September goals

Just because we’re already a week into September doesn’t mean I can’t still make goals for the month, right? All the more motivation to commit and get on them immediately :)

1. Stretch in the mornings

2. Buy produce from the farmer’s market

3. Less mindless internet time

4. Stop killing the succulents (I’m an over-waterer)

5. Learn to grill

August

It’s always right around this time each year that I start feeling ready for fall.  I’m not a sun-worshiper by any stretch of the imagination, but I do enjoy some of the hallmarks of summer: backyard BBQs with friends, a cold bottle of beer dripping sweat onto the wooden outdoor table, leaving rings at the end of the night when you collect the remnants of a day well spent. Lying on a towel in the grass, good book in hand, sun warming skin. Long days when the sun is up in the early hours of the workweek morning and stays up long enough for a long post-work walk.

But always around August, I start a quiet longing for the cooling feeling of autumn. Crisp mornings, stumbling out to the living room and opening the front door to let in the fresh morning air, only to realize I need a blanket or a sweater for my morning coffee and couch ritual. The ever so slight change in the trees and plants in our gorgeous Southern California neighborhood – the trees start to look a little lazier, a new guard of flowers starts to bloom. Mental list-making of gifts to purchase, gatherings to plan, and things to bake, now that it’s cool enough to even think of turning on the oven.

For now, there are at least a few weeks of heat left. My garden will stay thirsty and the grass just a bit crunchy underfoot. Still, it is the knowing that fall, my most favorite of seasons, is on its way.  Until then, I will chose to make ice cream over cakes, and will remind myself that, even in these most sweltering of days, there are reasons to love summer.

Coconut Red Lentil Soup + A Publication

Guess what I got in the mail yesterday?!

My thesis finally came! It’s taken almost 5 months…I’d almost forgotten about it! Of course, I promptly sat down and looked through the whole thing for mistakes – if you submit it with something wrong, even if a page is backwards, they will print it. I’ve heard horror stories of people getting theirs with entire pages backwards! So glad that didn’t happen to me! Even though nobody will read it besides my parents and David, it’s still technically my first publication! So awesome.

I was on a real Asian/Middle Eastern kick with my menu plan last week (some highlights were beef with snowpeas & chickpea burgers), but the best of the bunch was this coconut red lentil soup from  101 Cookbooks.

It was really easy to put together, and even though it had a couple of ingredients that are not always stocked in the pantry – red split lentils and yellow split peas – a quick trip to the bulk foods aisle in Whole Foods easily took care of that. I only made minimal changes: took out the raisins (I just don’t care for raisins in savory foods) and added a carrot. Enjoy!

Coconut Red Lentil Soup
adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1 cup yellow split peas
1 cup red split lentils
7 cups water
2 medium carrots, 1/2” diced (next time I will actually add another)
2 tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and minced (I always grate mine on the microplane – I am terrible at mincing!)
2 tbsp. curry powder
2 tbsp. butter
8 green onions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 14 oz. can coconut milk (I used light and don’t think it affected the flavor here at all)
1 tsp. salt
chopped cilantro for garnish

Thoroughly rinse the split peas and lentils until they no longer put off dingy water. Cover with the water in a large soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, add the carrot and 1/4 of the ginger. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or so, or until the split peas are getting tender.

Meanwhile, in a small dry pan, toast the curry powder until it is fragrant. Use low heat and keep an eye on it – you don’t want it to burn or your house will smell like curry forever. Set aside.

Saute half of the green onions and the rest of the ginger in the butter in a saute pan until soft (if you wanted to use raisins, this it where you would add them). Add the tomato paste and saute for another minute or two. Add the curry powder and then add the whole mixture into the simmering lentils along with the coconut milk and salt. Continue to simmer, uncovered, for at least another 20 minutes. It will thicken up – if you don’t like thick soups you can add a little water to thin it out.

Serve garnished with the remaining green onions and the cilantro. Heidi recommends serving this over brown rice or farro, which I will be trying with the leftovers.

Happy dinner!

 

 

All Hallows Eve

Happy Halloween!

Blogger Down!

Hello, Blogland!

It’s been a hectic couple of months. Not that it’s much of an excuse, but it really has. When I logged on today, I saw that my last post was September 1st, which makes it almost two months since I posted. Gulp. Sorry about that :-/

To make a long story short, I started a new full-time job and started (and finished – but that’s another story for another day!) my MLIS degree. Needless to say, readjusting to working a “regular” schedule has been a challenge for me. Since I’ve been a grad student for the past two years, I was used to having a very flexible, do-whatever-you-want-when-you-want schedule. Now, I’m up at 6:00-6:15 every morning and in to downtown LA by 8:00am. It’s very different. In a good way! But different.

In any case, there will be more to come about all of the above, but I wanted to share this recipe that I made for dinner last night. It was delicious! And pretty easy. The whole thing took me about an hour and ten minutes, so it’s not a meal for a super quick dinner, but definitely good enough for company (or just for yourself!)

Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meatballs, Mushrooms, and Spinach
adapted from Martha Stewart Magazine (October 2010)

1 spaghetti squash (approx. 3 lbs) halved lengthwise
a couple of tablespoons of  grapeseed oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped
3 tbsp. freshly grated Romano cheese (or Parmesan)
1 tbsp. dried bread crumbs (I used Italian style)
8 oz. lean ground turkey
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 cup chicken stock (low-sodium, of course)
4 cups baby spinach

Preheat your oven to 375. Place squash halves face up on a foil-covered baking sheet. Drizzle with grapeseed oil and season with pepper (you could use salt here, too, but I generally don’t add salt to things like this – personal preference). Bake for 45-60 minutes. Remove and scrape the flesh (ew?) into strands with a fork.

Spaghetti squash: start to finish

Meanwhile, heat tsp. of oil in a large skillet. Cook the onion and the garlic until tender and then add the oregano. Cook until fragrant. Divide the mixture – half in 1 small bowl, half in a large bowl.

In the large bowl – stir the breadcrumbs and half of the cheese into the oregano mixture. Add turkey, salt and pepper, and mix together with your hands. Form into 9-12 small meatballs.


Heat another tsp. in the skillet (the one you used before is fine). Add the meatballs and brown them – about 6-8 minutes – don’t cook them all the way through! Transfer to a plate and set aside. Add another tsp. of oil to the hot skillet and cook mushrooms until tender and beginning to brown. Add meatballs back to the pan along with the small bowl of oregano mixture and the stock. Simmer gently, partially covered until the meatballs are cooked through – about 5-7 minutes. Add spinach and wilt. Top the spaghetti squash strands with the veggie/meatball mixture and serve.

I will be back soon. Promise this time.

Green is Good

I have been spending a lot of time with these two items lately:

I am really working toward deepening my yoga practice and really improving my ability, so I have been practicing almost every day. I am already noticing that it is easier to hold some of the poses and I am definitely more familiar with the flow, which is a big help.

And, I had my first day of school last week! Maybe even what will be my last first day of school. Too soon to tell just yet on that though. I am starting a Master of Library and Information Science program, adding to my M.A. in musicology and my B.A. in music.  Lots of introductory and background reading thus far, but as history is my one true academic love, I don’t mind at all.

All of this on top of starting a new job next week, I am definitely feeling the need for maintaining a calm and relaxed frame of mind. I am also trying to take really, really good care of myself – eating lots of healthy food, getting plenty of sleep, and, of course, the yoga doesn’t hurt.

Today, though, I tried something new. I have read about Green Monsters on several of the blogs I read everyday. They have always looked super gross and totally unappetizing to me. I am not really a smoothie girl anyway, but the green tinge just really never did it for me.

Until today. Today I decided to just give it a go and when I was at Whole Foods I picked up a package of spinach. Reading about how much energy you get from adding these to your diet and all of the “side effects” like better hair, clearer skin, etc, really made me want to try it. For my recipe, I referred to Angela’s website for green monsters: Green Monster Movement. I used her recipe for a “virgin” green monster and added a tablespoon of peanut butter, per the recommendation of many others.

The verdict? It was really good! You can’t taste the spinach AT. ALL. And I would not lie about such a thing. I could not drink quite as much as the recipe made, but I think it’ll be easy to cut it down a little bit. I encourage you to try one, if you haven’t already. If I can like it, I think anyone can!

Peanut Butter Banana Green Monster (adapted from GreenMonsterMovement.com)

2 cups organic spinach
1 – 1 1/4 cups milk (any kind – cow, almond, soy, rice, etc – I used skim cow’s milk)
1 tbsp. flax
1 banana
1 tbsp. peanut butter
5-6 large ice cubes

Add the ingredients to the blender in this order: flax, spinach, banana, peanut butter, milk. (Angela says that the reason for this order is so that the heavy ingredients weigh down the flax and spinach so they don’t fly up in the blender and stick to the side.) Blend on high for 1 minute. Add the ice and blend on the ice cube setting. Pour and enjoy!

Peanut Butter Blondies

Last week was hot.  I am not a fan of hot weather any way about it, but when it’s 105+ degrees for 4 days in a row, I get pretty cranky.  Mostly because I just want to be in the air conditioned house and, therefore, I miss out on doing fun things outside.  But I also hate the heat because it makes it too hot to bake.  I was really starting to envy some of my favorite bloggers (ahem…Deb and Ashley and Kath) who have been waxing poetic about the comings of Fall in their areas.  Guess I need to move to the east coast…

Luckily, this past weekend and today have been gorgeous!  So gorgeous that I baked these:

These peanut butter blondies are to die for.  I got the recipe from Joy the Baker, who recommends topping them with a pretty amazing looking milk chocolate frosting.  I am trying not to eat too much chocolate these days, so I left them as is and I have to say that they are super rich on their own (although a good chocolate frosting never hurt anything, in my opinion…).

Peanut Butter Blondies (adapted from Joy the Baker)

10 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 5 cubes
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup smooth peanut butter
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9×13 baking pan and set aside.

In a small to medium saucepan, melt the butter and sugar together over medium heat until the butter is just melted.

Pour into large mixing bowl and allow to cool for 5 minutes.  Add the peanut butter and stir until well incorporated.

Allow mixture to cool for another 5 minutes (you are cooling it so that when you add the eggs they won’t cook).  Whisk in the eggs and vanilla.  Add the flour, salt, and baking powder all at once and stir until just combined (the batter is very thick).  Pour into the greased pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.  Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares and serving (if you can wait!).

So good! Hope you all are keeping cool!