Friday, December 30, 2011

Easy Greek Pizza

On Wednesday night, I once again proved myself as a Kitchen Debutante when I made a failure of a pizza. I mean, it wasn't a total failure. I enjoyed eating it, and the flavors were good.


The problem was the crust. You might remember the last time I made homemade pizza--at the beginning of October. That crust recipe was enough for two pizzas, so I put the second ball of dough in the freezer. And finally, almost three months later, I got it out to thaw this week.

It probably could have been fine. Unfortunately, I'm dumb, and I only let it thaw in the fridge for a day. I should have let it sit out on the counter or a couple hours. Maybe? I don't know. :) I'm new to this.

By the time I started rolling it out, it wasn't frozen at all, but cold. It would not stretch. I would roll it out, and it would immediately spring back to its smaller shape. I tried "tossing" it on my fists, dangling it and letting it stretch itself, and using some good, ol' fashioned elbow grease, but nothing worked. I couldn't get it any bigger than a 10" diameter, and it was nearly half an inch thick.

Instead of perservering, I merely continued. The result? A doughy pan crust. It tasted good, and the toppings were great, but the texture of the crust.... *shudder*


Anyway, I wanted to make a Greek-flavored pizza, so I topped my whole wheat crust with an olive oil glaze, kale sauteed with garlic, black olives, feta, and a TINY bit of mozzarella and cheddar (as in one handful of each around the entire pizza). I also sprinkled on some nutritional yeast, just for good measure.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Chili: Unveiled



I've posted about chili many times now. First, I confessed my addiction by whipping up a quick, cheater's version during the hottest days of the summer. Then I used the leftovers to top a veggie burger. Then I made another (botched) batch to stuff an acorn squash.

And now, at last, I have a recipe to share with you--a recipe that I can proudly share because I know it rocks. Half the problem with my previous attempts was not the ingredients at all, but the fact that I didn't let it simmer.

Yes. You HAVE to let it simmer. For HOURS. And if you want it to be even better, you'll let it simmer, and then leave it in the fridge overnight, and FINALLY eat it the following day for lunch. In a mason jar.

But that's only if you love yourself. If you hate yourself, then sure: go ahead and eat it as soon as it's all assembled. But don't say I didn't warn you!

P.S. I used Westbrae Organic Chili Beans in this recipe. I don't normally specify brands, or differentiate between organic and conventional, because I feel like those decisions should be left to the individual cook. However, I love these beans because they are a mix of three different beans (black, kidney, and pinto), without the usual chili gravy. This way, I had total control of my chili's seasoning.



Lauren's 3-Bean and Quinoa Chili
  • 1/4 c quinoa
  • 1/2 of a white onion, diced (not finely!)
  • 1 - 15 oz.can tomato sauce
  • 1 - 15 oz. can stewed tomatoes, chopped into quarters
  • 1 - 4.5 oz. can chopped green peppers
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. Blackstrap molasses
  • small handful of dark chocolate chips
  • 1 - 15 oz. can black beans
  • 1 - 15 oz. can Westbrae Organic Chili Beans
  • salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes

1. In a large pot, cook 1/4 cup of quinoa according to instructions. Remember, it is better to UNDERCOOK your quinoa for this recipe, since you'll be simmering them later (right??).

2. Cook your onions on medium high heat in some olive oil in another pan for several minutes until they are translucent. Stir them frequently.

3. Combine your quinoa and onions to the large pot, and add the tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, chopped green peppers, garlic, cumin, oregano, chili powder, molasses, and chocolate chips. Stir. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes.

4. Stir again. Add both cans of beans. If your stove is super hot and your chili is practically boiling, you'll need to turn the heat down to low.

5. Taste. Add salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes (or cayenne pepper) as you deem necessary.

6. You could eat it now. But it won't be special. What you should do is let it simmer for an hour. Or at least half an hour. I even put mine in the fridge afterwards, and reheated it the next day. All of this helps thicken it up and make all the ingredients work together beautifully.

You can eat this plain, or top it with cheese, Greek yogurt, sour cream, chives, or green onions, or serve it with a nice chunk of cornbread. Or, if you're really fancy, you could bake it in a mason jar with cornbread on top. I'm dying to try that sometime.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

No more Potter.

This morning, I eagerly wondered what would happen in the world of Harry Potter today. I thought back to the horror of meeting Voldemort in the cemetery at Little Hangleton, to the delight when Sirius wrote the note giving permission for Harry to visit Hogsmeade, to my giggles imagining the charming arrogance of young James and Sirius taking their O.W.L.s, to the pain of watching Draco's slow transformation from rude child to dangerous bully to someone who's actually human. What would I experience today?

And then, with a stab to my chest, I remembered it was over. There was nothing left. I consumed the final page of Deathly Hallows last night at 2 AM. Never again would I experience the same thrills that I've had for the past several months. Never again would I finish one of those chapters, only to read the final sentence and feel an intense longing to keep reading, to continue the journey, to find out what happens.

Normally, one read is enough for me. When I finish a book, I feel a strange rush of pride; I suffered many years of the "I don't like to read" phenomenon in my adolescence--which is why I never experienced Hogwarts earlier--so actually finishing a long novel gives me an immense sense of accomplishment. I close the book, look at all the pages I have finished, smile to myself, and set the book back on its place on my bookshelf, where it will sit for a long time, probably never to be read again.

Never before have I felt such a desire to reread a book. I keep thinking back to those early books in the series, and reminiscing the happy, innocent tone of them, and realizing I have so many gaps in my memory about what actually happened in them. I want to relive it.

But this isn't an option. My bookshelf still contains a couple dozen books that are starved for attention, that have been calling my name for several years, that were offended by my decision to skip my planned reading list and immerse myself into the world of Harry Potter. Yes, there is still so much left to read. I need to move on.

...But moving on doesn't mean I won't be visiting Wizarding World of Harry Potter after graduation with Tiffany. ;)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Not-so-white Christmas

Is this real life?


Best. Winter. Break. EVER.

Some people might be disappointed not to have a white Christmas, and this will be the first year of my life that we haven't had ANY snow on Christmas. But you know what? A brown Christmas is a sacrifice I'm willing to make for THIS beautiful of a December. Sure, we had a billion inches of snow by THANKSGIVING last year, but we also had to suffer through -10 highs, -40 wind chills, icy roads, and constant blizzards. Given the choice, I pick the brown Christmas. I'm so grateful for this weather. I hope it keeps up throughout the winter!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Meatless Meatball Marinara

Behold! Heaven on bread. Actually, the bread was heaven, too... Heaven on a plate.

It's even better than the Christmas decorations.
Yes, I know I said I was going to make this two days ago, but you know how life goes. So TODAY, I finally got to work.

Even in my meat-eating days, I've only had a meatball marina sub once. It was last April, right after I temporarily switched to a high-calorie diet. My friend Natalie and I decided to meet for lunch at Subway. I had always gotten the same sub (turkey), but I realized suddenly that this was an excellent opportunity to carelessly pile on the calories. Eagerly, I went on the Subway website and checked out the nutritional information. I scanned the chart for the highest calorie sandwiches. Bam! Meatball marinara. At the time, it was second only to the Big Philly Cheesesteak (although they have since added more in the 500-calorie range).

Oh man. It was pretty good. I am a little skeptical about Subway, due to the high sodium, controversial ingredients in their "fresh" bread, and that AWFUL smell of the restaurants that just CLINGS to your clothes for hours, but this sub was delicious. In a wrong, sick way.

I'm not sure how I got the idea to recreate this sandwich. I've been wanting to incorporate more lentils into my diet, so I was thinking of making meatballs again. And this idea came to me. I was planning on just using regular bread, or perhaps "Thin Buns" (I love those things), but then something better stumbled into my hands. My boss randomly makes Italian-herb baguettes from time to time, and on Tuesday, he had a loaf for me.

He said to me, "When you leave tonight, you can take one of those loaves."

I pursed my lips thoughtfully and replied, "Hmm....maybe!"

To which he replied with a smile, "Oh no, that wasn't a request. That was an order. You're taking one of those loaves." ;)

And then I realized this bread would be perfect for my sandwich. So after weeks of considering this recipe, I finally put it into execution.

The meatballs are adapted from my favorite veggie burger recipe, Jennifer Perillo's lentil burgers. I have raved about these before. They rock, and they're so versatile! When I made this batch, I didn't even shape any of them into patties; I put them all in balls. Some were used for this sandwich, some will be used for pasta, and others will be crumbled up for other things (pasta, chili, etc.). Love this stuff.

Lauren's Lentil Balls
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked lentils
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 cup oat bran (OR breadcrumbs)
  • 1 tsp. sage
  • 1 tsp. fennel
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
Cook the onions in a tablespoon or two of oil over medium high heat until translucent. Remove from heat. (I did this step while my lentils were simmering).

Transfer lentils to a large bowl. Mash or puree with a stick/immersion blender (or do this in your food processor). DON'T puree it all the way! I keep around half of them whole.

In a small bowl, mix water, oil, and baking powder. This is the replacement for the egg (which I never seem to have on hand these days; I guess you could say I've taken on a vegan-inclined diet when cooking at home). So alternatively, you could just use an egg. :) Add the mixture, OR a lightly beaten egg, to the lentils.

Add the onion and oat bran. Mix. Add sage, fennel, black pepper, and salt. Mix again.

Shape into your preferred shape. The possibilities are endless! In fact, I bet if you added more spices (cayenne!!), they would transform into some fantastic breakfast sausages. :)

Refrigerate them for an hour or two (or longer!) before frying in a little oil on all sides.

For the meatball marina sandwich:

After the meatballs were browned on all sides, I added the marina to the pan. As it turns out, this was a terrible idea. Hot pan + cold sauce = sizzle, splatter, and hiss. Duh! (Proof that I'm still a kitchen debutante.) Try heating up the marina separately before adding!

I cut off a 5-inch chunk of the baguette and sliced it in half. I toasted it slightly on our Pizzazz. :)

And then I assembled it all. :) And DANG. It tasted SO GOOD. I actually felt a sense of loss when I had finished it all. I will definitely be using the remains of my baguette to repeat this meal!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What I've been up to..

So I've been pretty active in my kitchen lately, now that I don't have to spend allllllllll my time on homework and reading assignments. For some reason, now of it has ended up on the blog, so I thought I'd sum it all up now. :)

A couple days ago, I made baked oatmeal for the first time. I tried a pumpkin variation, using this recipe. Except I didn't have any eggs, so I vegan-ized it. It was quite wonderful. The only downfall is that baked oatmeal takes so long to make! I can whip up my stove top oatmeal in less than ten minutes, including cook time. This oatmeal requires about half an hour.

Yesterday, I made my signature tomato sauce. I was about halfway through when I remembered I was supposed to be keeping track of how much of everything I put in (so I could share the recipe). So I guess that will have to wait until next time. Anyway, I just used it for some pasta. I used whole wheat linguini, with a ginormous heap of spinach and mixed greens salad with feta and sunflower seeds, drizzled with olive oil to hold it all together. A great meal. :)

Anyway, the real reason I made the tomato sauce was because I had a genius plan for today. Using Jennifer Perillo's lentil burger recipe, I will be making "meatballs." Then, I will assemble it into a meatball marinara sandwich. I have a fantastic loaf of bread that my boss gave me yesterday; it's a garlic-y baguette with Italian herbs on top. My meatballs will love it. :) I will let you know how this all turns out.

And this morning, I made whole wheat pumpkin waffles. They pretty much made my apartment smell like Christmas! Because maple syrup makes me sick, I slathered a light coating of peanut butter on mine, and then lightly drizzled it with honey. Then I tossed on a handful of raisins, for good measure. Num, num, num. :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Oatmeal Addict

I really love oatmeal. It's not just something I eat in the winter time, and it's not something I eat once a month. I have it at least four times a week, all year round.

I had oatmeal for the first time two years ago, during my sophomore year of college. I knew I needed more soluble fiber in my diet to get my digestion issues under control, but I also wanted a low-cal option to help me lose my freshmen you-don't-even-want-to-know-how-much.

I first tried the Quaker Instant Banana Bread flavor. Wow. I can remember being a little apprehensive of it at first (so mushy!), but the flavor appealed to me, so I stuck with it. By the time I finished that box, I was hooked.

That year, when I was home for spring break, all my mom had in the pantry was the giant carton of instant Quaker oats. I was so addicted to my daily bowl of oatmeal that I was willing to try it out.

I made it like I used to make Cream of Wheat. After I took it out of the microwave, I added butter, cinnamon, and sugar. And then I tried it. And gagged. So I added chocolate. And gagged again.

Flavored oatmeal packets spoil your taste buds with artificial flavoring and tons of sugar. And if you don't know how to prepare unflavored oatmeal properly (which I didn't), it makes the transition even more appalling.
Dark Chocolate Banana Oatmeal

Needless to say, I have come a long way. I now find flavored oatmeal packets revolting (although I still smile as I remember my mornings in my dorm room, digging into a warm bowl of Banana Bread goodness while I checked my Facebook). And I can whip up a mean bowl of oatmeal.


So, my Christmas present from me to you:

5 Easy, Adaptable Oatmeal Recipes

Dark Chocolate Banana Oatmeal
There are several ways to achieve this, but my favorite is by using Dark Chocolate almond milk. Which is heavenly, but I rarely let myself buy it because it's what I call a "frivolous purchase." But when I do buy it, I always make sure to have bananas on hand so I can make this delightful breakfast.
  • 1/4 cup Dark Chocolate almond milk
  • 1/4 cup regular almond milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup Old-Fashioned/Regular Rolled Oats
  • 1 ripe banana
  • additional mix-ins (I suggest chopped almonds or walnuts)

Bring milks and water to a boil. Add oats. Reduce heat to medium. Mash half the banana and mix it into the cooking oatmeal. Slice the other half of banana and add to the pot. Stir occasionally until oatmeal is thick and creamy. Add chopped almonds or walnuts. Serve with another splash of regular almond milk.

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
This is one of my favorites to make, simply because I friggin' love apples!
  • 1/2 cup regular Almond Milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup Old Fashioned/Regular Rolled Oats
  • 1/2 (or a full) medium apple (I typically put in about 1/3 of an apple and eat the rest sliced with peanut butter)
  • vanilla extract
  • cinnamon
  • additional mix-ins (I suggest chopped almonds and raisins)
Brink milk and water to a boil and add oats. Reduce heat to medium. Slice and dice about half an apple, or all of it if you want. When oatmeal gets closer to finished, add a splash of vanilla extract (maybe 1/2 a tsp or so?) and a bunch of cinnamon. Add almonds, raisins, whatever. Serve with another splash of almond milk and another sprinkling of cinnamon.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal
This one is easy, but so delicious.
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup Old Fashioned/Regular Rolled Oats
  • peanut butter
  • vanilla extract
  • cinnamon
  • additional mix-ins (nuts, raisins, banana, jelly, sunflower seeds, etc.)
Brink milk and water to a boil and add oats. Reduce heat to medium. Wait until the oatmeal thickens up a little bit, and then add a spoonful or two of peanut butter, a splash of vanilla extract, and a sprinkling of cinnamon. Add any other mix-ins you desire, and serve with another splash of almond milk.

Oatmeal with Jam, Jelly, or Preserves
This one is super easy. It's my go-to recipe when I have no fruit or peanut butter on hand.
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup Old Fashioned/Regular Rolled Oats
  • any flavor jam, jelly, preserve, or fruit butter (peach, strawberry, or raspberry work beautifully for this recipe)
  • 1/2 tsp almond or vanilla extract
  • additional mix-ins (I go with my standard: raisins and chopped almonds)
Brink milk and water to a boil and add oats. Reduce heat to medium. Wait until the oatmeal thickens. Add a heaping spoonful of jam/jelly, and then the almond extract. Stir (a lot) until the jelly mixes into the oatmeal; this takes some patience. Add other mix-ins and serve with another splash of almond milk.

Oatmeal with Fresh Fruit
Out of all my "creative" oatmeal recipes, this one--in all its simplicity--continues to be my favorite. I have two versions: one with almond extract, and one with vanilla and cinnamon. It's so simple, I'm not even going to write a recipe. For blueberries and cherries, I suggest almond extract. For everything else, I suggest vanilla extract and cinnamon.

Add your fruit right away (unless you're using blueberries. Add those when you would add your "mix-ins" or they'll pop and stain your oatmeal all blue). Wait until your oatmeal thickens, and then add extract (and cinnamon, if you're using vanilla). Then add the other mix-ins.

Cinnamon Oatmeal with Fresh Peaches
**You can check out my other oatmeal recipes here, or by clicking the oatmeal tag. You can also find dozens of other oatmeal recipes on my Pinterest board (along with tons of other meatless recipes!). Thanks!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Recipe: Butternut Squash & Pear Bisque

My semester is slowwwwwwly crawling to a close. I'm not really sure if any length of a Christmas break would be enough to recover from this whirlwind! I have several papers to compose this weekend, but I purchased a squash and pear this week specifically for this awesome-looking recipe, so I took some time off homework to hit up my kitchen.

I found the recipe on Pinterest, the best site ever. The recipe looked good, but it involved onions (which I hate buying for no explainable reason), cream (I prefer to avoid dairy), chicken stock (...yeah), and curry seasoning (I should probably buy some of this...someday...but not today). So I decided to take the general idea and apply it to my standard creamy soup template.

I was really pleased with the result. After the first taste, I couldn't really taste the pear, and it tasted like my regular butternut squash soup. Had all my work been a waste? But then I sat down with a bowl and tried again. Woah. Suddenly I noticed the subtle sweetness. It wasn't a burst of PEAR, but an enhanced level of the squash's sweetness. Because I'm a poor college student who generally opts for simplicity, I rarely experience this kind of flavor depth in my kitchen.

Would I make this again? Yes.
Would I make it for others? Absolutely.

Butternut Squash & Pear Bisque
Inspired by this recipe by Memories in the Baking

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1 pear (Anjou or Bartlett), peeled and chopped
  • 1 clove minced garlic (OR half an onion, chopped)
  • 3 cups vegetable broth (or more or less, depending on how thick you want it!)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • any other spices (I, of course, suggest cayenne pepper!)


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.



2. Slice that beautiful squash in half lengthwise.

3. Remove seeds and set aside.



4. Chop the squash into quarters, cut off the skin, and dice the squash into 1- or 2-inch chunks. The smaller you cut them, the faster it will roast! :) Put your squash cubes on a baking sheet with tin foil and nonstick cooking spray. Place in oven.



5. If you don't want to keep your seeds, set your timer to 40 minutes, toss your seeds in the trash, and skip to step 8. If you want to keep the squash seeds to use for garnish or snacking, set the timer for 30 minutes.

6. This part sucks. There's no sugar-coating it. Clean off your seeds. There's no easy way of doing it. Get rid of all those stupid, slimy, orange strings. Rinse them off in a colander.

7. Drizzle your clean seeds with a little olive oil, and sprinkle them with salt and whatever else you want (cayenne pepper!!). You can bake them plain, but that's boring. When your 30-minute timer goes off, make a little room on your baking sheet, add the seeds in a single layer, lower the temperature on your oven to 325 degrees, and reset the timer to 15 minutes.



8. Remove from oven and let cool. And don't forget to turn off your oven. ;)

9. Heat your garlic (or onion) in a large saucepan in about a tablespoon of oil. I actually have a jar of minced garlic (which is why I prefer using garlic instead of buying an onion!), so I don't have to cook this down very much. If you are using an actual garlic clove or onion, then cook this for several minutes like you normally would.

Love this stuff.
10. Carefully add the stock. If your saucepan is really hot, it might sizzle, smoke, and splatter when the liquid hits your cookware. In other words, don't have your saucepan on too hot, and/or lift the pot off the stove for a second as you add in the first cup.

11. Add your butternut squash and pear.



12. Puree! Either use an immersion/stick blender, or dump the contents into a blender or food processor (and add it back to the saucepan afterwards). This is a good time to assess the thickness. I added another 1/4 cup of broth.



13. Add salt, pepper, cayenne, curry, or whatever you want! Start small and keep adding until you like it.

14. Garnish each bowl with your roasted squash seeds.  Serve with bread. May I recommend Irish soda bread? :)

With a Christmas tree in the background, just for good measure.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving

I've always loved Thanksgiving. I think it's the simplicity of it. Everyone gets a day off, eats good food, and reflects on what they're thankful for. It's a lot like Christmas, except without the pressure of gift-giving.

I struggled to enjoy it this year as much as I usually do. This semester really has been a lesson on poverty; I've participated in poverty simulations, learned about real examples of poverty in South Dakota, heard from Mary Robinson (the former president of Ireland) as she spoke about the extreme famine in third-world countries, and learned about how poverty affects the classroom.

Being aware of all these issues, I had a hard time enjoying a day that revolves around overeating. The restaurant I work at was hosting a free Thanksgiving meal for members of the community who couldn't afford to have their own, and as I sat at my grandma's house, passing around heaping bowls of mashed potatoes, stuffing, dinner rolls, and lefse, I wanted nothing more than to be back at the restaurant, helping out. I just felt sick, spoiled, and unworthy. I wanted to do something--anything to help.

That being said, I survived my first Thanksgiving as a vegetarian. Not difficult. After all, the desserts are the best part, and there's no meat in pumpkin pie! ;)

I'm eager to get back to school so I can power through these last few weeks. I sense stress and chaos in the near future, so I've been emotionally bracing myself.

I'll be a student teacher in just a couple of months. Almost there. I just gotta keep going. One day at a time.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm on Pinterest!

For those of you who are unaware, Pinterest is the best. It's another one of those awesome things--like Twitter--in which you can basically do whatever you want and utilize it for any purpose, and there's no such thing as doing it "wrong." Wanna make boards of shirtless male celebrities? Do it. Wanna collect awesome recipes? Do it. Wanna network with other photographers, Harry Potter fans, amateur chefs, or vintage art collectors? Do it.

I've been using Pinterest for approximately a month or so now. Like Twitter, it's so open-ended that at first you're like, "What the heck am I supposed to do on here? What's the point?"

But then you figure it out. Follow some cool boards. Collect the pins that fit "your point." Find some cool people. And become obsessed.

I use my Pinterest for collecting recipes, cool photography, and classroom ideas. If you're on Pinterest, you can follow me or any of my boards by checking out my page.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Run, Lauren, Run!

Okay. I hate exercising. Like, I really hate it. That is, traditional exercising: running, lifting weights, etc. Not only am I clearly a descendant of the sloth, but I also just get bored. I listen to music and everything, but the whole time I'm running, all I can think is, "Ughhhh, so bored, wanna stop, I have so many other things to do right now, so bored, how much farther? Ugh...so bored...so bored.......so bored..."

Being in Ireland really got my legs going. All that walking!! After returning to Amurrica, I spent the month of August speed walking and even jogging around the nearby track. I was doing great...until school came along.

Not only does school suck up all my time, but now I have to deal with the weather. As someone who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (diagnosed by myself, of course), every single ounce of motivation to go outside and exercise disappears the second the thermometer drops below 35 and the wind picks up to over 10 mph. Yeah, I'm a wimp.

But I read this article today called "Diabetes a growing threat to young and slim," and it's basically about seemingly healthy girls getting Type II Diabetes because they only focus on diet and don't exercise, creating a "skinny-fat" atmosphere in your body:


"A big skinny-fat risk factor? Neglecting exercise and regulating weight through food choices alone, a behavior plenty of young women in our diet-obsessed, desk-strapped culture are prone to. Turns out, breaking a sweat is key in lowering blood sugar, because even moderate exercise causes muscles to suck up glucose at 20 times the normal rate (regular workouts are also the only way to shed visceral fat)."


Fudgecracker! That's me.


I thought about this for a while and came to the conclusion that if I'm willing to preach to people about eating whole foods, despite the extra time and effort, I should be willing to put more time and effort into my exercise.


But I won't be running. Oh no.


I love cardio. It does feel good. But I only love it if it's in the form of dancing. :) So that's what I do. And that's what I will do now.

This is going to make everyone realize how much of a loser I am, but I love pulling up Just Dance 1/2/3 videos on YouTube and dancing to them. It's incredibly fun. And it's doable, but still challenging. And it requires me to focus on something OTHER than boredom, school, or life. And it has lots of good songs. And it makes me feel talented (as long as I can't see my reflection anywhere).

Oh yeah, and it makes me sweat and stuff. Without having to go outside. Or run.

And the best part? I didn't have to go out and buy a Wii. Thanks, YouTube!

I will update you on how well my exercising is going. I will test things out for a while and then set some specific goals and expectations for how often I'm going to do it. Because I really don't want Diabetes.

P.S. Happy Veteran's Day!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Creamy Winter Squash Soup for One

I will never stop loving soup. Ever. First of all, it's cheap. It's cheap to make, and it's cheap to buy at restaurants. So if you're ever spending two weeks in Ireland and you don't want to blow all your money on fresh salmon or shepherd's pie, check out the soup of the day! ;) Those tasty soups accounted for practically half of my meals on the Emerald Isle. Because soup + Irish soda bread = perfection.

Today, I had a mixture of roasted acorn and butternut squash to use up. I saved a handful of the butternut squash that I bought for this fantastic pasta recipe I made yesterday--I will share this recipe later (it was fantastic!).


I only had one cup's worth of squash, so it was just enough for one serving. Obviously, you can double/triple/quadruple to fit your needs. 

Creamy Winter Squash Soup for One
  • oil
  • 1/4 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 and 1/4 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 cup of acorn and/or butternut squash, diced and roasted
  • salt
  • cayenne pepper (optional)


1. Heat 1 tbsp. (I used a little less) of olive oil in a medium-size saucepan. 

2. Add 1/4 tsp. minced garlic (or about 1/2 a clove). I am not a huge garlic fan. If you are, consider doubling this.

3. After a minute or so, add 1 and 1/4 cup of vegetable stock/broth. You can alter this amount depending on how thick/thin you like your soups.

4. When it begins to simmer, add 1 cup of roasted, diced squash (mine was 3/4 butternut and 1/4 acorn. I recommend butternut because it has a silkier consistency). Reduce heat to medium and cook until the squash is tender or warmed through.

5. Use an immersion blender (or transfer contents to a blender or food processor) and puree away!

6. Stir in a pinch of sea salt, and if you'd like a kick of heat, cayenne pepper. Remember: start small and keep adding until it suits your palette. You can always add more!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chili-Stuffed Acorn Squash

You know I love chili.

Do you see the little black specks? Yeah, I burnt the quinoa.
And you know I love squash.


So I roasted some acorn squash and stuffed it with my bean and quinoa chili.

The more nutritious version of the almighty bread bowl.
And I even thought about sharing my chili recipe this time. But then I tasted it, and realized it wasn't my best. I mean, it was GOOD, but not as good as last time. It was lacking that depth and velvety richness, so I need to figure out what I did differently.

But the dish as a whole...mmm. :) And interestingly, as I was tagging this blog post as "vegetarian," I realized it was also vegan. This exemplifies why I will defend a vegan lifestyle. So often, people assume vegans have nothing to eat except salad. LOOK AT THAT PICTURE. Is that a salad?! No.

So often people claim they could never enjoy a vegetarian or vegan meal. This is why I love informing people when they ARE. For example, I was out for lunch one day in September with my sister and her husband. We all were eating soup: I had tomato, and they had broccoli cheddar. I smiled and said, "Awww, we're all eating vegetarian!!" They both froze for a millisecond, trying to think of a witty comeback, but all they said was "....oh." Zing! I win. :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Eric Schlosser

This evening, I was blessed with the rare opportunity of meeting one of my biggest heros, Mr. Eric Schlosser.

This is the man who changed my life. This is the man that forced me to think about food in new ways. This is the man who uncovered a passion in me that I had never felt before. This passion for food, health, and sustainable living gave me confidence, energy, and purpose. It gave me an identity. A hobby. A lifestyle.

Growing up in rural South Dakota, I often struggle with the mainstream adoration of biotechnology. I once got in a little debate in class with a bunch of ag education majors who were mocking the organic market. And this is normal for me. So as I sat in the fourth row, seeing Eric Schlosser right there in front of me, speaking about all the things I am most passionate about, knowing many of my friends, peers, and community members were all there listening to it, made me more emotional than I have been since leaving Ireland.

As expected, the question and answer period brought much heated discussion. Every question began with, "I am a family farmer. I actually agree with some of the things you said, but..." And then it went downhill from there.

I noticed quickly during this time that the audience was segregated. Whenever one of these farmers said something, applause roared from the back of the theater. As these farmers were speaking, all the people around me in the front of the theater were rolling their eyes, shaking their heads, and muttering to their neighbors about how embarrassed they were by these members of the opposing viewpoints.

(On one hand, I agree. There were a few comments that just made me duck my head in shame, and they reminded me of why I want to move to Europe. On the other hand, I felt it disrespectful for us to want "the others" to keep their opinions to themselves.)

I used to think I was alone as a food activist in South Dakota, but the segregation of the audience at this event made me realize I'm not alone--I'm just socializing with the wrong people. :) It also makes me realize that there's a distinct segregation in the culture of this community, state, and perhaps the country as a whole. If you look at my school alone, we have the "farm kids" and the "not-farm kids." To say that we don't always see eye to eye  would be an understatement. (One of my best friends comes from a farm....but that's an organic farm, so I don't think that counts).

One question/comment given tonight really caught my attention. A man introduced himself as a family farmer (naturally) and explained that--in this region--it's almost impossible to get ahold of seed that ISN'T genetically modified. The large corporations have taken over so much that even those that WANT to plant non-GMO crops are having a hard time making it happen.

So anyway, let's skip to the happy part. As if hearing him speak wasn't enough of a pleasure, he was also doing a book signing afterwards. I'm not going to lie--I was on the verge of tears. I held them back so people wouldn't think I was crazy. Although, if you saw how much I was shaking and fidgeting around, you'd probably think I was crazy anyway. :)

And then it happened. I stood in line for 10-15 minutes, and then there I was, at the front of the line, nervously pushing my copy of Fast Food Nation toward him.


I said to him, "Thank you so much for being here. Growing up around here, it's just....welll....you heard those attitudes out there, so you know what I'm dealing with. And it's just so....confining and frustrating, and it's just so refreshing to have someone like you come here, so I really appreciate it..thank you so much." And he said that that was great to hear. And then I added that I saw Food Inc. about a year and a half ago, and it just absolutely changed my life. He smiled and said thanks again, and my friend Alex, who was standing next to me, made some comment about how I was boosting his confidence or something? I don't remember. And Eric laughed and replied, "Yeah, I kind of needed that, thank you." :) My schoolmates bruised his ego.. :( And I fixed it. :D

And then I asked for a picture with him. He laughed and said, "Are you sure you won't regret this someday?" He has a fabulous sense of humor.



Now if only I could meet Michael Pollan...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

It doesn't run in the family.

As I finished slicing some tomatoes in half and sent them into the oven, my brother (also known as my roommate) walked into the kitchen.

"Look!" I said, proudly pointing to a carton of organic half-and-half on the counter. "I bought organic half-and-half for my homemade tomato soup." I rarely have dairy to begin with (because I'm mildly lactose intolerant), so purchasing organic dairy was new to me (with the exception of organic greek yogurt, when it's on sale).

The look on his face said he was clearly just as excited about this as I was. (...Okay, maybe not.) He nodded once, and then opened the freezer and pulled out a frozen pepperoni pizza.

The juxtaposition of my homemade tomato-with-organic-dairy soup with his frozen pizza made me laugh. A dark, defeated, I-wish-he-would-stop-eating-that-crap laugh, but a laugh nonetheless. I've given up converting my family.

I've had far more luck teaching my friends good habits than my family. I have friends who stopped drinking soda, increased their fruits and vegetables, and switched to whole grains. I have friends who even tried the meatless thing with me (hey, Alex!). But with my family, not so much.

They continue to consume Splenda and aspartame.

They continue to consume foods containing trans fat and a long list of chemical ingredients.

They continue to devote half the kitchen space to ice cream, chips, and other junk food.

They continue to consider corn as the vegetable of choice.

They continue to have an entire fridge full of a variety of sodas in the basement at all times.

I just want everyone to be healthy. :(

EDIT: So, I hated that the techies at Food Revolution chose to link to THIS blog post. This post was originally a frustrated and illogical rant, and while much of it contained my true feelings, I worded it poorly and exaggerated a few things that made me come off like a real pretentious idiot. :) Thinking about all the people reading it made me sick. I finally had to tweak it a bit. So if you notice a few parts of this post missing, that's why!

P.S. Check out my Pinterest for hundreds of healthy, meatless meals!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The big decision...

Two days ago, I added "vegetarian" to my Twitter profile description. It felt right. I liked the look of it.


Meat is something that has lost its appeal to me. Kind of like soda. After I had given it up for a few weeks or so, it became something that I just wanted nothing to do with. Sure, bacon will always smell good...but so does freshly cut grass, and I've manage to resist eating that for 21 and a half years, so I think I'll be okay. :)

What I mean is that when I plan out my meals during the day, I think of fresh produce, whole grains, and legumes. No part of my brain is begging for a burger. It's not like meat makes me cringe or anything--it's just not something I desire.

Also, the flexitarian/only-organic-meat thing was too difficult. I mean, it was easy to maintain on a personal level, but it was socially difficult. My peers didn't take me seriously, people didn't understand it, and it always sucked having to plan out days when I was eating out or with other people. If I didn't know ahead of time that we were going to grill out for supper, and I had tuna for lunch, well, I was screwed. And then I would have to explain to my friends, and then they would be annoyed, which I don't blame them.

The strange only-once-a-day rules I was following were bizarre and illogical at times. People would frustratedly ask me, "Why can't you just not eat meat the rest of the week?" or "Why can't you eat meat now if you ate it for lunch?" I originally liked the flexitarian idea because it allowed me to still eat meat in social situations like that, but I have realized that it sent confusing messages. I think my social life will actually be easier if I just establish myself as a vegetarian. People usually take that more seriously than "I can't eat meat for more than one meal a day." As a flexitarian, people will just expect you to always make the exception for them. Nobody expects the vegetarian to make an exception.

Also, the organic thing sounds great in theory, but it's really not fun to tell your stubborn mother that you'll only eat her trademark lasagna if she uses grass-fed beef. Not gonna happen. I couldn't even convince her to use whole wheat noodles!

Yes, vegetarianism has its difficulties...but so does IBS, and I've managed to make that work. Do you think I cry at night because I can't have caffeine? Ha! No. At the end of the day, having IBS has made me a healthier eater. It's like natural behavior modification; when I eat something not-so-great, it punishes me with pain, and when I eat healthy food, my tummy stays happy. :)

Similarly, I have found that eating meatless rewards me with a healthy mind and body, so the social dilemmas are worth it. I wouldn't do this if it didn't make me happy. I genuinely enjoy eating meatless. Regardless of all the other reasons I have listed, this is the deciding factor: I just like it.

And let's be honest--the kinds of restaurants that don't have vegetarian-friendly menus generally suck anyway, because it signals to me that they don't know how to work with basic ingredients beyond burgers, steaks, and fries.

Now I need to decide what to do with the meat in my house. My brother would probably gladly take my beef off my hands, and I'm thinking of taking all my canned tuna to the food pantry.

So that's me... My name is Lauren, and I'm a vegetarian.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Lunch: Broccoli & Cauliflower Soup

If you can't tell from the title of this blog, I love broccoli. And the only reason I started eating it (which wasn't until my sophomore year of college!) was because I was having trouble with my IBS, and I realized I needed more soluble fiber, as opposed to insoluble fiber. That's why I started eating broccoli, oatmeal, rice, etc. Soluble fiber is my best friend.


Isn't it glorious? And it was super simple, too. I got the recipe from a blog called Lori's Lipsmacking Goodness. Prepare yourself if you go check it out: there's some bloody awful music in the background. Can we all agree that background music on websites should be banned? Okay, moving on.

I more or less followed the recipe exactly, except I used almond milk instead of regular milk and colby jack and monterey instead of cheddar. It turned out spectacular. I had seconds.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pizza. Y'know, the healthier kind.

How's THIS for gorgeous?


This recipe was a huge risk for me. I've never even TASTED butternut squash, let alone worked with it. I've never sauteed kale, or done anything with it besides bake them into chips. I've never made a successful pizza crust. I've tried and failed twice. 

But this was glorious, and it all came together so unbelievably well. I tried a different crust recipe, and it was perfection. And the yeast worked! The dough "doubled in size" like it's supposed to. That's always where my crust usually fails. It also fails when I cook it. It would be too thick, and it would never get "crusty" enough. It would just be like...bread.

And the pizza itself...wow. I didn't know what a pizza with very minimal cheese would taste like, but this blew my mind. It didn't taste like something I made. It felt...better than me. Like it came from a restaurant or something.

To say I'm proud would be an understatement. :)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Three-bean and quinoa chili (with avocado!)

Well, folks. I did it. It's October 1st, which means I've successfully completed one month without meat.

So now what? Do I keep going? It's certainly a lot to consider. The fact that I don't feel like "celebrating" my completed goal with a giant burger is a pretty good sign that maybe vegetarianism is for me.

The creativity of meatless meals excites me. I love how it gets me to try new foods.

I love how I save money by not buying meat.

I love how my body feels.

I love networking with other vegetarians.

I love having a more sustainable diet.

I love not supporting the disgusting meat industry with their horrendous feedlots/CAFOs.

And I especially love the feeling I get when I declare, "I am a vegetarian." The first time, it was a little scary; I felt judged. But since then, I've embraced it. It feels like a part of my identity now. Even when my BFF Tiffany interjects, "YOU'RE NOT A REAL VEGETARIAN."

I'm not sure I could give that up. But I'll update you on my decision later.

Last Saturday, I tried making chili with quinoa. Fail. Ultimate fail. I made a much larger batch than usual, but I didn't adjust the amount of beans to keep it proportionate. It tasted like bad tomato soup with quinoa and an occasional bean.



But the wonderful thing about cooking is that you can often revamp the leftovers into something better. So instead of my bad chili with pinto beans and quinoa, I added both red AND black beans. Instant improvement. And then, the next time, I garnished it with avocado. Just wonderful.



This is one of the first times I've been proud enough of my concoction that I actually considered sharing the recipe. But then I realized there was no recipe. ;) So maybe next time, I'll actually write down what I'm doing so I can share it. Because I've really gotten good at this chili thing.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Soup It Up!

So.

As it turns out, being a senior English Education major in her final semester before student teaching is extremely stressful. When I'm not in class, I'm tutoring. When I'm not tutoring, I'm observing or giving lessons in nearby high schools. When I'm not doing that, I'm giving mock lessons in my labs. When I'm not in lab, I'm waitressing at the pizzeria. When I'm not waitressing, I'm doing homework. And when I'm not doing homework, I'm sleeping.

Or eating.

I might have taken on a little too much this fall. But that's okay, because I've had plenty of soup to keep me warm and cozy and sane.

Since the beginning of the school year, I have made three different soups (not counting chili). All thanks to this baby:

My immersion blender is seriously the most used appliance in my kitchen. It's almost frustrating that it's never clean when I need it, because I often use it multiple times a day. Smoothies, soup, pasta sauces, etc.

Potato Corn Chowder

I essentially made a pureed potato soup, and then cut the corn off the cob and added it in. Only four ingredients: onion, vegetable broth, potatoes, and corn. Everything but the broth came from the farmers market! Vegan, local, and organic. Just the way I like it.

Potato Soup

I used the leftovers from the other soup. And garnished it with fresh rosemary growing from the pail on my balcony. :) Three ingredients: onion, broth, potatoes.

Roasted Acorn Squash Soup


I've never actually had squash before. Or at least acorn squash. Admittedly, I had to ask Google how to roast a squash. But the experience was a positive one! I ended up eating spoonfuls of it before dumping it in the soup. 


So I've done the whole pureed soup thing. Now I'm going to try my hand at hearty, chunky soups. With lots of beans.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lunch: Meatless Chili Burgers and Sweet Potato Fries

My dream come true: owning a camera that can capture steam rising from hot food.

My other dream come true: this lunch. Wowza. Jennie Perillo's lentil burgers + my meatless chili + oven baked sweet potato fries = heaven.



I wish I would have had a darker backdrop to capture the steam better, but at the time I was too eager to eat. :) So I was taking those pictures as fast as I possibly could!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Do you eat breakfast? I do.

I've become so accustomed to preparing elaborate breakfasts for myself that I often forget my peers usually just eat a bowl of Frosted Flakes or some Hot Fudge Sundae Pop Tarts. Or, even more likely, they eat nothing at all.

Which is a shame. Besides all the health benefits of breakfast, I can't imagine having one less meal every day. I plan meals hours ahead of time. I think about them. And count down toward them. And drool over the thought of them. I already only get three a day; I couldn't possibly settle for two.

And breakfast has slowly become my favorite meal of the day. I used to think of breakfast food as sugary cereal, white flour pancakes, and frosting-covered rolls. All of which made me MISERABLE. As someone who suffers from IBS, nothing makes me more bloated and crampy than traditional breakfast food.

Then I discovered oatmeal. I originally tried it as an attempt to include more soluble fiber in my diet (because of the IBS thing). I started with the instant packets, and eventually weaned myself onto preparing my own on the stove with old-fashioned rolled oats. Which I recommend to everyone. Because seriously, what's more appetizing to you: "maple and brown sugar oatmeal," or "oats cooked in almond milk with banana, raisins, cinnamon, and almonds"? I choose the latter.

But I've become obsessed with breakfast. Omelettes, toast, smoothies, whole wheat pancakes/waffles, muesli, any sort of porridge, egg sandwiches, etc. I find that being excited for breakfast helps me get up early, which is why I never sleep past 9.

And since I know many people who find breakfast a pain to prepare, I decided to log my efforts for a week, just for fun. :)

Rules for my breakfasts:
1. At least one serving of fruits or vegetables must be included.
2. Be diverse (ex: don't overdo grains, like having oatmeal with toast).
3. The entire breakfast must reach at least 400 calories, which is usually done by pairing two things (ex: oatmeal and smoothie, eggs and toast, etc.).
4. Some good form of protein should be present (peanut butter, eggs, almonds).
5. No meat.
6. Keep dairy to a minimum (dairy is an IBS trigger). I use almond milk for everything, but when I use cheese, I use it sparingly.

DISCLAIMER: None of my classes start before 10, so no, I'm not in a hurry these mornings. However, I worked at 8 AM all summer, and I still got up early enough to prepare these same breakfasts.

Monday

Broccoli and cheddar omelette; banana, peach, and almond smoothie
My smoothies are rarely any color besides green. Unfortunately, I'm not stocked in spinach at the moment. This meal took me quite a while to prepare--nearly half an hour. My breakfasts rarely take more than fifteen minutes to put together, but the steaming of the broccoli and pealing the peaches were quite time-consuming.

Also, my smoothies are always vegan. I use frozen bananas to get that creamy texture. You're aware that blended, frozen bananas have the same consistency as soft-serve ice cream, right? RIGHT?! I buy giant bags of overripe bananas for $.99 at my local grocery store, and then I slice them up and store them in the freezer. Super cost effective.

Tuesday
Muesli with fresh peaches and almond milk; toast with peanut butter and jelly

I fell in love with muesli when I was in Ireland. I had never had it before then. Europe has a fantastic brand called "Alpen," and I ate it every single morning over there, except once, when it wasn't provided (darn you, Shannon Court Hotel!). Over here, I've struggled to find a brand that compares. Right now, I'm settling for Bob's Red Mill Old Country Style Muesli. It's okay. But it's certainly not Alpen.

This breakfast took me about ten minutes to prepare, most of which (once again) went to pealing the peach.

Wednesday
Chocolate-peanut butter-banana smoothie; oatmeal with peaches

This is my most typical breakfast: smoothie and oatmeal. It may be a stretch to call my banana ice cream a smoothie, but at the end of the day, it's frozen blended fruit--a smoothie. I made it super thick this morning so it would actually be the consistency of ice cream instead of an actual smoothie. And the source of the chocolate comes from a splash of Silk's Dark Chocolate Almond Milk. Just enough to add a hint of chocolate and help liquify the mixture. Oh, and the oatmeal... Fantastic. :)

This breakfast took about ten minutes to prepare. I did not peal the peach this time. ;)

Thursday
Oatmeal-banana pancakes with spiced peaches and granola

Are you ready for this? Forty minutes. Yes, I spent forty minutes preparing this little beauty. But:
  1. It was worth it.
  2. It was time consuming only because I had to grill an entire batch of pancakes, meaning I'll have leftovers! Another morning, all I'll have to do is reheat that puppy. :) So time spent now is time saved later.
  3. I don't have class until 3 today. So I'm in absolutely no hurry. ;)
The pancakes are vegan, which I love because I can eat the raw batter without fear (no eggs!). I encourage you to check out the recipe; it contains no refined flours or sugars, and it will make your house smell like banana bread. I almost always use vegan recipes for pancakes and waffles, simply so I don't use up my precious eggs as fast (and so I can lick the batter from the spoon...).

The spiced peaches...mmm. I wanted to do something resembling a peach compote, but all the recipes I looked at included a truckload of sugar. What? They're peaches. They don't need sugar! So I just chopped up the peaches and heated them up in a saucepan with cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg, and I let all of it simmer until the juice thickened, as if I were making a reduction sauce. It worked beautifully. And it was plenty sweet.

Friday
Egg sandwich on multigrain thin bun; banana-peach-almond smoothie
Say hello to my new camera! I spent more time photographing my food than I did preparing it, which was only 10-15 minutes. I used to make this sandwich with a slice of American cheese, but I'm trying to eliminate that particular cheese from my diet. I've been ignoring how processed it is for a long time, but I'm finally forcing myself to accept the fact that it needs to go. :)

So that's five days of breakfasts in my life! Two things stick out as unusual:
  1. All the peaches! This week has been quite a luxury.
  2. None of my smoothies are green. My smoothies are almost always green. I really need to get to the store and buy some spinach.
Looking over these pictures make me smile. My brother told me once last week that I use more dishes preparing breakfast than he does over the course of the whole day. I denied it at the time...but I knew deep down that he was absolutely correct. ;)

Buon appetito!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Homesick.




Ireland: patriotism, unity, and national identity

I learned a lot in Ireland. Not just factual information about Irish history and literature, but more subtle cultural differences. The kinds of differences that made me question the greatness of my own country.

One of the amazing aspects of Irish culture was this almost unexplainable sense of unity and national identity. Even though nobody I saw in Dublin had personally witnessed the Easter Rising of 1916 or the Civil War in 1922, they all seemed to act like they had all gotten through those events together. They show compassion and hospitality toward each other. They have this ever-present sense of optimism and determination. They spoke of heroes like Michael Collins and Daniel O’Connell with the kind of pride one uses when talking about a neighbor or best friend who happened to write a famous novel or appear on a popular television show. 

The O'Connell statue in Dublin


In our country, even important figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr., or Abraham Lincoln do not receive that much affection from present-day Americans. For example, Michael Collins died in the Irish Civil War in 1922. Almost 90 years later, the Irish people are still flowering him with adoration. Literally. Every Saturday morning, the Irish send dozens of flowers to Collins’s grave in Glasnevin Cemetery. By contrast, I cannot even guess where Martin Luther King, Jr., is buried. 

Flowers given by the Irish for the beloved leader, who was killed in the Irish Civil War.

How beautiful is that?

Ireland’s unity and national identity is not simply beautiful, but also more logistical. I could simply sense this beautiful unity among the Irish people that made me realize how disconnected my own country was. 

America is so vast, and Americans are so diverse. I have very little in common with Californians or New Yorkers or Texans. Visiting a different state is often like traveling to an entirely different country. The language is different; the demographics are different; the food is different; and, of course, the political agenda is different. So how can our government logistically please us all? 

Such unreasonable expectations has left our Congress in its current state of shambles—a massive group of representatives fighting for vastly different laws, regulations, and outcomes, each trying to please his or her own regional culture.

Sure, having a Congress with representatives for each state sounds like a lovely idea. But how effective can they really be?

I wish America could be smaller. It took an event as tragic as September 11th to bring our country together. How sad is that? Three thousand people had to die for us to bond as Americans. The rest of the time, we barely see eye-to-eye.

I'd like to share one more story. While we were touring the tragic Kilmainham Gaol, our guide brought us out into the courtyard and told us about the Easter Rising rebels who were executed by firing squad there. She pointed to single black crosses on each side of the small area, explaining how they were there to memorialize those fighters.

The crosses stand over the execution site of fourteen men involved in the Easter Rising.
The crosses were the only thing in the courtyard, except for one brilliant flagpole, proudly waving the iconic Irish flag. Our guide explained to us that the tricolor of green, white, and orange represent the peace or "truce" among the people of Ireland. 

The Irish flag in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin
The green stands for the native people of Ireland, and is generally associated with the Catholic population. The orange symbolizes the Protestant population who came from England in the 17th Century. The white in the middle represents peace and honesty between the two distinct groups.

After explaining that, she smiled and said, "Can you guys tell me what the American flag stands for?" We all stared and blinked. We stammered things like:

"Um, the stars represent, y'know, the fifty states."
"Red symbolizes blood. Like, in honor of the blood shed by soldiers and stuff...?"
"The thirteen stripes symbolize the thirteen original colonies..."

Followed by an awkward silence. Now, I'm not telling this story because I think the Irish flag is better than ours (although it may be). The point is that we, as Americans, do not have the national identity and patriotism like we often pretend to. We like to sing songs about how we're "Proud to Be an American," and wave Old Glory in front of every bank, school, and post office...

But how proud are we?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Summer Lunches

Once I knew I was going to be working at the library again this summer, I knew I had to make some changes. Last summer, the utter misery of that place took me to a pretty awful mental state. But this summer, I was determined to enjoy myself. One of the ways I was going to try to keep a positive attitude was with food. My hope was that being able to look forward to awesome lunches would keep me in a positive mood all morning. :)

I suppose I was highly inspired by Mrs. Q. She posts photos of her son's lunches, as well as her own lunches, every week. I loved seeing how she could pull together such enticing, well-balanced meals to send in a lunchbox. I wanted to do the same thing.

So I purchased my BPA-free Laptop Lunch bento boxes. And I got creative. Well, sometimes. By the end of the summer, I was getting pretty redundant. And I didn't take photos every day. In fact, despite working five days a week for nearly four months, I ended the summer with a total of ELEVEN pictures. Fail? Well...eleven is more than zero. :)

Items are listed clockwise from the top left corner.


  • half a (very ripe) banana and trail mix (for mid-morning snack)
  • watermelon cubes
  • mashed sweet potatoes
  • PB&J&banana sandwich
And you're probably thinking, what's exciting about PB&J? Um...have you had a PB&J&banana sandwich? If you haven't...don't judge. Because it's fantastic. You will quickly notice in these pictures that I'm obsessed.





  • Oven-roasted cauliflower
  • orange
  • seasoned sweet potato puree for dipping the cauliflower
  • PB&J sandwich (no banana...but still wonderful)









  • Broccoli and rice
  • Trail mix (mid-morning snack)
  • Diced mango
  • Organic yellow carrots; hard-boiled egg











Falafel day!

  • Spinach, mozzarella cheese, and julienned yellow carrots for stuffing in my pitas!
  • Diced mango
  • Baked falafel
  • Pita pockets
Enough materials to make two falafel pitas.





I would just like to say that these waffles ROCK. Whenever I make them, my apartment smells like banana bread. It's an absolutely divine recipe.






  • Broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, and hard-boiled egg
  • Trail mix (mid-morning snack)
  • Diced mango
  • PB&J&banana :)










  • Diced mango (again)
  • Trail mix (mid-morning snack)
  • Yellow carrots (again)
  • Tuna noodle casserole with broccoli
Yes, that's tuna noodle. I used angel hair pasta (because it was all I had on hand), and the thickness of the casserole made the pasta break up into rice-sized pieces. I make this from scratch, using this concoction to replace the traditional Cream of Chicken/Mushroom monstrosity.



  • Vegan quinoa and pinto bean salad (which I chose to eat warm, not cold)
  • Trail mix (mid-morning snack)
  • Yellow carrots (I got SO sick of these frickin' carrots! I've barely touched a carrot since.)
  • Apple and peanut butter








  • Baked kale chips
  • Trail mix (mid-morning snack)
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Pizza on pita bread with homemade pizza sauce, broccoli, and chickpeas










  • Cantaloupe and raspberries from the farmers market :)
  • Leftover Hawaiian pizza













  • Sweet corn from the farmers market; grilled brussel sprouts
  • Cantaloupe and raspberries
  • Pinto beans with homemade taco seasoning
  • Whole wheat tortilla with spinach, avocado, and cheese
I heated up the bean mixture separately, then added it to the tortilla.




And that's it. And I'm a little disappointed in myself, because I know I had some cooler lunches that I just didn't have the ambition to take a picture of. ;) But that's a glimpse of what I was eating this summer.

Buon appetito!