blueberry pancakes and lazy saturdays

One of my favorite things about being married is sleeping in Saturday mornings, waking up slowly, and then making a warm, hearty breakfast…

Confession: My husband is our breakfast chef. I tend to do most of the other cooking, so he makes breakfast. It’s a fantastic tradeoff. He has mastered scrambled eggs. He is the king of pancakes (as long as you keep him away from the wheat germ). He knows how to fry bacon until it’s perfectly crisp without burning it. In fact, the only breakfast food I make is french toast.

This morning he treated me to blueberry pancakes and scrambled eggs. My contribution was a simple blueberry syrup. The end result was delicious – hitting on all the flavors of the palate.

What are you favorite breakfast foods? What is your ideal Saturday morning?

RECIPE

Pancakes

1 Egg
2 T vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup white flour
1/2 small package fresh blueberries (optional)

Heat griddle over medium heat. Meanwhile combine ingredients into a large mixing bowl until well mixed. When pan is hot, add 1/2 cup batter to form pancake. When the top has begun to bubble and looks slightly dry on top, flip over. Repeat until batter is gone. To keep pancakes warm, heat oven to 175 F and place pancakes on an oven safe plate.

Blueberry syrup

1 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 small package fresh blueberries
1 T cornstarch

In a small saucepan, combine 2/3 amount of blueberries with water and sugar. Boil, then reduce heat to medium low. Once blueberries have popped, add cornstarch while whisking briskly. Cook until thickened. Sieve then return syrup to heat. Add remaining blueberries and cook until hot.

Serve pancakes with hot syrup and enjoy!

freelance graphic design

As I continue to have copious amounts of free time, I have begun doing some graphic design freelance work for friends and family. Some of you may remember that during my time at ASU I worked as a graphic designer. Though it seems like an eon ago, it hasn’t actually been that long. After ASU I took a much needed break from the field to pursue my interests in counseling. Since I graduated with my master’s in counseling, I have only been able to find short-term consulting jobs in the fields of academic research and graphic design. It seems like at least for right now, pursuing consulting jobs is my only viable option financially. And now that I’m back in Adobeland, I’m thinking about starting a small freelance design business…

I’d like to share some projects I’m working on:

This is a website I designed for my dad’s HR consulting firm, http://hr-help.info/.


This is a potential two-sided business card I’m working on
for the rebranding of Hillside Lawn Maintenance in Boulder, CO.

It feels good to be back in the world of design, though I’m intimated to do so since it has been a while. I potentially have another project coming in tomorrow to work on print design for a dance studio opening in Boulder. I’m excited and nervous at the same time!

What are your thoughts? Should I consider marketing myself?

book candy

I am a book fiend. I love to read and I tend to do so incredibly fast. My absorption rate is something like 120+ pages an hour, which means I read anywhere from 2-7 books a week depending on how much free time I have. What and why I read is a whole different story…

I really enjoy modern literature, though I’m starting to spend more time in the classics. I enjoy meaty novels – ones that make me think, process, and develop a more defined worldview that may or may not support that of the author. I enjoy smart humor such as quips on existential crises and their relation to watermelons or some such thing. I enjoy historical fiction – books that incorporate truth of the period into the fiction to add complexity, realism, and context. I enjoy novels that portray a broad range of mental health issues accurately and fairly. People are complex, why would a novelist paint them any other way?

Some books I have really enjoyed include: the Kite Runner, Middlesex, the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, a Spot of Bother, Pillars of the Earth, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Life of Pi, the Perks of Being a Wallflower, and the Elegance of the Hedgehog.

Unfortunately, this type of reading tends to have a pretty fast burn out rate. After spending so much time reading thought provoking material, I can no longer consume anything meaningful lest my head explode.

Thus, recently, I have been binge reading. Explanation: reading excessive amounts of book candy.

My specific brand of book candy is teen novels. I love them. I love the simplicity, adventure, intensity and range of emotion, romantic misgivings, personal development, and the mischief. Examples include Twilight, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, A Wrinkle in Time, and for a slightly older crowd, the Sookie Stackhouse novels. I’m drawn in the world of fantasy, whim, and adventure. I can blast through these books without much thought merely to enjoy the ride – however long that may be.

I use book candy as a form of self care. It’s my way to relax, allow my mind a break from the intensity of life, and to prepare myself to face what comes next. (Warning, what I say next may sound like I have my master’s in counseling…) I’m a huge promoter of self care. I strongly believe that each person should partake in self care in one form or another daily. Self care is an important way to regroup, replenish, and rejuvenate. For you video game junkies, it’s how you get your life energy back to 100% before the next battle, which is important if you want to survive.

Examples include: reading, journaling, spending time with friends or family, cooking, baking, exercising, outdoor activities, listening to music, taking a bath, and more.

Whatever your preferred forms of self care may be, do you take the time to indulge daily?

something different

Despite what you may think, food is not the only thing I think about in life. Granted, I love food and love to cook, and I enjoy sharing that passion with others. However, my passions are widespread, and I figure my blog should touch on a broader range. Here is my first attempt.

I adore fashion. Shoes. Coats. Accessories. Blouses. Structured jackets. You name it.

My love of fashion is not what you may think. I enjoy the way I feel when I wear clothes that compliment my shape and my sense of style. I feel more like myself in clothes than without them. Style is one way I explain myself to the world. It reflects my interests, quirks, humor, and mood on any given day.

Lately, these pieces combined tastefully have become my favorite outfit…

Blouse and sweater belted over skinny jeans with sparkly flats and a rad houndstooth coat.

To me this outfit is whimsical and feminine. It has a nice structured, tailored fit with humor and spunk. The houndstooth reminds me of my nana – a 1960s fashion forward dame. My blouse has polka dots and ruffles – two of my favorite things. My sweater is reminiscent of nautical wear, which again takes me back to the 60s. The shoes and belt add humor to the outfit in the form of massive, sparkly bling. I feel happy and connected to my past when I wear this outfit. I am reminded not to take life so seriously. And I can prove it…

What are your inspirations? When do you feel the most yourself?

eggplant parmesan

I have a theory. The most delicious foods typically have the same three components: carbs, cheese, and fried.

Let’s consider the list: fried mozzarella sticks, cheeseburgers with fries, fried zucchini, quesadillas, chimichangas, crab wontons, spanakopita, and eggplant parmesan to name a few. YUM!!!

The problem lies in the calories. Most of these delicious treats are only for special occasions when trying to maintain a healthy diet. However, it doesn’t have to be that way…

Making your own version of these meals affords lower calorie and lower fat content in the final product. One way I cut down on calories when frying is using only 2-3 T vegetable or olive oil rather than filling the frying pan. It doesn’t take a lot of oil to get a good crust when frying, and the less oil used, the less oil consumed.

Another good idea is setting fried foods on paper towels prior to serving. The paper towels pick up some of the extra oil so your body doesn’t.

Low fat cheese is great option for lowering fat content in these meals. Also, reducing the amount of cheese or substituting some of the cheese with lower fat options can be a great way of cutting back on fat. For instance, in lasagna, using half cottage cheese and half tofu cuts back significantly on fat.

Now on to the good stuff…

RECIPE:

1 medium eggplant, sliced in 1/2 inch portions lengthwise
3/4 cup Italian seasoning
12 Saltine crackers, crushed
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
1 T basil
1 t each salt and pepper
2 eggs beaten
4 cups marinara sauce (I use my homemade sauce, but store bought will work)
1/2 cup mozzarella
1/4 cup Parmesan, shredded
1/2 lb linguini (or pasta of choice, try whole wheat!)

To prepare the eggplant, after slicing, lay each slice flat and salt flesh liberally. Wait 15 minutes, the salt will remove water from the eggplant making it easier to fry and less mushy. Blot off excess liquid with paper towels. Repeat process on reverse side.

Set oven to 350 F. Mix breadcrumbs, cracker crumbs, basil, salt, pepper, and grated Parmesan in bowl. In separate bowl, beat eggs. Dip eggplant into egg mixture, then into crumb mixture until well coated. Heat deep frying pan to medium high heat and add oil. Fry eggplant in batches until golden. Remove from pan, pat dry with paper towel and place on a cookie sheet. Repeat until all eggplant is fried. Add 1 T red sauce over top of each eggplant piece. Add 1 T mozzarella and 1 t shredded parmesan over sauce. When every eggplant is covered, put in oven for 15-20 minutes until cheese is bubbly.

Meanwhile, boil water in a large saucepan and prepare noodles according to directions. Heat remaining sauce until hot. To plate meal, spoon 1/2 cup pasta on plate, add 1/2 cup sauce over pasta, then place one slice of eggplant on top of pasta and sauce. Enjoy!

Note: If you’re still hungry, try filling up on veggies rather than eating more carbs. Eat a salad with your meal! Remember to use no more than 1 T of salad dressing to keep it light and healthy.

30 minute meals

It’s time to be completely honest. There are two words in the world of cooking that make my ears bleed and my hairs stand on end. I know I’m not alone in the way I feel, but at times it can be isolating. I try desperately not to be so reactive, but alas, repeated exposure makes it worse. Now to the two little words…

Rachel Ray. Her voice. Her hair. Her accent. Her poor attempts at humor. The way she walks you through a recipe like you’ve never made anything with multiple ingredients before. Ugh. However, I love the idea of her old show – the 30 minute meal. Let’s face it, sometimes we just don’t want to spend very much time in the kitchen, so something quick, easy, and delicious is the tastiest recipe in the bunch.

One of my favorite 30 minute meals is breaded fish, steamed broccoli, and rice. Could it be any more simple? (Well, probably, but does it need to be?) This dish including prep time takes no more than 30 minutes and it is delicious as well as nutritious.

What are your favorite 30 minute meals?

RECIPE

2 filets tilapia
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
2 T flour
2 T olive oil
1 crown broccoli, trimmed and divided
2 sun-dried tomatoes, Julienned
1 cup basmati rice (or wild rice)
1 1/2 cup chicken broth or bouillon
1 T butter

Start the rice first. Add chicken broth, butter, and rice to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir once, reduce heat to simmer and cover for 20 minutes. Take of burner and let sit for 10 minutes. Fluff with fork.

10 minutes until rice is finished:
Steam broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes over high heat until soft but still crunchy (or to taste for those of you who like mushy brocoli).

Meanwhile mix bread crumbs with flour and 1 tsp each of salt and pepper. Lightly cover fish in olive oil until just coated and dip in bread crumbs. Heat olive oil on medium-high heat. Cook fish until lightly browned on both sides.

Plate meal and enjoy!

cold weather comforts

Rainy days, gray skies, dark clouds, and a winter chill speak of warm, hearty comfort foods, curling up on the couch with a good book and a thick blanket, and perhaps a crackling fire.

Unfortunately, we don’t have fireplace, it snows rather than rains, and lately, this sort of weather has been more days than not.

So then the question becomes which hearty food on which day?

Recently, I discovered sausage lentil soup. Yes, I am the Christopher Columbus of sausage lentil soup, and nobody was harmed in the process – except the sausage. Regardless, this recipe has become one of my absolute favorites! It is hearty, rich, textured, and delicious. The soup can be made to varying degrees of spiciness either by using different sausage or adding more chili flakes – which makes it a soup worthy of all types of people: the weak stomached and the strong.

RECIPE:

1 pound green lentils
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large yellow onions, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons thyme
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried chili flakes (or to taste)
3-4 stalks celery, diced
4 carrots, diced
3 quarts chicken broth or equivalent in bouillon
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 small package frozen spinach (optional)
1 pound kielbasa, cut in 1/2 lengthwise and sliced 1/3-inch thick
1/2 cup dry red wine (optional)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to sit for 25 minutes. Drain.

In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and saute the onions, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are translucent and tender. Add the celery and carrots and saute for another 10 minutes. (**note: use frozen mirapoix mix if you don’t have time to chop fresh onion, carrots, and celery)

Add the chicken broth, chili flakes, tomato paste, spinach, and drained lentils, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, or until the lentils are cooked through and tender.

Check the seasonings. Add the kielbasa, red wine vinegar, and red wine and simmer until the kielbasa is hot. Serve sprinkled with grated Parmesan.

For spicier soup: use spicy italian sausage or chorizo instead of kielbasa. Cut into small pieces and cook with vegetables prior to adding the broth.

Note: Use leeks instead of or in addition to onions for added flavor and texture.