Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ancient Traditions

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to visit my best friend's vineyard just outside of Fresno, CA.  Actually, this is more than an opportunity -- it has become a yearly tradition for me, and now my fiance as well.

I took a few pictures I like and have posted them below along with a piece written by Hoorig Santikian, describing an old Armenian tradition that occurs towards the end of the grape season....


"From the first time I took my first three steps without falling, I can remember celebrating the traditional Armenian occasion, Masarah, the harvest of the grapes. Because my extended and immediate family lives on vineyards in the outskirts of Fresno, Masarah is a perfect family tradition to celebrate our Armenian heritage and culture.

Awakening at the crack of dawn, we make our way down the rows of vineyards to find the sweet reward of hidden golden grapes. With the morning sun beating on my face and my sticky clothes clinging to my body, it feels as though time has stopped. At that moment, with the bucket at my foot and a bundle of luscious grapes in my hands, I feel as though I am holding the vibrant sensation of life.

 
To my right sits my grandmother under a tree, her face marked by a familiar express. The wrinkles on her forehead and the brown coloring of her skin reflect the years of tiredness and aching. Her eyes, however, sparkle with dignified pride and innocent happiness as she watches the future generations carry on the family tradition. Yes, my grandmother’s job is well done. She has imparted her knowledge and tradition to us and instilled it deep in our hearts. 

 In her hand, my grandmother tightly clasps a tan antique cup, as if she is grasping onto a memory. I cannot distinguish between the pear shape of the mug and my grandmother’s fingers as both have the same aged look. Each crack, like the creases on my grandmother’s forehead, marks the history it has endured. If the mug could talk it would tell about past family Masarahs. You would hear the stories of past generations picking and smashing grapes as we do today, preparing to make our unique grape juice.
 Each year I anxiously await the harvest. Having a family deep in family rituals fills me with an overwhelming sense of love. As I survey my surroundings I make a promise to myself: I vow to keep my family tradition alive. 
 Surrounded by close friends we wait in anticipation for the grape juice to end its final stage of preparation and become our homemade molasses. In the midst of this festive atmosphere I am awakened to Masarah’s true meaning: gratitude. The crushing of the grapes and the making of the grape juice symbolizes gratitude for the crop which our land yields each year.

My experience with the Masarah has shown me the importance of humble gratefulness and cultural appreciation. The Masarah is a profound part of my strong bond with my family and my deep respect for tradition. When I am eighty years of age, in the wake of modernization, I will hold the same antique cup and watch my children perform the ritual of the Masarah, as my grandmother does today. I will know that I have nourished a strong and loving family through age-old Armenian tradition."

-- Hoorig Santikian




 Every year, the sounds of the military bugle wakes us up at the crack of dawn. Some of us begin preparing breakfast, while most of the youth and children pile into the back of a truck with buckets and scissors ( and parents) to harvest grapes for the days events. On average, there are 28 buckets used in the festivities.

The grapes are poured into burlap bags, along with the appropriate amount of lime powder, tied up and placed in a bathtub that has be reappropriated.  Then, taking turns, 3-4 small children, or two of the older heftier ones ( like us) get into with bare feet and beging stomping on the grapes to crush out the juice which flows through a seive and into a bucket.  It is a cathartic experience.




New traditions are added. This is after a family event and as such, it gets its unique spin.
For example, after experiencing a whole roast pig in Hawaii... Hoorig's father came home determined to roast a pig underground ever year during Masarah.  So, he built the above pit out of concrete... the whole contraption with levers a pullys is a sight to see and definitely worth the trip.


This last image is of a "Khnotsi" a traditional 
contraption built to make a drink called "taan" ( essentially whole plain yogurt and water)

 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Slowly but Surely

Imagine a tall hill, bordering on the cusp of being labeled a mountain. At the top are a cluster of balls, varying in size. Some are massive -- others the size of a marble. A few of them sparkle with promise while one too many balls are a depressing dark matte black color. With the jolt from an earthquake, the balls tumble down the hill. Ideally, it would be nice if they stayed together like a herd of horses, but inevitably, a few of them take a turn and veer off course disappearing from site.

Those balls represent everything going on in my life, and something somewhere started the ground shaking and now i'm chasing the balls trying to keep up.  One of the balls which veered off course was my lovely blog and now i'm trying to catch it and bring it back.

This morning I woke up at 5:15 am packed my yoga mat, weights and water for bridal bootcamp; packed clothes for the school day and a towel, makeup and soaps to shower at school, packed some food for the day in a half-awakened state and stumbled out my door with a 50 lb backpack of law books on my back, a gym bag  purse and yoga mat on my shoulder, lunch bag on my arm, one 5lb weight in my sweater pocket, and another 5lb weight in my hand.  It was a miracle I made it down the stairs in the pitch black carrying everything.

Bridal Bootcamp ...kicked my booty --its a good thing. I was so worn out that by the end I was legitimately nauseous and had to pause for a few minutes before walking to my car.  I have to say it is motivating to be surrounded by other brides sweating to look fit and glamorous ( and healthy) on their wedding day.

Food has been rushed ( depressing, I miss my kitchen).  I was ravenously hungry for two hours after the workout.  I ate chicken... still hungry.  I thought protein was supposed to stop hunger??  A latte didnt help either... I snacked and munched for a bit ( there may have been a pumpkin scone involved- Sorry Starbucks, you disappoint.... but motivate me to tackle the recipe myself)

Ironically, mid afternoon I am no longer hungry and so far only had a banana for "lunch" . 

Another post-bootcamp observation -- I'm fidgety. How am I going to sit through 3 law school classes like this???  :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sorry Guys and Gals

.... I was sick last week with the flu and now it seems I have a cold. Just when I got over one, another one popped up. Hopefully these will be my only colds/flus of the season. But, I have been tired, so cooking has taken the backburner. Instead I have been eating a lot of oranges.

I did receive the dried mushroom samples from Marx Foods and I am impatiently waiting to my energy so I can come up with and post a recipe using the amazing samples. They smell deliciously earthy.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Blogging to catch up

Wow I have been MIA for longer than I wanted.... Life has a way of taking you up in a whirlwind. Plus, I think the fact that I am now only using my computer for blogging purposes and not taking my laptop to school might have something to do with it.

Honestly, my schedule has me coming home so late most nights of the week that dinner is becoming more practical planning than a gourmet adventure. Usually I make a large about of something on Monday night, and it needs to last through wed night. Thursdays I get home fairly late, but can still whip up something, albeit for a late dinner. Now, ironically Fri-Sun are the days I have "most time" to be coming up with new recipes. That is, after I do homework, copious amounts of reading and visit with some family and friends so they know im still ok and have not become a social recluse . lol

Oh, and did I tell you. There is a good chance I will be starting a part time job in a couple of weeks :)  I'm excited -- a new opportunity to learn, excel.... and the added income doesn;t hurt, right ;)

Once that  starts there will be even more adjusting to do, and maybe re-purposing of the blog. I could go the route where I document my daily eats, but would you be interested in that? Not sure what to do just yet, but I also dont want to leave the blog.... May turn into fitness/food/stories and the occasional recipe get together ( i hope)...

Anyhow, here are a few pics and notes from the past week or so...


 Trying to eat healthy at school... there will probably be a repeat performance of sorts tomorrow evening. What do you eat at the school cafeteria that is healthy?

Unfortunately my options are very slim (vegetarian/vegan wise). Its pretty much exactly what you see ... salads, fruit and baked potato.
 

The other vegetarian options are .... eh, guilt inducing?  Pizza, grilled cheese, fries, sweet potato fries and quesadilla. Yup, that's about it.

Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like if I took over the cafeteria for a week, just a week.




I also picked up a few ethnic ingredients from the market. Slightly ambitious, I was opening to use all of them in one week. Needless to say, I still have the grape leaves waiting for me and lots of pickles!

     When I was a little girl I used to hate anything made with grape leaves, I think I might have just been  anti-green for a year or two. But now, I love using grape leaves to make sarma a vegetarian recipe with rice, onions, herbs, lemon juice and tomato sauce... I did buy the big bottle of lemon juice, because you never know, I could use it in cooking or making lemonade. But fresh lemons win, always. 

     The Patak's mixed chutney/relish is for others, as are the pickled mangos. I'm not a big fan. If I had any at all, I think i'd like to make it fresh myself.  Finally there is the huge can of  MID EAST pickles  ( my favorite brand). Wouldn't you know, when I was buying the small cans or didnt have any we wanted them the most, and now that I have two tupperwares full in my fridge, I barely cook meals that are accompanied by these delicious salty gems.



I finally found my HONEYCRISP apples ( Whole Foods, of course). They are definitely a splurge at $2.99/lb.  Hopefully, trader joes will bring these in soon as well, at least there you get 6-7 apples for about $8.

I also found my favorite LARABAR flavor so far... Cherry pie. I'm a sucker for tart dried cherries to begin with, so it was an easy win for them.
There was also some roasting of Italian eggplants to go along with the whole wheat rotini marinara pictures below.

I wasnt to happy -- either my oven failed me, or technique. There was smoke at one point ( apparantly?) accompanied by the smoke alarm, but the eggplants were no where near burned, crisp or otherwise. I was baffled. I know one thing I can do is slice them thinner - I think I was hoping for the same effect you get when you put a half Italian eggplant on the barbecue -- wishful thinking.

 See what I mean?? Don't get me wrong, they still tasted amazing. Roasted with a bit of olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper.


 I also had lots of fun with vegetables. I think I enjoyed taking pictures and capturing their color more than I enjoyed eating them. Is that blasphemous? But look at the simplicity of the sweet potato and yam, and the vibrant colors of the gold and red beets!





This next dish also made its way into the weekly menu at some point. It was simple enough. Boil some orzo in just enough stock so that the stock is absorbed by the time the orzo is cooked ( I added sliced sun dried tomatoes in with the orzo so they would plump up in the process -- you could leave them out completely or soak them earlier and add them in at the last minute). Then in a separate pan caramelize some onions and sautee with eggplant.  Toss the onions and eggplant in with the orzo along with some sliced bell pepper and green peas. The sauce, it oh so simple!  Slowly add cream cheese and stir so it melts, add as little or as much as you like. Season with salt, pepper,  basil, rosemary and oregano.

Seems like a decent way to get the kids to eat their veggies wouldn't you say?  When I described it to my aunt and cousin they said it sounded like an updated, colorful mac n cheese.

I think I like that description -- perfect.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Are you up for a challenge?


Hi everyone!

Recently, Justin from Marx Foods contacted me and asked if I was interested to take part in his " Blogger Mushroom Recipe Challenge".

I don't know about you, but I LOVE mushrooms -- especially when its not your average crimini, portobello, or button.

I of course jumped at the opportunity to participate :)

Though he already has some participants lined up, he would love a few more to make the challenge all that more exciting. So are you interested? Would you like to battle me in a challenge to come up with a winning wild mushroom recipe?

If you are, just check out Justin's website and let him know you would like to join in.

I look forward to finding out which of you become my competitors....

Monday, September 13, 2010

Missing my honey...


 
Honeycrisp apple  that is!  I cannot wait for them to come back into season. The apples pictured above are Fuji Apples -- the apples that hold me over until autumn brings the plethora of apples back into the markets. Has anyone seen honeycrisps in their local market??


In keeping with cold mornings, Steel cut oats are making a comeback. Though I used to make complicated, flavorful combinations like White Chocolate Cheesecake Raspberry , and  Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal .  These days I tend to be keeping things simple with Steel Cut Oats cooked in vanilla soymilk -- mix in fresh farmers market strawberries, and top with a few more for eye candy and you have the perfect morning oatmeal to bridge the gap between summer and fall.

Admittedly, just looking at the pictures of the pumpkin pie oatmeal is making me want to head to the store to pick up some canned pumpkin......I  absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE autumn and winter. Yes, I actually enjoy the occasional cloudy day  -- it provides the opportunity to cozy up under a soft blanket, with a cup of warm tea;  the excuse to accessorize with cute hats, beanies and winter coats; and prompts lots of jovial get-togethers.  Finally, the spices of season warm my heart and soul: pumpkin pie spice, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg -- spice cake like Monet made, apple cider, gingerbread cookies.  ( Ok, now  i'm daydreaming and I should really be heading off to the gym ...)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Settling in

Change takes time. Change takes focus. Patient + Focus = Rewards

I am happily settled into a workout routine, in fact I look for opportunities now to get an extra activity in our extended my planned workout for the day because it just feels that good to sweat and move your body. I toyed around with veganism for the last week, and though I dont mind it personally, it presents a challenge when I add in the rest of my world to the equation ( friends, family etc). I think , for the moment I will be "mostly vegan" but a tad of Parmesan here, or a couple organic eggs there will be ok.

I'm proud to say that in the last 5 weeks or so, I have lost a total of 10 lbs. While that isnt as much as I was hoping for, it certainly isnt anything to complain about either.

I've begun exploring alternative " minimally processed" snacks like the larabar. So far, I have only tried a couple of flavors including cashew cookie and gingerbread I think it was? It was alright -- its basically a combination of nuts, dates and spices. But when it comes down to it I think I prefer the original product. Good old medjool dates and walnuts soaked in water for about a day. Doesn't it just look beautiful ??

Simple seems to be the way to go lately.  Nevertheless, I think the Larabar is perfect for a school day when you want a snack on hand for emergencies. I may experiment in making my own in the near future. Stay tuned for that...

Other eats have been full of fruits, veggies and legumes. Tofu is an ingredient I have yet to master and if I make it into the second round of the Food Blog Project Challenge where we have to tackle and conquer a new ingredient/classic dish, I just may pick Tofu.

The green monster has become a staple in my diet . Thank you Costco for your deals on spinach: 1 lb of organic spinach for $3 -- its a steal, no?

Dishes like homemade guacamole and pico de gallo are stored away in the convenient Tupperware for the "go-to-snack"

I made a traditional persian stew with yellow split beans that I have blogged about in the past, but vegetarian style of course :)






It includes yellow split peas, tomato sauce, saffron, dried persian lemons ( those brown round things at the front of the picture) Cinnamon and turmeric. I think I ate the leftovers everyday for lunch and never tired. It is definitely a comfort food for me.

Served in a bowl on a cold winters night.... yummmmm ( yes, I know winter is not here yet, but those random freezing nights in the middle of August/September could have you second guessing mother nature)

( Picture of the stew below....)


There was also an attempt at making a vegan apple custard pie. There is a reason no pictures will be posted, even if it looked pretty as I was assembling it... the result tasted good, but looked very very unappealing. If I were to make it again, there would mostly definitely be changes in technique and even ingredients.

"Healthy" and "dessert" don't seem to marry well together, unless its a fruit salad and i'm not sure that counts.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Honor your body

I've noticed, I don't make changes well when I do them gradually as most recommend. It has to be cold turkey with me. Case in point, my decision to work out 5-6 times a week. I went to sleep one night and woke up the next morning with the determination to " just do it" and not be lazy. Truthfully, its taking care of myself, and If I don't do it, no one else is going to. I didn't start working out 3 times a week, 30 minutes a day like you find in health brochures because that never worked in the past.

Thankfully, I have this workout thing squared away and because of classes I have been taking such as Yoga and Pilates, my outlook on health has adjusted as well. One thing I have hear instructors say several times in the past few weeks is the phrase " honor your body". It's a simple statement, but so profound as well. How often to we stop ourselves to ask if the choices we are making daily are actually good for our body, honoring our body? Do we listen to our body to hear what it needs? 

This combined with another phrase I have heard recently, " eat to live, don't live to eat". The statement in turn led me to conduct a google search which led me to the book " Eat to Live" by Dr. Fuhrman.  I'm not sure if it is the timing in my life or that the contents of the book truly spoke to me, but my whole outlook on food has changed. I feel like I have just woken up and realized what is surrounding me. I highly recommend this book, but if you like, you can wait and see how I am effected by following its suggestions.

Essentially he recommends a 6-week induction period where the diet is completely vegan -- however, processed starches and high-starch vegetables like potatoes are limited. I know it sounds extreme, but read the book before you judge. Though he suggests eating 1 lb of raw green veggies and 1 lb of cooked veggies a day, I cannot eat that much, I'm sorry. I did buy lots of spinach today and i'll be making green monsters to get the green leafy vegetables in that way. It's a work in progress, but if feels right, just like the workout regime felt right.

Strawberries for example, are becoming a part of my daily food intake ( at least while they are in season)

I've also purchased lots of new veggies to try like golden beets, beets,  baby broccoli and Italian eggplant.  Whole Foods may become my best friend... maybe.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Orientation, in-n-out, and sweat

Don't you love it when everyone gets an email but the computer oddly has a glitch and you are left out? 

Originally , I had plans to workout this morning then head to school to buy ridiculously expensive law books for the impending semester.

Thankfully, I called my friend Thursday morning before leaving the house and she told me it "welcome back" day for graduating students. This of course meant a change of plans.  Thankfully I made it to school on time. To compensate us for spending a good chunk of our day at school listening to horrible stories about the bar exam and the third year of law school, the administration brought in two in-n-out trucks to feet the ravenous students  in the late afternoon.  It was good, but not perfect... no onions, no ketchup, no mustard -- my picky palate did protest just a little bit.... ask Carolyn.

 After, I felt horrible, I admit. But, I thought the gym might make me feel better, hence this workout followed:
45 minutes on the "comfy bike" ( the one that doesnt hurt the derrier), 1 hour of yoga, and 1 hour of " S.E.T" (a combination of aerobics, step and strength training). Yoga was decent, the bike was a breeze, but SET did me in, I couldn't keep up to my liking -- perhaps muscle fatigue.

I didn't make it to the gym on Friday, so when we purchased a desk set ( Desk, filing cabinet, bookshelf) I decided to put it together myself... 3 hours later, a very sweaty Marina felt it would do for the "workout" of the day. Saturday was spent at a school function from 9 am to 9:30 pm and since I was up till about 2 am Friday night, waking up at 5 am on Saturday to go to the gym consisted of  opening my eyes, thinking " ughhhhh my body hurts and im so tired", possibly saying that phrase out loud, then setting my alarm for 7 am. Finally, Sunday was spent running errands and watching a couple of Blueray movies we rented from redbox. It's literally a 5 minute walk from home -- so convenient. The evening finished with a nice 1 hour walk outdoors.



Honestly, I can't wait for the weather to cool down just a little bit.
1) I will be able to sleep better
2) I can workout outdoors more often, instead of having to head to the gym or wait till it get dark out.

Sunday morning brunch consisted of eggs, scrambled with a pinch of seasoning salt, garlic salt and dried basil -- SMF ( So Much Flavor )

I also snuck in a good amount of our daily fiber intake but using double fiber bread for breakfast toast :p


Of course, to seal the deal, fresh homemade hash browns. After grating the potatoes, I washed them in a bowl of water to get rid of the excess starch. This helped the hash browns to come out more crunchy than mush. Don't forget to squeeze out excess water and pat dry before placing the potato in the hot oiled pan.

The finished result looked something like this... Simple, homey and delicious.  What do you make on Sunday mornings for breakfast/brunch?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Yoga, you suprised me

Wow, Lea was right.  I went to the 1 hr yoga class and I was " sweating buckets" just as she predicted. It was so bizarre, you are moving in a space no bigger than 8-10 sq ft per person, your heart may or may not be racing, but you are sweating like crazy -- i might have well been in a spinning class I was sweating so much.  Admittedly, there were a few flops, falling out of poses, inability to hold certain positions as long as others -- but considering it was my first class ever, it was great.

On the way home, I stopped by at the grocery store. I was craving a hummus cucumber sandwich. But, alas, while I found bread I was happy with I did not find cucumbers or hummus at a reasonable price. Sabra was $6  -- really???  Made me miss Trader Joes....

So, my next thought was to make a traditional cold cut sandwich, substituting cheese/mayo with avocado. So, I headed over to the deli section, and sampled at least three or four cold cuts, putting each aside after only one bite. A while ago, I cut out cold cuts from my diet, and now it seems I wont be able to include them ever again... taste buds rejected them.

I knew I wanted some sort of protein in the sandwich, but veggie patties were on the expensive side this week  ( I try to only buy items on sale -- the economy ya know). Finally, it struck me, egg sandhich :)

Simple, affordable and packed with protein. I picked up some red leaf lettuce and tomatoes and went home to construct the meal. Speaking of meal... the lady at the deli counter said she never eats sandwiches or anything cold because she prefers " real meals that must be hot".  Ok I guess? But its over 100 degrees out  -- no thank you.

Once home, I began assembling the " non meal" sandwich. Two pieces of fiber bread put me at 40% on my daily fiber requirements, a fresh tomato off the vine, two organic cage free eggs, and light string cheese from trader joes.
Once piece of bread was topped with ketchup. the other with horseradish mustard.


Some sliced tomatoes and "stringed cheese " made the next layer of the sandwich.

Two fried eggs came next, topped with red leaf lettuce...

Et, voila!

I think Daisy would like this one, vegetarian friendly and colorful.

Served with some baked Ruffles Chips and Trader Joes Fat Free European Organic Yogurt  = perfectly satisfying lunch.

I ate half the sandwich and felt full beyond capacity... the other half is sitting in the fridge in saran wrap. Hopefully, it will last till tomorrow??   I think next time I will just make the half sandwich to start with :)

Yoga was great, I'm not craving much for dinner, maybe just fruit. Its either the heat, or yoga.  Dunno which.
Contemplating another workout tonight... Is 1 hour of yoga enough of a workout for someone trying to lose weight?

No pain, no gain?

As I mentioned in earlier posts, I've finally adopted the habit of nearly daily workouts.  Its great, I love the feeling of sweating like crazy ( does that sound weird?)

Well, yesterday I decided to mix it up a little bit. I started off with 15 min on the elliptical machine to warm up then took a class at 24-fitness called  "24Cycle Shift n' Lift ". Basically its 30 minutes of intense spinning, followed by 30 minutes of guided weightlifting with barbells, and free weights. To top it off, she finished with a set of ab exercises and plank/pushups.  I then followed this with 30 more minutes on the elliptical. It felt great.


 Well, this morning .... actually at about 4 am this morning, the soreness set in  -- back, triceps, biceps, gluteus, quads... you get the picture.


  

I don't know whether to be happy or sad that there is soreness. Does it mean it was a really good workout? Do I tough it out and workout again through the pain? Does it mean (gasp) I'm getting old???

I had another one of these for breakfast this morning : Fat free milk, frozen bananas, flax seed, honey, vanilla, and a tiny piece of frozen mango.

I'm contemplating yoga today -- what is the payoff exactly though? I know it helps with flexibility and stress, but how does it fare when it comes to weight loss?

Right now I have the luxury of working out mid morning or mid afternoon, for one hour or three hours... but starting next week my third year of law school officially begins. Its a little hard to believe. What does this mean for my new workout regime? Its going to have to move to the morning... VERY EARLY in the morning. Fun times. It'll be ok as long as I dont fall asleep in class.


Dinner last night was on a whim. I picked up a few items from Whole Foods and combined them with other items I had in my pantry and came up with this group of ingredients:

Bella Terra Organic  8 whole grain pasta with milled flax seed, button mushrooms, fresh asparagus, sun dried tomatoes and basil pesto. I later chose to add the following ingredients: 1/2 cup of chicken broth, 3 cloves garlic,  1 tbsp butter, 2 tbsp grated Gruyere cheese.

While the fusili was boiling away in one pot, I sliced, the veggies and cooked them up in another, using the broth as a heating medium instead of oil. I added the pesto and Gruyere last. It tasted fine, though I would have loved to add fresh diced tomatoes and fresh Parmesan as well, but I was making due with what I had.

The picture is off, I know. I wasn't patient enough to wait for the pasta to cool down before taking a picture. So, the steam got in the way - I'm sorry.  I'm still adjusting to using my droid for pictures... at least until i find that darn camera cable.

.... to be continued.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Recipe + lunch

As promised,  here is the recipe for the morning pancakes.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup mashed banana

1 tbsp packed brown sugar

1 egg white

1/2 egg yolk

1/8 cup organic plain nonfat yogurt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp almond extract

Directions:
Mix the ingredients well, saving the baking soda for last.  It will react with the yogurt making the batter/pancake fluffy.

Recipe makes two large pancakes at about 1/3 cup batter each.


Nutrition:

263 calories

3 grams fat

5 grams fiber

13 grams protein

LUNCH 

A simple combination of red kidney beans, spices, and a touch of lowfat mozzarella String cheese = fusion between jumbo flavors and " refried beans". 

Tasted yum I promise.  Nutrition :  333 calories, 6 grams fat, 16 grams protein.  (plus 1/2 cup blessed grapes)

Banana almond pancakes



Test post.  If this works, recipe to follow.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

New improvments

Since I recently moved to a new, better apartment i misplaced my camera cable - hence no pics uploaded to my computer and no blog posts. But since the move I have adopted the new habit of excersising in some shape/form daily (awesome right?)

Also, I bought a droid 2 today which means i can post from my phone ( i think-test run here) . Look for more posts on a regular basis . Better late than never???

Much love,

Mar
Published with Blogger-droid v1.5.2

Monday, July 19, 2010

Adventures of the Palate

I need to be more adventurous. No, wait -- I WANT to be more adventurous. Life is short, too short to wait around for others to help, to short to wait for "things to get better", to short to live a repetitive life.  This week, the students at my school received the somber news that one of our classmates passed away from pneumonia. Yes, apparently the developed country we live in still lets its citizens pass away from pneumonia. How depressing. I had pneumonia when I was 7 or 8, and I remember the doctor cautioned me that if I were to get sick with it again, it could be fatal.  My classmate and I were discussing how we would feel if we had spent the last two years of our lives in law school, only to pass away right before the third year began -- miserable and pissed.  There would be a million ways I would rather spend my time if it knew it was so limited. 

This year has been filled with more than enough reminders of life's brevity. Please make the best of each day, live life to the fullest ( albeit responsibly and safely) and experience new things.  One small way I want to do this is by trying new food/health products. For example, coconut water is supposed to be an awesome source of electrolytes. 


Here are some of the benefits the website attributes to young coconut water:

- Excellent for replacing lost electrolytes from exercise or illness
- An all-natural sports/energy drink
- A natural isotonic beverage – contains a similar level of electrolytes found in human blood.
-  May help promote smoother, more hydrated skin
- Non-allergenic
-  Rich in potassium. Potassium helps regulate blood pressure and heart function
-  Effective oral rehydration medium and keeps the body cool.


I personally found the drink to be refreshing, it did have a very slight " thickness" to it. It was probably just mere awareness that it was not traditional water. The touch of Guava was the perfect addition to give it a refreshing taste. Admittedly I felt a slight bit of energy afterward as well as the feeling that I had just put something clean and beneficial into my system rather than typical processed foods.

I do have some plain coconut water in my fridge which I havn't tried yet, slightly worried about the flavor, or lack of flavor, but I will get to it soon and report the results.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Happy Birthday to me

Flowers from my Hunny. Aren't they beautiful?  I officially turned 26 years old on Tuesday. Gahh... officially over a quarter century old. When I was younger I used to think I would have so much accomplished by 26 -- grad school, career started, married, happy, stable.  Needless to say, I am running at least one year behind.

No crazy celebrations this year, Art took me to Cafe Bizou in Pasadena which is one of my go to "economical" French restaurants. I've never really had a bad experience there. My only complaint would be that there was a little too much butter in the balsamic glaze this week, but the chicken was perfectly moist.

I like making these" french/gourmet" meals or whatever you may call them.  Last week I made filet mignon with a balsamic leek glaze, leek-mashed potatoes, and oven roasted asparagus


The filet looks a little dark, I know, but its from the heavenly balsamic glaze. I got the idea from Giada de Laurentis, but tweaked it a bit of course.

Filet Mignon - To start with , I marinated the filets in red wine for about an hour. This allowed it to absorb both the flavor and deep red color. To make the filet, I seasoned it with fresh cracked salt and pepper and seared it on all sides. I finished the filets by topping them with some chevre and placing them under the broiler for 5 minutes. Please be careful and do not make the mistake I did -- placing them on the very top rack and setting the broiler to " high". The oil/fat from the cheese and filets literally fueled the broiler flames even after I turned it off, it was scary. I recommend either setting the broiler on low or places the filets at least 6 inches away from the flames. If I had a cast Iron skillet I would have used it for this dish ... another thing to add to the wish list.

Roasted Asparagus - This one was simple to make -- spread the asparagus evenly on a baking sheet and top with diced garlic and olive oil. It turned out fine I guess, but my favorite way to make asparagus is still sauteed.

Leek mashed potatoes -  The french make puree by dicing their potatoes and cooking them in milk... this was a variation on that since I used beef broth in place of the milk.  Then in a separate pan, I lighlty sauteed the white part of the leek and added  half of it to the potatoes once they had absorbed the broth. A good way to measure out the amount of liquid needed is to fill your pot with desired amount of  cubed potatoes, then add liquid, leaving the top 1 inch of the potatoes dry.  Once the liquid is absorbed and potatoes are cooked, you can add desired amount of salt, sour cream and the leeks and mash away.

Leek Balsamic Glaze - I used 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar along with 1 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of brown sugar. Simply combine the ingredients and simmer until it condenses into a syrup/glaze. Lastly add in the remainder of your sauteed leeks.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Summer Strawberry Shortcake

Easy, surprisingly low-fat and low-calorie Summer dessert.

I ventured into Whole Foods and found these " dessert cups" which are like mini angel food/pound cakes at only 100 calories each. Conveniently they also had "fat free" aerosol whipped cream. Real dairy-yes; fat- no.
I have to admit, I was a bit worried about the taste but it passed the fiancee test with flying colors :)

Of course, if you want to indulge you can always make homemade whipped cream ( as in the pictures above), but the fat free version was just as scrumptious and very guilt-free. The freshly sliced strawberries are a perfect addition, especially these from local strawberries from Whole Foods were perfectly sweet!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Caprese Pasta and Stanford

So... to start with, sorry for being MIA.  I decided to go visit my best friend from my UCLA years. She is currently pursuing a PhD at Standford (impressive, no? -- I think so). Anyhow, it was a much needed, relaxing experience.  The trees on campus are beautiful and the air is noticeably cleaner then down in smoggy LA.

However, the one catch about Stanford was that if I wanted internet I had to pay $30/week for it -- which I wasnt prepared to do. So, instead, I took a hiatus from the internet world for a while and it was refreshing.

Now i'm back, summer vacation is nearly over. So much happening this month.  My birthday is Tuesday, I have my Tax Law final on the 27th,  I'm moving to a new place the weekend of the 31st and I have the MPRE exam the first week of August.  Then of course, fall classes start within a couple of weeks of that. Rollercoaster, here I come. I'm guessing it wont be over until after the BAR exam.

Anyhow, quick, simple and fresh pasta recipe for the hot summer days.


( Serves 1-2 people) Chop two roma tomatoes, 1/4 cup of resh basil, 2-3 garlic cloves, and 1/3 cup of fresh mozzarella. Set aside in a bowl while you boil your favorite pasta) 2-5 oz). Once the pasta is cooked, drain the pasta and place it back in the pot on low heat. Pour in the vegetables and cheese  -- toss over medium heat for about 3 minutes and serve.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Baking, Cooking, Pondering

I've been doing all  the above the past week. I have new pictures in my digital camera to post, but im sitting in Federal Income Tax Law. We get a 10-min break, for a 3 hour class.

I've also been struggling with food. Do I eat too much? at the wrong times? I need to figure out what is going to work for ME personally to lose weight, and im struggling. I feel like i need to hit the reset button, start all over, reprogram my brain -- if only it was that easy. But im trying.

Dinner today was " nasty" in my fiance's words  -- some beef jerkey and 10 oz of unripe mangos. I wish I had more mangos and less jerky. But, honestly the only reason I even got the jerky was because of the protein content. How important is protein anyways. Esther told me someon told her that u have to take your body weight and divide in half, then eat that many grams of protein a day. Yikes!

Ugh, I have lots to decipher and I need to do it ASAP. I'm determined to prove people wrong. I get the feeling that people think I will never be thin, they sort of scoff when i talk about being thin in the future tense.

How much protein do you eat a day?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Photo blog, food blog, or photo food blog???


Some of the above breakfast later became this....

An easy summer smoothie, no juices required thanks to the watermelon. Once blended, it provides enough liquid for the whole drink . Watermelon, honeydew and an array of frozen berries make for a nutrition packed colorful glass.

Another great summer dish is the cabbage salad below:
 Simply layer julienned cabbage with grated carrots, julienned radishes, diced cilantro and sliced red onions until bowl is full.  Dress with the juice of 1 lemon, 2 tablespoons of oilive oil, salt/pepper and 1/2 tsp of dried mint. This is one of those salads that tastes even better the second and third day.