Slaw school

Vegetables. They never cease to amaze me.

DSCN4856

What the @#$% are those, you ask? They’re kohlrabi (aka German turnips), that’s what. They belong to the cabbage family, and they have white flesh inside that has a texture similar to apples, jicama, or maybe raw potatoes. In all of my 25 years, I have never seen kohlrabi anywhere other than my grandparents’ house–my Grandpa Elmer always grows them in his garden. But apparently other people eat them too, because when my parents brought a couple home I googled “kohlrabi slaw recipe,” and several options came up. Here’s the link to the one we used–followed pretty much exactly (except I didn’t use cilantro and we only had two kohlrabi), so I won’t re-type it here. I was going to try making some homemade Vegannaise to replace the small amount of mayonnaise, but in the end I didn’t, mostly because I cannot get over my aversion to the word “Vegannaise.”

First, peel the kohlrabi with a paring knife and slice them into matchsticks. (This is kind of tedious, but I find chopping things very relaxing.)

RSCN4868

Then whisk together your dressing ingredients, and toss with the veggies and golden raisins in a big bowl. Easy as can be!

DSCN4866

This is a very simple recipe, and the dressing could use a little jazzing up, but I really liked the kohlrabi as a base for the slaw. It has a milder flavor than the usual cabbage, and great crispiness. I would start asking around (some place where lots of grandfatherly types hang out) to see if you can find some.

If you can’t, though, take a look at this splendid coleslaw article by Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen for some other ideas. I’ve made the Napa Cabbage and Sesame Seed slaw, and it’s an excellent alternative to the usual over-dressed, monochromatic slaw you find most places.

Have yourself a lovely week! More studying for me….

Kicking and (ice)screaming

This evening, after a good faith effort at some studying, I tried to go to BodyPump, my new workout class of choice. (Zumba will always be first in my heart, of course, but it’s nice to switch things up now and then.) Unfortunately, I did not read the schedule correctly and ended up at a kickboxing class. This was too bad, because I lack the coordination necessary for such things. I know you wouldn’t think this is possible, but I definitely punched myself in the jaw. Twice. After suffering that kind of indignity, a girl needs some ice cream.

DSCN4833

As soon as I got home I pulled out the ingredients above, and made sure the bowl for my mom’s ice cream maker was chilling in the freezer. (I think the ice cream maker was roughly $40, and I would say it has been an excellent investment.) I hulled and roughly chopped the strawberries, and then pureed them for just a few seconds in the Magic Bullet.

DSCN4835

Then, I whisked together all of the ingredients and put them in the fridge to chill for about an hour.

DSCN4838

Once the mixture was good and cold, I turned on the ice cream maker, poured it in, and let it spin for about 12 minutes.

DSCN4841

I’m calling this “ice cream,” but it’s actually dairy-free–I’ve noticed lately that I feel better when I don’t eat much milk, cheese, yogurt, etc. It’s definitely not as rich-tasting as your typical ice cream, but it’s really refreshing and the coconut milk makes it taste like you’re on some kind of island getaway. And, it’s really pretty! So, let’s list the ingredients, shall we?

Vegan Strawberry-Coconut Ice Cream (makes about a quart)

  • 1 13.5 oz. can of coconut milk
  • 1 c. almond milk
  • 1/2 c. agave nectar
  • about 1 c. pureed strawberries

Whisk together all of the ingredients and chill for an hour or two. Pour into a running ice cream maker, and let it run until frozen enough to slow down the machine. (Mine took about 10-12 minutes.)

DSCN4849

The fanned-out strawberry on top is fancy, no? I learned that little trick during a very short-lived job at a cafe. (Customer service, much like kick-boxing, was not really my forte. But I was good at garnishes.)

That’s all for today–have a good weekend, friends!

Smoothies and happy thoughts

In preparation for the bar exam at the end of July, I’m taking a review class that meets every weekday from 9:00 until about 12:30. We get two ten-minute breaks, and the rest of the time is filled with dry lecturing by a law professor on video, and diligent note-taking. Then we’re supposed to go home and study, and study, and study some more, I guess. I won’t complain too much, because it’ll be over by the end of July, and I did voluntarily sign up for this whole thing, but…..UGH. It’s pretty gross. One day last week, I woke up and looked in the mirror, and this is what I saw:

monster

YIKES. OK, fine, that’s actually Charlize Theron in Monster, but you get the idea. (Source)

I decided it was time to create a before-class routine that would make life seem a teensy bit brighter. I love morning routines like I love polka dots and musical theater (i.e. I love them a lot). I like to start my days with quiet time and vegetables, so my “Survive the Bar Exam” morning routine has two main components: green smoothies and 15 minutes of meditation.

I’m no expert at meditation, but I started doing it for 10-15 minutes every morning several months ago, and I love it. I’m a big-time over-thinker, and right now there are about a million half-complete legal rules floating around in my head, so it’s nice to just shut everything out for a few minutes and think happy thoughts. I just set my cell phone alarm for 15 minutes, and sit down on the floor criss-cross applesauce. (According to my mom, retired first-grade teacher, “criss-cross applesauce” is the new “Indian-style.” More culturally sensitive, you know.) Sometimes it doesn’t work and I just sit there thinking stuff like “What exactly IS a “secured transaction?” or “I wonder what ever happened to those kids from ‘Salute Your Shorts’?” But–no matter what you spend this time thinking about, it’s pretty wonderful to have 15 minutes of quiet before the day gets going.

After meditation time is over, I break out the blender and make a green smoothie. Here’s my favorite combo so far:

DSCN4823

Key Lime Pie Smoothie:

  • handful of spinach (about a cup, loosely packed) (You won’t taste it, honest to blog.)
  • 1/4 of an avocado
  • zest of one lime, and the juice of half
  • 1/2 banana (slightly overripe and frozen is the best)
  • 1-2 tsp agave nectar
  • about 1 c. milk of your choice, more to thin it out as needed (I use almond milk, always and forever)

Blend until completely smooth, and then pour into your most festive glass.

DSCN4829

Nothing like a little vacation and nutrition in a glass before a few hours of Real Property. Seriously, friends–make yourself a green smoothie a few mornings each week, and you will eventually look like this:

with-her-oscar

(Source) Maybe not exactly like that, but close.

Quinoa for the Toner

Happy Father’s Day to this guy!

That (as you may have guessed) is my dad, Tom, more commonly known to those in the immediate family as “the Toner.”  Why?  Well, many years ago his nickname was “Tommy Tutone,” (80s musical artist that brought us that “867-5309″ song), which then evolved to “Two-toner,” which then became “Toner,” often preceded by “the” to account for the fact that he’s Kind Of A Big Deal.

Besides reading She Sings at the Table in his spare time, Dad is also a school-administration superstar and a culinary force to be reckoned with.  He taught me all about the infield fly rule, attended more piano recitals than any person should ever have to, and bought me my food processor.  So….thanks, padre!

Although he often shies away from my hippie food and gravitates toward dishes that involve more bacon, the Toner is a big fan of my Honey-Balsamic Quinoa Salad.  I made him a batch today, in between bouts of bar exam study, and now I will of course share the recipe with you folks.

Honey-Balsamic Quinoa Salad (serves one dad for lunch for one work-week)

  • 1 1/2 c. quinoa, cooked according to package instructions
  • 1 c. quartered cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 4-5 sliced scallions
  • 1 c. sugar snap peas, chopped
  • one cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • about 1/3 c. sunflower seeds
Dressing (this will make a little extra–delish on a salad the next day):
  • 1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste (don’t be too stingy–remember this has to season the whole salad)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tbsp honey
Cook the quinoa according to the package instructions.  Meanwhile, make the dressing, by combining ingredients in a blender or mincing the garlic and whisking the ingredients if you’d prefer.  When the quinoa is done, and still warm, put it in a large bowl and pour over most of the dressing.  Chop the vegetables while the quinoa cools.  Add the vegetables and sunflower seeds to the quinoa, stir, and add more dressing as desired.
Have a good week, friends!  I will be making flashcards and weeping.  (I’m just kidding.  Sort of.)

“Guess what? I have flaws.”

What are they? Well, to quote Michael Scott, “I sing in the shower. Sometimes I spend too much time volunteering. Occasionally I’ll hit somebody with my car.”

(To clarify, I have never actually hit someone with my car, and if I had I would have totally disclosed that on my bar application.)

Also, I am bad at math, I always forget my parents’ anniversary, and once I took the introductory personality inventory on eHarmony and they told me I was un-matchable. (Really! Some follow-up googling revealed this interesting explanation. Ouch.)

Finally, the flaw that is pertinent here: I can’t leave “good enough” alone when it comes to recipes. My mom and I have both had success with these strawberry jelly surprise muffins from Daily Garnish. But today I decided to try making them with brown rice syrup instead of sugar, as well as a few other tweaks. It was a noble goal, but the execution was poor. I show you these pictures to dispel the myth that just because I write this blog I am some kind of wizard in the kitchen. Sometimes things go wrong, and, for example, I end up taking a partially used bottle of wine to a potluck instead of the fruit crisp I had planned because said fruit crisp looks absolutely disgusting. Anyway, back to the muffins. Things started off well…

(Dry ingredients, flax egg, wet ingredients, and the strawberry jelly with a little chopped rhubarb mixed in for pizazz.) I spooned in the batter, filling, and more batter to top them off…

…and then baked. And then…MUFFIN DISASTER.

That is a decapitated muffin, in case you couldn’t tell. These did not hold together at all, and the tops were way too crunchy.

In conclusion, just try the recipe linked above. It’s fine just as it is. And I AM TOO, eHARMONY.

Funny vegetables

Hello, friends! I hope all is well where you are. I know things are usually all sunshine and lollipops around this blog, but I must admit that lately I’ve been feeling a little…..blaaaaaah. Studying for the bar exam isn’t exactly fun, and although I enjoy hanging out with my family here in Des Moines, I miss a lot of friends back in Iowa City. It’s just a weird, in-between kind of feeling. Plus, I caught a really gross cold and I haven’t been to Zumba in weeks. No, months! BAH!

This evening I decided to take some initiative, ignore the bar exam paced study schedule, and bolster my mood with two all-time favorites. First, my favorite movie:

“Funny Girl” speaks to my very soul. I’m about 85% sure I was Fanny Brice (comedienne portrayed by Barbra Streisand in the film) in a past life.  I submit for your consideration these comparison photos:

Uncanny, right? I would have chosen a better leading man than Fanny’s, though. Nick Arnstein is all flash and no substance. “I don’t like to make definite plans….it makes me feel too tied down.” PLEASE.  The movie really takes a dive after she marries him, but the first act is pure gold.

Anyway, while watching my favorite movie, I also made my favorite dinner. This is what I would have for my last meal, if I was forced to choose. (Then I would also make about 6 desserts.) Please note that all of these measurements will be approximate, because I’m not really into measuring, except when baking.

Red Curry Coconut Stir-fry with Basil-Lime Couscous (serves 6-ish)

For the stir-fry:

  • about 1 tbsp coconut oil (or vegetable or peanut oil)
  • 1 yellow squash, sliced into half-moons
  • 1 red pepper, julienned
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (heaping) tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1.5-2 tbsp red curry paste
  • 1 13.5 oz. can lite coconut milk
  • 1 c. peas, defrosted if using frozen
  • 1 c. sliced mushrooms
  • 4 scallions, sliced
  • coarsely chopped cashews to garnish

For the couscous:

  • 1 10 oz. box couscous
  • 2 c. water, vegetable stock, or a combination
  • 1 lime (zest and juice)
  • a small handful of basil leaves, sliced in thin ribbons

Couscous: In a small saucepan, bring the 2 cups of liquid and the lime zest to a boil. Pour in the couscous, remove from heat, cover, and let sit for about 5 minutes (check the package instructions for the amount of time–my box said 5 minutes). Remove the lid, juice the lime over the couscous, add the ribbons of basil, and fluff/mix the couscous with a fork.

Stir-fry: In a large frying pan, heat about one tablespoon of coconut oil over medium heat. When it’s melted, add the yellow squash, red pepper, garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes. Add the red curry paste and stir a bit to incorporate it with the vegetables. Then pour in the coconut milk, peas, and mushroom, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Check your veggies for your desired level of doneness (I like them to be a little crunchy when done). Add the scallions at the very end of cooking. Serve the stir-fry over a scoop of the couscous, sprinkled with a few chopped cashews.

I added a little leftover baked tofu on top at the last minute. A veggie-ful feast + a movie musical = a much better mood. As the song says, “Life’s candy and the sun’s a ball of butter.” Happy weekend, food fans!

P.S. Sorry the pictures are tiny.  I switched to a different blogging program and I have yet to really figure out how to use it.

Dam to Dam + Pleasantville Pig Out

Today was one for the ages, folks. I am exhausted. But before I collapse, a recap:

My alarm went off at 4:25 this morning (which really made me mad, because I was having a dream in which I inexplicably knew how to tap dance flawlessly). My dad drove my mom and I downtown so we could board a bus to the Saylorville Dam, the starting point for the Dam to Dam 20K. I did not have a great feeling about this race from the start, because I thought our numbers were kind of ominous:

DSCN4677 DSCN4678

Those were not great years in American history, you know? But anyway, we both finished…nobody fainted, threw up, tripped over their own feet, etc. I did not finish with any great speed, but, unlike the last time I ran this race, I did cross the finish line before they ran out of participant medals! Progress. When we came home, I immediately collapsed on the floor, until my mom made me get up and shower. Because there was more to do!

DSCN4679 DSCN4681

After I drank my weight in Gatorade, we made our way to Pleasantville, IA, for the Pleasantville Pig Out Cook-off, dressed in our official barbecue team t-shirts.

DSCN4685 DSCN4683

I named the team–it is an homage to my parents’ short-lived 1970s musical venture, the Tall Dog Band. They were all the rage in rural west-central Iowa, as I understand it, but eventually decided to focus on their less glamorous but more fulfilling jobs as educators. (Also–regarding the Homer Simpson quote–I would be your friend if you brought me a salad, just so you know. I happen to love salad.)

Things were hopping at the Tall Dog BBQ tent when we arrived, and we were immediately called into action to help serve samples to the masses. Today’s offerings: smoked pork loin with a maple chipotle glaze, smoked chicken thighs with a prosciutto, shallot, and mushroom stuffing, and gator fritters. (My dad ordered alligator meat online for the occasion. This guy plays to win.)

DSCN4686 RSCN4715

It was so much fun…..I love feeding people. And clearly, I come by that naturally. I had a great time hanging out with my whole family….including (CELEBRITY SIGHTING!) my Grandpa Elmer and my Grandma Neva, who made the trip all the way from Jefferson, my hometown.

DSCN4696 RSCN4717

RSCN4724 DSCN4742

Once we ran out of samples and judging was finished, my mom and I ducked into Smokey Row, an adorable coffee shop on the town square, for a veggie sandwich. I also ate a cookie the size of my face, because, you know, I’m an endurance athlete and I needed to replenish my carbs. Then I wandered around the festival a bit–it was fantastic! Classic car show, hot-dog eating contest, bags tournament, an appearance by the Iowa State Fair Queen–it was everything a small-town festival should be.

RSCN4732 DSCN4740

RSCN4736 DSCN4743

Once votes were tabulated, we gathered for the results in front of the Pleasantville Grocery. Everyone was on pins and needles. (Well, OK, not everyone.)

DSCN4756 RSCN4754

They announced second-prize winners in each of the four categories (beef, poultry, pork, and miscellaneous) first. No Tall Dog Barbecue. Then, they announced first prize winners in each category. Again, no Tall Dog Barbecue! Finally…..they announced the overall judges’ choice award, and IT WAS US! The grand prize was a whole processed hog. This prize, in and of itself, did not particularly excite me, given my vegetarianism, but let’s be honest, folks–I like winning things. And after a day of working hard and slinging samples in the heat, I think my dad and brother deserved some accolades :) Here they are before judging (with their serious BBQ faces on) and after the big win:

RSCN4712 DSCN4761

Many thanks to the judges for volunteering their time and to Brandon Bingham, festival organizer extraordinnaire! It was a great event.

DSCN4698 DSCN4725

Have a lovely Sunday, friends! I need to learn some laws :(