Soup to cure the winter blues

Curated, Food, Recipes

We are smack dab in the middle of winter, and it makes me want to fly a few thousand miles south to somewhere warm, or at least spend all day in a fluffy blanket drinking all the coffee in my kitchen.

But since I have a job to go to and don’t have quite enough miles for a last minute vacation, I have to find other ways to cure my winter blues.

That brings us to soup.

Soup is comfort in a pot. The act of cooking something warm and nourishing automatically makes you feel better. It forces you to slow down, and makes you feel good just knowing you are taking care of yourself.

Here is some soup inspiration for you. I can’t wait to get home and get one of these recipes cooking.

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Potsticker soup. Toss your favorite frozen potstickers and veggies in a flavorful broth. Yum. (Recipe here)

Potsticker soup
(via)

Pea and lettuce soup. Easy, healthy, delicious. The recipe suggests serving with a ham and cheese tartine (ham and cheese melted onto a roll of crusty bread) and I couldn’t agree more (although I might make mine with turkey and cheese). (Recipe)

Pea and lettuce soup

Chicken and rice soup. Classic comfort food. I want some now. (Recipe)

Chicken and rice soup

Quick spicy sriracha ramen noodle soup. A homemade take on instant ramen. And it’s spicy. Yes, please. (Recipe)

Spicy ramen

Miso soup with mushrooms and soba noodles. A little more complicated, but it’s vegan, healthy, and oh-so flavorful. Plus, mushrooms. I die for yummy, brothy, mushroomy soups. (Recipe)

Miso soup

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Let me know if you try any of these recipes! Do you have any favorite soup recipes? How else do you stay warm in the winter?

Get cooking! -L

Foolproof Smoothie Recipes

Fitness/Health, Food, Recipes

Whether your New Year’s resolution was to eat healthier, you got a blender for Christmas, or you just love smoothies, check out our favorite smoothie recipes.

These are super simple and foolproof because they only contain a few, easy-to-find ingredients, and don’t require exact measurements.

(image source)

My Berry Green Smoothie
spinach + berries + banana + Greek yogurt

  1. Blend up a couple handfuls of spinach with a little water.
  2. Add a couple handfuls of berries and blend. I usually use strawberries and blueberries (frozen or fresh depending on the season).
  3. Add a whole banana and a big dollop of plain, whole fat Greek yogurt for delicious creaminess, and enjoy!
    4. Extras: In the summer, add fresh pineapple, kiwi, or any other fruit you have on hand. You can also add some avocado for extra green color and creaminess. Add a scoop of protein powder if using as a meal replacement or after a workout.

My Strawberry Banana Smoothie
milk + strawberries + banana + oats + peanut butter

1. Blend about 1 cup of milk, a handful of strawberries (fresh are best), one whole banana, a sprinkle of dry oatmeal, and a scoop of peanut butter.
2. That’s it! This is such a quick, delicious, and comforting breakfast smoothie.
3. Extras: Feel free to swap out an alternate milk or nut butter. You could also add protein powder if desired.

My Tropical Smoothie
almond milk + spinach + frozen pineapple and mango + protein powder

1. Blend a couple handfuls of spinach with about a cup of almond milk, plus a scoop of protein powder if desired.
2. Toss in some frozen pineapple and mango and blend.
3. Extras: Add some coconut, papaya, or banana.

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Yum! Enjoy!

What are your go-to smoothie recipes?

-L

Gluten-Free Eating For Those Without the Allergy

Fitness/Health, Food, Recipes

The “Gluten-Free craze” has really taken off in Seattle and I’ve heard the trend is catching on in other parts of the world too. Even naturally gluten-free foods are starting to advertise the fact they are gluten-free (I’m looking at you Chex cereal). I grew up with my Grandma having celiac disease so she would bring her own disgusting, crumbly bread to Thanksgiving and usually had few options at restaurants. Now I have lots of friends and family who are at least gluten sensitive, there are gluten-free menus at restaurants, and whole aisles of alternatives are sold at grocery stores.

There is some controversy over this craze. People do it to be healthier but some food has to make up for the fact it is missing gluten by adding other ingredients that actually make the food less “healthy” (whatever that means). You can definitely find gluten-free foods at Whole Foods, your local natural markets (PCC in Seattle), and even most larger chains are starting to carry gluten-free foods. When starting off, make sure to try everything and look at what they put in to make it not taste “gluten-free”.

I myself have tried a month of gluten-free eating (twice) and have tested a lot of my sister’s and roommate’s gluten free options. Now, I try to do gluten-free whenever I can even though I don’t have a strong sensitivity. But, I only eat things that I believe taste good so I decided to compile a list of recipes and items you can get at the grocery store that I enjoy. They are good options to try if you want to give gluten-free eating a try. I chose ideas that traditionally have gluten like pastas, breads, and cakes! Some of these take a few tries before it seems normal so don’t give up on the first try!

Overnight Eggnog French Toast Casserole Recipe

This is not a gf recipe, but we made some with gf bread and actually preferred it to regular!

Most Everyting Udi’s

GF breads, cookies, brownies, and lots of other options!

Bionaturae Pasta

Between my sister, my roommate, and myself– this is our favorite GF pasta from a grocery store!

Gluten Free Carrot Cake Recipe

Most people couldn’t tell it was gf!

The Cravings Place Allergy-Free Mixes

Brownie and Pancake mixes are amazing!

Spaghetti Squash

I don’t use a recipe for this– just cook and add a little bit of marinara sauce and veggies. I cook whole and in the oven– takes about an hour but it is worth it!

I am no expert on gluten-free eating but these are some great suggestions. If you guys have favorite grocery store finds or recipes let me know! — J

Last-Minute Homemade Gifts

Food, Holidays, Quick Read, Recipes

If you’re anything like me, you either:

(a) tend to do things last minute, or
(b) are cheap. I mean… money-conscious?
or
(c) both of the above.

So for those of us who fit that description, or who simply still have some gifts left to get and who enjoy a homemade touch, read on for some of my favorite homemade gift ideas. These are super simple and inexpensive, and can probably be made with things you already have on hand.

Quick and easy homemade gifts

1. Flavored coffee syrups

Guys, you would not believe how easy coffee syrups are to make. I make myself a batch of vanilla syrup for my coffee every few weeks, and it literally takes five minutes of effort.

Here’s what you do:

  • Combine 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar in saucepan
  • Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium and stir until sugar dissolves
  • Stir in 1 teaspoon of any flavoring you like (i.e. vanilla extract, peppermint extract, almond extract)
  • Let cool and then store in an airtight glass container

I purchased these glass bottles at my neighborhood kitchen supply store, filled them with flavored syrups, and stuck some pretty labels on them. Definitely a popular gift with coffee drinkers.

Store the syrup in the fridge and it should stay good for several weeks.

(image source & peppermint syrup recipe)

2. Handmade jewelry

Depending on your level of craftiness, you could do a lot in this department. Personally, I have less crafty talent than Martha Stewart has in her pinky finger, but I still managed to make the bracelet pictured above.

Search around on Pinterest, find some pretty DIYs, and hit up your local craft or bead store. Handmade jewelry doesn’t have to mean plastic beads spelling out “best friend” like we made in summer camp. With a little thought and effort, you can make something similar to what you’d see in a store selling for thirty bucks.

Seriously, if I made that bracelet above, anyone can do it. Find the instructions here.

3. Personalized mugs

I don’t know about you, but I love mugs. If a friend took the time to create a mug just for me, I’d be thrilled.

This is another DIY where Pinterest is your friend. I think Sharpie mugs are the easiest, but there are tons of other ideas for people of varying levels of craftiness. This gift is pretty, functional, personal, and cheap. All it costs is a few bucks for the mug, and maybe a few more for markers or glitter or whatever.

(image source with instructions for Sharpie mugs)

4. Hot fudge

This is another one that I make for myself quite often.

Since it’s the holidays, you could make peppermint hot fudge and put it in a festive jar, like the photo above.

Or you could go for good old fashioned bittersweet hot fudge. Like with the coffee syrups, a glass jar and a pretty label go a long way in making this a thoughtful gift.

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Happy gifting! What are your favorite homemade gifts?

-L

Favorite Holiday Baking Recipes

Curated, Food, Holidays, Recipes

During the holidays, I get my oven mitts and cooling racks ready for lots of baking. Not only does my family have a cookie baking night every year, I have my sister’s birthday cake to make! I have acquired lots of great recipes over the years and here are a few of my favorites.

cookie

Snowball Cookies (a.k.a Mexican Wedding Cakes)

These cookies are part of our yearly tradition. Not too sweet and easy to make. We make them early in the holiday season and freeze them to make them last the whole season!

peppermint-ice-cream-cake-1134120-xl

Peppermint Ice Cream Cake

I made this for my sister’s birthday, which is on Christmas Eve, a few years back and it was a hit! Everyone was impressed and assumed it was a hard recipe. It takes a bit of planning and time but there is nothing complicated about it. The frosting was the easiest part and super tasty– I never have used whipped cream for frosting before but it works well with the ice cream cake!

cookies2

Chewy Sugar Cookies

Break out the cookie cutters for this one! For years we tried different sugar cookie recipes for decorating cookies and we finally found “the one” a few years ago. These are chewy but also are great for decorating. Pro Tip: To do intricate frosting work, put it in a small ziplock bag and cut off the corner!

Hardworking Lunches

Food, Recipes, Workplace

I have always struggled with lunch.

Breakfast? Savory, sweet, whatever you’re serving, I’m in. Dinner? You can be sure I’m having seconds. But lunch has always been my least favorite meal. I think it’s because once I hit a stride — a long day of classes or cubicle-sitting — I don’t like to interrupt it. It may also be that my typical diet of carbs and cheese tends to make me crash if I eat that way in the middle of the day. This means that your typical sandwich for lunch doesn’t cut it for me.

Over the years I’ve struggled with spending too much money at lunchtime, and eating too much and ruining my afternoon productivity. Now I can finally say that I have some lunch staples that are cheap, healthy, and don’t sap my energy level. Below you’ll find some examples, plus some good sides to add on to any lunch.

You might notice that my examples are all vegetarian and mostly vegan — this is just because I gravitate toward lighter fare for lunch. I love cheese and I do eat meat, but when I’m cooking for myself I end up eating a lot of vegan meals purely because they are easy and make me feel good.

Lazy and cheap:

Bagel and cream cheese. Hold up! I thought you said carbs and cheese were bad? Well… yeah. This is not a shining example of a healthy lunch, but I do not want to give the impression that I bring a healthy, homemade lunch to work every day, because that is just not true. Personally, I’m happy with myself if I bring a lunch at all. Even if it’s not the healthiest, I’m happy to save money and to have my life together enough that I can do some advanced planning the night before. So, if I am feeling really lazy and cheap, I will bring a lunch that requires no cooking at all, just a little foresight at the grocery store.

Cheap and simple:

Beans and rice. This meal is full of protein and has endless possibilities. Here is an easy example that I might make on any given night. But you could easily spice it up with avocado, pico de gallo, a little lime juice, whatever you want. Simple, filling, and definitely cheap.

Healthy and flavorful:

Quinoa tabbouleh. Tabbouleh is a Middle Eastern salad typically made with bulgar or couscous, parsley, mint, tomatoes, onions, and lemon juice. I like to use quinoa instead of bulgar or couscous because of the added protein. I am also not crazy about mint so I usually skip that. The tomatoes, onions, and lemon make this dish really flavorful. I also love to add diced cucumbers, green onions, and cilantro. Here is a great recipe.

Hearty and healthy:

Quinoa with asparagus and mushrooms. Really, this could be called quinoa and veggies, because you could easily throw together quinoa and whatever veggies you have on hand. For example, you might add kale, spinach, onions, or peppers. I love quinoa with asparagus and mushrooms because it’s filling, easy to prepare, and because asparagus and mushrooms are two of my favorites. This dish is very versatile and hardly requires a recipe at all, but here is a nice one to get you started.

On the side:

Fruit – berries, banana, plum, pear, satsuma orange, grapes
Baby carrots
Sliced cucumbers
Cherry tomatoes
Cookie
Pretzels
Pita chips
Hummus (to go with the veggies or chips)

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That’s it! I’m not a lunch expert yet, but I’m doing my best. What are your lunchtime staples?

Thanks for reading!
-L