Monthly Archives: October 2010

Fall, Friends, Fun

Over the weekend we went over to our friends’ Dave and Nicole’s house for dinner. They are always such fabulous hosts and make such delicious food.  I am just now realizing that I don’t think we’ve ever cooked a full meal for them! This will have to change. Hanging out with them is always so relaxing and fun, plus they are big foodies like us so we get to chat about all things food related.

Nicole and I met in college when we both volunteered for the same organization. Funnily enough, Alex and Nicole lived in the dorms together! I suppose Cal Poly really isn’t that big, but I still think it’s pretty random – and I love dissecting random things and finding reason in them. 😀

Dave is clearly emphatically emphasizing something!

This is their adorable dog, Georgia. They have cat too, but she was scared of us and didn’t come out! Georgia was excited to see us because we brought her a bag of treats. Newman’s Own Peanut Butter flavor! I was overwhelmed at the pet store; there were FIVE aisles of dog treats. And some people are very deliberate about what they feed their pets, so I didn’t want to get something too crazy. But apparently Georgia loves Newman’s Own but hadn’t had the peanut butter – so she got a new flavor!

Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere! These pumpkin plants are so cute.

Lovely fall centerpiece.

So cute!

Silvery pumpkins! There were so many adorable pumpkin things, I was insanely excited.

Enjoying a Harvest Moon. And yes, that’s the Giants game on in the background. AND YES THEY CLINCHED IT. Let’s see if they can do it again!! I hope they win at home this time!!

Quesedillas in preparation! Apple and arugula…mmmmm.

I got him to actually smile!

Finished quesedillas with mustard dipping sauce.

Feta, sweet potato and watercress salad. To die for!

The CUTEST PUMPKIN DISHES EVER. And inside them, pumpkin bread pudding with toffee sauce on top. Damn. It was delicious. And I am not a huge bread pudding fan.

And then the night ended perfectly with the Giants going to the World Series and the four of us mocking newscasters for another hour and a half. I couldn’t ask for a better night!

 

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When Eating With Your Hands is Acceptable

Last Friday night, we went over to Derek and Angie’s for dinner. I, of course, forgot the camera (plus I haven’t gotten used to taking photos when in groups of people). We had a grand time, eating and catching up and playing 90’s Trivial Pursuit. Which, incidentally, led to the inspiration of my Halloween costume which you’ll see pictures of next week. 😉

I do have pictures of the leftovers that we brought home:

Ethiopian! Those rolls of bread (which I think are so cute) are called injera and you tear off pieces and scoop up different dishes with your hands. It’s a very cool experience – I’ve only had it a few times but I really enjoy it. Scooping up the food with your hands is fun and lends it self to really connecting with your food, somehow more than a fork.

Injera is made of teff and is spongy and slightly sourdough like. I’m wondering now if I could make it at home! I’ve never seen anyone on the blogs make it, but perhaps I’ll have to take a stab at it. You know, cause my baking skills are off the hook….Okay, decision made, I will make injera and some Ethiopian dishes in the near future. I will document the successes and failures here for all of you to see!

Ethiopian restaurants also have a ton of vegetarian options; Alex said it was his favorite country when he visited Africa because the food was so varied and tasty. I would love to go back with him someday!

On that note, I leave you with some ridiculous pictures of the cats, as I took very few pictures of the Ethiopian deliciousness:

Runty is a very technologically advanced cat.

Hippo likes love.

Lots of love. Don’t mind how crazy I look in this photo – I was home sick today people!

Ah the life of a cat.

Oh Hot Damn….

I did my first Bikram Yoga class today. When I signed in, the woman at the desk warned me, “Sometimes people feel light headed or nauseous, or their vision might go black. It’s pretty normal.” What an intro, eh?

The reason for that, if you’re not already aware of Bikram, is that the room is heated to 105 degrees with 40% humidity. It’s HOT. And sweaty. I’ll be honest, the room smelled less than pleasant – more like a high school locker room than a relaxing yoga studio. Especially for the poses on the mat where my face was close to the carpet – mmmmm, sweaty carpet.

So, yes it was hot, and yes there were a few times where I felt slightly sick. There’s a reason they tell you not to eat 2-3 hours before. The popcorn I had two hours before was definitely still in my stomach.

The idea behind the heat is to allow for a deeper stretch and increase lung capacity with the heat and humidity. I did notice that I was more flexible than normal –  I also noticed I had trouble with any pose where I had to grip my body since I was really sweaty. And I don’t sweat that much.

It’s a 90 minute class where you practice 26 postures twice on each side. It’s not a flowy class and the spiritual aspect is pretty non-existent. I would never make it my only yoga practice – in fact, I think I’d consider it more of a “workout” than yoga (I typically think of yoga as for my mind and spiritual well being – although I know it helps me physically as well). The teacher sounded like an auctioneer – I wonder if all classes are like this? She spoke rapidly and somewhat “harshly.” For some people, I can see where this wouldn’t be appealing. Especially if they thought the teachers were like that in real life. Before class, I told her it was my first time and she was very encouraging to me during and after class, so while I originally balked at the style, I got into it by the end.

Bikram has a pull factor – something that makes you want to go back. I was miserable in the first 15 minutes, thinking I was going to walk out. But by the end, I was thinking, “how can I work this into my fitness routine at least once a week?” Again, I would say this isn’t “yoga” in the traditional sense. Especially since they hold competitions…more on that later though.

After poking around on the Internet, it seems that the teacher really matters. I can see where this style would lend itself to a drill sergeant style of teaching – many  have reported teachers saying, “if you’re not nauseous, you’re not doing it right.” If I’d heard that, I would’ve run for the hills.  So maybe I got lucky that my first Bikram experience was with someone who seemed intense, but told me to respect my limits and sit down whenever necessary.

Overall, I think I’ll try it again. I liked it, especially afterwards. I felt great, relaxed, happy and even giggly for the rest of the day. On the whole though, it won’t be replacing my regular yoga practice!

 

Fall-ing Behind

The weather is getting cooler, and I’ve been wanting to chill as well. Maybe it’s the fact that our social calendar is quite full, meaning getting to bed late and not making morning workouts. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s cold outside and I’d rather be sipping tea. In general, my energy level hast just been a bit low. According to ayurveda, energy levels tend to be lower in fall and winter, so perhaps I’m just where I’m supposed to be. Scott Blossom, a California-based Certified Yoga Therapist and Doctor of Oriental Medicine, recommends fall as a time to rest more, create a routine and eat warming foods. I know I’ve been doing that with all my oatmeal and lentils.

But maybe this is why I’m feeling slower and more fatigued; in fall the “vata” dosha is provoked. This means everything is dry and perhaps agitated. I’ve definitely noticed my skin is drier and my anxiety is more intense. To keep vata in check, there are some recommendations for diet and lifestyle:

  • Eat at regular times
  • Avoid cold drinks or foods including raw vegetables
  • Minimize caffeine intake
  • Stay warm with layers
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eliminate stressful situations
  • Avoid intense exercise
  • Perform self massage with sesame oil
  • Carve out time for rest and relaxation
  • Play soothing music

As you can see, intense exercise is on the “avoid” list. So maybe that’s why I’ve been feeling compelled to walk and enjoy the crisp air but not go on any crazy runs or hit the gym for my normal weight routine.

I don’t want to confuse taking care of myself and laziness. Part of the problem is that I haven’t carved out any time for rest and relaxation recently, and won’t have anytime in the upcoming week or two. I need to learn to balance my schedule and add in “me” time and “we time” with Alex.

Perhaps if I wasn’t running around all the time, I would actually feel like going running.

Or perhaps I’ll just walk and hike the hills of SF this autumn and winter, and see what new things I find by slowing down.

Until next time!

 

Eating on the cheap

This week, we are eating down the pantry. I have a bit of a cold and haven’t felt like going grocery shopping all week. Thankfully, we’ve had enough components in our pantry to make some pretty great meals. Here’s a smattering:

Mmmm, lentily goodness. Lentils made with diced tomatoes, onions, garlic, and spices. On the side, leftover homemade pita and tzatziki. I will share the recipe for the tzatziki later on today because it’s a fabulous dip!

Savory oats with leftover avocado, chips, and salsa.

BEST SALSA EVER!

Yum.

Beans and rice with half a tomato and some leftover and sort of old (but not moldy) cheese. I haven’t had beans and rice for a while and I forgot how much I like it!

My favorite new snack of all time – toast with peanut butter and pumpkin butter. Salty + sweet + crunchy. I think I’ll freeze some pumpkin butter just so I can have this all year round. Plus I have a lot of pumpkin butter.

And for dessert the last two nights – vanilla ice cream with cocoa powder, coconut and chopped almonds. It’s simple, delicious and not overly rich for dessert. Plus, serving it in mugs somehow feels very cool.

It’s been a fun challenge to eat out of what we already  have. Granted, we don’t have to make it through the full week – we have dinner plans Thursday – Saturday night – but it’s nice to know we can be resourceful when necessary.

It helps to have stores of grains and beans and some canned goods on hand  – so I recommend keeping a stash around.

A post on tzatziki, motivation, and the movie “Waiting for Superman” coming later!

Until next time!

Chickpea Fail

And photo fail.

Last night I made falafel, pita, hummus, and tzatziki from scratch. And a semi-Greek salad. I was cooking for new people and I decided to risk it. WELL. Let’s just say that things didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped, but they weren’t terrible either.

I have no photos because I was running around like a mad woman trying to get things done. But let’s discuss each component a bit.

Falafel – Total fail. Dry and crumbly. Baked instead of fried which, frankly, I think was a bad idea. I’ve made fried before and they were delicious. These were not. It could also be because I doubled the recipe which I have not done with much success. The flavors were good though.

Pita – Semi fail. Great flavor but the dough didn’t rise much so they were pretty dense. Not sure what I’m doing wrong with this bread making business (I tried to make rolls last year and they didn’t rise either). But everyone loved the flavor.

Hummus – BEST HUMMUS EVER! I was so pleased with the recipe. And you know what? It had tahini in it! Just a little though. My old recipe called for 1/3 of a cup of tahini which was too much for me. This had about a tablespoon and it was the perfect flavor.

Tzatziki – This was great. I was pleased. Cool and tangy, it saved the super dry falafel.

Salad – Delish. Romaine, tomato, feta and dressing of olive oil, balsamic and oregano. Simple and tasty.

And then for dessert, a friend brought chocolate covered oreos and chocolate covered strawberries. I had one of each of course!

Overall, I was pretty pleased – everyone at all of their food so it couldn’t have been bad! I want to work on making a better falafel next time – and it will probably be fried (healthy living is all about balance, remember!)

And just for fun, here are some cat photos:

This is while I was napping on the couch. We all like to nap together. 🙂

A Taste of Morrocco

Good morning! I stayed up way too late last night – until almost 1 am! Despite that, it seems I can’t sleep past 6 or 6:30 am regardless of how late I stay up. But we had good friends over last night for some food, drinks, and Office/30 Rock, so it was worth it.

So here I am, before 7 am, watching Project Runway and sharing deliciousness. Perfect start to a Friday morning if you ask me.

So on Wednesday night, I made an old favorite – Chickpea Tagine, adapted from Vegetarian Times. This recipe is from a time before I had any cookbooks and I only made recipes from the Vegetarian Times website. Now I have such a variety of blogs and cookbooks that I hardly ever use Vegetarian Times anymore.

One thing I noticed while I was making this recipe is that I haven’t changed it very much over the years. This is potentially good – it means the recipe testers at VT are good. But it also means I haven’t experimented very much. So I’m challenging myself from now on to try a little harder to add my own flair to my cooking. That’s the only way to learn.

This recipe is super easy, tasty, and perfect for fall. Warm and comforting and just a little bit sweet.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 14.5-oz. cans chickpeas or 4 cups of fresh cooked, rinsed and drained
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
  • ¼ cup dried currants
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • ½ cup plain Greek-style yogurt

Method:

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic for 3-5 minutes until onion is soft.

Stir in chickpeas, carrots, currants, spices, honey and 2 cups of water.

Cover and simmer 20 to 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with a scoop of greek yogurt and chopped parsely if desired. I used paprika instead.

You can serve this over couscous if you’d like, although we normally just eat it straight.

Or pair with a classic Morroccan beer, like Pacifico. 😉