I love vacation!

This has been the most relaxing weekend I have had in a long time!  We spent all day Saturday laying out by the pool, then grilled out for dinner.  My husband ate his body weight in meat (he takes advantage whenever meat is offered to him) and I had corn on the cob, a baked potato, and spinach salad!  Today we walked around by the river, then picked up some boiled peanuts on the way home!

Congaree River

Boiled peanuts are a delicacy in the south and the best boiled peanuts are always prepared in a giant cauldron stirred with an oar.

Awwww yeah!

My best friend stopped by for a quick visit today too!  We hadn’t seen each other for a year and a half and she just happened to be in town for a family reunion!  For dinner, we’re grilling out again and I’m going to eat a ton of grilled veggies and some watermelon (not grilled).   Tonight is bowling night.  My dad is upset that I beat him bowling last time I was here, so he thinks he will redeem himself tonight.  We’ll see about that!

We’ll be heading back to Richmond tomorrow and will hopefully get back in time to get some groceries and make a delicious dinner.  It’s been too long since I’ve done some serious cooking!

 

Happy eating!

-c

Sometimes the simplest meals are the best meals

“A bee is never as busy as it seems; it’s just that it can’t buzz any slower.” 
-Kim Hubbard

I always feel like I am so incredibly busy.  I wake up at 5:00am, get to work by 7:00am, work until 5:00pm (or later), do some sort of exercise, shower, cook dinner, then do more work until 10:00pm, then go to bed (and fall asleep within 30 seconds of my head hitting the pillow).  I feel like I do so little, yet my days always seem so full.  Then I think about the people (and I know people like this) who are in school, plus work 2-3 jobs, work out regularly, and volunteer…all while raising kids!  If you are like that, I salute you!

This week has seemed particularly busy for some reason and my cooking has definitely suffered!  We have still managed to eat healthy meals for the most part.  They have just been very quickly-prepared healthy meals.  Quinoa, jarred pasta sauce, and frozen veggies can make a great meal that is ready in 20 minutes!

An easy dinner!

This evening we had packaged soup, steam-in-the-bag shelled edamame and some fruit that I cut up quickly!  So easy, but delicious!

I think I have had ever flavor of this brand soup and they are all awesome (and gluten-free)!

Fruit–one of life’s treasures!

To combat these busy days, my husband and I decided that we need a 3-day weekend…somewhere tropical!  Unfortunately our finances will not allow an incredible trip anytime soon, so we decided that we would drive down to Lexington, South Carolina to visit my parents this weekend!  It’s about a 6-hour drive from Richmond, so we’re heading out tomorrow after work!  We’re planning to spend most of the time laying out by the pool with frozen beverages, but we’re going to try to go for a run at some point (to combat said frozen beverages) and maybe do a bit of computer work (yes, we are horrible at taking vacations).  I don’t plan to post any recipes while I’m gone because I can’t cook with gluten-contaminated pots/pans at my parent’s house, so I will be living off of salad, gluten-free crackers, cheese, fruit, and peanut butter (fine by me!), but I will try to have some good recipes to share next week!  I will definitely post some highlights of my mini-vacation though!

“After all, the best part of a holiday is perhaps not so much to be resting yourself, as to see all the other fellows busy working.”
-Kenneth Grahame

Enjoy the weekend and happy eating!

-c

Coffee, coffee, coffee!

I am a self-professed coffee snob.  Back in college, I would drink as much coffee as I could just to get the caffeine.  I didn’t care how it tasted as long as it kept me awake to study.  Now, I savor my coffee.  I think my coffee snobbery started when I toured an Organic Coffee Plantation in Kona, Hawaii last September.

Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation (you can order their coffee online!)

I have always preferred my coffee black and they told us on the tour something to the tune of, “If you can’t drink it black, it’s not good coffee”.  I agree.  Some of the interesting things I learned about on the coffee tour:

1.  The lower quality beans are used in the darker roasts to mask their imperfection.

2.  Darker roast coffees actually have less caffeine than the lighter or medium roasts.

3.  Compounds extracted from coffee beans are great for the skin.

4.  Coffee beans on the plant do not look how you expect them to.

Coffee plant!

5.  There is not much prettier than a huge batch of shiny, freshly-roasted coffee beans.

Beautiful!

My husband and I found an amazing local coffee roaster (Lamplighter Roasting Company) here in Richmond that sells their coffee about half a mile from our apartment.  It is the most hipster coffee shop ever and their coffee is phenomenal!  We go every week to pick up a pound of whole beans (roasted within the week), grind our beans fresh every morning, and make a big pot of drip coffee.  We also found awesome Thermos travel mugs that actually keep your coffee hot, not tepid, for 10+ hours.  I look forward to my coffee every morning, not because I need the caffeine, but because it warms my soul.  Goodbye, Starbucks.  Now, I just need to find money to go back to Hawaii.  A one-way ticket would suffice!

I wouldn’t mind living here…

 

…or here!

 

Happy eating (and coffee-drinking)!

-c

Vegan and Gluten-Free Baked Beans

The first part of this past weekend kind of felt like a bust.  I did a ton of work, got my oil changed finally(!!!), and even managed to sleep in (if you consider waking up at 7:30 sleeping in), but it just did not feel incredibly relaxing.  My husband said he felt the same way and we came to the conclusion that it was because we had not spent any time outside.  It rained all day on Saturday, and Sunday started out pretty gross too.  The weather finally cleared up Sunday afternoon and we got outside as quickly as we could so the weekend could redeem itself.

Duck friend says hello (actually, I think she just wanted food)!

After a nice walk outside, we decided that dinner on the patio would be a great way to finish off the weekend.  One of my favorite picnic-style foods is baked beans.  So I decided to whip up a batch of my homemade, vegan baked beans (gluten-free too, of course)!  These are pretty easy to make and are not as ridiculously sweet as the canned ones.

Vegan and Gluten-Free Baked Beans

Ingredients:
2 cups dry navy beans
2 cups gluten-free vegetable stock (unsalted)
¾ large yellow onion (diced)
¼ cup tomato paste
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1.5 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
A bit of olive oil for sauteing onion and garlic

Directions:
1.  Saute onion and garlic in a small amount of olive oil.
2.  Add vegetable stock, then tomato paste, brown sugar, maple syrup, and spices.
3.  Let sit on low heat while beans are cooking.
4.  Bring beans to a boil, then simmer until soft.  Once they are cooked, drain off water, and pour beans into sauce.  Stir.
5.  Transfer to a baking dish and bake uncovered at 350°F for at least half an hour (until bubbly).

A balcony picnic is better than no picnic!

Now I just need to get a picnic basket and blanket and actually go on a real picnic!

What’s your favorite picnic food?

Happy eating!

-c

Three-Ingredient Queso

Earlier last week, my husband and I made a deal with ourselves.  If we worked out hard and ate well for the week, we would have chips, queso, and margaritas over the weekend.  Well–we held ourselves accountable for the majority of the week.  Then Friday came.  I just did not feel like cooking anything for dinner.  So we ate this…

The pesto-flavored one is even better!

This brand of gluten-free pizzas is the best I have found!*  The crust is flaky and rich and the ingredient list is short.  This company is a dedicated 100%  gluten-free facility and they also do not use tree nuts or peanuts.

So much for our deal (It would have been fine if we each hadn’t eaten half of the pizza in one sitting), but we still made queso and margaritas last night.  It’s the weekend after all!

This is the easiest queso ever and it has been a hit every time we have made it for other people!

Three-Ingredient Queso

Philadelphia (unflavored) cream cheese and Kraft Natural cheese are both gluten-free!

Ingredients (for 2 very hefty portions):
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
4 ounces cream cheese
About 3 Tablespoons diced tomatoes with green chiles
About 1 Tablespoon juice from the tomato/chile can

Directions:
1.  Cut the cheddar cheese into cubes and heat with the cream cheese in a pot over low/medium heat.  Stir continuously so the cheese does not burn.  It will take some muscle power to break up and melt the cheddar.

Work it!

2.  Once the cheese is melted, immediately turn heat down to low, and add tomatoes/chiles and juice.  Stir.
3.  Eat immediately or pour into a warm crockpot (low setting) to keep from solidifying over longer periods of time.

It took serious willpower to take pics before consuming this stuff!

We also made frozen strawberry margaritas!  The recipe was very similar to the last margaritas I made except for making them frozen  and adding in about 8-10 strawberries.

Immediately after taking this picture, I almost dropped the entire plate on the floor!

Happy eating!

-c

*I have never been approached about reviewing products or brands.  I just want to share my opinion on certain things that I find delightful because it is hard to come by with gluten-free products.

Frozen Fruit Pops

I love fruit!   The only thing better than fresh fruit is fresh fruit blended and frozen on a stick!  For my last birthday, I got some popsicle molds.  I was moving across the country just a few weeks afterward, so I just left them in the box unused for easier packing.  Over 6 months later, I realized that they were still sitting in the box.  I’ll blame it on the cold winter.   Today I blended up some fruit and made awesome frozen fruit popsicles (we’ll ignore the fact that the high temperature was in the 50s)!

Strawberry/Pineapple Popsicles

Ingredients (this was the perfect amount for my set of 6 popsicles):
2 cups frozen strawberries
1 cup frozen pineapple
1 cup orange juice

Directions:
1.  Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until desired consistency (I made mine pretty smooth because I felt like they would freeze better.  I don’t know if that is accurate or not).
2.  Spoon into popsicle molds.
3.  Freeze.

Yum!

The secret to getting these out of the popsicle mold is to run the entire thing (stick-side down) under warm, running water.  Wiggle the stick and add pressure, while carefully pulling downward on the stick.  Thank you, Google!

The possibilities are endless!  It’s going to be a tasty summer!

 

Happy eating!

-c

Spicy Black Bean and Yam Jubilee

Between my husband and myself, we are now paying for 4 gym memberships.  We decided to check out the university gym because we are tired of not finding a place to park or available equipment at our other gym.  The medical campus gym is right beside the building where I work so I don’t even have to move my car.  We also have access to the main campus gym which is supposedly incredible!  We’re hoping that by using the university gym, we waste less time, get home sooner, continue cooking delicious dinners, and still have some time for relaxing before bed!  This worked out really well yesterday, and I had more time to cook something that is quickly becoming one of my favorite meals!

If you have not tried any of my recipes yet, try this one.  This recipe is adapted from Susan O’Brien’s “J&J’s Favorite Yam and Black Bean Burritos” recipe from her cookbook titled The Gluten-Free Vegan.  I have followed her exact recipe before and it’s amazing, but last night I adapted it to use slightly fewer ingredients and groceries I already had stocked in my kitchen.  This dish does not disappoint–it is spicy, sweet, AND savory!

The first time we made this, we used gluten-free rice tortillas (that were not very good).  This time, I whipped up some quick homemade corn tortillas.  If you don’t have tortillas, the stuffing is just as good by itself!

Spicy Black Bean and Yam Jubilee

A pile of vegetables never tasted so good!

Ingredients (for 4 robust portions):
About 2.5 cups cooked black beans
2 large yams or sweet potatoes
1 bell pepper
1 onion
2 medium tomatoes
1 cup of salsa
1 Tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
About 10 leaves of cilantro

Directions (steps 1-3 can be done simultaneously):
1.  Boil black beans until soft (or, alternatively, open a few cans of black beans and drain off the liquid).
2.  Cook yams until soft.  I pierced each yam several times with a fork, wrapped in a damp paper towel, and microwaved on high for 6-7 minutes.
3.  Chop onion and bell pepper and add to a large pan.  Sauté in olive oil over medium heat until tender.  Reduce heat to low/medium.
4.  Add in salsa, lime juice, and spices.
5.  Remove skin from yams and chop the flesh into ~1” cubes and add to sauté pan.
6.  Add black beans.  Additional salsa and lime juice can be added as needed to keep the mixture from drying out.
7.  Dice tomatoes and add to pan.
8.  Serve once tomatoes are warm.

Immediately stuff in your face!

Serve with a cold beer (or a Crispin if you’re gluten-free)!

Happy eating!

-c

That’s one small step for man…

…but, perhaps, one giant leap for the environment?

Over the past few months, I have become more and more interested in being more self-sufficient and environmentally-friendly.  I’m not talking about going completely off the grid or anything (although that would actually be pretty cool).  I just mean doing small things in my every day life to use fewer things and generate less waste.  The things I have been doing so far are very minor and may not have a huge impact, but I think that every little thing we do adds up to both help the environment and save money.  Here are a few of the little things I have been doing and I am hoping that, over time, this list will continue to grow.

1.  Reuse food containers.  I have been saving peanut butter jars, pasta sauce jars, and yogurt containers.  The jars make great storage containers for nuts and beans and the yogurt containers work great for planting herbs.

Hipster food storage!

2.  Save coffee grounds.  I have been using coffee grounds on my plants as a nitrogen source.  Also, you can use coffee grounds and scraps of food for composting.

3.  Carry only re-useable water bottles and food containers.  Less expensive and less waste.

About 5% of our reusable Ziploc containers.

4.  Waste less food.  I have gotten a lot better about finding uses for small amounts of food that I formerly would have thrown out.  I eat leftovers whether I want to or not.  I choose meals that are based on what food items are starting to get old.  I add remaining tidbits of vegetables to sauces and soups.

5.  I use less shampoo and other toiletries/cosmetics.  Less products means less packaging over time and, therefore, less trash.  You would also be surprised at how much money you can save over time.

6.  I started using reusable sponges instead of Lysol wipes.  The Lysol wipes are incredibly convenient but sponges can be washed and reused for months.

7.  Reuse grocery bags.  We use these as trash can liners in the bathroom and to carry our lunch to work.  Eventually I would like to have all reusable grocery bags to take with me when I go shopping, but I only have 3 or 4 now and I seem to forget to take them with me every time I go to the grocery store.  Some stores will give you a few cents off of your purchase price per bag that you bring yourself.  Also, many places will accept plastic bag donations (animal shelters, libraries, etc.).

8.  I try to only run the dishwasher or washing machine when there is a full load.  Saves on soap and water.

I hope to continue becoming more environmentally-friendly and self-sufficient.  One day I hope to have a huge garden but, for now, I just have my small container garden (some in yogurt containers!).

What steps do you take to be more environmentally-friendly?

Happy eating!

-c

Beet Salad and Gluten-Free Pasta

I made beets last night!  I’m not so sure that I like them.  Neither my husband nor I had ever eaten a beet before, but they are full of antioxidants so we decided to give them a try.  After my first bite, my husband asked what they tasted like.  “Kind of like dirt”, I answered.  I found this salad recipe from The New York Times and it sounded very different from most salads I eat.  I followed the recipe for the most part, using endive, beets, toasted pecans, and Feta cheese.  I also made a dressing similar to what the recipe called for (using olive oil, red wine vinegar, chives, Dijon mustard, black pepper, and garlic powder).  To prepare the beets, I washed them, added a bit of olive oil, wrapped them in a foil pouch, and roasted at 425°F for about an hour (until soft enough to easily pierce with a fork).

Roasted Beets

Roasted beets!

I let them cool for a bit, peeled off the skin (it should come off easily), sliced, and chilled.

We had the salad alongside some gluten free pasta with Newman’s Own pasta sauce (that I beefed up with some extra veggies).

Gluten-free pasta

Tinkyada--one of the better gluten-free pastas I have had!

I added about 2 cups of spinach, some leftover broccoli that had seen better days (it was getting very limp), and some red pepper flakes to give it some spice.

sauce

Newman's Own pasta sauce with some add-ins.

Pasta isn’t one of my favorite things, but it’s nice to have some on hand for those times when you need a quick meal.  Gluten-free pasta is cooked just like regular pasta but it gets sticky and mushy even faster, so be sure not to overcook it.

Pasta with beet salad

A relatively simple dinner!

I would like to try beets again but I think I should marinate them or something to provide more flavor next time.  I also decided that I need to extract some of the beet juice to naturally add color to my next batch of soap!  The pink/purple color of the beets was beautiful!

How do you like your beets?

 

Happy eating!

-c

I would like to buy a sailboat!

Where did spring go?  The weather is like this today…

I am NOT a fan!

…so I’ve been in pajamas and sipping coffee since noon.  Yesterday, my husband and I took a road trip to Yorktown, Virginia to meet up with his mom, uncle, and grandma.  We walked around for awhile and had a nice sailboat ride on the York River (right at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay).

The Alliance!

 

I'm thinking that a sailboat might be a good investment.

We were lucky the weather was so nice (sunny and in the lower 80s)!

Pretty plant near the beach.

There is a sunken Revolutionary War battleship right at the end of the pier!

I brought a big bag of snacks to keep me going all day.  Leaving the comfort of my home for a day is really stressful because I can’t just stop anywhere for food.  When we moved from Dallas to Richmond back in November, we had to bring a ton of food for the 3-day drive.  We made some lentil stew to pack in a cooler (we stayed in a hotel with a microwave the first night), a giant box of Lara bars, a 3-pound bag of apples, a bunch of bananas, Udi’s muffins, and almonds.  We even packed up a pot and pan in case we needed to make food the second night when we stayed with my parents.  I did a similar thing for our road trip yesterday even though we were only going to be gone for 10 hours.

A hungry Caroline = A cranky Caroline

It may have been a bit overkill considering we ate a big breakfast before we left and were going to be back in time for dinner, but I am not a fan of being hungry.

I have been feeling kind of lethargic the past few days, probably due to too much junk food, too many ciders, not enough exercise, and being slightly dehydrated yesterday.  Today’s goal was to eat as many fruits and veggies as possible.  I have had a cup of spinach, a serving of blueberries, a banana, an apple, an orange, a mango, and tomato soup so far today.  On top of that, I had a great workout this morning (5 miles on the stationary bike + 5 miles on the treadmill (7:50/mile pace!), and stretching, so I’m finally starting to feel back to my usual self.  I have also decided to start the 100 push-up challenge again.  Has anyone else ever done this?  You might not be able to do 100 push-ups after the 6 weeks, but you will definitely see improvement quickly.  I did this once before and I progressed from doing 10 consecutive full-body push-ups to 45 in the 4 weeks that I actually kept up with the program.  I did my test today to see how many I could do (with good form) so I will know where to start and I completed 22 push-ups.  I’m going to start the challenge this week.  It’s a great way to motivate yourself to do something that you usually are able to talk yourself out of (for me, this is push-ups).  Plus, it takes less than 10 minutes 3 times a week.  There is also a sit-up challenge, squat challenge, etc.

Tonight we’re making a salad featuring a vegetable I have never tasted before (recipe coming soon) and some gluten-free pasta with extra veggies added in.  I can’t believe the weekend is almost over…and I still have laundry to do!  Off to finish doing the typical weekend life-maintenance chores!

Happy eating!

-c

 

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