Meatless Monday: Lentil Loaf

I’m posting this on a Tuesday so that you can prepare yourselves for next Monday… or I might have just decided that no one really reads blog posts on Mondays and it’s better to post this on a Tuesday.

Sometimes, especially when a meatloaf is right in front of my eyes, I feel as if I could eat a whole pan when it is made to perfection. However, yesterday was Monday and if you haven’t gotten on the trend of “Meatless Monday”, I would suggest you look into it! Sometimes it is better to eat a whole pan of meatloaf made out of lentils.

http://www.footprintnetwork.org/resources/footprint-calculator/

IMG_3062

How many worlds do you take up??? How large is your carbon footprint (or kitty print)???

It is truly a mission impossible to be completely free of emitting carbon, and it can create a ton of stress in ones’ everyday life. If I paid attention to every little thing I bought, ate, wore, or flushed… I would probably be cremated and buried in the ground because of how guilty I felt. You just can’t live life like that!

It is IMPORTANT to pay attention to those little things, but it’s also important to just incorporate little steps that are easiest for you. The point is that you just ALWAYS should try to take those little steps and never stop. Is it a crime to want to have clean air or water?

“Someone needs to explain to me why wanting clean drinking water makes you an activist, and why proposing to destroy water with chemical warfare doesn’t make a corporation a terrorist.”
-Winona LaDuke

I think the quote above sums up many things.

Plain and simple: Figure out what small steps you can do today to try to reduce your carbon footprint.

Enjoy this meatless Lentil Loaf recipe and feel good about eating it too!

The Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of green lentils
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 purple carrot
  • 1 apple
  • 5 mushrooms
  • 1 cup of blended oats
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp sage
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 cup white cheddar
  • 1/3 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 TB honey
  • 1 TB apple cider vinegar
  • 1 TB soy sauce
  • 3 TB ground flaxseed

    Some Tips-and-Not

You can make your own oat flour at home! Just put it into a food processor and blend until finely ground. It’s a quick and easy way to make vegetarian/vegan meals more nutrient dense. It’s also a good trick to learn for making dog biscuits! Just grind up some oat flour, add pumpkin, chicken broth, egg, and whatever else you find interesting and bake it in the oven until crisp!

IMG_3047

If you’re not very familiar with flaxseed… it used to be the “hempseed” or “chiaseed” way back when. Each is different and might be interesting to look-up what types of nutritional values are in each seed for your needs. The interesting aspect to using flaxseed in this recipe is that it binds the ingredients similar to what an egg might do and adds a whole lots of omega’s into the dish! Grinding fresh seeds before using is the best way to go (which I might suggest picking up a thrift-ed coffee grinder for) or you can buy it pre-ground and keep it fresh in the refrigerator. It’s all up to you!

IMG_3049

The Directions

 

  1. Boil and simmer the lentils in a pot with enough water to cover by about 2 inches. When finished, remove from heat, drain, and set aside for later.

IMG_30382. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

IMG_30573. Finely dice and chop the garlic, onion, carrot, apple, pepper, and mushrooms.

4. In a large pan, add a little bit of olive oil and add the oregano, thyme, sage, mustard seed, and black pepper. Heat up the spices for about 3 minutes.

5. Next, add the vegetables and turmeric to the pan and sauté until onions are translucent and carrots are a bit tender, and then set aside.

6. In a small bowl, mash half of the cooked lentils.

IMG_30547. Your lentils are ready and the vegetables are ready, so it is time to mix the two together with the tomato sauce, honey, apple cider vinegar, and soy sauce. This is also the best time to salt to taste.

IMG_30518. In a large bowl, mix together the ground oats, flaxseed, cheese, and lentil-vegetable mixture together, evenly.

9. Spray a loaf pan and place the mixture into it, pressing and smoothing into the shape of a rectangle.

10. Feel free to glaze the top of the loaf with ketchup or any other delicious sauce (I just kept mine plain).

11. Bake loaf for about 45 minutes and serve with a garnish or two.

12. ENJOY!

IMG_3060

p.s. I can’t tell you how much any of this might serve because if you’re like me… you’d want the whole loaf to yourself! 🙂

Live long, cook well, and be happy!

Balsamic Honey-glazed Brussels Sprouts

It doesn’t happen very often where someone asks you to create a recipe to be used at farmers markets that people might enjoy. It took me a while to conceptualize what a person might want to make at a farmers market. What better way to celebrate farmers than by cooking up a big stalk of brussels sprout!

IMG_1879

I originally started making this for thanksgiving and it slipped my mind when I was asked to prepare a recipe for a farmers market.

My dream someday is to live off of the land and have a homestead. I wish to give back to the land all that it gives us everyday. I know that’s hard for some people to picture, but I really do strive to keep living such a simple life.

Spring is in the air and I finally started my container growing vegetables. Since I am living out in this city I am unable to have a garden. I am trying out some different varieties of vegetables such as: Bulb carrots, blueberry tomatoes, and even a squat bush bean plant. All of these grow great in containers! I am especially curious about the blueberry tomatoes! I will keep you updated!

One of my favorite quotes is: Live simply so that others may live simpler too.

IMG_2920

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do.

The Ingredients

  • 1 lb brussels sprouts
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 3 TB butter
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/4 purple onion
  • 1 TB honey
  • 2 TB grey poupon mustard
  • 1 TB balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp lemon
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 2 TB flour
  • 1/4 cup grated Asiago cheese
  • (optional: crumbled bacon)

Some Tips-and-Not

Farmers Markets are a great way to find fresh produce without paying an arm and a leg… well I guess it depends on what city or area you live in. I refuse to shop at farmers markets around here in D.C. I know that sounds awful, but I just cannot handle all of the obnoxious signs stating of their wholesome organic produce. In all reality,  if you’re growing it from your garden and not spraying there is no reason to hype up your produce and state how fresh it is. We get it. We are at a farmers market. It just frustrates me because then people want to over-price everything and what should be about $1.00 lb for potatoes turns into $4. Ridiculous. So… the most cost-effective way to obtain fresh vegetables if you can’t grow them yourselves is to invest in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box. Most of these programs are 15 weeks long, depending on the farm, and you get a huge weekly supply of fresh vegetables at the fraction of the cost. Some farms even let you work hours every week in order to subsidize the cost of the box. How cool is that?!?!

Support your farms and farmers!

The Directions

  1. Remove the ends and quarter cut the brussels sprouts depending on the size.
  2. Cook and fry in olive oil and butter over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  3. Cut up and add the onions and garlic. Add to the pan along with a splash of water and cook until mixture is tender.
  4. Stir in the honey, balsamic vinegar, lemon, and mustard until well-mixed.
    IMG_2873
  5. Next, add in the flour and cream and stir together until evenly thick coated.
    IMG_2874
  6. Garnish with grated cheese, optional bacon bits, and serve.
  7. Enjoy!

    IMG_2890

Live long, cook well, and be happy!

 

Nutmeg Mac n’ Cheese

IMG_2925

My weekend consisted of relaxing, catching up on some sleep, and a photoshoot with Maple. We are clearly living the thug life.

We had our first “big” winter storm here out in D.C. It consisted of ice and mixed snow. It was a huge disappointment because they predicted a huge amount of snow… sadly that was not the case.

A few days later and now the sun is coming out and melting it all away! The weather is changing and today marks the first day of spring!

My parents are coming to visit me for the week and I am so excited! I have just been having a pretty stressful time out here and feeling very lonely. It really will help me to have some familiar faces and relaxation with them. To me, family is everything. I read such an interesting article on friendships:

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/10/how-friendships-change-over-time-in-adulthood/411466/

I have been having a really hard time transitioning from college. I am such an extroverted individual who becomes energized by people. It could be due to me moving away from home, but I have been having a hard time internalizing friendships. This article spoke to me so deeply because it talked about how we pick our friends which makes it that different from our families since they are there by blood. I think I value friendships more now than most do… which is fine, but there are few out there that value that the same way. It’s a sad excuse to be so busy in life that the value of friends is at the lowest spectrum.

I have a few good friends that have been giving back just as much as I have given them, but people are strange and it’s been really hard to trust that expectation.

Overall, I am so lucky to have Devin, Maple, and my close family. I am so thankful in many ways!

With that in mind, maybe you and your friend can reconnect over this classic-recipe. My life with mac n’ cheese was changed when I introduced cardamon.

Enjoy!

The Ingredients

  • 1, 16 ounce package of elbow or rotini noodles
  • 4 TB butter
  • 1 TB bacon grease
  • 4 TB white flour
  • 1 tsp hickory smoked salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp fresh garlic
  • 2 pieces of crisp bacon
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups of white cheddar cheese

Some Tips-and-Not

Many times the butter and milk are mixed together first, which then creates problems when trying to mix in the flour! The flour starts to clump together and creates a texture issue. Make sure to mix the flour in with the melted butter and then add the milk and cheese.

Cook your macaroni noodles al dente. This makes it easier for the noodles to capture the cheesey-ness since it’s not fully cooked to mush.

Investing in a microblade works wonders for grating whole herbs and Parmesan cheese. For this recipe I use whole, fresh nutmeg which really brings out the nutty flavor of cheeses.
IMG_2881

The Directions

  1. Boil the noodles in a pot of salted water until al dente.
    IMG_2871
  2. Cook the bacon until nice and crispy and keep the grease aside.
    IMG_2883
  3. Melt the butter and mix in the bacon grease, nutmeg, garlic, and smoked salt. Let these spices crisp up for a few minutes.
  4. Slowly mix in the flour until a nice paste forms and then add the milk.
  5. Once heated, slowly add in the cheese until thickened and bubbling.
    IMG_2879
  6. Garnish with small bits of the crispy bacon and some spinach.
  7. Serve and enjoy!F59F060F-DE90-40D7-B789-51706ABEAA34

Live long, cook well, and be happy!

Refreshing Lentil Salad

What a weekend! I have no idea what gave me the spark the create this recipe on such a windy, cold day for the D.C. area but here it is! We decided to go on a hike this past weekend at Sugar Loaf Mountain and what a good idea it was. I don’t know if you find similar effects, but whenever Devin and I hit the trails in nature—we find ourselves again. I feel so connected to myself and everyone when I am in nature; it is astounding. I like to think of it as free-therapy. There are so many studies that show how much healthier people become mentally by taking a walk outside in nature every day or at least hiking once a week. I do not deny those results because I guarantee you that I am a living, breathing, walking example.

I’ve been reflecting a lot on my three main pillars: career, family, and friends. My situation last year was very rough mentally, and after about six months of healing I’ve been able to grow into a spot now where I don’t feel as anxious and more connected with my emotions. I’ve also been reflecting on my weaknesses and just learning to accept them and keep improving my mentality towards them. It isn’t an overnight fix, but I definitely know I am in a much better place than I was before. I just need to realize that I’m in this race for MYSELF. It’s my own happiness and if someone or something doesn’t make me happy, then I can actually be O.K. with just giving it space!

This photo really sums it up a lot for me (I just wanted to add my dog and this tomato *with a sunhat* to go alongside it too):

I hope to continue on my path towards living with and for nature! It really is a great purpose to serve for myself. I hope you are continuing on your path towards happiness! Enjoy and be FREE!

The Ingredients

  • 1 cup of any-type of lentils
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp fresh or dried thyme
  • 2 TB fresh or dried parsley
  • dash of cayenne
  • 2 carrots
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped kale
  • 1 tomato
  • 4 mini bell peppers
  • 2 sprigs green onion
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 3 lemon wedges (or more depending on taste)
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Some Tips-and-Not

Where do I begin with the knowledge of lentils? You can do your own research on this topic, but I am fairly positive that eating lentils has some of the smallest amounts of impact on the carbon footprint. It also uses low amounts of pesticides and has a tremendous amount of protein, fiber, and health benefits. These are all things I heard from a friend in college that ate lentils everyday. Seriously.

This recipe makes a great side-dish or refreshing lunch. I love to take this to work and eating it with a bed of arugula. The use of green onion is great for adding that onion taste, but not overbearing where you might have stinky breath otherwise. It is light, a good balance of herbs, and is great for vegetarian/vegan lovers!

The Directions

  1. In a small pot, combine lentils, thyme, bay leaves, parsley, and cayenne with enough water that covers the mixture by at least 2 inches. Bring it to light simmer and cook until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, cut up the tomato, carrots, kale, bell peppers, green onion, and garlic into small, minced pieces.
    IMG_2841
  3. Squeeze the lemon and mix together generously.
    IMG_2842
  4. Add the olive oil over the top and let it sit in the fridge.
    IMG_2844
  5. While the vegetable mixture is cooling, drain the lentils, removing the bay leaves, and mix in the hot lentils with the cool vegetables.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste, allow to cool to your desire, and enjoy!
    IMG_2852

Live long, cook well, and be happy! 🙂

 

Quick N’ Healthy Pumpkin Pancakes

I’ve been trying to contemplate what viewers and most of my audience would like me to share. Twisted experiments? Recipes from around the world? Homecooking with BUTTER? Or… maybe something healthy? It’s interesting because I do eat healthy and wholesome, but maybe these recipes don’t reflect that as much as I’d hope? All I want to say is you can really cook anything you want! You just have to realize that things need to come in moderation- even moderation.

A few months ago I decided to whip up some pumpkin pancakes for the holiday season, and to bring as a side dish to my Aunt’s house. I paired these pancakes with an orange, cinnamon maple-butter sauce and they were very delectable, even my 11 year-old cousin ate them up!

The orange sauce is simple to make: equal parts of melted butter, maple syrup, and orange juice. Add a dash of cinnamon and viola!

These pancakes are made with fresh pumpkin (or canned if you want to be more simple, and for this recipe it’s what I used), white and wheat flour, and love.

Spring time is finally here and everything is starting to get into full bloom. D.C. is expecting the cherry blossom trees to start blooming in a few weeks. I work only 5 blocks away from the White House and cherry blossoms! I can’t wait to spend my lunches painting in the park.

Devin and I also got a few more backpacking essentials- finally some plates and bowls that don’t weigh an arm and a leg!

How will you spend the first days of your Spring?

I hope you enjoy!!!

The Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Dash of cinnamon spice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin pie mix OR fresh pumpkin (depending on your wants)
  • 1 TB butter/coconut oil

Some Tip-and-Not

Halloween comes and goes every year… so does a lot of unwanted and unused pumpkin. Most individuals say that you need a small “cooking” pumpkin to use for baking… false. You can use a giant pumpkin and get fresh and tasty fresh pumpkin that you can later freeze in baggies for the winter to use in multiple recipes. I used a very large pumpkin this year, cut it into four slices, baked it, and now I have quarts and quarts of baggies of fresh pumpkin! I love it, my dog loves it, and even my pancakes loved it!

The Directions

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, and yogurt.
  2. Next, melt the butter and/or coconut oil with the vanilla and mix it into the egg-milk mixture.
  3. Add in your pumpkin and stir together until smooth and even.
  4. Mix together the dry ingredients into an even mixture.
  5. Finally, slowly mix in the dry ingredients into the wet. Make sure you don’t over-mix or that creates sunken pancakes.
  6. Stack them up and serve with fresh maple syrup or the orange sauce I described earlier. Enjoy!img_2795

Live long, cook well, and be happy!

Eggplant Chinese-American Take-out

That moment you reach the phone to order your favorite Chinese take-out… and realize you could probably re-create it! That is what this recipe aims to achieve: The juicy, garlic Chinese eggplant from Chinese-American take-outs. Almost vegetarian, because oyster sauce is used, makes this recipe a good alternative to the typical meat dish combo that is served at Chinese-American restaurants. A good substitute for oyster sauce in this recipe would be soy glaze. It uses mushroom umami to create a deep flavor profile that is similar to oyster sauce. Was trying to create this with all of the time and special ingredients worth it compared to paying only $6.00 for a large paper box-like present? Maybe…?

What has been a new positive in your life?

Besides this weather still being incredibly wonderful, Devin and I have been getting a little farther in developing plans for our tree-farm someday!

img_2722

We both look forward to living off of the land and towards a sustainable future for ourselves. I find that I am happiest and feel so overwhelmingly elated when I can grow my own food, take care of the land, and watch how it can take care of me. I think that’s why farmers enjoy the work they do so much; they are able to work with the land and watch how it will work for them. Even little projects like growing micro-salad greens allows me to feel little spurts of sustainable joy.

7301e50f-4940-4b43-951c-19572e864d94

I look forward to the day where I can grow my own rows of eggplant and cook up delicious, freshly-grown platters of garlic eggplant…

Enjoy!

The Ingredients

  • 3 TB canola or grapeseed oil
  • 1 TB seasme oil
  • 1 large eggplant or 4 Chinese eggplants cut into medium-sized pieces
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp sriracha
  • 2  tsp garlic powder
  • 1 glove of crushed, fresh garlic
  • 3 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cornstarch or arrowroot powder
  • 2 TB soy sauce
  • 2 TB oyster sauce (vegetarian option: soy glaze)

Some Tips-and-Not

The biggest issue I have had with trying to re-create this dish is trying to get the right texture and burst of flavor from the eggplants profile. I’ve found that by frying it in oil for a few minutes and then boiling it in spices and water develops it correctly. However, too much boiling and the eggplant will fall apart. Not enough boiling, and the eggplant will not be as tantalizing.

Feel free to increase the brown sugar in this recipe to your sweetness desire. I chose to not add as much sugar because it opens the door for desert! Well… it mainly cracks the door open so one is not enveloped in a salty-comma.

The Directions

  1. Heat the oils in a skillet and stir in the cut-up eggplant. Stir and cook until semi-tender, about 3 minutes.

2. Mix in garlic powder, sriracha, and red pepper flakes. Cook for another minute.

3. Add in water and simmer with lid for about 5 minutes. Continue cooking on high heat without the lid until the water dissolves and is absorbed.

img_27414. In a separate and small bowl, mix in brown sugar, cornstarch, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and pressed garlic clove. Stir in sauce and cook until it becomes thick, evenly coating the eggplant.

img_2750

img_2751

Cook well, live long, and be happy!

 

 

Sumac Venison Stew

I don’t know about you but there are a streamline of thoughts I’ve been having. First off, what incredibly amazing weather Maryland just had! This weekend it was a whopping 70 degrees F! Still no snow to be seen out here, which is fairly depressing. Back home in Wisconsin they were seeing temperatures in the 50’s, which is very warm, and then it plans on dropping back down to 15 degrees F. Weird.

For those of you who don’t believe in climate change, I rarely like to pick fights, but you are SO WRONG! After studying natural resources and doing multiple research projects at the University of Wisconsin’s Stevens Point, I can attest to the Earth changing dramatically due to human consumption. As much as I loved the weather this past weekend, it made me feel complete wreck of emotions for the future. What will my kids have to face if/when I have them someday? Why isn’t our world taking immediate action now for something that is so dire and true? Humans tend to face an issue, and that is if they can’t see it in front of their eyes, then it is a lie. If that’s the case, we should all funnel into Trump’s tax paying trips and vacations so that we, too, can go travel and see glaciers melting at a terribly rapid rate so we can finally SEE!

On another thought, I’ve also been thinking a lot about my passions. For those of you who don’t already know, I am an artist. Below is a painting I’ve been working on for a few months and it is of Lake Superior. Painting this allowed me to relive and feel so many emotions and memories. Art is so expressive in that it can unlock those that might hidden or lost. Whether it’s cooking or painting, I am so happy to have these hobbies! I have plans for my next painting, but please enjoy this one and feel free to check out my Facebook page: Opatikova Paintings.

img_2720

My last thought that I tend to think after every day of work is my future. I am a planner by nature, and I sometimes feel that if I don’t have a plan then I will fail. When I think back I’ve always made future goals for myself and always had a plan. I think it’s time for me to not necessarily have an exact plan but more ideas of plans that I’d like to go down. Whether this is my quarter-life crisis talking (which by the way is super like the mid-life crisis… go check it out) or a change that I’ve needed for a while, all I can tell you is that it might be time to experience a little bit of “unpredictable” outcomes. After all, why should I always just be one of me and not many me’s? More on this later…

Regardless of all of those thoughts, except climate change, I’ve decided to dedicate this next recipe to the wild hunt! My amazing sister, Lauren, is a hunter and out of the goodness of her heart decided to send me a ton of venison stew meat! I wanted to center this around farm-to-fork, or I guess in this case wild-to-fork. Enjoy!

The Ingredients

  • 5 carrots
  • 8 small potatoes
  • 1 white onion
  • 8 mushrooms
  • 1/2 lb venison stew meat
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 TB flour
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp powdered sumac
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tsp savory

Some Tips-and-Not

Do you wash your produce or vegetables before consuming? If not, you are putting a lot of weird things into your body otherwise. If you don’t believe me, even go check out the FDA website. I’m also fairly certain post product recipes tell you to rinse. Unless you are buying straight from the ground, I would definitely give your veggies and fruit a good ole scrubbin’.

img_2693

Powered sumac is an interesting spice. I was able to get my hands on it, go guess, at The Spice House. I’ve been playing around with it and found that it is a really earthy spice that tastes similar to a citrus flavor. I thought it really brought out a brightness to this stew.

img_2696

If you have a pepper grinder, cool, if not then get a mortar and pestle. In this recipe I wanted nice large chunks of black pepper so that when I would take bites, I might find myself crunching into a peppercorn piece. Variety!!!

The Directions

1. Cut up potatoes, carrots, onions, and garlic. Mix together in a pot and sautee with olive oil for about 10 minutes on medium heat.

2. Mix in salt, pepper, sumac, savory, cinnamon stick, and bay leaf. Sautee for another 10 minutes. Add venison meat.

img_2704

3. Pour in 3 cups of water and 1/3 cup of wine into the pot, and start to bring it to a boil.

img_2702

4. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl mix together the remaining 1 cup of water and flour. Pour this mixture in when water starts to boil.

img_2703

5. Reduce to low, cover and let it slowly simmer for about 1 hour.Make sure to stir every now and then.

6. Once potatoes and carrots are tender, serve with a delicate garnish and enjoy!

img_2708

Live long, cook well, and be happy!

 

Creamy Avocado Pesto Pasta

Ever since I can remember I’ve had a passion to cook. I remember sitting at the counter watching my mom bake cookies, and as I got older I would watch my dad make a simple roux using flour and butter.

I can always say I’ve had a productive day if I was able to cook something delicious. Some people may feel more productive by finishing a large chapter book, but cooking is definitely my jam.

What is your productive hobby? I always am interested in knowing what others do besides work or watch Netflix. Having a hobby and doing something for yourself is one of the greatest things we can do for ourselves in this world. Learning, experimenting, exploring are all things that will just make us more rounded individuals that can eventually give that back to the world.

I think that’s the true purpose behind this cooking blog for me. At this point I am not trying to make anything larger than this because I am simply content by doing this for myself. I know I can cook, and I know I can cook amazingly well. That’s why if you just happened to stumble across this, I really hope you enjoy all of the recipes and insights on tips. Most of all, I feel so incredibly grateful to share the love of my hobby and passion with you!

Go and live the life you want most and enjoy your hobbies! Paint, read, travel, run, or do whatever that gives you that amazingly satisfied feeling of purpose.

The Ingredients

  • 3 soft avocados
  • 2 TB lemon
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 1/4 can of pumpkin
  • 1 can of diced organic tomatoes
  • 3-6 TB of pre-made pesto mix (or 3 TB basil, 3 TB garlic, 1/4 cup olive oil)
  • 1/2 purple onion, diced
  • 1/2 yellow pepper, diced
  • 1 TB dried basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil mayo (or whole milk greek yogurt)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste

Some Tips-and-Not

This is a great way to get lots of healthy fats in your diet and a great vegetarian recipe when you’re craving and needing something creamy. This can easily be made into a vegan recipe as well by making sure the pasta has no eggs, skipping the cheese, mayo, and making sure your dog hair doesn’t find its way in as a secret spice.

img_2628

I found that fresh tomatoes taste so much better in this recipe in the summer, but unfortunately none of the grocery stores or farmers markets had any good tomatoes to choose from. I opted to use canned diced tomatoes because there was a deeper flavor in the tomatoes that paired well with the creamy avocado.

If you find a good deal on avocados that might not be very ripe, this is a perfect time to stock up! You’ll have a lot of avocados and what is nice is that this sauce easily freezes well if you make a double batch! To cream the avocados can opt to use an old school potato masher, a food processor, or a hand blender.

The Directions

  1. Cut 3 avocados in half and scoop out into a food processor (or in my instance a potato masher).
  2. Mix together on medium until smooth and creamy. Depending on your taste and strength of pesto, I would start with 3 TB and gradually add more until desired taste. Next, add salt and pepper to taste, pumpkin puree, and lemon. Blend until smooth.
    img_2608
  3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a small sauce pan and sauté the dried basil leaves, diced onions, peppers, and tomatoes until tender.

  4. Place the vegetable mixture into the avocado sauce and add the mayo. Mix in a large bowl with a spatula until well-blended.
    img_2610
  5. Grate and add the Parmesan cheese. Serve over pasta with a garnish and salt and pepper to taste.
    img_2611
  6. ENJOY!

Live long, cook well, and be happy!

2 a.m. Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Being an adult comes with many responsibilities. When I was younger, I was always trying to grow-up just a little bit more so that I could have more freedom and choices. I really didn’t want to go to bed early when I was younger, but now if I can’t put my head on my pillow around 9 p.m. I feel like I’m going to cry. I really wanted to drive myself places when I was younger, but now it’s a miracle if I can drive 5 miles to get groceries. A person must eat. I really wanted to steal the sweet, delicious mom-baked cookies in the middle of the night when I was younger, and now I STILL  find myself wanting that, but I know that my body wouldn’t quite benefit from that (my soul would though…).

What is a women to do? Well… I decided last weekend at 2 a.m. to say SCREW IT and I made myself some dark chocolate, coconut oil peanut butter cups. I do not regret my adult decision ONE BIT! It was GLORIOUS! The dark chocolate melting in my mouth with a hint of sensual coconut oil, and to finish off with a burst of peanut butter was all a menstruating woman at 2 a.m. could ever want in life. Move over honey, this kiss is for the peanut butter cup!

I hope you enjoy this late night creation and I hope with all my heart that you can find the small things in life that make it worth it to be an adult! Sometimes it is O.K. to do things that make you feel young again. There’s definitely either positive or negative outcomes that come with many adult choices, but I am pretty sure making peanut butter cups at 2 a.m. isn’t going to hurt anyone except maybe that diet plan. EVEN SO… everything in moderation. If you are on a diet plan, just try to substitute with one meal  with cleaner calories! Enjoy being an adult!

The Ingredients

  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 TB cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp burbon vanilla
  • 3 TB coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • Silicone baking cup sheet

Some Tips-and-Not

Earlier this past month I decided it was time to invest in a silicon baking product. I’ve had my eyes on a baking sheet because they prove to be very versatile. You can create anything from homemade dog treats, alcoholic ice cubes for mixed drinks, all the way to dark chocolate peanut butter cups. YUM!

img_2572

If the chocolate binds up too much and it is hard to pour into the silicone cups, feel free to add a teaspoon of coconut oil at a time to get it that runny texture.

The Directions

  1. Melt the chocolate chips in a pyrex-similar bowl for 15 seconds. Repeat until the chocolate chips have fully melted.

img_25642. Place 2 TB of coconut oil, cocoa powder, and vanilla in the melted chocolate chips and stir until it is a nice “slow-runny” texture.

3. Use half of the chocolate mixture to fill each silicone cup about half-way. Try to glide the chocolate up the side of the silicone and ready it for the peanut butter.

img_25694. Place the silicone chocolate sheet in the freezer.

5. Meanwhile, melt the peanut butter and coconut oil in a bowl for 15 seconds in the microwave. The texture should be similar to the chocolate.

6. Take out the silicone sheet and place a spoonful of peanut butter inside each chocolate cup. Take the remaining bowl of chocolate (heat it back up for another 15 seconds if needed) and pour over each cup.

img_25737. Place in freezer for 15 minutes (or until hardened) and ENJOY!

img_2575

Live long, cook well, be happy!!!

Apricot Japanese-Curry

Who? What? Where!

This is a strange recipe to some. However, to those that have never had a Japanese curry is not living the cooking life. A Japanese curry is milder than a traditional Indian curry and it involves a bit more of the typical spices and sauces that Japan uses in their everyday cooking.

The most interesting meal I had in Japan when I traveled there in the summer of 2016 was at my friend’s host families house and it was a Japanese curry. We had it for breakfast (although it felt more like brunch). Their version was a bit sweeter, so I decided to make my version a bit more of an elegant sweetness. I decided to replace the sweetness of sugar with a mild sweetness of apricot jam. This inspiration came to me because the host family made their own apricot jam and I thought it would be a nice touch. I also have really been wanting others to see a variety of carrots and potatoes. This recipe uses purple, white, and orange carrots, as well as purple and white potatoes. Umami!

I cannot even begin to describe how beautiful and wonderful travelling in Japan was. It was one of those experiences where you come back from it and you still can’t describe everything you saw, ate, and did. The vast mountains, exciting Tokyo lights, and robotic toilets were just a few of the highlights… and my engagement on top of Mount Yahiko (the mountain of eternal love). I was also super fortunate because my best friend was living there and so on top of being able to see her again, I got to live a bit of her life and the relationships she formed while living over there with host families.

img_2235

Travelling is an amazing way to see more than what the eyes currently see. It opens up new perspectives and emotions that would never appear in an ordinary day. It is especially eye-opening when you’re able to experience the country with locals. Overall, it is my favorite way to become integrated with the culture through food and friends!

I really hope you enjoy my crafted version of this delicious recipe and the ease of using… a CROCK POT!

The Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb stew meat
  • 5 small-medium potatoes
  • 3 large carrots
  • 3 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1 onion
  • 2 TB butter
  • 2 TB ketchup
  • 2 TB Worcester sauce
  • 2 TB apricot jam
  • 3 TB soy sauce
  • 2 TB curry powder mix
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 TB garlic powder
  • 3 TB flour
  • salt and pepper to taste

Some Tips-and-Not

You might not have a crock pot, so using any type of stove pot will do. The process for a stove top pot is a bit different because you would want to saute some of the vegetables and spices to enhance the flavor. The reason a crock pot is so easy is because since it stays at a consistent temperature and even-heating for so long, a lot of the flavors have time to develop and the stew meat becomes very tender.

Curry powder comes in many different types. I would suggest using a yellow curry, mainly with one that has a good mixture of different spices in it. For my recipe, I decided to using a tablespoon of ginger tea. It had the ginger and extra sweetness I wanted. You’re more than welcome to go out of your way and find this, but for the ease of you and cooking, I wrote the recipe the same as if you were to use the ginger tea.

img_2531

If you haven’t already, invest in a large container of soy sauce. It’s super economical and it really starts to become a versatile cooking ingredient. Kikkoman is my standard.

img_2528

Rainbow carrots are amazing for stews. I always try to buy local and organic, and luckily Trader Joe’s always has them in stock! Purple, orange, and white carrots all have different tastes. I find the purple carrots flavor to be more rich and deep, whereas I find the white carrot to be a bit more bitter and pungent. The orange carrots, as we all know them well, are sweet and flowery. That’s why they’re always sold in super markets. Having this variety of a carrot profile really sets any stew or soup apart with a defining variety of flavor. Umami!

img_2521

The Directions

  1. Dice, chop, and mix together potatoes, onion, tomato, and carrots into the crock pot (or in a large stove pot brought to a boil and then put on medium for simmering for several hours)
  1. In a separate bowl, fill it up with your beef broth.

img_2529

  1. In that same bowl, use a whisk to mix in your ketchup, Worcester, apricot jam, soy sauce, curry powder, ginger, bay leaf, garlic powder, flour and salt and pepper.
  1. Place the meat and butter in last.

img_2536

  1. Mix everything together in your crock pot or stove pot.

img_2539

  1. Let it sit in your crock pot for 5 hours on high or on the stove top for 2 hours (at least until the meat becomes very tender)
  2. Add more salt, pepper, or sugar to taste and serve with jasmine rice.

img_2549

p.s. I know this is more Chinese… but I just found out while writing this recipe that it is the year of the rooster… and that’s ME YA’LL!

img_2507

Live long, cook well, and be HAPPY!