Category Archives: Life

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.

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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!

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!

BRB

I have a whole list of things to bake and new recipes to try, but it has been over 105 degrees here for the past 4 days and the thought of turning on the oven above 300…just…I can’t.

So stay tuned…it’s only supposed to be in the 70s this weekend and I promise something delicious.  Just as delicious as this guy thought our jalapeno plants were…

How does your garden grow?

I have always wanted to have a garden at my house. When I was little, my mom had this amazing terraced garden on the side of our house. She grew all kinds of vegetables and I remember it being really incredible. Since I’ve grown up and moved away – going on 7 years now – I have never lived in a place that was large enough to grow anything more than some potted herbs.

Finally, in our new place, we have a yard! It’s a shared space and it’s not very private, but it’s a yard nonetheless. At the beginning of June, David and his dad built a garden box and we planted our first seedlings. We started with a cucumber, zucchini, bush beans (green beans), jalapenos, bell pepper, anaheim chile, habanero chile, a row of swiss chard, basil and parsley, and a tomato. Since then we’ve added 3 heirloom tomato plants that David’s sister gave us and a pumpkin. It’s been just about 6 weeks since we put everything in and we are starting to get some veggies! We’ve had a few tomatoes, cucumbers, and of course, zucchini (I actually made some zucchini bread today to use some of it up! So good – I will share this recipe soon).

Here’s the progress. It’s pretty amazing how fast it all grows!

Here’s the box with nothing in it:

Laying everything out…

Planted!

Stupid caterpillar that ate all the leaves off of one jalapeno plant overnight! I felt bad about killing it, so I just relocated it to another plant elsewhere in the yard.

This is about 3 weeks in. And yes, I put my tomato basket in upside down. I’m learning!

And this is it as of yesterday. Sort of like a miniature jungle! I am still amazed that I’ve managed to keep it all alive – with the exception of the green bean, which does not look so hot and will probably come out in the next couple days.

The thing I’m most excited about is this:

A baby pumpkin! The people at the nursery told me that it should be ready by October. So excited!

I am looking forward to planting some fall veggies in the coming months (after it cools down a bit – it was almost 100 here today!)

Do any of you have gardens? Any advice for a novice?

The Beginning

Hello, world! I feel like the first blog post needs some kind of special introductory feel to it. So, hello. And welcome!

I have been reading blogs for a couple of years now, but this is my first foray at one of my own. As a grad student, I write a lot, so why not add something more self-designed into the mix?

I am Christa. Currently in school for library science. With an M.A. in musicology already under my belt, I am hoping to combine the two fields and become a music librarian in a couple of years. I live in Pasadena, a town just outside of Los Angeles, with my boyfriend, David. We both love to cook and go to restaurants, and I spend a lot of time “homemaking,” or at least my version of it.

My hope is that my blog will serve as a cache for favorite recipes, photography, decorating and organization ideas, and just kind of things that come up in life in general. We will just have to see where it takes me!

First and foremost, though, I want to tell you guys about this soup:

Tom kha is a Thai soup and it also happens to be David’s favorite. We made it for the first time last night and it was so good. I used a recipe from Sunset magazine and while I’m sure it’s not the most authentic recipe, it is super easy and comes together really quickly – perfect for a weeknight.

So here you go: Tom kha soup and welcome to my blog!

Tom Kha Soup (Sunset Magazine, December 2008)

1 14 oz. can coconut milk (I used light)
1 14 oz. can chicken broth (I had some homemade stock in the freezer, which I defrosted and just poured into the empty coconut milk can to measure 14 oz.)
6 quarter size slices fresh ginger
1 stalk fresh lemongrass
1 lb. chicken breast or thighs, boned, skinned, and cut into 1 in. pieces
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. fish sauce (or soy sauce – see below)
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. chili paste

In a medium saucepan (we used the Le Creuset) combine coconut milk and chicken broth. Add the ginger and lemongrass and bring to a boil over high heat.

Add the chicken and mushrooms, lime and fish sauce. Or, if you’re us, Google “fish sauce substitutes” because I thought that fish sauce and oyster sauce were the same thing and we already had oyster sauce – but nope! Turns out an equal amount of soy sauce works and you can’t tell the difference.

We added the lime rinds after we squeezed the juice out.

Then you add the sugar and the chili paste (or garlic chili sauce, which is what we had) and reduce the heat until the soup simmers. Cook for 10 minutes or so until the chicken is cooked through. Dish into bowls and garnish with cilantro and/or basil, being sure to take out the lemongrass, ginger, and limes if you put them in. Serves 4.