Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bedtime Snack Update

My bedtime snacks this week have been great.  Ashley is back on her cookie making kick, which I am the benefactor of most of the time.  This time around she made peanut butter cookies and chocolate chip cookies.  As always, they were fantastic.

Also, one afternoon, she was given a cupcake from one of her customers at her job, a vegan friend of hers.  It was a chocolate cupcake with chai cream cheese icing.  It was really good.  The icing had a very unique flavor and was high on sugar, which is always a plus in icing!

Now I am running low on treats so I may have to break down and cook some myself.  Pity.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Orange Vinaigrette

Along with the storm and soup of Friday night, Ashley and I also had a nice salad.  I made a very light and fat-free dressing that, frankly, rocked.  We also tossed some avocados, walnuts and some fried Georgia peaches to the mix.  It was quite a treat.

Orange Vinaigrette

3 cloves of garlic
3/4 cup of fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of salt

In a blender, puree all ingredients.  Chill for about 30 minutes prior to serving.

Overall, it as a great meal and a strange storming evening.

Weathering the Storm

Friday night was a crazy night.  Ashley and I had thought it would be nice to make a dinner when she got out of work.  She got out a bit early and we did a few errands before beginning to make dinner.  I wanted to try to keep it fairly healthy.  We decided on soup and salad.  Simple but I know it had been some time since I shared a recipe so I wanted to make this meal something special.  This night turned out to be more special then either of us had anticipated.

I wanted to make a soup that was hearty but not heavy.  Sometimes hearty salads can be too heavy.  This soup hit the spot.

Potato Barley and Kale Soup

2 full stalks of kale
4 small red potatoes (cubed)
4 cloves of garlic (chopped)
2 cups of water
3 cups of vegetable broth
3/4 cup of pearled barley
1/2 cup of onion (chopped)
1 tablespoon of thyme
1 tablespoon of oregano
1/2 tablespoon of oil
1 teaspoon of ground pepper
1 teaspoon of salt

In a pot, bring the water to a boil and add the potatoes.  Boil until potatoes are tender, should take about 15 minutes.  Strain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a saute pan, add the oil, pepper, garlic, onion, oregano, and thyme and fry on low heat until onion is tender.

In a pot, add 2 cups ofthe vegetable broth and barley.  Bring to a simmer for about 20 minutes or until the barley is tender.  This may need to be stirred occasionally to avoid the barley sticking to the bottom of the pot.

In the meantime, add one cup of the vegetable broth, onion and garlic mixture and 1 cup of the potatoes (cooked) to a blender.  Puree until smooth.  Pour the mixture into the barley pot and add the remaining potato chunks.  Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes stirring regularly.

Add the kale (stems removed, torn into 4 inch pieces) to the pot, remove from heat and cover.  Allow to sit for about 5 minutes or until the kale is soft and bright green.

This soup would be great served with chopped scallions.

As the soup was nearly done, the clouds rolled in.  Dark, aggressive clouds.  Seconds later the rain was pouring down and small branches were dropping on my roof, making a clatter.  Within minutes, the power was flickering and eventually went out.  With the soup still of the stove and no light, we had to act fast.  Suddenly, a huge thud echoed throughout the kitchen from the roof.  I ran out into the rain to spot a massive branch not laying on my house.

Several minutes later, the rain stopped and the power was back on.  We plated our meal and decided to bring the meal to the front porch to watch the storm slither into the distance.

After dinner, I climbed up to the roof and tossed the branch off.  Luckily, there seemed to be no damage.  Close call.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A deep breath

Keeping my job as allowed me to breathe a bit.  I have not done much of anything.  I have sat home onmy time off and relaxed.  It has been nice but I know I need to get going again.

I have not even done much cooking.  Since it is summer, I have been trying to make more salads and lighter foods.  Recently I made some nice salad with some store acquired soy chickens.  It turned out well and really hit the spot.  Maybe some more dressing recipes in the future!

I feel like I have not been eating as well as I should over the last few months.  I have been very stressed to sue the job situation and I just got lazy with it.  I hope that I can re-discover my motivation.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

As the Dust Settles

As quietly as I have kept this information, my jobby job has been in jeopardy for months.  The company I work for opted to enact some major lay-offs.  It has been very stressful for myself and everyone involved.  I have officially made it through with no changes to my job status.  I will retain all benefits with no decrees in hours nor pay.  While I am upset to see my long time work friends walk out the door for the final time, I am grateful that I still have my job.  It has been a trying time and the weeks to come, adjusting to the new structure will be difficult.

On a side note, I have been trying to stay in the kitchen a little more recently.  I made another batch of shepherds pie to take with me to work.  It is becoming a simple and filling work time meal.

Ashley and I made some pizza recently as well.  It was kind of like a vegan meat lovers.  We used soy sausage, soy bacon, soy pepperonis and onions.  It was a funny afternoon.

It is also watermelon season!  Juicy watermelon is one of my favorite foods.  Sitting down with a nice bowl of melon is a great feeling on a hot Atlanta summer day.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Another Vistor!

It seems this is the year of the family.  My mum came to visit me in April, my sister at the beginning of this month and then my brother came for a short visit this weekend!

Several years ago, my brother, Ben, came down and lived with me.  He stayed in Atlanta about a year and then went back to Maine to continue his schooling.  He now has his degree and a jobby job in Boston.  He had some sort of training this week here in Atlanta so he flew in early and we spend the weekend together.

He got into town late friday night.  Saturday, Ashley joined us for a day of hiking in Sweetwater Creek State Park and dinner at Green Sprout.  We also stopped in and used our Fernbank Museum Imax tickets to see a tornado film.  It was a fun day.

Sunday he and I looked at a few houses and then I went to the jobby job.  We had a nice lunch of salad and watermelon with breaded mushrooms.

Monday, he and I went to the amusement park and hit up the roller coasters.  The lines were short and we hit about 10 coasters in about 4 hours.  That was a it much and we were dehydrated and hunger.  Toward the end, we started to get small blackout spots while on the coasters.  That was when we decided it might be time to leave.

Before I dropped him off at a hotel (where is conference was taking place) we had a nice sushi dinner.  It was really nice to see him.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Weekend Getaway: Day 4

Sadly, Sunday rolled in and it was time to head back to Atlanta.  Not only head home but I had to work that evening.  I was not looking forward to it and had a difficult time not allowing the dread effect what should have been a nice half of a vacation day.

The morning began well.  During the weekend, we had picked up some popsicle.  They became a pivotal part of the trip.  Kaleigh and I bonded with them by eating lots of them, even when we were not supposed to.  Sometimes getting a sugar rush just before bed.

We decided to send off the vacation by the three of us sitting on the deck, outside of the lodge in rocking chairs, sucking down the last few pops of the trip.  It was a nice goodbye to our mini-vacation.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Weekend Getaway: Day 3 - the wedding

Day three was the actual wedding day.  I have been to very few weddings in my life.  As an atheist and someone who is anti-state, I do not really see the purpose of getting married.  I suppose, for financial purposes, it could make sense considering that our culture is set up to give larger breaks to married couples under a specific income threshold.  Even in those circumstances, I still do not see the desire for a wedding.

Given all of this, I still went to Ashley's father's wedding.  It was a nice break from the grind at home and an opportunity to get out in the woods.  I have also been trying my hand at taking better pictures and I though this would be a good opportunity.  Throughout the entire weekend, I took several thousand photos.  I hope enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed taking them.

Prior to the wedding, Ashley took her daughter, Kaleigh, to do some tourist gem mining.  It was a memory that Ashley had with her family as she was a child and wanted to share it with Kaleigh.  I tagged along to document the event.

After gem mining, Kaleigh went with her aunts, Kristie and Rachael, to get her hair done for the wedding.  Ashley and I headed back to the lodge and I cooked began to cook some lunch.  The lodge had some super cool bowls that I got to use.  I wanted to take them home with me!

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

1 bunch of basil
4 tomatoes (cubed)
4 cloves of garlic (chopped)
1/2 onion (sliced)
1  1/2 cups of coconut milk
2 tablespoons of oil
2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon of pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a baking pan, add the onion, garlic, tomato, oil, and basil.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until the tomatoes release their liquid.

In a blender, add the coconut milk and roasted tomato mixture about 2 cups at a time.  Blend until smooth and pour into a pot.  Once all the ingredients are smooth, add the salt and pepper and heat on the stove top for about 15 minutes.  Do not allow to get to a simmer.

This was a great lunch for us.  I was able to use the purple basil that we got at the farmers market.  It turned out great, it was hearty and rich.  I added the mustard greens and we dipped the bread we also got at the market.  It was an excellent lunch.

Then it was off to the wedding.  It was actually a fun time to be around Ashley's family.  They all seemed so happy to be there and it was great to see them enjoying themselves. 

The food was great.  There were simple salad options but the chef also made a pair of vegan meals just for Ashley and I.  We had cracked wheat, with corn and greens.  It was so thoughtful of her family to make sure there were options for us. 

Dessert was an ice cream bar.  Ashley and I brought our own soy ice cream and enjoyed sundaes with the rest of the wedding.

It was a nice evening, to my surprise.  Everyone just seemed to be in such a good mood and enjoying themselves, even if I do not quite understand why.

After the wedding, I had to make a bedtime snack!  Using some local rhubarb and strawberries I whipped up a little treat, topped with some toasted granola.  Decent.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Weekend Getaway: Day 2

Day two was an eventful day.  Ashley, Kaleigh, and I went out early for a hike to Juney Whank Falls.  It was a short walk but we did not know how much Kaleigh could do and my ankle was still sore from last weekends events with my sister and her family.

It was a nice hike and Kaleigh got to see a nice waterfall.  On the walk out, we also got to see Deep Creek Falls.  Ashley and I had hiked this same trail last autumn on our weekend to the Smokey Mountains.

Later in the afternoon, Ashley and I went to a local farmers market.  We got there as it was ending so there was not much produce left.  We were able to get some great items though.  We got some fresh baked bread and homemade jam from one vendor.  Another vendor had some purple basil, fresh mustard greens, and a stack of massive shiitake mushrooms.  I have never seen shiitakes this large.  I had to indulge, despite the price.  I thought that these would be some fun ingredients to cook with in the lodge kitchen.

That afternoon, the three of us met up with her family for lunch at The Filling Station.  It was a simple sandwich shop but was very vegan friendly.  We were able to get two great wraps with a lot of vegetable options.  We both thought that the sandwiches were incredibly good.

After lunch, Ashley's siblings met up with us for some tubing down Deep Creek.  It was the first time that Kaleigh had been tubing on her own tube.  She loved it, she was so light on the water that it was often hard for people to keep up with her.  She had such a great time.

After the tubing, we all headed to a cookout.  Ashley's family is very vegan friendly.  One of her family friends actually made us a mini-vegan peach pie!  It was amazing.  We were even given half of the grill to make some veggie burgers, potatoes, corn, and I even tossed those mushrooms I bought at the farmers market on the grill.  There were some vegan baked beans that were the best baked beans I have ever had.  I even snuck in for seconds!

It was a full and exciting day.  To my surprise, there was so much great food, it was shaping up to be a nice break from the Atlanta grind.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Weekend Getaway: Day 1

Ashley's father was getting married in the mountains of North Carolina and I got invited!  Ashley, her daughter (Kaleigh), and I made a weekend out of the event.  IT was really nice to get out of town for the weekend and we had some fun things to do and good food to eat.

Day one was mainly driving three hours in the heat.  We stopped in Franklyn North Carolina for a late lunch.  It was a place called Hungry Bear and they were said to be the most veg friendly place in town.  They had some solid options for vegans too, sadly, there bread was not vegan.  I had a large white bean salad, Ashley had a bun-less burger and a side salad.

Shortly after lunch, we were at our lodge.  It was a really nice place will a full kitchen and I was able to cook a meal on one of the days.  That evening, we walked the 500 feet to the creek and looked around.  Dinner was at a Mexican place that was not very vegan friendly.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cherry Vanilla Smoothie

My ankle is feeling much better.  Thankfully, it was a minor sprain.  With a couple of days trying to stay off my feet and elevating it at night, it seems to be back to about 90% health.  That is very good news for my upcoming trip to North Carolina.  It seems I will be able to get some hiking in after all.

Since my family left, I have been plugging away at the jobby job trying to log hours so that I do not have to take as much vacation time.  I like to save it for as long as I can and I have a large trip to Maine at the end of the summer that I will use most of my time for.

My younger brother, Ben, called me this morning to let me know that he would be in town for the weekend on the 17th.  I am going to try and get some of that weekend off from the jobby job.  It will be nice to see him.  This is like the year of the family.  It is rare for a member of my family to come visit me but it seems that most of them have come this year.

I did whip up a great smoothie that I thought I would share.  It is very simple, super sweet, and freshreshing.

Cherry Vanilla Smoothie

1 banana
2 cups of apple juice
2 cups of cherries (pitted)
1 tablespoon of vanilla powder

Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.  Make sure that the vanilla powder has dissolved to avoid grainy a texture.  Chill for about 30 minutes for a nice cool temperature.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Vacation in Town: The Final

Today was the last day of my sister, Caitlyn's visit.  When we got up, my nephew, Tayshaun, ran around the yard for a bit while Cait and Amy packed.  Jazaiah and I slept in a little.  We sat out of the front porch for a bit and took some family pictures.  Then it was off to the airport.

Tomorrow is a double shift at the jobby job and I have a lot of real estate to catch up on.  Not to mention that I leave for a weekend trip soon.

My sister, Caitlyn and I

The story of the weekend was Tayshaun running off.  I had him pose for this appropriate photo-op