Monday, October 28, 2013

My Kind of Place

A couple of weeks ago, TW and I quit our jobs and moved to the west coast. Over the summer I wrote a bunch of posts in my head about deciding to move, and breaking up with NYC (complete with a song), and the things I would miss about NYC. Then in July and August we discovered Insanity, I visited two nutritionists, and more posts were written (in my head) about things related to that (mostly how hungry I was). Finally, while road tripping across America I seriously planned to throw some stuff up on the blog so my nearest and dearest could follow along.

There. Now that we are caught up, here I am in California. TW and I are sort of in this limbo state. We are moving to Seattle, but we don't exactly have jobs yet, so we are hanging out in San Jose with the mother-in-law to save a little money in the meantime. It sounded like a lovely plan when we made it, and for the most part it's been great. We have been wine tasting, walking on the beach with dolphins, down to LA for a night and then back up to San Jose in a meandering sort of way stopping at all sorts of attractions along the 101. Including (!!) this amazing little town called Solvang that is modeled after a generic town in Denmark. There are windmills, precious little gardens, ebelskivers, and wine. Seriously. Amazing. We also walked on some of the softest sand these tootsies have ever felt at Pismo Beach.

Then there's the part that is unsettling. I have never left a job before with no plan for what was next. (Ok, not no plan. There's a plan a, b, c and d. I just don't know which one is going to happen yet). All of my earthly belongings, except a few shipped boxes and what we could fit in our car, are in a storage facility in Kent, WA. I just got what I think is my last paycheck from my former job. And we are sort of 'on call' to go to Seattle at a moments notice for interviews and the like.

So, I am returning to what is familiar. I have been cooking quite a bit, and subjecting my mother-in-law to my experiments with low carb/gluten-free cooking (result of aforementioned nutritionist appointments). Most of it has turned out quite good, although I have no pictures to that effect. I have also been drinking a fair amount of wine, catching up on Scandal and Breaking Bad, and snuggling up with my cat who is loving California's sunshine and his grandmother's spacious abode.

In addition to seeking comfort, we have been having some magical experiences. In California, craft fairs are called 'food and wine festivals,' and you are allowed to get a glass of wine and drink it throughout the fair. In Seattle, you are allowed to have unpermitted fires on the beach. Which we did, and watched a magical sunset, while a baby seal (I am assuming it was a baby, as I assume all cute furry things are babies) bobbed up and down in the water, the foliage rustled behind us, and a train passed by. It's moments like those, in all of the chaos that is our lives right now, that make me sure this is my kind of place.

And now for a non sequitur.  Last summer, when I was going to write a post about how we were ready to leave New York, complete with stories of crowded subways and the symphony in the park drowned out by children shouting, I was going to share a recipe for the summer rolls. I have always loved summer rolls, how they aren't fried, how they tend to be a lighter Thai appetizer, how they are delicious. Until this spring I didn't realize how easy they are to make. I found an post on Sprouted Kitchen for these and other travel snacks, most of which I promptly made for our family's St. John vacation. The summer rolls were gobbled up by my carnivorous father, but not my 2 1/2 year old niece. They were so good and easy that I made them again for the symphony in the park. They were not good enough to make up for the screaming kids or light stick salesman, but then, that's why we left New York.

Spicy Lentil Summer Rolls
Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen

Rice paper wraps (they are circular, and have these criss cross raised bumps on them)
1/2 cup cilantro
Any veggies you have in your fridge. I used: arugula, cucumber, sprouts, and avocado. Something with color would be nice.
Lentils, cooked
Sesame oil

Take your lentils and add sriracha, salt and sesame oil to taste.
Set up little bowls or a cutting board with all of your ingredients in piles.
Set up a damp dish cloth next to the ingredients.
Fill a large bowl with warm-hot water.
Dip a rice paper wrap in the water. Keep it in until soft, but not too soft (one tip I learned was to take it out when it was still 'al dente' or had some structure to it).
Place on the dish cloth. Add lentils and then the other vegetables in small amounts. Fold up like a burrito--start with the sides, then fold either the far or the close end over, then roll up. Confused? Visit Sprouted Kitchen's blog. It's great :) I also might have googled it to see pictures.
Bon Apetit! 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Healthy food is ugly...and my traumatic Verizon upgrade story

Oh sad. I wrote a whole post and the interwebs ate it. That's been my theme lately (or at least that is my segue to write about the horrible experience I had at Verizon upgrading my phone). I have been needing to upgrade my phone lately; the home button didn't work, it wouldn't hold onto any contacts, and it was slow as molasses. On the other hand, I was reluctant to get a new phone because I have been holding onto all of my voice and text messages from my mother. TW backed up the voicemails on her computer, but I liked having them in my pocket. I almost never listen to them, but the idea of being able to hear her voice at the touch of a button was such a comfort.

Anyhow, my sister upgraded her phone recently and by all accounts the rep at her store was great. She got her new phone, all of her contacts and voicemails were transferred over seamlessly, and basically everything was coming up roses. So on Friday, after I couldn't close out of a single screen because of my broken home button, I headed on over to the Verizon store closest to my Columbus Circle job to get my new phone.

Things were weird from the beginning. I signed in and texted TW while waiting to figure out if I should get a 16 or 32 GB phone. When the rep called my name we were in the middle of our conversation so I hadn't totally decided yet. She asked me what I was there for, what phone I wanted, and what size I wanted. I said I hadn't decided yet, and she asked me how she was supposed to help me if I didn't know what I wanted. I am not the most, say, tech-savvy, so maybe I have required more help than most at these occasions, but the store employees have always guided me through the process in the past. We finally figured out that I should get the 32 GB version. This is where it got bad.

The rep had to scan my phone a million times as part of the upgrade transaction. While she was doing this she was chatting with a bunch of her friends who were hanging out at the desk. At the same time, she told me that I would be losing all of my text messages when I upgraded. I freaked out and got emotional, and TW begged me to take screen shots of every text from my mom before going through with the sale. The salesperson was very patient while I did this, which clouded my judgment and made me think I liked her. We finished up, and I walked out with my fancy new phone. I sent a message to TW telling her that the salesperson had turned it around and ended up being great (because she was so patient). Then the message showed up on my phone. She had upgraded my phone to TW's number (because she was distracted and chatting with friends while doing all that scanning). I went back in, and she was able to get me back my number, but basically now everything is screwy. I initially lost all of my voice messages (of course, including my moms), then I got them back, and now they are gone again. Things still aren't working totally right. I had my contacts, lost them, now got them back again. I am unclear how much of this is Verizon's fault and how much is Apple's, but since the store experience is so fresh I am going with Verizon. I always sing their praises, too...

Whew. Glad I got that off my chest. The original post was all about how I keep taking beautiful foods and making them ugly, but tasty. Case in point. On this whole healthy kick, TW and I have been cutting way down on our meat eating (not that we ate much to begin with). For this one, I took a recipe I had made before (spicy beef and cabbage) and replaced the beef with lentils. Boom--vegan. And tasty. And super ugly. Despite using my real camera and not my iPhone. Oh well--the original recipe called for red tomatoes, this just happened to be what I had. If you used those, at least there'd be a little color contrast.

Spicy Cabbage and Lentils
adapted from Cooking Light

2 T peanut oil
1 cup thinly sliced shallots
1 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cups cooked lentils
4 cups thinly sliced cabbage
1 cup sliced tomatoes (I used yellow grape tomatoes, the recipe calls for plum tomatoes)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped peanuts

Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, salt, turmeric and cayenne pepper, cook until shallots are tender and starting to become translucent. Add lentils, cook for 2 minutes. Add cabbage and tomatoes, toss well and cover. Cook for 10 minutes, until cabbage begins to wilt. Add peanuts and cook for 10ish more minutes, until cabbage is soft and everything looks ugly. Eat. It's delicious. Promise.

PS Started tennis. I am a natural. Call me Serena Williams. Or a yuppie in training, either way.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


Lately, TW and I have been healthing it up over here. I know that's a familiar theme in that I've mentioned it before in more than one of the twenty or so posts on this blog, but that's how it tends to go. Indulge, restrain, repeat. I will say that maybe this time I went a little too long between gym visits, as at my first spin class back I legit thought I might lose it Biggest Loser style for the first time ever in my life. Or maybe it was just a really hard class. Totally...

Anyhow, as I was saying to a friend of mine last week, this time I'm really going in, whole hog. I've watched 'Forks Over Knives' and 'Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead,' and while I'm not going vegan or on a juice fast (and I dislike their approach of 'standard American diet' vs 'twigs and salad'), I am aiming for a more unprocessed, whole foods approach. I even made plane snacks for our recent family vacation, and got my dad to eat a lentil summer roll, and he liked it. Score.

I consider myself lucky that TW is relatively un-picky (besides a few food allergies) and doesn't have strong opinions about what I put in front of her for dinner. It can be a tiny bit frustrating to ask for help with planning the weekly menu/shopping list and get little to no input, but in general I like total control in the kitchen. I consider food preferences to be a major compatibility issue. It is probably more important to me since I like to cook so much, but I would have a hard time being with someone who, say, thought dinner wasn't complete without meat. Or someone who wouldn't eat certain vegetables just because. I digress.

When she does ask for something specific, I do my best to give it to her. This past week, while in St. John, she discovered a love for coconut. Specifically in the form of piña colada pancakes. She had them a couple of times for breakfast at the resort, and requested that I figure out how to make them at home. So in an effort to keep vacation alive, encourage menu participation, *and* in keeping with our health goals (which were partially tossed aside on vacation) I created a 'healthed up' version for breakfast this morning. The recipe was inspired by Smitten Kitchen's upside down sour cream peach pancakes from her cookbook (so. much. love. for that cookbook) but I actually did enough modifying that I can almost call it my own. Almost.

PS New goal: go back to using a regular camera for blog pictures. Sick of the unappetizing green filter from the iPhone. Too bad the last several things I made were instagrammed/hipstamaticked/regular iPhone pictured. I'll try to phase it out.

Piña Colada Pancakes

1 large egg
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 cup low fat or fat free greek yogurt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup oat flour
1/4 cup spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8-1/4 cup finely chopped pineapple
2 tablespoons unsweetened, shredded coconut
1-2 tablespoons pineapple juice
Several chunks pineapple, thinly sliced, or you could use pineapple rings
More coconut to sprinkle on top

Combine egg, vanilla and yogurt in a medium bowl. Add dry ingredients, stir gently until just combined. Add finely chopped pineapple and coconut and fold into batter. If batter is very stiff, add 1-2 tablespoons pineapple juice (it's ok to add more, just do it slowly) to thin it out a bit.

Heat a small amount of butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. When butter is sizzling, use a 1/4 cup measure to pour pancake batter into the skillet. Arrange pineapple slices on top of batter. When the pancakes begin to have bubbles in their surface, flip. Cook until golden brown on both sides.

While pancakes are cooking, toast a small amount of coconut in a dry skillet (this is the point where TW popped in, told me it should be toasted, and then asked if I wasn't toasting it too much, and was promptly kicked out of the kitchen).

Top pancakes with coconut, and butter and powdered sugar, if desired. You could also do syrup. I wish I got a good pictured of how nicely browned the pineapple chunks looked. Actually, and just in general, I wish I got a good picture of the pancakes. Oh well. It's good to have goals.

PPS I am starting tennis lessons tomorrow. Stay tuned.