Thursday, June 30, 2011

salad days

It's HOT in Minneapolis today -- temps in the mid/upper 90s with a sticky, nasty, thick and soupy dewpoint of 70. Sigh. It's this part of summer that I'm just not a huge fan of. (Who is? I swear, I don't know a soul who enjoys hot and humid weather.)

Salad days are here, at least for the rest of this week -- my appetite tends to wane with the heat, and I don't dare tun on the oven to cook anything! Here's tonight's salad:

Local mixed baby greens, topped with local grape tomatoes, local fresh mozzarella, local basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and homemade croutons made from locally-baked bread, olive oil, salt, and pepper. This might look like a lot of croutons, but, well, I had a lot of leftover baguette to use up! :)

Monday, June 27, 2011

breakfast and dinner, lower-cal style??

Although the tedium of counting calories is still kind of frustrating me, I'm really not finding this whole "diet" thing all that challenging -- I like the program I'm using to track my calories and exercise, I found a really helpful website that has made calculating calories/etc. of homemade things fairly simple, and my active lifestyle and already healthy eating habits have allowed room in my "diet" for a substantial treat at least daily -- homemade popsicle, slice of pie, homemade cookie, etc. Not bad, if you ask me!

(Is it wrong that I absolutely despise the word "diet?" Sigh.)

Anyhow, I found plenty of room in my daily calories yesterday for a truly indulgent brunch:

I made some whole-wheat buttermilk pancakes with Buttermilk Syrup, and enjoyed a side of fresh, local strawberries and a glass of iced green tea. Yum yum! (That syrup isn't healthy at all, but it's so caramelly-good, a tablespoon or two is a fantastic treat!)

Tonight's dinner leaned much more toward the healthy side, although it didn't taste that way!

Quinoa topped with sugar-snap peas, tofu, green onions, cilantro, and homemade peanut sauce.


I've found, so far, that the biggest changes I've made in my eating habits have actually been really, really small -- I've mostly been paying closer attention to portion sizes, and have avoided mindless eating/snacking at work. (The new job helps -- there really isn't much in the way of "junk" laying around, and if I get desperately hungry, I just eat a graham cracker or a few vanilla wafers. Plain, bland, and unappetizing, I'm actually satisfying hunger, as opposed to boredom or frustration, which was often the case at my old job.)

I just hope things continue to feel this easy! I am already making appropriate progress, but definitely have a ways to go!

Sunday, June 26, 2011


I had several friends over last night for a housewarming (apartment-warming, whatever) party, and we had so much fun! We talked, we ate, we drank (tea and lemonade,) and we played "Apples to Apples" and "Taboo." Woooo! Low-key, definitely, but that was what I was after. :)

Here's the spread I prepared . . .

Tons of local veggies from the Farmer's Market, with Red Lentil Hummus:

The veggies (summer squash, kohlrabi, radishes, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, and sugar snap peas) were awesome, of course, and all local. I wasn't totally jazzed by the hummus . . . mine turned out a little runny, (maybe I didn't choose a large enough sweet potato?) and I found the flavor good, but not awesome. Oh well! Everyone else seemed to enjoy it, and many went back for seconds.

Antipasti Platter:

Kalamata olives, roasted (local) green beans, rosemary and lemon marinaded white beans (with local rosemary and scapes!), home-roased red peppers, local provolone, garlic-stuffed green olives, marinated artichoke hearts, Marinated Mushrooms (SO delicious!), and local fresh mozzarella. I have been dreaming about this antipasti platter for weeks, and it turned out as tasty and gorgeous as I had imagined! Look at all of those colors! :) (This was pretty much decimated by the end of the evening, save for a couple of lonely artichoke hearts . . . must have been good!)

Deviled Eggs:

I looooooooove deviled eggs, and had a request for them, so this was a no-brainer choice. :) (And there were only four left . . . they must have been good!) Peeling a dozen (local and gorgeous) eggs is kind of a pain; the only drawback, in my opinion. I sat and peeled eggs over a bowl between my knees while listening to jazz; that seemed to make the process more bearable.

Yogurt Cheese with Za'atar:

This is seriously the simplest, most popular party dip I've ever made. (Dan's brother, Ryan, goes crazy over this stuff!) Buy some plain yogurt, (I used low-fat, local yogurt this time, although whole milk yogurt makes quite the treat,) dump it in a coffee-filter lined strainer over a bowl, stick it in the fridge overnight, stir in some salt, top with za'atar and a little olive oil, and that's it. :)

My recipe for za'atar: 2 parts white sesame seeds, 2 parts dried thyme, 2 parts ground sumac, and 1 part kosher salt; grind in a coffee grinder until a fine powder consistency is achieved. This is also great sprinkled on rice/other whole grains, or used to top homemade focaccia/flatbreads.

Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce:

I looooooove the peanut sauce recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance, although it ended up being a little thin for a dip this time round. I'd use half the amount of water next time, or even less. :) Spring rolls were stuffed with bean thread noodles, local mint, local Thai basil, local cilantro, local green onion, red bell pepper, and shredded carrot.


Gluten-free crackers (Blue Diamond Almond Nut Thins -- thanks for the recommendation, Liz! These were a hit with everyone!), Holy Land Deli whole-wheat pita, Wedge bakery organic baguette, and some Back to Nature Harvest Whole Wheats. Just say "yes" to carbs! :)


Two unsweetened iced teas (I'm loving the Celestial Seasonings cold brew teas this summer!) and Lavender Strawberry Lemonade, made with local strawberries. Please also admire the flowers Courtney bought me for a housewarming present!

I also made two different kinds of homemade popsicles for dessert, (vegan chocolate fudge pops and Lemon-Buttermilk Ice Pops) but they weren't consumed by all. Hardly anyone saved room for dessert! (I have made the fudge pop before, and was pleasantly surprised by the Lemon-Buttermilk Ice Pops -- another recipe keeper!)

Even though preparing all of this food in advance was a considerable amount of work, it was SO worth it! (Plus, it was fun! I love big kitchen projects like this.) Once I had everything set out, I didn't have to think about the food at all -- everyone just helped themselves, and I just reminded people about the popsicles a couple of times. Easy! Tasty! Healthy! Fun!

What are some of your favorite party foods?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

beans & greens tacos

Confession: I'm not thrilled that I'm having to count calories right now. Sigh. I found a computer program that I am finding really helpful, (email me if you'd like details -- I'd be happy to pass along info,) and find that aspect of it EASY . . . I just don't love thinking that hard about what I eat EVERY SINGLE MINUTE.

Like, "Oh my god -- I forgot to input the eight animal crackers I had with the kids this morning! Was it eight crackers? Seven? Nine? OH WHO CARES!!!!!!" But I still input eight crackers, sigh.

The plus side? I have been eating healthfully for so long, I'm finding THAT aspect pretty easy. I am just watching portion sizes and adding more veggies. I have developed new relationships with my measuring cups and spoons I never thought I'd have. :)

Tonight's dinner definitely didn't feel like "diet food," although it came in well under 300 calories . . .


For each taco . . .
1 corn tortilla (I used homemade, from my freezer)
2 tablespoons refried beans (I used homemade)
1 tablespoon cooked brown rice
2 - 3 tablespoons cooked greens (I used spinach)
1 tablespoon shredded pepper jack cheese
1 tablespoon pico de gallo
1 teaspoon "light" sour cream
1 radish, sliced

I made myself two tacos for dinner tonight, which I found pleasantly satisfying . . . and left me plenty of room in my daily calorie count for a chocolate chip cookie for dessert. :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

re-thinking pesto

One of my scores at the Farmer's Market on Saturday morning was a big, inexpensive bunch of garlic scapes -- and after throwing a few, chopped, into my stir-fry on Saturday night, I was sill left with most of a big bunch of garlic scapes . . . what to do?

My friend Courtney suggested I turn the scapes into peso, so after a quick google search and glimpses at a few different recipes, I started chopping, blending, and devised this gorgeous sauce:

Yum! The light, lemony garlic flavor and gorgeous, pale-green color were definite winners in my book . . . but now, what to do with my scape pesto?

I wasn't really feeling like pasta, and wanted something healthier . . . (I only have refined-flour pasta on hand at the moment,) . . . and I glanced at my rows of grains and lentils lining my kitchen shelf. Maybe if I made a sort of bland bean-grain dish and topped it with the pesto, that would work?

Barley and Chickpeas with Garlic Scape Pesto was born:

For the Pesto:
1 cup garlic scapes, chopped (remove flowery tops first)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
juice of one lemon
1/2 cup olive oil
water as needed to thin the sauce

For the Barley and Chickpeas:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp salt
freshly-grated pepper to taste
1 cup pearled barley
2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed if from a can
3 cups water
1/2 cup thinly-sliced dried tomatoes
5 cups fresh spinach

1. Make the pesto: add all of the ingredients to a blender or food processor and puree. Continue to thin with water until the sauce is well blended, still thick, but pourable.
2. In a 3 to 4 quart pot, saute the onion in the olive oil until soft. Add the salt, pepper, and barley, and continue to cook for a few minutes. Add the chickpeas and water, and bring to a boil.
3. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer the barley for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
4. Stir in the dried tomatoes, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes.
5. Stir in the spinach, cover, and steam for 5 minutes. Serve the barley with the pesto

I'm glad I decided to choose a different avenue for my pesto than the traditional pasta, because this worked beautifully! The healthy, somewhat bland bean and grain dish was the perfect avenue for the flavorful, assertive sauce. Yum! A definite winner.

Now I just have to figure out what to do with the rest of my pesto . . . maybe I'll toss it with some pasta after all! :)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

dessert and dinner

Since I couldn't help but pick up some rhubarb at the downtown farmer's market earlier this week, I sort of had to make a pie, didn't I?

I wasn't thrilled with my homemade crust this time 'round, but the filling more than made up for it. :) It's amazing how nothing more than strawberries, rhubarb, flour, sugar, and butter combine to make something other-worldly, isn't it?

Now, here's a question for you . . . what is your favorite kind of pie? Cherry is definitely mine, although all other kinds of pie are a close second. I just really love pie. A lot!

My friend Ann joined me for dinner tonight, and I made us a delicious stir-fry!

Pulled some leftover brown rice out of the freezer, pressed and fried up some tofu, and dumped a bunch of local veg in the pan -- asparagus, kohlrabi, green onions, garlic scapes, yellow summer squash, and sugar snap peas were all at the farmer's market this morning, and they all made their way into my stir-fry. Adding my usual sauce and a sprinkle of sesame seeds finished things off nicely. Ann complimented the spice level of the sauce -- she said if it was any spicier it would be uncomfortable for her, but as it was, it was just right! Woo! I always worry a little about making spicy things for friends, since many of my friends can't eat or don't like spicy foods very much. Score!

I have recently started counting calories again, since I've noticed quite a bit of weight creep back on this spring, thanks to all of the stress I was under. :) I found a great program to help this process along, and discovered that even after enjoying a slice of pie today, I came in nearly 200 calories under "budget" for the day -- woo! Good job me. :)

I am definitely going to have to start packing a lunch for work, though. It was so easy, gorging myself on those kid-friendly, cheese-laden lunches! Alas. I knew it wouldn't be good for me in the long run!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

funky salad

It was one of those "pull-whatever-out-of-the-fridge" kinds of dinners:

Local baby spinach topped with local asparagus, red onion, dried cherries (unsweetened!), walnuts, local buttermilk blue cheese, fig balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. Kind of funky, but kind of good!

What's an odd food combination that you've come up with lately?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It was a dark and stormy night . . .

. . . so I thought I'd bake some cookies:

Plain ol' CCCs with pecans. Nothing fancy, but sometimes that's OK. :)

P.S. The new oven seems to work fine, although I think it runs a little cool. Must pick up oven thermometer.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

first meal

The first meal cooked in my new place wasn't anything terribly Earth-shattering, but it was healthy and delicious!

Penne tossed with asparagus, cremini mushrooms, garlic, chili flakes, and dried parsley, cooked in a hefty amount of olive oil, with grated parmesan for sprinkling at the table. (Iced herbal tea on the side.) MMMMMMM!

Oy. I am SO tired tonight -- it has been a long, busy, fun, exciting, weekend! I'm totally unpacked and settled in -- can you believe it?? Pictures are even on the walls and everything! I definitely need an early bedtime tonight . . . night night!

I'm here!

I made it! Moved officially yesterday, and I'm in the new place! Wahoo!

Let's first talk about the move . . .

I MOVED IN THREE HOURS! Holy cow, that was amazing. A few things helped:

1. Friends. Ann, Tiffany, Christine, Courtney, Dora, and Dan, to be exact! With seven of us and four cars (one small SUV,) we were flying up and down those stairs! Shout out to ALL of my awesome friends who helped me yesterday!

2. Furniture (or lack thereof.) I replaced almost all of my furniture in this move, (explanation at a later date,) so we had very little big stuff to lug around. Only a few important pieces came with me, and I had all of the new stuff delivered and assembled already, so that was super-slick.

3. Forethought. I worked my behind off, being prepared for this move -- I was totally, completely, 100%-ly packed and ready to go a full half-hour before my friends and their vehicles showed up. (Don't you just hate it when you help someone move and they are so NOT packed when you are ready to start helping? Frustrating.)

So, since the move finished by 1:00 yesterday, (and we were done with lunch by 2:00,) the unpacking is moving along nicely. I am almost completely unpacked, except for the kitchen -- take a look!

Moving along in the kitchen . . .

But still plenty of work to do today . . .

I have been dreading moving for SO long, and now that it's over, I am so happy to have moved! I really had outgrown my old place, and I still can't believe Dan and I lived there for a year and a half and didn't kill each other :) -- it was WAY too small to be useable for two people! I am so happy to have a few new things, plenty of room to spread out, and a little visual "breathing room" -- my last place was so jam-packed with furniture and stuff, every inch seemed to be covered at times. I'm enjoying that there is a little empty wall space, empty floor space, and empty storage space here! Whew!

About time for a party, don't you think??? ;)

Friday, June 10, 2011

trying to figure out

I'm sitting here, waking up and drinking coffee, still trying to figure out WHY I already packed both of my umbrellas? I knew there was rain in the forecast today!!

I guess I'll have to go dig one out . . . !!!!!


Sunday, June 05, 2011

turning around

Well, after my horrible start to my day, things have turned around, at least a little bit! After getting all of the pee cleaned up and my laundry finished, I managed to get a few errands done as well as a TON of packing and cleaning today! Woo! I even dropped something off at my friend Courtney's house, took a small load of stuff over to the new place, and stopped at the Wedge for a few essentials -- really, just coffee and mac and cheese. (What else does one need in life??) ;)

On my way home, I noticed "snow" in June!

Thankfully, not real snow . . . but all of that tree fluff sure does look like snow, doesn't it?

I'm looking forward to getting some relaxing done tonight -- I have a little "light reading" waiting for me:

(And don't forget that mac and cheese!)

Still would love links to/wonderful recipes sent my way!

sigh. (Please send me recipes.)

It hasn't been a very good morning so far, and it's only 8 AM. Sigh.

As I was trying to sleep past 6:00 this morning, I heard some rustling in the closet . . . and then my worst fears were confirmed. Oliver had peed all over the stack of boxes and bags that I have already packed. (He has been trying to do this for weeks; his way of showing me that he's nervous about what's going on, I guess?) Let's just say that was a . . . MESS. After removing all of the pee crap, cleaning everything up, running a load of laundry, etc., I'm now sitting down on the couch just after 8, with a cup of coffee.

Did I mention that one box of stuff was completely ruined? And did I mention that it was my box of recipe binders? Six binders of recipes that I've saved from magazines/websites/personal trial and error/etc.? Part of me is so mad I don't know where to begin, part of me is just sad. That's a lot of time and energy lost to the pee. If you have any good recipes of your own you think I should have, please email them to me! I lost everything! (Links to favorites are also welcome!)

Thankfully all of my cookbooks are fine. But honestly, cookbooks would have been easier to replace.

And did I mention that in all of the chaos, I now can't find my coin purse of laundry quarters? I'm worried I left them in the laundry room and someone stole them, and I had nearly two rolls of quarters in the coin purse. Now I have a load of wet clothes and blankets that are going to stay wet until I can get to the bank.

What else?

Well, did I mention that my thoughts on Dan being back were premature? I guess he's not. And probably won't be. I'm trying really hard to keep the drama out of the blog, but let's just say it hasn't been the best couple of days.

One more week of this chaos, folks -- I move next weekend, and then life can maybe return to normal?? Maybe??


Wednesday, June 01, 2011

birthday fun for me

Thought I'd post a little recap of the birthday fun I had! My day was filled with food and fun, with my favorite person (yes . . . Dan is back, slowly but surely, and we'll just say I'm feeling "cautiously optimistic.")

Our day started at Midtown Global Market, where the first order of business is usually giant burritos:

I love Los Ocampo veggie burritos, although they do tend to be heavy-handed on the rice. Pros? Tons of veggies, excellently-seasoned beans, plenty of cheese and sour cream, and the sauces! Holy hot and spicy, but SOOOOOO good!

After lunch and some browsing around the market, we headed down to Northfield for the afternoon and evening. We started with a long, pleasant, but muddy hike at Nerstrand Woods:

(I told you it was a muddy hike! Still haven't cleaned my shoes . . . sigh. I should probably take care of that tonight!)

After our hike, we spent some time bumming around downtown Northfield -- lots of cute shops, although most weren't open because it was Memorial Day! Boo. Anyhow, we still had fun walking around and exploring the few places that were open!

Before leaving town, we enjoyed dinner at The Tavern. While we're not ones for typical American/bar type food, the Indian restaurant we had planned on visiting was closed, so we came up with a pretty good second choice.

To start, we shared the cheese plate:

Aged cheddar, herbed goat cheese, and feta, with crostini, crackers, apples, and the most amazing rhubarb chutney! I swear, I could have downed a glassful as a beverage! (Or maybe it would make more sense as a soup? Anyhow, you get it!)

For my entree, I chose the Thai Salad:

The salad was packed full of fresh veggies and fried wonton strips, and came with the most delicious, super-spicy Thai dressing! Usually when something is labelled "spicy" on an American-type menu, I'm left disappointed . . . not this time! Yum yum! (The bread and butter on the side was fresh, homemade, and delicious, too!)

Thanks, Dan, for a great birthday!