Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas Eve! Hope everyone is having an awesome holiday and enjoying their time with family and friends.

I hope I win at cards tonight...and then I can get these awesome New Years shoes! The only problem is New Years in Garden Valley usually entails I am not sure if I'll actually be able to wear these puppies - but so gorgeous.

Enjoy your holidays :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Quinoa Chili

My mom first introduced me to quinoa and I love it.  I am surprised how many people have never even heard of it - when I bring it to lunch, I get all sorts of quizzical stares and questions about what I am eating.  My mom and I both like to buy our quinoa from Costco.  I didn't want to drive there the other day, so I ended up buying my most recent batch from the bulk foods section of Fred Meyer ($3.99/lb).

This recipe for Quinoa Chili came from

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water

1 pound extra lean ground beef *Optional

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced (2 teaspoons preminced)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced - use a serrano pepper if you prefer more heat
1 Tablespon chili powder
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
2 19oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon dried parsley (or 2 tablespoons fresh parsley)
black pepper to taste
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1) Bring the quinoa and water to a boil over high heat.  A good rule of thumb for cooking quinoa is a 2:1 water to quinoa ratio.  Reduce heat to a medium low, cover, and simmer until tender, about 15-20 minutes.  FYI I also cook quinoa all the time with no cover and it turns out fine.  Quinoa is pretty difficult to mess up.

2) If you are using meat, cook over medium high heat until the beef is crumbly, browned and no longer pink.  I like to ensure the meat is cooked throughly, so you don't have to worry about getting sick if you taste the chili while it cooks.  Drain the grease and set the meat aside.  If you are not using meat, skip this step entirely.

3) Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat.  You can use a soup pot or a big stirfry pan - pick a pan big enough to make all the chili in as well.  Add the onion, garlic, and serrano pepper* and cook for five minutes or so. 

*A note on the pepper - the store was out of jalapeno peppers so I decided to be adventurous and try a serrano pepper.  I was really scared to use it because a) I hate food that is too spicy and once the spice is in, you can't take the spice out and b) I always manage to get spicy-ness in my eye and it burns.  I was really careful this time and removed all the seeds from the middle, then chopped the pepper into tiny pieces.  It wasn't too spicy at all, so don't be too afraid to try a new kind of pepper! Next time I would even consider leaving the seeds in.

4) Add the cumin and chili powder and cook a minute more.  The onion mixture may look a bit thick - this is fine. 

5) Add the black beans, tomatoes, green and red bell peppers, zucchini, oregano and parsley.   Season to taste with salt and black pepper.  Simmer until the bell peppers are tender, about 20 minutes.

6) Add in the quinoa, beef (if using), and corn kernels.  Return to a simmer and cook five more minutes. 

7) To serve, stir in sour cream and add cheese if desired.

My recipe (meatless) made 8 cups of chili.  I calculated the calorie content and that is approximately 271 calories per cup.  This soup is CHOCK FULL of vegetables and I can't imagine many meals you can make that would be more healthy or delicious.  The beans add substance and there are all sorts of veggies and healthy spices (I especially love the addition of zucchini).  Ease off the cheese and lay off the meat, and you have an even healthier meal. You could also use Greek yogurt rather than sour cream. 

One other bonus?  The chili looks really awesome - it is very colorful.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Kale Chips

Kale is one of those vegetables that seemed foreign to me for quite some time - in the same vein as parsnips, brussel sprouts, collard greens, etc.  I used to have no idea what people did with kale, but now that I use it more often, I have realized how wonderful kale can be.

I always considered kale to be a lettuce, but it is actually part of the cabbage family.  It can come in green or purple, but I have only ever found green. 
Isn't the purple kale pretty?  [this photo is from]

Kale is very healthy - it is high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin, and has some calcium.  It also contains anti-cancer properties, due to it's sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol content.  Basically that means it is really healthy for you, but if you are curious what each of those nutrients do, here is a short run down:
  • Beta carotene - provides Vitamin A; helps protect cells from damage
  • Vitamin K - allows blood to clot normally; helps protect bones from fracture. *Kale has 531 mcg of Vitamin K per half cup; romaine lettuce only has 57
  • Vitamin C - needed for growth and repair of body tissue (like healing wounds)
  • Zeaxanthin - defends cells from damaging effects of free radicals; protect eyes
  • Lutein - similar to Zeaxanthin; anti-cancer and anti-aging; reduced risk of cataracts
  • Sulforaphane - Targets prostate and other hormone dependent cancer lines
  • Indole-3-carbinol - Used for prevention of breast cancer, colon cancer, and other types
So basically, you should be eating kale! One of the best articles I ever read framed eating healthy in a different way for me.  Rather than telling me what I should eat, it talked about what I was missing out on every time I didn't eat something healthy.  Eat a hamburger for lunch?  Okay, that's fine, but you just missed out on the opportunity to eat all sorts of cancer-fighting, age-slowing, body-enhancing nutrients.  Your choice :)

The other reason you should be eating kale is because KALE CHIPS ARE OUT OF THIS WORLD DELICIOUS!

My mom sent me a recipe for kale chips, and to be honest, I didn't think they would be that impressive.  I would surprised by all the positive reviews so I decided to give it a go.  Holy cow, they are one of the tastiest things I have ever made, and they do indeed taste similar to potato chips (better, I would venture).  The texture is outstanding - the perfect thing to make if you are craving something salty and crunchy.

Kale (mine was starting to get wilt-y and I was worried it wouldn't work.  It worked; no problems)
Olive oil or cooking spray
Seasonings of your choice
Parchment paper

1) Preheat oven to 350*.

2) Separate the leaves from the ribs. I do this by flatting the leaf and running a knife down both sides of the stem/rib.

3) Wash kale and thoroughly dry.  It is important the leaves are very dry if you want them to crunch up. 

4) Break the kale into bite size pieces.

5) Cover a cooking sheet with parchment paper.  Lay the kale in a layer over the sheet.  I did one layer only - I am not sure if you can stack the kale on top of each other and have it turn out, but you probably could.

6) Spray the kale with cooking spray or drizzle with olive oil.  I prefer the cooking spray - less calories and easier. Then, sprinkle with flavoring of your choice.  Here, you can get really creative.  However, I thought a heavy amount would be a good idea - I was wrong.  Try to season a bit sparingly.  One I tried with Italion Seasoning, which was great.  Another I tried with Lawry's seasoning salt and curry powder - way too salty.  Sea salt would be good and I think next time I will try ranch powder.  I'll update this post if I find any awesome new combinations.

7) Cook the kale for five minutes.  After that, I like to take it out and flip the leaves over and spray the underside with cooking spray as well.

8) Cook for about another five minutes but be paranoid about it.  I burned mine quite a bit the first time by overcooking only two minutes or so.  If you are worried, err on the side of taking them out too soon and keep taste testing as they are cooking. 
                                                 Those above are BAD kale chips :(
                                                 And these are GOOD kale chips :)

9) ENJOY! They are absolutely amazing and very low calorie. One cup chopped has only 34 calories. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Sentry by Robert Crais

If you are like me and find the holidays are a great time to curl up and read a book, get this book.
I think that book is the reason I didn't get much done this week.  It was no coincidence the day after I finished reading it is the day I finally took some time to clean my messier-than-usual house.

This book is a book in the "crime thriller" category - yes, your typical murder mystery.  However, there are a lot of twists, a dash of weird, and characters you can fall in love with (aka Joe Pike and his friend Elvis Cole!).  It was a pretty quick, easy read, but also kept me on my toes. 

I think I am off to Garden Valley this weekend, so between now and New Years, I imagine my posts will be pretty slim.  Can't wait to celebrate the holidaysa and see my family soon!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Veggie Quinoa

My mom was the first person who got me interested in quinoa, and I have her to thank for my big Costco-sized bag of quinoa (which is almost on its last legs!).  I prefer quinoa to rice, and I was even more excited to discover I can cook quinoa in my new rice cooker.

My favorite way to use quinoa is as the base for one of those days when it is time to clean out your fridge.  You can stir fry veggies, chop up herbs, throw in meat, use almost any sauce, add nuts, etc.  Quinoa goes good with almost anything.

Today I was feeling lazy (even too lazy to take pictures) and I had a bunch of extra herbs in the fridge.  I spent some time earlier in the week chopping the herbs, so they were all ready to go.

All you need to do is cook the correct amount of quinoa for your needs - I like to cook a cup at a time, so I have leftovers for the next day.  When cooking quinoa, a simple rule of thumb is to have a 2:1 water to quinoa ratio.  For instance, 1 cup of quinoa needs two cups of water.  Then, bring the quinoa to a solid boil and boil for fifteen minutes.  When done, wait five minutes and fluff.

Then I add my herbs - this time I added cilantro, chives and parsley.

After that, you can add your dressing - I usually do a drizzle of olive oil and some balsamic vinegar.  Hoisin sauce is great with quinoa, soy sauce goes well, and most viniagrettes would work too.

Then, throw in some chopped nuts, feel free to melt some cheese and ENJOY!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Balsamic Rosemary Turkey

*My original inspiration for this recipe came from the January 2012 edition of Cosmopolitan, but I changed it to suit what was available in my kitchen.

I wanted to make something delicious (besides just lettuce) using my new Raspberry Lime Balsamic.  I picked up turkey cutlets at Fred Meyers on Friday, and decided this would be a good way to use them.  This recipe was more of "a dash of this and a dash of this," adding what I wanted, but I will try and explain what I did. It was also very cheap - I had almost everything in my cupboards.

  • 5 turkey cutlets
  • Minced garlic (to taste)
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves removed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • Juice from half a lemon* My lemon was VERY juicy so you may want to use an entire lemon
  • Sliced mushrooms
  • Dried thyme

1) Whisk together the garlic, rosemary, balsamic, olive oil, lemon juice and dijon.  I used half normal balsamic and half raspberry lime balsamic, but you could use whatever you have.  It really didn't taste very different to me.

2) Poke holes in the turkey cutlets with a fork, all over the front and back.

3) Put the turkey in a gallon zip lock bag and pour in the marinade.  Massage the turkey through the bag so the marinade soaks in.  I marinated for 3 hours, but that was just because I wasn't ready for dinner.  I am still figuring out marinades, so I am not sure how long you *should* marinade.  If you don't have a lot of time, you could always pour the sauce over and cook in the sauce instead.

4) When ready, heat up a big pan on medium.  Add the turkey cutlets and cook until done.  Mine were very thin cutlets and took about 7 minutes to cook through (and I like my meat very well done).  I also was cooking five cutlets, so I cooked three first, then the other two.

5) When done with the meat, remove and add mushrooms.  Add splashes of balsamic as necessary to cook mushrooms.  I used dried thyme (that used to be fresh) but you could use dried or fresh thyme - sprinkle over mushrooms to taste.  Cook at least five minutes, but I find the longer they cook, the better they taste.

6) Plate the turkey and cover with the mushrooms.  Serve with a lemon wedge.

The best part of this meal is the turkey with marinade is under 200 calories per cutlet (depending on the size of your cutlet of course).  The marinade is 325 calories total (so 65 calories per cutlet) and my packaging said each cutlet was about 120 calories.  This is a very filling meal with lots of flavor but low on calories.  Also really simple - I only had to use one bowl for mixing the dressing and another pan for cooking.

I think I will be cooking with turkey more in the future.  I don't know if it was because my cutlets were so thin or what, but it didn't have a trace of that bloody flavor chicken sometimes gets.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dream Power

I just got this book from the library - Dream Power by Cynthia Richmond.
I thought this book might be a bit boring, as I imagined it would only contain a bunch of dreams and interpretations of them.  However, it was much more than that, and even though I am not finished reading the book, I have found it very motivating. 

The introduction to the book may be a bit hard for most to swallow - Cynthia talks about an idea that sleeps is like "recess for our souls."  While we sleep, our souls gather around with other souls, talk, experience, and basically play.  Dreams are how they communicate important information to us.  Like I said, hard to swallow, but her ideas about dreams did motivate me to start paying more attention to my dreams.  I have some crazy ones but never really think twice about them.  It will be exciting to try and see if I can uncover any information in them.  Even if it is a bit wacky, I don't think there will be any harm in becoming more in tune with myself.

Cynthia says her method for remembering your dreams works for everyone in two weeks. 

Here are her instruction for remembering your dreams:
  • Create the intention to remember your dreams.  When you go to bed, tell yourself you will remember your dreams because they are important to you. Also tell yourself, "When my alarm clock goes off, my dreams will come vividly to mind"
  • Make sure your environment is comfortable - nice temperature, comfortable bedding, non-restrictive pajamas
  • Use a gentle alarm clock if your body will wake up to it - soft music, quieter sounds, etc.
  • Keep a pen, journal, and small flashlight near your bed to write down your dreams as you have them (like if you wake up in the night and/or when you wake up in the morning)
  • Date each entry in your notebook
Here are her instruction for recording your dreams:
  • Lie still when you first wake up and then immediately write everything you remember in your dream journal
  • If you can't remember the whole dream, write down any fragments you recall.
  • If nothing comes to mind, ask yourself what feeling you woke up with and record that
One of the most interesting parts of the book so far has been on recurring dreams.  I have some really weird, random dreams, but I haven't experienced many recurring dreams.  Here are some dreams and her interpretations of them, to help you get started on your own.

Recurring dreams:

Cynthia says recurring dreams are urgent messages from your unconscious and a gift, as they can provide important information we are yearning to understand. 

Grace's dream:

I was in a bad relationship that started off great.  My husband made me feel beautiful and I throught the universe was rewarding me.  After a few months, my husband changed and started talking about his past relationships, in a negative way.  He got really moody and was verbally abusive.  We would have bad days and good days and it was very confusing - it felt like a roller coaster I couldn't get off.  I didn't know what to do and I began to have recurring dreams.

I dreamed about bathrooms and needing to find a bathroom - urgently.  Sometimes I would go through a maze, thinking it was leading to a toilet, but when I opened the stall door, there was no toilet.  Or, the toilet would be filthy or some primitive hole-in-the floor toilet.

Cynthia's interpretation:

This dream was Grace's unconscious trying to provide a strong warning.  Bathrooms represent cleansing and where we go to let go of what is no longer benefiting us.  It was time for Grace to let go, but she was having trouble doing that. Once she broke up with Earl, she stopped having the toilet dreams.

Andre's dream:

I have had this dream for at least 5 years now.  I have wings like an angel and am flying through the sky when a flying red devil starts chasing me.  The devil gets closer and closer, gaining on me.  I worry about what will happen when he finally catches up to me.

Cynthia's interpretation:

This is a dream depicting conflict between good and evil.  Andre sees himself as good, free to fly or proceed with his life unobstructed.  However, the flying devil represents temptation and evil.  We are all constantly put in a position of deciding for ourselves how we want to deal with temptation.  Sometimes we are a little tempted to do something we may later feel bad about (in Andre's dreams, these may be times the devil gets particularly close).  However, temptation and evil serve an important purpose in our lives, forcing us to define ourselves by rejecting them.  As long as Andre continues to have this dream, he may feel insecure about whether he can resist temptation that, at time, hovers near.  Asking "What do I find tempting or threatening" and "How can I reinforce my commitment to what is right," could shed light on any insecurity and help squash his flying devil.

Jenny's dream:

Jenny is a busy woman in her thirties, up for a promotion that she hopes to get (even though it is not her dream career).  Her boss heaps extra duties on her, and she worries if she even has time for vacation, let alone a date.

In my recurring dream, the details vary but the gist is the same.  I come across a birdcage with a bird I have forgotten to feed.  I never seem to get around to feeding this bird, as I can't find any food.  Then my dream goes on to something else.

Cynthia's interpretation:

Birds generally represent freedom. A pet represents a living thing within our care and responsibility.  The cage represents being cooped up, a loss of freedom, but is also a trap we can see through.  Food is required to sustain life and is symbolic of nurturing, love and spiritual sustenance.  So this suggests Jennry is not nurturing her free will and feels part of her is locked up, unable to express itself. Asking a question like "Where in my life do I feel trapped" could help her decide what to work on.

Those are just some quick snapshots from the book, but I wanted to give you an idea of how Cynthia goes about interpreting dreams.  I am going to try and start recording mine, and see if I come across anything interesting.  If anything, it will be a fun experiment to try.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Magnetic Oven Mitts

This is so easy it shouldn't even be considered a craft.

Yesterday I was going through my closet and found one of the big boxes of kitchen stuff I got when I was moving.  Inside were two snowman pot holders.  I hadn't used them because I already had pot holders, but I decided these would make for easy, free Christmas decor!

I already had magnets and a hot glue gun.  All I did was glue the magnets to the pot holders, and voila! They hang on my oven and look festive.  In fact, I might do this with all my pot holders - not sure why I didn't think of it before.  It is easier having them hanging there than trying to rummage around in a drawer when a pan is hot and ready.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Olive and the Grape

I went to the mall with my friend yesterday (in search of rainbow colored skinny jeans - that is a whole different story) and we stumbled upon a new store called "The Olive and the Grape."  We thought it was a wine store, and her husband and I like wine, so we went over to check it out.

We were pleasantly surprised to find it was a gourmet vinegar/olive oil store!  They have samples of almost everything and we were giddy with excitement tasting them all.  There were gourmet olive oils (I wouldn't pay more for plain olive oil so this wasn't that exciting), about 10 flavors of balsamic vinegar, 4 or 5 flavored olive oils, and about 10 viniagrettes.  They also had two of the best dips I have ever tasted, what looked to be homemade pastas (or fancy at least) and stuffed olives (garlic, habanero, and jalapeno).

The main brand of the vinegars was Gianni's Fine Foods.

Here are the flavors of balsamic:
  • Chipotle Garlic Balsamic
  • Classic 18 Balsamic
  • Dark Chocolate Balsamic
  • Healthy Berry Balsamic
  • Peach Lime Cinnamon Balsamic
  • Pear Lime Cinnamon Balsamic
  • Raspberry Lime Ricky Balsamic
  • Sassy Citrus Balsamic
Here are the viniagrettes:
  • Asian Persuasion
  • Classic Cabernet
  • Classic Chardonnay
  • Garlic Blue Cheese and Toasted Walnut
  • Classic Italian
  • It's All Greek to Me
  • Liquid Pesto
  • Six Mushroom White Truffle
  • Sun-Dried Tomato Caprese
  • Tuscan-Herb Roasted Garli
Here are the olive oils:
  • Meyer Lemon
  • Triple Spanish
  • Roasted Garlic
  • Chile
  • Orange
I wasn't a fan of dark chocolate balsamic by itself (but can imagine it would be good with fruit/ice cream) but when the salesman mixed it with orange olive oil, it was amazing.  It tasted just like one of those dark chocolate orange chocolate candies.

Other delicious ones of note were Liquid Pesto, Sassy Citrus Balsamic, Healthy Berry Balsamic, and Raspberry Lime Ricky Balsamic.  However, almost each and every vinegar/viniagrette was fantastic.  The only one I wasn't a huge fan of was the pear/peach lime cinnamon vinegars.  They would be good on the right food though, I am sure.

I ended up buying Raspberry Lime Ricky Balsamic.  Right after purchasing it, I ran out and bought lettuce, chives, cilantro, rosemary, dill, thyme and parsley.  I tossed together a big salad, and eagerly drizzled the balsamic and some olive oil over my salad.  TO DIE FOR.  The vinegar is very thick and rich - it is obviously good quality.


Tonight I am going to try marinating turkey cutlets in the balsamic with some olive oil, then sprinkling with rosemary. I'll let you know how it turns out.

My biggest problem?  I think I have already used about half the is not going to be cheap if I become addicted to this stuff. I have been mixing olive oil and the vinegar in a little dish, then using lettuce leaves to sop it up (the healthy version of a bread dish).  I have totally ignored all other cooking because this is so delicious. 

I have two other issues - this stuff is healthy, but not as healthy as normal balsamic.  Also, a little voice in the back of my head keeps telling me I could make this.  Yes, I might be able to get close, but I don't think it would be such exceptional quality. 

Here are the nutritional facts for my bottle, in case you are curious (for 1 Tablespoon):
40 calories (calories from fat: 0), Total fat: 0g, Trans fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 0g, Sodium: 0mg, Total Carbs: 10g, Dietary fiber: 0g, Sugars: 6 g, Protein: 0g.

For the ingredients, it only says 18-year-old balsamic vinegar, puree of red raspberries, and lime juice (another reason I think I can make it myself).  I am going to look into it if I get a chance, and will let you know if these end up being easy to make (some, I am sure, would be easier than others).

Which one sounds the tastiest to you?  I think when I get another for myself, I will try out the Healthy Berry Balsamic.