Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Two by Two Dessert


The hardest part of cooking and attempting creativity is that I seldom write anything down (until I type to you, of course). You know, it's hard to grab a clean piece of paper and a pen or a keyboard with dough all over your hands. Messy. So I made this dessert weeks ago and am now stopping to blog about it. When I looked at the pictures, I couldn't remember all of the ingredients--but wait! As I was putting it all together, I remembered that I used "two" of everything. Ah, yes.

Two X Two Dessert
2-3 servings
2 apples
2- 1/4 cups of old fashioned oats
2 TB margarine/butter, melted
2 TB brown sugar
2 dashes of cinnamon
2 TB chopped pecans
2 TB shredded coconut

step one: Cut apple into bite-sized chunks. Preheat oven to 350.

step two: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or reusable nonstick liner. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and toss until apples are coated. Lay mixture onto cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes, or until apples are soft and bubbly. eat!!

Happy eating! Laurel

Monday, January 30, 2012

HOTsauce and Rock

Wow, what a weekend.
It was busy and fun and even relaxing. Here's a recap:

FRIDAY: After work and cleaning, we made shrimp risotto (much better than my first attempt) and listened to Billy Joel's Greatest Hits on vinyl (thanks, Matt!) while it cooked, in 30 minutes flat. (Recipe later) After the risotto and NYC piano man, we went to Karaoke at Uptown Bar and Grill. It was fun, and my throat hurt the next morning haha. Uptown was a bit of a dive (which doesn't stop me), and the people were pretty awesome. The DJ reminded me of my cousin Jeremy, if Jer grew out his hair, dyed it black, and started wearing eyeliner. Just saying. We'll prob go back there at some point, since it was so chill. Then we went by Velvet Taco for a second dinner. It was delicious but we underestimated the spicy sauces...whoa! I had the bfast tacos--applewood bacon, garlic sauce, homemade potato crisps on top, cheese, potatoes, and a flat fried egg. Matt had a calamari and a shrimp taco...fancy pants.


SATURDAY: Matt's first gig this year was Saturday night, and he did a timeline of songs he's written over the last 15 or so years. He started with some old ones and went from there. I've gotta tell you, I'm so proud of him, and it's fun to hear how his music and writing have evolved over the years, particularly over the last year or so. He did a great job. We met some neat guys (Pearl Jam people) and had some good food/drinks. I was at church all day, and this made for a relaxing night.

SUNDAY: Church, meeting, and home. We tried out a new grocery, Sunflower Farmers Market. They were a bit like Trader Joe's, a no-frills, non-stuffy healthy foods grocery store. The prices on produce were really good, and I liked the mixture of organic and conventional. Also, their bulk items (particularly whole grains and flours) were much cheaper than the "other guys" (Central Market, Whole Foods). We'll def go back here.

We got this fun bread for $1.50...any place whose motto is "Serious food, silly prices" is a friend of mine. Sunflower is only 10 years old this year, so I'd say their 35-store chain is doing really well! Anyhoo, this pull-apart bread is in the style of Monkey Bread and this one is Pepperoni Parmesan. Yum. And with dinner came Quorn breaded chik'n with gruyere (Double Yum), which I've mentioned in here before and some roasted eggplant on the side.

Roasted Eggplant
A cup of raw eggplant is beautiful, spongy, and 19 calories. It has a nice amount of soluble fiber and manganese, and is thought to be good brain food. This dish is great as a side or on top of greens as the "meat" of a salad. Crisp on the outside and soft in the middle, roasted eggplant is a mush-less way to enjoy this beautiful purple veggie.
Makes 4 servings, but easily halved, doubled

2 eggplants, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds (about 4 cups)
6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped into bits (not minced)
Olive oil
Sea salt
Optional spices: dried basil, sesame seeds, oregano, red pepper flakes


1. Line two baking sheets with foil. With a brush or your hands, spread olive oil over both foil surfaces. Preheat oven to 425.
2. Lay eggplant slices evenly onto baking sheets. Push a few garlic pieces into each slice, then brush olive oil on top of each slice. Season with salt and pepper and optional other spices.
3. Bake for 12 minutes and take out of the oven. Flip the slices over and salt and pepper the upturned sides. Bake for an additional 12-15 minutes, or until slightly browned (you'll see the veins in the slices, which looks pretty neat). Serve warm.
Happy eating and joyful living!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Heavenly Dessert

Ever made an angel food cake?

Good for you! I have yet to conquer the sweet, egg-whitey beast. When I called Matt from the grocery store the other day, I asked him if he'd be down for a little strawberry blackberry shortcake. He groaned a little. I was totally puzzled. Turns out, it's not his favorite dessert. It is, however, one of mine.

This is because my grandmother instilled a love for all things strawberries by sitting me on a little stool in her kitchen and handing me a little bowl of strawberries with a little dipping cup in the middle of powdered sugar. I learned to dip the beautiful ruby fruits into the cloud puff of sugar happiness. Only at grandma's house will a three year old have her own bowl of powdered sugar...what a sweet, powdery, sticky mess. If that didn't top it, we'd usually read my books on Strawberry Shortcake (the cartoon character) while I dipped and drooled. Those pages in the books will never be unstuck.

Those fun (and brave, on her part) memories with my grandmother come to mind anytime I hear/see/devour strawberry shortcake the dessert. This was a common summertime (March through November in Texas) dessert when the whole family got together, and my grandmother usually served it with angel food cake. Sometimes homemade, but usually store-bought. So, if this shortcut is good enough for her, it's good enough for me.

Matt was suddenly a little intrigued when I mentioned that I'd be serving fruit topping on a pillow slice of angel food cake. So far, I've eaten half of the cake (yes...), but I'm sure he'll try it soon. Angel food cake is very low in fat (or fat free) and can be purchased/made with reduced sugar, too. It's a nice alternative to any heavy cake. So here's the super simple topping.

Warm Blackberry Compote
Makes 2 cups + a little
2 1/2 cups fresh blackberries (or frozen, if you must)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar 
2 t. cornstarch (optional)
Dash of ground ginger and cloves
1 teaspoon of citrus zest (I used grapefruit, but lemon/lime/orange works well, too)

In a saucepan on high, combine the blackberries and the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium.

With the back of a spoon, mash about half of the berries. (This will allow whole berries to cook, as well as create a thicker compote sauce with the rest of the berries.)

If you prefer thicker sauce, add the cornstarch here. (I didn't.) Combine the rest of the ingredients into the pan and stir until dissolved. Cover and let sit for 5-10 minutes, or until sauce has thickened and berries have changed from black to a rich red sauce.

Top on heavenly angel food cake, yogurt, ice cream, toast.
Use as jam on sandwiches.
Serve beside pork, chicken, or turkey. (You might want to add a little pepper flakes or cranberries to the compote to give it a kick.)

Happy eating and Joyful living!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Crispy 'chik'n' strips with fries

I do try to eat well, I really do. I never crave a burger, but I do love chicken strips. How to make them a little healthier and without a stomachache after devouring them?

My 'little' cousin, Dusty, has always loved chicken nuggets, more than anyone I know. He's a little older now (and not so little at over 6 feet tall), so his obsession with the famous dippers has subsided but the memories are still there. Truly, if he couldn't eat/order chicken nuggets, chicken tenders or even chicken wheels (don't ask) during the first 8 years of his life, I'm not sure he would've survived. I suppose there are always french fries...
which is another thing. French fries. I don't care what you say, I'd like to not extinguish these from my life forever. But we need healthier ways to eat these little jewels.

In comes the oven. Using a combo of recipes from others, I made crispy 'chik'n' strips and fries (Idaho  and sweet potato) for dinner while watching the double matinee of football games. (Okay, Matt watched, I cooked.) If tofu kind of freaks you out, this is a nice introduction. The strips are flavorful, not slimy, and really tasty, actually. Hope you enjoy.

Crispy Chik'n Strips
 (adapted from Oh She Glows and Growing Up Veg)
Makes 8 strips--serves two to four adults
I've put the ingredients and supplies in bold to make it easier. 

1 pound extra firm tofu
kitchen towel
2 heavy books
step one (prep the tofu): Drain the tofu from the package and wrap in a towel. Place 2 heavy books on top of it to drain out all of the moisture. Let sit for 20-30 minutes. Line/spray 2 baking sheets, one for strips and one for fries.

1/2 cup breadcrumbs or cereal (I used Rice Krispies)
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/2 t. of each: kosher salt, cumin, chili powder, and 1/4 t. of cinnamon & cayenne (or a dash of red pepper flakes)
step two (make the breading): In a large bowl, mix the above ingredients. Crush the cereal before adding, if you have cereal. Preheat oven to 400!

1/2 cup milk
1 TB cornstarch
1/2 t. of each: kosher salt, cumin, chili powder, and 1/4 t. cinnamon & cayenne (or a dash of red pepper flakes)
step three (make the dipper): In a medium bowl, whisk the above ingredients.

1 Idaho potato (Dash: sea salt, garlic powder, chili powder)
1 sweet potato (Dash: sea salt, cinnamon, chili powder)
2 TB olive oil
step four (prep the fries): Cut each potato into fry shapes and toss in the spices and 1 TB olive oil. Do one potato at a time (garlic on sweet potatoes seems ick). Spread the fries onto one of the baking sheets, taking care to make sure they don't overlap.

step five (bread 'em): Slice tofu into 8 long strips. Dip each tofu strip in the liquid and then into the topping. Place breaded strips onto the 2nd baking sheet. Repeat 'dip and top' process for all of them.

step six (bake): Put the strips on the top/middle rack of the oven and the fries on the bottom rack. Bake for 20 minutes and then flip strips and fries. Bake another 15-20 minutes, watching carefully toward the end so you don't scorch the fries. The strips should be crispy brown but not overly dry.

I am sad to report that we had NO leftovers...devoured. Done.
**These recipes easily double, triple, quad, depending on the size of your group.

Aioli in the middle
The Dips
I served with 3...
-chili aioli
-bbq sauce

Chili Aioli
1/4 cup mayo (vegan, reg, lowfat, whatever)
1 1/2 t. chili powder
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. cumin
Dash kosher salt
Dash red pepper flakes
Juice of 1 lemon slice (optional) 

Mix all together and serve cold. Dip away.

Now one last thing...
Happy 92nd birthday (Thursday) to my grandmother. In memory of a long, fruitful life of loving God and loving people. 
I mention her influence on my love for food and cooking quite regularly here, but she touched all areas of my life for the better. What a lady. I must admit, she only liked the crispy-not "soggy"-fries, so we ate lots of crispy ones in her honor. I love and miss her dearly. My parents gifted our home church with these flowers Sunday morning in memory of her birthday. Beautiful...thanks for that. She was a pink flower girl, with a splash of purple.  

Happy eating and happy living!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Moving Musings

We'll be moving twice this year, one down and one to go. The first was from Waco to Dallas, and the next will be...well, who knows?

I'm not a great mover. I like new adventures and all that, but my massive amount of stuff is an inevitable fact when I'm trying to box it all up. Despite this annoying fact (and totally self-inflicting), there are some really funny things about moving. We snapped a few pics on our first night here. I mean, come on, how can you not laugh?

So we ran to the grocery store because we had only pantry-type food and no clue where our pots were. We grabbed frozen dinners only to realize we had no clue there the utensils were...why not giant wooden spoons?? Yes, we actually used these and felt like cave men/women.

And no can opener in sight...but we had a bottle opener!

 Moving didn't faze Sam...he got a squeaky "cheeseburger" toy for his troubles. Sam, AKA "the great destroyer," promptly held it in his front paws like a human, and chewed it to pieces in 5 minutes flat.

 Perhaps my favorite picture of this week. We live near a pretty awesome mall (I know, a mall...) with some fun food.
Tin Star Taco Bar is a fun, casual little place. I've been eating almost 100% vegetarian outside of cooking at home because of my stomach's weirdness with meat lately. Getting the traditional veggie _____ at a restaurant can be really boring, and I feel for veggie heads everywhere who do this all the time. Restaurants often concentrate so much on the prep and quality of meat dishes (b/c we Americans eat a truckload of it compared to produce & rice/legumes) and, therefore, vegetarian options are on the back burner. Not at Tin Star!!
These veggie tacos are sliced, grilled portabello mushrooms, grilled corn, a spicy sour cream, cilantro pesto, grilled bell peppers & onions, and "sweet potato straws" on top. Yum! The tortillas and salsa are quite awesome, too. Cheap, tasty, quite a few locations in Dallas only. Come visit.

Okay, that's all I've got for today. Happy Saturday!!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Farmer's Market & Lemon Spaghetti

When it comes to groceries, I'm picky.

Sometimes it's because of quality of ingredients, how the meat was handled, et cetera, but it's
always about PRICE.

I can't help it. I grew up in a family that saved and planned and scoured the ads for good deals. No extreme couponing needed here, because my parents and grandparents were really smart with their money. And it proved to pay off for them when they wanted to plan a big trip or retirement, and that legacy is something I hope to carry through.
Our finds at Dallas Farmers Market
That being said, I love fruits and vegetables and we eat a fair amount, so we like to get good deals on good stuff. Here's where the Dallas Farmer's Market (or anytown's farmer's market) comes in. Mattand I tried it out on a cold, rainy day. The market closed at 6 and we got there at 4, so we didn't expect much. We were wrong. The crop was good (bigger/more flavorful/brighter than any grocery store produce) and the prices were awesome (3 giant ruby red grapefruits for $1, giant bag of spinach for $2, a dozen tangerines for $2).

Here are some of our market picks:
large honey crisp apples 8 for $2

$3 for 1 1/2 pounds of blackberries, $2 asparagus, 6 sweet oranges for $2

All of those tomatoes for $3---I counted 27 total
Now onto a fun recipe. I spotted this on Rachael Ray's site a year or so ago, but haven't gotten around to trying it until this week. Lemon spaghetti is light, citrusy, and slightly creamy. I adapted Rachael's recipe a little, and it turned out well. We had bright green broccoli and tuna burgers (minus the bun) on the side.

Lemon Spaghetti

(adapted from Rachael Ray)

This dish is light, creamy and great to serve with fish. You can decrease the crushed red pepper if serving for kids.

20 minutes to make; 4 servings


  • Salt
  • 2/3 pound spaghetti
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 3 turns of the pan
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan (or parmigiano-reggiano)
  • Handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped (optional)
  • 8 leaves fresh basil, very thinly sliced (optional, or sub with 2 t. dried basil)


step one: Boil a pot of salted water, dropping in the spaghetti. In a large, deep skillet, add the olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper.

step two: After the pasta has been cooking about 5 minutes, add a ladle of the pasta water, the lemon juice

step three: When the pasta has been cooking about 5 minutes, add lemon juice, a ladle of the cooking water from the pasta and the milk to the skillet. Raise heat a bit to bring sauce to a bubble.

step four: Drain the pasta when it is al dente. Add the lemon zest and the cheese to the cream sauce. Season with salt and red pepper, to taste. Add pasta to pan and turn off the heat. Toss the pasta for a couple of minutes so that all of it is coated in sauce. Top with parsley, basil and additional cheese, if you like. Enjoy.  

Happy eating and happier weekend!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bananaberry Breadlet

The other day, I was in the mood for banana bread, but wanted it without the heaviness of a loaf and the convenience that I could grab and go in the mornings (because taking the time to stop and cut a slice of bread takes way too long, ha). Presenting...


A glorious warm bit of bread baked into handheld on-the-go size.

Bananaberry Breadlet
Perfect for on-the-go, this warm, gooey snack is half the size of a regular muffin and is dense as it is derived from a bread recipe.
makes 23 (not 24) breadlets

dry ingredients (in one bowl, combine:)
1 cup wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 t. baking powder
1/8 t. salt
wet ingredients (in a second bowl, combine:)
3 ripe bananas, mashed
3 TB melted butter/margarine
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup blackberries, sliced in half (1/2 cup or so)

step one:
preheat oven to 350. spray or line 23 muffin tins.
the batter
combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl and stir. then combine wet ingredients in a large bowl and stir. 

step two: 
pour dry ingredients into the large bowl, and stir all together. using a tablespoon (the kind you eat with), scoop out 2 spoonfuls for each cup, so the muffin cups are 1/2 full of batter.

step three:
bake breadlets for 10 minutes, making sure they are slightly firm (not jiggly) but not overly brown. cool on rack. eat.

**since there is a bunch of banana and blackberry happiness in them, i would stick them in the fridge for storage. i put them in sandwich bags or to-go containers to grab in a hurry. enjoy!
look at that gooey, banana-y goodness
So there you have it, the breadlet. I'm finding it's a nice treat before/after a workout, too.

Happy eating!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Overnight Oats

 Good morning!

Doesn't this just look like a bowl of sunshine?

I've gotta tell you, I do love oatmeal. Overnight oats is fairly new to me...I've made it a bunch of times, but cold oats take some getting used to. This recipe, however, is fabulous...I adapted it from Kath Eats Real Food and changed it for my own liking. She uses yogurt in hers (rather than lots of milk), and I prefer the pudding-like consistency. There's cherry, coconut, and a nutty mixture of flavors that make for creamy, dreamy happiness. You put your oats and liquids in a bowl and let it sit in the fridge overnight; in the morning, you add any crunchy toppings (to prevent sogginess), stir, and enjoy! No cooking, no burning your tongue, and super quick! When I want to just stay in bed all morning, this is something I can look forward to...mornings are not my best time of day.

Overnight Oats
(adapted from KERF)
*makes 2 servings (or one large)
1/2 cup whole oats
1/2 cup milk (I used almond)
1 yogurt cup (I used cherry vanilla)
1TB ground flax or 2 t chia seeds (optional)
1 TB shredded coconut
2 TB chopped pecans

In a small bowl, combine oats, milk, and yogurt. Place in fridge overnight (an hour minimum, but 7 hours allows the oats to soak up the liquids better).

In the morning, top with flax seed, coconut, and pecans. Stir. Enjoy!

Easy, right?

Enjoy your Wednesday!!

Happy eating! Laurel

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Shrimp Etouffee

Ever been to New Orleans?

I visited friends there a couple of times in college. The beauty of the city and the rich culture is heavenly. Of course, the food is amazing. I remember being introduced to Domilise's-a hidden jewel-by biting into that first fresh-crunchy-flavorful bit of their shrimp po-boy. A funny memory was going to Nawlins in junior high with my church youth choir. We didn't have too much structure on our downtime at night, but the adult sponsors detoured us past a little street called Bourbon. Of course, we still managed to find the Voodoo museum and freak each other out with the fortune tellers and characters around the Quarter. My first ride on the streetcars was awesome and full of sweltering heat while gazing at gorgeous historical homes. And forget Cafe du Monde when you can have PJ's. (Okay, don't forget du Monde but try the other amazing beignet and coffee places, too!) And there's a couple of other restaurants that I shall not share because they're just too good. Sorry. If we ever go there on a trip together, I will show you the best french toast in the world and the best etouffee you've shoveled in your mouth. Trust me.

Back to Texas and homemade etouffee in our little kitchen.  

Shrimp Etouffee

Now I've mentioned here before that my grandmother was from Natchez-by-way-of-Meridian, Mississippi. Nothing made her happier than fried catfish and cornmuffins (no one calls it cornbread there...no one). Now she did love an occasional bowl of gumbo or crawfish etouffee, but she also knew how much butter and grams of fat are in the genuine versions. So I hope she would have liked Matt and my healthier--yet still tasty--version.

4 TB butter
1 medium yellow onion
2 TB white flour
2 zucchini, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 green peppers, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 celery bunch, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 medium can of diced tomatoes (no chilies)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
2 TB Tony Chachere's
1 teaspoon chili powder
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 pound shrimp (or 1 pound crab, or combo), rinsed and deveined

In a saute pan, heat butter on medium heat. Add the chopped onion and let cook. Once onion is soft, add the flour, stirring until all lumps are removed. Now transfer to a crock pot for slow cooking (or leave in the pan if you are in a hurry).

The following uses a crock pot/slow cooker:

Combine zucchini, green peppers, celery and chicken broth to pot. Add the Tony Chachere's and chili powder. Cover and let cook on High heat for 1 hour. Stir occasionally.

Reduce heat to Medium and add shrimp/crab. Cover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes. (Be careful not to overcook as the shrimp will become rubbery in texture.)

If you want deeper spice and flavor, add more Chachere's and chili powder and let simmer on Low for 15 additional minutes.

Serve over brown rice or with lots of crusty sourdough bread (and butter). Add Tabasco for extra kick.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Ever been to this site: Tastespotting?

It's a self-described "community driven visual potluck." I like it! The beautiful pictures and ideas make my mouth water a little, even when I'm not hungry.

Ever participated in a potluck?

You know, the event where everyone brings a dish and, without much organization, you have a smorgasbord of homemade (and some store-bought) delights? As a girl who grew up in a Baptist church in Texas and with deeply Southern roots, as you can imagine, I've been to my fair share of potlucks. I see them going one of two ways...awesome or butter-filled blah.

You see, some potlucks are around a theme, like "breakfast" or "Mexican." For example, at a "Thanksgiving" themed potluck, you'll see:

Turkey, ham, dressing, veggies, rolls and lots of desserts.

The fun in the potluck is that it takes very little planning and, as dear old Forrest says, "you never know what you're gonna get." On the long table of "Thanksgiving-themed" prepared foods, you could have one kind of turkey, three kinds of ham casseroles, no stuffing/dressing, 5 kinds of potato dished and 12 pies. Yeah, it happens.

Potlucks are rarely healthy (because Grandma doesn't know how to cook without butter) but usually so delightful you won't even notice your bulging belt. I've always enjoyed them, but this week brought some clarity that I hadn't thought of before.

At my internship--you know, the one at a Baptist church--they have a chef on staff to prepare weekly meals for normal meetings, Bible studies, plus the occasional funeral or other event. He mentioned at our last staff potluck (once a month) that it was almost sad when they hired him because that took out the need for potlucks, those times when everyone brought a dish to the dining room and they all shared together. The chef went on to say, once he understood the importance of the potluck, he's made an effort to provide the main course/meat and allow others (when they'd like) to participate in the potluck.

You see, it wasn't about making his job easier because he'd have to cook less, but there's something really wonderful in a potluck. People from all different places and situations bring an offering of nourishment to a collective table and break bread together. Sometimes the dishes are family recipes passed down to generations, while other dishes were from a box or a mix that were thrown together last minute. Some people prepare their most famous casserole or their prized chocolate cake for the occasion, while others experiment and risk it all with a new recipe.

Stay with me here, but I think potlucks are holy. Potlucks symbolize the smorgasbord of people that come together and worship God in certain places. You try things you might never have touched before because someone you love made it. You are surprised by some tasty things and turned off by some creamy looking vegetable that surely would give you heartburn even if you look at it twice. But you gather around the table of dishes with other people and you come together and eat. 

Potlucks were originally documented by Thomas Nashe in 16th century England, with the "luck of the pot" of whatever food you had around to prepare for an unexpected guest or traveler. It evolved into what it is today by the 18th century. Bring your self, your love and your care, and set it on the table. That is kind of our mission, isn't it? Even if all we have is a basket of burnt biscuits or dry mashed potatoes, set it on the table because someone else will bring other things to add to the meal.

So, when you think of planning your next dinner party or function, perhaps forego the caterer or the restaurant where you usually all meet, and think about having a potluck instead. It never goes out of style. Please do be careful to label your dish, if it isn't instantly recognizable. :)

Happy eating! Laurel

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Grapefruit smoothie

Ever seen this documentary?
Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead is a documentary by a guy who's never done a film. He is overweight, has a skin disorder because of his cheeseburger and french fry diet, feels sluggish and knows that his lifestyle of fast food and long work hours will lead to an unhappy death eventually. SO...he does something many will find extreme. Joe the Aussie goes on a 60-day juice fast, eating only fruits and vegetables that he prepares through his juicer. He spends the first month in NYC and the second month driving around the U.S. to find out how people eat and if they'd be willing to try a 10 day juice fast to "jumpstart" their bodies.

I really enjoyed this film. 1) It was free on Netflix.  2) It reiterated to me the importance of eating fruits and veggies and the foods that are unprocessed. Joe's physician monitored him the entire time, and it was fascinating to see his weight drop, skin glow and clear, energy increase, prescriptions decrease and then stop altogether, and his sickness go in remission. Joe met a lady on his travels that was willing to try the juice fast (although apparently this "fast" is really filling) for 10 days, and it really decreased her migraines to the point where she had none at all. She continued to do the 10 day fast once every 3 months, to "reboot" her body, as Joe called it. Joe also helped a guy with the same health condition he had, except the truck driver he met was about 450 pounds. The film took you through the incredible life-changing of this man as he got healthier, found a way to help others get healthy, and he was able to play baseball with his young son for the first time. So neat!

I am not at all a fan of fad diets, but fasting is so deeply rooted in the history of nearly every culture and religion that it is worth taking a look at this, if fasting is not already a part of your life. Juice fasting gives you all of the nutrients that you need (hence Joe's being able to juice fast for 60 days) and reverses many of the side effects that our American processed foods diet enables. If you're interested in learning more about this film or fasting, check out the website, where there are some good resources.

Now let's get to the food! I tossed all of this in a blender and sipped while watching...of course, it's inspired by the film!

Grapefruit Green Smoothie
1/2 ruby red grapefruit, peeled and cut into chunks
2-3 cups fresh spinach, rinsed
1 apple, cored (I used honey crisp)
1/4 cup berries, optional
1/3 cup fruit juice (1 used 1/2 peeled orange)
1 TB ground flaxseed
Handful of ice, optional

Toss all ingredients into the blender. Blend and drink. Mmm.

Grapefruit is not my favorite fruit...oh, how I wish I could eat it without a boatload of sugar on top. Wait, now I can! This smoothie is a bit sweet and has the taste of grapefruit without the bitter face. Hope you enjoy. 

Happy juicing!


Friday, January 13, 2012

What about Bob? Goals in 2012

 I have a beautiful habit of charting out and setting incredible goals and then spending so much time and energy on the planning that the execution is tired and a little lacking. Okay, so "beautiful" inserts a little sarcasm, but one of my goals of 2012 is to set more realistic goals in 2012. Ha, did you get that?

One of the things I've learned as a seminarian and student of social work is that goals are not only 1)an awesome way to organize your hopes and dreams, but 2) they give a person purpose and meaning when there isn't much purpose or meaning. For example, I've talked about my chronically homeless client "Bob" before in this blog. "Bob" (not his real name) is an incredible soul who has been homeless for 23 years based on a seriously complicated and colorful series of events in his life. In the end, when you think that someone like Bob-no house, no car, no lapto...wait, he does have a laptop, but that's another story for another day-anyhoo, Bob--with a life that very few Americans would describe as "normal and fruitful"--is an INCREDIBLE GOAL-SETTER.

Bob has a little handheld tablet and a pen and writes down his goals for the day, week, month, year, and even decade. Being homeless can strip any sort of purpose or meaningful life from a person, but this dude has a vivacious attitude for life and growth and meaning!

Why can't we all be like Bob? 

I sit here at lunch hour in my cozy desk in my heated office with all of the potential in the world to make something out of myself. Bob is without a ton of the rich (in quality, not $$) resources and wise people that I have the opportunity to be around each and every day and, yet, he still finds the purpose of his life! Surely you and I can do the same.  

Not only is this particular entry helpful for my goal-setting, I hope it helps you (continue to) set goals for your own life. They help us discover our purpose and see the incredible joy and mysteries that happen when life goes according to plan and when it...doesn't. :)


1. Live a healthy life.
  • Food: I do eat pretty darn well for an American (prob a 75-80% vegan diet), but I eat too much! Tasting my food-versus devouring-and eating smaller portions and less sugar-based desserts are starting to become part of my daily routine.
  • Fitness: Working out 30 minutes 5 days a week. It's definitely doable with this awesomely flexible schedule that I have this semester (only 40 hrs of work a week!!), but I have NEVER exercised regularly in my whole life. Even when I was 7, I was more concerned about getting my multitude of solid-colored Keds dusty than whether or not I won Freeze Tag on the playground.
  • Reflection: This is a big one. It includes quiet time, reading for personal growth, prayer, just alone convos with God. It is hard to set aside time to do it. Oh, but when I do, the benefits of stopping everything and being in a time of connection is holy and so valuable for the rest of my day...and night...and the next day...and on and on. This is an area that Muslims take very seriously (in general) and that other faiths could learn alot from. By the way, I'm talking about consistent, daily time. I can't say it will happen every morning at 7am because I don't operate that way, but it WILL happen each day at some point.
  • Home: Our dwelling place, our home, is such sacred space. I don't have to tell sports fans this, with the TV arranged just so to get the best angle of picture during a football or basketball game, the surround sound at the perfect angle for hearing pleasure while plopped our and reclined on the cushy couch or recliner with a perfect angle for a mad dash to the kitchen for salty and sweet snacks during commercial breaks. Home is awesome. Matt and I are down from a 3-bedroom townhouse to a 1-bedroom apartment. It's a bit of a change, but I take so much more pride in wiping down the bathroom sink (daily) and sweeping the kitchen floor (every 3 days). Home needs to be safe, clean and comfortable and, without those things, other areas of our life suffer. It's taken me a while, but I'm finally getting that. So keeping up with cleaning and organizing and inviting are all a part of this year's goals.
2. Give all that I can.
  • If Bobby down the hall needs a cup of sugar, alright! (Although we don't have any white sugar at the moment, just agave syrup.)
  • When there's an extra five in my purse, why not give it to a high school band washing cars down the road?
  • After 3+ years as a grad student, I've given a lot of my time and energy to my future career. However, my giving of other resources to real needs right now has been a little lacking. But this semester and this year is a time when some of that energy has been given back to me, and I see this as an opportunity to help in different and creative ways than I have lately. This might be through my simple presence in a hospital room, a listener to someone who needs to vent, a shoulder to cry on when a coworker is just having a rotten day. I also have the opportunity to get back in touch with old and new friends and spend more time with my bestest friend, my husband.
3. Be open to the changes.
  • I am convinced that everyone breathing on this Earth has incredible commitments, activities and general "busy-ness" that consumes them at times. This year will be no exception for the hubby and me, as we finish school, move to an unknown but probably far-off land, start/continue careers, possibly do some more school, look at budgeting for kids and a home, and all of those exciting things that come with it. My goal is to go with these changes with an open mind, heart and spirit as things so very out of my control will take over and things within my control will respond.
  • While Matt and I have a desire for a new place in possibly the Northwest area of the U.S., we have to be open to a place and situation that wasn't even on our radar. Now, that could still be in the Northwest, but what I mean is that God tends to point me in surprising, unexpected ways and places that I can't even begin to predict. And we're giving God the lead on our next step, scary as that can be.
  • Graduate, take and pass my social work licensing exam, find a job that fits really well, move to said place/job, transfer social work license to that place, thrive in the learning and the giving. Look at the next steps in our life, as we move from being married students to married people with resources to grow our little family.
4. Enjoy the moment.
  •  Embrace each day--stressful or otherwise--as a real gift. Some days suck, and I'll admit that, but let my eyes rise above the junk of a day or a society and see that there's a lot of good, too. And when I can't see any positive parts of a situation, I want to know that there's always the potential of good things coming out of a horrid situation and that there's always another clean slate in a new morning and chance to start over.
5. Blog 3 times a week. (AKA 3 new recipes a week)
  • You know I love this blog, but I don't blog about what color shirt I'm wearing today, or who I saw, or throw up a slew of pictures of me and friends/family. I don't mind it on others' blogs, but I don't think you care about all of that. So, while the general format will be the same, we'll keep to what is more fun--food and stories. :)
  • Included in this is reading some fun books that I now have more time to read. Now don't you worry, there's a list.

So those are my goals. Some are concrete and others are not so much, but such is life.

I do hope you have a wonderful weekend! Matt and I have had some serious fun exploring Dallas these last two weeks and look forward to more cheap eats and activities around here!

Here's what we did yesterday:

  I took Thursday as my day off this week, so we had a L-A-Z-Y morning and ended up at Cafe Brazil for a 3:30 lunner. I've heard it's a good place for get-togethers but hadn't tried it. A 2-for-1 coupon sealed the deal, and Matt & I headed to the one nearest our house. He ordered an ultimate quesadilla with spinach, cheeses, chx, and bacon. I ordered the veggie tacos with egg whites, bell pepper, tomatoes, mushrooms, zucchini, cheddar & feta cheeses and breakfast potatoes on the side. The cafe has a really extensive menu, cozy atmosphere, and the food was tasty. A BLT with salmon sounded like a must-try next time, as well as a fancy coffee, of course. And maybe the chocolate peanut butter cheesecake, too. Yum. It was a fun little place that we'll def go to again.

Then we went to:

As you might know, there's a little competition between my hometown of Houston and Dallas. It's mostly Dallas' doing, of course. Either way, it's all silly. But, Houston, we have a problem. Dallas' Museum of Art (DMA) might be better than Houston's. Maybe not, but Matt and I were pretty blown away by the huge spaces and extensive European art. (We only had the energy to go through two of the four floors, and not even two whole floors.) It was pretty awesome.

On Thursday nights, it's free for all students, so we had a free date night (except for the pricey parking, argh). Right now, they have a Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit, which was an extra charge. Sighing, as I passed up the chance to see Madonna's famous cone-bra corset, I certainly didn't feel deprived as the general collection is incredible. Included was an awesome collection of Mark Bradford's recent works, including the ENORMOUS ark that sat in 9th Ward New Orleans post-Katrina. Each piece was heavy on the social justice and American advertisement side, and it was really neat. There was one piece about the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, where the wealthiest African American community in the country was burned to the ground, 35 blocks total. It brought tears to my eyes in its power of how hurtful people can be to each other and in the hope that nothing like this will every happen again as we move to get to know people better and open our minds and hearts to all.

The other thing that struck me the most was some of the Greek art. There was a lovely collection of gold jewelry circa 2nd century B.C. and up to the 2nd century A.D. It was awesome to see necklaces and bracelets with clasps and design that you could find in a department store today! It just shows the genius of construction and incredible fashion sense that ancient artisans had, even before Jesus walked the Earth. Craziness. I asked Matt to pick up one of those pairs of dangled earrings for my upcoming birthday, but he informed me that the 2,000 year old pieces weren't for sale. Darn.

  Okay, enough typing. Enjoy the weather (hope it's sunny and not too cold wherever you are). If you're ever in Dallas, check out the Museum of Art...what a gem.

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Coconut Macaroons

Several months back...

The friends came over. The recipe had five simple ingredients. The heat turned the egg white beating into an hour of arm-straining pain.

I've made macaroons, but these were special. We had great conversation and passed the bowl around when our arms got tired. Of course, it we didn't strain for perfectly peaked egg whites while sitting in a lawn chair in 107 degree weather, I'm sure it would've gone by in 10 minutes flat.

Here is Ina Garten's recipe (Barefoot Contessa). It is awesome. I will not even dare change it, except I do like a little drizzled chocolate on top. Enjoy it. Forgive me that there is not one single photo or our creations...we devoured them much too quickly. Here's one of Food & Us':

Coconut Macaroons Ina Garten's   


  • 14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
  • 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Combine the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they make medium-firm peaks. Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.
Drop the batter onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper using a tablespoon. Bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool and serve.

Eat, lovelies, eat!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Pineapple Pops

Happy Monday!

As promised, I'm bringing you two healthy recipes...both vegan, both delicious, both with pineapple.

I'm barely getting back into yoga/pilates, and this is a nice salad to devour after a workout (or after just sitting around)...
Yoga Happy Salad
3 cups salad greens (the greener=the better)
2 pineapple rings, sliced (1/4 cup)
1/2 crisp apple, sliced into small bites
1/2 medium cucumber, sliced 
2 TB shredded carrots (or whatever you have on hand)
2 TB unsalted peanuts
1 TB balsamic vinaigrette

Toss salad and devour. As you can see, I ate on the floor, next to my new yoga mat. No formalities here.

On New Year's, as the lit NYC ball dropped and Matt was lying on the couch in the midst of the flu, I tried to remember where I was last New Year's.  Oh my gosh, how could I forget? We were watching the fireworks show on Waikiki Beach. Mm, nice memory. So, in honor of pineapple paradise, here's another oat-based bowl to add to your New Year's breakfast list. (You do have a list of new recipes to try, don't you? Me neither.)

Pineapple Pumpkin Oats
1/2 cup oats
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup pumpkin
Dash of cinnamon and nutmeg
1 t. brown sugar (optional)
1/4 cup sliced pineapple (canned or fresh)
1-2 TB chopped pecans 

In a saucepan or in a microwaveable bowl, combine oats, water, pumpkin and spices/sugar. Stir and heat until oats are cooked.

Add in pineapple and pecans and let heat one additional moment, until fruit is warm and soft. Stir. Eat!
I do hope your week is merry and bright. Happy eating!