Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I'm ready for springtime...

I don't know about you guys, but I'm SO ready for SPRING!!  
I'm already noticing the days getting a bit longer, especially on our 6:00am jogs.  It's so nice to have a bit of light in the morning! 

I'm also ready for the warmer weather... I'm ready to hang up my socks and my hoodies, and start breaking out my flowy dresses and flip-flops.  I'm also excited for... 

 I'm excited for beautiful flowers & blossoming trees... rides around the park with friends...

 ...spring fashions (and fun in new glasses!!)...

...picnics and hang-outs in the park...

Sigh, I just can't wait!  Are YOU as excited about spring as I am?  What's your first-day-of-spring tradition?  I know it's kind of silly, but I'm looking forward to berries & melons coming back in season again (so that I can juice them)!  Haha!  OH AND FARMER'S MARKETS!!  My favorite things.  

all photos from

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Looking for new glasses & the Oscars

Over the weekend I went to SEE to try on some new glasses.  I finally went to an optometrist on Saturday (found out my eyes did get a little worse - figures), and I thought since my insurance covers up to $100 on a pair of frames, that I'd update my look!  

If you'll remember in this post, I've certainly had a new pair of glasses on my brain for a while! 

I went to SEE to check out glasses because if you'll remember in this post, I mentioned how I MUST FIND glasses just like this girl...

She randomly found my blog through a search, and told me that she got them at SEE!  Pretty rad, huh? 
John and I went snowboarding a couple of weekends ago at Breckenridge.  While we were waiting for the bus to go back into town, I saw this girl with super cute glasses really similar to the photo above.  I went up to her and asked her where she got them. 

She said in a very thick (I think British?) accent "I'm not sure - I think it's a chain - it's called 'look' or something?"  To which I replied: "you mean SEE??"  Yep, that was the place!!  Crazy. 

Anyhoodle, I finally went in and tried on some stuff.  Unfortunately everything seemed to be WAY out of my price range (pretty much everything I liked was about $260+... damn, I have expensive taste), but it was fun to try stuff on anyway, and it gave me a better idea of what I'm looking for. 

 These were my FAVORITE.  I just love the cat-eye style, and they're so much more unique than the glasses I usually wear.  I think the purple color is really fun, but I still think I should probably find a more neutral color (like black), since these will most likely be something that I need to match a LOT of my outfits.  And I'm always very concerned about matching! 

These were the ones that the sales girl was really encouraging me to get.  But they were a bit too big for my face, and not as much my style.  I think they'd be super cute on someone else, but they're just not really "me".  Also, John would NEVER let it down about how much of a hipster I am if I got these.  Haha! 

On top of all that, they were $289.  For PLASTIC frames!!  I just don't get it. 

I decided to try the online route since glasses are much cheaper if you can find them through the world wide web.  One website I really liked that has a pretty rad selection is Bon Look - they have a ton of frames all around the $100 range.  With many glasses websites these days, you can upload a pic of yourself and try them on virtually, so that's what I did!  Here are two of my favorites: 

 These are a bit thick for me, but I kind of like the nerdy style!  These are the "Jungle" frames.

And these are by far my favorite so far.  I love the size (if I got that right online), and that the frames aren't TOO thick, but they're slightly cat-eye as well.  On top of all of that, the frames are called "Honeybadger".  Awesome. 

I decided to look around a bit more before ordering, although it is really nice that Bon Look lets you return frames for free (if you don't like them).  Then my friend told me about Warby Parker - they send you up to 5 frames to TRY ON AT HOME!  How awesome is THAT??  They take your credit card (so that they know you won't try & steal 'em), then they ship 'em to you for free.  You try them out, then send 'em back in a pre-paid envelope and make your order.  Awesome!  

So I should be getting some glasses to try on within the next day or so.  I'm totally excited!  Their glasses are all around $100 too which is fantastic.  On top of that, with ever pair purchased, they donate a pair to someone in need.  Rockin'.  


On another note, did you watch the Oscars on Sunday?? I did, and I'm totally not surprised that The Artist totally swept up!  It was such a wonderful film - I wrote about it here.  

I actually had no intention of watching the Oscars, but I just so happened to have the rest of my day free, so I figured "why not?" - I plopped down on the couch with a dirty vodka martini, and enjoyed watching all of the beautiful celebrities. 

Here are my general thoughts on the evening.... 
- Angelina Jolie is WAY too skinny (her arms look like matchsticks)

- Michelle Williams looked GORGEOUS and I really want to cut my hair like hers someday.

- Billy Crystal is an awesome host.  He knows when to be funny, and when to be serious - and he knows when you can make fun of stuff (and people)! 

-  Rooney Mara knows the secret to perfect bangs.  I don't think she has a cowlick at all.  Damn her and her perfect bangs! 


- Emma Stone is friggin' adorable.  

- Gary Oldman needs to win an Oscar.  Like NOW.  I can't believe he hasn't won one yet!!  He's amazing!! 

- When you sit on the couch for 5 hours, it's reallllly hard to fall asleep that night.  

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend too!! :) 

Oscar photos found via a Google Image search. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Love what you have...

Just lookin' ahead towards a time when I'm debt free.  I hope that I can keep the same mindset I have now - basically that I already have everything I need.  It just depends on how you look at things!

Sometimes it's hard when pants tear, stains happen, or when holes get worn in things.  I'm already having that problem now (it seems as though the moment I decided to do a spending fast, everything I own decided to deteriorate) - but it doesn't really take much work to mend what I have and keep on using it.

And really, I have everything I need.  MORE than everything I need!  I am very fortunate and blessed to have everything that I do, and filling some superficial need with STUFF just doesn't make any sense when you really stop to think about it.  Our society tries to make us think differently, but we really don't need all of those things that the world tells us we do.

Example - I lost my cell phone on the mountain when snowboarding last weekend.  Luckily I keep a back-up cell phone at home, and I just had to get a new SIM card from T-Mobile.  I had to get all of my friend's numbers again, but it wasn't really that big of a deal.

Sure it's a flip phone, and I have people making fun of me already!  But you know what?  It does what I need it to do - I can use it to reach people, and other people can reach me.  It's a freaking phone, people.  You may be able to play games on yours, check Facebook, pull up Google Maps, etc - but we don't really NEED all of that stuff. 

My phone is just a phone, and it works just fine.  I won't panic if it breaks or if I lose it - I can get another one.  My phone is not an appendage.  And I'm saving about $60 / month by keeping things basic!  I dunno, sometimes I think simplicity is better.

But I digress!

I guess my point is, that we've developed an attachment to stuff.  I'm guilty of it myself, of course!  But I'm trying to change my perspective on it.  Just be aware of it, and think about it.  I think that's a step in the right direction. :)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Vegan Gnocchi Dinner, KICK ASS, and the Best Breakfast Sandwich EVER

Last night John and I finally got a night at home together!  You'd think we'd have all kinds of time together since we live together & all, but sometimes we don't get as much quality time as we'd like. 

So last night I made us a yummy dinner, and we watched the movie Kick Ass.  It was my first time seeing it, and I thought it was pretty great.  I'll get into that later though! 

First thing's first - dinner! 

I had bought all of the fixin's to make this awesome recipe from Real Simple Magazine.  I knew John would love it 'cause it's super yummy & hearty, but not a ton of fat / calories (if you make it the vegan way). ;) 

Gnocchi with Sausage & Spinach
Adapted from Real Simple Magazine Recipe
Made vegan by yours truly! Serves 4 - takes about 20-25 minutes total to make.  I love how quickly this one is ready to go!

    2 9-ounce packages refrigerated gnocchi or one 17.5-ounce package shelf-stable gnocchi
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
    1 pound fake sausage (I used Gimme Lean "ground sausage" - it's vegan!)
    1 clove garlic, finely chopped
    1 5-ounce bag baby spinach
    1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    1/4 cup unsalted veggie broth (optional)
    3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated vegan Parmesan, plus more for serving (I used this kind)
(all vegan substitutions found at Natural Grocers / Vitamin Cottage)

Cook the gnocchi according to the package directions. Drain, reserving ¼ cup of the cooking liquid (instead of reserving the cooking liquid, I used 1/4 a cup of veggie broth instead).

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the sausage and cook, crumbling it with a spoon (the technique that seems to work best with the VERY sticky vegan sausage is to just stab the heck out of it with a wooden spoon.  John loved all of the noise I was making...ha!), until browned, 5 to 7 minutes.

Wine is also very helpful during the cooking process. :)  Aren't these wine glasses the cutest too??  I found them at Marshall's a very long time ago.  They always make me happy. 

Add the garlic, spinach, salt, and pepper and cook, tossing frequently, until the spinach wilts, about 3 minutes.

Add the gnocchi, the reserved cooking liquid (or vegetable broth), and the Parmesan and toss. Divide among individual bowls and sprinkle with additional Parmesan.

And there you have it!  It was SO delicious, and something a little different than our usual fare.  Also the leftovers are going to be fantastic over pasta or rice.  YUM. 

And on to the movie!!  We decided to watch Kick Ass - it came out in 2010, and it has been in our Netflix instant queue for a while so we finally decided to start it up.  John has already seen it before, but he liked it a lot & didn't mind watching it again. 

Initially, I wasn't terribly impressed.  It lulled at times, and definitely didn't play out like your typical superhero movie.  But that's because it's NOT a typical superhero movie.  It's really about normal people (well, somewhat normal), trying to do extraordinary things.  They don't have super powers, they just want to do right by the world.  I think that reality really comes out when Kick Ass first fights off some gang members beating up a guy.  He gets pretty beat up, but he fights back - tooth & nail.  A lot of people wouldn't even do that.  Just the trouble he caused made the attackers give up.  Sometimes that's all it takes - standing up for someone no matter what the consequences.  He needed the superhero outfit to get up the courage to do it, but it's still pretty commendable, although most people would probably see it as pretty stupid. 

And then there's Hit-Girl.  OH how I LOVE Hit-Girl!!  She is a crazy knife-wielding killer bred by a paranoid father (who is also pretty darn crazy himself).  You may not agree with the bloodbath that seems to follow in her midst, but as a character, she was AMAZING.  

I tried to explain it to John, and I'm going to try and do it again here.  In a lot of action films, there is a girl / woman in there somewhere who kicks some serious ass.  It's great seeing a strong and powerful woman whoop some sorry bad-guy's asses.  My big problem though, is that they always have to have some kind of sexual edge.  They have to be sexy and gorgeous at all times, and they usually use their bodies or sexuality in some way to get in the door, or lure in the bad guy.  There's always some kind of sexual allure that they have to have. 

Well, Hit-Girl is like, 10-years old.  If they had tried to make her sexual, this movie would have never been made.  And you know what?  She's BAD. ASS.  She strikes fear into the hearts of 30 grown men....all at the same time.  They know that she will win, and they're terrified of her!  And she didn't have to be sexy to do it.  At one point she did lure them into a false sense of security with her innocence, but I guess sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.  I was just thrilled to see a character that was a strong young woman that is not afraid of anything - and she didn't have to use sex appeal to get done what needed to get done. 

*stepping off my soapbox now.... 

Anyway, after thinking of all of that, I really enjoyed the movie, and would highly recommend it!  

On a COMPLETELY different note, last night before I left work I was inspired by a post I found through Pinterest about the Best Egg Sandwich You Will Ever Have.  It was inspired by the girl from Smitten Kitchen - who makes some of the yummiest looking food I've ever seen!  

 Photo from Smitten Kitchen.  See what I mean about the best looking food EVER?

Anyway, this morning I decided to give the quick & easy recipe a try.  And guess what.  It turned out to be CRAZY DELICIOUS!  I'm totally not surprised though.  Here is how mine turned out!

It's really super simple to make, it's kind of ridiculous.  Mine is missing the top half of my English Muffin because somebody (*ahem - JOHN) saw my lovely buttered muffin sitting on a plate and said "oooo what's this?" and took a HUGE bite out of it!  Sigh, boys.  I just let him finish that half.  

Anyway, you just beat 3 eggs with a splash of water (I used soymilk), and dump it into a large pan over medium-high heat.  While it sits, you drop a slice of cheese in the middle (I used vegan swiss cheese), and any other fixin's you want (I added some thinly sliced zucchini).    

When the egg is just about cooked, you fold the edges over (click this link for full step-by-step pictures), give it one more flip, and it's done!! 

The cheese gets melty and amazing, and it's the perfect breakfast sandwich.  I may or may not be having this every morning for the rest of my life. :)  Yes, it was that good!  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My new necklace! And some pre-birthday thoughts...

A very nice person gave me a Visa Gift Card for Christmas last year, so I promptly went on Pin Up Girl Clothing and found me a gorgeous necklace to treat myself with! 

You can't IMAGINE my horror and disgust when 4 weeks went by, and I realized that the package had been STOLEN off my front porch by some JERK who thinks they can just TAKE THINGS OFF PEOPLE'S PORCHES!!  Ugh.  Needless to say, I was pissed.  

I filed a claim with Fed Ex, which was completely useless.  I had to complete a ton of paperwork, send them all of the records of the transaction, then 3 weeks later I receive a letter saying that I was missing a piece of the puzzle and that it would slow the process. 

Thanks, Fed Ex.  Jerks. 

Luckly I also emailed Pin Up Girl Clothing and explained what happened.  They reached out to Fed Ex as well and when they found out my claim was denied, they decided to send me a new necklace anyway.  BECAUSE THEY ARE AWESOME!! 

Anyway, it just came in yesterday to my work, and I was thrilled!  John made fun of me because it's kind of ginormous (it's about 2" wide by 1.5" high), but I totally love it. 

Here's a better close-up shot... isn't it RAD!?

This might have to be my birthday-girl necklace!

Oh yeah!  Speaking of which, I turn 31 next weekend!  Holy moses!  I can't believe this year has gone by so fast.  It seems like just yesterday we were roller disco-ing our hearts away at my 30th b-day party.  Crazy! 

It's funny 'cause as I realized I was turning another year older next week, I realized how I came to work that day... 

Let's just say - if I'm ever too old to wear pigtails, and sparkly-gel eyeshadow, I don't want to be that old. ;) 

This year for my birthday we're doing things a little more low-key, with people coming to celebrate in any way they like.  My team is playing a derby bout next Saturday (which I'm singing the National Anthem at - holy crap!), then the next morning I'm having everyone over for brunch!  It'll be super fun. 

I also decided that for my birthday dinner, I want crab legs.  Big fat juicy crab legs.  That is all. :)  

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spending Fast Struggles...

February is going great so far with my Spending Fast!  I did realize where I have some weaknesses though, and I'm not terribly surprised where I'm finding them... 

1.) Eating Out / Drinking Out 
During the week I have no problem eating at home.  But on the weekends when everyone is out for a good time... ugh.  I wanna join in on the fun.  This past weekend it was even harder because we were in the mountains.  It was John's birthday and we all went out to dinner to celebrate.  Luckily John was nice enough to let me have his "free" appetizer (they were doing 2 for 1 appetizers for happy hour at the bar), so I didn't technically have to pay, and I could still join in.  But no drinks for me!  

It's not that I HAVE to have a drink, it's that I LIKE to join in on the drink-fun with my friends when we're out.  I think it was even harder the next day when we were at A-Basin, and everyone stopped around 1pm for Bloody Mary's.  I SO WANTED A BLOODY MARY!  I could've even gotten it without the vodka and been happy, but that still would've been breaking my spending fast.  Sigh - that was definitely the hardest part of the weekend.  

I guess it's kind of a bonus though - not only am I not spending as much money, but I'm probably drinking less too! 

2.) Gifts
Ughhhhh - gifts!  I can't stand not buying them!!  I know it is probably a silly thing for me to not be able to resist, but I am a gift-giver.  I have been finding creative ways to be gifty (hosting a dinner at my house, making jam / handmade gifts, etc), but sometimes it just doesn't seem like enough.  It shouldn't take money to show someone that you care about them, but sometimes it seems like that's the only thing that will do it.  Does that make any sense at all?  I think that's capitalism that's been burned into my brain since birth - because I really don't think it should be that way. 

Those are my two biggies right now.  I'm fine with not shopping (I resisted going into Ross two weekends ago - AMAZING!!), that hasn't bothered me much so far - and coffee stops have been pretty easy to resist ever since I brought my french press into work!  It's the going out / giving gifts that have been the most difficult.  

What are your biggest spending weaknesses?  Where do you have the most trouble? 

After checking up on my tracking sheet and doing a lil' bit of math, I just found out that I've paid down my debt by $1,379.40 since the beginning of 2012!!  THAT IS SO AWESOME!!!  I've been putting all of my un-spent money towards my debt, I had some extra income from being a study subject this month for a local university, I put my Xmas bonus towards it, my tax refund money, etc - and what a huge dent all of that made! 

I can't tell you how thrilled I am to see that number.  It makes me proud, and confident to keep moving forward.  It's just getting me one step closer to freedom!! :)  YAY!! 

Please visit And Then She Saved to see where I got the inspiration to start a Spending Fast. 

Images found via Google Image search.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The best money ever spent (Random acts of kindness)

This whole not-spending-money thing over the past 2 months has got me thinking about what makes spending money worthwhile.  Why do we do it?  Does it really mean anything in the long run? 

A few weeks ago, my inspiration for the spending fast (And Then She Saved) posted a link through her Facebook page - leading to a comment stream about the best money people had ever spent.  Here are some of their stories: 

"I walked into a Safeway today and stopped at the deli. A lady was waiting there. She was an elderly woman, and she said she had been waiting for 45 minutes and no one would wait on her. When they finally did, she asked the price of an egg roll and the fried wontons. It was evident she didn't have much money. Finally in frustration, she said, "Forget it," and started to leave. That just felt so wrong. I called out, "Stop, stop, you can't leave, come back here. Pick your dinner out. I'll buy it." It came to a mere $7.50 or so. The thought of someone walking home hungry, feeling broke and upset just felt so wrong. I told her that I had just sold a book and the meal was no big deal. She asked about the book and I told her about my friend having cancer and how it was important to get it done to honor what a gift he is to me and how much I love him. She said that her husband had cancer. We walked out and I grabbed her a copy of the book and signed it for her. She said she had a book she was working on. She hugged me and said, "I love you." For a mere $7.50 I got an "I love you," from a stranger. Best $7.50 I have spent in a long time."
"While summering it up in Europe my sophomore year of high school, alone, I came across a homeless man with a dog pretty late at night in some British back street (I was walking back from an American friend's house to the hostel I was staying at). The man was holding his dog in his arms, and it looked like they were both trying to catch some sleep. Without thinking, I walked across the street to a convenience store and bought a deli sandwich, a can of dog food, and a carton of milk. I went back to the alley where they were both still sleeping and quietly set everything next to the man. Right as I was exiting the other end of the alley, I heard him say, "God bless your soul young man," and he started crying to himself. I started tearing up myself, but didn't turn around and just nodded my head instead. To this day, that was the best money I have ever spent."
"I once found 20 bucks in a store parking lot when I was about 13. Me and my dad were pretty poor at this point. Hell, we didn't even have a home. We were secretly sleeping where he worked.

I probably should have just given him the money but I wanted to surprise him. So I walked down to the and bought a few pints of Haagen-dazs (my dad's favorite ice cream) and then walked down to where he was working. He took a 30 minute break and we sat outside eating it, just chatting about the world and how we fit into it. It really was one of the best memories I have from that time. From that point on I'd try to scrounge up little bits of money to buy us treats like candy, cups of noodles, ice-cream, or whatever I could manage. Just so I could sit and talk to my dad in between his 15 hour work shifts.

So, whoever lost that 20 dollars - Thank you. Those were dark times, and little moments of happiness like that is what got us through it."
"My girlfriend at the time, and I drove to Las Vegas on a whim. As we got closer I joked about getting married while we were there, she called me on my bluff. The next morning we had breakfast, got our marriage application and went to the Chapel By The Courthouse. For $40 we got a no frills, no pictures, 5 minute ceremony by a pastor (wrong word maybe?) by glasses so thick I could see his soul in his eyes. I got married in jeans and a t-shirt to my beautiful wife wearing jeans and a tank top. We drove back home to a friend's house to enjoy carrot cake and bottle of Martinelli's sparkling cider from a grocery store. 8 years later it's still the best $40 I ever spent."
"Every morning I go to Bigfoot Java here in Renton. It's literally the highlight of my day, one of the few things I wake up and look forward to. The same two baristas work the M-F morning shift, so I see them often.

A few days ago, Seattle just got hit with a big snowstorm and the power was out. Freezing and miserable. I went in to work, because I had nothing better to do and I drive a beast of a vehicle. On my way in, I pulled up to Bigfoot... it was pretty clear they had no power, but both baristas were sitting there, bundled up and freezing their asses off. This isn't a starbucks, it's a coffee stand that is basically a closet. They explained they were closed, but had to stay there because the company prides itself on "never closing". Weird. Anyway, I left thinking damn... that blows.

So I drove 15 minutes to Kent, picked up two hot chocolates and a few apple pies from McDonald's (one of the only places open after the snow) and brought it to them. The smile made it worth the 10 bucks, 30 minute round trip, and being late for a meeting."
"I go to this noodle and bubble tea shop near my apartment about once a week.  Last Thursday while I was drawing some things in my sketchbook as I ate, the two girls next to me had a third friend arrive, seemingly upset. She then went on and on about how bad her life has been lately. How nothing since the new year has gone right for her. How her thesis is in trouble, and how this is the last time she can go out with friends for the next four months. It might have seemed a little bit dramatic, but you could tell she was unhappy. I thought, "Nothing good has happened since the new year? That needs to stop." So when I paid my bill, I went up to the waitress and mumbled to her so the girls didn't hear, "Let me pay for her drink. I think she got the taro flavor?" The waitress tells me to pay about $4.50. I do so, and leave as fast as possible so they don't know what I did. Fast-forward to the following Tuesday, I go back to the noodle shop for my weekly visit, I'm sketching again and I get a tap on my shoulder. A girl starts complimenting my drawings, then asks, "Were you here last Thursday?" I pause, "Yeah?" "I was sitting with my friends next to you when you were here." I was startled cause I never expected to get a response, "Uh... Yeah." "You paid for my friend's drink?" "Oh, yeah. She said something like how nothing good happened this year for her and I felt like that needed to change a bit." She replied, "Well you made her day." I always expected to be anonymous, but it was still nice to have confirmation that she felt better. I will do more random things like this in the future."
"I used to work at Walmart in Michigan 5 years ago, we used to get a lot of migrant workers come in to pick fruit over the summer...this one lady always came in with her kids, always bought the necessary stuff like bread, milk, baby food, formula....and never seemed to have enough money to pay for everything. She always had to put some things back, which always just seemed to embarrass and upset her.

One year I got a decent amount of money back from my tax return - so I had some extra money for the summer. So I am at work, I am called upfront to the check outs, I see the same Mexican lady with her 3 small kids, one is a baby...I was called up to put back stuff she could not afford, was not much, maybe $40 of baby formula and baby food and bread and milk but she looked REALLY upset saying in broken English 'I need to feed my baby'.

So I asked the cashier the amount of everything with the stuff she put back added to it, it was $70...I just pulled out my wallet and paid for it, added some candy for the little ones too, she cried and kept thanking me, I felt that she deserved some help, people always needed it. The rest of the summer she made it a point to come and see me at work, and the kids always said thank you every time too, totally worth it."

So nice to read about the kindness of strangers, isn't it?  I hope it inspires you as it did me!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Our Valentine's Day Dinner (Eggplant "Parmesan" and Beet Cake recipes!)

Last night John and I celebrated Valentine's day (and his birthday)!  I made him stay in his office until I finished making dinner and setting up a little picnic in the living room for us... 

Yep, that's $4 champagne right there.  'Cause we're classy. ;)  

I'm just so happy that we could still make Valentine's Day special - without having to do a big expensive dinner out.  So it was really lovely, and I could stick to my Spending Fast!  Woohoo! 

Dinner was my own made-up version of Eggplant Parmesan - without all the cheese.  It turned out DELICIOUS!  I've never cooked with turnips before, but I've always wanted to try.  I bought one at the store over the weekend, and figured what the hell - I'd just wing it!  It actually cooks up really nicely - it has kind of a potatoey flavor.  I really liked it!

Here's how I made everything...  

Beth's Easy Eggplant "Parmesan" with Veggies 
(no cheese, but still YUMMY)

- 1 eggplant (sliced into 1/4 to 1/2" pieces)
- Panko bread crumbs
- 2 eggs (beaten in a bowl)
- 1 zucchini (sliced)
- 1 turnip (sliced thinly & quartered)
- 1/2 a yellow onion (diced)
- 3 cloves of garlic (minced)
- Pasta sauce (about 2 cups)
- Butter
- Olive oil
- Salt & pepper (to taste)

In a small pot, pour in the pasta sauce and set at a low heat so that it can warm up.
In a large pan, add a pad or two of butter, then add the onion, turnip, and garlic.  Saute for about 5 minutes or until slightly soft.  Add the zucchini & mix well - cook for another 3-4 minutes, season with salt & pepper, and set on a back burning over very low heat.

In another large pan, add enough olive oil for frying.  Coat each slice of eggplant in the beaten eggs, then press into the panko breadcrumbs.  Fry in the oil on each side for about 5 minutes, then set them on paper towels to drain.

To serve, cover the bottom of the plate with pasta sauce, add the sauteed veggies & turnips, then stack 2-3 of the fried eggplant on the side.

I couldn't get enough if it - and I totally went back for seconds.  After dinner, John and I watched a couple of episodes of "The Walking Dead".  

Aren't we romantic? :) 

The cake in the top left corner of the picture above is the beet cake that I made!  It actually turned out REALLY GOOD - even after refrigerating it overnight.  Here is the video that inspired me to make it: 

beet cake from tiger in a jar on Vimeo.

Isn't that just beautiful??  I had to give it a try, so I watched the video carefully and gathered all of the ingredients.  The video doesn't give much guidance as far as method, but I did my best with the information I had!  Here is what I used, along with what I did for the frosting: 

Beet Cake
I know it sounds a bit of a strange combo, but the beets somehow made this cake really soft and spongy - I really enjoyed it.  You can't really taste the beets once you have all the sugar & chocolate mixed in, but they add kind of a sweet & tangy flavor in the background.  

It made 1 cake in a 9" pie pan, and about 6 cupcakes - so maybe a 9x13" baking pan would fit everything, but I didn't have a pan that big!  Haha! 

- Beets (2 cups), canned whole (or sliced)
- Flour (2 cups)
- Brown Sugar (1 ½ cups)
- Semi-Sweet Chocolate (4oz)
- Baking Soda (2 tsp)
- Salt (1/4 tsp)
- Butter (1 cup)
- Vanilla (1 tsp)
- Eggs (3), beaten

For icing
- Powdered sugar
- Red food coloring
- Soymilk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Put the beets in a blender or food processor, and pulse until smooth.

Wow, those are some REALLY red beets, huh?

Pour into a bowl, and add vanilla and eggs - mix well.  Add the brown sugar, and mix.  In a separate bowl, melt the chocolate and the butter - mix together and set aside.  In another large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking soda - sift to combine.  Mix the chocolate & butter into the bowl with the beets, then slowly add the flour mixture to combine everything.  

Pour into a lightly oiled baking dish, and place in the oven for about 15-30 minutes*.  Poke a toothpick in the center - when it comes out clean it's all done!

*Looking back - I actually used 2 CANS of beets instead of 2 CUPS of beets - so my cooking may have taken a bit longer because of this.  Honestly I'll probably make it this way again though, since I liked how light & fluffy it was!  Basically just keep an eye on it while it's in the oven so that it doesn't over-bake. 

To make the icing, add some powdered sugar into a bowl and add a splash of soymilk.  Mix well, and add a teeny bit of soymilk at a time to thin it out.  Add a couple of drops of red food coloring to make it pink!

I really liked this recipe, and I definitely think I'll make it again.  I think it was fantastic as cupcakes too!

On top of all that cooking fun I had yesterday - I got a FREE Starbucks coffee!  I LOVE GETTING FREE STUFF!!  I just filled out a survey online, so they sent me an e-gift certificate for $5 at Starbucks.  I was super excited.  So on my break yesterday I bundled up, and went to get myself a Grande Salted Caramel Mocha.  My favorite treat - and it was lovely. 

That there is my special backpack I got with my big sister when we were in Coney Island last year.  It's probably my most favorite thing I've ever purchased in New York, and it was only $20!  

We're off to the mountains for some snowboarding this weekend, so I hope you all have an AWESOME one!!  YAY FOR SNOWBOARDING!! 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cup of Joe

I learned something new on my favorite podcast Stuff You Should Know the other day!  It was their "Coffee" podcast - where they told you all you needed to know about coffee, it's history, how to make it, where it comes from - etc, etc.  Josh and Chuck were very informative (as always).  

My favorite part though was the FUN FACT that I learned about why having a cup of coffee has been nicknamed "Cup o' Joe".  And I'm gonna share it with you! 

It turns out that coffee has become associated with America mostly because of the Boston Tea Party.  It seems pretty obvious, right?  England puts a high tax on tea, the new Americans in the colonies are pissed off, so they start drinking coffee instead.  Who'd have thunk it'd be that obvious?  I sure as heck didn't!

Tea, on the other hand, is very much associated with England.  In the UK, tea is a part of daily culture and people drink it all the time.  In fact, my grandma is British, and I think that's why me and my family find such love for a good cup of black tea with milk & sugar.  (Our favorite is P&G Tips by the way - it's excellent with honey & a splash of soymilk!)

Anyway, it became common for Brits to call a cup of tea simply "cuppa".  It was a bit redundant to say "would you like a cup of tea?" - when you could easily assume it was tea they wanted.  You could simply say "want a cuppa?" and be done with it! 

During World War II, a lot of American soldiers were in England.  But they didn't want tea - they wanted COFFEE.  And what's another thing you'd call an American G.I.?  How about a "Joe"?  G.I. Joe.  They wanted a "cuppa joe".  

How about that, huh? :)  Learn somethin' new every day.  

Speaking of which, now I really want myself a cup of joe!  Haha!  
I know I've totally used this picture before in one of my cutie-cute girl posts, but I couldn't resist.... hey, there's still coffee involved! :) 

The whole podcast made me think of my relationship with coffee.  I once got to the point where I would drink about 1-2 cups / day, but that was in college when I didn't really care about my health nearly as much as I do now. 

These days I stick to about 2 cups / week.  Sometimes (like this week), I go without any!  I think of it more as a treat instead of a requirement.  I would feel better about having it more regularly if I could drink it black, but I'm SO not one of those people.  I like cream (soymilk, actually), and plenty of sugar (natural or honey)!  It's just extra calories & sugar I don't need in a day. 

Oh how I used to wish I could be the tough guy and drink my coffee black.  I thought it was SO COOL if you could do that!  But then I saw "Pulp Fiction".  

If you remember, there's a scene where The Wolf (a total badass problem-solving character played by Harvey Kietel), is in Quentin Tarantino's character's kitchen.  Quentin asks him, "Would you like a cup of coffee?",  Harvey replies, "Yeah",  Quentin asks, "How do you take it?".... which Harvey replies, "Lotsa cream, lotsa sugar."

Let's just say I haven't felt bad about taking cream & sugar in my coffee ever since. 

All photos from We Heart It - except Harvey Keitel which was found via a Google Image search.