My adventures in Seattle

This weekend, I took an adventure up the Pacific Northwest to the lovely wet city of Seattle. My friend Monique is getting her MSW (Social Work – isn’t that awesome?!) at the University of Washington, and I’ve been wanting to visit for a long time! Matt was supposed to be going with me, but his company just had to go and win a technical achievement Academy Award, so he was schmoozing with stars while I ate freshly fried mini doughnuts and posed with trolls. I flew in Saturday morning with my long underwear ready to go (I had been egged on by other Southern Californians about how cold I would be.)

Yummy things at Pike Place Market

Monique and I dropped my stuff off at her place and headed downtown via bus to the world famous Pike Place market. This place is a foodie’s dream, with stalls heaping with colorful fruit and glossy-eyed fish draped on ice. We shopped around, sampling the various goods and stopping for lunch at a Japanese stall. I got the vegetarian yakisoba and it was delicious – hot and sweet with fresh, crunchy cabbage and thin peels of carrot. We had dessert of mini-doughnuts – powdered sugar, sprinkled and cinnamon sugar.

Miss Monique samples a dougnnut

I also had to buy some dark chocolate pasta, just because the idea was so novel to me. I’ll be making chocolate pasta for dessert the next few weeks – I’m thinking chocolate linguine with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. I’ll blog it! I posed for a picture next to the famous Pike pig, and then we headed back to the bus so we could check out one of my favorite novelty stores, Archie McPhee. If you haven’t heard of Archie McPhee, I highly recommend you visit their online store. It’s a great place to buy all kinds of things you don’t need, like pickle finger puppets and potato guns.

Bronze pig appreciates bag of freshly fried doughnuts in hand!

After Archie McPhee, we walked a mile to the Fremont Troll. The troll is a piece of community art commissioned by a Fremont resident. The troll was a popular attraction and we had to get our picture taken a few times to make it troll-gawker free.

TROLLLL!

After the troll, we headed back towards the Northgate area and then had dinner at Taste of India. This place was awesome because they gave us free chai and pakoras while we waited for our table. I had the butter paneer masala and it was amaaaaazing – so creamy, tangy and rich over the basmati rice. We sopped up the sauces with piping hot garlic naan. When our bellies were full, we headed over to the local $3 movie theatre and watched Midnight in Paris. The plot of the movie was charming but I thought the ending was poo-poolicious. After the movie I passed out on Monique’s lovely futon. We woke up Sunday morning and picked up a sandwich at Jimmy John’s, where I was delighted to order a giant dill pickle. Sadly, my pickle had a hair on it of mysterious origins (discovered after my first bite), so I lost my pep for pickles, but my sandwich was still deee-lish.

Moments before I discovered the hairy pickle.

We drove 30 minutes to Snoqualmie Falls, where the air was frigid, wet and cold. The view of these giant manmade waterfalls was breathtaking – the water crashed angrily onto the river below, and rocks broke the surface among the crystal blue water. We explored the park area around Snoqualmie falls for a bit, shopped in the gift shop, (I scored a cast iron bumble bee – yeah!), and then went back towards Monique’s house for some more local adventuring of my favorite kind – shopping!!!

Breathtaking Snoqualimie Falls

We shopped till we dropped and then swung by Cupcake Royale, where I picked up a “Dance Party” cupcake, with vanilla frosting. It was pretty amazing with a glass of wine! We also got ingredients to make homemade tacos! Here’s a sneak peek – but tune in next time to learn how to make flour tortillas that are a million times better than the packaged ones.

Yummy homemade tacos

On Monday, I ventured to the university district to see my Uncle Daniel, who works downtown. We had a good time eating lunch and bantering back and forth about why California was the superior state. Okay, fine, we never agreed on that, but I have decided that although Washington is lovely, California wins with its sunshine and perpetual blue skies. It was fun to see him on the west coast, as I usually only see him in Minnesota on short family vacations when we’re visiting my grandmother.

My Uncle Daniel and I

This weekend was exactly what I needed – a long weekend to decompress, enjoy some girl time, and do fun things instead of laundry, thesis writing and errand-running. I definitely did not track my meals which will probably get me into trouble this week at the scale, but I’m taking full responsibility for my actions and can say with very little regret…damn, I ate well and enjoyed it! Cest la vie.

Tune in soon to see us get our tortilla on! I hope you had an amazing weekend and are having an even better week!

Grad students DO smile! See?

Things you should know.

I learned two things about cooking today.

1) If you think Brussels sprouts are bitter, cut off the stem before you cook them. I never knew this! I had some leftover from the farmer’s market and I wanted to sautee them. I googled a few recipes and saw this handy hint. Just chop off the root part, and remove any loose leaves. All of the bitterness is contained in the stem. (If you want Brussels sprouts to taste like candy, cook three pieces of bacon, chop them up, (keep the grease in the pan) and then add the halved Brussels sprouts with one chopped leak, a teaspoon of salt, and one tablespoon of butter. Holy Delicious!)

Brussels Sprouts with Leeks and Bacon

2) You should always cut the ends off of potatoes when you’re baking them in the oven, or this will happen.

Oops.

That’s going to be fun to clean up…

Have you learned any helpful kitchen hints lately? What were they?

 

Low Cost Bounty

  • 1 bunch of lacinato kale
  • 2 leeks
  • 8 turnips
  • 2 beets (my new obsession – for some reason i thought i didn’t like them. They’re so tasty!)
  • 3 lemons
  • 2 pounds of apples (for juicing)
  • 5 pounds of satsumas (these are like candy!)
  • 2 pounds brussel sprouts (roasted with lemon and evoo -yum)
  • 1/4 pound dried peaches (a delicious snack)
  • 2 pounds broccoli
  • 1 cluster of ginger

That’s a lot of food, right? For $25, Matt and I strolled out of the Farmer’s Market with stuffed bags and hungry bellies. Did I mention it’s all organic? One of my favorite community activities is going to the farmer’s market. I think it’s an amazing way to support local businesses and operations, and you really score awesome savings on produce. (And we saw Gwyneth Paltrow and her mom there this week!)

This food would have easily cost me double what it had if I had gotten it at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. Tonight I was in Trader Joes and their trimmed leeks were $2.89 for two of them. I paid $1.50 at the farmer’s market. TJ’s beets were $2.50 for two. I paid $2 for two. Their ginger was $1.89 for a tiny little cluster – we paid $1.

When I first started eating healthy, I used to complain that it cost way more money to eat healthy. Today I realize I’m wrong. It only costs more money in that when you buy healthy things, like fruit and vegetables, you eat more of it because it goes bad faster. In that regards, yes, healthy food can add up because you’re buying more of it. But when I think about how much better I feel after eating a clementine compared to a candy bar? So worth the tiny bump in price.

To save on things like lettuce that last a little bit longer, I buy the jumbo pack of romaine hearts from Costco. It’s $2.89 for six romaine hearts. I chop them up and spin and dry them and then I have tons of salad ready to go for the week. I buy some perishables at the 99c store, because often times, they’ve got overstocked organic mushrooms or bell peppers waiting for someone to take them home. Sure, they might be lopsided or have a little ding in them, but who cares? It all ends up in my belly anyways.

How do you save money when you’re eating healthy? Do you think it’s more expensive to eat healthy? Why or why not?

 

Grad School Diet

  • Banana
  • Greek Yogurt
  • 2 hot dogs, no bun
  • 2 chicken soft tacos, 1 side salad
  • 5 pretzel sticks
  • 1 piece pecan pie

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  • Naked Juice Mighty Mango Smoothie
  • Cheese burger, french fries
  • 1 Slimfast Shake
  • 1 bag of popchips

See above? That’s what I ate yesterday and today. I’m not proud about it, but it’s reality. It’s what working 9 hour days and then going to class for three hours will do to you. I’ve been averaging one large meal a day, and when I look at days like today, I’m not eating enough. Even a fatty fat bomb meal like a cheeseburger and fries is not enough… to sustain my body to get through a long, taxing day.

My body runs best on lean proteins, whole grains and fresh vegetables – and I bet yours does too. I have two more weeks of crazy stress coming – including one 40-poem, 20-page poetry anthology to write, and one 20-page theory on Mass Communication theory in regards to the Tunisian uprising. Then, I will have a glorious month off, in which I will get back to the gym, cook yummy meals, blog more, practice relaxing, and spend time with my sweet husband who is often a grad school widow.

My dinner tonight. Sigh!

I need to find a way to incorporate healthy eating into my busy day to day life, wether it’s grabbing more fruit or stocking up on fiber-rich bars. My first priorities lately have been work and school and not my health, and that bothers me. I need to take care of me to do the best I can at both work and school. So for the next two weeks, I’ll work hard, but also work hard on taking care of me. And that means less Slim Fast and pop chips, and more veggies, water and gym time.

When you get crazy busy – what’s the first thing that suffers?

How does your garden grow?

I love my garden, and have been known to spend several hours digging in the dirt on weekends… emerging in the dusk hours with mud streaked all over my arms and plant pollen dotting my hands. I did today, in fact.

My Garden - and Yes, that is a mooning gnome.

I do this for the chance to grow my own food – which is the coolest thing ever. Last night, our dear friends Jason and Juan came over for an Italian feast, part of which was my homemade pesto tortellini. The pesto was superb – and made from 2 bunches of my own backyard basil. It’s such a neat feeling to eat something that you lovingly grew yourself – and it’s cool to know that you’ve essentially made a meal that cost only the price of the seed packet and occasional waterings.

Thanks basil, for making a delicious pesto!

Here’s a small sampling of some other things I hope to be harvesting soon, beginning with tomatoes. The ones shown here are a cherry variety, called “Matt’s Wild Cherry.”. I also have a Roma plant (that’s the biggest plant in the image above), an heirloom Brandywine, and a striped variety called Tigerella.

Matt's Wild Cherry Tomatoes

I have about 9 cucumber plants, from the “burpless” variety (that always makes me giggle – you’d never think cucumbers would be something that would make you burp), to a Persian, to a “tendergreen hybrid”. They’re just now starting to grow, about the size of a baby carrot and covered with the funny little spikes.

Baby "Burpless" Cucumber

My strawberries are hanging in there, and I was excited today to see one tiny little green berry. Strawberries don’t seem to do well in the San Fernando Valley, or maybe I’m just making that up, because I guess 40 minutes north in Ventura County is the strawberry growing capital of the world. Maybe I’m just not cut out for strawberry plants.

Little Green Strawberry

And last but not least, a favorite of mine… ARTICHOKES! This massive plant started from a tiny seedling I bought at the farmer’s market for $1. Now, it’s easily one of the biggest plants in the yard, and as you can see, loaded with artichokes.

Don't choke up over the beauty of my artichokes.

Some of the other goodies I have growing that aren’t shown include yellow squash, zucchini, green onions, green peppers, hot peppers, yellow corn and chocolate mint. I can’t wait for the days I spend digging into the vines and rummaging among the thickly-scented tomato leaves for ripe fruit. Should be about a month and a half and I’ll be posting pictures of my harvest. You better believe there will be some great food porn images then!

Farmer’s Market Fun

One of my favorite things about living in Southern California is the awesome farmer’s markets. Most specifically, the Hollywood Farmer’s Market. Located at Sunset and Hollywood Blvd, one of the busiest intersections is shut down from 8AM- 1 PM and filled with every type of person you could ever imagine. I’ve nearly walked right into Victoria Beckham clad in a neon orange Fendi frock, and I’ve bought fingerling potatoes next to Biggest Loser Trainer Jillian Michaels. You’ll see stinky hippies with greasy dreadlocks, hot young waiters actors in training decked out in the latest trendy yoga gear, frazzled moms with beaming toddlers, elderly couples strolling hand in hand, tourists with cameras and maps, and my personal favorite, every type of street musician, from an Albanian steam-punk band called Albania Mania to a Rastafarian harp player.

The people watching is only second to the amazing choices of food for sale, most of it organic or no-spray, all of it at very reasonable prices. Tables are stacked high with every type of citrus under the sun, and baskets are heaping with freshly cut herbs that lay an aromatic assault on your senses. I like to buy a strawberry lemonade and sip it as I stroll around the booths, sampling fresh cut fuji apples or blood oranges. Today Matt and I bought green garlic, two bacon avocados, 1 pound of sauce tomatoes, a sack of fingerling potatoes, one cat grass plant, one tomato plant, one basil plant, and one cilantro plant. We always bring our reusable bags and delight in the smells, sounds, and general weirdness that is a feast for our eyes at the market.

Turkey Tomato Rotini and Mixed Baby Greens

With our haul today, we made a turkey rotini with fresh tomato and green garlic marinara. I tossed a salad of mixed baby greens with olive oil and balsalmic vinegarette, which we sopped up with freshly baked “poura” or “finger bread” baked by the Persian bakery. It was a delicious and healthy meal – the type I should aspire to more often. Do you have favorite farmer’s market near you? (If not, I feel sad. Haha!)