Journey to India

I have a travel bug.

The problem is, I still haven’t been out of North America. Clearly, I’m doing something wrong. All my life I’ve dreamed of traveling–I want to drink tea in England, go on a safari in Africa, walk through a Chinese garden, go surfing in Australia.

Instead I drink tea while reading Jane Austen, buy tan cargo shorts, eat at Mandarin Gardens, and talk in an Australian accent (let’s put another shrimp on the barbie!). Until I have figured out the secret to traveling while earning a meager paycheck and paying tens of thousands of student loans off, I must travel by reading and by eating.

One of my newer cuisine loves is Indian. It could be the delicious, chewy texture of naan, the unique and spicy flavors of curry, or the plentiful vegetables in many dishes. Either way, I’m sold.

And since I have some black quinoa begging to be turned into something other than granola (although quinoa granola is amazing), tonight I made Black Quinoa Curry with Tofu.

  • 1/2 cup black quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups cauliflower, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 cup green and red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 block extra firm tofu, pressed, drained, and cubed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt

In a stock pot, bring washed quinoa and stock to a simmer and cook uncovered for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit an additional 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, saute onions, peppers (I used frozen), and garlic in the olive oil for about 8-10 minutes.

In another stock pot, add one inch of water. Bring to a simmer and add cauliflower. Cover and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and return cauliflower to stock pot. Add pepper and onion mixture, quinoa, curry, chopped tomato, and tofu cubes.

Mix well and cook on low heat for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in yogurt. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a dollop of extra yogurt.

Please keep in mind that Indian food is not always the most photogenic. Curry powder tends to add a brown hue to everything. Appearances can be deceiving; it is quite delicious. So close your eyes and take a heaping spoonful!

If I was feeling really ambitious, I would have made some chewy, warm homemade whole wheat naan bread to serve on the side.

But I wasn’t.

So I had a half a whole wheat pita.

Hello, Greece! That’s two countries in one night. My travel bug should be satisfied for awhile.

Two Highlights

The best part of my day?

Realizing that I still had a coupon for free ice cream in the cafeteria at work. I got half a cup of non-fat Double Dutch Chocolate frozen yogurt. Nom nom nom.

No camera with me, but in case you forgot what soft serve looks like, this gives you a general idea–sprinkles and all.

Free fro-yo? Don’t mind if I do.

Second highlight: walking out into the rain after work and realize it smelled like summer rain, not winter rain. Sweet! We’re almost there, Wisconsin!

With a Little Help From My Friends

While it usually pains me to work weekends, the lesser six hour shift I worked last night wasn’t so bad. I can attribute part of this to two phone calls Dave and I received simultaneously yesterday afternoon from two of our very best friends. After seven years of dating, my friends Dan and Emily are finally engaged!

 

I have only known them as a couple, and I can’t imagine either of them being with anyone else. Seriously. I try to think of it, and my mind implodes a little. They are truly the yin to the other’s yang. I am also beyond excited to attend a wedding joining two people I love most in the world and am looking forward to no longer being the only married couple in the gang. 🙂

That news certainly set my spirits higher before going into work and while there, I had a night of revelry to look forward to. My friends are seriously some of the most interesting, intelligent, and fun people on earth. However, when we’re watching ‘Epic Rap Battles’ for the fourth time in a row, don’t quote me on that.

My newly-engaged friends don’t live in the area anymore, so we planned to have them call during our gathering tonight and proclaim the great news to the rest of the gang.

The six hours at work seemed to fly by and in no time, I was back at my apartment with good company, good drinks, and good food. Did I mention Dave is a fabulous cook?

He won’t turn the oven on for himself, but when a few people come over, he could rival an Iron Chef. The menu tonight, all off the grill: homemade Naan, two types of marinated chicken, portabella caps with cheese, and brussel sprouts.

Holy yum, batman. Brussel sprouts are my favorite vegetable right now, and homemade bread will always hold a place in my heart. I swear, when Dave worked at Breadsmith, I carried a bread baby in my stomach a few times a month.

It was a very late evening, filled with plenty of laughter, discussion, and a bit of consumption.

We passed around this beer, which I really enjoyed. I like beer with a nice bite; Miller and Bud do absolutely nothing for me. This stuff was great.

I saw Dave.

I compared jeans with Tyler and John.

I had another plate of food.

My sister Moriah graced us with her presence.

My lovely friends Nicole and Lindsay attended as well (fellow Warriors-in-Training!)

So did John and Michelle (up from Elkhorn!)

And Tyler came as well!

Dave and I posed for a more natural picture.

Then at 4:30am, I called it a night. Way past my bedtime, but I still managed to get up at 10:00am this morning. After pondering over which exercise to do, I realized I didn’t feel like doing anything. Rest day, it is! 🙂

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Oats and a nice book will round the morning off nicely before I have to go to work.

  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 pinch of stevia
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter (I mixed mine from powdered pb)
  • 1/2 tbsp walnuts

And a few cups of delicious coffee from our new stash.

Lazy Sunday morning. If only it could last all day, but I guess I have to earn my oats.

Congratulations if you made it through this mother of a post!

Fruit Cereal

Since I woke up with Jillian yesterday, it was only fair that I shared this morning with Bob.

I will trust any man that can look sexy while doing a pose like that (okay, he looks a little creepy, too, but in a good way…right?).

This was my second time doing Bob Harper’s Yoga for the Warrior, and I loved it just as much. I had a much easier time, and my mangled Bird of Paradise was slightly less mangled this time. I shouted to Dave “Quick, look at what I’m doing before I fall!” so I have some proof.

He also saw me do scads of push-ups and shoulder stands, too, so if you’re looking for proof of that, he’ll sign a statement.

The practice itself wasn’t quite as relaxing, because Dave is working in the kitchen, and the fluorescent light and sound of Dave cursing while he cuts up two (organic) chickens interrupted my Yogi state of mind.

Oh, well.

After a shower, I decided to make a new breakfast based on something I saw on Mama’s Weeds awhile ago: Fruit Cereal. A lot of nutritionists are now proclaiming that certain foods should never be eaten together or should only be mixed with x, y, or z. I don’t know if I have the patience to follow anything that strictly, but one rule is eating fruit alone, at least half an hour before consuming anything else.

That I can do.

  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 1 handful blueberries
  • 4 prunes, cut into chunks
  • 1 tbsp powdered peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp milled flax seed
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 tbsp walnuts
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

Basically, I added all the fruit to the bowl, topped it with the pb, flax, and coconut and stirred it around until they coated the outside of the fruit. Poured in my milk and topped it with walnuts.

Delicious! I was a bit dubious at first, but it tasted quite good…a great combination of flavors. And, dare I say, it filled me up even more than a serving of cereal—does that really fill anyone up?

Also for those of you going “Ewwww….prunes!” I’m not sure why prunes get such a bad rap. They’re dried plums. I like plums. Prune juice doesn’t appeal to me (I don’t drink a lot of juice, preferring instead to consume the fruit itself), but I like adding diced prunes to cereal and oatmeal. It worked really well for this fruit cereal because the texture is a bit gummy and held on to the flax and peanut butter nicely.

Now, time for a bit of cleaning to await the arrival of company tonight. I have to work at 3:00pm, but the woman who comes in on third shift graciously offered to come in to work two hours early, at 9:00pm, so I can hang out with my gang tonight. Score! Dave plans to grill up a storm, and I’m looking to a night of his delicious food.

Have a great Saturday!

Friday Haikus: Part Two

Sought new yoga pants
Ragged ones won’t help achieve
Bird of Paradise

My love’s Friday face
All week long I have missed it
Lyrics to my song

Payday, second love
Night out to rejoice
Hard work forgiven

First time at Koko’s
Virgin lips to their sushi
Best first time ever

Miso, Sumonomo,
Nigiri, Sashimi, Maki
Worth the syllables

Night arrives quickly
Enjoy every drop of time
Sleep always comes soon

Friday Haikus: Part One

*Dave and I are going to Koko‘s Sushi Bar & Lounge in Green Bay for dinner tonight! I am uber excited because I love sushi, but it’s so expensive that it’s a very rare treat. In honor of this special occasion, I’m going to dedicate the day to haikus.

*****

Late breakfast today
Snackface came last night
And stole Raisin Bran

Arose with Michaels
Heart blast fire sweat running jump
Bye bye cereal

Eleven AM
Fresh orange, eggs, coffee
Fuel for the morn

 Do what stirs your soul
If emptiness lies within
Keep searching for fire

Martinis and Ice Cream

Two of my very favorite things. Whenever I just can’t decide what to order on a night out, I fall back on a Dirty Tanqueray Martini. When I need a chocolate fix but can’t decide on the form, ice cream always wins out.

So it was only natural to serve my breakfast in style this morning.

That would be Chunky Monkey Soft Serve in a martini glass.

How can one validate having ice cream for breakfast, you may wonder? No, it’s not my birthday. And no, I’m not cheating on my code to limit sugar this week.

See, it’s not really ice cream. It’s the creamy, frozen treat that has swept the food-lover nation. It’s Gena’s banana soft serve.

Fruit for breakfast? Totally healthy.

Nuts? Those are good too.

Peanut butter? Yup.

Chocolate? Full of antioxidants and endorphins. I’m happier just looking at it, I swear.

Recipe? I’d love to share

  • 2 bananas, sliced and frozen
  • 1 tbsp powdered peanut butter
  • 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tbsp chopped walnuts

Place frozen bananas in a food processor.

Process for about five minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides with a spatula. First your food processor will shake like an extra in Twister. Then the bananas will look like Dippin’ Dots. But after about five minutes, the magic happens.

Gena or genius? (Note: I made this once last summer, but my bananas were not frozen overnight, just a few hours, and I did not process them for five straight minutes. Those seem to be key steps in the process).

Mix in peanut butter and cocoa powder. Put in a martini glass. Top with chopped walnuts.

If you are feeling just about as curious as George as to how much banana you can fit into your morning, have a slice of toasted vegan banana bread on the side.

This breakfast completely made up for last night’s subpar dinner.

Don’t Fake It

Answer: Christmas trees. Nails. Breasts. People. Tans. Cheese.

Question: What fake things does Chelsea hate?

I unfortunately had to settle for a fake Christmas tree for three years, because Dave and I lived in apartments that didn’t allow ‘real’ trees due to fire hazards. I didn’t love it. But it wasn’t such a bad little tree.

There may be a few exceptions to my other answers, as well, but as far as cheese goes, no way.

My high school boyfriend’s father traveled a lot for his job and once told me a story of a time he sat next to a CEO at a major food company. When my boyfriend’s father asked the man what he did for a living, he replied, “I take perfectly good cheese and add things you can’t pronounce until it is no longer cheese.”

My feelings exactly. And in part why my dinner tonight was not stellar. (Did you know that Velveeta and American cheese can only be called ‘cheese products’ because ‘cheese’ is an actual ingredient and not the result? Very disturbing.)

I don’t make weekly dinner menus (since I only cook for myself), but I do tend to have a general idea of what I’m going to have for dinner. I had plans tonight for a spicy shrimp and black bean quesadilla with a side of spanish rice and a ripe, juicy mango.

I would have cut it just like that!

However, work circumstances arose and I had to stay until 9:30pm. I wasn’t overly keen on the idea, but sometimes you just have to pull a Charlie Sheen and roll with it. I was already famished at 6:00pm, so the thought of waiting for a 10:00pm dinner was inconceivable (and yes, I know exactly what that word means).

Instead, I paid the ridiculous ATM fee to withdraw cash (because our work cafeteria does not allow debit cards), and tried to scrounge a somewhat healthy meal up at 8:00pm. I was not feeling a salad, but in retrospect, that’s probably what I should have gone with.

Instead, I settled for a tuna sandwich on what looked like foccacia with cheddar cheese and an apple. I’m not sure what the bread was, but it wasn’t foccacia. The tuna salad, like most, was heavy on the mayo and light on the tuna, resulting in soggy-riffic bread.

And the cheese? It was not cheese. Why Americans must be responsible for such a heinous plasticy somewhat edible square when we have fine states (ahem, Wisconsin) that produce fabulous cheese is beyond me.

In other words, I removed the cheese promptly, scraped off half the tuna, and had a somewhat flavorless breadwich with sad iceberg lettuce and a few slices of tomato.

This is why I like cooking for myself during the week. However, I do feel compelled to the note that the apple was delicious. 🙂

End pity party. Cue desire for great cheese consumption.

Parfait Re-creation….Fail

Last week, I had the best parfait ever at a small coffee shop in De Pere.

Instead of granola, the parfait was layered with chewy oats mixed with dried cranberries, yogurt, and grapes. Later that evening, I asked Google’s advice for making chewy oats, but could only find recipe after recipe for chewy oatmeal cookies.

I took matters into my own hands and emailed the cafe directly, asking them if they could share the secret to how they prepare the oats for their parfait.

A day later I received an email: “Oil and honey.”

Should’ve guessed. Reminds me of the time I ate three helpings of cabbage for dinner before asking Dave what he put in them to make them so delicious. “Lots of butter.”

Before jumping right to the deadly and delicious combo, I tried to healthify it by mixing 1/3 cup of oats with 2 tbsp of unsweetened applesauce and 1/2 tbsp of honey. I put it in the fridge overnight to see what would greet me in the morning. Answer: not Luna’s oats.

The oats were more soggy than chewy. I either used too much applesauce, or the oats just require a coat of olive oil so they don’t get too soft. Next time, I think I’ll spray them with olive oil spray first and see if that works.

Regardless, the oats were still sweet and flavorful, so I went ahead with my parfait.

  • 3.5 oz container Honey Nana greek yogurt mixed with 2 tbsp plain greek yogurt
  • 10 grapes
  • 1/2 sliced banana
  • 1/3 cup oats

Was it as good as Luna’s? Not quite.

But it was still pretty awesome. And I gave myself extra points for presentation. Breakfast always seems to be better served in an adult beverage glass.

A parfait in a martini glass can certainly hold its own to a smoothie in a Guinness glass.

A Very Veggie-Riffic Evening

One of the main problems with being a fresh food lover: trying to use up all your produce before it goes bad.

Tonight became very veggie-riffic as I had broccoli, cherry tomatoes, green onions, and spinach all in danger of being added to our already stuffed freezer or tossed. Such a travesty shall not befall my home.

I used the broccoli to make a cold salad loosely based on the Avoca Cafe salad I made for St. Patrick’s day. Theirs was a mixture of raw broccoli, feta, cherry tomatoes, hazelnut and french dressing.

I used 2 stalks of chopped broccoli, parboiled for 2 minutes:

Broccoli and I are BFFUTMRRD’s (um, that’s best friends forever until the Mississippi River runs dry in case you didn’t attend Reedsville Middle School), but I definitely prefer the taste of cooked broccoli to raw. Plus, the green color really pops a lot more after it’s been boiled, sauteed, or roasted. Look how pretty!

I also used the leftover cherry tomatoes (about 10) as well as ten grapes, cut into quarters. Grapes are one of my favorite additions to salads–the sweet and savory mixture is truly a winner.

Then some chopped walnuts, about 1/4 cup.

Followed by feta, which makes everything betta. Even more than chedda.

I added the parboiled broccoli and about 3 tbsp of Newman’s Sun Dried Tomato Dressing.

My grandma once told me I should only buy Paul Newman’s dressing because, and I quote, “He supports widowed children!” This from the woman who also lectured me when I was a vegetarian because, “Jesus ate fish!”

All mixed up.

Simple. Delicious.

I mentioned in a previous post that while I love eggs, I have a problem with whites and yolks being mixed together. I have no idea why. This doesn’t stop me from eating my annual omelet at my favorite summer event–since I save up all year for it, it tastes amazing. But every other day of the year, I tend to avoid omelets, scrambled eggs, and frittatas.

Tonight I thought a fritatta sounded scrumptious, so I pulled out my trusty egg white Egg Beaters.

And for some protein, a package of smoked salmon.

Salmon and Veggie Frittata

  • 1/4 cup egg beaters
  • 3 oz smoked salmon
  • 2 green onions, diced
  • 1 handful of spinach
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • dash of red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp Parmesan cheese

Saute green onions and spinach in a small skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Add salmon, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 3-4 additional minutes.

Turn heat to medium low, pour in egg beaters and let sit for 3 minutes or until puffy.

Sprinkle with Parmesan.

Bake uncovered at 375 for 5-7 minutes or until your mouth starts to water from the delicious aroma.

Remove from pan with spatula and invert onto a plate. I have not mastered my flipping skills, so it ended up looking like an omelet.

It’s not so bad to eat like me.