Monthly Archives: January 2011

Coconut butter love

If I had a nickel for every time I whined about being a “cheap college student,” I might not actually be a cheap college student. Sadly, things don’t work that way.

For the most part, my food budget goes toward vital groceries.

The standard weekly shopping list includes oats, romaine lettuce, apples, bananas, hummus, yogurt, etc. I basically only buy (and stock up on) pantry staples when they are on sale, because I don’t have to worry about them going bad too quickly. The little bit extra money goes toward a few wildcard items, which are most commonly ingredients for things I want to bake.

This always works out well and I’m still able to manage fun, healthy meals. But, it just doesn’t leave too much room for splurging on specific items — No matter how au courant they may be.

Take for example coconut butter, one of the hottest ingredients in the food blogosphere right now.

The only problem is that it is also a little pricey, as in $11 per jar.

Sigh.

I just don’t want to sacrifice half a week’s worth of food for a 16 oz. jar. But, I also didn’t want to be in the dark about coconut butter, so I decided to take matters into my own hands by making my own.

Homemade Coconut ButterAll it takes is a bag of unsweetened coconut, a little food processor, a spatula and a little bit of time.

  • Pour in coconut.
  • Grind.
  • Stir with spatula.
  • Grind.
  • Stir (and repeat).

This may take a while, but keep with it — It pays off!

Eventually, you end up with creamy, but gritty coconut butter that is naturally sweet and flavorful.

I taste-tested a little out, but then stored up the rest for later. When I went to get it later, though, I was reminded that coconut butter solidifies at room temperature. No big problem, because I just heated it up in the microwave and then drizzled it atop a complementary cup of Samoas ice cream.

Upon hitting the cold ice cream, the coconut butter hardened right up again, just like the magic shell of my childhood!

Love at first bite.

Questions: Are there any items on your food wish list? Have you tried coconut butter?

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Letting go

Long before, “hoarding” became a buzzword, I was a regular little packrat. Whether it was wrapping paper, school assignments, old toothbrushes, I just hated throwing anything away.

Thankfully, this little hoarding habit has gotten better throughout time, but I still do have to keep myself in check every now and then. Usually this means setting some time aside to do a total room sweep to clear out the junk.

First in the trash was my five-year-old wristlet from J.Crew. As evidenced by the lack of strap and bounty of holes, I’ve definitely held onto this thing for way too long…

Next up were semesters-full of notebooks and torn-up folders. I held onto these, because I told myself I’d go back and reference the old notes. But, something tells me I’ll never need to look up the details of my Chinese history class — And, if I ever find myself with a gun to the head, forced to talk about Mao, I would just pull up Wikipedia. So, goodbye notes…

Finally, I relegated a few piles of clothes from the closet to temporary storage before a final stop at Goodwill. All that went: items I hadn’t worn in more than a year, items that don’t fit and items that I must have been blind when I bought.

With my room cleared, I was ready to get some lunch and continue with my de-hoarding. This time, it was a can of black beans and some frozen sweet corn on the chopping block…

Mexican Poached Eggs

Ingredients:

  • 1 C frozen sweet corn
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 C vegetable stock
  • 1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 C raw broccoli
  • 1/4 t onion powder
  • 1/4 t cumin
  • 1 T lime juice
  • 1/4 C cheddar cheese
  • 1 whole egg (more would be possible, if distributed)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • A drizzle of olive oil

Directions:

  • On medium-high, heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a pan. Add in the frozen corn and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then add in vegetable stock, black beans and broccoli. Turn down heat to medium-low and allow stock to summer. Continue simmering, stirring often, until the broccoli is tender.
  • Stir in onion powder, cumin, lime juice, salt and pepper. Allow the flavors to combine together for 1-2 minutes, while stirring.
  • Crack an egg onto of the mixture.

  • Place a lid on the top, so that the egg steam-cooks. Cook for two minutes, then remove lid. Shake the pan a bit to see how well cooked the egg is. Replace lid for about another minute, recheck the egg and repeat until egg is at desired firmness.

  • Top it all with cheese and season with more salt and pepper, as necessary.

Now that I have this recipe down, I don’t think I’ll have such a hard time parting with my other cans of black beans. (Wink, wink.)

Questions: Are you a pack rat? Do you have any interesting collections?


Frosty the snowman

It was a regular heat wave in Kansas yesterday — The mercury even passed 50 degrees! Dan and I were determined to take advantage of all that sunshine and warmth…

We started by making a little snowman, named Frosty. Original, right?

He sure is cute, though…

Frosty’s kind of good-looking, too…

So proud.

Having done just about everything exciting there is to do in my apartment’s courtyard, Dan and I decided to go out to nearby Clinton Lake to hike around.

This required we blaze our paths at times…

While taking already followed paths at other times…

But I think the mud and wet was worth it when we got to the view at the crest of the mound…

And got to look down toward the lake large ice skating rink.

I also enjoyed the other view…

After taking all the scenery, Dan and I continued down the mound, toward the lake.

Sadly, we didn’t bring out ice skates, so weren’t able to test it out.

By that time, we were also getting kind of hungry, so we hiked back to the car and hoped there would be something we could fill up on…

A new frozen yogurt place? Don’t mind if we do…

I don’t think we could have made it otherwise!

Questions: Does your town have frozen yogurt shops? How’s winter weather in your area been?


Oatmeal soup?

Being the ever-economical college student that I am, I opted to get some new oats from the bag-your-own bins at the grocery store. Great idea, right?

Yeah, well it was a good idea in that it was a cheaper option and I even like the chewier texture of the oats. The downside, though, is that they don’t seem to absorb liquid the same way that my Old Fashioned Quaker Oats do. Therefore, my standard “one part oats to two parts water” method is leaving me with what is best described as oatmeal soup.

Consumed: 1/3 C oats cooked with 2/3 C water and a little cinnamon and vanilla. Then, some water was drained and oatmeal was mixed with half a frozen banana and a spoonful of chocolate sunflower seed butter. Topped with a little granola.

I’m really not complaining though, because I’ve never meet a bowl of oatmeal I didn’t like!

Fueled up, I was ready to take off for a full day of classes — Except the day didn’t turn out to be quite as full as I originally expected. Here’s the thing, when I enrolled in classes last semester I was not engaged. Now, as I’m realizing the effort it takes to plan a wedding, I’m also realizing the class schedule I originally set up is a little unrealistic. To deal with that, I ended up swapping my international journalism class, which was an elective, for a one credit hour class on half-marathon training.

In the past, this kind of decision would have really freaked me out. I would have thought about how “bad” this would look, how “lazy” I would seem or how “unmotivated” it would make me appear. Now, though, I’m throwing those worries about what other people may look aside and am just focusing on what I know is right for myself.

With all those realizations taking place in the morning, I was surprisingly hungry by the time lunch rolled around.

Consumed: One Flat Out wrap with hummus, lettuce and a little cheese. Plus an orange, a non-fat yogurt and a chocolate-orange cookies on the side.

The food was good and everything, but I was dorkily most excited about my new little lunch bag!

Cute, right? It’s the perfect size for lunch and was only $1 from Michael’s… Score!

Whereas I would have originally gone until 7 o’clock with my international journalism class, I ended up getting out of school just after 2 o’clock. Not only did that give me some great free time, but it also allowed me to meet up with Dan for a workout at the recreation center.

Rather than hop straight on the treadmill, I took advantage of the recreation center’s fantastic quarter-mile indoor track. I pounded out a couple slow miles while zoning out to my iPod. Perfection.

Fast-forwarding through a lot of boringness, I was ready for dinner.

Consumed: Sweet potato oven fries with honey Dijon, steamed brussels sprouts and a little peanut flour stir-fry.

For the easy sweet potato fries, I just sliced the potato into similarly sized sections. Then, I tossed it all with ~1 t olive oil, a little sea salt and pepper. Then, I spread it on a foil-lined baking sheet and baked them in a 450 degree oven for 15 minutes, flipping them up midway.

For the stir-fry, I just cooked up a freezer bag of steamed vegetables, then tossed it with a sauce of ~1 t soy sauce, ~1/2 T teriyaki sauce, ~1 T peanut flour and a little water.

Simple, healthful deliciousness. Seriously, there is no need for McDonald’s if you just take the few minutes to prepare this!

I capped off the night with a very little bit left in my chocolate Moose Tracks container. Sad to see it go, but just means I get to choose a new ice cream. (Don’t be surprised if it’s more Moose Tracks. Love that stuff!)

Friday Fragments: With all this wedding business, it’s been a while since I’ve done a “Friday Fragment.” But, when I was skimming an edition of “More” magazine while I was waiting in the doctor’s office this week, I was struck by something that I really wanted to bring up…

The article of interest was titled, “Showdown at the Biggest Loser Camp,” so I was logically expecting the author to be a woman who had dealt with serious weight problems throughout her life…

Au contraire, the woman had a BMI of 20.9 and began by saying she’d been obsessed with her weight for her entire life.

 

Author (far right) joined by her mother and sister.

Most disgustingly, she referred to a short battle with anorexia as fashionable, saying:

 

“I’m 44 and I’ve done Atkins, a self-invented banana–Diet Coke regimen and, in the 1980s, even a brief brush with anorexia (which wasn’t so great but at least was au courant)…”

Seriously?

Interestingly, the woman was joined at the camp by her super competitive, similarly skinny mother and sister. Apparently, they had an ongoing, unspoken battle to be the most “in shape” — Although I just read it as being an ongoing, unspoken battle to break each others’ self-confidence down.

Jumping to the end of the painful to read seven-day journey, the author came out with what she described as a whole new perspective. I just read it as another layer of obsession:

“Now, none of us can stand to eat junk or feed it to our families. We also can’t go two days without exercising because it not only makes us feel physically energized but also does something very good and intense to our brains.”

Freaking out about food? Having to workout every day? Yeah, that’s not quite a good thing.

Really, though, the thing that struck me and pained me most of the whole article was that it was written by a 44-year-old woman. Forty-four years as a self-critical, negative woman is just sad…

What do you think?


Reception options

Good news! I finished my reading before class! That also means that I finally get to fill everyone in on my exciting night…

First, a little background: Dan and I have been looking at wedding reception sites for the past month, but are yet to commit to anything. Every place we see has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s hard to make a decision!

Every place we’ve considered is available on the date, which is good because it leaves the option open. But it is also not helpful, it doesn’t automatically disqualify anything. Instead, Dan and I have to rely on the ol’ pro v. con method of picking a venue.

So, now to the specifics of last night…

One of the reception sites we are considering is run by the caterer that we are certain on using — It isn’t a restaurant, but the catering hall does have a ballroom. Once a month, this place hosts a complimentary dinner for people interested in using the catering services, so Dan and I knew we couldn’t pass up the chance to try the food and see what the decorated ballroom looks like!

Better yet, we were able to ask our friends Mandy and Mike to join us. Basically, no matter what decisions we made about the reception, it was a good excuse to spend time with friends and have a free meal. (Hey, we’re college students!)

Upon walking in, though, I was actually really impressed by the decorations…

Although I think Dan and I would pass on the hanging snowflakes for our July wedding.

I was also really impressed with the food, which I made my best efforts to sample. (wink, wink)

Appetizers

Everyone in my group commented on how great the tomatoes tasted, considering it was the middle of winter. I think it was because there was a good variety of types: fresh, sun-dried and roasted tomatoes.

Of course, the spinach and artichoke dip was delicious — But when is it not?

Entrée

I was a little disappointed that there was only one vegetarian selection at the tasting. However, there are many more choices when I chose my actual meal, so it wasn’t a big deal. That being said, the eggplant parmesan was really good — And I’m really picky about eggplant parmesan!

I wasn’t blown away by the Duchess potatoes, but that’s no big deal because I wasn’t going to choose them for my wedding meal anyway. On the other hand, I was disappointed by the roasted veggies, which I originally choose as a potential side-dish. I mean, the variety of vegetables was good, but they were kind of oily and very under-seasoned.

Finally, the raspberry salad was delicious. But, because it was pre-tossed, it was a little too dressing-heavy for my tastes.

Dessert

Of course, I have different plans for the star dessert of my wedding, but I’m never one to turn down the chance to chocolate-dip anything! In this case, I went with a strawberry, a creme puff, a oreo and a pretzel rod.

All in all, the meal made me really confident in my choice of caterer, but still not very sure on what reception site I want to go with. Here’s a general overview…

On-Site Caterer (where we had dinner): This place has all the bells and whistles, with a dance floor, lights and great sound systems. I also really liked the ambiance and character of ballroom, as well as the location of the building (near the center of downtown).

There is also the advantage of familiarity with the caterer, i.e. they won’t be scurrying to get things organized. Plus, there are discounts on the linens and china if we use this site vs. making the caterer go to another site.

Hotel: There are some pretty aspects to this place, such as chandeliers and a river-front terrace (even though the river itself isn’t gorgeous…). However, there is less character to the ballroom, which is basically a big square.

As an advantage, many of our guests are coming in from out-of-town, so it would be convenient for the reception to be in the same building as the hotel rooms.

Mystery University-Related: This is the primary culprit for our delay in choosing a site. Without going into too many details, it would be a really significant, cool place for two KU students to have a reception. It’s just a little up in the air about whether it’s possible…

Regardless of how the pieces fall into place, I know that our reception will be great — It will just be nice when I figure it all out!

Question: With nothing else considered (price, availability, location) where would you have your dream reception?

I would love to have an outdoor reception, but I would just be too worried about how the weather would work out!

 


Can’t we compromise?

Tonight, I was faced with a real dilemma: Write a full, passionate blog-post that did justice to my exciting day OR finish reading Descartes’ “Discourse on Method.”

I thought about it. I considered the options. I even turned to a real source in solving dilemmas…

Which is also known as my homework for a journalism class titled, “Ethics and Media.”

But, when neither Immanuel Kant nor John Stuart Mills’ philosophies satisfied me, I decided to go with my own favorite philosophy: Follow your heart, but aim for compromise.

That’s why I’m speeding through this little post with the intention of still getting to reading. Ready, set, GO!

Breakfast:

Trust me, there is more deliciousness to this little gem than meets they eye. Then again, what could possibly be bad about combining my two favorite types of meals: breakfast + cookies. (You don’t participate in the standard “cookie meal?” What a pity…)

Consumed: 1/3 C oats mixed with ~1 T sunflower seed butter and ~1/8 C milk. All was crumbled together and formed into a patty shape. Topped with a little jelly and frozen blueberries. Then, all was left in the fridge overnight and topped with a sprinkle of granola in the morning.

Workout: I met up with my friend Mandy to go to the gym

  • Speed-walk a warmup (~1 mile)
  • Jog (~1.5 miles)
  • Leg strength: squats, lunges, leg press, etc.
  • Abdominal strength: straight and lateral sit-ups with a medicine ball, plank, extensions with an exercise ball, etc.
  • Cool-down walk (~.5 miles)

Snack: I got done with workout with about two hours left until lunchtime — I just knew I couldn’t wait that long! So, I opted for a “just right” balance of carbs and a little protein (from the soy milk)…

Consumed: Small bowl of Kashi “Heart to Heart” cinnamon cereal with soy milk.

Lunch: Even with my snack, by the time lunch rolled around I was ready to eat!

Consumed: Two slices of whole-grain bread with roasted red pepper hummus. Served with sides of brussels sprouts and non-fat blueberry yogurt with a little granola (I’m a crunch addict!).

Without a doubt, the best part of the meal was the brussels sprouts, which I made by steaming a sauce-free package, then dressing the sprouts with a little olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and pepper. Love, love, love.

Sadly, as part of my compromise, I’ll have to save the exciting second-half of my day until later. Be sure to check back!

Question: What kind of compromises do you make in your life?

As much as I don’t love admitting it, I sometimes compromise a little study-time for other parts of life (working out, time with friends, blogging, etc). I’ve made it through so far, though!


School rules (my life)

You know those dark mornings? Well, I’m still working on getting used to it…

Consumed: 1/4 C oats mixed with non-fat blueberry Greek yogurt and topped with frozen blueberries. Left in fridge overnight. Topped in the morning with a bit of granola and small scoop of sunflower seed butter.

Unlike yesterday’s practice run, today I actually had to keep things moving so that I would get to classes on time. Guess I underestimated my abilities to get ready, because not only did I pull myself together, but I even had time to saute up some mushrooms and onions for my lunch!

And, let me tell you, nothing goes better with breakfast than the smell of sautéing vegetables…

Mmm…

The real perk was that while my veggies were sauteing low-and-slow, I had time to snap a couple “first day of winter semester of junior year of college” pictures.

Almost all set and ready to go — If you ignore the below freezing temperatures…

That’s better!

I’ll be nice and spare you all the syllabus-giving details, but I will mention that I’m really excited about my classes this semester. It’s going to be an interesting test with how disciplined I am, but I think the interesting subject matter will help keep me inspired (which is always more of a challenge during spring semester).

The other challenge is that, because my classes are only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, those days are pretty long. To keep sane, I have to take breaks when I can get them — Even if that means consuming lunch during a short break in the journalism resource center!

Consumed: Spring salad with dollop of hummus and some of the aforementioned sautéed veggies. Served with half a sunflower seed butter on whole grain sandwich, an apple and a chocolate cookie.

Two long, long classes later, I was free for the afternoon evening. That’s the thing about these days, they go by slowly when I am in class, but then I look back and the day’s all done with!

Sigh.

That just means that I got to move straight onto dinner.

Consumed: Homemade tomato soup with a few crumbled croutons. Served with a side of whole grain bread, which was topped with sautéed veggies.

After dinner was the real highlight of the day, when Dan came over to watch the Kansas vs. Colorado basketball game. Especially because we both had long days at school, it was nice to sit back, relax, have some Moose Tracks ice cream and enjoy a Jayhawk win (albeit a close one)!

We were both pretty wiped out, but we did have the energy to look at some possible honeymoon options. Currently we are leaning toward a Caribbean cruise, but aren’t entirely sure where to start. What we know is that we love being active (hiking, swimming, biking, etc.) but also like the chance to dress up for nice dinners… Any suggestions?

Questions: If you are married, what did you do on your honeymoon? If you’re not married, what would be your dream honeymoon?