Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Review...in food

I recovered the photos from my phone!!! I'm so happy. Now I just need to find my contacts and I'll be back in business!

So here is my Thanksgiving weekend review in food.

Leftover tofurkey, gravy and mashed potatoes. It may look like just a mush pile of stuff, but boy is it a delicious mush pile!

Black Friday shopping day dessert: affogato from Il Fornaio

Saturday morning breakfast: quinoa with persimmons and pecans

Sunday night dinner: Vegetable Pho

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday! Next up: CHRISTMAS!

My favorite place on earth

Everyone has a favorite place, that one spot where the world stands still, problems cease to exist and perfect harmony is more than just a lovely little ideal. At least I have that place, and I sure hope everyone else has one too!

Mine is Rome Valley Vineyards. It's the place where we got married, and it's funny because I booked it before I fell in love with it.

[caption id="attachment_299" align="aligncenter" width="676" caption="Sunset at Rome Valley Vineyards"][/caption]

Since booking our wedding almost a year ago, the vineyard has become a home away from home. I mention it now because I went up there for a meeting this morning, and I've been completely useless since. It's almost like taking a happy pill. It's so peaceful and serene and you walk inside the door this time of year and are washed with Christmas spirit (of course, today the Christmas spirit was more or less still spilling out of boxes). There's always fresh coffee and some sort of special flavored creamer (today was pumpkin spice....although the special creamer is for special people...regular people get plain vanilla. lol). Just looking at all the colors is amazing.

This one was taken at sunrise about two months ago when the grape leaves were just starting to change.

We went up there to help harvest the grapes. They're all picked by hand at Rome Valley. And it was so much fun! If you've never harvested grapes before, I highly suggest it!

The grapes a few months before harvest when they were "teenagers." It's been fun to watch them grow and change over the course of the year. Winemaking is something that has always fascinated me...well, you know, since I've been old enough to appreciate it anyway. And at Rome Valley the process is in its purest form. No complex harvesting machines, all the labels are put on by hand (largely by MY hands!) and if you go up for a tasting, the owner herself will pour your wine.

 What's your favorite place in the world?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy Belated Thanksgiving! + Good Intentions

Happy Belated Thanksgiving! I hope everyone had a lovely long holiday weekend. I know I did...for the most part, but more on that later.

Jim and I spent Thanksgiving running a muck, trying to visit everyone we loved within a certain radius.  We had our main dinner at the house where I grew up My mom cooked the usual turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, rolls, green bean casserole, fruit salad, etc. I cooked up my tofurkey (and I'm kind of sad I didn't bring any of it to work for lunch today...). My youngest brother came home from college and the brother just older than him brought his wife and my little nephew Tucker over.

[caption id="attachment_294" align="aligncenter" width="393" caption="Me and Tucky Boy getting ready for my wedding!"][/caption]

From there we went to visit our friends BJ and Ashley, who own the vineyard where we got married. We've become so close with them since booking their property for our wedding. They're amazing people. We love them to death! And Ashley's brother and his family were up from San Diego. They have three of the cutest little girls I've ever met!

Lastly, but certainly not least, we made our way to Jim's parents' house for meal #2/dessert. Jim ate a whole second meal while I had a few bites of stuffing and some of the hash brown casserole his sister had made for breakfast (It's freaking delicious!) and a couple of slivers of pie. Jim's step dad manages a restaurant, so he wasn't even home until early in the evening. We didn't get to spend as much time with them as we would have liked, but we did our best to fit it all in.

That night my mom and I made our best attempt at shopping at midnight when all the stores opened. We got to Wal Mart at 10 (Gosh, I wish I'd taken a photo of THAT madness!) and promptly decided to go home and sleep instead of being at the mall when it opened. Black Friday madness can really only be endured with the right combination of caffeine and sleep. So we slept, we got coffee and we got to World Market by 7 a.m., in enough time to get our free ornament and movie ticket.

I will say one thing about everything opening at midnight: the crowds were almost non-existent between the hours of 7 am and noon. Most people, it seemed, had gone at midnight and maybe gone home to sleep and returned in the afternoon? Either way, if it means I can shop peacefully on Black Friday morning, I'm all for midnight openings (by then everyone has had dinner and spent time with their families anyway. Plus, with the economy as it is, I bet a lot of people were happy for the extra hours).

And this is where the good intentions come in. Originally my post was going to be titled: Food highlights from the holiday weekend...or something to that effect. Most of the photos from said post were taken with my phone....which happened to die this weekend. I believe we have resuscitated it, but my photos were either lost or deleted. So should they pop up, I'll add the post because frankly, my weekend in food was quite interesting and I was very excited to share it.

How was everyone's Thanksgiving? Anyone have a funny/exciting/adventurous story to share?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

I looooove the holidays! And tomorrow, being Thanksgiving and all, marks the kick of off the most wonderful time of the year! I love everything about this time of year.

I love that the temperatures drop and I get to bring out all my sweaters.

[caption id="attachment_266" align="aligncenter" width="335" caption="The rain is lovely except when I'm on my honeymoon and more interested in exploring than curling up with a good book!"][/caption]

I love the smells: cookies baking and fresh rain on pavement and pine trees and cinnamon and peppermint!

[caption id="attachment_269" align="aligncenter" width="409" caption="Nephew, Tucker, and I baking cookies"][/caption]

I love shopping for the perfect gift for each of my loved ones.

I love the parties, the glitter, the shiny sheen that seems to show up on every surface of life.

I love picking out the perfect tree and decorating it with lights and beautiful ornaments.

[caption id="attachment_270" align="aligncenter" width="321" caption="Our apartment sized tree from last year"][/caption]

I love the feeling in the air, the notion that during this time of year, everyone seems to be just a little bit nicer to each other....

....granted, I will mention that the holidays also bring out the worst in some people.  The ones who cut in lines and have a constant scowl on their faces. I feel bad for people who can't just enjoy the season.

What are your favorite things about the holidays?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Under the weather

I know. My presence has been scarce. But in my defense, I'm sick. And I don't feel like doing anything.  I haven't gone to the gym. I haven't cooked a meal. I haven't done laundry or cleaned anything. I didn't go to work yesterday. I went today, but I did a couple of things and then sat in my chair moaning and groaning until the phone rang at which point I put on my best "I'm okay!" voice and answered it.

I did get one productive thing done today, although it was not work related. I'm working on putting together a shutterfly book of wedding photos, and I got that going. So, here's a sneak peak. And that's all you get for now because I'm going to go back to dying on the couch now.

This is one of my favorites of me getting ready. My maid of honor, Kayla, was tightening my dress and I had to hold onto the bed to keep from falling over backwards!

Anyway, ta ta, folks. Hopefully I'll have more energy and things to say tomorrow.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A favorite snack + TJs!

During my last year of college, I worked at Trader Joes. It was probably one of the most fun (also most exhausting. Have you seen those people? They're always moving!) job I've ever had. Aside from the fact that the people were cool, the benefits and pay were off the freaking wall and they were willing to work with my school schedule, I got to taste a lot of really good food!

Anyone who knows Trader Joes knows that they're pretty much the opposite of mainstream. You can't go in there, necessarily, looking for one item. It's likely not to be there, even if it was there the last time you were there. They call themselves a "specialty grocery store." That being said, there are tons of really fun, different foods you can get there.

I love looking in other people's carts while I'm there. Katie, over at healthy diva eats, calls people like me cart stalkers. And more than once I've seen something in someone's cart while on my way to the checkout and just HAD to go back and find it. Katie has taken cart stalking to a new level though, and started posting her highlights on her blog! So, here are the highlights from my trip to Trader Joes last night.

My favorite snack is in there. When I was working there, I went through a, like, two month phase where every day I would come home and have the same thing:

Toasted seeded sourdough bread + fresh mozzarella + bruschetta sauce = DELICIOUS!

The final product:

I added the steamed broccoli because I was feeling a little nutrient deprived.

I assume you also noticed to Tofurkey in the photo above. Yes, I'm one of those. I eat Tofurkey and I love it. And no, Jim doesn't eat it. He eats regular turkey or whatever else was cooked by whoever we're sharing Thanksgiving with.

It's really not that bad. If you've never tried it and you get the chance, give it a bite.

Tonight's dinner is another "compromise" meal. A compromise because I'm cooking it, Jim's eating it and I'm picking around it. Stay tuned for that one!

Friday, November 18, 2011

One of those days

It's turning out to be one of those days. No, not those days. Not the kind of day, FORTUNATELY!, where everything seems to go wrong no matter what you do.

This is one of those days where I feel strangely upbeat and motivated to get stuff done...except I have nothing to do. My desk is clean. Filing is done. My inbox is empty. I even got started on all the year-end stuff that will need to be done come January 1st.

I suppose now that means I'm moving on to cleaning out the fridge. It's like spring cleaning, only in late fall!

On second thought, maybe I'll leave the fridge for a later date and sit back and just read my book instead....

Yea, I think I like that plan better. :) Happy Friday, Friends!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Christmas shopping revelation + breakfast

As I was trying to fill in my Christmas gift spreadsheet, the one I so cleverly designed for myself last week, I came to a realization about the real reason I can't finish shopping until the last minute.

I buy based on a feeling, not a list.

It's not important to me to buy my sister-in-law a scarf. Unless I happen to see a scarf at a store that screams her name to me. It's why I can never find something for my dad: the man who has everything. I put a lot of thought and feeling into what I give people. It's not just about having something for them under the tree on Christmas morning. It's about showing them I love them and appreciate their presence in my life.

That being said, I've hit the delete button on my spreadsheet, pulled out a notebook and simply listed the people I want to buy for. Wish me luck! I'm in for a long ride.


Most important meal of the day, right? Also, I'd say, a lovely opportunity to combine ingredients you love.

Like oatmeal. I love oatmeal. I could (and mostly do!!) eat it every single day (you can find my favorite here). Today, I combined it with my very favorite peanut butter.

I had this peanut butter for the first time on a sandwich at the Peanut Butter and Co. restaurant just around the  corner from NYU.  At that time, you could only buy it there, but now it's in stores all over the place (thank goodness! I'm a long way from New York!)

So I added a good sized glop to my oats, and wha la! Breakfast!

[caption id="attachment_230" align="aligncenter" width="516" caption="I had to keep the cute note my mommy left at my desk this morning when she dropped the dog off in the picture. :)"][/caption]
And of course, I had to lick the spoon.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lazy girl skips the gym AND eats sushi for dinner

[caption id="attachment_211" align="aligncenter" width="538" caption="Do you love my butterfly socks?"][/caption]

That's right. I not only skipped the gym in favor of sitting in front of the tv under my favorite blankey all evening, I didn't cook dinner. I ordered sushi instead. And I don't even feel bad about it.

In fact, I'm feeling much better. See, lazy is probably the wrong word to use. My body was telling me I needed to take it easy this evening. I haven't been sleeping well again and there's only so much I can do on a few hours of sleep before I start getting sick. So, here I sit, for the 4th hour tonight. And hopefully this relaxation will lead to a night of restful sleep. Cross your fingers for me!

P.S. Is anyone else watching Hart of Dixie? I'm hooked!

Christmas comes earlier and earlier

Is it just me or is Christmas coming earlier and earlier every year? I mean sure the date is always December 25, but the holiday season seems to start earlier every year.

Like this year. For the past several years, one radio station in the Sacramento area has played all Christmas music all the time, starting the day after Thanksgiving. This year, they've already started. And the earliest I heard Christmas songs on their station was this past Saturday.

Now I don't think I actually have a problem with this. I LOOOOOOVE Christmas. It's my favorite time of year and I am all for making it last as long as possible. But every year, come December 26, I am so sick of hearing Christmas song I have no problem letting them fade away for the next ten and a half months.

One good thing about Christmas creeping up on us is that it gets me thinking about gifts earlier. I am an awful shopper. I always wait till the last-minute, not because I procrastinate but because I can never think of something to get people!

This year, in an effort to combat that, I've started a spreadsheet of all the ideas for gifts I have for each person in my life.

I'm hoping this will work. Because let's be honest, not every person in your life is equal. There are people who it is perfectly acceptable, like extended family, to give a plate of delicious cookies to and there are people, like say your husband, who you want to spend a little more time or money or both on. Not that cookies don't cost a dang lot of time...at least the way my mom and I do them!...but there's a little less thought put into that than there is something else.

And isn't that what it boils down to? The thought. Everyone always says it's the thought that counts. So it stands to reason that you'd put more thought into gifts for those closest to you. And the fact that you give a gift to some one not so close to you shows you're thinking about them at all.

This year we have an easy gift though: framed wedding photos. That's going to be my fall back gift when I can't think of anything else. And of course, parents get them just by default.

How do you handle all of your gift giving at the holidays?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Getting to the gym + tomato soup

I seem to be on a kick. I've managed to get myself to the gym five out of the past eight days, and for me, that's amazing! The funny thing about it is it's getting easier. It used to feel so hard, first to find the time, and then to find the motivation to move for 30+ minutes when I was ready to just crash on the couch for a few hours. I couldn't be happier. I want fitness to be a part of my daily life, but the past several months it's been so hard.

When I got home from the gym, I got to work making one of my favorite soups. It was originally from Cooking Light magazine, but I've changed a few things.

Tomato Soup with Parmesan Toasts


1 medium-sized onion, chopped

1 fennel bulb, chopped

A couple cloves of garlic, chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

1 can diced tomatoes, with their juice

4 cups vegetable broth

bread of your choice, sliced (I used a whole wheat french bread thing from Trader Joes, but you could use a baguette or french bread or whatever you prefer)

Shredded parmesan cheese (I actually used Trader Joes' quatro formaggio...LOOOOOVE that stuff!)

Thyme (fresh or dried...I used dried because that's all I had)

Fresh basil leaves

Heat your olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes or until onions start to soften. Add the fennel and cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and the broth and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat and let simmer for 35-40 minutes. As I say, the longer you can deal, the better it will taste.

Meanwhile, spread your sliced bread on a baking sheet (I lined mine with foil first because it makes it easier to clean that way) and cover each with a pinch of cheese. Broil in the oven until the cheese melts. But watch it! It's easy to burn them.

Transfer half of the soup into a blender and blend until smooth...I like mine with a little bit of chunk left to it. I'll leave that part up to your discretion. Then do the other half. But make sure your blender can vent or the heat will make the lid pop and make a big mess (I have a Ninja blender with a little flip lid pour spout, so that works for me. If you have a regular blender, you could take the little circle out in the middle and cover it with a dish towel).

Sprinkle soup with basil and serve a cup of soup with a couple of toasts.


Now it's off to bed I go with the love of my life! Night!

Freaked out!

Jim spent most of last night making fun of me. We watched this movie, and it had a surprisinly negative impact on me.

I've watched thrillers before. And generally I get all stressed out and am on the edge of my seat the whole time wondering what's going to happen next and if the protagonist is going to make it out of his/her situation.

Last night we watched Frozen, an independent film about three college students who get left on a ski lift after everyone else has gone home.

For some reason, this movie had me downright shaking. And as I sat there, my heart beating a 900 miles a minute, I wondered why the heck it was bothing me so much.

And then it hit me: I was putting myself in their shoes. My brain was trying to figure out how the heck I would get off that ski lift. And it affected me all night. I was so scared I'd end up having nightmares about my friend jumping to the ground only to break both legs and then get eaten by wolves that I put The Princess and the Frog  on while we went to sleep.

When I thought about it this morning, I realized I do that with everything I put in my head. At the end of a Susan Wiggs novel, I cry when the couple who has faced obstacle after obstacle finally gets together. I feel compasion for all people, even when they are simply a story made up for entertainment purposes.

But why did this one affect me so much more than most? I think it's because it could totally happen. Granted, most ski resorts, I would imagine (I don't ski. Fear of speed + fear of pain = no skiing for me) do a pretty thorough check before shutting the lifts off, but the circumstances of their being left up there were totally plausible.

It wasn't a film about a psycho out to kill them, it wasn't about supernatural forces. It was about heights and weather and frost bite and hungry wolves and plain old bad luck. And it totally could have happened.

So I've decided, from now on, I'm only watching thriller/horror movies that have a psycho stalker/killer, some sort of aliens or supernatural entirely UNREALISTIC elements of horror to them. Go ahead and call me a baby. I AM ONE!!


Farm fresh to ME!

This has been the best morning!

I got to wear my new purple coat.

[caption id="attachment_166" align="aligncenter" width="370" caption="Do you love my morning hair?"][/caption]

While looking for a movie to put on and listen to at work, I found out my mom had Eloise at Christmastime, which while a bit childish, I know, is one of my favorites. I used to read the books ALL the time when I was little. Love that little girl!

I lost 6 lbs since the last time I weighed myself!

My favorite tree on the drive between work and my parents' house is in full fall swing. It looks almost like it's on fire!

And lastly, I opened our front door this morning to find our Farm Fresh to You shipment waiting for me with a lovely bunch of fresh, organic local fruits and veggies inside.

Along with the pictured persimmons, pears, strange mushrooms I need to research, and grapes you can clearly see, the shipment came with 5 leeks, 2 winter squash (squashes? squish?), a bunch of arugula, a head of green leaf lettuce and three small bunches of broccoli.

I love this service. I love getting things in the box that I don't normally cook with.

Persimmons? What the heck do I do with these?!

I can't wait for these babies to ripen a little bit more so I can sink my teeth into them.


Not a bad start for a Monday morning.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Before me, my husband spent most of his free time playing video games. And on occasion, he'll still find a few spare moments in a day to jump on and blow some stuff up.

The newest version of his favorite game just came out, and Wal Mart happens to have it for $28 on Black Friday....er.....at 10 p.m. THE DAY BEFORE!!

[caption id="attachment_138" align="aligncenter" width="529" caption="Photo courtesy of Gadgetbox on msnbc.com"][/caption]

What is up with that? How is it that Black Friday has managed to creep up and start taking over Thanksgiving? I mean, sure, it's 10 p.m., the day is almost over, but what next? 10 A.M.????

Not that I'm not excited about the prospect of getting started a little early. My mom and I always go out on Black Friday. We always get up around 6 a.m. and start at World Market where they usually give you a free candy bar with a game piece and a chance to win a million dollars!!!...or something like that. There are usually about seven people standing outside waiting. It's not crowded. It's not insane. In short, it's good practice for what's to come.

Because we do tackle the mall. And Target and Starbucks (eep!). But we always go into it with the following philosophy: we can control ourselves; we can't control other people.

That being said, we let the other person get the close parking spot (in fact, we try to find the furthest one away, to be honest. Come on, remember dinner the day before?!). We don't push; we don't get mad when other people push. Basically we put on our kindness suits and let people do what they want around us. Who can get frustrated and angry when you're INTENTIONALLY putting other people first instead of them taking it?

It's all about your mindset. And honestly, when lunchtime rolls around, I'm ready for a break. I don't do well on minimal sleep. And I start to get cranky. There's only so much kindness a person can pump out while on sleep deprivation. So we take a break, get lunch, maybe even take a nap and if we need to, we go out again later.

So maybe it's not a bad thing to start late on Thanksgiving. I mean we've spent the whole day, hopefully, relaxing. Maybe it's the best time to do a little sport-shopping?

Do you go out on Black Friday, or do you avoid it like the plague?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

One month married + Veggie Sausage & Edamame Pasta

As of yesterday (boy, I wish I'd had the energy to post this yesterday!), Jim and I have been married for exactly a month.

I wish I had more to reflect on. In many ways it's been the same as before the ring. We've lived together for almost two years, so most of the day-to-day stuff is just the same. Not to mention, we were on our honeymoon for half of that month, which was of course, amazing as heck.

I do feel different though. I feel like I really want to be "the perfect wife,"
whatever that means. I want to have dinner ready when he comes home from work late and I want to be able to do the laundry and vacuum the floors and keep the place tidy.

The unfortunate part about that is that I just don't have the energy for it. Period. I try. I really do. And most of the time, I can do most of it. But lately I've been feeling worse than normal. I'm actually waiting for a call back from the doctor's office so I can get in and have some tests done. It's just not normal.

On to a happier note, I made a delicious "compromise" pasta dish last night. And some brownies that we won't talk about (I tried a "healthy" recipe and got a piece of chocolate flavored rubber that was made edible only by the application of a big glop of Nutella).

But enough of that, on to the good stuff!

Veggie Sausage and Edamame Pasta

4 cups of your favorite pasta (I used the corkscrew guys)

1 leek, thinly chopped

2 cups frozen, shelled edamame

10 or so cherry tomatoes, quartered

Handful of cauliflower and broccoli, in small pieces

1/4 cup white wine

olive oil

1 1/2 tbsp butter (We happened to have truffle butter, so I used that, but regular old butter will suffice)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 veggie sausages (My favorite are the tomato basil Tofurkey brand sausages. You can get them at most health food stores. I get mine at Trader Joes)

Queso seco cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Toss broccoli and cauliflower with a little bit of olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and cook on a baking sheet for about 25 minutes or until the veggies start to turn brown.

Meanwhile, boil up a pot of salted water for the pasta. Cook pasta until desired tenderness. Some people like al dente, I do not. Tis up to you. Drain the pasta, saving about 1/3 cup of the water for your sauce.

In a large (and I really do mean large, we're going to add the pasta to this thing) frying pan, heat enough oil to saute the leeks and garlic. When the leeks have become softish (about 1-2 mins), add the frozen edamame and cook for another approx. 2 mins.

At this point, put your sausage slices in another small frying pan with a little bit of olive oil. I like mine with a bit of brown around the edges. You may just like yours warm and still a bit softer. It should take 2-3 mins either way.

Next add the butter to the leeks and edamame. When the butter has melted, add the pasta water and the white wine. Give that about a minute and then add the drained pasta, cherry tomatoes and the roasted veggies. Give it all a nice toss and plop a portion into a bowl.

Lastly, add the sausage to the top (if you mix it in, it looses that crispy that I like) and sprinkle with the queso seco.

This is another fun "compromise" dish because Jim happens to love that sausage as much as I do. It's funny to think about how much veggie stuff he eats now. When I met him, he was like "what? you want me to eat that? where's the meat?!" Now he's pretty much up for anything.

And you know what I love most? He tells me when he doesn't like something. Like these meatless meatballs I got from Trader Joes. I happen to think they're pretty tasty, but he dislike them quite a bit.

Tonight I believe we're having salmon burgers with sweet potato fries.

What's on the menu for dinner at your house?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mr and Meatless' Tortilla Soup

I adore fall! Have I mentioned that before?

I love waking up to cold mornings that eventually heat to just above chilly at the peak of the afternoon. I love the colors: brilliant red leaves, the almost milky orange of pumpkins. And the smells: apple pies in the oven, the damp pavement after the first rain. I love busting out my scarves and sweaters and boots and my belovedly comfy Uggs (cliche, I know, but you can't argue with their comfort!).

I love all the delicious seaonal food: pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks, making my own applesauce. Okay, pumpkin ANYTHING really.

Saturday I made some pumpkin scones.


They're not much to look at, but they sure were perfect with my earl grey tea.

And later that evening, after I'd caught up on five episodes of "Revenge" (seriously, anyone wanna talk about this show?!) while waiting for the husband to get home, I made one of our favorite fall dishes: tortilla soup.

This happens to be another "compromise" for Jim...so to speak. He LOOOOOVES this soup. In fact, we polished off the whole pot. Of course, he ate about twice as much as I did because he's bigger than me, but also because even though it's a "compromise" because it has no meat, he loves it. Further proof that meat is not necessary to have good flavor.

Mr and Meatless' Tortilla Soup

3 corn tortillas

1/2 large onion

a glug of olive oil (like 1 tbsp or something. I never really measure)

1 garlic clove, chopped

Salt, pepper, paprika (to taste...feel free to add any other spices you may desire)

1/2 cup white wine (you can use more vegetable broth if you'd rather. I like the flavor the wine adds, personally)

2 medium sized tomatoes, pretty finely chopped

4-5 cups vegetable broth

2 cups brown rice, cooked

1 cup (or a whole can if you heart them) black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup (or more if you love it, like me!) frozen corn

2 handfuls of cilantro, chopped

1 avocado, sliced

sour cream

shredded jack cheese


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine your glug of olive oil, chopped onions and garlic in a large sauce pan on medium heat. When onions start to appear opaque, add the spices, one handful of cilantro, the wine (or vegetable broth) and chopped tomatoes. Let that bubble away until the liquid has been reduced by about half.

Next, add the vegetable broth (I use 4 cups to start and add the 5th at the end if my rice sucks up too much). Reduce the heat and let this simmer. It needs at least 10 mins, but if you can stand to wait longer, your flavor will be better.

Meanwhile, slice your tortillas into small strips and spread them evenly on a baking sheet. Spray (or brush) with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for about 8 mins or until they're crispy and starting to brown.

Next add the rice, black beans and corn. I usually give it another 2-3 minutes at this point to make sure your corn has defrosted and gotten warm in the broth.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with a handful of the tortilla strips, a sprinkle of jack cheese, a glop of sour cream, a few slices of avocado and a sprinkle of the remaining handful of cilantro.

Enjoy to the very last bite!

(I guess that's more like bites...)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Trying to put it all back together

It's been exactly two weeks since Jim and I have been back from our honeymoon and our apartment still looks like a tornado swept it up and dropped it all on the floor.

Today is the first day I've had more than a few hours to dedicate to putting it all back together, so the rest of my day will be filled with putting away wedding gifts, going through boxes of stuff that made their way home from our wedding venue, washing clothes and sheets and towels and trying to make our apartment inhabitable again!

But who can start a day like that without a delicious and satisfying breakfast?

[caption id="attachment_99" align="aligncenter" width="423" caption="My favorite hot cereal. I get it at Trader Joes."][/caption]

I boil them up with half milk and half water to make them a little extra creamy and to add a little extra protein. Then I topped them with some of my crock pot applesauce from the other night, a dash of pumpkin pie spice and a big glop of peanut butter.

And now I'm off to tackle this lovely pile of crazy in my extra bedroom.

And this one in the corner of my living room.

Wish me luck!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Crock Pot applesauce and compromises

I love fall.

I ended up going home from work early yesterday. I had finished everything I NEEDED to get done, and there was no sense in me sitting around waiting for the phone to ring feeling like crap.

So I went home and spent an hour or so on the couch catching up on DVRed episodes of Revenge (anyone seen that? I'm loving it!) before I couldn't sit on the couch and do nothing any longer.

I went to the kitchen and grabbed my bag of apples, my peeler and two bowls so I could start peeling apples. And then, like a good sickie, I got back on the couch...and peeled apples.

I had a package of approximately 8 gala apples, although most recipes will tell you to use different types of apples. I used what I had on hand, but you could probably use just about any kind.

I put the apples, peeled, cored and roughly sliced into the crock pot with 1 stick of cinnamon, a splash of pure vanilla, a slightly larger splash of 100% apple juice and a good sprinkling of fresh grated nutmeg.  Personally, I would have liked a little more cinnamon flavor, so maybe next time I'd use two sticks...or maybe grate some of the first one in before I put it in the pot.

I set the timer for 5 hours on low heat, but I left them in for an extra half hour because they weren't quite soft enough for me by then. And we weren't quite done with dinner either, so it worked out.

When it was time to take them out, I mashed them roughly with a fork because we like our applesauce a little on the chunkier side.

Speaking of dinner, we have now arrived at the compromising part of the program. I have said before that on occasion, I'll cook meals with imitation meat products or without meat altogether. This would lead one to believe that Jim does all the culinary compromising.

But alas my friends, last night's dinner:

I made chicken pot pie, which is one of Jim's favorites (and also, I'll add 100% NOT healthy...another compromise on my part). The thing about me and my (mostly) vegetarianism is that I'm not picky...well, actually, I guess I am...in the sense that I don't mind picking meat out or off of my food.

I don't like to do it because I feel it displays bad manners when at a table with other people, but I do it as discreetly as possible, and at home, I hae no qualms with picking my chicken out of my pie and flicking it onto Jim's plate.

He polished off about half of the pie all by himself (he's 6'4, about 235 lbs and he has a job that keeps him moving all day. Feeding him is probably akin to feeding a team of high school football players). I had a decent sized piece myself, having saved room in my day's caloric intake for the occasion.

And we capped the meal off with a small bowl of delicious applesauce.

Recipe for chicken pot pie (adapted from Pillsbury)

1 packaged pie crust, top and bottom

1/3 cup butter

1/2 cup chopped onions

1/3 cup flour (I use whole wheat)

1/2 cup milk (I use 1% because that's our compromise milk...I want nonfat, Jim wants whole...)

1 3/4 cups vegetable broth

1 package frozen veggies (the one with carrots, green beans, peas and corn)

1 potato, chopped and boiled

1 package precooked grilled chicken...approx. 2 cups (I get mine at Target, actually, in the lunch meat section. You can also grill your own chicken, but while I may cook meat for my husbands, I have my limitations....)

Salt, pepper, garlic (powder or fresh) and any other spices your little heart may desire

Combine the butter and onions in the bottom of a largish saucepan. Cook until the onions are soft, about 2 mins. Stir in the flour and the spices. Stir in the milk and the broth to the flour and butter paste. Once it's thickened to a nice sauce (2-3 mins), add the chicken and the vegetables.

Unroll the crust and lie it in a pie dish. Pour the chicken and veggie mixture into the crust. Unroll the top crust and lie it gently on top. I'm no good with pie crust. I'll admit it. At this point I just sort of squeeze the two crusts together and I'm okay with the messy looking edges it leaves. Do your thing here. Also, cut a few slits in the top to let air escape.

Bake the whole thing (I'd recommend putting it on a baking sheet because sometimes it gets bubbly and oozes over) for about 30 minutes at 425 degrees, covering the edges of the crust with foil for the last ten or so to avoid burning them.

This pot pie tastes a little bit like childhood. It is DEFINITELY a comfort food, which I needed last night, along with the fire I lit in the fireplace (our first of the season), and the pumpkin ale we had with it.

Do you make food compromises in your relationship? What is your favorite thing about fall?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The holidays are coming!

I'm feeling abit under the weather today. I'll probably leave work early because I just need some rest. It's something I haven't had lately, and I think it's finally catching up with me.

But I wanted to share my excitement about this:

The red cups. The holidays are coming! It's my favorite time of year. Everyone seems to be in a better mood, the world seems to be decorated with glitter and lights. I love cold weather so much better than hot. Scarves and mittens and boots. Oh, I miss my Uggs!

Oh, and the oatmeal is new, too....well, to me anyway. I don't have a photo handy but it's called Oat Revolution! by BetterOats. I got it at Raleys. It's in this tall, slim box, and you use the packet to measure the water you put in it before microwaving. I got the peaches 'n' cream variety, which is my favorite Quaker flavor, except this one is really good for you. It's even got flax seeds in it, which I also love.

What is your favorite part of the holiday season?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fish tacos!

At the ingenious influence of one of my new twitter friends, I made fish tacos for dinner last night.

I love fish. And halibut is one of my favorites. This particular halibut was leftover from the 150 lbs my mom brought back from our family's fishing lodge in Alaska this summer for use at our wedding. Jim's stepdad is an AMAZING...ITALIAN cook, and he made a plethora of delicious things for our wedding including macadamia nut halibut, and by the way, his is the best ever.

[caption id="attachment_76" align="aligncenter" width="297" caption="halibut, grilled perfectly by the love of my life."][/caption]

So anyway, the seed of fish tacos was planted in my head yesterday around this time, and I knew it was a must for dinner.

After spending a meager, but better than nothing (right?) 30 minutes at the gym, I went to the store and picked up whole wheat tortillas, some lettuce and Spanish Rice-a-Roni (I know, not the healthiest, but my mom always made it with tacos, so it sort of belongs, as far as my taste buds are concerned), and some reduced fat shredded cheddar.

To these things, I added the halibut (which Jim grilled on the BBQ with a bit of his stepdad's "seasoning salt" which he mixes by smell...crazy, right? and just a spray of olive oil), some diced tomato, avocado and reduced fat sour cream (I would have used nonfat greek yogurt, but we were out).