The Lone Star State

I haven’t really been talking much about work lately.  Last year, I moved out of a role in Program Management, and into a role in Sales and Marketing, as an Account Executive working with our Off-Highway customers.  While living in Europe, I worked as an Account Manager in On-Highway, so I was familiar with the work and was really excited to advance my customer interactions and commercial knowledge.

However, in mid-November, my company announced that we’d be doing workforce reductions (a.k.a. “layoffs”).  This was the third layoff that I’d experienced with this company, so I knew that things were going to be in flux for awhile.  I wasn’t too worried about my position (though, anything can happen), but I knew that my group would probably take a hit.

So…imagine my surprise (and actually, I was shocked as hell), when I got pulled into a meeting with my boss and the General Manager to be told that, due to the layoffs, I was being moved into a new position, BACK into Program Management.  So…here I am, 1 week before Christmas, and I’m being told that I’m leaving the role that I just moved into a few months prior, to go back to a role that I’d left.

I won’t lie…it took a day or so for me to wrap my mind around it and to get into a positive mindset.  I was worried that I’d be overloaded like I was in my previous role, and the customer that I was going to be working with was notorious for being highly demanding.  Frankly, I was terrified my life was going to suck.

I’m happy to say, after a full month, things are going fairly decently!  I’m currently in Texas at a face-to-face meeting with the customer, and I’m feeling fairly settled.  It’s a lot more firefighting than I did in Account work, but it’s exciting.  The program launches in 2017, so I will be on this team for a year or so…and after that, I’m not quite sure.

That’s a little bit about what’s going on in my life currently!  I’m super excited because, on Friday, I get to spend the weekend with my BFF, L!  We’re going to drive to Waco and go to Magnolia Market (from the HGTV show “Fixer Upper”) and I can’t wait!  Plus, I will say, Texas has some AMAZING food!  Plenty to enjoy in this great state, for sure

Much love,
K.

Oodles of Zoodles

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted a recipe on here, but believe me, I’m still cooking.  Over the past six months or so, J and I have moved towards a more plant-based diet with minimal processed “stuff.”  It’s close to vegan, but I occasionally add cheese to my meals, just to jazz it up (plus, giving up Feta has been really hard for me…it’s SOOO good!)  It’s been weird to re-learn some cooking techniques, and has been challenging coming up with new and creative (and still delicious) meals, but so far its going well!

One of my favorite ways to incorporate more vegetables into our diet is with a spiralizer.  That thing is HANDY!!  Last evening, I decided to make some “Zoodles” (zucchini noodles) and a raw sauce for dinner.  The zoodles are easy, just cut the ends off the zucchini, then run it through the blade.  Voila…zoodles!  For the sauce, I used some sun-dried tomato vegan pesto along with some leftover cherry tomatoes, and sautéed those in a tiny amount of oil.  I added the noodles to the “sauce” and cooked the noodles for a few minutes until they were slightly tender.

And then…this is where I failed at the vegan.  Oh yeah…I added feta.  Because, well, feta makes it “bettah.”  Obviously, if you’re following a vegan diet, then just leave it off.  Or, like J did, add some nutritional yeast for that “cheesy” flavor!  Definitely a great pasta substitution, very low carb, and full of fresh vegetables!  What more could you ask for on a warm summer evening!

Much love,
K.

**I realized that the photo I had taken of the noodles was horribly blurred.  So, I promise, the next time I make them, you’ll get a photo!

Vegan Alfredo…So Good!

IMG_0193Last night I decided to try my hand at vegan alfredo sauce.  J and I have a brand that we really like (Victoria), but we don’t have a grocery store in town that sells that brand, and it’s pretty hard to find, not to mention it’s expensive.  So, with that in mind, I set out to find a vegan alfredo sauce recipe that would stand up to traditional Pasta Alfredo, which is  a favorite of ours.

I won’t lie, I poured over Pinterest, for at least 5 minutes 30 seconds, before quickly realizing that most of the posts used Cauliflower as a thickening agent instead of butter and flour.  Plus…hey…another way to get in a vegetable?  I’ll take it!  I pretty much gave up after that point and decided to make up my own recipe and see how it went.   So, here you go!

The ingredient list is pretty simple, and probably already in your pantry if you follow a vegetarian/vegan diet.  Olive oil, garlic, cauliflower, nutritional yeast, milk/milk substitute (we use whatever we have on hand, typically either rice milk, oat milk, soy milk, almond milk, or coconut milk), sun-tomatoes, salt and pepper, and lemon juice.  We happened to have everything in our pantry, and had picked up some cauliflower at the grocery, so we were set.

Start with sautéing the garlic in some olive oil.  I used a teaspoon of olive oil, and a tablespoon of garlic.  What can I say…garlic is heavenly!  However, this is one of those areas where you can go with how much you like.  You want alfredo with 40 cloves are garlic?  Then get on with your bad self!  You want less than that…feel free.  I sautéed the garlic for a few minutes, taking care to not let it burn.  Burnt garlic tastes terrible.   While that was going, I cut up a half a head of cauliflower.  I figured I could have used the whole head, but it was just the two of us, and I had plans for the other half of the cauliflower (roasted cauliflower with turmeric…that’s for tonight!).

Once the garlic was ready, I added a cup and a half of soy milk (use whatever milk you have on hand) and the cauliflower florets, along with salt and pepper (to taste).  Then, you let the cauliflower cook until it’s soft.  It took about 10 minutes for mine to soften, mostly because I was lazy and cut it into big chunks.  The smaller your cauliflower chunks, the faster it will cook.  Keep and eye on it and when it will break up easily with a spoon, it’s good to go.

After your cauliflower is soft, pour the milk/garlic/cauliflower mixture into a blender.  Add in nutritional yeast (I put in 2 Tablespoons) along with lemon juice (1 Tablespoon).  Blend away!  Here’s where it really becomes your preference…the thickness of the sauce.  I personally like a thicker alfredo sauce.  However, while blending, it was a tad too thick even for me, so I added more milk.  Don’t be afraid to add more milk if you think your sauce is too thick!  This is all personal preference here, folks, make it how you like it!

When you’re done blending…taste it.  I decided that mine needed a little something extra, so I added nutmeg to the sauce.  I used to add nutmeg to my regular alfredo, so why not this?  It really made all the difference!

For dinner, we paired the alfredo with whole wheat pasta, roasted asparagus, and roasted carrots.  So good and healthy!  Hope you make it and enjoy it as much as we did!

Much love,
K.

30 Days of Blogging: Guilty Pleasures

guilty pleasureEveryone has a guilty pleasure, it’s just whether or not you’re brave enough to admit it.  I have several, I won’t lie.  I love karaoke and singing at the top of my lungs while driving my car.  I love getting a Lindt truffle bar at the Target check-out line.  Hell…TARGET is a guilty pleasure unto itself!  But…my biggest??  Prepare yourself, folks…it’s a doozy.

 

My Guilty Pleasure?   Sitting at home, having a Twilight movie marathon while eating take-out sushi…ALL.  NIGHT.  LONG.

 

Much love,
K.

 

 

30 Days of Blogging: Favorite Seasons

fallI realize I’ve been a bit lax on my 30 Days of Blogging, and even though it’s 2015, I’m bound and determined to finish what I started!  I only have a few left, so everyone should just hang in there with me.

My favorite season is fall.  Part of that is because my birthday is in September, but also because it kicks off the trifecta of my favorite holidays:  Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas!  Fall has amazing colors, great produce, awesome recipes, and three holidays where the whole point is dressing up, eating awesome food, drinking fabulous concoctions, and exchanging presents with friends and family.  What is there to hate about that?!

Much love,
K.

Friday Favorites: Healthy Snacks!

I’m not too much of a snacker, in general, but I do struggle with the hangry when my blood sugar dips.  Due to that, I’m always looking for healthy snacks that get me to the next meal, raise my blood sugar, and turn me back into something that resembles an agreeable human being.  So, here are my favorite healthy snacks!

 

1.  Popcorn

jar-topObviously, I’m not talking about the loaded down with butter and salt popcorn (though that is quite tasty).   Unflavored popcorn (though bland) is actually quite a healthy snack!   If you walk down the snack aisle at the grocery, there are an overwhelming number of boxed, microwaveable popcorn options on the shelves.  Avoid them!  It’s much cheaper (and healthier) to just buy the kernels and pop your own.  All you need is a microwave safe bowl, a microwave safe plate, and popcorn kernels.  Put 1/4 cup of kernels in the bowl, cover with the plate, and microwave until you hear the popping kernels slow down to about 2-3 seconds between pops.  Voila!  Popcorn, minus the waste of the bag.  Because I enjoy flavor on my popcorn, I usually add some spices to my already popped popcorn.  Cumin is really nice (use sparingly), as is garlic powder and kosher salt.  If I’m feeling extra lazy, I’ll just lightly salt the popcorn and dig in!  The best part about it is you can totally doctor it up to your taste!  Just remember, the more butter and fats you add, the less healthy it becomes.

2.  Hummus

460px-Hummus_from_The_NileHummus is everything that I love in a snack.  It’s creamy, healthy, tasty…I could go on and on.  Plus, it’s another snack where you can completely tailor it to your individual tastes.  I really like to pair hummus with carrot sticks for a veggie, but it’s also really good with pretzel crisps or a pita (for some extra calories, the pita is amazing).  You can buy a lot of different types at the grocery nowadays (ten years ago you’d have to go to a specialty store), but it’s also incredibly easy to make on your own.  I go both ways…if I’m feeling lazy I’ll buy some, and if I’m feeling more culinary with some extra time, I’ll whip up a batch of homemade.  I enjoy both, and don’t feel guilty about taking some shortcuts.  Just be sure to look at the label to make sure it doesn’t have a ton of “extra” stuff that you really don’t need (if you can’t pronounce it, you probably don’t need it).  One of my favorite recipes (brace yourself, it calls for peeling the chickpeas…and it really does make all the difference) is from Smitten Kitchen.  And please, for the love of all that’s good and holy, don’t skimp on the olive oil!

 

3.  Energy Bites

6907215929_29ed2b0329_zI’m sure many of you have heard of the Lara Bar craze.  I get it…they’re chewy, unprocessed (for the most part), and delicious.  They’re also expensive as crap!  Plus, I don’t usually want an entire bar, so then I’m left with half a bar that dries out and is pretty gross when I want some more (usually the next day).  Which is why energy bites is a much better alternative for me.  If you get on Pinterest, you can find plenty of recipes on how to make them, but most of them have the same method.  A grain (usually oats), some seeds, some nuts, a sweetener (I prefer honey), dried fruit, maybe some chocolate, and a binder (either a nut butter, or a sticky fruit).  Gimme Some Oven has a great recipe for Cranberry Pistachio Energy Bites, and it’s my favorite (I’m a sucker for pistachios).  It takes a little longer than the 15 minute prep time, but the results are totally worth it!  I like to make these before J and I go on a hike, because they’re great on the go, and are easily transportable.  Plus, these are fantastic for road trips, because they’re not messy and you can pre-pack them and pull them out as needed.

 

4.  Fruit

fruit-bowlThis one almost seems too easy.  But, raw fruit is a great healthy snack, and is easy to grab when you’re pressed for time.  For many fruits, the peel holds a lot of the fiber, which helps you feel full longer (obviously, this is only true for fruits that have edible peels), so don’t peel them if you don’t mind the taste.  When I’m at work, I like fruits that are easy to eat and not incredibly messy, so berries or grapes are usually my go-to.  However, when I’m at home, I prefer messier fruits, like plums and oranges.  My favorite fruits, overall, are blackberries and raspberries.  They’re tart and juicy, and easy to eat.  Plus, the more color to the fruit, the more nutritional value!  Another great way to eat fruit, especially in the summer, is to spread out whole pieces of fruit (berries, melon balls, and grapes work best for this) in a single layer, on a baking sheet. Then, place in the freezer and let the fruit freeze.  This really offers a sweet, cool treat during the hot summer months!

 

5.  Avocado

72468dd777e471da_cottage-cheese-avocadoI absolutely love avocado, and it’s one of my favorite “snacks,” when I have the time.  I don’t usually keep avocado in the house, so it’s more of a treat when I remember to pick one or two up at the grocery.  One of my favorite snacks with avocado (I have several) is avocado with cottage cheese.  The creamy avocado with the cold cottage cheese…it’s awesome!  Plus, cottage cheese (especially european style) has a more dry texture, so I really like how it tastes with the avocado.  If you feel like adding some more flavor, without a ton of extra calories, a light drizzle of balsamic vinegar or balsamic reduction would be really tasty on this as well!  When looking for avocados, I’ve found the best way to see if they’re ripe is to peel off the little nub where the stem would be.  If it’s green in there, it’s not too old.  Also, a gentle squeeze to see if it’s hard as a brick is a good trick too.

 

There you have it, my favorites in healthy snacking!  What are some of your favorites?  Feel free to let me know in the comments, as I’m always looking for new ideas!

Much love,
K.

Friday Favorites: Comfort

Every so often, I find myself in need of comfort.  Maybe something major happened, or maybe it’s just a bad day.  Maybe there’s nothing wrong at all, but I just feel the need for something that comforts me and feels safe.  Either way, we all have those moments, and here are my “Favorites” for various items I look to for comfort.  Hopefully some of these will spark something for you all, or maybe you have some of your own you’d like to share!

1.  Comfort Food.

IG1009_Grown_Up_Mac_and_Cheese_jpg_rend_sni12col_landscapeI have so many different foods that I think of as comfort foods.  But, of all of them, my favorite is macaroni and cheese.  Carbs + cheese = match made in heaven (unless you’re a lactose intolerant celiac’s disease sufferer.  In that case, I imagine it’s closer to hell).  I don’t really discriminate against kinds of macaroni and cheese…my favorite is one I haven’t had to make myself.  Annie’s Organics has a great box mix one, but homemade is better nearly every time.  One of my favorite recipes is from Ina Garten’s Grown Up Mac and Cheese.  It’s creamy and full of flavor, and really easy to make.  It’s great for cold evenings when all you want to do is curl up on the couch and watch a movie!

2.  Comfort Clothes.

tunic sweaterI love sweaters.  In fact, I wait for fall and winter each year, just so I get the opportunity to drag out my box of sweaters.  There’s something so warm and snuggly about them.  I recently bought a new tunic sweater, and I am in love!  It’s soft and warm, and perfect for lying around the house or running errands.  I pair it with warm leggings and some boots, and I’m good to go.  Plus, the color goes with darn near anything, so it’s a great “Grab and Go” option for if you’re headed out and won’t know whether you’ll need an extra layer to stay warm.  I picked it up from The LOFT, which is one of my favorite places to shop, and I am considering getting another one because I love it so much!

3.  Comfort Smells.

hot-spiced-ciderAhh…it’s amazing how a certain smell can bring back so many memories (both good and bad).  There’s been studies done that show smells being one of the biggest links to memories for people, and that is definitely true for me.  I have a very small sense of smell, due to way too many sinus issues as a child.  My mother can’t smell at all, so I’m happy to have what small sense of smell I do have, even if it’s limited and faulty at times.  One of my favorite smells that brings such comfort to me is hot apple cider.  It reminds me of fall back home, pumpkin patches and apple orchards, and freshly baked cinnamon sugar donuts.  The only downside is that it’s hard to find if it’s not fall, so it’s not really something I can get a whole lot outside the fall months.  Sometimes you can find a few small jugs at the grocery store, but it’s rare.  However, I keep the mulling spices in a jar at home (I make my own) that I can use to put in black tea, and that is a good substitute in a pinch.  Here are 15 Cider Recipes (I’ve only used two, but they were good) from Martha Stewart.  I have a plan to try a few more now that fall is upon us!

4.  Comfort Movies.

Daffy_Duck's_Fantastic_Island_PosterThis was an easy one, primarily because I have one (exactly one) comfort movie.  When I am sick, there is a movie that I will watch, regardless of what is wrong with me.  Daffy Duck’s Fantastic Island movie has been a favorite of mine ever since childhood.  Whenever I was sick and at home from school, my mom would stuff me in bed and put that movie on to watch.  9 times out of 10, I’d fall asleep before the movie was half over, but since sleep is best for a sick body, it was a win/win.  It’s funny  how, even now that I’m in my 30s, it’s still a go-to for me whenever I don’t feel well.  J has even joined me a few times to watch it, and agrees that it’s a great cartoon (and agreement is agreement, regardless of coercion), so I think this one is a winner.  In fact, when J realized how much I loved this movie, he took my beat up VHS tape that was falling apart (and really, who uses VHS anymore) and had a DVD made of it, so that I’d have it longer.  Now, if that isn’t true love, I don’t know what is!

5.  Comfort Places.

libraryThis one has two answers, both equally important to me.  I think that everyone has a spot that always brings about comfort.  For some, it’s the beach, others it’s the mountains.  One of mine, thankfully, is a place I can find just about anywhere I am.  Whenever I’m down, or just needing a feeling of home, I find a library.  There’s something about the smell of aged paper, combined with the quiet peacefulness of the stacks of books that puts me instantly at ease.  I’ve worked in a few different libraries, and would love to move back into librarianship, and they were always my most favorite jobs.  I enjoyed being surrounded by so much knowledge, and the feeling of having the answer to just about anything at my fingertips was incredible.  Even when I was overwhelmed with school work or life, stopping in to a library, just to find a corner to myself, brought back an amazing amount of perspective for me.

cathedralAnother comfort place for me is church.  Much like libraries, the quiet calmness of churches help bring about peace and tranquility for me.  J and I were in DC a few months back, and we had been racing around trying to see different things, and we took a moment to pop into a cathedral there.  I took a minute to step into a prayer room, and it was as though all my worries melted away.  God has such a calming presence in my life, that just stepping foot into a church is usually enough to release the tension.  I’m so thankful for that, especially when I think about how stressed I get in my job, and how I’m usually always close to a church of some sort, that I can walk into and gather my thoughts.

 

There are my favorites in the way of finding comfort.  I hope you enjoyed them, and that this post inspires you to go out and seek comfort for yourself.  Also, if you have some truly favorite comforts, feel free to share, as I’d love to hear them!

Much love,
K.

Recipe Monday: Food Prep!

I know I’ve been completely absent in my Recipe Monday posts, and for that I apologize.  My only excuse is that J and I went through a period where the only things we were cooking were frozen pizzas, frozen breakfast burritos, and grilled cheese sandwiches.  Vegetables had become a thing of the past, and our eating habits were going downhill fast.  However, last week, we made a promise to ourselves to change that, and so here I am, back in the Recipe Monday saddle!

This Monday isn’t really a recipe, it’s more of a walk-through on what J and I do after we go to the grocery each week.  We’ve really tried our best to only hit up the outer parameter of the grocery store, where all the fresh foods and vegetables/fruits are located.  We make it a point to only go into the middle aisles if something is absolutely necessary, and while it makes our grocery bill a little more expensive, we’re eating so much healthier.  I’d like to think eating healthier will cut down on future medical costs, so it’ll even out in the end (at least, that’s what I tell myself).

So…what do I do with all the fresh produce I buy, you ask?  That’s how I usually spend my Sunday evenings…just me, a glass of wine,  Food Network playing in the background, a sharp knife, a cutting board, and tons of Pyrex glass bowls with lids.  Yeah…I’m glamorous like that, be jealous all of you.  But, in all seriousness, that’s what I do.  Usually, J and I go grocery shopping Sunday morning/afternoon.  We’ll make a list of what we need for the week, including the recipes that we’d like to cook, and then head out with our mission.  We’ve found that if we don’t make a list, we come home with tons of random ingredients and nothing to make a full meal, so shopping with a list is a life saver for us.

IMG_9317This past Sunday was quite busy!  I had plans of making beans for the week, so I needed to get out the pressure cooker.  Plus, I figured I could make extras and freeze them for when we have busy weekends and I can’t get around to making cooked beans from dried.  I don’t mind buying canned beans, but I often forget to get them at the store, so I don’t always have them when I want them.  Plus, something about canned beans tastes weird to me.  It’s like they taste like metal or something.  Also, there’s a ton of salt, that you can’t always get rid of by rinsing (and I rinse the crap out of my beans).  Which basically leaves me with making my own from dried.  Thankfully, with the amazing pressure cookers out there, it really doesn’t take long at all, and you don’t even need to soak them overnight.  Soaking them overnight does speed up the process, but I’m perfectly fine spending 30 minutes instead of 20 and not soaking them at all.  Yeah…I’m lazy like that.  So, with that said, I started on the black beans, before dealing with anything else.

IMG_9324After the black beans were doing their thing in the pressure cooker (J bought me an amazing electric pressure cooker for my birthday last year, so it’s literally “fix it and forget it”), I started in on all the fresh produce we bought.  For most produce, we don’t really wash it when we prepare it.  I cut it up and put it into portions that we’ll use later on, but we don’t really wash the produce until it’s time to use.  A lot of times, I’ll just take off the obvious dirt (with a damp paper towel) and start cutting away to get it into manageable pieces.  This week, I went through quite a few vegetables: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, broccoli, IMG_9327cauliflower, bell peppers, mushrooms, radishes, kale, spinach, and romaine lettuce.  Most of that will be used to make daily salads for lunch and dinner, as well as other meals that we’ve planned out during the week.  For storage, we really like to use glass Pyrex dishes.  There’s the BPA scare out there, which comes into play some, but in all honesty, we got a lot of Pyrex mixing bowls with lids for the wedding years ago.  Those Pyrex dishes have become an absolute staple in our kitchen and I use them constantly.  I even ordered more of them yesterday from Amazon, because I found myself running out of them so often.  They’d either be full of things in the fridge, or dirty in the dishwasher, so I realized that they were probably the most used thing in my kitchen and that I needed more.  Hopefully Amazon comes through for me and they’re delivered tomorrow!

Along with my much coveted Pyrex dishes, I’ll also be getting a pressure canner in my Amazon shipment!  I’d really like to can beans instead of freezing them (but, without a pressure canner, I can’t do it), as well as preserves and other veggies that we get from the grocery and various friends’ gardens.  One thing I’d really like to try my hand at is small batch preserves, that I can give away for Christmas gifts!  Plus, I found a really easy looking recipe for handmade crackers, so I’m thinking gifts of homemade crackers, preserves, and cheese might be really nice gifts for friends during the holiday!  Of course, I’m sure I’ll change my mind at least 10 more times before the holidays get here, but for now…this is the plan!

So, there is my Sunday/Food Prep routine!  We try to do this weekly, but obviously the last few months have been few and far between on the homemade food items.  If you have any questions on how we prep various veggies and fruits, let me know!

Much love,
K.

 

Friday Favorites: Vegetables

Early last year, I decided to give a vegetarian diet a try.  I’ve always struggled with the moral issues around eating meat, and felt that moving away from an animal based diet, to one of a plant-based diet, would be best for me.  I was a vegetarian for over a year, and then slowly started introducing meat back into my diet.  I still rarely eat meat, and plan to continue a primarily vegetable based diet, but every now and then I do enjoy a meat dish.  I still feel bad about eating animals, so I try really hard to make sure that the meat that I do eat is sustainably and ethically sourced.  However, since becoming a vegetarian, I have found a new appreciation for vegetables, so I thought I’d do a Friday Favorites post on my favorite vegetables!

1.  Brussel Sprouts

brussel sproutsI know what most of you are thinking about brussel sprouts.  They’re bitter, and small cabbages, and really tasteless.  And, for the longest time, I would have agreed with you.  But then, I came across some good recipes, and learned how to cook brussel sprouts, and now they’re my absolute FAVORITE vegetable of all time!  Roasted brussel sprouts with shallots, salt and pepper, are fantastic in so many ways.  They’re a great side dish, they’re fantastic cut up in cold salads, and I even use them as the main toppings for one of my favorite pizzas (roasted brussel sprout pizza with potatoes and goat cheese…YUM).  Sure, they get a bad rap, but I’d encourage you all to go out there and try them again, because they really can be amazing!

2.  Eggplant

eggplantEggplant, or aubergine, is another highly overlooked vegetable (in my opinion).  Eggplant parmesan sandwiches were a huge staple in our house during my year of meat-free living, and we still enjoy the vegetable regularly.  I really enjoy it breaded and baked (never fried), with spicy marinara and fresh mozzarella melted on top, but it’s also fantastic just grilled with some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.  I also use eggplant quite often in my Couscous with Seven Vegetables recipe which I got from the cook of our riad in Morocco.  J and I will also eat leftovers that were grilled and put into the fridge, as a topping for pizza or cold salads.  Another favorite is a roasted vegetable sandwich, in which eggplant plays a starring role, along with onion, bell peppers, zucchini, and feta cheese!

3.  Asparagus

asparagusIn the Netherlands, people anxiously await the spring because it brings with it “aspergeseizoen” or asparagus season.  Both green and white varieties are celebrated there, and they even have specific recipes that include asparagus.  One staple recipe is the asparagus soup (which is divine) and another is its chlorophyl-free counterpart, white asparagus served with thinly sliced ham and soft-boiled eggs, with a lemon butter sauce.  Here in the US, we still eat a ton of asparagus, and it isn’t quite as seasonal as it is there, though we do eat the most of it in the summer.  Grilling the asparagus stalks or roasting them in the oven are our two primary ways of cooking it, though each Easter I do make the Dutch white asparagus, complete with soft-boiled eggs and roasted potatoes, and that delicious butter and lemon sauce.  It’s quite a special treat, and one that we look forward to every year, especially because it brings back such fond memories of our lives in the Netherlands.

4.  Avocado

avacadoOk, this one is cheating, because technically it’s a fruit.  I don’t care, I still love it.  It’s creamy, it’s got fiber, and it tastes amazing with some salt and lemon juice.  Avocado is a go-to adder for a lot of our recipes at home.  We’ll dice it up and add it to salads, we’ll smash it onto toast with an egg for a quick breakfast, and I’ll even eat it plain for a snack (either topped with lemon juice or some balsamic vinegar).  The healthy fats in the avocado add to heart and brain health, and it also improves the absorption of certain nutrients by up to 400%.  Another way we eat them at home is to add them to our protein shakes in the morning.  The velvety texture really adds smoothness to the shakes, plus you can’t really taste the avocado if you are adding other ingredients.  I only started eating avocado a few years ago, prior to that I wasn’t a huge fan of the flavor, but I’m so glad I gave it a second try.  Now, it’s one of our go-to snacks in the house and we always have one or two of them ready to eat!

5.  Artichokes

artichokesLast, but surely not least, is my love affair with artichokes.  These are another staple in our house, either raw or in their jarred variety.  I’ll put them on anything: pizzas, salads, couscous or quinoa…pretty much, if I’m making something that has any sort of mediterranean flavor to it, I’ll add artichokes.  My favorite is my Mediterranean couscous salad, which I make with whole wheat couscous, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, garlic, and feta.  It’s basically a “chop everything and add together” type of salad, and it keeps in the fridge well for next day’s lunch.  We’ve also really liked them lightly steamed and then grilled for a side addition to our main meal.  I’ve come across a few stuffed artichoke recipes that I’d love to try, but haven’t given them a whirl yet.  Once I do, I’ll be sure to post back here in a recipe post, because I’m sure that we’ll love it!  While we really enjoy the marinated variety, I’ve found that some of the jarred, marinated artichokes have a high sodium content, and lots of additional fat from the oils, so you should be careful if you’re buying the jarred artichokes.  Be sure to read the label, because you never know what else is in the jar if you don’t look at the ingredients!

There you have it, my top five favorite vegetables (ok…four vegetables and a fruit)!  What are your favorites?  Also, if you have some recipes that include my vegetables above that I haven’t mentioned, I’d love to hear about them!

Much love,
K.

Friday Favorites…Cities of the World!

One of my favorite things to do is travel.  I guess you could say it’s one of my biggest hobbies, aside from crocheting (yes…I crochet.  Yes…I have cats.  Yes…I am married).  While we lived overseas, we were very fortunate in our ability to travel easily throughout Europe, on a relatively small budget.  In addition, our jobs allow for us to travel for work, to some pretty amazing places.  So, I thought I’d share with you my top 5 favorite cities outside the US!

 

1.  Barcelona, Spain

barcelonaThere’s something so sensual about Spain.  Maybe it’s the food, or the copious amounts of sangria.  It could be the fact that it’s an entire country of people who truly understand and embrace the need for a good nap every day (siesta, anyone?).  Maybe it’s the music, and the way it swirls and caresses you late at night, as the humid breezes pass over your skin, heated from hours of dancing in the crowds.  Or the language, the way the romantic words roll off your tongue.  Regardless, there’s something about Barcelona that sucks me in every time we visit it.  We always discover some new restaurant, or hit up a new park with amazing artwork.  I’ve been inside La Sagrada Familia multiple times, and each time I’m hit with a sense of peace and tranquility unlike any I’ve ever experienced.  Plus, the beach is stunning, the tapas are plentiful, and the people are incredibly nice and welcoming.  What more could you want?!

 

2.  Normandy, France

NormandyDespite its bloody history (D-Day beaches weren’t fun for anyone), Normandy, France has a lot going for it.  Obviously, for those who love history, the area is ripe with WWII tours, artifacts, museums, and personal encounters.  While we were there, we did a D-Day tour, along with a “Band of Brothers” tour that hit up several of the battle fields that were shown in the television series.  Apart from the historical significance, there are other perks to the area as well.  The French food and culture is plentiful, without dealing with the crowds (and prices) of Paris.  Also, the area is famous for its Calvados, which is an apple brandy made in the region.  One of my favorite desserts of the area, aside from the amazing pastries, is the local vanilla ice cream, covered with calvados and carmelized apples.  It’s warm and cold, and makes the lips tingle oh so nicely!  If you do happen to head to the area, be sure to stop in Bayeux, home of the “Bayeux Tapestry” which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England through the Battle of Hastings.  We didn’t happen to catch it while we were there, much to our friends’ dismay, but I’ve heard it’s pretty neat.

 

3.  Kyoto, Japan

Himeji-joJapan is full of amazing sights, sounds, tastes, and experiences.  It was hard to pick just once place as a “favorite” from this country, because, on a whole, this country is pretty darn amazing!  I was fortunate enough to live here for 5 weeks during summer break after my second year of law school.  J was sent on a short-term work assignment, and had been traveling back and forth between the US and Japan, and I got to go with him for one of his longer trips.  The last week I was there, we spent the week backpacking through the country, hopping train after train and seeing a lot of different cities.  My favorite, though, was Kyoto.  It used to be the imperial capital of Japan, and is full of temples and shrines, close to mountains and forests, and preserved from much of the destruction of WWII.  While we toured Kyoto, we stopped in many of the shrines and temples (though nowhere near all of them), saw several Maiko (apprentice Geisha), toured Himeji-jo (Himeji castle), and ate more Japanese food than I care to remember (I think I asked J to just roll me to the plane when it was time to send me back to the US).  This area, literally, made me fall in love with the country, and I would definitely move there if it were a possibility.  I’m hoping to make a trip back along with J, as he still travels over there for work.  Maybe then I’ll find a new favorite city!

 

4.  Marrakech, Morocco

riad knizaOf all the places in Europe we travelled, Morocco was J’s favorite.  It was definitely at the top of my list too (as is evidenced by this list), and I found Marrakech to be completely unlike any other place we traveled.  I absolutely love to visit countries with Arab influences, and this place was a perfect mix of Arabic culture, French/European influences, and North African tastes.  Walking through the winding alleys of the Medina was almost sensory overload.  Every way you turned was a spice counter, a fresh chicken stall (and by “fresh” I mean, “still alive”), a craft and metal works shop, or vendors selling rugs.  The smells range anywhere from overpower (umm…fresh chickens?) to sweet and delicate (a lot of the stalls sell fresh Moroccan sweets in the morning), and everywhere is an explosion of color.  While we were in Marrakech, we stayed at a Riad that was incredibly nice.  The Riad Kniza was like an oasis in the middle of chaos…the streets and alleys would be frantic with activity and people, then the minute you walked inside the Riad’s doors, it would be calm and tranquil.  While there, in addition to hours spent sightseeing, we did a cooking class at the Riad, and then had a couples massage and a traditional hammam (Turkish Bath), before moving to a Kasbah in the mountains for the second half of the trip.  Marrakech is definitely a city I’d return to, as there was so much to see and do, and there was no way to see it all during our trip.  Since J loved it as well, it should be too hard to drag him back there!

 

5.  Tromso, Norway

TromsoLet me preface by saying Norway is absolutely GORGEOUS!  We traveled to Norway twice, once to Tromso and once to Flam, and I can’t even begin to describe the natural beauty that just permeates this country.  The views of the fjords and the mountains are breathtaking, and you can’t help but just feel at home with nature while you’re there.  We visited Tromso, which is located in the Arctic Circle, in February 2011.  We made the trip was in order to see the Northern Lights and weren’t disappointed!  We did a lot of sightseeing around Tromso, which isn’t that large, but had a lot to offer!  We drank beers at one of the oldest pubs in the city (there was a stuffed bear next to the door, I didn’t ask questions), went dog sledding, had lots of fondue, and walked across the border to Finland at midnight.  The Northern Lights were amazing to experience, and while they weren’t “dancing” a ton, it was still beautiful.  We also did a half day of cross-country skiing, which is a LOT of work (but a great bit of exercise).  I’m not a big fan of skiing, but as long as I’m not going downhill, I can handle it.  Cross-country skiing is definitely my kind of skiing.  While we were driving back from our Northern Lights excursion, we came across Tromsdalen Kirke, which is the Arctic Church in Tromso.  It was all lit up in the dark sky, and really stood out against the black backdrop of the mountains.  We were only able to go for a long weekend, but we managed to pack in quite a lot in four short days.  While Scandinavia is incredibly expensive, we’d go back in a heartbeat.  It’s definitely worth saving your pennies for a trip, if you like the great outdoors and nature!

 

So, there you have it, my Five Favorites…Cities of the World!  I hope you enjoyed it, and if you have any questions about any of these places, I’m happy to answer them!

 

Much love,
K.