11.26.2008

The Day Before Thanksgiving


I thought this was a fitting breakfast for the day before Thanksgiving - pumpkin bread, Starbucks Thanksgiving Blend coffee and the Seattle Times (they had an article about how Costco will make 1 million pumpkin pies today!).


I'm driving to Spokane tomorrow, so my mom is doing most of the cooking. But, I'm planning on making cranberry sauce and this.


Oh, by the way, my friend Maggie tipped me off to the best pumpkin bread recipe: the one on the label of Libby's Canned Pumpkin! Who knew? I've included it below.


Pumpkin Bread


Ingredients

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 t baking powder

2 t baking soda

1 1/2 t salt

1 t each nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon

1 1/2 cups each granulated sugar and packed brown sugar

1 cup oil

2 cups canned pumpkin

4 eggs

1 cup pecans


Directions

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Add the sugars, mixing well.

Mix dry ingredients with the oil and pumpkin, stirring until well combined.

Add eggs, one at a time, blending thoroughly. Pour into 2 greased loaf pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes. Remove from pans. Place on wire rack to cool.

11.23.2008

More sun? Really?

I think everyone in Seattle is in disbelief at what a lovely autumn we've had. Today the sun was shining and the mountains were beautiful. So, a friend and I biked across I-90 and around Mercer Island.

When we got back to our cars we had an extra treat - watching a chocolate lab leap off an eight foot high dock into the lake. He was playing fetch and you could tell he having the best day of his life! I took the video with my phone, so it's pretty hard to see.

video

Soup of the Week: Beet Soup with Three Legumes

When I was moving out of my last place, I rescued a cook book from our giveaway pile: Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. I knew that it had a reputation for being a great book, so I snatched it up and brought it to my current apartment. I've pulled it out occasionally, especially when I get odd vegetables from my CSA and I don't know what to do with them. I recently hauled it out for ideas of what to do with beets. And then I started leafing through the pages. And, guess what? It's full of just the type of recipes I like: healthy and simple, with a spotlight on vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans.

I found about 10 soup recipes that sounded good, but ended up going with this one to start because, to me, it sounded delicious. (I know a lot of people would think it sounds gross. But, people, get on the train. Beets are tasty!)

Last week's soup was so quick, and this one is the opposite. It takes a while since it requires cooking beans. But, I feel like I just ate a bowlful of a lovely fall day.

Beet Soup with Three Legumes

Ingredients
1/2 cup red kidney beans, soaked 4 hours or overnight*
4 medium beets, peeled and diced
1/3 cup lentils
1 cup cooked chickpeas
2 cups chopped beet greens or other greens (I used kale.)
Salt and pepper
1 bunch scallions chopped, including greens
2 cups coarsely chopped spinach
1 small bunch parsley, finely chopped
*I assume you could use canned kidney beans, which would cut the cooking time considerably.

The Garnish
3 T butter
1 onion, roughly chopped
1/4 t turmeric
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/4 cup chopped mint (I used about 1 T of dried mint.)
1/2 cup yogurt

Drain the beans, cover them with 5 cups water, and boil hard in a medium pot for 10 minutes. Lower heat and simmer, partially covered, until soft, about 1 1/4 hours. Set aside.

Put the beets, lentils and 7 cups water in a soup pot. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes. Add the kidney beans with 2 cups of their liquid, the chickpeas, greens, and 2 teaspoons salt; simmer until the greens are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the scallions, spinach, and parsley; cook until the spinach is wilted and bright green. Taste for salt and turn off the heat.

For the garnish, melt the butter in a small skillet over lowe heat. Add the onion, turmeric, cayenne, and mint; cook until the onion is soft, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle the soup into bowls. Add a spoonful of garnish and yogurt to each bowl.



11.22.2008

Plants: Christmas Cactus

I have a slight obsession with cacti and succulents. My first cactus was a gift from my employer in Milwaukee - so it's traveled a long way and stayed alive for a long time (over 3 years). It's pretty year round, but I LOVE when it flowers each year.


Not only do I like the way this and other cacti look, but they're hard to kill. Which is good, because sometimes I just forget to water plants for, oh, maybe a month. (I know, that's kind of bad.)

11.16.2008

Soup of the Week: Simple Tomato Soup

One of my favorite bloggers, angry chicken, posted her recipe for tomato soup and I altered it slightly. It was super easy, tasty, healthy and comforting.

Simple Tomato Soup

Ingredients
2 T olive oil
1 yellow onion diced
3 cloves garlic diced
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes (I used Safeway Organic brand.)
1 13 oz. can tomato sauce (I used Safeway Organic brand.)
salt
pepper
herbs: basil, thyme, oregano (whatever you have)
milk (I used organic whole milk)
honey (optional)

Directions
  1. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until onions are soft and transparent.
  2. Add tomatoes with juice and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil. Turn to low, cover and simmer for 20-45 minutes.
  3. Puree in blender or food processor.
  4. Add milk as desired. I like my soup to be a creamy tomato color, so added about a cup.
  5. Add salt, pepper, herbs and honey. (I added about a teaspoon of honey, just to see if I liked it. I couldn't really tell it was there.)

Meditation

I've grown more interested in meditation over the last year. As your life gets busier and more stressful, I think you feel more of a need to clear your mind and find a space of thoughfulness (or maybe thoughtlessness?). My yoga instructor lead us through a nice breathing meditation at the beginning of class the other day. It went something like this:

Surrender doubt.

Surrender anger.

Surrender pain.

Breathe in understanding.

Breathe in compassion.

Breathe in love.

I thought it was a nice way to let go of some of those negative emotions that we hold onto so tightly at times and focus on the positive feelings we want to fill ourselves with.

11.14.2008

Soy Milk




I never quite made it onto the soy milk bandwagon. I've tried it off and on for years, but I've just never liked it as much as milk. Yet, about every six month, I'll be at the grocery store and think, "Maybe I should mix it up and get some soy milk. I'm feeling a little crazy this week!" And, every time I'm disappointed and have trouble finishing the entire container.

I had one of those moments this week, and happened to pick up the Safeway "O" Organic Vanilla Soy Milk. And, guess what? I like it! It's the best soy milk I've ever had. I've been having it over a little cereal each night for an evening treat.

11.10.2008

Desert Island Movies

I recently watched the episode of The Office in which Jim asks everyone to list the movies they would take with them if they were stuck on a desert island. So, these are the movies you would watch over and over, not necessarily your all-time favorites. Here are the ones I have on my list so far:
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • Original Star Wars Trilogy
  • Bridget Jones's Diary
  • National Lampoon's Family Vacation
  • Dirty Dancing
  • The Sound of Music

Does anyone have a desert island movie that you'd suggest I check out?

11.07.2008

Goal: Bloomsday 12k, May 4

About five years ago I trained for and ran the Chicago marathon. And, for the first time, developed a serious injury with my IT Bands. And, it's continued to come back and haunt me since. It's a hard truth when you realize your body will no longer do everything you ask of it - and I realize I've asked a lot over the years: marathons, mountain climbing, volleyball, softball, cheerleading, just to name a few. Even though all these things kept me strong and in shape, they also tore down the balance and health of my body. Since the marathon, I've been to doctors, physical therapists, massage therapists, and acupunctursts. They've all helped, but it's a larger challenge of getting my body back to feeling balanced, healthy and strong.

Despite all this, I've set a goal to run Bloomsday, a 12k in my hometown of Spokane. Right now, I can only run for about ten minutes until my IT Bands start giving me problems, but I think the key is to focus on other activities that will restore my legs, and entire body. That will help balance out the wear and tear of running.


So, I've set a few goals for myself this winter:

  • Go to yoga at least twice a week

  • Focus on biking and swimming

  • Take time to build strength, mainly through weight-lifting

I did pretty well this week, although I have a long way to go. But, I think I can do it! Bloomsday, here I come!


Just in case you're curious:






Soup of the Week: Sweet Potato, Mushroom & Black Bean Chili

In the fall and winter, I end up making soup every week. It's warm and comforting and healthy, and it just seems to fit with the season.

I saw this recipe in the Seattle Times and tried it out this week. I loved that it involved mushrooms and sweet potatoes! I've been eating it all week - it's hearty, but still healthy. I used canned beans, but it would probably be even better by starting with dried beans.

Beans
1/2 pound dried black beans, rinsed and soaked 4-6 hours or overnight
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 bay leaves

Chili
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, minced
2 red bell peppers, cut into medium dice
1 pound mixed chopped mushrooms (oyster, crimini, portobello)
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 can (28-ounce) whole tomatoes, chopped, with half of the can's liquid
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice
Cooked black beans (from above)
1 can (14.5-ounce) pinto beans
2 cups of vegetable broth, if using canned black beans instead of dried black beans

Chopped green onions, for garnish
Sour cream, for garnish
Shredded cheddar cheese, for garnish

1. For the beans: Pour the beans plus their soaking liquid into a stockpot, and add additional water to cover by 1-2 inches. Add the smashed garlic and bay leaves, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 1 hour, until the beans have softened but aren't fully cooked through (they'll continue to cook in the chili). Remove the garlic and bay leaves and discard.

2. For the chili: Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes, until onions have softened slightly. Add jalapeno and red peppers, and continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes.

3. Add mushrooms, and sauté until mushrooms have softened and released some of their juices, another 5 minutes.

4. Add the chili powder, paprika, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, salt and black pepper, and stir until the seasonings are incorporated into the mixture. Add the tomatoes and liquid, sweet potatoes and cooked black beans plus 3 cups of bean-cooking liquid (add vegetable broth or water if you don't have enough). Stir well to combine and simmer over medium-low heat for about 1-1 ½ hours, until sweet potatoes have softened but still retain their shape, liquid has thickened, and beans are fully cooked through. If you are using canned black beans, cooking time will be a bit shorter.

5. Add pinto beans plus their liquid in the last 30 minutes of cooking. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

6. Serve with chopped green onions, sour cream, and shredded cheese, for garnish.

Notes: If you want to use canned black beans instead of dried black beans for this recipe, that's fine, and it will cut down significantly on the cooking time. Use about three 14.5-ounce cans, saving one can's worth of the bean liquid, and draining and rinsing the other two. When you add the beans and bean liquid, also add about 2 cups of vegetable broth.

11.05.2008

Yes we can.

I am feeling so incredibly inspired today. I hope everyone lives with the belief that our lives can make a difference and that we can bring about change in our community, our country and the world. Last night showed that what seems unlikely, and even impossible, can happen through the work of ordinary people committed to a common cause. So many have believed this - dedicated their lives to this belief - without seeing the results in their lifetime. Today is one of those gifts in which we can actually see the change we've worked for. Yes we can.