Copycat success

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I’m eating something yummy right now. Right as I type this, I’m eating dinner. Yes, it’s  late — 10 p.m. But that’s how I roll some days. So, I’m so excited about it I had to blog right away. And all the credit goes to Rebekah at PDX Food Love. Kudos to her for this yummy yummy recipe.

So, I saw her recipe that involved cranberries, and I knew I had to try it … because we have a bag of fresh cranberries. Cranberries are great, but I can only eat so many of them plain. Like probably about five.

I knew I had most of the ingredients in Rebekah’s recipe. But I didn’t have parsley. She called it Couscous with Cranberries, Apples and Parsley. So I’d have to figure something else out. Oh, and another important note, I didn’t have couscous either. But I DID have quinoa. So, I decided to go for it.

Other substitutions I made:
• finely chopped kale for parsley (just to add some green)
• water for vegetable stock (I was just lazy)
• red wine vinegar for cider vinegar (I seem to never have cider vinegar when I need it!)

Oh, and here’s where Rebekah got her inspiration.

The outcome was glorious (see below). And now there are leftovers. Oh, and I think this was the perfect way to bring in December … with a dish that LOOKS like Christmas. I call my version Quinoa with Cranberries, Apples and Kale.

Rebekah’s photos are much nicer … but this is what I just gobbled up.

Disclaimer: I don’t usually use all caps. That’s how excited I am about this. So yummy and easy and healthy … and wonderful at 10 p.m. when you haven’t had dinner yet. 

— Kimberly

Thanksgiving inspiration

I’ve never done this before, but I totally love Thanksgiving, so I wanted to try this whole Inspiration Workshop that Gussy Sews does! Here goes.

Gettin’ crafty — Burlap pumpkins tutorial

Not sure I’ll have time to make these. But, I totally am a believer that pumpkins are acceptable decorations until the Christmas tree comes out. [via]

Baking something simple — Artisan bread

I just tried this super simple artisan bread recipe … blog post about that coming someday! And, if I can work on it a bit in the next week, I’m bringing this to one or both of my Thankgivings. [via]

Being thankful — Burlap Thankful sign

More burlap … a theme?! [via]

Decorating tables — Centerpiece found on pinterest

Not sure … is this decor from a wedding? Still, fun and simple. I think the photo may have originated from weddingbee.com, but I looked for a bit and couldn’t find it there. [via pinterest]

Running/walking/spending time together — The Turkey Trot

We started a new tradition last year by participating in a 5K Turkey Trot the morning of Thanksgiving. We’re all set to do it again in the chilly temps and then go eat some turkey. This is inspiration from last year!

— Kimberly

P.S. — this was a super fun little holiday post to do. I’m totally hooked on the inspiration link-up … here’s her post!

Gussy

Two little birdies came to stay

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I recently discovered that I have a thing for little decorative plates. Ones that can sit on counters. I’ve bought myself six in the past four or five months. BUT … they were all on sale.

These two green and white birdies are the most recent addition to my collection. I saw the little birdie first (he is white). But the bigger birdie (green) goes with our kitchen colors so well.

So, they became a pair. And now they live on my kitchen counter. Well, just until I change out the plates!

The bird plates were a Pier 1 find — for less than $3 each. A fun purchase on a fall day to bring some life into our apartment.

Oh, and for the next several months, I’m done buying little plates for myself. Seriously. I have a stack of them in a cupboard now. And I can’t let it grow!

— Kimberly

Chili with my mom — two kinds! (plus cornbread)

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My mom and I recently spent an evening together making chili.  It was really just an excuse to see each other and catch up. It’s such a blessing to have your mom just 20 minutes away … especially when fall weather comes and you start to crave hearty soups and lots of healthy leftovers.

One of my favorite meals today — because it was a staple around the house growing up —is my mom’s chili. She puts in tons of veggies, which, to me, is what truly makes chili. All those recipes with meat, chili sauce and beans just don’t cut it. My mom adds rice, also.

So, with the risk of revealing some long-kept family secret … here’s her chili recipe. By the way, she wasn’t opposed to me blogging about chili, so I don’t think there’s any issue with me sharing this.

This one can be made on the stove or in a crock pot.

My mom makes an appearance on the blog ... while mixing her stove top chili.

Mom’s Chili with Rice
1 pound lean ground beef

1 green pepper, chopped
1 sweet onion, chopped

8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 package chili seasoning mix
3 cups water
1 can (15 oz.) kidney beans, undrained
1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
1 can (8 oz.) tomato paste
1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes
16 oz. package frozen corn
2 cups Minute Rice, uncooked
Cook and stir meat in large skillet on medium-high heat until meat is browned. Drain off excess fat. In large stock pot combine remaining ingredients, including beef; bring to a boil, reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more water if chili is too thick. Serve with shredded cheese and sour cream.

We also made this amazing white chicken chili, which is so yummy. I forgot to take pictures of this one, and I thought I had taken one of a single serving, but I can’t find it. I’ll add one when I get around to taking that. Oh, and the recipe came from a slow-cooker recipe book that my mom pulls out frequently.

White Chili
15-oz. can garbanzo beans, undrained

15-oz. can small Northern beans, undrained
15-oz. can pinto beans, undrained
2 lb. bag frozen corn
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 tsp. minced garlic
3 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. dried oregano
32 oz. can low-fat/low-sodium chicken broth
Combine all ingredients in crock pot. Cover and cook on low 8 – 10 hours, or high 4 – 5 hours. Serve with warmed tortilla chips topped with melted cheddar cheese.

And, what would chili be without cornbread? I morphed this recipe from one I found here from The Vegan Chikpea, who also modified it from a recipe she found. I have several suggestions, and the two times I made it, it turned out yummy. Of course, it was smothered in chili, so how could it not be good?

These are actually mini corn muffins ... should have been more careful about making sure their size was evident.

Triple corn cornbread
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
7 Tbsp applesauce, unsweetened
1 Tbsp butter (If you don’t have that much applesauce, just add butter to equal the 8 Tbsp total of applesauce and butter.)
1 tsp sugar
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp flour (could also use whole wheat flour)
1/2 cup cornmeal
Set oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan, melt butter. Add applesauce and stir until well combined. Remove from heat.
Put 1 cup of corn in food processor and chop until it is course. Add applesauce and butter mixture, salt and sugar. Process until well combined. Mix should be fairly chunky.
Dump mixture into a mixing bowl. Add the cornmeal and flour. Mix well.
Separate dough into six pieces and shape into balls. The mixture will be wet. Place balls onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper, lightly coated with cooking spray. Flatted the balls using the end of a cup — it helps if the cup is wet. (Another option is to put the mixture into muffin tins. This worked well for me. The second time I made them I did mini muffins, and I cooked them for a little less time — 7 to 8 minutes.)
Bake for 10 minutes. Flip and cook for 3 more minutes.  

Lots of wonderful chili has been consumed at my house recently. The husband’s favorite is the white chicken … it has such a good chili flavor. I can’t wait for more stews and cold-weather food.

30-day challenge

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Friday was day 26. I practice yoga 26 times in 30 days. In a few days, I’ll turn 26.

I didn’t realize the significance of these numbers until this weekend. Participating in a 30-day yoga challenge was my birthday present to myself — a wonderful birthday present!

I used to think Julie was a bit crazy when she’d tell me things like, “I just practiced 12 days in a row, so I’m not going to yoga today.” The most I’d done myself was probably 6 or 7 — until the beginning of September.

To be honest, my decision to do this was not much more than an afterthought — a quick decision, and even then, I wasn’t sure I’d really do it.

On Sept. 1, there was a fun event at the yoga studio, leaving me feeling pumped about practicing that month. And then fellow yogi Allison (read her thoughts here) was excited about the challenge, so I said sure — I’d do it. Oh, and I so appreciate Allison’s perspective on yoga. Thanks for sharing what’s on your mind — and your mat! You’ve motivated me to share my thoughts as well, so here goes.

So, I jumped right in and spent time practicing yoga the next 10 days straight. I was enjoying myself, until the 10th day. That was the day I decided I needed a break. I know rest is so necessary. This was my first realization of the 30-day challenge: I could power through as many classes as I could, but eventually, my body was going to tell me to stop. And it did.

That 1oth class was grueling. I woke up tired, dragged myself to the studio and muscled through most of the posses … waiting for savasana, the final resting pose. Then, I went home, refueled and rehydrated, watched U.S. Open tennis and took a wonderful nap.

Two days later began 11 straight days of practice. This stretch included some great classes and some OK classes. None of them was too overly difficult to make it through. Realization No. 2: my body could feel great one day and not so great the next day. Just like the first, I had already known this truth, but it was definitely amplified when I was getting on my mat about the same time each day and could clearly feel the difference. Many teachers have stressed the importance of listening to one’s body and honoring what it needs each practice. So, I focuses on doing this each class throughout the month.

In the midst of the 11-class stretch, I got to practice on the birthday of a friend of mine who passed away eight years ago. It’s hard not to remember his birthday. It’s just something that has stuck with me. That morning, though, as I recalled the day’s significance during yoga, it renewed my purpose for being there and in living my life. Despite how tired I felt and how much I really wasn’t feeling the moving and breathing, I could, so I did. I gave it everything I had because I ought to give life everything I can. There might not be a tomorrow. Yoga is teaching me — and Zach continues to remind me — to enjoy where I am this very moment, to not wish I were somewhere else. That’s No. 3.

In this experience of attending a yoga class almost daily, I saw my practice grow, and this challenge was helping me grow as a yoga student. A few months ago, I didn’t believe I’d ever do a  head stand. I did not especially like this one position called crow (an arm balance). Then, I slowly got the hang of those. And, I’m still getting the hang of them. But I feel stronger and more sure of my body, even when I have to work at some tricky pose. I like the working at it. It’s a process, and I enjoy this type of learning and pushing myself. Oh, it also teaches me to be patient. That’s something I’m not good at … and a topic for another post.

I saw my progress in my final class — No. 26, which was wonderful. Each day is different on my mat, but this day was definitely a high point. There was music, which always helps. And, I just gave it all I could. And I felt really good about that hour … and incredibly relieved that my weekend would mean rest and time to regroup after focusing so much on yoga in the past 30 days.

So, that’s all I’ve got. I think I left it all on the mat. Thanks so much to all those who cheered me on! I am looking forward to a more relaxed practice in the near future.

—Kimberly

***I just had to add a photo of Nathan. He really wanted to do some yoga on the trail as well. (We went to the Morton Arboretum on Sunday to spend some time among the trees and with each other.) After he snapped one photo of me in dancer’s, he suggested I do tree pose. Love him.

Nathan and dancer's pose.

Dear Julie

Dear Julie,

Today, as you start classes at seminary, I have a few things to share, through a letter on this blog. I’m so so excited for you. You are embarking on an adventure, one that is 819 miles away. You’ll learn a ton. You’ll grow. You’ll get an MDiv. You’ll find your way in the world, again. And, I’ll miss you. I’m thinking (hoping) you’ll miss me, too. 

Spending the past 14 months or so in the same geographic area as you has been a treat after several years of being far apart. I have so enjoyed sharing life experiences and just being with you — being able to talk in person about our lives, our hopes and our fears.

I’ve been so blessed to experience something beautiful in this relationship we have as adult sisters. I’ve seen myself following in your footsteps and turning to you for advice, even though you’re the younger one.

I believe our closeness in age has always helped our closeness as friends. But we grew up with me being the big sister. I experienced things first, got annoyed when you wore my clothes (or just wore something too similar to me) drove you to school, showed you around high school, helped you pick classes, organized your bedroom closet and drawers and babysat for you and Daniel.

I often felt I was wiser, knew more than you and knew better than you. And, there’s that whole thing about me being the bossy first-born, but this isn’t really about me. Because I’ve seen you grow. I’ve seen you flourish, find your way, excel at life, know what you want, find your passions, pursue your passions and reach even higher. You are a wonder-woman if I will ever know one.

Today, Jules, though I’m older, I don’t feel wiser. I feel like I’m incredibly blessed to have you as a sister and friend. I feel like I can gain wisdom from you because you are thoughtful and well-read, studious and great with words. Perhaps this is why I seek your approval more often that you would like me to.

I enjoy having you as a role model now. You’re someone I can follow after — in faith, lifestyle choices, yoga practices and more.

I truly wish you the best as you begin seminary. I love you and will be here for you in any way I can. I am excited to see what the future holds for you!

Love you, not-so-little sister!
Kimberly

Keeping it easy: Cucumber tomato salad

The other night I made a delightful end-of-summer salad with veggies that were begging to be used up. I had a cucumber and two tomatoes, plus some left-over green onion. So, I knew I could make some kind of cucumber salad. But, I’d never made one myself before. (This seriously is a crazy fact, as it’s so easy to make — and the end result is so yummy!)

Gorgeous tomatoes

Having had cucumber salads in the past, I knew I was aiming for a vinegar-y flavor. I did a quick Google search for cucumber salad and noticed some recipes called for balsamic vinegar or cider vinegar. But,  neither were the pantry, and I didn’t want to run out to the store this time. There are also recipes with mayo, but I was craving fresh and bold tastes rather than cool and creamy.

I was, however, up for trying something I did have — red wine vinegar. It was a great choice. So, that’s the story, and here’s the recipe that came a little from my head and a little from Google.

Easy cucumber tomato salad

Tomato and cucumber — all chopped

Ingredients:
2 medium-size tomatoes, sliced into bite-size pieces (alternative: cherry tomatoes)
1 cucumber, sliced into bite-size pieces
3-4 green onions, diced
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
dash salt
dash pepper

To make:
Chop the cucumbers, tomatoes and onion and put into a bowl with the olive oil and red wine vinegar. I didn’t measure when I put in the vinegar and oil — I’m bad about measuring sometimes. So, I advise adding as much of both liquid ingredients as you think is necessary. Make sure there’s enough to give a good flavor — one that will be better after sitting in the refrigerator for about 45 minutes. I ran to the library while this salad’s flavors melded.

Looks so good

OK, back to the recipe. Mix in the salt and pepper. I just ground some salt and pepper over my bowl of salad, so again, no measuring. Stir, and let meld, as mentioned before.

Seriously, this salad is so easy.  And, so great for one last summer day … as the chill in the air may be here to stay.

I’m really liking the easy (non)recipes!

— Kimberly

Easy banana soft serve

I am in love with this simple (and healthy) recipe. It’s hardly a recipe, which is one reason I like it so much. All that’s really needed is frozen bananas. Then, if you want to add something to spice up the cool treat, supplement with a splash of almond milk, a scoop of peanut butter, a spoonful of cocoa powder, or even some chocolate chips, like I did today.

Easy banana soft serve

Easy banana soft serve
1. Slice about one frozen banana into small pieces and put into a food processor or electric food chopper. (I use my little food pulser/chopper, and it works great!) Note: use more banana if you want to serve more people or make more … I think I used about 1.5 bananas for this bowl.
2. The banana chunks will get littler and chunkier — kind of dry and grainy almost. You can add a splash of milk at this point to help the process. Or not. Keep blending them together until the banana is all soft and smooth — much like the consistency of soft serve ice cream.
3. Add any other mix-ins you’d like (see the list above, or make up your own!). I added about a Tablespoon of peanut butter.
4. Scoop out of mixer and enjoy!

At left is a close-up of the finished product. The blended frozen banana has such a lovely consistency, and it tastes like a treat rather than just pureed banana!

— Kimberly

Fall weather means scarves

This weekend, the weather turned cooler, and I concurrently mourned the end of summer and the beginning of scarf-wearing weather.

scarfs are going to get out of my closet very soon.

The photo at right was taken on an early summer day during a trip to the arboretum, where I was interested in both staying warm and keeping mosquitoes away. I’m so excited to get this and other scarfs out of their storage bin where they have lived most of the summer. Plus, they are a great way to spice up a wardrobe or add color to a not-that-exciting outfit.

On another note, I’m ready to get back to blogging after a summer of not doing so. I’ll share some wedding/marriage related stuff as I’m able to get it out of my head and down on paper … er, computer screen. Also, Julie’s getting ready to move, and this blog might look different as we live 819 miles away. But the change is all very exciting and wonderful!

— Kimberly