August 31, 2011

Keep Your Sanity

It is very, very, easy to feel overwhelmed in the kitchen. Especially when it's a Sunday evening, there is nothing prepared for tomorrow's dinner, and all you have ready to bring to work is a bag of carrots and cucumbers. Do not panic, you will not starve and your husband will not have to eat canned tuna with a side of pinto beans, as much as he wouldn't mind it and actually loves to eat that way. You can throw together plenty of meals in the short amount of time remaining. Breathe.

I only cook twice a week. I used to cook every single night, including the weekends, and I never had a break. I was new to cooking, though, so I didn't mind. I was in love with the kitchen and all the countless recipes waiting for me to attempt in my few cookbooks. Cooking nightly was a gift, a blessing, I enjoyed it more than I could explain.

A day came, though, where I realized all I did was cook. My husband would be Skyping his parents in Mexico over the phone and I would become accustomed to hearing him say, "yeah, she's in the kitchen working like an ant." To this day, they refer to me as "la hormiguita" which is "little ant" - since all I used to do was run around in the kitchen putting together crazy (delicious) creations that no one I knew had ever heard of. The only problem was that I had ignored the fact that I used to have other hobbies, too. Like art, like reading my bible (hobby? no, necessity!), like sitting on the couch with my husband after work, etc.

So I switched things up a bit. I started to cook every other day, but that didn't work out for some reason, and I found myself cooking daily, again. And then one day... a thought came to mind. That, or, a thousand recipes came to mind on a Sunday morning and I decided I wanted to cook all of them right then and there, resulting in enough meals to feed a family of two until Thursday. It was brilliant. It was a joy. It was an epiphany. I smiled. I could very easily get used to this, I thought, I could do this once or twice a week, I pondered. I could do this. I am free.

So I did it, and have done it, for the past month or so. Sunday afternoons, I set aside 2 hours and cook. I usually spend about 20 minutes finding fun recipes, then get down into the hands-on, burners-on, oven-preheated side of it. I'm there for around 90 minutes. Then everything sits on the counter and cools off. I make two servings of each meal so that I can eat one plate for lunch Monday, then the same plate for dinner Tuesday. It's wonderful. I feel so free! And I am, too. I don't lift a finger (except to re-heat meals) on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays or Fridays. I repeat the cooking process on Wednesdays, but only need about an hour since I'm only cooking for two days. I don't count Saturdays, even though I always cook somethin' that day, because they're leisurely and there ain't no Tupperware involved.

Notice the bold print:
[Sunday: 90 mins
Wednesday: 60 mins
2 servings each meal]

It's a delight, give it a try. Take a day (or four) off. Rest.

He will once again fill your mouth with
laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.

Job 8:21

August 29, 2011

The Dinosaur Story


One day a few weeks back, I was asked if I'd be willing to paint a dinosaur or two for a dino-themed party. I had hardly responded before my imagination began working overtime on what the dinosaurs would look like, how big they'd be, where I'd find the reference pictures and how I'd bring them to work once they were done. It was Friday.

Saturday we went to Ikea and conveniently purchased about 850 large items, leaving us with just as many cardboard boxes that I would need to paint life-size (for preschoolers) dinosaurs. It was meant to be, me and those there dinos, in the garage together night after night following scrumptious dinners, with Pandora music and a happy belly.

Sunday I did nothing dinosaur related. Monday I pondered. Tuesday I stared blankly at the walls, contemplated life a bit. And Wednesday I got to work. I had 2 nights to finish and I hadn't even found the reference pictures. Time to get down and dirty, and beat myself up a bit for waiting 'till Wednesday to start this thang.

Google, google, more google. Take picture of that dinosaur, examine the other one, wonder what their names are, stop caring so much what their names are. Grab a pencil and sketch away. I decided to paint three of them, and their size was based only on the size of the Ikea boxes. It went quickly and smoothly, with enough time to spare for a few mini sing-off competitions between myself and Pandora radio.

I attempted to take progress pictures, but the lighting changed about 17 times, so crooked photos is all I've got. Traveling with them was fun, they lied down very nicely in the back of my dad's truck and were very well behaved. And although I may have painted on their eyes thicker than thick, and our garage is so cold it didn't even think of drying out in time, once I handed them over to a sweet 5 year old - they was dry as can be.

Long Neck!
And shoot. The smile on that girl! Makes me want to paint everyone a bunch of large animals on cardboard boxes. Real good feelin' sacrificing a few free, lazy evenings for an art project like that one. I'd do it all again tomorrow if someone asked me to!

They were very, very well behaved travelers, too.

And made a mess of their painter, but I forgave them.


August 27, 2011

The Sights and Sounds

Green Lake, post run.

It's days like this that make me feel truly blessed to live in the Seattle area. It's sunny, the air is a warm and the act of running is slightly harder than it normally is. Oh cold, morning runs, I never knew how much I appreciated you. I'm thankful for the sun, but also hugely thankful for the hundreds of cloudy, not-so-melt-your-face-off-hot days we're given year-round. It makes for the greatest running, I tell you!

I also can't get over how goofy nature and the creatures living in it are. Okay, I am mostly referring to the creatures. A week or two or three ago, we found ourselves at the high school track at 5:30am. The only sign of life besides us running folk were crows and cats. And a walker, who appeared some thirty minutes later.

I first witnessed, with my ears, the eery sound of two cats screaming, growling and hissing at each other. One moment they were starring one another down, motionless, and the very next lap they were gone, into the bushes, making the creepiest noises I ever did hear. You know, those same screeches you heard when you were a kid, whilst sound asleep. Creepers!

The second sight was the same week, different day. There seemed to be a very large amount of crows sharing the track with us that foggy morning, and I couldn't help but let myself get completely distracted by them. They chased each other, flew atop soccer goalies, and... Ate Cheetos. Three crows, in lane 5, consumed the remains of a high schooler's bag o' Cheetos. True story. Made me giggle.

And, today? This sunny-day in August? I will not lie, not even stretch the truth. I caught squirrels in the act. Yes, you read me right. They was doing some love making right before my very eyes! I had to laugh, it was the most random sight to see. I was slightly embarrassed, but mostly surprised. And of course all I wanted to do was find my husband and tell him what I had witnessed. You see, squirrels are one of his all-time favorite animals ever (next to raccoons) and I know he's going to bring up them squirrel-love-making story again and again. He just gets a kick out of their existence, I guess.

Anywho. Today's run was beautiful and sweaty.

Yesterday's run was cold and steady, with a crazy beautiful sunrise.

Tuesday's run included blinding fog and fast(er) times, as well as a super quick, crazy delicious lunch that went like this: throw two (homemade) frozen lentil patties in Tupperware, spoon in some cooked quinoa, grab a handful or two of frozen green beans and corn, plop a medium tomato on top, half of a red bell pepper, with a fourth of an avocado, half a lime, and some red pepper flakes. Lunch time here? Microwave that bad boy. Mix it all up, crumbling the lentil patties. Mash the avocado w/lime and eat with a smile. It was brilliantly good, and put together in less than 5 minutes. YES!

I just now ate a most incredible chocolate green monster made with beet greens post-run just now, making my tummy a very happy fella on a Saturday mornin'.

And, to top it all of, I ran into a friend at the lake today. We chatted about running and injuries, and it wasn't until after she left that I realized how my green monsters tend to fill in the sides of each individual tooth in my mouth, and that I most likely had chocolate-colored beet green bits filling my chompers, aaand that I didn't even think to clean them before I ran into anyone. Sigh. Oh, humility.

Oh, Saturday afternoon's dinner [mozzarella and turkey for him, veggies galore with a side of edamame for me].

Thank You Jesus for today's pain-free run! I give You the rest of this day to You. I love that everything is in Your hands and You are in control. Thank You, Lord!

[God's beautiful gift to us] Peace with be you! My own peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled or dismayed.
John 14:27

August 25, 2011

60 Minutes

Just put aside 60 minutes, and you'll find yourself with 8 servings of food, two incredible dishes, and a happy spouse, ready to devour dinner.

Dice up as many vegetables as you can, throw them in a pot with water and your favorite herbs, don't forget the bay leaf, bring it to a boil, add a raw grain and a cooked bean, cover, simmer. Close your eyes and take in the savory aroma filling your kitchen.

Dice even more veggies. Drizzle avocado oil in a hot pan, gaze at the rainbow on your cutting board before scooping it up and placing it in the pan. Sizzle, sizzle, brown, golden. Add red, more red, four cups of it even, with citrus, sweetness and seasonings. Cover, simmer. Silky tofu, white cube of protein and calcium, to the food processor we go. Season, lime, puree, perfectly creamy herb dip or spread. Layer, layer, layer. Bake.

Taste test #1, taste test #2. Beautiful.

You tasted delicious.

Tofu Ricotta Lasagna
Serves 4 (small portions)

Veggie Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 green onions, diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 medium summer squash, diced
  • 1 large bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cups diced tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste/tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt, pepper, italian seasoning
  • garlic bits, onion powder
  • red pepper flakes (optional)
Tofu "Ricotta"
  • 1 block tofu
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 1 dash garlic bits
  • 1 dash salt
  • 1 tsp parsley, oregano
  • Lasagna noodles
  • Avocado oil or olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 400*
  2. Heat a pan, drizzle it with oil and toss in your veggies (except tomatoes + maple syrup + lime + green onion). Toss to coat, cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle your green onion bits atop the veggies, stir to combine.
  4. Pour your diced tomatoes, syrup and lime atop those there vegetables and mix it all up. Cover and let it cook while you prepare your tofu "ricotta".
  5. Grab the tofu and plop it into your food processor with the lime, garlic and seasonings. Let it twirl and whirl until a very delightfully smooth paste forms.
  6. Coat a 9x9 inch pan with olive oil spray and layer that bad boy with vegetable tomato sauce, raw lasagna noodles and silky italian tofu. Repeat, repeat, leaving the last layer with the remaining tofu.
  7. Bake for 30-45 minutes, covering for the last 15 if things start to burn. The lasagna is done when the lasagna noodles feel soft when pierced with a butter knife.
  8. Delight.

Italian Vegetable Soup

serves 4

vegetable love

  • 2 medium zucchinis, diced
  • 4 handful frozen green beans, cut into bits
  • any. other. vegetable. you. own. seriously, just dice it up!
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 4 celery sticks, or more
  • 5 tomatoes
  • green onions
  • 2 cups brown rice pasta shells
  • 2 cups cooked pinto beans
  • 5 cups water, give or take (add more if you want more of a soup, add less if you want more of a chili)
  • 4 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp garlic bits
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary, parsley, italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes, 'cause we like it spicyy!
  • olive oil to coat pan
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Heat large pot
  2. Throw in your olive oil
  3. Toss them vegetables
  4. Sprinkle with them seasonings
  5. Mix, mix, coat, coat
  6. Rice pasta? into pot.
  7. Beans? into pot.
  8. Pour water on top, cover, simmer for about 35 minutes.
  9. Consume
Told ya it was easy :)
Happy Thursday!!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4