When I’m not throwing myself into cookbooks or food blogs, one of my secret hobbies is reading fashion blogs. I’m completely fascinated by women who know how to mix colors, fabrics, and textures. Women who know exactly how to tie a scarf to perfectly complement an outfit and who can layer clothing and not end up looking like they’re preparing for a snow storm (at least, that’s always my problem). Creating outfits it a lot like art and when it comes to dressing myself, even though I’m well into adulthood I’m somehow still getting the hang of it.
In the past few months I’ve been spending so much time researching closet staples and how to create a basic wardrobe that I even considered starting my own clothing blog. (side note: I decided it would have to be called “In Sonnet’s Closet.” hehe) Then I came to my senses and realized that even though I’m fascinated by clothing, readers would probably be bored of seeing how many ways I can wear a grey Old Navy tee-shirt with jeans.
The cool thing that I’ve learned about fashion though is that it’s all about remixing pieces and using them in new and unexpected ways. And, surprisingly in this sense, it’s a lot like cooking.
When I create a recipe, I usually start with seasonal produce. Seasonal produce is always my focal piece. From there I decide what flavors and textures I want to create in the dish and what cooking method would work best. And a gal can never forget accessories in the kitchen (aka herbs and spices).
In this recipe, I like to think of carrots as a basic grey tee. Sure, it could be bland and boring, but with the right accessories it doesn’t have to be. So this Labor Day weekend, spice things up a bit. Grab some carrots, throw them on the grill, and top them off with a simple basil vinaigrette. Maybe I can’t help you with your wardrobe, but I can always suggest something new in the kitchen.
Do you remember the dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and his obsession with Windex? …Have a zit? Put some Windex on it. Unwanted mole? Put some Windex on it. Any weird physical ailment? Put some Windex on it.
Today I realized that I am that guy. But instead of being obsessed with Windex, I’m obsessed with fermented foods.
Have a stomachache? Eat some sauerkraut. Indigestion after meal? Eat some sauerkraut. Fatigue? Eat some sauerkraut. If you’re not into fermented foods yet, I think you will be soon.
Fermented foods are a really important part of our diet and have been used in many cultures as a way to preserve foods and make them more digestible. Why are fermented foods important? Here’s the deal. We all have microflora (bacteria) in our intestine which is absolutely necessary to keep us healthy.
In the body, there is “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria and it’s important to keep the “good” bacteria thriving. Fermented foods contain populations of the “good” bacteria that help to keep the microflora balanced. This is necessary because antibiotics are so prevalent in our world (especially in modern agriculture production) and they kill the bacteria in your body, regardless of whether it is “good” or “bad.”
One of my favorite tutorials I’ve created on this blog is a step-by-step post on how to make kimchi at home. I love this stuff. It’s so spicy and tangy and it goes great in fried rice and spicy kimchi soup! However, a lot of folks don’t like spicy foods so sauerkraut is a fabulous alternative. Since it’s summer and cabbage is in season, I thought I’d share a step-by-step tutorial to show you how to make sauerkraut!
It’s soo easy (I promise!) and once you get the hang of it you’ll be making it all the time. And, your tastebuds (and your digestion) will thank you! So, let’s get to it!
Before we dive into talking about this beautiful digestive aid juice, let’s talk about digestion for a moment. Shall we?
Why is digestion so important? Without going into a complicated biology lesson (which I probably would not be prepared to teach), let’s simply think of what our digestive system does for us: it breaks food down into smaller pieces so that our body can use this nourishment to build new cells and give us energy. It’s amazing what our bodies do for us on a daily basis!
Since our digestion is essential for maintaining a healthy and happy body, anything that we can do to help aid our digestive system will increase our overall health. For example, this might include eating more fermented foods like saurkraut or kimchi, drinking kombucha, or taking probiotics to help maintain healthy bacteria in our guts.
It’s definitely important to think about the types of foods we are eating, but it’s also important to think about how we are eating those foods. Are you rushing through meals? Shoveling food down your mouth? Eating on-the-go? All of this contributes to digestive stress.
I know life is busy and I struggle with this too, but as much as possible, try to slow down at meals, chew your food properly, and allow your body a chance to fully digest your meal before running off to a new task. Your digestion and your body will thank you.
In real life, people come home hungry, exhausted, and just want something simple and delicious.
In real life, the day-to-day is a lot of work. Especially when it involves cats.
In real life, dinner gets made while listening to bad 90′s music. Yes, this might include Hanson.
And so in real life, zucchini spaghetti is what’s for dinner. It comes together easily and tastes like a delicious bowl of healthy pasta… but better.
In real life, my sink is piled high with dirty dishes, but I’m ignoring this fact and curling up with my cats on the couch… in a snuggie… while watching The Mindy Project and eating zucchini spaghetti.
Someday I’m going to write a book called 101 Ways to Make Tacos because tacos are what we have for dinner. Seriously. Every. Single. Night.
Okay, maybe not every single night, but certainly most weeknights. At this point, my partner has basically stopped asking what’s for dinner because it’s obvious: beans and something else that’s going to go inside of corn tortillas. Any questions?
Someday I’m also going to write a book called 101 Ways to Make A Salad because salads are what I have for lunch practically every single weekday.
The key to making a good salad is this: it has to have a good protein source (I usually opt for beans or lentils), a variety of vegetables with complimentary flavors and textures, and a good dressing. For most salads, I usually dress the leaves in a little plain balsamic vinegar, but the classic balsamic vinegar and olive oil mix is fabulous for almost any salad.
My personal challenge to enjoying salads is that I don’t typically crave raw veggies because Seattle is cold most of the year. However, I can get around this by roasting vegetables and adding them (while still warm) to a bed of cold greens. This salad is my newest favorite and it’s a fabulous meal during these cold, drizzly days of spring.
No one should ever have to weedwack their entire lawn. Ever.
Unless, perhaps, you have teenagers and want to punish them… Unfortunately, I don’t, so I got to experience the punishment for myself.
Earlier this year, my partner and I began renting a house from family members who are currently living overseas. I was excited at the thought of renting an entire house, however, it never occurred to me that with the amazing deal they were giving us, it also meant we had to do a lot of work.
It didn’t even cross my mind that I would need to mow the lawn. That is, until I noticed that our grass was about a foot and half taller than the yards on both sides of us. Oops.
The grass was so tall, in fact, that the lawnmower repeatedly stalled when I tried to mow it. And that is when I came up with the brillant idea to weedwack the entire lawn and then mow it. Two and a half hours of the most intense work ever, I felt like the biggest idoit on the planet. Well, at least I did until I woke up the next morning and saw how amazing my arms looked.
So, in summary, don’t ever let your lawn get long enough that you need to weedwack it, but if you do, just know that you’ll look great afterwards.
And, if any of you have suggestions about a smarter way I could have handled the lawn situation, I’ll take ‘em. Maybe I can even trade you a recipe for some landscaping advice… Roasted baby turnips, anyone?
You know those lessons that you’ll never forget because they were so embarrassing to learn? Yep, it was one of those.
Lucky for you that I’m going to share it with you so that you will never have to learn this the hard way: when you are signing one of those slightly awkward cards being passed around your office (you know those cards from everyone for someone’s birthday, departure, or a general congratulations, etc…), make sure to double check who the card is for.
I mean, you wouldn’t want to be the one who wrote “best of luck at your new job!” to someone who’s supposed to be getting a “congratulations” card for starting their family, would you?
That’s just awkward. Don’t be that person.
But, if you do happen to be that person, here are a few options:
Option #1: White it out. However, this only works if the card is white and those tricky Hallmark folks love those fun colors…
Option #2: Cover it up with stickers. Of course, that is assuming that you are an adult who happens to carry stickers around. Unfortunately, (or perhaps, fortunately), I’m not that person.
Option #3: Own it. Just admit that, yes, you are that person who wrote the weird message in someone’s card and there is no taking it back now.
Ohh if only cards were as easy as stir-fries…
See, with stir-fries, there are no mistakes, no awkwardness. You can always alter ingredients or change things up as needed. They’re impossible to mess up. And they work for any occasion.
So, I guess the lesson I learned is really this: sign less cards and make more stir-fries. I think that’s my new motto.
This stir-fry starts with a spring favorite: asparagus.
Next we add in another spring favorite: leeks. Never used leeks before?
Don’t be intimidated, let me show you how!
Leeks are part of the allium family and taste similar to scallions, but with a bit more flavor. Look for fresh, firm leeks with white necks and no bruises. Large leeks tend to be too fibrous so I usually select medium leeks that are about an inch and a half in diameter.
Start by chopping the tip and the tough green tops off so you have just the middle section of the leek (see the left side of the picture below). Compost the tops or save them to make veggie stock. (If you are storing fresh leeks, keep them whole in the refrigerator and they will easily keep for 1 – 2 weeks.)
Next, slice the leek down the middle and open it up to see all the inside layers (see the right side of the picture below). These layers tend to trap a lot of dirt (as you can see) so be sure to wash them thoroughly.
Then simply slice the leek into small 1/2-inch slices (not pictured).
You’ve just prepared a leek, my friend! Give yourself a high five!
This stir-fry is easy to adapt and is a fabulous way to use up any leftover produce that might be laying around your fridge. It’s perfect as a side dish to any weeknight meal or you could also add a good protein-source to make it a stand-alone meal. This recipe has minimal spices so the flavors of the leeks, asparagus, and mushrooms really shine. If additional flavor is desired, some tamari or red pepper flakes would certainly spice things up.
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
½-inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
¼ cup raw or lightly toasted cashews
Add oil to a pan over medium heat.
Add leek and mushrooms and saute for about 3 minutes, until fragrant.
Add asparagus, garlic, ginger, and cashews and saute for an additional five minutes, until asparagus is just tender.
Remove from heat and serve hot.
Psst: If you’re ready to learn how to shop for, prepare, and easily create delicious meals that nourish your body AND keep your food budget at a minimum, you don’t want to miss Conscious Money, Conscious Eating!
Need some motivation to help you eat your veggies?
Or perhaps you’re a bit bored in the quinoa department and are looking for a little recipe inspiration?
I’ve got you covered. Today’s recipe is fresh quinoa lettuce wraps and an easy peanut sauce that comes together in a snap! You’re gonna love these!
For the recipe, be sure to head on over to my guest post at Cooking Quinoa. I love Wendy’s blog because she is so creative when it comes to making new recipes with quinoa and creating dishes that the whole family will enjoy. (And who knew there were so many amazing ways to use a single ingredient?!)
I don’t want to alarm you, but I think this is the best thing I have ever made. And, to be completely honest, I wasn’t expecting it to be.
Sure, I thought it would be good. I mean, salty, smoky tempeh combined with fresh asparagus? Sounds pretty amazing, right?
The end result is more than amazing.
As I was typing this out right now I got a little nervous and doubted myself. Could this really be the best thing I have ever made?
*Takes another bite.*
Yep, it is. Affirmative.
First we start with these spring beauties: purple asparagus. Just look at that gorgeous color!
Asparagus is in peak season right now and I chose purple asparagus for this recipe because I love the color, but you can use any asparagus of your choice. This dish is perfect served over a bed of millet or quinoa or, if you are grain-free, fresh or lightly sautéed greens. I love using tempeh as a hearty, plant-based protein source and it’s a fabulous way to adventure into the world of fermented foods. (If you are new to cooking with tempeh, you can read more about it in my teriyaki tempeh post.)
¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce or tamari (if gluten-free)
½ cup water
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon chile powder
1 package tempeh, sliced into thirds and cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons water
½ bunch purple asparagus, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1 green onion, thinly sliced
Add soy sauce (or tamari), water, apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard, cumin, paprika, and chile powder to a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the tempeh slices and bring down to a simmer. Simmer for about 1 – 2 minutes, then remove from heat. Let marinate for about ten minutes.
Add coconut oil to a pan over medium heat. Add the tempeh (reserve any marinade) and cook for about five minutes, flipping as necessary to ensure both sides are evenly browned.
Add the asparagus. Saute for about 3 minutes, flipping as necessary, until asparagus is just browned on both sides. Add any remaining marinade and about two tablespoons of water. Continue cooking for about 7 – 10 minutes, until any remaining liquid has evaporated and asparagus is just tender. Remove from heat, top with green onions, and serve hot.
Let me start this by saying that I’m not a big “kid person.” I heavily admire people who are parents (seriously, you have the hardest job on this planet!), but I’ve never wanted to be one myself. I also work with children and families in my job so I get a pretty good dose of being around kids in my daily life.
And this is precisely why when a friend told me several months ago that I “would make a wonderful mother,” I practically laughed in her face. That’s nice and thank you, but nope, it’s not for me.
She proceeded to tell me that she was convinced someday I would adopt a child from an orphanage. I continued to argue that ain’t ever gonna happen.
This is exactly why this week I had a mental breakdown when I read this blog post by Lindsay at Pinch of Yum. Lindsay and her husband moved to the Philippines for a year to teach at an orphanage. When I saw the pictures of these kids and read her post yesterday, I literally felt an urge from deep inside of my chest to move there and adopt these children. All I could think was, “oh $*%t, it’s happening…” And so, in order to prevent myself from moving to the Philippines and/or adopting children tonight, I made soup. This may not make a lot of sense, but it seemed like a better choice than hiding in a corner of my kitchen and stuffing my face with cookies from sheer panic.
If you see a cookie recipe posted here tomorrow, please send help.
As we ease into spring, I love making pureed soups that feel light enough to eat in warmer weather, but still hearty enough to serve at a meal. And since roasting fennel is my new obsession, a roasted fennel soup just seemed to make sense. This soup is light with a mellow flavor from the fennel and cauliflower and I love how the dill and lemon make the flavors pop.
One of my trademarks with soup is to puree beans in for a source of plant-based protein and to add some general heartiness to the soup. I used garbanzo beans in this batch, but any white bean would also work. Since the fennel and cauliflower were going to be pureed, I dry roasted them without any oil (I have a well-seasoned baking sheet and they didn’t stick), but you can roast them in oil if needed.
Lay fennel and cauliflower flat on sheet pan and roast for 30 minutes, turning occasionally, until tender. Remove from oven and set aside.
Add olive oil to a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and saute for five minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and saute for 1 – 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add the roasted fennel and cauliflower, vegetable broth, and garbanzo beans. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.
Add one tablespoon fresh dill and blend the soup by using an immersion blender or transferring it to a regular blender. (If using a regular blender, be very careful as the steam can sometimes cause the lid to blow off. I recommend blending small batches while holding the lid down with a pot holder or towel in hand.)
Before serving, add sea salt and black pepper to taste. Garnish bowls with remaining fresh dill, lemon zest, a drizzle of olive oil, and serve with lemon wedges.