Pep Talk

Chris sent me this wonderful video from Kid President today. After seeing this, I’d say I’m a firm believer that each of us can use a pep talk from time to time and certainly a good laugh.

Here’s to a Lucky ’13

How were your holidays? I enjoyed about a week and a half away from the office for some much needed family time, rest and relaxation. Chris and I traveled to South Dakota to see his family, Iowa to see mine and spent New Years back in Minneapolis.

In our time off, we spent lots of time with family, baked Christmas cookies, cooked delicious food, played in the snow, reunited with old friends, got into Homeland (have you seen it yet?) and really enjoyed every minute. My iPhone even took a nose dive into the toilet, forcing me to really get away from everything for a few days while it was recovering in a bowl of rice (that trick really does work)!

Our cozy Christmas home this year

As we say hello to 2013, I’ve come up with a few resolutions for the new year. I believe in making resolutions, but not keeping them too restrictive. While I can always improve, I still have to make plenty of room for fun along the way!

Here are mine for 2013:

  • Read for pleasure more often
  • Stay active (more regular yoga)
  • Be more adventurous with vegan cooking (so many vegetable soups are the routine now)
  • Blog more often
  • Volunteer more
  • Keep in touch with friends and family (always can improve on this!)

Happy New Year, all! Cheers to what lies ahead and to a lucky ’13.

Homemade Vegan Tomato Soup

Soup season is here! I am so excited. One of my favorite things about fall and winter (and even chilly, rainy spring days) is making homemade soup. There’s something so comforting and therapeutic about chopping, dicing and sautéing all kinds of ingredients to simmer together and create a yummy meal.

I’ve written about soup several times here before, but this year I’m getting a little more inventive. Since I wrote about going dairy free, I’ve made the switch to an almost 100% vegan diet. Almost, meaning that I will never give up seafood and won’t freak out about small amounts of non-vegan ingredients in my food when I go out to eat.

So far this fall, I’ve altered some of my stand-by favorite soups to be vegan, including Wild Rice Soup with Mushrooms. I’ve tried new recipes as well, such as this recipe for 15-Minute Tomato Soup, discovered on Pinterest.

This soup is a fantastic alternative to canned tomato soup, easy to make and most of all, incredibly savory and creamy for being vegan. I was quite surprised!

 To make it yourself, check out the recipe at Serious Eats. You will only need EVOO, fresh garlic and onion, oregano, two slices of bread and whole peeled can tomatoes. I will warn you though, fill your blender less than half full to prevent the explosion of tomato all over your kitchen. Not that it happened to me! ;)

Any fall soup recipes on your brain? I’d love to hear what they are!

A work of art: NYC Ballet + Valentino

Growing up, I always had a love for ballet, which I pursued from my very first dance class through college. Although I was never serious about taking it further, much less making a career of it, my love for the art is very much still present. From time to time, I spend some time reading about dance and dreaming of the day that I see a ballet at Lincoln Center.

Lately I’ve been completely entranced by the breathtaking collaboration of Valentino and the NYC Ballet. Valentino Garavani, infamous for custom designs for Jackie O. and others, created one-of-a-kind pieces for the NYC Ballet’s fall gala (last night). The choreography was designed around the fashion.

Take a peek…I would be surprised if you’re not as entranced as I am!

More reading:

NY Times: A Lofty Discussion on Ballet

Forbes: Valentino Outfits New York City Ballet For Rousing One-Time Performance

My New Favorite Vegan Recipe

Chris and I, for the most part, try to stick to our tradition of trying a new recipe each Sunday night, since we usually do our grocery shopping on Sundays. Since we’re traveling this week, we tried a new recipe which incorporated many pantry staples and food we already had on hand today. This recipe for Sesame Peanut Crusted Tofu is from Healthy Happy Life (a vegan blog I recently subscribed).

The recipe calls for the following:

2 cups diced tofu, extra firm (we use Whole Foods 365 brand)
2 cups diced tofu, extra firm
3 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup white sesame seeds
3 Tbsp peanut or olive oil (I used extra virgin olive oil)
1 lime, juiced (We only had 1/4 a lime)
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp agave syrup (I used 1 Tbsp honey as substitute, which didn’t make it 100% vegan)
1 tsp red pepper flakes (or cayenne) (I didn’t have this, so I left it out)
2 Tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
3 garlic cloves, grated or chopped

The recipe suggests to serve the tofu over brown rice and steamed veggies or shredded cabbage. We had basmati rice and broccoli on hand, which worked great. There’s also a peanut dipping sauce, but it’s really not needed (I didn’t bother making it).

The end result:

Sesame Peanut Crusted Tofu

We added some chopped peanuts on top. Next time, I would love to add some Siracha and fresh cilantro. The flavor is outstanding. If you love Thai, this is a winner! So quick to make too!

For the full recipe, check it out here: Sesame Peanut Crusted Tofu.

Note: I’ve been dairy free for 3 months now and I’m loving it. Next post in the works, an update on my dairy free journey. Have a fantastic week!

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day my own very special mom! I couldn’t ask for a better one!

Sick Day Comforts

Sometimes no matter how much rest you get and how many vitamins you take, the nasty cold that’s circling around inevitably bites you. This weekend it was my turn to stay inside and recover. With nothing on the agenda, it didn’t bother me too much to stay in on a rainy day, light a candle and enjoy a movie marathon. Chris took very good care of me. I’m a lucky girl!

I also took comfort in some of my favorites:

Jasmine Green Tea Pearls

Jasmine Green Tea Pearls (from Gong Fu, my favorite tea spot in Des Moines)

Hues & Brews iPot

My personal teapot, perfect for two hot cups

Aveda Blue Oil

Aveda Blue Oil, a go-to for tension relief and relaxation

Chicken & Wild Rice Soup with Mushrooms

A new Whole Foods recipe, Chicken and Wild Rice Soup with Mushrooms (dairy-free, of course!)

For what it’s worth, I highly recommend My Week with Marilyn. Michelle Williams was outstanding and overall, it was a very enjoyable flick – perfect to enjoy this weekend!

Things I’ve Learned at 25

Photo source: my own

Do you ever read Thought Catalog? I’m not a frequent reader, but from time to time I’ll stumble on a post that I find relevant and or witty. What is Thought Catalog? Check out their About section…it’s dead on.

Today I stumbled on 6 Things You Learn At 25. I recently turned 26 and was curious as to what they had to say.

Here are a few points that especially stood out:

  • On knowing what you want: “You are still a long way from where you want to be. But you probably have a much clearer idea of where it is you want to be, and possibly a more solid plan for getting there.”
  • On parents, family and the lessons you learn from them: “…you do have an obligation to do something constructive with that knowledge now that you have it.”
  • On the expectations you set for yourself: “If you allow yourself to be pleased with forward progress in the general direction you were aiming for, you can save yourself a lot of bummed out feelings about not hitting things directly on the exact mark you were aiming for.”
  • On friendships (new and old): “It sucks, it’s sad sometimes (social limbo is a lonely land, yo), but the best you can do is stand behind your own choices, stay focused on continuing to become the happiest, healthiest, most successful version of yourself possible, and try to retain a certain sense of social zen — people come in and out of your life, and that’s okay.”
  • On ‘figuring it out': “It’s advisable to try to be happy with your life, but if at any point you think you’ve “got it all figured out,” and you stop seeking improvement, you officially suck harder than most.”

Check out the full post here. Thanks to the author, Jessica Blankenship. You rock. What pieces of this resonate with you, no matter your age?

 

Photo: my own

Birthday

Mother nature gave me a fantastic gift this year – the weather! By the time I left the office yesterday, it was absolutely perfect outside.

Chris and I headed to the patio at Monte Carlo for a drink before our dinner reservations at The Bachelor Farmer. If you haven’t been to TBF before, it is a must visit. Paying tribute to Minnesota’s Scandinavian heritage with their menu decor, it’s a treat. Not to mention the fact that they kindly catered to my dairy-free diet needs. Bonus! TBF is also the first restaurant downtown to use their rooftop as a vegetable and herb garden. My kind of place.

Afterward a dinner of salmon and cucumber toasts, roasted chicken, crispy potatoes and Chardonnay, we headed down to Marvel Bar, the speakeasy below The Bachelor Farmer. Toasting to my birthday with friends and a French 75 in hand, it was a perfect way to end the day.

Thanks to all of you that made my birthday special. It means the world.

Ma’s Chicken Noodle Soup

Unfortunately, I’ve been nursing a sore throat for about a week. When I woke up this morning feeling like I could barely swallow, I knew that the only food that sounded good was my Grandmother’s Chicken Noodle Soup. Ma is a very special lady and her recipes are to be treasured forever. She used to work in the test kitchen at Meredith Corporation and wrote cookbooks for Better Homes & Gardens, most notably, the Junior Cookbook.

Try this recipe out for yourself the next time you’re feeling under the weather!

Start with chicken, sliced carrots and celery, 1 quart water, chicken bouillon cubes, sea salt and pepper.

Simmering Soup

Boil and immediately reduce heat and cover to gently simmer for about 45 minutes
until chicken is tender.

Noodles

Cook the noodles separately, according to package directions. The recipe calls for egg noodles,
but I used elbow macaroni and quinoa veggie curls to keep it egg-free and dairy-free.

Chicken Noodle Soup

When the 45 minutes is up, add the cooked noodles and voila! Enjoy.

Complete Recipe:

Ma’s Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken (2-3 chicken breasts)
4 Carrots, cut into 1/2” slices
4 Stalks celery, cut into 1/2” slices
1 Quart water
1 T sea salt
1/4 t black pepper
3 Chicken bouillon cubes
2 C raw noodles (egg noodles or any pasta)

Heat all ingredients (minus noodles) to boiling, immediately reduce heat and cover to gently simmer for about 45 minutes until chicken is tender. Remove chicken and cool slightly to cut into 1 inch pieces. In separate pot, cook noodles according to package, but undercook slightly.

Add chicken back into soup pot. Also add noodles to soup pot. Warm. Serve!

What Sunday night traditions do you keep? Chris and I are planning to enjoy popcorn and a movie before the week hits hard tomorrow. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

 

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