Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Eat, Eat, Eat: Why I only read the first part of Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir

One of my favorite books is Elizabeth Gilbert's travel memoir Eat, Pray, Love. I tend to completely fall for these kinds of books, where people make a complete break from their everyday mundane lives to do something wildly different with themselves (right now, I've fallen into the chocolatey comfort of Eloisa James's Paris in Love). It's not that I don't appreciate the mundanity of my own life (and the way I've constructed it). It's just so delicious to imagine myself in Paris, wandering through winding streets filled with cafes, booksellers, bread, and cheese (that's how I've constructed Paris in my brain, anyway, having never been there).

This past summer, I tried and tried again to re-read Gilbert's book, however. And I could not get past the "Eat" section, when the author is in Italy and lets caution fall by the wayside, falling head-first into Neapolitan pizzas and glass upon glass of wine. 


I think the fact that, this year, I could only get through this part of the book really tells you something about me. I believe that life should be filled with sensory adventure. I don't want to get up everyday and eat the same thing, all day, every day. I want to see new places. Learn new things. I want my life, right now, to be filled with stuff I enjoy doing. I think I've reached the point in my life (pushing 40) when I want to give myself permission to stop doing things I don't enjoy - in my professional life, in my personal life, as a parent - just because other people think that's what I should be doing. 

It's not that I want to be a glutton. The deliciousness is not necessarily in the eating but in enjoying the life I create. I am, right now, over the asceticism that the second section of the book requires. I feel like I've served my time as an apprentice to life; I've been the disciple, in various ways. Now, I just want to live on something of my own terms. Before I wind up, like the man in Shakespeare's sonnet, with a few sparse leaves rattling around in my ribs: 

When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang, 
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs where late sweet birds sang. 

So, this summer, I gave myself permission to read only the part of the book that I enjoyed. And then I ate a pizza (and a really amazing one at that);). A/J

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Happy Saturday! Seize the Day, says my new favorite coffee cup

Hi all. I just had to share with you my new favorite coffee cup, from Kate Spade (I've been having mostly tea in it lately, but isn't it pretty?).

"seize the day" Coffee Mug from Kate Spade
"seize the day" coffee mug from Kate Spade
Another Saturday note, we tried the Lemon Blueberry Chia Parfaits from Fooduzzi for breakfast this morning. They were delicious (I had to add some raspberries because I didn't have enough frozen blueberries; still yum). Even Mags said so, and that is a win-win. It goes on my Recipes to Keep Pinterest board for future use.

I just finished meal-planning, so it's off to PiYo and then grocery shop for me. Enjoy whatever your weekend has in store for you! With love, A/J

Friday, January 9, 2015

Roasted Carrot and Tarragon Soup

Some days, about the only thing I have left in my refrigerator are a bunch of leftovers, some chicken broth, and a beer. Today was one of those days, and I started my second AdvoCare 24-Day Challenge on Monday, which was probably not the best idea, because I have zero money left to go to the store until tomorrow and eating healthy is EXPENSIVE.

Looking into the depths of my fridge, I realized I had a container of leftover roasted carrots (made from basically this recipe; goodness, they were delicious. My brother-in-law, who swore he hated roasted carrots, even liked them), onions and garlic I had strained from the onion broth I made for Soph because she was sick, and chicken broth (see above). So, I thought, I guess I could try to make carrot soup. Is there such a thing as carrot soup? Turns out, there is.

I stumbled upon this recipe on Pinterest as I was searching, and decided to tweak it, based on what I had in my pantry/reserves. It turned out so delicious I just had to share. Enjoy!! A/J

Super-Easy Roasted Carrot and Tarragon Soup
Just looking at it makes me all hungry again. 
Roasted Carrot and Tarragon Soup (Serves 3-4)

You'll need:

  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
  • One diced onion and three cloves of garlic (either reserved from making a broth or diced fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon of tarragon
  • 2 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
  • Roasted Carrots (either make a double batch one night for dinner and reserve half for the soup, or roast the carrots using the recipe linked above) 
  • 1 small potato, microwaved for 2 minutes, peeled, and diced (for body in the soup; be sure to poke holes in it before you microwave)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 dash of cayenne pepper 
  • Salt and pepper to taste

You'll do: 
  1. Bring the tablespoon of coconut oil up to temp over medium heat. Once the oil is melted, add the onion; saute lightly until translucent. Add the garlic, saute for about 30 seconds more, adding in at the same time the paprika, ginger, and tarragon. 
  2. Add the broth, being sure to scrape any brown residue from the bottom of the pan so that it dissolves into the broth. Bring to a light boil and then reduce the temp to low. 
  3. Allow the broth to develop for about five minutes. Then, turn off the heat and add the carrots, potato, and a dash of cayenne pepper. 
  4. Using a hand-held immersion blender, blend up the soup right in the pot. Process it as you like. If you want it  toothsome, leave some unblended. If you want it silky smooth, go for that consistency. (If your broth seems too thick, add the necessary water. I had to, but it didn't affect the flavor negatively). 
  5. Season to taste. Serve, in a white bowl with cracked black pepper for effect;). 
  6. You guys know my last step: ENJOY! Would also be great with a swirl of sour cream or Greek yogurt, but I am on a challenge after all;). I probably already broke a bunch of rules eating those roasted carrots;). I also think it would be delicious to add some finely chopped parsley on the top. Because I love parsley in just about everything. 
PS: If you like it, would you pin it? Pretty please? You're awesome:). 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

New Food-Blog Fooduzzi (+ a Lemon Blueberry Chia Parfait that equals the perfect on-the-go breakfast)

There are certain moments in one's teaching life that make it all worthwhile. One of those moments is when a former student of yours contacts you out of the blue and tells you that she's started a food blog - and that food blog is amazeballs. Please give her a read and follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. I foresee many, many pinnable recipes in Fooduzzi's future, especially for those of us who are conscious about how we are fueling our bodies and, at the same time, have a deeply loving relationship with food. Like this one (I mean, that photograph. Perfection).

Breakfast Parfaits
Photo via Fooduzzi
And Alexa, I wish you all the best and super things in the future. You deserve them:)!! Dr. M

PS If you haven't signed up to be on our mailing list yet, would you? Pretty please? Just look in the side-bar on the blog and enter your info. Easy as pie (ok, maybe not pie. Pie's hard.). 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Red Lipstick and Combat Boots

2015 is here. So far, she's come in with a bang. My husband totaled his truck (which we only had for about two months) on black ice. I slid my car into a curb about three days later, also on ice, and jammed up the front left wheel. Sophie fell ill with a stomach bug (which, as any parent knows, is THE. WORST.). All that said, the New Year finds us all relatively happy and healthy. 

My friend posted this picture the other day on her Facebook page, graffiti from a college women's bathroom where she used to teach.
Red Lipstick Combat Boots
Photo Credit: Erin Keely Johns Speese
And I thought, why not make it that kind of year? Honestly, I feel comfortable with where my life is right now, even if a lot of things seem up in the air and many others could be changed for the better. My goal: To learn again how to enjoy my life without having to be busy every single second of the day. I want to find a balance between work and pleasure. I am no longer interested in days that are so heavily laden with work that I can't find time to relax (Funny Sophia quote from the other day, btw - Me, to my husband: "I just don't know how to relax any more, to be still." Sophie, from the playroom: "Just do what Dad does."). 

Let me know what your plans for the year are. Meanwhile, I'll be channeling my inner Gwen Stefani;). A/J

Red Lipstick Combat Boots

Friday, December 26, 2014

How to Make Sauerkraut Balls (Traditional Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve Appetizer)

One of the foods I have always loved the most on my family's Christmas Eve table, ever since I was a young kid, is the Sauerkraut Ball. The sourness of the kraut, the crunchy outside crust, the mellowness of cream cheese, and the sagey sausage - I'm telling you these things are delicious. Here's the recipe I followed this year (making a slightly healthier version - well, as healthy as a breaded, fried thing can be), and, if I do say so myself, they were just as delicious as my grandmother's years ago (yes, I'm bragging a little;)).

Christmas New Years Appetizers Sauerkraut Balls

Sauerkraut Balls Recipe (Makes about 20 balls, Serves about 10)

2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
2 packages of sausage (this year, I used turkey sausage - mild Italian, because that's what my husband bought; if you're going all out, use regular pork sausage)
One medium-sized onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of paprika
1 teaspoon dried sage
2 14 oz. packages of sauerkraut, squeezed and strained
2 packages of cream cheese, room temperature (I used Neufchatel this year; I really don't think you can tell the difference)
2 tablespoons of brown mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon ranch dressing
1 handful of parsley, finely chopped
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper
Bread Crumbs (Regular or Italian - up to you; eyeball this - you'll know when you need more)

1. In a large non-stick pan, bring the olive oil up to temp over medium heat. Brown the sausage and onion together in the pan, seasoned with the paprika, sage, and salt and pepper to taste.
2. While the sausage is cooking, strain the sauerkraut (be sure to squeeze it really well to remove the excess moisture - too much liquid could cause your balls to fall apart, and who wants that;)?). Also, in a gigantic bowl, mix the cream cheese, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, ranch dressing, and parsley with a fork until well blended.
3. Remove the sausage and onion mixture from the pan and strain in a fine strainer. Allow to cool to room temp.
4. Using your hands, mix together the sausage and onion and cream cheese mixture. Hands are essential here. Trying to use a spoon is just a waste of time.
The filling, pre-mixing.
5. Place the filling mixture in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 2-3 hours. The longer, the better, I think. The colder it is, the more likely the balls will hold together in the pan.
6. After 2-3 hours, preheat the oven to 375. Whisk together the eggs and milk and season with salt and pepper in a medium mixing bowl. Pour a decent amount of bread crumbs in another medium mixing bowl. Bring a large, non-stick pan of deep oil up to temp over medium-high heat (I watch the surface of the oil; when it starts to ripple, you're ready to go. Also, watch the oil temp throughout. I think it depends a lot on your stove. I usually end up dialing back to medium).
7. Using your hands, form the sausage and cream cheese mixture into balls, dip in the egg mixture, and roll in the bread crumbs. Place 5 of the balls in the oil at a time. DO NOT CROWD THEM. They won't brown properly and will be hard to move around. Brown on each side.
8. While the balls are frying, prepare cookie sheets topped with cooling racks. I use the cookie ones (this keeps them off of the surface of the pan and allows any excess oil to drip into the pan, which makes them crispier). After the balls are browned on all sides, place them on the wire racks.
9. Bake the sauerkraut balls in the oven for 15 minutes after they have been fried.
10. Eat. I swear they are delicious and well worth the work.

Have a great remainder of the holiday season:)!! A/J

Friday, December 19, 2014

Last-Minute DIY Christmas Gift: Glitter Dipped Mugs

As usual, I am rushing to get everything done at the last minute AGAIN this year. So, I find myself making glitter-dipped mugs this morning. But what a fun project:)!! I was inspired by Kellie's post over at Nest of Posies, and her "All Mama wants is a silent night" mug (you can read more about her mugs and the basic directions for how to make them here - PS they are dishwasher safe after curing; it's all explained over at Nest of Posies:)).

Sharpie Mugs

I wrote my own sayings on the mugs (that's part of the fun of the project - you can make up your own sayings that will be meaningful to the person you are giving the gift to).

Sharpie Mugs Sayings
Baking away. Basically, for the Sharpie part, you clean the mugs with rubbing alcohol, write your sayings on, and bake them in an oven at 360 degrees. Put the mugs in a cold oven and allow them to heat along with the oven. Also, leave them in the oven to cool completely. This prevents any cracking or breaking due to temperature changes. For the glitter part, see the Nest of Posies link above.
Such a fun, fast, easy, and fairly cheap project for Christmas. Have fun! A/J