Thankfulness

I have a long commute to work and I hate it.  When there is no traffic, it is a fairly easy 30 minute commute.  But when there is traffic – and there is always traffic in the DC metro area – it can easily turn into an hour and half or more.  I am lucky enough to work in a place where being perfectly on time is neither required or expected.  But still, I can’t stand sitting in my car for that long, moving 5 miles an hour.

I’m generally the kind of person who is always trying to maximize my time and sitting in traffic does not allow for me to do an optimal level of multi-tasking.  I get annoyed that I can’t be doing something more productive, that I’m forced to sit there and think or sit still or listen to NPR.  Gahh!  First world problems for sure.  So in an attempt to make the most of this commute and to generally make myself a happier person, I have decided to spend each morning coming up with 10 unique things that I am thankful for.  Today was the easiest day because I had everything to choose from.  The following days may get a little harder but I’m sure that is when it will be most valuable.  I have a lot to be thankful for and sometimes it’s easy to forget that.

Here’s what I’m thankful for today:

  1. My loving husband.  Rob being Rob
  2. My healthy family, many of them close enough to see regularly. photo 2
  3. My funny, quirky dogs. photo 4
  4. A job that I enjoy and rarely dread.
  5. A financially comfortable life that doesn’t have me worrying about how the next bill will get paid.
  6. A strong, healthy body. wonderwoman2
  7. A solid group of friendships built on love and respect, not gossip and pettiness.  photo 3
  8. Reliable and comfortable transportation (remember I was in my car when I thought of this list).
  9. Spring/summer finally being here after a long winter.
  10. The ability to buy, prepare and enjoy beautiful food. lettuce wraps

Of course this list is only the tip of the iceberg, but it did help get me out of an ungrateful funk and realize that I have it pretty darn good and I need to start seeing that.

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I’m ashamed to admit this…

This is a hard post to write.  It’s probably going to make me sound like an ungrateful, selfish, jealous b!tch.  And maybe all that’s true, but I’m trying not to be and what’s that expression? The first step is admitting you have a problem?  Well here I am, admitting it.  And it’s making me feel horrible.

Let me back up.  I had a miscarriage back in August.  At the time I got pregnant we weren’t technically trying but we were ttthhhiiiisss close to starting to try so I was over the moon excited.  Of course that meant I was devastated when I miscarried, even though in many ways I was lucky because it was very early on.  Based on what all the doctors told me, I thought we would give a go again, and just like that, boom, we’d be pregnant again.  So each month, I drag Rob into the bedroom when I think the timing is right.  Then for two weeks I hyper-analyze every potential “symptom” until I convince myself this is the month.  Of course, that means I’m absolutely devastated each month when my period does show up, just like clockwork.  I tell myself each month, “Don’t get your hopes up” and each month, that is exactly what I do.

It’s like a sickness, I truly can’t seem to stop myself.  Of course this is putting totally unnecessary pressure on Rob, on me, on my body, on things that just can’t be controlled.  I’m actually tearing up in anger at myself right now thinking about it.  It’s been 9 months of hopes and disappointment.  Two weeks of waiting for the prime day to get busy and then two weeks of reading pregnancy blogs, monitoring my moods, my appetite, my body, my energy level – you name it – and then a day or two of crushing disappointment and self-doubt.  Can I really get pregnant?  Why isn’t it working?  Are we doing something wrong?  Am I ovulating properly?  Is something wrong with me?  <—Notice how much self-blame there is?  I rarely think, what if Rob’s sperm count is low or anything like that.  No, I focus all that negative energy directly on me.  Like I’ve deemed myself the person who must take all the weight of this problem.

So here’s what happened yesterday.   I very innocently received an email from a close friend of mine saying she was pregnant.  I knew they had been trying and I’m so so happy for her and her husband.  But what was my first reaction?  I saw the darkest shade of jealousy-green that I have ever experienced.  Luckily, I was at work, so on the outside at least, I managed to hold it together.  But on the inside, I turned into the brattiest child on earth.  If I could have, I would have thrown myself on the ground and kicked, screamed and cried.  I had this non-stop cycle going around in my head that sounded so jealous, so mean, so freaking ungrateful for my life, that I was actually horrified. green-eyed-monster

By the time I got to the car that night, I couldn’t hold it in any longer.  I was crying the big weepy tears, gasping for air.  It was really a combination of being so painfully jealous of someone that I love and am truly happy for and being really mad at myself because I know I need to grow up.  Of course those thoughts would send me down a self-shaming spiral of thoughts about how I even thought I was fit to be a mother when I was behaving this way and how I was so ungrateful for the many blessings I already have.  Ugh, what an ugly cycle.

On the way home, I couldn’t even hear the radio, my thoughts were so loud.  I actually cancelled meeting up with a mutual friend for a Run-Bike-Run because I didn’t think I could manage to show pure happiness at the news.  At the time I thought it made me a bad friend, but now, as I’m writing this, maybe it was me being a good friend because at least I wasn’t sharing my caustic mood.

Instead I drove to the store with every intention of buying whatever it is a person uses to take a bubble bath.  I thought this would relax me.  Here’s why that is ridiculous.  I hate baths of any kind.  We have a huge bath tub in our master bathroom and when they were building it I tried several times to convince the builder to take it out and put in a bigger shower.  The tub has never been filled.  Yet, here I was, a green-eyed monster, looking for bubble bath.  Except I had no idea what to buy, so I ended up with this: mr bubble

Rob got a big kick out of this when he saw it.  To his credit, he knew right away what I had been trying for.  Needless to say, I didn’t end up taking a bubble bath.  Because I also found this at the store.  photo 3 (2)

I’m a little embarrassed to say that I bought it and baked it and in some ways, it was exactly what I was looking for.  I didn’t want some fancy pastry or some homemade cake.  I wanted sugar and fat and chemicals and something that was as awful for me as I was feeling.  Does that even make sense?

Luckily, by the time I had baked them and made dinner, I was pretty much over my pity party.  Today, I’m still feeling that twinge of jealousy but I’m not overwhelmed by it.  And I can really feel the happiness for my dear friend that she deserves.  Congratulations to them! photo 4 (1)

April Foodie Pen Pal

This month I very gladly returned to the Foodie Pen Pal Program.  I was paired with a woman named Alison that lives in Virginia.  She sent me a really great box this month.  She nailed it as far as foods that I go ga-ga over.  

I mean H-E-L-L-O, do you see all that dark chocolate?  Yum! 

I made the brownies last weekend.  To be honest, I didn’t have the highest hopes for gluten free brownies.  So often GF is code for not-as-good-as-the-real-thing.  When I was mixing them up,  I was really questioning them.  The batter was so thick that it really was more of a paste.  But I figured I’d go with it.  I mushed it into the pan and attempted to smooth it out.  After putting it in the oven, I turned the light on and watched it bake.  Side note:  I do this a lot.  Oh the exciting life I lead! photo 3 (1) photo 4

Here’s the thing.  The brownies started to puff about halfway through and by the end (they needed 5 minutes longer than the box suggested) they were legit brownies.  But how would they taste?  Ummm, delicious!  You really couldn’t tell they weren’t gluten filled.  They tasted exactly like regular brownies.  I will be buying these again.  Why not keep a box on hand for brownie emergencies?  Another side note:  I really have brownie emergencies from time to time.  photo 1 (1)

And yes, that finger print is where I stuck my finger in them to see if they were done.  Some people might use a toothpick.  Some people aren’t that smart.  Luckily, it was just me and Rob eating them and neither one of us cares.

I forgot to mention the tea.  I’ve been drinking the Vanilla Caramel one with breakfast and it’s so yummy.  It hits the right spot between green tea and coffee, which are my other two morning beverages of choice.  This is right in between , so when I don’t want as much caffeine as coffee but green tea isn’t milky and comforting enough, this tea is the place to go. 

Ok, so I loved the box, but here’s the best part.  Alison sent me this really sweet letter telling me about her life and where she lives.  I just love that.    Thanks Alison!

The Lean Green Bean

Easter

We had a beautiful Easter here in Maryland.  The weather was just perfect.  And after the winter we’ve had (and much of the East Coast has had the same), it’s nice to be finally turning the corner on Spring.

My family has never been that into Easter as either a religious holiday or as a traditional ham dinner holiday, but we do like to get together and hang out.  A few years ago we started doing a non-traditional Easter dinner and now it’s our tradition.  The first year was a Curry Cookoff, last year we made a variety of pizzas and this year I decided we were going to have a taco night.  It went very smoothly but I was so busy, I forgot to really take any pictures of the meal.  So you’ll have to settle for what few pictures I did take.

How cute is my nephew dyeing eggs and giving them to Dingo?  I think both Dingo and Hudson ate a few too many hardboiled eggs.

Donnie & Dingo photo 2 (1) Hudson even puked in the middle of the night but I don’t know if it was the eggs or the enormous bone that he got in his Easter basket.  Aren’t the doggie Easter baskets cute?  Neither one was sure why they were being given a basket of toys and treats,but once they figured out they could have it all, they tore into it. doggie easter basketsI actually had a lot of fun picking things out for their baskets.  Dingo of course got the ninja bucket because she uses her ninja-like powers to sneak onto the bed in the middle of the night.

Have you ever had Salsa Verde?  It was just one of the 4 kinds of salsa that I made for our Taco Night, but it might be my favorite. salsa verde

Salsa Verde

 

  • ½# Tomatillos, husks removed
  • Jalapeno or Serrano pepper, to taste
  • 2 Shallots
  • 2-3 cloves Garlic
  • 1 Lime, halved
  • ¼ C Cilantro, roughly chopped
  1. Cut tomatillos and peppers into a large dice.  Halve the shallots, keeping root end intact to hold together.
  2. Combine all ingredients except cilantro in a small bowl.  Lightly coat with oil, salt and pepper.
  3. Roast under the broiler or over a grill until everything is soft and tomatillos are slightly charred, approximately 8 minutes.
  4. Let cool slightly.
  5. Pulse all ingredients, including cilantro in food processor or blender, adding up to ¼ C water, as needed.  Adjust seasoning to taste.

Salsa VerdeI just recently started roasting/grilling limes and lemons for my salsas and it adds such an interesting complexity.  You should totally do this!

Ok here’s the last picture.  It really has nothing to do with Easter but it was an amazing dinner I made for myself the other day completely out of leftovers.  It looks so yummy, I want another one now.  I love bread.  My love of bread has basically been my paleo downfall.  I keep thinking I can stick with paleo and then a baguette comes and smacks me in the face and makes me it’s b!tch.  Alas…

sandwich

 

Cooking Frenzy Weekend

Last week my work schedule changed and it’s really throwing me off.  I barely managed to make dinner 2 nights the whole week!  I felt terrible about it and was kind of kicking myself for being so lazy, so this week I am determined to do a better job.  On Saturday, I menu planned the crud out of the week.  It looked something like this:

  • Sunday: Risotto with Braised Squid
  • Monday: Grilled Chicken Thighs with misc. Grilled Vegetables
  • Tuesday: Gluten Free Pizza
  • Wednesday: Grilled Flank Steak with Roasted Tomatoes
  • Thursday: Coconut Shrimp with Mango Red Pepper Chutney and Grilled Pineapple
  • Friday: Birthday Party
  • Saturday: Savage Mill Crossfit Outing

And like the best plans, it is already off.  I couldn’t get the squid ink that I wanted and it ended up delaying the risotto until last night.  I also chickened out on buying $20 worth of ingredients needed to make the gluten free pizza recipe, so we’ll probably scrap that. By tomorrow night, I should be back on track.  And yes, I realize that that means I will only do two days of my plan.  That’s ok with me, as long as I’m not going out to eat a whole bunch.

Sunday evening I did a ton of prep work for the week.  Most of it was boring stuff like chopping vegetables but I did make a few things that I really got excited about.

This is savory granola.  It was inspired by a recipe that I saw in Bon Appetit but then I completely reworked it because I didn’t want the oats in it and I wanted to only use things in my pantry.  Luckily, my pantry is always chock full of a variety of nuts.  Savory Granola

Savory Granola

  • 3 1/2 Cups Assorted Raw or Blanched Nuts (I used sliced almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds pumpkin seeds and pistachios)
  • 2 T Fennel Seeds
  • 1/4 C Sesame Seeds (especially pretty with black and white mixed)
  • 1-2 t Chipotle Powder (could sub cayenne, but reduce it a bit)
  • 1 t Kosher Salt
  • 1 Egg White, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees.
  2. Mix nuts, seeds, chipotle and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat together egg white and oil.  Pour over nut mixture and stir until all nuts and seeds are covered.
  4. Spread onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake until golden, approx. 40 minutes.  Stir halfway through.

I cannot stop eating this stuff!!!  I was really making it to go on salads in place of croutons or something else crunchy, but now it is sitting on my counter and I take a handful of it every time I pass by.

I also braised the squid for the risotto that we ended up eating last night.  It sounds so fancy, but honestly, it couldn’t have been easier.  And it was spectacular.  I could have eaten just the squid, no risotto and been perfectly happy.

Braised Squid

  • 1.25 lb Squid, tubes cut into 1/2″ rings, tentacles cut in half
  • 1/4 C Butter
  • 1/4 C Olive Oil
  • 1 Onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 C Dry White Wine
  • 1 T Parsley, chopped
  1. Melt butter and heat with the oil in a medium sauce pan (not like me – I started with a small one before realizing it was going to quickly overflow) over medium heat.
  2. Sweat the onions until they are translucent but not at all browned.
  3. Add the squid and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the wine and parsley and then simmer over low heat for 45 minutes.
  5. Season… I’d tell you how much salt to add but I really have no idea.  I avoided seasoning the squid at this stage because I was planning on adding it to the risotto.  Seriously, it was that good without salt.  Next time I’m just making the squid.  Squid Risotto and Salad

During all this I also made some Romesco Sauce .  I love that stuff!  We will be eating it on roasted cauliflower for dinner tonight.  On Sunday I ate it on a piece of dark rye with a sliced hard boiled egg.  What a snack! romesco and toast

Food Pen Pal March 2014

Ahh here we are on the last day of March and it is truly the first nice day we’ve had in awhile.  If there is any truth to the old “March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb” then she sure took her sweet time getting to the lamb stage.  It literally snowed yesterday.

Luckily, right in the middle of the month, I received my Foodie Pen Pal package from Traci over at I’m Hungry.  Just as a reminder, this was what the weather looked like on the day my box arrived: photo 3

I was so happy to see a box of treats on my doorstep after I shoveled our sidewalks.  And Traci did not disappoint!

I had told her I eat about 80% paleo and she did a really awesome job of finding some paleo/some non-paleo treats to try.  And so much of it was local Ohio food, which I think is the best thing about the Foodie Pen Pal gig – I love trying other people’s local goodies.  Foodie Pen Pal March 2014

Yes the beg of granola is open because I started eating it before remembering that I needed to take a picture.  Oops.  But it was so good, so I don’t even feel bad.  Nomnomnom.  And paleo!!  I wouldn’t have known if Traci hadn’t told me.  It has been making an appearance in my #1 go-to breakfast.  breakfast - berries, granola and yogurt

She also sent these delicious potato chips that had all my favorite buzzwords on them – no gmo, organic, locally sourced, gluten free, etc.  They were a thick chip, which may not be for everyone, but I loved it.  We had them with dinner one night when we made burgers but luckily I saved a few… you’ll see why in a second.

There was this chocolate covered maple egg.  I looked at it a little puzzled for a few days before chomping down.  My first reaction was it was a little too sweet for my taste, but then *lightbulb*  I still had some chips leftover, so I used those hearty salty snacks to scoop out the filling and viola!  Delicious!!  I probably could have eaten 5 more that way, so I’m super glad I was out of the chips and out of maple chocolate eggs. chocolate maple egg and potato chip

I haven’t tried the coffee, but let’s be honest, how could it be bad?  It’s buckeye blend flavor, which Traci tells me is mix of peanut butter and chocolate.  I see absolutely no room for this being anything less than divine.  I’m saving it for one of those Sunday mornings where we sit around and lazily drink coffee all morning.

So, Foodie Pen Pals is once again a resounding success.  Thanks Traci!

If you want to find out more about the Foodie Pen Pal program, click here.

The Lean Green Bean

 

 

Sour Cream Ice Cream

How is it Thursday already? The days are flying by this week. Upside: The weekend is almost here. Downside: i don’t have anything to show for all this time that has slipped away.
I meant to post this recipe after the Cheesemaking class that Rob and I did, but I’m only getting around to it now. I made the recipe with quark, which is a soft-ripened cheese that is whipped. It tastes a lot like sour cream, so I instantly thought of this recipe that was passed on to me by one of the chefs that I work with – shout out to Neil! Since it very unlikely that I will have quark in my home again, I’ll make this next time with sour cream.  It is the richest ice cream and it tastes like ice cream and cheesecake got together and made a heavenly cheesecake ice cream baby.

Sour Cream (or Quark) Ice Cream

  • 5.25 oz sugar
  • 4 yolks
  • 12 oz heavy cream
  • ½ t salt
  • 12 oz sour cream (or quark)
  • 1 t vanilla or 1 vanilla bean
  1. Bring salt and cream to simmer. Meanwhile, whisk yolks and sugar in a separate bowl.
  2. Remove the cream and salt from the stove and pour a small amount (about 1/4 cup) of hot cream into the eggs, whisking vigorously.  Once this is all incorporated, do it again with another 1/4 cup or so.  The idea here is to warm up the eggs, without cooking them.  Add the rest of the hot cream and whisk.
  3. Pour the cream and egg mixture back into the pot and turn the heat back on to low.  Continue cooking while stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until it begins to thicken, about 5 minutes.  Run your finger along the back of the spoon and if the mixture is thick enough to hold the line you traced, it’s thick enough to pull of the heat.  Don’t overcook it!
  4. Stir in sour cream and vanilla until combined.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1-2 hours.  Or if you’re in a hurry (and who isn’t when it comes to ice cream), pour it into a large ziplock bag, squish out the air and submerge into ice water until it is cold, about 20 minutes.
  6. Spin your ice cream according to the directions for your ice cream maker.  Mine requires that I freeze the base for 24 hours and recommends spinning for 25 minutes.  Freeze overnight.

Yield: 1-1 ½ quarts

Since it tasted so much like cheesecake, I paired it up with a graham cracker crust and some raspberry sauce.  Heavenly… Sour Cream Ice Cream

In other news, our living room went from this: photo 2

To this: photo 3

It still needs a little styling but I’m in love!  They are so comfy and much more modern than our old couches.  Much more my style.

Will Winter Ever End? and Grilled Vegetable Dip

Broken record alert.  I am so sick of winter.  We have had so much snow this year.  And then it gets nice.  And then it snows.  Rinse and repeat.  Ugh!!  I’m over it.

So this happened on Monday. Last snow storm of 2014

And like I have done for nearly every snow day this year (and there have been many), I decided to dive in and bake and cook.  Except almost everything was a failure.  First I made macaroons.  They came out so ugly that I had to eat them all before Rob came home.  Luckily the dogs were more than willing to help. ugly macaroons

Then I made mayonnaise and broke it a record 3 times!  I finally got it right but I was so pissed by the end that I couldn’t even appreciate it.  I turned it into one of my favorite paleo lunches – tuna and peppers.  photo 1

photo 3And then I struck gold!  Grilled Vegetable Dip.  It’s almost like a cross between hummus and baba ghanoush but better because it used up things I had in my refrigerator.  Here’s what I did:

Grilled Veggie Dip

Grilled Vegetable Dip

  • ~1 lb. mixed vegetables – I used zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant and portabella mushrooms
  • oil – my choice, 100% olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 T tahini
  • misc. chopped herbs – parsley, chives, thyme, dill, rosemary
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • bonus points: 1 oz. goat cheese

1. Slice the eggplant and squash into 1/4″ thick slices.  Remove the stem and gills from the mushrooms.

2. Drizzle the vegetables with oil on both sides and season with salt and pepper.  Grill on each side until cooked but not falling apart.  Truth be told, my vegetables were the leftovers from dinner the night before.  Veggies shrink down quite a bit when they are cooked, but I started my dip-making with about 2 cups of grilled veggies.

3. Put the cooled veggies, lemon juice (start with half and add more as needed), tahini and herbs into a food processor and pulse a few times until it is consistently chopped.  If you’re adding the goat cheese, do it now.

4. Turn the food processor on to run consistently and stream in a few tablespoons of evoo until it comes together into an emulsified dip.

5.  Taste it and adjust the salt and pepper.  Try not to eat it out of the food processor directly.  Honestly, this got better the second day, so I’m really just trying to help you out here.

This dip is awesome with all sorts of raw veggies.  You could spread it on a sandwich if you were a sandwich eating type person.  I bet it would be good in a salad.  Mostly I’ve been eating mine off of a spoon, straight out of the fridge.