Wednesday, November 30, 2011

WIAW: The "Holy Crap, It's Almost December" Edition

Happy WIAW, everyone!

I'm going to make tonight's WIAW entry fairly quick - I've been dragging all day (who nearly fell asleep at her desk today?  This girl!), so my bed beckons.  Embarrassingly, I didn't figure out the cause of my exhaustion until this evening: as I was struggling mightily to get though my workout routine, I noticed a bruise in the crux of my inner arm.  "What's that from?"  I thought to myself groggily.  "Ohhh...the huge amount of bloodwork I had done yesterday.  I bet I'm anemic like a motherf***er."

So, my sorry, anemic self just took an iron supplement. :)

Ok, so this is totally from when I was studying in Israel 6 years ago - but the
"face-down on my desk" motif remains the same.

With that said, on to today's noms!  WIAW, hosted by the lovely Jenn from Peas & Crayons, has become one of my favorite parts of the week.  Yay, Jenn!

Breakfast:  I slept through my alarm this morning (nooooooo!) and chugged a home-made peppermint mocha (much like my almond mochas, but with peppermint syrup) before going to the gym.  Once I was back, I needed fuel in the form of a green recovery smoothie:

Lunch and snacks:  I have no pictures of this, since one of the unfortunate side-effects of sleeping through my alarm is that I threw everything into my lunch bag at about a gazillion miles an hour (while frantically chugging the aforementioned coffee).  I can, however, describe them!  Mid-day noms consisted of an apple, a pear, Trader Joe's Greek yogurt (nonfat vanilla), Dr. McDougall's Pad Thai soup cup, and a Kind Plus Protein bar.

Once I got home, I had some rice cakes topped with leftover spicy cranberry-apple sauce.  Screw the turkey, I'll gladly put this stuff on anything (it's especially good on toasted GF challah bread)!

Dinner:  After workout # 2 (yet another unfortunate consequence of sleeping in: today was supposed to be a long/hard workout day -- but since I only had 30 minutes in the gym this morning, I needed to finish up my routine after work), inspiration struck.  This, in spite of me being tired to the point of total stupidity (was I thisclose to putting the almond milk away in the pantry?  Yes I was.).  I have no idea why my brain works in such ridiculous ways, but I decided to go with it -- so I made a Moroccan-inspired soup to warm things up amidst the cold front that blew in last night.  This soup combines chickpeas, carrots, and a ton of spices -- and it's delish!  (I'll post the recipe tomorrow.) (I seem to be making a lot of parenthetical statements.) (I'll stop using parenthesis now.)

Happy WIAW - hope your Wednesday was fabulous! :)

Monday, November 28, 2011

My First Time Hosting Thanksgiving

My friends and I have typically had a potluck-style Thanksgiving: for the last few years, those of us in DC have congregated in someone's apartment, engaged in epic gluttony, and then vegged out with football.  This year, however, my friend who used to host is spending a year in Africa -- so we needed a new venue.

Hubs and I have a good amount of space, and thanks to the wedding, we have all the kitchen equipment needed to cook up a storm.  Cook up a storm, we did.  In fact, it was more like a massive typhoon.  We had turkey breast, brisket from Texas (hubs is Texan and very much a carnivore, so I bought him a 9 pound piece of brisket, freeze-dried and shipped from just down the road from his alma mater, for his birthday), broccoli and quinoa salad, curried pumpkin and sweet potato soup, spinach salad, GF stuffing, homemade cranberry-apple sauce, GF cranberry-orange bread, and a litany of desserts.

Happily, our first time hosting Thanksgiving dinner was a raging success!  Everyone gorged themselves, and food comas ensued.

The bad part?  I was completely exhausted by it all.  I'd been cooking since 7 a.m. on Thursday, and by the time we'd cleaned up after dinner, I felt like I'd been run over by a truck.  Holy crap.  I've never been so glad to have requested a day of vacation as I was on Friday.

Given the exhaustion, I basically spent Friday being the laziest mofo on the entire planet.  I'm not kidding.  The entire planet.  I could barely drag my butt up the street for my appointment at Massage Envy.  (I know, I know.  My life is so hard!  *Sigh, faint*)

While I sat on the couch and drooled on myself, though, I did realize that I really liked how my recipes for the curried pumpkin/sweet potato soup and the spicy cranberry-apple sauce turned out.  I also realized, though, that I barely had a chance to take pictures of anything.  (Bah!)  And what the hell would a recipe be without pictures?!  No good, obviously, so tonight I'll only put up the recipe for the spicy cranberry-apple sauce.  Guess I'll have to cook the curried pumpkin/sweet potato soup again...bummer! ;)

Spicy Cranberry-Apple Sauce

1 bag organic cranberries
2 apples, cored and diced
1/3 cup Truvia (or stevia)
3/4 cup agave nectar
4 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice mix

Pour the cranberries into a heavy-bottom pot, and put the diced apples in as well.  Fill it with just enough water to almost cover the berries and apples.

Turn the heat on medium-high, and keep it there until the water starts to boil.  Once this happens, the cranberries will start to pop -- which, if you ask me, is one of the most awesome things ever.

Side story:  I'd never made cranberry sauce until three years ago, and the first time I made it from scratch is something I'll never forget.  I was staying with my parents, having recently extricated myself from a relationship gone horribly wrong, and I was waiting for my job in DC to start.  It was a dark and miserable time for me: I was unemployed, heartbroken, and in what felt like perpetual limbo while I waited to be told when to show up for work in Washington.  I was a mess -- but when those cranberries started popping, I was enthralled.  It was the first time in months that unadulterated joy had punctured through my heavy haze of sadness.  So, cranberry sauce will always have a special place in my heart.

Once the berries start to pop, add the Truvia/stevia and the agave.  As the cranberries and apples start to liquefy, this will start to get gelatinous and gooey - and that's when it's time to add the Chinese Five Spice mix!  Chinese Five Spice -- a blend of anise, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, and either fennel or cumin, depending on the recipe -- does a fabulous job of complementing the fall flavors of cranberry and apple.

Continue to cook until everything is broken down and gelled.  Remove from heat, chill 1-2 hours, and serve.  Or, if you're me, eat it straight.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

WAIW: The Being Thankful Edition

Happy almost-Thanksgiving, everyone!  Hubs and I have been running around like mad getting ready for tomorrow's feast, and I'm excited like woah for tomorrow.  Thanksgiving is my all-time favorite holiday -- seriously, who could want more than a ludicrous amount of food, followed by a day of watching football?! -- so I always get especially psyched when Turkey/Tofurky Day rolls around.

Today's noms have been fairly quick, since I'm pressed for time in my attempt to get everything ready for tomorrow.  (I just have to sing my husband's praises for a minute, though: he got out of work three hours before I did, and when I came home, he'd done two loads of my laundry -- a huge help, since my dirty clothes basket was starting to resemble Mt. McKinley -- in addition to having vacuumed and started prepping food for tomorrow.  Holy crap, I love this man!)

So, with that, a shout-out to the lovely Jenn from Peas & Crayons for hosting this lovely pre-Thanksgiving virtual pot-luck!

I started the morning with my usual coffee, and once again relied on my trusty pal oatmeal to get through the morning.  I decided to go all autumn-esque with this morning's oatmeal madness, so I sauteed some sliced apples in cinnamon and nutmeg for some apple pie oats.  Deee-lish.

Snacks consisted of Greek yogurt, pistachios, Glutino Berry Sensible Beginnings with almond milk (have I mentioned that I looooooove snacking on cereal?  Because, um, I totally do.  Shameless addiction # 3,508), and a nanner.

Lunch!  I once again relied on my pal Dr. McDougall, purveyor of kick-ass soup cups.  Add one apple to the mix, and you've got a well-fed Lillian.

Dinner:  Hubs and I didn't feel like cooking dinner amidst all the Thanksgiving cooking going on, so we went to an Afghan restaurant down the street.  I got my fave, grilled veggies with chickpeas and carrot-raisin rice.

Once we came back, Hubs started cooking Monster Cookies.  Now, these are one of the most delicious things in THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE.  They are my weakness.  My dietary kryptonite.  I am rendered totally and utterly helpless when faced with their gooey, chocolatey, peanut buttery glory.

So when they came out of the oven, naturally I had to have one to make sure they were still delicious.  Ok, ok.  I had two.  Fine - I admit it.  Three.  I ate three.  Quality control is key, people.  ;)

I hope everyone has a fantastic Thanksgiving tomorrow - and if you need some Thanksgiving comic relief, I highly recommend this. :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Clean ALL the Things!

Since I've been sick something fierce lately, a few days ago I decided it was time to make a visit to my doctor.  I lurve my doctor - she's smart, personable, and I always feel like I'm in excellent hands whenever I ask questions or go in for a visit.  My cold has clearly morphed into a much more sinister case of bronchitis, so she gave me antibiotics and cough syrup with codeine to help me sleep through the night.

Now, codeine is supposed to knock you the hell out.  Like, floating-on-clouds, I'm-chillin'-in-a-meadow-with-some-unicorns-and-butterflies-and-I'm-going-to-take-a-nap-now, knocked the eff out.  So I took a dose before bedtime, expecting happy cough suppressant rainbows to arrive any minute.

45 minutes later, my mind was racing.  I was making lists.  My lists were spawning baby lists.  I wanted to get up!  Sleep was for the weak and feeble, and I certainly wasn't one of them!  I wanted to clean things!  I wanted to scrub the stove top!  I wanted to organize everything I own!

So there I was, hyper as all get-out when I was supposed to be sleeping.  I bopped around like a kid who'd just eaten their weight in sugar.  Clean!  Organize!  Make lists!

I organized the space underneath my sink.

I clipped and organized all my coupons, and then decided to store them in my wallet for easy access.

I made a menu and shopping list for Thanksgiving dinner.

And I didn't go to sleep until about 2 a.m. -- but on the upside, my apartment is cleaner and more organized than it's been in months.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

In Which I Wax Poetic About Books

I'm going off the beaten path of my usual blog topics for tonight's post.  Why, you ask?  Because I'm what can only be described as preposterously excited.  And, as it so happens, I'm preposterously excited about a website.

So, I have this unyielding passion for reading.  When I was in pre-school, I remember how badly I wished I could read -- my Mom would read to me each day, but I wanted desperately to know how to do it myself.  Once I was in Kindergarten, we started learning how to read -- and man, was I ever stoked.  I couldn't wait to read on my own, and like the dweeb that I am, I raced through the reading assignments we were given.

Once I figured it out, the proverbial floodgates opened.  I'd read for hours each day -- American Girl books, Nancy Drew novels, Boxcar Kids, Babysitter's Club...anything I could get my hands on, I read.  I became a total pain in the butt for my parents, too: I recall pushing back many a bedtime so I could keep reading, and then secretly reading under the covers with the help of a flashlight.  (And Mom, you were probably right about that giving me astigmatism.  My bad!)  I also remember times when I was feeling particularly manipulative - so when prompted by my parents to do something other than read (and I had to have been reading for hours upon hours for them to say this), I'd raise an eyebrow and coolly say "That's fine; I'll just go watch TV instead."

That usually got them to back off and let me keep reading.

Since I finished grad school, one of my greatest pleasures has been the fact that I can, once again, read for fun. I don't have to pick up academic literature, and I can devour as much historical fiction (Phillippa Gregory and Michelle Moran: can we hang out?  Call me!), non-fiction (Rebecca Skloot, Elizabeth Gilbert, Nick Kristof, and Daniel Pink: I lurve you guys), and comedy (David Sedaris, no one has the power to make me simultaneously guffaw and weep like you do) as I want.  I've been known to get all giddy at the mere prospect of going to the library and checking out new books to read.

So, with all that back story, I practically jumped out of my "My, this is remarkably ergonomic; are we sure this is government property?" desk chair when a colleague told me about  It's like Pandora (also awesome), but with books: you rate what you've read so far, and it gives you recommendations based on what you liked  (Julie & Julia, you'll always hold a special place in my heart) and didn't like (The Virgin Blue, I'll never forgive you for traumatizing me the way you did).

The good part: this makes me want to do a happy dance.  I can finally keep track of all the things I want to read, without emailing myself random missives like "NPR gave (insert book title here) a good review" that then get lost in the ether of my inbox!

The bad part: between this and Pinterest, I might never again see the light of day.  Those two sites might just combine forces to ensure that I never leave my laptop.  Addiction City, here I come.  Leave the light on for me, would ya?

WAIW: The Illest Mofo Edition

Bah, I can't believe I had to skip last week's WIAW!  I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, preparing to leave for a friend's wedding in Savannah, GA.  The wedding was beautiful, and I had an awesome time - I also got to wear one of the prettiest bridesmaids dresses of all time, which was quite lovely.

The day after I got back, I started feeling...not great.  I now have a nasty, nasty cold.  It's threatening to take up residence in my chest, and this does not make for a happy Lillian.  I'm going to the doctor in a few hours (in hopes that we can keep this from morphing into bronchitis, and in search of meds that might actually help me sleep through the night without waking up 7 times to cough up a lung), but for now, let's just say that I have a license to ill.

My WAIW offerings will be, of course, those of a person who is totally not feelin' anything that might scratch her throat on its way to el estomago.  We have here a veritable cornucopia of soft foods - and they may be soft, but they're goooood.  Many thanks to Jenn at Peas & Crayons for hosting the best potluck on the interwebz!

Breakfast:  GF oatmeal with chia seeds, a mashed banana, blueberries, and almond butter.  The oats have loads o' iron and fiber, the almond butter and chia seeds bring protein to the breakfast party, and the nanner and blueberries provide a good start to the day's campaign to eat plenty of fruits and veggies.

Oh, and don't forget the always-crucial component of chai with soy milk!

Lunch:  Garlic soup with leeks, rainbow chard, cannellini beans, and rice pilaf.  This was delish -- all the garlic helps fight infection, the leeks and chard added some veggie power, and the beans provided some protein.  All in all, a good meal!  (Recipe to come soon!)

Dinner:  I had no desire whatsoever to cook, so hubs took me to Olive Garden for dinner.  They have a decent GF menu, and I've found that I actually really like their GF pasta with marinara sauce.  I got a side of steamed broccoli for some extra veggie power.  (And I totally forgot to take a picture, so use your imagination!)

Hope everyone is having a lovely Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

In Which a Foodie is (Majorly) Challenged

I always love a good challenge.  The minute someone says I can’t do something, that’s usually when I get all defiant and try to do exactly what they said I couldn’t do.  (There’s usually a long string of obscenities attached to that defiance, but we needn’t elaborate on that here.)

In this case, the person telling me I can’t do something is myself.

Bah.  I hate it when that happens.

So, here’s the sitch: I’m up to my eyeballs in student loan debt.  I’ve always figured that I’d never be able to pay it all off in any sort of reasonable timeframe (helloooo, 20-year fixed payment plan!), but I’ve recently re-thought my position on that.  After many discussions, Hubs and I decided to prioritize paying off my credit card and eliminating as much of my student loan debt as possible before we even think about starting a family.  Babies are ridiculously expensive, and we don’t need to add huge expenses to our lives while I’m swimming in a veritable Lake Michigan of student loans.  So, although it’s going to take a while, I really want to pay off as much as I can in the next few years.  (Sorry, Mom – grandbabies are still a ways off.)

This, of course, will require the implementation of a fairly strict budget.  If I’m going to be allocating a ton of my income to paying things off, I can’t be allocating as much as I’ve usually put towards things like food.

Now, I have a serious food shopping problem.  First, I can’t meal plan to save my life.  No, seriously: if you were to place me over a vat of hot lava and ask me to plan all my meals for the next week or wind up getting personal with said lava, I’d totally fail. 

Secondly, I’m the queen and reigning champion of the grocery store impulse buy.  (I won’t buy shoes, clothes, or anything else without serious consideration of whether or not I genuinely need it, but all rationality is gone when it comes to food.)  Strawberries?  Who can say no to strawberries?!  I can’t say no to strawberries!  And oh, some new tea would be nice…

It’s bad.  Once I sat down and actually tallied how much I spend on things that were never on my list in the first place, I was appalled.

As a result of both these unfortunate tendencies, I tend to cook meals on the fly.  I’ll see asparagus in the store, think “Oh, I can cook something with asparagus this week!”  I’ll then buy it, wind up cooking something else because I didn’t make a meal plan, and then I’ll totally forget about the poor asparagus until I find it two weeks later, pitifully looking up at me from the vegetable drawer in the fridge while barely clinging to life.  A lot of stuff goes to waste that way.

So, my challenge to myself is thus:

1)      Plan each week’s meals in advance.  This will involve a specific grocery list.  However, I need to leave some room for flexibility since there are nights when I get home and am too damn tired to put together anything I’d so ambitiously hoped for.  Therefore, challenge #2 is…

2)      If do I deviate from the meal plan, it can be in ways that only use ingredients we already have.  If we didn’t buy it on our weekly grocery run, we ain’t buyin’ it.

3)      No grocery store impulse buys.  I plan  to buy only what I need, not things that are  delicious and can be justified because they’re also virtuous (strawberries, I’m looking at you).

This will be one of my biggest challenges yet.  Reining in my desire to buy random things at Whole Foods will require epic self-control, and sticking to meal plans will require more coordination and discipline than I've had to exercise in a long time - but I'm hopeful that my goal of total debt annihilation will keep me on track.

Monday, November 7, 2011

High Protein Pumpkin Pancakes

I was pleasantly surprised today when I realized that I didn't want to run, screaming and waving my arms like a maniac, to a more southern latitude with more sunlight.  I was expecting the first weekday of being back on standard time to, y'know, really effing suck.  But lo and behold, an unexpected result of my early-morning workouts is that I get to watch the sun rise  - and I was able to actually get some quality sunshine before being sequestered in my windowless office for the day.

I was pretty stoked to learn this, y'all.

Yesterday, though, I was preparing myself for the onset of sunless misery.  Psychologically steeling myself for the onset of the winter meh.  After a long workout, I couldn't decide if I wanted to refuel with a protein shake or pumpkin pancakes.  I really, really wanted pumpkin pancakes - but I knew I needed protein.  It was a quandary.

Then, a realization: why not make pumpkin pancakes with some extra protein in them?  A-ha!

I added almond flour and quinoa flakes, which packed some protein -- and texture -- to the little cakelets of goodness.  Sunshine in a baked good, if you will.

GF High-Protein Pumpkin Pancakes

1 cup GF Bisquick
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup quinoa flakes
2 cups almond milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
2 tablespoons molasses
Ener-G egg replacer (equivalent of 2 eggs)

Step 1: Mix the Bisquick, almond flour, and quinoa flakes in a large bowl.

Step 2:  Add the remaining ingredients, mix until thoroughly combined.

Step 3:  Using a non-stick pan, pour 1/4 cup batter over medium-high heat.  Smooth into a circle with a spoon.  Cook until the edges are dry (2-3 minutes), then flip and cook until golden brown on both sides.  Once cooked, serve up with maple syrup and Earth Balance, and enjoy the protein!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Pumpkin-Apple Curry

I love fall.  The colors, the crisp air, and oh wow, do I ever love the produce.  Apples!  Pumpkins!  Happiness!

The one thing I don't like, though, is the end of Daylight Savings.  I'm a sunlight junkie, folks.  If I could be guaranteed access to 2 hours per day of sunshine, I'd be a happy girl.

The end of Daylight Savings didn't really bother me until I started working again a few years ago.  Now that I work in an office with no windows, though, it's a different story.  Once the sun starts setting before I even leave work at night, I can sometimes go all week without seeing the sun.  Oy gevault.

That bums me out.

In order to mitigate my lack of enthusiasm about the sun's greatly diminished presence in my life, I decided to make curry out of my two favorite fall ingredients: apples and pumpkin.  One of my favorite restaurants here in DC makes a fantastic pumpkin curry, so I wanted to re-create it with some apples for extra texture.  It doesn't chance the fact that the sun is going to be elusive for the next five months -- but it does make it easier to deal with!

Pumpkin-Apple Curry

1 apple,
8 oz. pumpkin puree
1/2 onion, sliced thin
2 teaspoons masala curry
1/4 teaspoon mustard seed
1 teaspoon grapeseed oil
1/4 cup brown rice
Cilantro for garnish

Step 1:  Core and dice the apple into 1-inch cubes, and cut the onion into thin slices

Step 2:  Saute the onions with the grapeseed oil and mustard seed.

Step 3:  Once the onions are starting to brown, add the apple.  (Side note: I added about 1/4 cup water to help the apples soften.)  Let the apples simmer until soft.

Step 4:  Once the apples are soft, mush them with a fork - they don't need to be smoothly pureed, just soft and chunky.

Step 5:  Add the pumpkin and masala curry, mix until combined and cooked throughout.

Step 6:  Serve with the brown rice and cilantro.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Chickpeas and Rice with Tahineh

When I was in the Middle East, I ate more chickpeas and chickpea products than I could possibly fathom.  I really, really, really love chickpeas; as far as I'm concerned, they're just about the best source of plant protein ever.  (And it's one of the gazillion things I love about the Middle East, in case that wasn't already obvious!)

Here in DC, a friend of my husband's is originally from Lebanon.  When his mom comes to visit him, he usually invites Hubs and I to come over dinner -- at which point his mom cooks up a storm and feeds all until we're lying on the ground sporting Buddha bellies.  Gradually, we all emerge from our food comas...only to crawl over to the kitchen for another serving of delicious home-cooked Lebanese food.  Let's put it like this: I try to wear elastic waistband pants when she's visiting.  It's *that* awesome.

One of the dishes she made for me (in addition to being an amazing cook, she's also totally willing to accommodate my gluten allergy and my plant-eating ways!) was a chickpea and rice dish that incorporated tahineh.  Tahineh, a paste made of ground sesame seeds, is a critical component in hummus (which I think just might be humanity's greatest contribution to the world, no?) - and it lends a creamy, mild flavor to the dishes that incorporate it.

For this dish, I added some sauteed onions as well as a touch of coriander powder and a bit of ground cinnamon for warmth.  I then topped it with some aah-may-zing roasted sweet potato, courtesy of this fantastic recipe from Nada over at One Arab Vegan.  I've generally avoided sweet potatoes before, but this recipe is effing delicious!  It went wonderfully with the chickpeas and rice, and it added a beautiful pop of color to my plate.

Chickpeas and Rice with Tahineh:
8 oz. chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon tahineh
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/4 cup brown rice
Salt and pepper to taste

Step 1: saute the onion in the olive oil. 

Step 2: Once it's starting to brown, add the rice, spices, and chickpeas.  Stir until it's all mixed up.

Step 3:  Remove from heat, place in a bowl, and stir in the tahineh.

Step 4:  Top with the vegetable of your choice, and enjoy!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tropical Mexican Salad

Since moving back to DC three years ago, I’ve had trouble satiating my (nearly constant) cravings for Mexican food.  Growing up in Colorado, there was no shortage of enchiladas, huevos rancheros, or green chili in my life.  Living in DC, however, is a different can of worms.
To put it gently, the Mexican food offerings here are sparse and not particularly good.  The one place Hubs and I have found that we both deem to be decent (since he's from Texas, he shares my high standards for Mexican food) has glutened me on multiple occasions.
My life is so hard.  (I know, I know: famine, genocide, horrible illnesses, rampant abuse...those problems are sooooo trivial compared to my plight!)
In recent months, I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands and cook my own Mexican food.  I’ve stayed largely with Homesick Coloradoan Soup and Lazy Girl Tostadas, but I decided to branch out with this recipe. 
I’d been randomly craving black beans with orange, so I decided to go for broke and turn it into a full-on salad with quinoa and mango.  The mango gave it a tropical spin, and the quinoa added some Peruvian flair.  It's like a pan-Meso and South Americas salad, if you will.  It tastes so much like legit Mexican food, though, that it makes my taste buds do a happy dance in my mouth -- oh, and it’s loaded with protein, vitamin C, and beta carotene. Muy bien! 
Tropical Mexican Salad
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 14-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup finely diced red onion
1 mango, peeled and chopped
Segments and juice of one orange
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon garlic
1 pinch sea salt
Pepper to taste
Cilantro for garnish
Step 1:  Mix everything together.
Step 2:  Serve
Step 3:  Call Mariachi band.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

WIAW: The I'm So Excited Edition

I'm excited.  Like, super-duper, uber-thrilled excited.

I'm taking a big, huge risk.

So I'm kind of scared.

But I'm mainly excited.

I'll stop being cryptic now.

For the last three years, I've felt like there's something more I'm supposed to be doing.  Work just hasn't been doing it for me; since I moved back here for my job, I've been grappling with the feeling that I'm meant for something more than life as an office drone.

The feeling started out small, but it has only grown with time.  Especially in the last year, it has become clear to me that I need to do something beyond my regular job.  I need to do something in addition to my regular 8-5 gig -- work I find deeply meaningful.  Work that allows me to be creative while making a difference in people's lives.

It's taken me a while to figure out what I want to do, but in the midst of my wedding-planning frenzy, I had an epiphany.  I figured it out.

Actually doing something about it, however, was an entirely different matter.  There were hours of research.  Consultations with my husband, best friend, and parents.  Weepy freak-outs.  A million pep talks.

Today, though, I'm taking the first step towards what I hope will be an enriching and fulfilling experience: I'm signing up to study with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.  I'm keeping my day job (a girl's got to pay the bills, y'know?), but when I'm not at work I'm going to study and train to be a Health Coach.

It's vastly, enormously, mind-blowingly different from what I've been doing for the last 10 years.  I'm excited like woah -- I won't start the course until January, but I can't wait to learn as much as humanly possible about holistic health and nutrition.  I'm also scared as hell.  This is a big deal for me, and although I won't be making any major career moves/changes any time soon, signing up for this course is the first step down a very different path from the one I've been on for a really long time.  Terra incognita can be some intimidating stuff.

I have no idea how this will pan out, so I keep looking at the magnet on my fridge that says "Leap and the net will appear" and hoping that it's true.  So, here's to a giant leap of faith!

Navigating terra incognita can make a girl awfully hungry, though, so with that, I'll make this terribly awkward segue into...

What I Ate Wednesday!  Jenn, author of the awesome Peas & Crayons, is the hostess with the mostess for this lovely Interwebz potluck.

5:45 a.m.:  Coffee.  Wait for brain to join the world of the living.

6:15 a.m. - 7 a.m.:  Gym.  Come back feeling like I've had a proper butt-kicking.  Down a huge glass of water, manage to give my poor husband the side-eye while he takes the picture.  (Sorry, hon!)

While I got cleaned up and ready for work, I had a glass of my favorite juice concoction: carrot-mango-apricot deliciousness.

Once I was at my desk at work, it was time for some breakfast -- woohoo!  I had a nanner with cashew butter:

I don't know about you guys, but I love me some snacks.  I'm a grazer, and I can't make it through the day without a veritable cornucopia of snacks.  Morning snack was a home-made peanut butter chocolate chip granola bar.

Lunch was my favorite quick, easy, and nutritious meal: a Dr. McDougall's soup bowl.  The Pad Thai is spicy and delicious:

Afternoon snacks were:

For dinner, I decided to go with an old stand-by: roasted potatoes with veggies.  We had carrots and broccoli on hand -- which, when mixed with olive oil and garlic, roast up like champs.

For a post-dinner beverage, I went with my all-time favorite herbal tea: Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice.  Mixed with honey and almond milk, it's like a cup of liquid spice cake (sans the gluten or calories).

Hope everyone had an awesome Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

I have an abiding love of granola bars.  I think I’ve had this obsession since I was a little kid, because I can remember being consistently excited about granola bars in almost any form throughout elementary school.  Case in point: I still, after 21 years, associate chewy coconut-almond granola bars with going to our neighborhood library after school with my Mom.  (Granola bars, the library, time with my Mom…it’s like an amalgamation of all things awesome.)
This love of granola bars should’ve subsided when I went gluten-free, but it didn’t.  Not only did it not go away, it got worse.  For over three years, I’ve been trying to find gluten-free granola bars that I like.  Something chewy, sweet but not too sweet, and delicious.  For over three years, I’ve been wandering the aisles of health food stores like a lost, disappointed-yet-still-hopeful puppy searching for its home.  (Okay, okay – it’s probably not that sad, but it’s close.)  For over three years, my search has been fruitless.
I was getting increasingly irritated by this.  I mean, it can’t be that hard to find some good GF granola bars, can it?!
Turns out, it can.  And last night was the final straw.
Hubs and I were out grocery shopping, and lo – a pack of GF peanut butter-chocolate chip granola bars, calling to me from the shelf! I got excited!  I immediately grabbed them, despite the fact that they were over $5 for a pack of 6 bars!  I paid!  I got to the car, opened the box, and couldn’t wait to dig in to what I hoped would be a delicious granola bar!
And then…NO.  Just no.  First, the bars were freaking miniscule.  Such wee little granola bars for such a hefty price tag doth not a happy Lillian make.  But I held out hope, took a bite, and…NO.  Just no.  It tasted awful.
“Um, dude,” said Hubs while wrinkling his nose, “That thing smells like turds.”
 I sniffed the granola bar.  He was right.  It totally smelled like turds.

I was peeved.  I was at the end of my gluten-free granola bar rope, and I was not having any more of this crap.  It was time to take action.  I was going to make my own granola bars, thankyouverymuch, and I was going to make something eleventy zillion times better than anything I’d choked down from the grocery store.  I was going to make this happen.
 When we got home, I set about finding a gluten, dairy, and egg free granola bar recipe that I could roll with and tweak to meet my tastes.  I found this one and changed things up a bit (some of the ingredients are different, but the process remains the same) – and then I began baking with a vengeance. 
Once they were in the oven, they smelled goooooood.  And once they came out of the oven, they tasted awesome.  I was vindicated!
Gluten-Free Granola Bars of Righteous Vindication
3/4 cup raw sugar
1/3 cup Earth Balance
Ener-G Egg Replacer - equivalent to 1 egg
3/4 cup GF oat flour (I like Bob's Red Mill)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon GF vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 1/2 cup GF rolled oats
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
1/4 cup flax seeds
2 tablespoons rice syrup

Prep:  Generously grease a 9x12 inch pan, and preheat the oven to 350.  
Step 1:  In a large bowl, beat the sugar and the Earth Balance until thoroughly mixed.
Step 2:  Add the rice syrup, Ener-G egg replacer, and vanilla; beat until smooth.  
Step 3:  Add oat flour, oats, baking powder, salt and and xanthan gum; beat until mixed.
Step 4:  Add chocolate chips and peanut butter.

Step 5:  Press into baking pan, and smooth it out 
Step 6:  Bake for 20 - 25 minutes.  After it's done baking, let it cool - it's much more crumbly when hot, so cutting it into bars is much easier when it's cool!