Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday Funday - In the Kitchen!

So two posts in one day is a bit uncharacteristic of me but I just had to revel in the delights of my evening's experimentation in the kitchen.

I'm not sure why I got hungry tonight, considering my mid afternoon giant cookie and iced coffee delight, but I think I was inspired by the afternoon of food blog surfing and daunted by the next 2 weeks of this No Sugar Challenge I said I am about to embark on.  I started to think I should probably do a little preparation (or maybe I just wanted a distraction from my homework).
Armed with some quinoa from a local restaurant, Catch a Healthy Habit and some fresh baked whole wheat sourdough from down the street at my local bakery I decided to put the blog inspired ideas floating around in my head to work.
Experiment: Quinoa "burger" sandwiches
Quinoa, the most magical grain in my opinion.  It's loaded with nutrients and protein (it's a complete protein actually!).  I love its chewy, nutty fluffiness.
I freeze my fresh basil - it may look ugly, but it still smells and tastes great!
1 Stem of Kale

Cooked Quinoa - 1/4 measured uncooked

Approx 3/4 cup egg white
I didn't really measure here, but that's pretty close probably.  It's an experiment, like improv - "yes, and"!
Add some dried parsley, pepper and basil and mix it all together.  
You basically cook it on a skillet like you would a pancake
Scrape the excess egg away as it cooks
After 5 min or till it looks sturdy - Flip it!

My mixture made 3 patties.  Perfectly sandwich convenient :)
Topped with Cucumber
And the best part as always.  Leftovers!!

Also, with this whole upcoming no sugar challenge I started to think of what during my week I would have to give up.  One of the things I've recently become obsessed with at work at the little starbucks cafe is a soymilk chai tea latte.  I get it a little differently, basically my chai latte is just steamed soy milk with a bag of chai tea - tastes just as good as a real chai latte without the sugar.  BUT with this challenge I can't have ANYTHING with added sugar.  And I'm pretty sure the soymilk they use at work is full on sugarfied.  So I tried to create it tonight after dinner at home to see if I could make it myself using unsweetened soymilk.  The lady who works at the cafe told me her grandfather always used to warm up milk and shake it and it turns out just like frothed steamed milk. In fact, it DOES!  I used a Mason jar to shake mine.  It came out with about an inch of froth..mmm..

Perfect end to the evening :)   The only thing I can't quite get down is how to make it HOT like steamed milk. I put it in the microwave for 2 minutes and it was hot but definitely not the same.  Longer than 2 minutes seems excessive..but I may have to try.  The flavor of the tea would probably be stronger if it were hotter.

Don't get Comfortable - Visits, Transitions and a No More Sugar

Today is an attempt to be productive.  This weekend we had our first snow of the season.  It's more than a month early so it has thrown me a curve ball.  Instead of the BIKE RIDE I had planned today, I have spent the day inside slowly getting some work done, cleaning things and taking a couple of breaks to venture out for food.  I've discovered two things: I have a coffee and sugar problem.  Both of which are some of the many reasons I could never work from home.   So let's see if I can write this post while I'm literally bouncing uncontrollably in my chair...
THE SUGAR and COFFEE PROBLEM.  Why do I think I have a problem?  Well when you can't even walk home from lunch without stopping in for a black and white cookie and coffee number 3(thank goodness this one was decaf)...could be a sign of a bit of an addiction.  I have no problem with sugar or caffeine in general.  But I do like the idea of being able to control cravings for overall health.

Since this is my "explorations and food" themed blog I decided to come clean with my uncontrollable obsession.  I don't diet, I like food too much.  My general idea is to "eat clean" - foods as close to their natural state as possible.  With recent travels, visitors and still having the desire to get out and try local flavors I have swayed from this lifestyle more than I would like.  This Black & White debacle is only one example.  So, my black and white cookie is going to be my last sugar for the next 2 weeks.  I have decided to follow along with a blogger I follow regularly at Gracious Pantry and take part in a 2 week No Sugar Challenge.  This means no added sugar, only natural occurring sugar.  There are a few other rules, but sharing all the details isn't important.  I'm going to use this blog to help me get through the 2 weeks.  My hope at the end is not really anything more than just feeling a little more cleansed and in control.  

Last weekend my sister came to visit me.  Visitor number two over the past 3 weeks.  I was driving home from yoga after she left, lost in my yoga thoughts, reflecting on her visit.  It's amazing how having an outside visitor into your familiar surroundings can shift your perceptions.  Bringing people from back home into my new home is strange but a lot of fun because it not only allows me to get out and do some exploring I might not have done otherwise but also provides a chance to see their perceptions my northeastern home and get a fresh perspective.  In the end I think I feel like they have left me feeling more myself up here - rather than attempting to reconstruct myself to fit my new surroundings I feel like having familiar friends and family with me here, even briefly, helps me to feel more comfortable as myself in an unfamiliar place.  To sum up Kelley's visit:

"homegrown CT" (beaches, trails, vineyards, arboretums, organic food)
shopping (Greenwich Ave, 5th Ave)
the City!(wanderings, book stores, childhood friends, subways galore)
Food (I think I had seafood with every meal).

She was a pretty good sport, being drug all over CT and NYC.  We travel at pretty different speeds.  She takes her time and I am more frantic, moving from place to place with a quick pace. Both can be pretty exhausting in their own ways..but we managed to do a little bit of both types while she was here.  Below is a look at some of our culinary experiences :):   If I knew how to embed a slideshow in this blog..I would..

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Northeastern Fall, Southern Sentimentality

So my next blog post has existed as an eminent task in the back of my mind over the past week.  I'm not sure exactly quite why I have been avoiding it, but possibly because I have so many things to share I haven't been able to sit down and formulate them into organized words.  And now of course I have waited and even more has happened and thus I am overloaded with blog ideas!  So, one thing at a time - good philosophy.  I'm not very good at following this myself. I am a big fan of lists, to do lists.  But these lists aren't very effective when you have 5 different lists in 5 different places and 0 accountability.  I'm working on a solution to this though.  I'm starting to experiment with Task lists in Microsoft outlook and Evernote.  We'll see which one works out.  Centralization is key. If anyone has any recommendations, currently seeking any and all!

So, tonight I decided to finally sit down and write.  I know that I won't really get the opportunity to much over the next couple of weeks because I will be traveling and receiving travelers and celebrating holidays and let's face it I have no problem with having no time to WRITE about life because I'm out EXPERIENCING life.  That and I am recently fueled by some drink experimentation with a friend for an upcoming party involving the espresso drink, Cold Roman, I mentioned in this post Farmers Marketeering.

Over the past week I've been lucky enough to experience two of the best weekends I have had all year, in both Arkansas and Connecticut.  Fall is my favorite time of year.  This weather we have had lately (in both Arkansas and Connecticut) is warm and fresh and bright and generally inspires everyone to get out and play.  Kind of like getting some last hoorahs out before the doom and gloom of turning the clocks back and the heaters up.  This is my first fall up here and I have heard good things about fall in the Northeast.  I hope to explore the foliage filled areas more in November.  The leaves are just starting to change and the pumpkins and seasonal Pumpkin Ales are bountiful.  Everyone has a sport to follow, even those not interested in sports can get some fun out of all that this time of year has to offer in sports entertainment. This weekend I introduced two of my Connecticut friends to the culture of Arkansas football.  They met me out at the Arkansas Alumni NYC chapter sponsored sports bar Saturday night for the game versus Auburn. They loved it!  It was great to feel like I was welcoming some outsiders into my "home", even though it was in New York.  And it was especially warming to me to be around some Arkansans after I was just home last weekend.

So, if you can't tell already, I'm pretty sentimental.  Fall brings it out in me and maybe it's my southern roots coming out to shine, but I can't help it.  This weekend, after a good dose of farmers market, hot yoga and beautiful northern CT driving I could have burst at the seams!  Although, this morning I woke a little bewildered after my night in the city last night.  I quickly recovered though and did something I've been meaning to do all Summer.  I typically like to do a long bike ride on the weekend, but with my muscles sore from Hot Yoga and too many Pumpkin Ales still in my system I decided to take a more leisurely option.  Rosalita and I cruised on out to Doc's Cafe, about 5 miles east, to enjoy some quiet time.  I liked the place.  They have a lot of tasty options for breakfast and morning drinks.  It's also a popular cyclist stop, which is how I found out about the place.  I think about half of the customers that stopped by while I was sitting there were wearing the tell tale tights.
I need to go back and figure out what the connection to Texas is..

More charming than cozy, unique atmosphere

My breakfast selection.  Apricot Blueberry coffee cake and PB + Banana..yes I just got the banana because I was craving peanut butter..
That might have been my last chance to ride for the rest of the season (I hope not) but I might be perfectly okay with that.  Cycling doesn't always have to be about racking up the mileage.

Cook's Corner
Life has been pretty hectic lately.  And it's only going to get worse.  Needless to say, convenience has been key as of late.  I haven't had much time to try anything new in the kitchen but I've been surprised at what I can whip up on the spot now.  My tip to all if you are busy, keep frozen veggies or meat in stock at all times.  The below dish I whipped up in <30 minutes.  I call it Indian Quinoa Scramble! no eggs were involved though..
1/4 cup Quinoa
Frozen Spinach
1 Chopped Carrot
Frozen Corn
Garam Masala
1/4 Cup TVP
If I would have had more time I'm sure I could have made things a little more shnazzy - but this worked and it was very tasty.
Saute the veggies in magical saute pan, add spices

Add cooked/spiced quinoa

Peace Love and Fall to you all!