“The heart has reasons that reason cannot know."

I had planned for this post to be another one I’d been working on, but I wanted to get this off my chest and I think Blaise Pacal’s words put it quite nicely. The other day Gillian, Kailey, a few others ladies, and I were discussing the topic of justification. Specifically, the justification of food. It’s funny because this is mostly a food blog, but I don’t label myself as anything more detailed than that. I know that I get tagged a healthy living blog, which there’s nothing wrong with, but I personally don’t see myself as that. I’m just a young woman who likes to share some things that perhaps others can enjoy. I also love to cook things out of scratch, so that means I simply use food that comes from this good earth.

Frankly, I don’t like how the word “healthy” gets used sometimes. Moreover, I don’t like dubbing things as “junk”. If someone wants to “healthify” recipes go ahead, but for some reason it bothers me when people say that. It keeps that mentality of x vs. y going–because this bread is made with apple sauce instead of oil, and a cookie made with butter can get a bad rap. Take out the oil, and that may make a person feel less anxiety. There’s nothing wrong with apple sauce for moisture or for taste, but if it’s done to avoid feelings of guilt I think one should think twice then. Let’s do ourselves a favor and catch ourselves when we start comparing. Instead, let each thing simply be what it is. In the end, what do these ideas really amount to? A cookie may be pivotal because of how delicious it tastes, but as far as the end all be all of someone’s diet… it doesn’t even come close. Granted, perhaps if no one sought out an alternative option for people who can’t digest things or choose a certain lifestyle some of my favorite things probably wouldn’t exist; like almond milk, coconut milk ice cream, some gluten-free granolas, and agave. Now, I know I am speaking in very general terms here but it’s for the sake of not writing a novel. I realize there are some who have diabetes or other dietary circumstances, but I think you know what I mean. I’m discussing the mentality.

I think what has a lot to do with the issue of making food more than what it really is, is the power of words. Sure actions can speak louder than them, but words also have the power to reinforce ideas. I mean that’s why I’m taking the time to write this. Don’t we all start to believe what we tell ourselves? These ideas of right and wrong, what makes us happy, or how things “should be”. How often do you hear people saying something is better because it has less calories, less fat, or less carbs? Sometimes we get bombarded with so much information that we forget to just live. Fortunately, we have the power and choice to step aside from the noise and not let it take over. I like to call this taking responsibility for ourselves.

On my blog when I was focusing on foods that were more beneficial for my liver, I was a little weary of writing about it. The information I was finding during my research was all very interesting, but I was afraid that some would focus on that too much. I know that I didn’t take it too seriously, but I didn’t want it to become what my blog was about. Acknowledging the wonderful benefits that some foods have is such a gift, but it is not my focus. I eat what I think tastes wonderful! I eat things that I would want to share with others if they were sitting right next to me, or pass along a recipe that could bring a person back to another place or time. That’s what I love about food. I don’t feel the need to justify what I’m eating because of its nutritional value or lack thereof. I eat what I like. I like ketchup with mayonnaise, and I like cured manchego. In fact, there’s nothing in this world that can replace the complex flavors of cheese. I like white chocolate, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate. I also like coconut oil mixed in almost everything, and sweet potatoes are just so good. I think olives are gross, nor have I ever really liked fish. I like sandwich bread, artisan bread, and sprouted bread. I think high fructose corn syrup is pointless as an ingredient, but has become an ethical issue and really just exists to give some people a paycheck and save some money. But hey, that’s just me. You are you, and that’s also cool!

Do you ever unnecessarily find yourself justifying why you do the things you do?

On that note, let us enjoy some tasty food, shall we?

Chocolate was on my grocery list last week.

Any Chocolove bar I’ve tried has been a special treat. Not to mention, they come with a love poem inside. So you can love the chocolate your eating, and feel loved too!

Remember this place? Ah yes, it’s only natural that I went to the chocolate shop.

(Oh how I wish the weather would be warm enough to go out with bare legs!)

I’m actually containing my reaction to how surprisingly tasty this bar was.

I love crystallized ginger, but I wasn’t sure how this would taste. Adventures always involve some sort of risk though! The ginger wasn’t overpowering the dark chocolate, and they complemented each other wonderfully–you get bits of sweet and spicy ginger while the dark chocolate melts in your mouth.

I wanted to do something a little different for breakfast.

One baby step in making my 15 lb. bag of basmati rice a little lighter–“Project Clean Out” is still in progress!

Hot Rice Cereal with Sweet Fruits and Toasted Coconut

2 cups water
1 cup long- or short-grain brown rice
2 cups almond or coconut milk
1/3 cup maple sugar
splash orange juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup dried mango or dried apricots
3 medjool dates, pitted and chopped
2 tbl flaked coconut, unsweetened and lightly toasted
1 tbl hemp seeds, toasted and lightly salted

1. Bring 2 cups water to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Add rice.

2. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until rice is tender and water is absorbed, about 50 minutes. (Rice can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

3. Mix milk into rice in heavy medium saucepan. Boil until mixture is thick, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium.

4. Add sugar and orange juice, cook until flavors blend, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes longer.

5. Remove saucepan from heat. Mix in vanilla extract.

6. Spoon cereal into bowls. Top with dried mango, medjool dates, hemp seeds and toasted coconut. Enjoy!

Hot Rice Cereal with Dried Mango and Toasted Coconut

I chopped up some medjool dates, stirred in some coconut oil, and also toasted some hemp seeds with sea salt. I love the nutty and roasted flavor that hemp seeds get when you toast them. It kind of reminds me of popcorn actually. Anyway, I had an inkling that it would be a tasty addition to this sweet recipe, and indeed it was.

Speaking of popcorn… I was greeted by this man at the door.

On the way back from my last trip to Florida I tried these new-to-me chips called “Popcorners“. They were one of the options for snacks on my JetBlue flight, and I was curious about them. I ended up liking them so much that I asked if I could have another bag! Sadly, I had never seen these chips in stores, but I wanted to try more. The people over at Popcorners kindly sent me this funny box filled with all of their flavors! The texture of popped food is so satisfying to me.

I think it’s the crunch!

He decided to surprise my roommate.

A couple times actually.

Have you tried these before? Or even heard of them?

After trying all of the flavors, I’ve come up with a list that goes from my favorite to least favorite (but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it!): Kettle, White Cheddar, Butter, Cheesy Jalapeno, and Sea Salt. Now I just want to munch on them! You can find out more about them on their Facebook or Twitter sites as well. Also, their website has creative ways to use their chips in all sorts of recipes!

The other weekend I picked up a bag of Bare Fruit dried d’anjou pears at the store.

I was curious as to what they’d be like. They’re great for snacking on, but I wanted to try them with something else.

Topped with sliced almonds and leftover streusel.

Making oatmeal a bit more deliciously complicated.

I had some rice noodles just sitting in my pantry.

While searching on the CHOW website I came across this recipe which used rice noodles. I think next up I want to make Pad Thai.

Tofu and Broccolini Pad See Ew

I omitted the eggs since I’m not a fan of them. Anyway, I have enough for leftovers to have throughout the week!

In other news, I recently went to a casting call for a commercial for Richmond Fashion Week with one of my favorite persons, David!

[gigya width=”440″ height=”420″ src=”http://v7.tinypic.com/player.swf?file=2kofo1&s=7″ quality=”high” flashvars=”gig_lt=1296412375972&gig_pt=1296413371035&gig_g=1&gig_n=wordpress” wmode=”tranparent” ]

I ended up not being chosen to be a part of the commercial, but that’s alright. Just giving things a shot is enough for me sometimes.

Anyway, I’d like to know your thoughts about the beginning of this post.

Wishes Have Been Granted

I’m glad you all enjoyed the fun bachelorette party pictures and the Bakery on Main review! I loved reading about your memories of these crazy little shindigs that are in honor of a bride-to-be. Before I forget, I realized that in my last post I forgot to share the recipe for the red lentil burgers! So here it is: Nora’s red lentil burgers. Oops!

I’m actually going to make another batch this week!

Ever since I’ve been back in Richmond I have been trying to use up the things in my pantry. I try to do this most of the time, but now I’m making more of a conscious effort. Why? Well, I’m graduating at the end of the semester, and one of my plans is to head back to Europe. That means I don’t want to lug so many things overseas with me. Although it seems that there are many goodies over in America that they don’t have in Europe. I know that I can make do without fancy store bought nut butters and treats. Actually, I am pretty sure I can make a lot of them on my own anyway, and I already do! That’s one of the great things about making things… whether it’s cooking, building, or what have you; most of the time you can figure another way around an “obstacle”.

So onward with Project Clean Out as Holly says! Actually, that’s not set in stone…

Well, this was sent to me… so that doesn’t really count.

I typically am not a big fan of Luna bars since they taste a bit on the metallic side to me. Sure, iron is great, but I don’t want to actually taste it. However, I got a chance to try out their newest flavor through a newsletter. The new flavor? Chocolate Dipped Coconut! Did somebody say coconut? I was willing to give it a chance. It surprised me in a delicious way! Most importantly, it didn’t taste like metal. I’m pretty sure that this flavor is in stores now so if you are curious to try it, then by all means go for it! On a little side note: I thought it was interesting that they used almond butter.

Who was excited about this incredible chocolate find?!
I was!
Yes, this exists.

Ever since I saw this bar on Megan’s blog I have been on the look out! It just sounded so good, and you know what? It is! As I was checking out of Whole Foods I saw that they had mini Vosges bars at the front, and I asked the cashier if she knew if they had the gingerbread toffee kind. She wasn’t sure, but she said that all of the cashiers have these bars at the front. My step-dad went to search for it, and he came back with it in hand! Success! Now I’m hoping that the local candy shop, For the Love of Chocolate, has a full-sized version.

Here’s Vosges‘ description: The scent of classic gingerbread spices will have you dreaming of snow dusted pine trees in no time. We begin with the same melt-in-your-mouth, burnt sugar and butter toffee and add a touch of ginger, Ceylon cinnamon, Grenadian nutmeg and Jamaican allspice to put you in a holiday frame of mind. A generous coating of dark chocolate completes the affair on your palate.

Wow, did they just describe some kind of sultry vision from a James Bond movie? No, that’s just love for chocolate.

Another sweet find, but this one came from the Indian store.

 

I asked someone at the store if they had a recommendation, and they said I should try these!

He told me that when he was little he would lick the filling and put the biscuits back in the box.

 

It seems as though everyone in the world does this with creme filled cookies.

So that's what I did, except I ate the biscuits too.

 

They kind of remind me of the Hit cookies, which are one of my nostalgic childhood treats.

Have you all tried them?
Oh yes, and “Project Clean Out” has been underway.

You know… using up my pantry’s goods!

M’mm what was baking?

As soon as I saw Averie’s Cheezy Vegetable Bake I knew I had to make it. Now that I’m busier, any tasty recipe with leftovers is a blessing for me!

What I love about Averie’s recipe, aside from how good it tastes, is that it can be varied.

For the veggies I used sweet potatoes, yellow squash, broccoli, and mushrooms. I used cream of mushroom soup, and from my pantry came the extra addition of gluten-free brown rice macaronis! Oh and my roommate let me use her Bragg’s sprinkle seasoning. It’s really flavorful! Next time I’d like to make the bake with a chunky tomato bisque, and whatever vegetables I think would go well with it.

Where does this bite belong?
Ah yes, into my mouth it goes!

Like I said, leftovers are a blessing!

Last but not least, I got a very thoughtful surprise in the mail!

My dear mind-reading friend (oftentimes when I read her posts I swear she does!), Lauren, saw that I had posted about Justin’s unfortunate discontinuation of the cinnamon peanut butter. She was lucky enough to have one of these rare buggers, and kindly sent it to me along with a beautiful card. Thank you so much, dear! Ever since I’ve known Lauren I’ve felt an instant connection. When I read what she wrote to me in the card I was overjoyed with the thought of meeting her one day, and experiencing all of her kindness in person!

What was something thoughtful someone’s done for you lately? Or perhaps you’ve brightened someone’s day!

The Bakery Down the Street

Hello beautiful people! I hope everyone has been enjoying their weekend, spending it however you please. My first week of my last semester went well! I don’t have time to be home for my meals so I’ve been making things that are easy and tasty for on-the-go. It makes not being able to eat in the comfort of my own place not seem like such a poopie idea. Atleast it tastes like I’m eating at home!

Red lentils: one of my favorite legumes.

When my mom first made her special red lentil soup a few years ago, I was in love with this new discovery! There was awhile where the only thing I’d make was my mom’s red lentil soup, and to this day the recipe remains a secret. Sorry folks, but I’m really good at keeping secrets. Actually, that just means you can trust me! So I’m not really sorry hehe. Anyway, I enjoyed these red lentil burgers with Vegenaise, with tamarind date chutney, and whatever other condiments I thought would taste yummy.

Beautiful wraps made out of collard greens are a great way to get your veggies in, and keep it mess free!
My class was let out early so I was able to enjoy this at home.

I bookmarked this recipe for flax-encrusted sweet potato balls awhile ago from Caitlin’s blog. Mine came out rather mushy, but I ended up baking them twice, and that seemed to do the trick. I tried them with mustard and sour cream, as the recipe suggested. These were very easy to make, and I made a batch to last me a week (probably)! If you’re looking for a recipe that isn’t intimidating and tastes good then may I suggest this one?

Frozen pizzas come in handy during the semester as well.

I’m usually wary of frozen pizzas, since a lot of the times they just taste bad. However, I saw this frozen pizza at the Indian store for $1.99. So if it ended up tasting icky $1.99 was all I had to lose, well it was a risk I was willing to take.

This is Deep Indian Gourmet's spinach and paneer naan pizza, in case you were curious.

The crust and sauce were tasty, but it could've definitely used more paneer cheese.

It’s a unique taste on pizza though, and worth trying for the heck of it.

Before the semester started I went to a bachelorette party for the first time, and it was unforgettable!

The Maid of Honor aka the bartender!

Deceivingly calm...

After dirty presents were opened we went down to the bar, took our blow job shots, and started the night!

This occassion called for a special straw!

Here, you try.

Brightly colored drinks were popular that night, and this one tasted like a Thin Mint!

We made our mark at a few places, and eventually found ourselves back at the hotel's bar.

We graced them with dancing on bar tops--note the bartender joined us and let us plug our music in!

We stayed till the bar closed, and then some of us jumped into the pool with our "bathing suits" aka undies.

They are pretty much the same thing, after all. Ah yes, just thinking about that night makes me laugh. I always have so much fun when I’m with this group of ladies. We’ve been wreaking havoc ever since high school. Masters of pranks, being outrageous, and just having a good time–that’s us in a nutshell.

On a different note, I was given the pleasure of reviewing some products that have intrigued me for quite some time. I’ve always noticed Bakery on Main’s granola because it just looks so delicious, and it’s got a different texture than most. Then I found out that they have more than just granola! Most importantly, their motto is: food that’s good for you should taste good too. Amen to that–I’m looking at you shots of wheat grass (blech)! Honestly, I don’t care how “healthy” something may be, but if something tastes bad then forget it. Taste is the number one thing I consider–always. Anyway, shall I show you all the goodies?

They make gluten-free granola!

First off, I love the texture of these granolas! Instead of using oats, they toast sweetened corn flakes and rice crisps. The crunch factor doesn’t stop there because there are so many delicious seeds to bite into!

Nutty Cranberry Maple Granola: Pecans, almonds, sweetened cranberries, raisins with maple sound like a great combination, right? Well it is! Sweet, but not overly so. That’s how I like it! What’s the point of having flavors anyway, if it’s just overpowered by the sugars?

Extreme Fruit & Nut Granola: Bakery on Main means what it says! I’m going to list off what’s in this granola because I just think it’s amazing that they have such a variety in one granola. Sunflower seeds, flax seeds, raisins, sesame seeds, coconut, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, cranberries, pecans, apricots, and brazil nuts. Granola makers take note, and chew on that.

Apple Raisin Walnut Granola: This was the most comforting flavor out of the bunch, and I loved it just as much. There was something so satisfying about biting into the walnut halves. Once again, the texture and flavor were so great!

If you have gluten sensitivities and thought you had to say bye bye to granola, well you should try these out! Even if you don’t have to worry about gluten, you should still give these a go. You won’t miss the traditional granolas made with oats because these are on another level. Sweetness, crunch, and flavor are all here. They’re available in snack pack sizes, or bigger sizes if you’d like.

And they also make a high fiber granola if you feel like you may be lacking in that department.

Now these are made with oats but they are gluten-free. The founder, Michael Smulders, heard the complaints of many of his customers suffering from Celiac disease that the gluten-free options out there were less than stellar alternatives. This is great for people who are on a gluten-free diet because medical research shows that people on gluten-free diets tend to have less than the recommended amount of fiber. These granolas pack in 36% of the recommended daily value!

However, I didn’t like these granolas as much as the other kind. I think it was mostly the texture though, but I also think that these tasted very grainy. Perhaps some improvements could be made with that, and also making it crunchier some how. I really love the flavor choices though, and I don’t see berry granolas frequently.

Such a refreshing breakfast.
More please!

I usually eat granola with yogurt, but I wanted to have it with almond milk and it tasted so yummy that way too! While looking at Bakery on Main’s site I spotted a discussion board where people share their favorite ways to eat granola. Check it out here! Maybe you’ll find a new way you enjoy granola.

Now let’s move on to the bars, shall we?

I love when bars have big chunks of nuts.

It just reminds me that not all bars look the same, and for some reason that sticks out to me.

Out of their gluten free granola snack bars I tried the Cranberry Maple Nut, Extreme Trail Mix, and Peanut Butter Chocolate. Once again, I’m loving the corn flakes, and the crispy grains. These were crunchy but chewy at the same time. I didn’t really enjoy the Peanut Butter Chocolate snack bar though. It sounded like it would be really tasty, but there was something off about it. I’m picky about peanut butter, so maybe the flavor of theirs just didn’t do it for me. The other two flavors though were treats to eat!

They also make soft and chewy bars!

This was the Peanut Butter & Jelly flavor. I liked the taste, but I think it could use more jelly! I even spied some chia seeds! Next up I tried the Apple Cinnamon flavor. Wow! That was my reaction when I had the first bite. This bar was so good that I thought I was eating some sort of… pie? I’m not sure, but it seemed way more than a snack bar! The cinnamon was spot on, and the apple was too. Who doesn’t love that combination? Lastly, I tried the Chocolate Almond bar. There was something off with this bar too, but I had a hard time putting my finger on it. Maybe there weren’t enough almonds? I thought there was something with the chocolate chips too though. It was hard to pinpoint it.

It just looks so wholesome doesn’t it?
Clusters of chocolate chips? I like!

Anyway, if you see any Bakery on Main products in the store, I suggest you give them a try. As for their gluten-free granola, I can’t imagine anyone not liking it! Here’s some more information on their products as well. All of their ingredients are GMO free, natural, have unsulfured dried fruits, and are dairy and casein free. Moreover, if you sign up for their “Eat Better Live Better Club” you will automatically receive a coupon for $1.50. To think it all started in the small bakery of a natural foods market on Main Street in Glastonbury, Connecticut.

I hope you all enjoyed the review! I know that I enjoyed being the sampler, and sharing about this company and their products with all of you.

Complicated Creatures From the Depths of Atlantis

First things first! A few lovely ladies bestowed me with the Stylish Blogger Award. From one stylish lady to another, thank you so much LB, Fi, and Kate for passing this honor on to me.

In order to accept this award, I must perform these four duties:

1. Make a post and link back to the person who awarded this to me.
2. Share 7 things about myself.
3. Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers.
4. Contact these bloggers to tell them they’ve won!

1. Lately I have been running while listening to the Amélie soundtrack (my favorite movie of all time). It makes for a very pleasant run actually.

2. I’ll be graduating with my BFA this spring!

3. There was a brief period in my life where I didn’t talk much because I was afraid of socializing. The thought of me interacting with other people made me really anxious, so I’d just avoid it all together.

4. I talk to strangers… unless they give off a creepy vibe. I’ve met some of the most interesting people that way, and it’s just nice to know I’ve got friends wherever I go.

5. When I was 15 my parents drove me to New York so I could take pictures at Warped Tour for ELLEgirl magazine.

6. I use to dream that I was Nala from “The Lion King”, meaning that Simba was my boyfriend. I also use to have a crush on Macaulay Culkin, and I’d imagine that he was in my ballet class.

7. We moved up to Virginia when I was in 9th grade for two reasons: my step-dad’s job, and our house in Florida was haunted. We ended up moving back to that same house a year later, then back up to Virginia for my senior year. As soon as I graduated and went back to Germany, my parents moved back down to Florida. No wonder people ask me where I am!

There are really so many great people that I’d like to pass this award on to, so here are some off the top of my head! I look up to these people for their cool attitude, impeccable food tastes, wonderful charm, and of course because they’ve got it goin’ on!

LizNeela, Jess, Gill, Angharad, Katie, Maggie, Mel, Lauren, Kelsey, Megan, Lynn, Maya, Laury, and Megan D!

The other day I made up a delicious recipe definitely worth sharing!

Vegan Yellow Split Pea Soup

1 Tbl ghee or extra virgin olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp fine-grain sea salt

2 med. carrots, chopped

1 tsp dried thyme

2 cups dried split yellow peas, picked over and rinsed

1 tsp vegetable bouillon

5-7 cups water

2 bay leaves

juice of 1/2 lemon

smoked paprika

1. Add the ghee or oil to a big pot over med-high heat. Stir in onions, garlic, and salt. Cook until the onions soften, about a minute or two. Then throw in the carrots and sauté for a few minutes. The salt keeps things from sticking to the pot.

2. Add the split peas, bay leaves, thyme, bouillon, and water. Bring to a boil, and bring down the heat. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until the peas are cooked through. The soup should have a thick texture; half pureed and half chunky.

3. Stir in the lemon juice and taste.

4. Serve the soup in bowls. Drizzle the soup with oil (I used coconut) and top with a good pinch of smoked paprika. You can also garnish with fresh herbs, cheese,  what have you.

This is what I call “jiva” soup aka soul soup
I also made another tasty vegan, gluten-free dish…
Vegan Mac and Cheese at its finest!

The mastermind behind this dish? My dear friend, Erica, of course! She takes beautiful pictures of food that I can imagine tastes just as wonderful.

Butternut Squash “Mac and Cheese”

Serves one hungry lady!

8-9 oz raw butternut squash, peeled, cubed, and steamed until very soft

2 T (or more to taste) of nutritional yeast

1 T tomato paste

1 tsp dijon mustard

lots of spices to taste (cumin, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, italian herb seasoning, cayenne, chili powder)

1/3 cup unsweetened milk (almond or so delicious coconut)

1 T soy-free earth balance (or olive oil might work, too)

fresh parsley, rosemary, sage to taste

sea salt and pepper to taste

2.5 oz gluten free pasta of choice (quinoa pasta or brown rice)

6 oz raw broccoli, steamed

1. Steam the peeled butternut squash until extremely tender. Once finished, toss in a bowl and mash with a fork. Add the nutritional yeast, tomato paste, dijon, and spices to the mashed squash. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, cook your pasta of choice according to package directions. Once cooked, run under cold water and set aside. Also, steam your broccoli and set aside once cooked.

3. While your pasta is cooking, place the squash mixture in a small saucepan on medium-low heat, and stir frequently. Add the milk and incorporate it with the squash. Taste the sauce, add some more spices, including the sea salt and pepper, to taste. Now, add the earth balance and stir it in until incorporated.

4. In a vitamix, carefully process the sauce so it’s nice and silky smooth. Add it back to the saucepan, and toss in the pasta and broccoli. Stir it all up, and then add your fresh herbs into the mix.

5. Warm it up gently until heated, plate it up, and enjoy!

I suggest you walk to your kitchen to see if you have all of the ingredients to make this because you’ve got to try it.

Now remember that shopping list with the clues?
Open it up and see what is revealed!

Since I’ve been buying split mung beans I’ve only made one recipe with them… over and over and over again. I love my split mung bean soup, but I wanted to try something different! That’s when these Spicy Thai Mung Bean Burgers called my name. Oddly enough, I’ve been wanting fresher things to eat. Perhaps spring is just around the corner? I wish.

Can you spy the quinoa?

I love how wonderful and compact these are. No messy loose grains! Instead the quinoa is mixed in with the burgers. This tasted so fresh, and the texture was great as well; crispy on the outside and dense on the inside. Silly me forgot the onions and cilantro, so I just topped the burgers with the “missing” ingredients. I also topped the burgers with avocado slices, a curried coconut cream sauce or tamarind date sauce (this was my favorite of the two sauces).

It’s beautiful to look at too.
A mix of fresh and cooked!

I stumbled upon this warm spinach salad with smoky pecans and sweet potato on CHOW. This had just enough heat and smokiness over a bed of fresh spinach. Next time I make this I want to add dried cranberries and goat cheese. That’ll take all of the flavors to new heights, I’m sure!

I love when things are smoked!

Now here's a bit of breakfast pleasure with a walnut on top!

Melted deliciousness.

And I stacked them this time.

I'm pretty sure I've got your attention now... I can see you drooling!

One fine morning I woke up and I knew I wanted something very special for breakfast that day. I looked through my recipes and spotted one I had bookmarked not too long ago. Behold, carrot cake pancakes with cinnamon honey butter! Yes, you read that correctly. Check out Picky Cook’s blog for more mouth-watering recipes.

I recently had a mini reunion with a dear friend of mine over tea.

Remember I told you about my dear friend that is also going to be in Richmond’s Fashion Week? Well this is him!

We were going to go to Cafe Gutenberg, but I guess they’re closed on Mondays.

So we headed to LuLu’s right down the street!

I’m glad he’s close by again, but he’s one of those friends that you will always have no matter how far you may be!

I always have the best conversations with him! He’s very insightful, and so full of passion for life. We talked about so many things. One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot is how people are complex by nature. Things can complicated, that’s for sure. But one thing that I really want to strive for is to not be a… conscious hypocrite. I want to mean what I say. When I say that I’m going to do something, I will do it. I will live life with grace and sincerity. After a couple of hours of being around him, I felt recharged. Do any of you have people like that in your lives? They’re really something special!

It’s Friday over here, so I hope everyone enjoys their weekends!!! Much love to you all.

Oh Dear Sweet Tooth, Don't Steer Me Wrong

I’ve been meaning to post a review, but I didn’t want to write it up in a post that had too much going on. But first I have some exciting news to share! This past Sunday I went to a casting call for Richmond’s Fashion Week with a dear friend of mine. Well guess what? We both made it!

Glad we did it!

I’ve got to work on my walk though so I’m going to put my heels, my legs, and books (for balance) to use. Anyway, back to the review… here goes!

Awhile ago, a wonderful little company kindly sent some samples over for me to try!
Feed my body royally. Why yes, yes I will!

Hail Merry is a company that makes raw organic snacks. Raw food chef, Susan O’Brien came up with these recipes because she wants “… to bring awareness to the powerful benefits of healthy oils, which we must obtain from our diets.” She finds that the less heat the food goes through, the more nutrients are preserved. Interesting thought, don’t you think? Although I do know that in some foods certain enzymes are actually only available if the food is cooked, i.e. the lycopene in tomatoes.

First up was the Grawnola.

I love when there are clusters in granola.

And this one definitely had them!

Now the taste? First off, I take texture into great consideration, and the Grawnola had one that was very much to my liking. If you like to have crunch and chew, then this may be for you. The cinnamon flavor was spot on, and the natural flavors were able to shine through with just enough sweetness from the maple syrup and fruits. The packaging makes it great for an on-the-go snack as well, and since it’s so clustered you won’t make a mess. Not to mention, this is gluten-free so all of you out there with this sensitivity can still enjoy some delicious granola!

A blonde and a chocolate… MACAROON!

I just love saying that word. Anyway, I knew I’d be in for a treat because I just had an inkling that these would be fantastic. Any raw vegan macaroons I’ve tried in the past have been nothing short of insanely delicious. These did not disappoint! In fact, they kicked it up another level. I was surprised at how fresh and moist these were. I couldn’t decide which one I liked better. The chocolate macaroons were rich and had a great balance of coconut and dark chocolate. The blonde macaroons simply melted in my mouth.  These could cure any sweet tooth that’s for sure… until you find yourself wanting more!

You can check out more about Hail Merry over here, and make sure to check out their snacks!

Speaking of sweet tooths…
I baked some coffee cake muffins… that completely overflowed.

Too bad I didn’t have a muffin tin so I could have jumbo muffins like Kelsey’s. The coffee cake muffin recipe actually says that it makes 12 jumbo muffins, alas I didn’t have a jumbo muffin tin.

They still managed to look lovely though.
And rather delicious if I do say so myself.

They were moist and fluffy on the inside and crumbly on the outside. Sadly, things with granulated sugars have been giving me headaches and making me nauseous so I’ve been trying to keep these kinds of sweets to a minimum. I still recommend trying this recipe though! It’s such a perfect thing to start off your day.

You don’t say?
I rang in the new year with one of my best friends!
And some other special people!
People who like to take silly pictures.
New year, new oatmeal in town!

These oats are thicker, and actually cheaper than the usual Quaker’s old-fashioned oats I buy. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve been let down by any Bob’s Red Mill products, and they’re very fairly priced as well.

I was eager to recreate a recipe for a tasty granola I had seen at the store.

I made a nice big batch of Banana-Coconut granola–two of my favorite things in one bite!

Glorious cluster!
This is probably the best batch of granola I’ve made, definitely not burnt to a crisp!
My spilt milk bowl making another appearance, and one of my favorite ways to eat granola…

Here with Greek yogurt + chia seeds, a sliced banana, and Artisana’s Cacao Bliss.

I finally decided to use something I’ve had in the pantry for quite some time.

Over the summer I bought some of Justin’s Nut Butter squeeze packets since they’d be perfect for on-the-go. Well, I finally used them and I wasn’t on-the-go. Nope, I was very much sitting on a chair, enjoying my bagel spread with Justin’s cinnamon peanut butter, banana slices, and some banana-coconut granola to boot! And I just found out that they don’t sell this kind anymore! Darnit, because I really liked it. Oh well, I guess it wasn’t popular with most folks though.

Well these won’t be discontinued, that’s for sure!

Awhile ago I had bookmarked Averie’s Raw Vegan Pumpkin Spice Donut Holes recipe. So I finally made a batch, and rolled them in shredded coconut as she suggested. These were a tasty change to the usual raw vegan treats that have dates (although I’m not complaining)! But like Averie said “I need variety in my dessert life, I tell ya!”

My first time making waffles and I was excited!

My winter intersession course was finally over, and I finally had time to make a special breakfast. So what kind of waffles did I decide to make?

Well, I attempted to make vegan spiced pumpkin waffles.

I’m not sure what happened, but atleast it was salvageable!

Enough to turn my frown upside down.
No, definitely not a failed attempt.

I topped these waffles with vanilla Greek yogurt, Canadian maple syrup (aka the dark infinite abyss), almonds, and a pear, apple, and cranberry compote. Lastly, I dusted it with nutmeg confectioner’s sugar.

Ah yes, taking time for breakfast.
While I’m at it, I’ll share my burnt banana pancakes too!

I used Katie’s banana pancakes for one recipe. Although they came out rather burned, I still enjoyed them!

Next time I think I’ll stack them for their photo-op.
Keep the special breakfasts coming!
Here’s the compote again: made with apple juice, lemon peel and juice, whole and ground spices (cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and nutmeg) , honeycrisp apples, Asian pears, and dried cranberries.
What are these little jewels?

When I started reading blogs again I knew that I’d be bookmarking recipes galore. Well, one of those recipes happened to be Jess’s Orange Date Cookies. Unfortunately, I don’t the date syrup she used for this recipe so I had to sub in honey. It’s amazing how all of the flavors stood out and complemented each other just the same. The texture  was also very much to my liking! Chewy with enough bite, and not crumbly. Nothing was overly so, just the right balance. Not to mention, these little treats did not give me a headache!

I especially love how you can see the dried fruits!
I recently got a nice little planner to help me complete my to-do lists, and better organize my schedule.
Here are some clues as to what I made in the next post!

Having a physical planner in my hand is a lot more effective than the one on my laptop. There’s something about my to-do list written in ink staring back at me that just motivates me to just get things done. So one by one I cross off the list. Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderful week ahead! Classes start today for me, and I am heading into an intense semester. It’ll be my final semester: 18 credits of hands-on studio! Wish me luck.

p.s. today is the last day to enter my giveaway!

Warm Days Ahead

There is so much to catch up on, but I think I know where I want to start for this post. Hmm… let’s see what part shall I rewind back to next? Aha!

In December I ended up going to Florida at the last minute!

My lovely mother really spoiled me this time. I think I barely cooked while I was there, which is unusual!

 

Have any of you tried cranberry beans?

It was my first time trying them, and I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the the shells were.

 

My mom's special recipe for the cranberry beans and eggplant, and I roasted some kabocha with brown sugar, spices, and coconut oil.

I’m going to share her recipe with you. First she sautés some chopped onions and garlic. Then add diced tomatoes and sauté for a bit. Add some bay leaves, the beans, sea salt, and pepper. Then cook it all in almond milk until the beans are thoroughly cooked. Lastly, garnish with cilantro!

We also spoiled ourselves with various chocolates!

I also finished up a jar of almond butter while I was down there.

And finishing up a jar translates to OIAJ.

I like to make the oatmeal in a pot and spoon it into the jar little by little while stirring so the nut butter is distributed evenly throughout–not just at the bottom.

And I finished another jar--this one being the cashew-macadamia nut butter I made for my mom last Christmas.

She obviously doesn’t use nut butters as much as I do! I don’t think it would take me a year to finish a jar.

Oh, look! And I found some of the royal crown jewels!

This cous cous dish was a team effort between me and my mom.

The cous cous was cooked in vegetable broth and ghee giving it so much more flavor. Seriously, ghee is a staple in my kitchen. When that was done cooking we threw in some chopped red onions, garlic, carrots, tomatoes, and other random veggies. Stir in some lemon juice, olive oil, spices (curry, cumin, and paprika), and salt to taste. Before you’re all done you can add some diced avocado and cilantro for that last touch of flavor. Cous cous is such a versatile grain to work with. You can make it sweet or savory. Cook it in juices, milks, or broths. Mix in whatever you’d like and voilà! A tasty dish.

While I was in Florida I was in the mood for colorful salads.

In Virginia I’m usually in the mood for soups. I know that’s usually weather related though. Anyhow, this salad was incredibly tasty! I tossed sweet potatoes, apples, brussels sprouts, broccoli, carrots, and onions in a mix of coconut oil, honey, and cinnamon. Then I roasted them till they were done, and tossed them over a bed of Tuscan kale, letting the kale wilt from the warmth of the other veggies and fruits. To seal the deal I topped it off with pomegranate arils, and the beans my mother had made bandeja paisa style (cooked with plantains) and vegetarian friendly!

I also made a few dishes with fava beans--roasting them was my favorite!

Egyptian style!

I made Ful Medames, a traditional breakfast in Egypt. Actually, fava beans are eaten at all times of the day over there, and it’s said that even the pharaohs enjoyed these beans.

I was also in the mood for spiced mashed sweet potatoes with coconut milk while I was down there.

Christmas entailed high raw vegan goodies!

My step-dad loves peanut butter and raw vegan treats, so this seemed like a great gift for him!

I took Ani Phyo’s oatmeal raisin cookie recipe to another level by adding peanut butter. The idea for adding the nut butter came from Laury’s adapted recipe for no-bake oatmeal cookies. Here’s the recipe for the cookies I made for my step-dad!

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Raisin Cookes (High Raw Vegan)

1 cup raw or old-fashioned oats

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup pitted Medjool dates

1/2 cup raisins

2 Tbl Creamy  peanut butter (creamy is better for binding)

1. Process the oats and cinnamon in a food processor into small pieces.

2. Add dates and process till it’s mixed well. Throw in the raisins and pulse.

3. Place in a bowl and mix the peanut butter in with the batter.

4. Now roll them into balls and enjoy!

Easy, right?

 

We were invited to dinner on Christmas Eve!

They had us over for Christmas dinner last year too.

The delicious feast made completely out of scratch!

The chef!

I brought over this dish: pan-fried chickpea, sweet yellow onion, and pomegranate salad.

Remember “The Flexitarian Cookbook” I mentioned in a previous post? Well, this was another delicious recipe from that cookbook! Everyone at the dinner loved it, and the lovely host even asked me to share the recipe. Now that says something, doesn’t it?

Natural beauty

I’ll be dedicating a full post to “The Flexitarian Cookbook” featuring more recipes, and a review!

On Christmas morning my mom was greeted by some flowers that are just as refreshing as she is.

My step-dad was greeted by something he could thoroughly enjoy (and hopefully share, please)!

And I was greeted with a special sweater!

It makes me think of a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly.

My step-dad had the same idea!

He made me raw vegan treats with figs, dates, walnuts, and gingerbread spices–very yummy!

Matilda guarded the tree.

My mom had picked this up at the health food store... interesting!

When I saw this it seemed familiar, and that’s because Katie once featured their pasta made out of black beans.

Makes one look forward to dinner.

I served the mung bean fettucine with a semi-homemade tomato sauce and parmesan.

This was actually yummy and had an interesting texture! I was very much pleasantly surprised.

And I ended my Florida "tour" with a bang!

We love you, World!

Don’t forget to participate in my giveaway, in case you haven’t already or you missed it! Click here to check it out. You have until Tuesday to participate, so my fingers are crossed for you!

A Friend is One of the Best Things You Can Be, cont'd.

I’m still feeling the warm welcome back and I love it! I had missed blogging and reading about all of you! Each of you has your own style of writing and I almost get the sense that some of you are right there in front of me–in person, obviously not on a screen haha. Anyway,  keeping with the spirit of the last post I’m going to flash back to wonderful times with friends, and what that entailed!

When my mom came to visit, it involved special breakfasts like these...

A bowl of oatmeal topped with beautiful berries, Futter’s hazelnut butter, thick and creamy coconut milk, and the jewel of it all–Coconut Bliss’s Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge. If you haven’t eaten ice cream for breakfast, then I highly recommend you do. In fact…

You should also try ice cream in your hot chocolate... with sprinkles to boot!

It’ll melt into your cup of hot chocolate, making it creamier and even more delicious!

When Maya had come to visit she left me with a jar of peanut butter, and I had OIAJ!

So thank you, Maya! Note: if the container is plastic the oats aren’t actually cooked in the jar. This may seem obvious but you never know who may think otherwise.

I went to my first wedding shower for a dear friend of mine.

Check out her bridal “throne”.

There was even a cake decorating contest, which was so much fun.

Behold, our beautiful creation!

Afterwards my mother and I met up with some good friends for wine, laughs, and...

Being up to no good!

The next morning I went on a walk with my beautiful mother in a quaint neighborhood along the James River.

Lucky for my mother, Virginia was experiencing unusually warm weather when she came to visit me back in November. She’s a big baby when it comes to cold weather, but it’s kind of adorable and funny to see her bundle up when it’s in the low 60’s

Holding my little naked nugget (she had gone to the groomers).

Once my mom left I felt a little empty because I’m so close to her. There have also been some very shaky things going on with my family, and during that time I remember they were really in a dark place. When my mom came to visit I just wanted her to know that there are people in this world that will love her no matter what. I wanted to show her what it felt like to have someone care for you, and not have constant strife. It was heartbreaking to send her off because I knew what she would be going back to, and all I could do was wish that she’d be okay.

But life went on...

and I had to let myself just enjoy the moment. Do you ever get like that? Where something seems so all encompassing that it’s hard to step outside of it? One thing I’ve really experienced through these tough times is that I can step outside of it. I just have to let myself. It sounds easy, but the build up to that moment where you let go… is hard. But once you do it, it’s so freeing.

Plus, I had nice little reminders of my mom, like her new found love for goat cheese; pictured here with some jam on a bagel.

Goat cheese works just as well as cream cheese… if not better! The other half of the bagel had butter, lots of brown sugar, and cinnamon!

I’ve said it before, but I like to surround my self with things that do something for my soul. Whether it’s the music I listen to, the way I walk, the food I eat, the people I call friends, the strangers I say hello to, the outfit (or costume) I decide to wear on any given day. Lighting a candle because it fits my mood, sitting in a chair with a book because I plan on falling asleep, or looking at something someone else seems to notice. Appreciating the things that sometimes have nothing to do with me. When I first heard this quote by Nancy Stark Smith something in me just clicked, “the earth is bigger than you, so you might as well coordinate with it.

In this case, the power lies in the homemade relish to make a sandwich extra special!

In Katharina fashion, I took this beautiful and delicious sandwich with me to class, and I thought to myself "I would."

The recipe is “The Veganomicon’s” Roasted Eggplant Muffuletta Sandwich with the addition of smoked gouda… making this not vegan. Seriously though, this sandwich was hitting every inch of my tongue’s palate making fireworks go off. Since the recipe calls to let the sandwich sit for awhile (overnight if you have time), it allows all of the flavors from the relish and roasted veggies to soak in. This is why leftover’s usually taste so great!

Before we knew it, Christmas was already on its way and we put up an Adventskalendar!

We split a yummy milk chocolate every day to countdown till the 24th!

I felt like a little kid again, knocking on my roommate’s door splitting the chocolate with her. Or when she’d peek in to give me the other half on a given day. It’s such a wonderful thing that this little lady is in my life. We had met in a yoga class a couple years back, and who would’ve thought we’d end up living together! She’s such a special person in this world, and someone I feel at harmony with. I’m so lucky to have her just a few steps away, and honored that she sees the same in me.

We all know that food can be comforting as well... corn and sweet potato soup.

I got out my book filled with hundreds of soup recipes to soothe some winter blues. Soups just seem to be the ultimate comfort food during the winter. It turned out looking a bit greenish-brown, but that’s just because of the vegetable bouillon. Anyway, the point is that it was yummy, especially because I love corn and sweet potatoes! The texture from pureeing half of it and mixing in the rest of the vegetable chunks was satisfying as well.

Warm sandwiches are what it's all about.

A chickpea cutlet, goat cheese, green pepper jelly, roasted red-peppers, and wilted greens sandwiched between two slices of toasted whole-grain bread. This sandwich was so good that I exclaimed to my friend in class that she should have a bite! That way someone else would understand why I was making “mmmm” sounds while eating.

I also went to a restaurant downtown that I never heard of before called LuLu's.

The restaurant played off of Richmond’s architecture and city skyline, which I thought was really neat. And who wouldn’t love a place called LuLu’s? If you’re in the area you should definitely check them out. They’ve got a wonderful menu with so many choices, it’s incredible. They’ve got dishes from Moroccan-spiced grilled quail, mezze platters, to arancini.

Notice the letters are actually buildings.

I wanted something comforting for that chilly night, so I ordered the tomato soup with a grilled pimento cheese sandwich.

This is what I call a sophisticated big kid’s meal, don’t you think? It was so tasty, and it was the first time I ever had this traditional combination! You bet I dipped the grilled cheese in the thick tomato soup. Biting into this sandwich filled with ooey-gooey thick cheese i crispy buttered bread was perfect! Actually, before I ordered the soup I wanted to make sure that it was made with a vegetable broth. The waiter thought I meant to ask the chef what vegetables they had used, and he came back with an answer which was more than what I had asked for, “he made the stock out of the vegetables we had in the house, but he can’t remember which ones”. I guess that means that they make everything out of scratch, which always impresses me.

Everyone was ready to eat and enjoy!

We also ordered some desserts to share: an almond tart with homemade whipped cream.

This heavenly slice of pumpkin roll had me saying, "oh my goodness" multiple times.

It was by far the best dessert I’d had since I could remember!

Baking means sharing in my book!

I made a batch of moist vegan pumpkin chocolate, chocolate chip muffins.

I also went out to eat with one of my closest friends and his incredible mother.

We went to one of my favorite places, Cafe Gutenberg, and I ended up ordering what I had gotten last time because I loved it so much…

The vegan caeser salad made with romaine, hearts of palm, grape tomatoes, grilled tofu, and a lemon-caper dressing.

I saw that they also had rolls made by a local bakery, so I asked if I could have that to go with my salad. The tofu they use is the best in the world, and comes from a local commune called Twin Oaks.

Remember those yummy mozzarella bites I featured awhile ago from Farm Rich?

Not only do these taste good, but they’re made with real cheese. Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you’re interested in more information about their products like ingredients and methods, you can check out their FAQ site here. Anyway, the people over at Farm Rich kindly gave me another opportunity to try them, and they also sent me a voucher to share with a lucky reader! I also wanted to include some other things, so I thought I’d throw in a voucher for Gardein, and also a mystery prize that I’ll make especially for the winner.

It's giveaway time!

Here’s how you can enter:

1. Go to their site and comment on this post telling me one of their products you’d like to try.

Additional entries (don’t forget to comment on this post telling me you did these things):

2. Follow them on Facebook.

3. Follow them on Twitter.

4. You can also link back to this post on your blog, and make sure to let me know!

Make sure to get your entries in by Tuesday, January 18. Best of luck everyone!

A Friend is One of the Best Things You Can Be

Pardon my belated wishes, but I hope everyone had wonderful holidays! Usually the holiday season means a time for more reflection, and being surrounded by people that I love. Take family for instance. Sometimes they get on your last nerve, but at the end of the day you love them so much that you could just burst! In my last post I talked about how meaningful friends are. Well I thought it would be nice to dedicate a post to just that!

Back in mid-November I had a very special friend stay with me for the weekend.

Many of you may recognize this special friend of mine as the lovely face behind The Collegiate Gourmande. Awhile ago she recounted her visit in this really sweet post right over here. Anyway, her and I have “known” each other for awhile now, and we got to meet up for the first time over the summer in Miami. Now she was staying at my place in Richmond for the weekend. It wasn’t just any weekend though! We were running the SunTrust half-marathon. When she arrived a stranger beat me to a proper greeting with a kiss on the cheek haha!

The first night here, we cooked up a storm!

Voila! A homemade naan pizza topped with spinach sauce, okra, and chickpeas with a side of yellow curry spiced lentil soup

The idea for the spicy spinach sauce came from Emily, and Maya already had it bookmarked! Actually, she had a list of things we could possibly whip up in the kitchen. I love this girl and her enthusiastic spirit! The naan bread was actually from a batch I made earlier that week.

Naan bread is so easy to make at home--next time I want to make it with a hint of cilantro and garlic--topped with ghee and you're ready to bite in!

To go with an appetizing bowl of Thai-style lentil and coconut soup

Coconut milk? Check.

Scallions? Check.

Now back to Maya’s visit!

We ended the meal with a special treat...

the ever-popular Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Balls! These were so so SO so good! We went to bed “early” since the race was bright and early in the morning. Since I was fighting a cold at the time I had been taking care of myself the week prior to the race–Mucinex works wonders! We ended up running to the race to make sure we got there in time… you know just warming-up.

Maya had a picture taken of us with her phone after the race!

Look what I found! Tissue in hand to blow my runny nose.

It was my first race and it was such an incredible feeling. There was this force inside me that made me feel like I was on top of the world. It really made me feel positive of my capabilities despite the struggles that were very present in my life at that time. Plus, it was awesome to celebrate with a dear friend! We made our way home with those silly shiny “capes” that resemble foil a bit. After the race we took it easy for a bit, and made our way to a charming part of town in Richmond called ‘Carytown’.

That night we made a dinner fit for champions!

We roasted some green beans, and had mashed sweet potatoes with coconut milk topped with cajun chickpea cakes from Eats Well With Others. And that salad you see on the side there is Maya’s wonderful creation! A spinach salad with dried cranberries, honey crisp apples, pomegranate seeds. She even made the dressing: almond butter balsamic dressing! Oh my goodness this meal had so many flavors, and it was all divine! Just what we needed after a race.

How we do!

Aha! I found you!

We spent the rest of the night laughing and talking into the morning. She had to leave early the next morning, but she left me so many beautiful reminders. I mentioned her post earlier, but I really have to say it again. It truly touched my heart. I guess that’s just her way! A true friend you can count on? A friend that is understanding and doesn’t mind one bit? A friend that lets you know that it’s alright. That’s Maya for you, and she’s so much more.

She also left me this tasty reminder!

Which I have been enjoying on just about everything! Thank you, Maya!

I also went on a trip to NYC with my class (the bus actually belongs to one of my classmates).

The captain of the ship!

I saw NYC in a different light on the High Line.

Beautiful, isn't it?

Since this was a class with art students, naturally we scoped out some galleries and museums.

Even a gallery for the homeless to submit their art.

The sleek New Museum.

On one of the nights we all got together at our professor's friends' giant shared studio and...

Played music...

and had a delicious homemade feast!

Man, his friends sure can cook and bake! There was roasted ham, stew, pasta, vegetable dishes, best banana bread ever, pies, cakes, garlic bread, hummus… gosh so many things! The trip was a lot of fun. It was nice to see some friends up there, and also getting to know some of my fellow classmates a little better. By the way, in Williamsburg there’s a place called The Alligator Lounge that has a great deal: buy a beer and you get a free pizza! Not just any pizza, but a personal pan! So if you’re in the Brooklyn area, make sure to hit that up!

I had another special visitor for Thanksgiving!

On Thanksgiving we headed to the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains.

I packed us a bag of yummy things to take with us!

For me: a sandwich with smoked gouda, sauteed spinach and onions, apple slices, and honey.

For my mom: spinach, egg, honey, apple slices, and goat cheese.

Do you think she liked it?

It's such a big world.

It felt so nice to be breathing fresh air.

Coming through!

As we headed back the sun decided to come out. Doesn't this look like the cover of Big Fish?

Matilda let out a roar that the whole world could hear!

I wanted my mom to taste how special honeycrisp apples are.

Pooped and heading back home to make a low-key Thanksgiving dinner.

I made a special recipe that night from an e-cookbook that was sent to me to review.

The e-cookbook is titled “The Flexitarian Cookbook” and features many recipes from various contributors that can be adjusted to fit your dietary needs or mood whether you vegan, vegetarian, or an omnivore. The recipes sound so appetizing and the pictures that are featured are so beautiful and drool-worthy. I’ll be featuring more recipes I’ve tried from this e-cookbook, and a more detailed review.

The recipe that stood out the most for me, with ingredients like pumpkin, peaches, and pecorino.

Not even finished and it smelled delicious.

And Thanksgiving dinner was served!

Sauteed collard greens, onions, and garlic, with fruit & nut chutney.

Interesting

Our tastebuds and bellies were in for the best thing we had eaten in awhile.

Almost forgot the pecorino!

Oh my goodness. My mother and I kept exclaiming how incredible this dish was. It’s suppose to be served in a small pumpkin, but I made do with what I had (butternut squash) and it still turned out to be a phenomenal dish. The mix of ingredients (the peach being the most surprising) was spot on!

Lebkuchen filled with as much love as a cookie can handle!

This is probably the most nostalgic food and smell from Germany for me. Lebkuchen is a traditional German treat that’s similar to gingerbread. At the Christmas Market you will see tons of heart-shaped cookies hanging up, ready to be given to someone’s beloved one.

Photo taken from here

Stay tuned for the next post since it’s a continuation on the topic of friendship and also catching up! I hope you all had a wonderful week, and a great start to a new year. Until next time, much love!