically, I call all of my friends, see who is free that evening, cook something, and everybody hangs out, eats, and plays board games. My friends Tiffany and Christine came over last night, and we had a great time!

I made a triple-batch of chickpea pancakes, just to make sure there were enough to go around :)

We topped our pancakes with copious amounts of roasted asparagus, and plenty of herbed yogurt, too!

After dinner, we played a few games -- "Where's the Beef?" (an old game of Christine's from the 80s, which appropriately, the vegetarian (me!) won!), "Apples to Apples," and "UNO." I'm so glad my friends enjoy board games as much as I do!


Today, my friend Dora kindly brought several boxes for me to church with her; I couldn't help but fill them up! It was a productive afternoon -- I sorted, purged, and cleaned the bathroom, my storage locker, and "junk tower" in my living room closet, took out a bunch of trash, added to the Goodwill pile, and packed 5 or 6 boxes, as well as all of my out-of-season clothing! Books are easy to pack, so I practically emptied the bookshelf; Oliver was confused:

"Uh, mom, where did all the books go? Not that I'm complaining or anything . . . it's much easier to reach and destroy my favorite toys, now." :)

Hope you had a good weekend!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Far-Mar love in the rain; Uptown Cafeteria is good

Today was mostly gross, rainy, and humid . . . didn't stop me from going to the Farmer's Market, though! I bought . . .

A gorgeous bunch of mixed tulips:

(Please ignore my very-amateur flower-arranging skills!)

Fresh herbs!

Parsley, thyme, and chives this week

Local asparagus!

I picked up two pounds of mixed green and purple asparagus for $11. Worth every penny, if you ask me!

AND, local rhubarb and nonlocal strawberries:

Bet you know what I'm going to use these for!

I met up with my friend Ann after the Farmer's Market, and she and I spent a little time running around, shopping, and dropping off a few things for recycling at Best Buy. (Did you know Best Buy takes old electronics for recycling for free/minimal fee?) After all of that shopping, we were hungry!

Ann, her sister Katie, and I headed over to the Uptown Cafeteria for lunch. I enjoyed the black bean burger with a side of excellent fries (and don't forget that pickle!) and split a banana malt with Ann for a delicious treat. A solid, satisfying meal, if not a bit overpriced. ($20, including tip, for the sandwich and full malt -- I treated Ann, since she drove us around all morning!)

I'm not sure what I think about the Uptown Cafeteria . . . like all of the Parasole restaurants I've visited, they are all . . . good. Strangely, I'm never bowled over, and leave with mixed feelings on my dining experience. (I feel horrible admitting this, but I think I could have made a better black bean burger at home, although the sunflower sprouts were a nice touch, and the burger definitely needed a slice of pepper Jack; the fries, however, were excellent! Fries can't carry a meal, though, ya know?) My main complaint is that, overall, the food seems overpriced from this local pile of "unchained chain" restaurants. Maybe that's what the Parasole family of restaurants is good at -- being, well, good? Lots of folks I know rave over any of the "family" they have visited, and I wonder . . . what am I missing? Maybe Parasole chefs don't pay much attention to vegetarian food, and that's why I haven't been wowwed? Any locals care to weigh in on this one?

Both Ann and Katie raved about their meals -- Ann loved the mac and cheese, (and it looked REALLY creamy and good, although filled with bacon, sadly,) and Katie said her Jerk chicken sandwich was nice and moist. Maybe it is just the veg options?

Anyhow, I better scoot -- couple of friends coming over tonight for dinner and board games! Time to make some food!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I cooked!

Holy moly, I cooked last night! Even though it was just a stir-fry, it was good to get in the kitchen and accomplish something:

Basic tofu stir-fry, with red onion, broccoli, red bell pepper, and green onions, and my homemade stir-fry sauce: 1/4 cup of 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, and 1 tsp grated ginger. I haven't added the ginger in the past, and was so happy that I did -- the stir-fry had a pleasant, multi-level spiciness . . . yum!

(Just in case you were wondering . . . I haven't been eating out like crazy or anything lately . . . my new job provides me with 10 meals per week! The food is not ideal, but since I'm not "allowed" to eat anything different from what the kids are eating in the classroom, and my break arrives a little too late to qualify as lunch time for someone who starts work at 7 AM, I'm happy that there's a vegetarian option! Since I get so much food at work, I have barely been grocery shopping or cooking -- I'm down to salads, sandwiches, and one or two nice meals prepared per week. Pros and cons to this system, definitely. I'm going to need to keep an eye on my weight and BP/cholesterol, since the work meals are pretty dairy-heavy. Sigh.)

We took the tods to the Farmer's Market today, which was a blast, and I was happy to see plenty of local asparagus this week! Woo! I thought about picking some up on my way home from work tonight, but I was too tired, and too focused on the computer work I had to get done when I got home -- my new job is a LOT of work right now! (But I'm so thankful to be busy at work for a change!) I'll definitely hit up the Far-Mar this weekend, though! I need asparagus!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

camera to go = fun photos for you!

I was glad I had a camera on me this afternoon; as I was heading over to my new apartment to sign the lease, I noticed this vanity plate on a Cadillac Escalade:

The plate is partially obscured by shadow in the photo, but it reads, "GR8GAS." At least someone who drives a monstrosity has a sense of humor about it!

speeding up, and slowing down

Hey blog friends . . . life continues to pick up speed on my end, as I race to the finish line we'll call "THE MOVE!" (I just went over and signed my new lease today -- wahoo!) Expect the blog to slow down for the time being . . . I'll still be reading yours, but won't have much to say on my end. :)

(How much can one really talk about sandwiches and salads and leftovers, anyway?)

~ Cath

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

the changes keep a-comin'

I believe I announced that I found a new job, right? I had my last day at my old job on Friday, and I planned some special activities with the kids -- I had purchased several books for the center as a good-bye gift for the kids, which they were excited to open, they suggested we make smoothies for snack, and I decided, kind of last-minute, that I would request bag lunches from the catering program and we would have a picnic! Thankfully, the weather cooperated on Friday -- it was gorgeous! One of my co-workers snuck some pictures of us while we were chilling, and they are far enough away that I feel comfortable posting one of them for you to enjoy!

The rest of the day was pretty rough, (the kids were cranky, bickering, and whining all day long,) but our picnic was wonderful! We all sat, ate, talked, and watched the older elementary school kids play on the playground for almost an hour! Food tastes better outside, doesn't it?

Anyhow, my first day at the new job yesterday was a welcome change. :) I spent my first day in an all-staff training on diversity, which could have been campy and awful, but was actually thoughtful, interesting, provocative, and well-planned. (Plus, lunch was provided, and it was from the Holy Land Deli! YUM!!!!!!!!!) I head in today at noon to train more with my supervisor on the specifics of my new position, and will stay late tonight for a staff meeting. Wednesday, I will start my usual shift! It's been nice to ease in and have a short break from dealing with children all day long. Don't get me wrong . . . I love kids, but we all need a break every now and then, don't we? ;) (I'm sure stay-at-home parents can relate!)

I was chatting with an acquaintance before yoga last night, (last class of the Ashtanga series I took this spring,) and he suggested that 2011 is "a year of new beginnings" for me -- indeed!

Monday, May 09, 2011

"mixin' it up"

There is a small part of me, deep down, that wishes leftovers didn't exist -- even though I frequently enjoy reheated leftovers for work lunches, and love that I don't have to cook EVERY day, I really would prefer something "fresh" at every meal. I realize that is horrible, but there you go! I have a weird palate. (Don't we all?)

I have discovered many ways over the years to "trick" myself into enjoying leftovers -- eating them for lunch at work, (I'm a captive audience, and often very hungry, so happy for what I have,) making sure there are fresh toppings to add just before serving, (shredded cheese, sliced green onions, diced avocado, fresh herbs, a squeeze of citrus, etc.) and, my best trick -- mixin' up the side dishes. Often, when I prepare a large portion of seasoned tofu or tempeh, I will make smaller portions of side dishes, which then means I get to make fresh side dishes to accompany some of the leftovers!

Here's a perfect example:

More curried tofu, this time with garlic-roasted asparagus and roasted fingerling potatoes, instead of the roasted sweet potatoes and artichoke I enjoyed earlier in the weekend. Not that I wouldn't have enjoyed another artichoke and more sweet potatoes; rather, this method means I don't "get sick" of curried tofu four meals in a row! Sneaky, eh?

Saturday, May 07, 2011

celebratory meal!

Woo! Today was a long, tiring day, but successful in the end -- I put a deposit down on an apartment! Wahoo! Woo! Woo! I really like the place I settled on, it's in a great neighborhood, and it feels completely huge compared to where I'm living now -- there are some really cool features like a DINING ROOM, original 100+ year old cabinetry in the kitchen, brand-new mini-blinds, and built-in dresser in the bedroom closet! The rent is right, the caretaker seems nice, and I've heard good things about the management company. What's not to like?

After all of the excitement of today, a celebratory meal was in order!

Curried tofu, roasted sweet potatoes, and a gigantic artichoke (!) made a lovely conclusion to my day. (And a dish of Ben and Jerry's "Clusterfluff" ice cream took it over the top!)

Once I hear final go-ahead from the management company, (have to wait for the credit and criminal background check to come back, if you can believe that!), then the REAL fun can begin! Oh, packing . . . yowza! I'm also planning on replacing some furniture with this move, so there will be plenty of shopping and waiting for delivery men, too. Moving is exciting, but it's such a HASSLE!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

transition food

Even though we are barely starting to see the first whispers of spring in chilly MN, it's still plenty cold and blustery at night! I think of this dish as more winter food, but with the high concentration of veggies, it's actually quite light. Perfect transition food, in my opinion!

"Saucy Hungarian Eggplant," from Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers, (one of my favorite cookbooks of all time!), topped with a little leftover herbed yogurt from my chickpea pancake fiesta over the weekend. Now, this dish is excellent topped with plain yogurt . . . but the herbed yogurt turned it into something downright elegant!

I have a busy few days ahead of me, culminating with a marathon apartment-viewing extravaganza on Saturday. I expect I'll be eating leftovers for the next four days, so not much blogging coming up, but hopefully I'll get to the store on Sunday and have something to show! Until then, folks.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

major kitchen action

I have eluded to the overly-busy schedule I have been keeping up with these past few weeks, and coupled with plenty of stress, let's just say I haven't been feeding myself as well as I could have been; too much eating out for me! I was long overdue for a weekend full of cooking, and boy, was it fun!

Here are the results of all that action in my kitchen . . .

I haven't had much dessert on hand at home or at work, and I was craving something warm, homey, and tart-sweet. Enter, rhubarb-peach crumble:

Although peach is a nontraditional partner for rhubarb, this is quite good! I should have added a little more extra sugar to the fruit, since it is still VERY tart, but I love the contrast with the sweet-crispy-toasty topping. It's always a bonus when I can clear TWO bags of frozen fruit out of my freezer, and get a dessert out of the deal, too!

At the time of purchase, I had no plan for the parsnips I picked up at the Farmer's Market on Saturday morning. The more I thought about those parsnips, the more Shredded Parsnip and Beet Salad in Pineapple Vinaigrette, from VCON, stuck in my mind -- and I figured, I better oblige!

The first time I made this recipe, I found it called for WAY too much dressing. I cut the dressing recipe in half this time, and am much happier with my salad. It's less soup-like, more slaw-like!

I should try this recipe with orange juice instead of the pineapple juice sometime. I always seem to have OJ on hand, but have to slap down four bucks to purchase the pineapple juice for this recipe. Anyone out there ever subbed OJ with good results? Do tell!

Lately, I have been mildly obsessed with the blog Anja's Food 4 Thought. Her writing is clear and concise, her photos are breathtaking, and her style of cooking seems perfectly aligned with my own. (Plus, she seems to be as obsessed with baked goods as I!) Even though I'm super anxious to try her Almond Butter Granola Bars, I found myself whipping up Herbed Chickpea Pancakes for dinner last night:

OK, someone please help me figure out WHY I have never made savory chickpea pancakes before? They are dead easy, super-cheap, and SOOOOOOO good -- I especially love the herbed yogurt recipe she includes. It took me a couple of tries to find my mojo with this recipe, learning that I needed to use a little more oil and a little higher heat than I thought, and I just couldn't help but flip them, even though she calls for them to be cooked on only one side. Since I destroyed most of my first batch on the learning curve, I sort of HAD to make a second batch for dinner tonight, right? At least now I have leftovers for lunches this week! MMMMMMMMMMMMM.

To continue on my quest to return to eating a more colorful, produce-rich diet, I tossed together a simple roasted red pepper soup for lunch today:

I really should have written down at least the measurements for ingredients, because I may never be able to replicate this one! (Lunch was a long time ago, you see.) Hmm . . . here's what I think I did:

1. Saute about 3/4 cup finely chopped onion in olive oil
2. Add 1 1/2 cups roughly chopped roasted red bell peppers, (I bought the hugest jar at Costco not too long ago, so I didn't feel bad about blowing through an expensive ingredient on this soup,) 3 cups vegetable broth, 1 tsp agave nectar, and salt (about 1/2 tsp?) and pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil.
3. Lower the heat and simmer the soup for 10 minutes, or longer, if you are busy doing something else.
4. Add 1 cup Greek yogurt to the pan, and puree. Garnish with any fresh herb you like -- I'm on a chive kick this week, so that's what I used. Simple and delicious!

Alongside my soup, I had a couple of tiny quesadillas:

I slathered homemade corn tortillas (!) with homemade refried beans (!) and queso fresco, and fried 'em up in my cast iron until crispy. It's been ages since I've made tortillas, and I forgot how EASY they are to whip up -- and how vastly superior their flavor and texture is to storebought corn tortillas! Homemade tortillas actually taste like CORN, not like dry paste. :) I used four for my quesadillas this afternoon, and stuck the other four in the freezer, to be enjoyed at a later date.

And last but not least, after a long, cold walk around the neighborhood I want to move to this summer, I felt like baking again! So, now I have a lovely batch of Tuscan Lemon Muffins for breakfasts and snacks this week:

I haven't tried these guys yet, but if the baked version is as good as the dollop of batter I licked off the spatula earlier, they will be a HIT! I made a few changes to the original recipe, as ever: I subbed Greek yogurt for the ricotta, omitted the lemon juice (figured the yogurt would provide enough acidity,) added 1 tsp lemon extract (to make up for the missing lemon juice,) and used 1 cup AP flour plus 3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour, instead of all AP flour. I really wanted to use all whole-wheat flour, but lemon is such a delicate flavor, I was afraid it would get lost in the whole grainy goodness . . . this split seems to work well. I ended up with 8 standard-sized muffins and a dozen minis for the kids, too! (I thought I'd shower them with treats this week, since it's my last as their teacher.)

Hope your weekend was filled with good food, too!