Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I survived...the Blizzard of 2010!

Hey everyone! :) I hope you all enjoyed the holiday! My family and I finally made it back to DC last night! Here are the details of the snowy trip:

My Dad, bro, and I celebrated Christmas before we left. I was so excited to get a Vitamix and a new Mediterranean cookbook! They know me so well.


On the 23rd, we left around 5am to head to the airport and catch our 6:55am flight to Boston! We then took the train to Gloucester, where my Dad's gf lives, to spend a day. We stayed in this cute B&B by the water!


While she was at work, we went to Rockport and checked out the surrounding area. It's so beautiful up north! 


For dinner we went to Essex Seafood. They had the BEST fries. Unfortunately, I no longer like crab or lobster. I think I'm burned out on it from eating it so much growing up by the water. Plus, I can't stand looking at the insides of them...makes me lose my appetite! So, I mostly feasted on the fries and ate the tail of my lobster and passed the rest off to my brother.


On Christmas eve, we checked into the Charles Hotel in Cambridge. It was such a beautiful, modern hotel! During the day, we had lunch at Algiers. I got falafel, hummus, and a salad. It was awesome! The rest of the day was spent getting a FREE mini-facial at Origins and looking through books at The Coop. For Christmas eve dinner, we went to this great Indian place in Dorchester. 

Below is a picture of the view from our hotel.

Below is a picture of the dessert case at this awesome chocolate place in Cambridge. I got a tiny up of liquid milk chocolate. Seriously, the best hot chocolate I've ever had! Even my tiny dixie cup size was too rich to finish!


Christmas day, we had brunch at Henrietta's Table. It was sooo good. The stuffing and chocolate torte were to die for. After eating so much food, we traveled to the Boston Common to check out that area of town. 



 We were supposed to head back to DC on the 26th; however, mother nature had another plan: Blizzard of 2010! Delta canceled all flights for the week and the flight we decided to book for Tuesday night got canceled Tuesday morning! So, we just hung out at a new hotel by the airport and watched the sky dump 18.2 inches of snow on Boston. Luckily, my Dad is the solution creator and got us tickets on a train Tuesday morning to return to DC!

Before the storm

During the storm

What do you do when your hotel has 10 channels and you can't drive/walk to any restaurants? Watch Keeping Up Appearances and eat pizza, of course! Well, they ate pizza and I ate a veggie sub.


Although the train ride took 9.5 hours and was pretty cramped, the scenery was beautiful! We passed through NYC...


and Philadelphia...


After a 30 minute metro ride, we were back in Clarendon. Indian food was calling our name again! We hit up the East West Grill in Clarendon before driving back to Woodbridge.


Now I'm off to enjoy some quality time with my family before I head back to Harrisonburg! :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Blogging by phone

Today I celebrated Christmas early with my Dad and brother because we will be in Boston over Christmas! I think my family is giving me presents that all have a common theme: COOKING! :) I am so excited to try new recipes from a Mediterranean cookbook my bro gave me and to try my hand at making hummus in my Vitamix! I'm almost done reading my first non-school related book! Gotta love Nicholas Sparks! I'm bringing a Michael Pollan book on the trip: In Defense of Food. Should be good!

As far as food goes, my aunt made the most amazing spaghetti and meatballs last night! My family was shocked that I actually ate meat- and red meat! My Dad made an awesome breakfast of cheese grits, eggs, local sausage, and toast before we opened presents. Right now, he's grilling bison burgers and potatoes! We are eating early because we have to go to bed mad early because we will be getting up around 4am to catch our flight. How come as a kid I loved getting up early for trips!? I hope the airport has strong coffee waiting for me :)I hope everyone is enjoying time off work or school and that you all have safe travels if you're going out of town! I'll try to blog from Boston, but I think I'll be limited to blogging from the iPhone.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Nut Butter Obsession

Ever since my eyes were opened to the food blog world, I have learned about so many nut butters that I hadn't heard about before! One nut butter company I have fallen in love with is Peanut Butter & Co.

See exhibit A:


I recently purchased the jar of Cinnamon Raisin Swirl at The Fresh Market in VA Beach when I was home for Thanksgiving. It is a-mazing! All of the raisins and perfect amount of cinnamon make this a great peanut butter for toast. It would be awesome on cinnamon swirl bread!

One of the main reasons I was on a nut butter search at home was because we don't get a lot of specialty items in the grocery stores here in Harrisonburg. I guess it's one of the few downsides to living in a small town. That, and not living near a real mall. ;) However, I was SHOCKED to find that Martin's in Harrisonburg started to carry Peanut Butter & Co.'s PB when I got back! I picked up a jar of Dark Chocolate Dreams before they ran out. Good thing I did because I haven't found any of their PB at Martin's since! I hope they keep it in stock :) I really like this flavor because it's a perfect balance between chocolate and peanut butter. Is this like Nutella? Not at all! I don't dislike Nutella, I just think it tastes artificial...I think it's the milk chocolate taste that I'm not a fan of.

Check out this peanut butter if a store near you sells it! They have another flavor called Mighty Maple that I want to pick up soon. Maybe I'll stock up when I go up to Northern VA to visit my Dad over the holiday.

Do any of you have a favorite nut butter? OR has anyone made their own nut butter?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Morning Tradition

Growing up, my Mom would always make blueberry muffins before church on Sunday mornings. It was a rare occasion that she didn't make them. This morning before we headed to church I thought I'd whip up some banana muffins! While you'll see in the initial picture, eggs were supposed to be an ingredient. However, I ended up making flax "eggs" instead. Why? Because the yolks were really thick and I wasn't sure if that was good or bad? Does anyone know why they would be thicker than normal?

Banana Streusel Muffins (vegan)


Muffin Ingredients
-1.5 cups flour
-1 cup rolled oats
-1/2 cup sugar
-1 tsp baking soda
-2 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-2 tbsp flax seeds
-6 tbsp water
-1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
-1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
-3 SUPER ripe nanners
-2 tbsp vanilla extract

Streusel Ingredients
-brown sugar
-rolled oats

Directions
1. Grind 2 tbsp flax seeds in a coffee grinder or small hand blender. Dump ground flax seeds into a bowl with 6 tbsp water. Let this sit as you get the other ingredients ready.

2. Add all of the dry ingredients together (flour, rolled oats, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt).

3. Add all wet ingredients together in another bowl (very mashed bananas, milk, apple sauce). Be sure not to use a stand or hand mixer for this. You want to make sure the bananas are mashed enough but not pure liquid. It's nice to have small banana pieces to make the muffins moist and give them more oomph!

4. Once wet ingredients are mixed together, add flax "eggs" and mix together.

5. Create hole in dry ingredients, pour wet ingredients into the hole, mix together.

6. Add batter to a greased muffin pan (this makes 12).

7. Mix a 50/50 proportion of brown sugar and rolled oats and use a spoon to add this to the top of each muffin.

8. Bake for 20-22 minutes on 400 degrees.








 *Yes, that's a big hunk of butter inside my muffin! :) Add butter (I used smart balance light), cream cheese, or peanut butter to make them even better!

I absolutely loved these muffins! I told the bf that he shouldn't have high hopes because I made a ton of substitutions to the normal recipe I follow. But, they were delicious! Very moist and tasted strongly of banana (key was having overly ripe nanners)! I think the streusel topping definitely made them less boring, so be sure to add the topping if you make this recipe!

For those of you that are wary of substituting flax "eggs" for real eggs, it's really not that bad. I was a little nervous that they'd taste off or something, but they don't! This simple substitution made the recipe a lot healthier because it removed the cholesterol from the eggs and added a lot of nutrients from the flax seeds. Here's the nutrition content for 2 tbsp flax seeds:

Flax Seeds (2 tbsp)

  • 90 calories
  • 8g. fat (.5g. saturated, 6g. polyunsaturated, 1.5g. monounsaturated)
  • 3600mg. omega-3
  • 4g. protein
  • 0mg. cholesterol
  • 8% daily value calcium
  • 6% daily value iron
I'm off to continue playing this video game (nerd alert) and read for the rest of the day! I started the book, The Last Song. So far, it's pretty good! Are any of you reading a good book? Also, do you have any weekend breakfast traditions? Have a great day!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Snow Day!

Hey guys! Happy snow day to those of your who are in VA! Technically, I don't have a "snow day" where I got out of an exam, class, or work...but it's still a snow day  :)

At 6pm last night, I finished the 3rd semester of my master's program! Only 1 more to go! The one and only final I had was hard, as to be expected for a neuroscience course, but I think I did well. Good news is that I got an A on my paper! I feel like this is the first semester that I’ve gotten some good feedback on my writing. Between a billion thesis revisions and two 15 page research papers, I’ve definitely become a better writer. :) I’m hoping for all A’s…I don’t want to break my streak, but as some people have told me…it’s not about the grade it’s about what you’ve learned. True! But, A’s are still nice.

Last night (aka my first night of guilt-free freedom) was spent making spaghetti and baking cookies (store bought, sorry). I used up the last of the roasted garlic bread I got the other day. Here’s the recipe for the spread that I use for my homemade garlic bread!

Garlic Bread Spread
-Garlic (I use a garlic press)
-Butter
-Paprika
-Grated Parmesan Cheese

*I always guesstimate how much of each ingredient to use for this recipe. It really depends on your taste and how much you’re making. I always put enough paprika in it to turn the spread orange. Also, I put a lot of the parmesan cheese in it…enough so that there is texture, but not so much that it doesn’t spread.

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We decided that cookies and a movie would be a fun way to wind down from the semester. So, we picked some up. I settled on Nestlé's Ultimate's: Chocolate Chip Lovers and he settled on Nestlé's Ultimate's: Peanut Butter Cups Chips and Chocolate Chunks:

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They turned out to be huge cookies!

Guess what I decided to make for breakfast?
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Pumpkin pancakes!

Last night when we were at the store, I told the bf that I needed to pick up some tea. Obviously his response was, “Do you really need more tea?” He has a point…

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After attempting to explain the difference between the types of tea and why I needed a black tea, I gave up. I don’t think that there’s such a thing as too much tea Winking smile

For a late lunch, I had some soup and some of my favorite Royal Dansk cookies. 
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See y’all later! I’m going to finish catching up on blogs and read my first non-textbook book of the break! Woo hoo!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Finals Week

Here are a few observations I've made this week:

1. Caffeine and sugar consumption increase drastically during finals week.
2. My printer loves running out of ink and paper mid-print.
3. I have a mile-long list of the baked goods and food items I want to make as soon as I'm free Wednesday night at 6pm. First on the list is spaghetti!
4. Wet hair freezes when the temperature is below freezing...whoops...
5. If you're honest at electronics/office supply stores they will actually help you out. All I had to say was, "Um, I'm actually looking for the cheapest possible computer paper" and the worker handed it to me! $5 sure beats $10 :)
6. Secret Santa's/White Elephant Exchanges during finals week are the BEST. I have lots of cookies to get me through this study session.

I've made a few new things over the past few days, but sadly didn't photograph much. Here's what I did document (probably with an iPhone):

1 packet of Pick-Me-Up Hot Chocolate, 1 cup vanilla biscotti coffee, & frothed unsweetened vanilla almond milk


Quick and easy dinner...perfect for final's week!
Spinach leaves & carrots drizzled with balsamic vinegar
1 slice garlic bread (it has garlic chunks in it!) with melted white cheddar




Banana and Flax Seed Steel-Cut Oats
*For 2+ servings
  • 1/2 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 bananas (1 mashed, 1 sliced)
  • 2 tbsp flax seeds 
Instructions: add oats to boiling water/milk mixture, once most of the water is absorbed, add bananas and flax...top it off with your fave nut butter!

*the flax, bananas, and milk make this SO creamy


Last but not least, we got some snow Sunday night! Exciting stuff :)


Off to bed...I'm getting up super early tomorrow to study before 4pm when I have my neuroscience final. I'll officially be 3/4 of the way done with my master's program at 6pm tomorrow evening! :)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

PhD Apps and Dessert for Breakfast

I have officially finished ALL (yes, ALL) of my PhD applications! Yesterday I mailed the last of the supplemental materials and now the waiting game begins! I'm really excited to figure out where I'll be next year. I'm happy with my outlook on the whole situation right now. I'd be happy to go on to a PhD program if I get in. If not, I'll definitely enjoy the time off and it would be nice to see what the real working world is like. When I applied to master's programs 2 years ago, I was all sorts of stressed out. I just pictured the worst case scenario and never really relaxed. Everything turned out fine and the worrying didn't help the process go any faster.

On the cookbook side of the agenda, I won't have any recipes to share with you all until the middle of next week. I'm going to dinner at a coworker's house on Sunday and Monday my Bible study does a big potluck dinner. But, I did make an awesome bowl of oats this morning:

Frothy, Chocolatey, Almond Buttery, & Banana Oats
AKA Dessert in a bowl



Ingredients

-1/3 cup oats
-1 tbsp almond butter
-almond milk
-1 very ripe banana
-mini chocolate chips

Instructions
-Microwave oats and almond milk for 1min 30sec
-Microwave about 1/2 cup almond milk in a separate mug (watch how long you microwave it...I had a little almond milk explosion in my microwave...)
-Add mashed banana and almond butter to the bowl of oats and microwave for 1min
-While oats are heating up, use a frother to froth the almond milk!
-Use a spoon to pour froth into the oats...mix some in then add the rest on top
-Top with mini chocolate chips!


Soooo...good...

Now I'm off to study for my neuroscience final!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sugar High

I was craving cookies all.day.long. I think it's because this is the first week in a long time that I haven't had sweets around. Remember those heavenly chocolate oatmeal cookies? I ate 4 twice a day for a week (I kid you not). That is, AFTER I gave half of the batch away! Because it's the holiday season, I've been craving some sugar cookies. I was never really fond of these growing up, but definitely enjoyed decorating them around the holidays. I guess I'm a chocolate girl at heart. Nevertheless, I was on a sugar cookie mission.

I found this one at the bucks:


Best sugar cookie I've had in a longggg time! I don't typically like sugar cookies for one of two reasons: the dough tastes artificial and/or the icing is to sugary. Not this little guy! I had some of the cookie for an afternoon snack while I was studying for my neuroscience final. And guess what greeted me when I went to neuro just a few hours later? COOKIES! It was cookie heaven: oreos...oatmeal chocolate chip...sugar cookies....soft chocolate chip....

Ask and you shall receive, right? I just hope the sugar high wears off soon :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Freezing Temps Call for Spicy Food

When I looked at the weather forecast yesterday, I didn't think it would really be as cold as they said it would be. I was dead wrong. Yesterday was one of those days that I should have gone with my gut instinct. What was that instinct you ask? WEAR UGGs. I mean, it was this cold:



Yeah...that says it FEELS like 14 degrees. That wasn't fun weather to walk across the entire campus 2x. So back to the UGGs. I know a lot of you out there hate them. Many of you think they are UGGly (ha) or that they remind you of the sometimes horrible fashion-sense of sorority girls (tucking leggings into UGGs). However, I was/am a sorority girl and I'm proud to rock my UGGs...in a fashionable way of course. But, yesterday I knew I would be teased to no end by faculty and members of my cohort, so I went with the Sperry's.

It was so cold on my walk back to my car that I didn't pause to tie my shoes and walked with untied shoes the entire way:


The freezing temps made me crave some spicy food. Tonight I decided to make...

Soba Noodles and Broccoli with a Spicy Peanut Sauce

Ingredients
-1 package soba noodles
-vegetable broth
-peanut flour (or peanut butter)
-agave nectar (or other sweetener)
-bragg liquid aminos (or soy sauce)
-milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
-cayenne!!
-broccoli

Directions
I started with 1/3 cup peanut flour then added about 4 heaping tablespoons as I was cooking it. I added into the mix the entire mini carton of veggie broth (pictured above), 1/4 cup almond milk, 2 tbsp agave, 1 tbsp liquid aminos. The key to getting this all to mix is using a WISK! :) So whisk away and periodically taste it to see if you need to add more sweet or more salty...or more peanut butter flour. *Make sure you wait to add cayenne until the very end.

As the spicy peanut sauce was simmering on low, I started boiling the soba noodles. These took about 6 minutes to cook. Make sure you watch them because I think they would get really slimy if they cooked too long. While the soba noodles were cooking, I steamed broccoli in my microwavable steamer.

All done!