Monday, October 31, 2011

happy halloween!

I bet if you had seen me on Saturday night, you wouldn't have recognized me. I looked a little something like this:

Source

I was the littler one. ;-)

This was quite possibly one of my favorite costumes ever. It was comfy and cute, and everyone loves to talk about Calvin and Hobbes. Someone took pictures. Don't worry. I'll get my hands on them eventually and add them here. But let me just tell you, everyone thought I cut my own hair for this costume. Don't worry. I didn't.

There's something about parading around as something you're not that can be really fun...


Like these peppers trying to convince you they're pumpkins...


The cute idea and original recipe can be found at Go Dairy Free. I'm sure the recipe is delicious, but I had to adapt it majorly, since I was missing a few key things. So I'm sharing my version with you, which is packed with protein and definitely delicious.


Stuffed Jack O'Peppers

Ingredients:
4 orange bell peppers
4.5 oz. firm tofu
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 tbsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp paprika
3/4 cup frozen chopped spinach
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 cup full sodium vegetable broth

Press tofu to remove as much liquid as possible. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, and crumble the tofu into it. Add the garlic, and sauté until garlic softens. Stir in the parsley, paprika, and spinach, and continue cooking until spinach is heated through. Add the quinoa, yeast, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then cover the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer. Stir every few minutes and remove from heat when liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut the tops off of the peppers and remove the seeds from the inside. If you'd like, carve a jack o'lantern face into the fronts. When stuffing is ready, fill the peppers with it and then replace the tops. Put the peppers in a baking dish and bake for 30-40 minutes.


P.S. Coat your pumpkins and gourds in polyurethane or varnish to make them last longer (and look prettier!). I did the pumpkins myself, and then found pre-coated gourds at Trader Joe's!

Update: Ok...here it is...

Saturday, October 29, 2011

healthy habits: drink green monsters

Every time I come home from the gym, there is something monstrous waiting for me. It's mean, and it's green...


But it's friendly! Originally inspired by Angela's green monster movement, I started making green smoothies as my post-workout meal a few months ago. And I am hooked! Not only are they delicious, you just feel healthy when  you're having one. And maybe it's coincidence, but my skin has looked way better ever since I started drinking these.

Dark, leafy greens are a healthy habit all by themselves, but combine them with the other powerful ingredients in this smoothie, and you have a hugely healthy habit in a glass. You can browse the green monster website for tons of ideas about how to personalize your smoothie for any time of day, but the recipe below is really meant to help refuel and recover after exercising.

The banana provides sugar, so your body gets the instant fuel it craves after it's been working hard. Protein powder provides the vital amino acids that your muscles need to rebuild and get stronger. Salt replenishes your electrolytes.

The spinach is good for you all the time, any time. Dark, leafy greens are loaded with vitamins, iron and calcium, especially important for those of us eating less meat. Green monster smoothies are also great with kale. I like to use the frozen stuff so I don't have to worry about it going bad.

P.S. This recipe tastes eerily similar to pumpkin ice cream. Really and truly. You would not believe something so healthy could taste so good.

Green Pumpkin Monster Smoothie

Ingredients:
1 cup frozen spinach
1 very ripe frozen banana
1 scoop unsweetened protein powder (I used whey, but will update on taste when I've switched to plant-based)
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup non-dairy milk
10 drops liquid stevia (Don't use if your protein is sweetened, or use other sweetener, to taste)
a liberal dash of salt
a liberal dash of cinnamon
a liberal dash of nutmeg
a conservative dash of ground cloves
a conservative dash of ginger

Combine all in your blender and blend on high until very smooth. (Trust me, you'll want to make sure there are no spinach clumps.) Makes one very generous serving.

You can also replace the pumpkin and spices with a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder. This makes a delicious Green-Brown Monster!


Sunday, October 23, 2011

birthday hike

Today is my birthday.


Luckily, J and I celebrated with my birthday hike yesterday, when we had perfect skies.



We went to the Blue Hills Reservation, near Boston, and went all the way to the top of the Great Blue Hill. Most of the paths were a lot tougher than this:


But it was so worth it.


We snacked on fruit and lembas...okay, fruit and gluten loaf. It's my birthday...I can play Lord of the Rings if I want to.


And we enjoyed the sights of autumn.



Happy birthday to me. =)


Thursday, October 20, 2011

bread, the old fashioned way

Whenever I am tempted to go out and buy a whole bag of Twizzlers and eat them in one sitting, I remember this moment from Little House in the Big Woods:

When all the trading was done, the storekeeper gave Mary and Laura each a piece of candy. They were so astonished and so pleased that they just stood looking at their candies. Then Mary remembered and said, "Thank you."

Laura could not speak. Everybody was waiting, and she could not make a sound. Ma had to ask her:

"What do you say, Laura?"

Then Laura opened her mouth and gulped and whispered, "Thank you."

For a long time, indulging in sugar was no luxury at all for me. It was a requirement, multiple times a day, that I did without much thought. Lately, I find that my indulgent moments are more like Laura's, and honoring the privilege is so much more satisfying than mindlessly consuming.

I like to remember how relationships with food can be so different when we don't have easy access to anything we want all the time. There are people who have no choice but to be hungry sometimes, people who eat nothing but rice and beans, people who are over the moon for the sweetness of an apple.


Sort of makes you appreciate things.

I wanted to make a loaf bread without the additional cup of sugar that appears in most recipes for banana bread or pumpkin loaf or zucchini muffins. I wanted to make a loaf bread that made me feel like I was living in a little house in the big woods. I wanted to make a loaf bread that only contained the sugar found naturally in fruit.


I guess raisins were probably a luxury for Laura and Mary too. But I think it's a step in the right direction.

This bread is nutty and naturally sweet. The whole wheat really shines, which means this loaf actually tastes like real bread, not cake. And the spices make it the perfect autumn breakfast. I like eating a fat slab with a hot cup of tea and my morning blogroll.


Raisin-Applesauce Loaf

Ingredients:
2 tbsp chia seeds
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup light olive oil
1/4 cup non-dairy milk (I used almond)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts or hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease the bottom and sides of a loaf pan. Combine the chia seeds with 6 tbsp water in a small bowl. Stir together, then let sit to thicken. In the mean time, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices in a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, stir together the chia mixture, applesauce, olive oil, and milk. Add to the dry mixture and stir until just mixed. Fold in the raisins and walnuts. Then transfer to the loaf pan and spread out the top. Bake for 90 minutes.



Tuesday, October 11, 2011

rising with the sun

I had a 7 a.m. meeting today. Yes, 7 a.m.

Let me make this clear: as a grad student, this is early.

I left the house at 6:30. And the moment I took my first breath of morning air, I felt like a teacher again.

As dog-tired as I always was when teaching, there was something really lovely about waking up before the rest of the world, waiting in the sunrise for a bus, then nursing a warm mug of coffee while opening all the blinds in the classroom. It's a real moment of quiet and meditation and possibility.

It's a special time of the day. At 6:30 in Boston, everything is on the verge of being awake. This morning I basked in the cool air, and sucked it in when I caught sight of the sunrise. Let me tell you, it is a beautiful experience to see the Boston skyline silhouetted across the pinks, purples, and reds of an autumn sunrise. I need to take my own advice and always carry my camera.

I love the bus in the morning too. It's a different crowd. People nod and say hello. They know each other. They're here every morning, going to work. They don't talk much though. There is a sleepiness hanging over everyone and a cup of coffee in every other hand, like a sword fighting the battle for wakefulness.

Oh dear, I wanted to enjoy the same. I'm home now, and it feels like the right time for a cup of coffee. But since we are talking about school, I'll be on my best behavior and show you how to make less coffee go further.


Good Conduct Café au Lait

Ingredients:
1/2 cup coffee (half-strength or decaf is better!)
1/2 cup soy milk
8 drops liquid stevia
spice(s) of choice, to taste

If necessary, microwave the coffee in the mug you will be using until as hot as desired. Then, in a different cup, heat the soy milk for 60-90 seconds. When done, add the stevia and spice(s). Use a milk frother to whip the soy milk mixture until a dense foam forms on the surface. Pour this into your coffee. The foam will naturally pour in last and sit on top of your drink. Top with additional spices as garnish.


Notes:
-You can use any non-dairy milk, but I highly recommend soy milk, since the larger amount of protein contributes to a better froth.
-I used cardamom as my only spice, but the possibilities are endless...over the weekend I used pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and cloves to make a 'pumpkin spice' variety. Yum.mee.


Monday, October 10, 2011

happy birthday, j

We celebrated J's birthday this weekend. No pictures. Seems I only know how to take pictures of food anymore. So put on your imagination hats, and I'll recreate the special day for you.

Here's how it went down:

1. Baseball pancakes. I can't find pictures of successful baseball pancakes. Apparently no one on the internet has tried to do what I tried to do. This means they are either much smarter than I am, or I had a really good idea and the sting of failure is that much worse. In any case, this photo illustrates the quality and technique I was going for:


In reality, I used flax eggs instead of real eggs. So when I tried to use squirt bottles to create baseballs, the tops got all clogged up and I got mad. So I just made red and white pancakes that looked more like this:


We ate them anyway.

2. Presents.
        -Pre-ordered Zelda: Skyward Sword
        -Back scratcher (I can't believe how well this went over...he will use this for hours at a time)
        -Dinner out
        -Baseball hand warmers

I made the hand warmers homemade. In my head, they were a perfect substitute for the glittens I've been working on since May (which will not be done by winter). I envisioned perfect embroidery, cute round pouches, the spitting image of baseballs. They're not. But keep in mind that I haven't hand stitched a project since around the age of 11. My stitch work reflects this:


3. Dinner. We went to our favorite little Italian place, where J had fusilli with sausage and broccoli rabe, and I had a piece of lasagna as big as my face. The first time we went there, I asked about whole wheat pasta. Our Italian waiter, accent and all, said, "Whole wh...what?" Oh yes, it's good.

4. Evening Stroll. After stuffing ourselves silly, we took a long walk around town. When we went by Trader Joe's, J asked me if I wanted to go in and walk around. This was cute because he was thinking of my happiness on his birthday. This was scary because he knows how happy walking around Trader Joe's makes me.

5. Gin & Tonic. We ended the evening with some high quality G&Ts. This is J's favorite drink, and we enjoyed it while brainstorming for Halloween costume ideas. We have a good one. I'm pretty excited.

Overall, a good day. And for a couple of glorious weeks, we'll be the same age and J won't be able to make fun of me for being so old...I'm about to be a quarter century strong.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

healthy habits: volunteer

At some point during my full-time summer employment, I realized I was not well-suited to a desk job. I started dreaming about the future possibilities of a writing career. But then I awoke pretty abruptly from my dreams and realized, I could wait years to get paid to do something I love. Or I could volunteer to do something I love right now.

Volunteering makes you feel good because you are doing something out of the goodness of your heart, no strings attached.

Volunteering usually puts you in a position to recognize how lucky you are.

Volunteering can give you a sense of community.

All of those things are healthy.

But let's face it. There's a more selfish reward too. Volunteering allows you to pursue something you love in a way that your day-to-day might not. Love kids? Read to them at a library. Love teaching? Help people earn their GEDs. Love event planning? Everyone needs help with this one.

Getting that fulfillment is healthy too.

Idealist is a great way to browse unconventional jobs and volunteering opportunities. On my first day of browsing, it's where I just so happened to stumble upon a request for a volunteer health writer.


You Can Thrive! is a non-profit organization in NYC that delivers integrative health services to people who have breast cancer, or are recovering from treatment. Services include things like massage, acupuncture, nutritional education, aromatherapy, and a lot of community support. For free. The goal is to support recovery through a whole person approach.


I'm happy to call myself a volunteer for YCT. My role is morphing into newsletter designer/writer. It is a really fantastic creative outlet, and I love promoting their events, since I can't be there in person. I have already learned a lot and am so inspired by the vast resources available.

So go to their website. Pass it on to someone who could use their resources. Donate if you can (It's Breast Cancer Awareness month. #pinkforpeople). Let me know if you'd like to receive the newsletter. ;-)

And maybe even...volunteer.

Monday, October 3, 2011

forks over knives

Remember when I said we should eat less meat?

I wasn't ready to completely give it up, but I've definitely been eating less and less meat as the days go by. If I knew I would never be offered prosciutto or ham ever again, I'd proclaim myself a vegetarian today. If I didn't love honey and cheese so much, I'd even go vegan!

But I have what I think of as a 95% diet. I feel good if I stick to my principles about 95% of the time. That means I don't have to feel bad if a piece of prosciutto from J's nonna is sooo tempting every few months. But it also means that since I'm not putting anything in absolute terms, most of the time, it's really easy to avoid the stuff I don't believe in.

So this movie arrived at just the right time...



Watch it.


J and I both consume information like this with a healthy does of skepticism. And while I'm sure there are some decent arguments against the message of the movie, we have never been so impressed with the science and logic of an exposé-style documentary.

In fact, J was so impressed, when the credits rolled he turned to me and said, "Let's do it. Next set of groceries...no meat."

In case you didn't know, this is the guy that eats nearly 10 pounds of chicken breast every week.

So we're going to try it. J's been doing all the research on alternate forms of protein, their unit prices, and the protein "return on investment." And I'm going to sit down and do some recipe planning, since the scene in our kitchen is about to change dramatically.

I'm putting it down here to keep us honest. We're about to go *nearly* vegan...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

bugbites

You might have guessed I've been busy lately. I wrote a half-crazy post about anxiety and then disappeared from my blog for a few weeks.

It's been good-busy though. Besides keeping up with my exciting new routine, I've managed to collect some sea glass from the Jersey shore, lull a baby to sleep at a wedding, and attend an outdoor birthday party for a pup. You read that right. Yes, there were pooch-friendly cupcakes. Yes, I brought a gift. Yes, I talked to dogs as much as to people for two hours.

But a moist September evening is no time for outdoor birthday parties if you don't want to come home with some serious battle wounds.


J is colorblind. It's difficult for him to see the difference between white and pink. This is advantageous when his white t-shirts accidentally make it into the laundry with our red bath rug. This is disadvantageous when I am trying to get bug bite sympathy. I'm not sure those pictures are clear. So to help you and J out, let me explain: I have bug bites the size of dimes. One of them has a bruise around it.

I'll also tell you, even J can see them. And he says they're bad.

So I scoured the internet for some natural itch relief ideas. Apparently, a ground up aspirin mixed with some water makes a very useful paste. But our measly collection of medicine does not include aspirin, so I combined a couple of suggestions that sounded best to me.

~~~

Bug Bite Be Gone

Ingredients/Materials:
apple cider vinegar
tea tree oil
cotton balls


Moisten a cotton ball with the apple cider vinegar, then add a few drops of tea tree oil. Dab your bug bites with the cotton ball, and resist the urge to itch!

Both ingredients are powerfully anti-microbial, so this process reduces the risk of infections and slower healing due to itching. The vinegar is anti-inflammatory, reducing redness, swelling, and itchiness. And the tea tree oil is numbing, bringing blissful relief from irritation.