Kale and Quinoa Salad

October 4th, 2013

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This is my new go-to salad.  The recipe is inspired by a salad Suj had at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs.  The caramelized onions, dates, and cranberries add a wow factor, and it is both delicious and inexpensive to make.  We have been making large batches without the dressing and dividing servings into tupperware containers.  We take the salad to work the next day and throw some dressing on it before eating.  The pre-dressed salad keeps pretty well for a couple of days. The Ace’s salad is served with marcona almonds, but we substitute for peanuts because I am apparently allergic to everything delicious.  The peanuts are still great, though.

 

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Ingredients
4 c. Kale, chopped, loosely packed
2 c. Quinoa, cooked
1/2 c. Cranberries, chopped
1/2 c. Dates, chopped
1/3 c. Slivered Almonds or Peanuts
1 Onion
1 tbsp. Butter
1/2 tbsp. Sugar
Italian dressing

Method
1. Cook quinoa according to package. I like to substitute vegetable broth for the water because the broth gives the quinoa more flavor.
2. Slice the onion into thin rings then caramelize by sautéing with butter over low-medium heat for about 15 minutes or until onion is soft. Sprinkle onions with sugar and cook about 5 more minutes.
3. In a large bowl, combine kale, quinoa, chopped cranberries, dates, almonds or peanuts, and caramelized onion.
4. Toss with Italian dressing before serving.

6 Budget Friendly Things To Do In DC During the Government Shutdown

October 2nd, 2013

It’s day two of the shutdown and there is no end in sight. Suj and I have gotten a little stir crazy out of the office (probably a sign that we work too much). I know we are very, very lucky to have steady jobs that we both love, especially in this economy, but with talk of the shutdown potentially lasting weeks, I am conscious of the pressure that puts on our budget. In light of all this, we find ourselves with the opportunity to create a list of fun, affordable ways to take advantage of our (hopefully mini) staycation.

Picnic: Grab some cheese, crackers, and fruit and head over to Meridian Hill or Rock Creek Park for a relaxing afternoon on the grass. The shutdown might be a sorry state of affairs, but at least the weather in DC couldn’t be better.

Workout: It’s about time I use that fancy gym membership that I pay for every month! Exercise is not only a great low-cost activity but it is also a way to relieve some of the stress of the unknown. I hit a yoga class at Vida today and was shocked by how empty the gym was. I thought it would be packed in light of the shutdown, but it turned out to be a great time to enjoy my workout. If you don’t belong to a gym, you can always enjoy the quiet streets and run one of these popular city routes.

Sightsee: Just because the federal government is shutdown, doesn’t mean there is nothing to do or see in the DC area. Privately owned sights like the National Cathedral (donation suggested) and Mount Vernon ($17 for adults) remain open to visitors. There are also many private museums open to the public, including the National Building Museum ($8 for adults), National Geographic Museum ($11 for adults), Newseum ($22 for adults), The Spy Museum ($21 for adults), Crime and Punishment Museum ($18 for adults-online discount price), and The Phillips Collection ($12 for adults). These prices, however, are MUCH steeper than the free admission offered at the Smithsonian museums. That is, when the government isn’t on hiatus.

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Read: I am finally going to crack open a couple of the books on my ever-growing reading list, starting with Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I am resisting the urge to make a new kindle purchase and, instead, opting for a free book from one of our shelves. If you aren’t book hoarders like us, a great resource is the DC Public Library. I frequent the Shaw location since it is close to my home, and the staff is so helpful and friendly.

Hang out with friends: The Sixth & I Historic Synagogue is hosting Shutdown Central where they offer daily activities, such as yoga classes, as well as a space to hang out and play board games, and best of all, free coffee, food, and Wifi.

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Take Advantage of the Swag! Local businesses have been amazing–throwing their support behind furloughed government employees by offering all kinds of freebies and deals just for flashing your government ID. The Washington Post has a great list of special food deals offered during the shutdown, including free sandwiches from three Jose Andres restaurants (we cashed in on that yesterday!) and drink specials all over town.

 

I am really hoping that the shutdown will end soon, but in the meantime, I’m going to make the most of a bit of free time in a city I love.

Jury Duty and the National Air and Space Museum

September 30th, 2013

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On the eve of a possible government shutdown, I am spending my time holed up in the jury waiting room at the DC district court. It seems like the only upside to a possible furlough is that I would have a day or two off to spend with my mom, who is in town. But no such luck. Instead I am catching up on my emails and watching soap operas in the waiting room.

The highlight of my service, so far, was the two hour lunch break, during which time I crossed the street and explored the National Air and Space Museam. I’d always heard this museum is better for kids, but I must be a kid at heart because I thought it was so cool! The building is spacious, with high ceilings and all kinds of aircrafts suspended from above.

Suj’s office is about a 10 minute walk from the courthouse, so I also got to spend a few minutes eating lunch with my sweetheart outside on a beautiful DC afternoon.  All in all, I guess jury duty hasn’t been too bad.

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The National Arboretum: best undiscovered date spot ever

September 22nd, 2013

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A few weeks ago I started making a list of all the places to go and things to see in DC that I haven’t gotten around to doing or seeing. One of the suggestions that came up over and over (thanks internet) was the National Arboretum. Now that we have been, I can say that this place is a must-see! According to Wikipedia, the arboretum functions as a major center of botanical research and conducts wide-ranging basic and developmental research on trees, shrubs, turf, and floral plants.

All great, but the best part, by far, is the bonsai tree exhibit. The trees are completely adorable, and the exhibit is in such a cool, peaceful space. The Arboretum is pretty difficult to visit if you don’t have a vehicle, but that fact seems to contribute to the quiet, peaceful atmosphere (i.e., very few visitors).

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At least it was peaceful before we got there…

 

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This place is an awesome date spot. Suj and I picked up some sandwiches before we got there, checked out the exhibits for a while, then had a nice little picnic lunch. We are planning to go back again, probably for a bike ride through the trails (this place is big). In the meantime, I am spreading the word to all my single friends about the bonsai exhibit.

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Many of the bonsai trees were gifts to the US from China and Japan.

 

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National Arboretum Bonsai Exhibit. Some of these trees have been “in training” for hundreds of years!

 

Balcony Garden: things we learned the first time around

August 22nd, 2013

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Suj and I are fortunate to have a huge balcony at our place in DC. It is really a ton of outdoor space in the city, so as soon as we moved in we knew we wanted to take advantage of it by planting an urban garden.  We considered building a medium sized planter box for a more traditional-type garden, but since we are just renting we decided that probably wasn’t a practical option. We settled on planting in a variety of mismatched pots, and we are pretty happy with the results.

I did a lot of research about when and what to plant, but I didn’t find much helpful information. Most of the posts I read suggested talking to a local garden store. We decided to just wing it and plant a random variety of veggies. We started in early spring (I think about mid-April) when the weather started to warm up.

We planted a few varieties of tomato, classic and purple basil, rosemary, lots of hot peppers, red and green bell peppers, and zucchini. The rosemary died immediately. We seriously had it for a few weeks before it totally shriveled and died. Apparently it is temperamental with heat and watering. On the other hand, the basil has done quite well. Suj’s sister had a garden last year and her basil plants grew into these crazy 4 foot tall monstrosities. Ours is only about a foot tall, probably due to the fact that it is growing in a small planter. In any case, we have had plenty of fresh basil this summer.

We have had mixed results with the tomatoes. One of the plants is an heirloom variety, and while it has given us a lot of tomatoes, they have a tendency to crack. We did some googling, and apparently the cracking is a result of inconsistent watering. This summer we have had a ton of rain storms followed by intense heat, so we haven’t been able to control the water exposure for our plants. Beside the heirlooms, we also planted a few cherry tomato bushes. These little guys were gifted to us and had been specially bred to be high-yield and compatible with DC conditions. These have been fantastic. I absolutely recommend the cherry tomatoes over the regular size. Not only have they grown well, but they are ready to be eaten so much sooner. I was shocked to learn that it takes over two months for a regular tomatoes to ripen!

The zucchini was a horrible idea. The plants were so tiny when we got them, so we planted them in a long container alongside our bell peppers. We soon learned that the zucchinis are basically plant terrorists. The leaves grew so fast and so big that they took over the place. In addition, we had to wait a long time before we ever saw zucchini growing. When we finally harvested one it was all goofy shaped, not like the ones at the grocery store. It is still in our fridge.

The jury is out on the bell peppers. We got one pepper from each bush and they were tiny. That said, it is unclear whether the problem was the bell pepper plant or the insane zucchini that basically grew on top of them.

The hot peppers have done the best by far. We have a couple bushes: jalapenos, serranos, and red peppers. The jalapenos and serranos have given us more than we can possibly use–and we love us some peppers. I would definitely recommend those for an urban garden.

Bottom line: My urban garden recommendations are hot peppers, cherry tomatoes, and basil. Mid-sized planters work fine. Make sure to water them every day.

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Green juice with beet leaves

July 3rd, 2013

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I’m juicing and I love it! So a few weekends ago I watched that juicing documentary on Netflix. I know I am about two years behind everyone else on stuff like this (like when I discovered Pinkberry in 2012 and could not stop talking about it), but I don’t care. I am jumping on the juicing bandwagon! Since I have been eating “cleaner” and exercising  more, I have been concerned that I am not getting enough calories. I feel like I am eating a lot, though. Juicing is a good solution for me because I can get a ton of nutrients without feeling too heavy. Anyway, I have been using the Breville I got for Suj’s last birthday. It is really intense, and I end up finding little bits of fly-away fruit in my hair sometimes, but it does the trick. It is sort of a huge pain to clean every time, but I can deal with it. I am, however, wondering what in the world I can do with all of the fruit and veggie remains. Composting maybe? I also remember hearing a long time ago that you can use the stuff in breads or cakes. I am going to have to do some research. In the meantime, cheers!

My new favorite app: Songza

June 17th, 2013

I totally love this app.  Just the other day I was saying that I wish I had an app that would just play music mixes without me having to think of a theme or artist.  Welp … wish granted.  This app is so cool.  It takes into consideration the day and the hour and offers a list of activities you might be doing.  Then it will suggest playlists based on those activities.   Say it is a Wednesday morning at 7 am.  Well, the app will assume that you are waking up, or working out, or driving to the office, and will provide awesome mixes for each of those things.  Say it is Friday at 9 pm.  The app will figure that you are getting ready for a party, or grilling outdoors, or curling up with a book, and it will offer totally new playlists for those things.  Perfect!  I have no idea how the algorithm or licensing works, but I hope it is all solid because this is totally my new favorite app.  Oh, did I mention it is FREE?!  Yeah.

South Haven, MI

June 13th, 2013

A few weeks ago the D.C. gang took a trip to South Haven, Michigan to visit Erin’s family and enjoy the lake Michigan beach.  The weekend was full of amazing food, kitsch shopping, and awesome family time.  South Haven is an adorable, sleepy beach town, and Erin’s parents live right next to the water.  The night life was a hilarious change of pace from D.C.!  Alex came close to a career change after being inspired by the drummer in a live cover band, and I could not get over how cheap our bar tab was.  After a lot of dancing and a lot of eating and a lot of snuggling in a king-sized bed with Erin, I was ready to stay forever.  But I guess I am going to have to settle for another visit in the future.  Going home is the best, even if it is not always your own home.

{popcorn is 50 cents here!}

{the old fishin’ boat}

{hunting for ingredient}

{a walk after the farmer’s market}

{so old school}

{wine tasting}

{wet dog}

{Alex+Adria+Erin}

 

Spicy Sweet Potato Soup

June 11th, 2013

Last week I made some grilled sweet potato fries, but I grossly overestimated how many I needed.  So, I had a few cooked sweet potatoes in the fridge that were just itching to be turned into something fantastic.  Sweet potato soup is sort of a hearty dish for summer, but it has been rainy and gloomy in D.C. so I was in the mood for something warm.  This is the sort of dish that you can modify  a million different ways, but the recipe below provides a pretty basic starting point.  And I usually have most of the ingredients on hand, which is a bonus.  The recipe calls for unsweetened soy milk, but all I had in the fridge was vanilla flavored soy milk and it turned out just fine.  I suppose you could also use “cow” milk if you are not on a vegan challenge.  So versatile.

Spicy Sweet Potato Soup
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Cuisine: Soup
Serves: 1
Ingredients
  • 1 sweet potato, diced
  • ½ c. vegetable broth
  • ½ c. soy milk
  • 1 tsp. chipotle seasoning or cayenne pepper
  • salt to taste
  • diced avocado and cracked pepper for garnish
Instructions
  1. In a blender or food processor, combine diced (cooked) sweet potato, broth, and soy milk and blend until smooth. Add chipotle (other other preferred spice) and salt to taste. If needed, transfer the puree and warm in a sauce pan over low heat. Top with avocado and cracked pepper (or basically anything you want).

 

Plant Based Diet Challenge

June 3rd, 2013

I have to admit, I have been feeling a little … well, unhealthy lately.  I’ve never been very diligent about diet or exercise, but I have a pretty active lifestyle and generally eat okay, so I have gotten away with a lot of bad habits (ahem, cheese-related habits).  Last weekend, however, I had a little beach time on Lake Michigan and realized I am not in my best beach body shape.  I decided to get proactive and dive into a plant based diet.  My parents have been eating this way for a few months and they love it.  The guidelines I’ve adopted are basically consistent with a vegetarian or mostly vegan diet, but with a little wiggle room.  I am eating meals with fresh, non-processed foods.  This should explain why my recipe posts will be a little “cleaner” for a while.

I’ve been hitting the gym more often as well, and with a little luck maybe I will actually start to enjoy running.  We’ll see.

{Cannellini Bean Salad}

{A little cheese-cheat}