Top Sixteen of 2016

16. Turning 30. (July)

15. Buying a new car. (May)

14. Taking on more writing projects at work. (February-December)

13. A Sunday night wedding in Bellingham. (December)

12. The Lumineers concert. (June)

11. A long weekend in Portland exploring and watching Erin marry her love. (August)

10. Celebrating my sister’s 21st birthday in Leavenworth. (January)

9. Hiking old favorites and exploring new trails. (May-November)

8. Moving into our own place in Everett. (March)

7. Finding out that I’m going to be aunt again. (October)

6. Establishing healthier eating habits. (November)

5. Celebrating our first anniversary. (July)

4. A long weekend in New England with my grandparents and dear friends. (October)

3. Girls trip to Austin. (May)

2. Watching my brother and his best friend open their own bar. (February)

1. Finishing the half marathon–and training all summer long with Derek. (September)

Weekending

photo-1This weekend started a little early for me as I wasn’t feeling very well and left work a few hours early. I didn’t make exciting use of the extra time, though. I ended up sleeping for about 16 hours. But, thankfully, that must have been what I needed because I woke up Saturday morning feeling just fine.

It’s still pretty cold in Boston, but the sun was shining so Derek and I went for a long walk. We’re estimating that we explored about 4 miles of our neighborhood before walking ourselves over Sunset for drinks. I’ve recently decided that I love sour beers, and the Monk’s Cafe Flemish sour they had one tap was delicious. D had a big glass of Irish stout and we shared some fries (we’re fancy like that). We got home around 6, cooked dinner and watched a movie. All in all, it was a pretty awesome Saturday.

Today, we met up with Lisa for brunch at a new vegan/vegetarian restaurant that just opened in Newton. The food was good, but it is very obvious that it’s a new restaurant with a very new staff. Nothing went seriously wrong, but they have some kinks to work out in their service.

Derek and I were feeling crazy after a yummy meal, so we went to The Container Store and got our organization on. When we brought our goodies home, it started a chain reaction in which every closet was emptied and reorganized. It was kind of a disaster in here for a bit, but it was worth it. Our place looks gooood. Wish I could have you all over for dinner. But we only have two dining room chairs, so it would be a little cramped.

Now, as the days winds down, we’re both sitting at our computers dreading the terrible necessity that is Monday Morning. The good news is, next weekend is Easter. And Easter means pudding shots. Alcoholic pudding plus a family get-together is enough to get me through the week ahead. Hope you all have things to look forward to as well.

Miss you all,

A

Thanksgiving 2012

So I’m a little late with this post, but that’s only because Thanksgiving, and the long weekend following it, were so amazing that it’s taken me over a week to recover and settle back into my rhythm.

The reason that Thanksgiving was so great was because of these two:

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Doug and Meg made the trip up from New Orleans and stayed with us for five days. We used to live right down the street from each other, so the reunion was much needed and so much fun.

They arrived late on Wednesday night and as I expected Doug wanted to go out drinking. We discovered a new bar by our apartment and stayed out pretty late catching, and drinking, up.

Thursday morning, after a little lazy time, Meg and started cooking the vegan Thanksgiving feast. D and I did some of the prep work in advance so the dishes came together fairy quickly. We sat down to eat around 2. Our meal included veggie pot pie, green bean casserole, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie and cranberry wine. It was delish!

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After the feast, we played some games,  watched a lot of football and ate some more. Around 7 we were getting a little stir crazy so we adventured out to see if any of the bars nearby were open. Surprisingly, many of them were. We bar hoped for a little while and then made our way home around midnight.

Friday we drove down to Connecticut for Thanksgiving part 2 at Aunty Sharon’s. Meg met the family and even though it was an adult dinner party, things got a little crazy. My family said or did so many inappropriate things that we made a drinking game out of it. After dinner, we taught the group some other drinking games before switching to Apples to Apples. It was a really fun, sorta out-of-control evening. Meg was likely overwhelmed; Doug loved it.

On Saturday we headed downtown to see How the Grinch Stole Christmas the musical. I had purchased tickets a few months prior and I was so excited to see the show. I should have expected that the audience would be mostly kids, but even still it was a fun time. After the musical, we walked (the long way because we got a little lost) to Quincy Market for lunch and then headed to Boston Common. Doug and Meg got a short tour of the city along the way and when the winds got too cold, we headed back home. We had a low-key night in spent watching Arrested Development, talking about their upcoming wedding and eating leftovers.

For football day, we went back to the first bar and watched the Seahawks. It was fun until they didn’t pull out a W. Doug was upset so the boys went home. Meg and I walked to Fomu for vegan ice cream sundaes. We spent the afternoon watching more Arrested Development, talking more about the wedding and playing more games. It was another easy night but it was so nice to have their company.

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Monday was their last full day in Boston so I wanted to make the most of it. Derek had to go to campus so Doug, Meg and I ate lunch at Red Lentil, a delicious vegan/vegetarian restaurant. Then we dropped Doug off at the apartment and Meg and I went wedding dress shopping. In just a few hours, she had picked out her dress and the bridesmaid dress. By the time we got home, Derek was almost home, so we celebrated her dress purchase with a champagne toast, ate some leftovers for dinner and then headed to Kings for some bowling. After bowling, we tried out one more bar for some darts. We got home around 12:30 and everyone had to go to bed because they had an early flight the next morning.

I was so sad to see them leave. I want so badly to be neighbors again. Derek and I are hoping to make it to NOLA before they move back to Seattle. And then we’ll all be together again for their wedding next summer. Woohoo!

Here’s to hoping that there are many, many more shared holidays in our future. I love you both and I can’t wait to see you again.

Until next time,

A

What’s Cooking: Banana Zucchini Bread

It finally cooled down enough for me to test out the oven in the new apartment. I’ve been craving zucchini bread for a couple of weeks and thanks to a generous co-worker, I had plenty of zucchini to spare. But I also had some overripe bananas that promised to be a tasty banana bread. So I decided to combine the two. And the result was pretty much perfect. I highly recommend you try these ASAP.

Shopping List

1 cup grated zucchini
2 over-ripe bananas, mashed
just less than 1/2 cup oil
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup golden raisins

Step by Step

First, grate your zucchini. Then preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease either a bread pan or a muffin tin. Mash bananas in a large bowl and add zucchini, oil, sugar and vanilla. Stir until well mixed.

Next, add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Finally, stir in the walnuts and raisins. If making bread, bake for 1 hour. If making muffins, bake for about 35 minutes. (I was hungry so I went with muffins.)

Let cool just enough that you don’t burn your mouth as you devour this delicious hybrid. Mmmm…

What’s (barely) Cooking: Easy, No-Oven Meals

We moved into the new apartment over three weeks ago and I still haven’t turned on the oven. I really love the new space–but the high temps and humidity combined with big, bright windows and the fact that we’re on the top floor can make for a stuffy, uncomfortably warm apartment. And as much as I’d like to make some cookies or zucchini bread, I can’t justify turning on the oven and making the problem even worse. So I’d found a few super easy recipes that require very little heat and I’ve been keeping them on rotation.

Here are two of my favorites. Even better, they make good use of the delicious summer produce that I’ve been buying from a local farm.

Dinner Option 1

Falafel Salad

Shopping List
falafel balls (homemade, frozen, just-add-water version–it’s your choice. I love the frozen falafel from Trader Joe’s so that’s what I used.)
fresh salad greens
chopped avocado
sliced cucumbers
salsa
chopped almonds

Step by Step

Prepare the falafel according to the directions. Mine requires warming them in the microwave under a damp paper towel. Easy peasey.

Throw together your salad and add the falafel on top. I use salsa as a dressing because I don’t really like traditional salad dressings but you can, of course, use whatever you like or have on hand. I added some chopped almonds for a little crunch and used avocado and cucumber because it was right in front of me. Pretty much mindless, but oh-so-tasty.


Dinner Option 2

Pasta with sauteed veggies

Shopping List
whole wheat pasta
2-3 cloves of garlic, diced
small white onion, diced
1 medium zucchini, cubed
1 medium tomato, cubed (I picked up some gorgeous yellow heirlooms from the farm stand)
olive oil
salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, paprika and nutritional yeast

Step by Step

Start your pasta. While that’s going, pour some olive oil in a pan. Toss in the onion. After a few minutes, add the garlic and zucchini. Add a little more oil if there isn’t enough to coat everything. Keep cooking until the edges of the zucchini pieces start to brown.

Hopefully by this point, your pasta is close to being done. When you’re just a minute or two from being finished, add the tomato.

Drain the pasta and toss together. Season to taste–I used salt, pepper, an Italian blend, paprika and a little nutritional yeast. Fresh herbs would have been better, but I hardly ever have any if the fridge. I want to try growing some in the windowsill but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.


So there you have it. Not the most exciting or complicated recipes. But sometimes simple is better, especially in the summer heat.

Hope life is good.

Love,
A

What’s Cooking: Berry Shortcake

I’ve been craving strawberry shortcake for a few weeks–every time I buy a carton of strawberry I promise myself that I will save enough to make it. But then I eat them all before I get around to it.

So for our date night, I improvised and used some mixed berries that I had in the freezer. The results were delicious. Derek even claimed it was “the best dessert ever”.

Shopping List

For the biscuits
*adapted from The Happy Herbivore cookbook
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 ripe banana
1/2 cup non-dairy milk

for the berry mix
1-2 cups frozen berries
1-2 tablespoons sugar

for the whipped cream
1 can full fat coconut milk
powdered sugar to taste

Be warned–the whipped cream needs to be refrigerated overnight and the berries can take several hours to thaw, so plan ahead.

To make the whipped cream, pour the coconut milk into a tupperware container (I left out the runny part because I wanted it thick) and leave in the fridge overnight or until it becomes very thick. Whip in some powdered sugar to taste. If you don’t have a big sweet tooth, you could leave it out all together.

For the berries, simply toss the frozen berries with some sugar and leave out until they are room temperature and juicy.

The biscuits are just as easy. Preheat the oven to 425. Mix the dry ingredients together. Then stir in the banana. This might take a little muscle if you’re doing it by hand. Stir until little balls form. Then mix in the non-dairy milk until combined. Plop by the spoonful onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes.

When everything is ready, pile the berries and whipped cream on top of the biscuit and dig in. Enjoy!

What’s Cooking: Vegan Pudding Shots

I didn’t think this Easter tradition would survive when I shifted to a vegan diet. But, thanks to some google research and a few favorite vegan blogs, I was able to make it happen–just like old times, only better.

The process takes longer because you have to veganize the Irish cream and the cool whip, but the end result is so delicious. I suggest you try it right away.

I didn’t have any little shots glasses, so I went with a pudding cup instead. I considered it a double. 🙂

Shopping List

For the Irish Cream:
1 can of full fat coconut milk
1 can of light coconut milk
1/4 brown sugar
3/4 cup strong coffee
3/4 cup Jameson Irish whiskey
pinch of salt

For the cool whip:
1 can of full fat coconut milk
1/4 cup of powdered sugar

For the pudding:
1 small package of instant chocolate pudding
3/4 cup of rice milk (or any other non-dairy milk)
1/4 cup of vodka
1/2 cup of Irish cream
cool whip

Step by Step

This recipe takes two days to do right. I know, I don’t like to wait either. But believe me, it’s so worth it.

Day One: Make the Irish cream and the cool whip.

To make the Irish cream, I followed this recipe. Essentially, you need just add the coconut milk (one full fat and one light) and the brown sugar in a pot on the stove. Keep at a medium heat and stir until your arm wants to fall off (or until it’s been at a low boil for 8-10 minutes). Remove it from heat and stir in the coffee. And then the Jameson. And then throw in the pinch of salt. Stir it up real nice and then either wait for it to cool before tasting or pour it over a big glass of ice to consume right away. Make sure you save at least a 1/2 cup for the pudding shots.

To make the cool whip, I followed this super easy, yet super amazing, recipe. All you have to do it open a can of full fat coconut milk (without shaking it) and gently pour it into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight. It should get really, really thick (like cool whip). The next day, whisk in the powdered sugar (or any sweetener) to taste. Ta-da! Now you have delicious cool whip.

Day Two: Put it all together.

Once all your ingredients are ready to go, the pudding shots are simple. Toss the instant pudding, milk, vodka and Irish cream into a big bowl and stir until well combined. And then fold in the cool whip. That’s it. Eat as is or freeze for a tasty frozen treat. My Aunt thinks it tastes like German chocolate cake. I think it tastes like heaven. Go make some and decide for yourself.

Happy Easter,

A

What’s Cooking: Carrot Cake Oatmeal

Mmm…. so good. I wish I was eating a bowl right now.

Shopping List

1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup water
1 carrot, shredded
a handful of raisins
a handful of walnut pieces
a splash of vanilla
a dash of salt
several shakes of cinnamon
a spoonful of cream cheese frosting (vegan cream cheese blended with powdered sugar)

 

Step by Step

It seems silly to even be listing out the directions. All you do is cook the oats in the water until they are soft and then stir in everything else. It’s not complicated, but the flavors work together so well. As you can from the ingredient list, it’s not an exact science. Just toss things in until it tastes perfect to you.

Enjoy,

A

What’s Cooking: Veggie and Tofu Pad Thai

Over the weekend, I made a completely vegan meal for my Aunt & Uncle and my grandparents. I was nervous and kinda stressed as I picked the menu because I wanted to make sure they left with a good impression of vegan cooking. I finally settled on pad thai. Derek and I used to make it in Seattle, but we used eggs, so the recipe needed some tweaking. But I was pretty sure I could pull it off. I know I won’t be convincing my Grandpa to give up meat any time soon, but he conceded that the meal “wasn’t awful” and the others said it was very good.

I ended up making enough for at least ten people, so I’ve tried to scale it down for a 4 person-serving. Be warned though, I didn’t follow a strict recipe and I didn’t write down my measurements so this is just a guide. Feel free to make adjustments if you try it yourself.

Shopping List

for the peanut sauce-

3 heaping tablespoons of peanut butter

2 tablespoons of soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos

1/2 teaspoon cayenne chili powder (more or less, depending on how spicy you like)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons orange juice

2 tablespoons hot water

1 teaspoon orange zest

for the noodles-

1/2 package of rice noodles

1/2 package of super firm tofu, drained, pressed and cut into small cubes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup of broccoli pieces

1 cup of cauliflower pieces

1 cup of carrot pieces

1 cup of bean sprouts

1/2 lime- save other half

1/3 cup chopped green onions (for garnish)

1/3 cup peanut pieces (for garnish)

orange and lime wedges (for garnish)

Step by Step

To make the sauce, mix the peanut butter and soy sauce in a microwavable dish. If it’s tough to stir, pop it in the micro for about 30 seconds. Then stir in the other ingredients. Taste and adjust depending on what you like. Derek wanted it to be citrusy so I used equal parts orange juice and water, but you could leave out the juice all together if you wanted the peanut flavor to be more prominent. I just kept mixing until it tasted right to me.

Once your sauce is all set, cook the tofu over medium-high heat until the cues are browned on all sides. When that’s done, place the rice noodles in a bowl of hot water (make sure they are completely covered) and let them soften while you cook the broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. We just steamed our veggies in a big wok but you could also try roasting them.

When the veggies are done, add the tofu, noodles, bean sprouts and sauce and mix until everything is covered in peanutty deliciousness. Squeeze the juice from half a lime over the noodles. After your serving is on your plate, top with some green onions and crushed peanuts. Add a couple wedges of citrus fruits and a sprinkle more of cayenne powder and you’re all set.

I like to mix a little brown rice in with  my pad thai (and so does Rebecca) but Derek and my aunt thought that was strange. So do what you want. The dish is great on it’s own but a little brown rice never hurt anyone.

What’s Cooking: Coconut Banana Pancakes

It’s been awhile since I shared a recipe, so I thought I’d try to make it up to you by posting a delicious breakfast recipe that’s perfect for the weekend. I just whipped up these pancakes this morning–I’m still eating them as I post this–but they were too good to keep to myself.

Shopping List

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 tbsp baking powder

1 tbsp flax meal

1/4 cup rolled oats

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

a dash of salt

1/2 cup coconut milk

1 teaspoon maple syrup

1 well mashed banana

a handful of walnut pieces

coconut oil for greasing the pan

Step by Step

Begin heating skillet to medium heat.

While that’s warming up, stir all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mash the banana then add the coconut milk and syrup. Pour the wet into the dry and stir until combined. Add walnuts.

Once the pan is hot, spread a tiny bit of coconut oil to prevent the pancakes from sticking. Scoop spoonfuls of the batter into the pan and spread it out a little so they cook all the way through. Flip after a few minutes until they are brown on both sides. Top with sliced bananas, walnuts and maple syrup.

This recipe makes enough for two people (but if Derek doesn’t wake up soon, I might eat them all myself).

Happy Weekending!

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