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Menemen

I haven’t posted in forever because I was busy with work, travel, the holidays, and of course our new pup Kasper!

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But today I have to post about breakfast because we had Menemen, a Turkish family favorite, and it was sooo good!

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It is 4 eggs, Turkish sucuk beef sausage, two seeded tomatoes, and an Italian pepper. We had feta cheese and TJ’s multi-grain baguette on the side and watched Fareed Zakaria’s GPS in CNN.

Rarely have I eaten a home-made breakfast more slowly. So delicious and tasted just like when my dad makes it.

Thank goodness Dave discovered a new Turkish international food shop downtown. In State College of all places!

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For the Sweet Tooth

I am currently obsessed with this quick dessert:

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Plain Greek yogurt, frozen organic berries, and honey.

For our Thanksgiving road trip to Wisconsin, I made this banana pumpkin bread:

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It was vegan, using chia seeds and water as an egg substitute, and super moist and delicious. I think Dave and I each had three pieces during our 13-hour drive. Other snacks included organic raspberries, kombucha, cashews, kale chips, potato cakes, and more fruit.

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This may be my favorite banana pumpkin bread recipe ever. I think the reason it was so good is that I used brown sugar and white flour. Usually, I use maple syrup instead of sugar and almond flour, but I was worried that the “chia egg” would be enough gamble. I may have to try combining all three next time.

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Goat Cheese Basil Pizza

What’s the best part of having had a restaurant cooking job during my early college years? My mad pizza dough making skills.

Not that it’s very hard. But everything is so much easier when it’s something we’re used to…

So, I decided to try out a new topping combo last weekend: goat cheese and basil. Deliciousness to the max.

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For the dough, I used

  • 1.5 cups warm water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 packet yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4.5 cups flour

I kneaded it until my arms hurt and it was solid and doughy. Then, I covered the bowl with saran wrap and let it sit out and rise for two hours. After that, I kneaded it again before covering it back up and putting it in the fridge overnight.

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The next day, all I had to do was roll it out into two pizzas in a greased baking pan with corn meal, cover them with marinara, and add the toppings of basil and goat cheese.

Gluten and carbo-loading. No better excuse than working out 6 times a week!

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Best Snack Plate

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Amazing Thursday night dinner companion: honey drizzled goat cheese on whole wheat crackers plus dark chocolate covered almonds. I’ve wanted more of this pretty much constantly since we finished it!

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Racing the Clock

Tonight was all about cooking multiple meals at once. I’m not sure why I was so motivated to stock the fridge with prepped meals. Now that I’m back to my cooking routine, I find that I can’t wait to get into the kitchen after work. It’s somehow relaxing to chop vegetables and assemble new recipes after long days of meetings and desk time.

The reason I had to race the clock even more than if I was just making a bunch of meals was that I also want to get in a 3-mile run (which I still have to do after writing this). So, without further ado, here are tonight’s meal creations:

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This is a super easy and quick pasta dish. I layered the pan with uncooked whole wheat pasta, marinara sauce/water, frozen peas, cottage cheese, goat cheese, and salt and pepper and baked it at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Leftovers for tomorrow’s lunches included!

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Then, I made a pumpkin curry with a quinoa and brown rice mix base. For the curry, I used half an onion, 3 cloves of garlic, 1/2 cup of almond milk, 1.5 cans of pumpkin, 2 heaping teaspoons of curry powder, salt & pepper, as well as some chopped walnuts and sunflower seeds for garnish. This is a good sauce! Awesome vegan alternative to cream-based curry, and way less heavy on the stomach. Again, this gave me some good leftovers for meals later this week.

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This is an awesome dessert – I mixed a frozen banana, 1/3 cup of almond milk, 2 table spoons chia seeds, 2 graham crackers, and 5 Trader Joe’s dark chocolate crisps and put them in the blender. Then I used additional graham crackers for dipping.

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So dinner was a bit unusual, since I served two entrees plus dessert. Dave had just been watching a competitive cooking show while cleaning up our camping gear, so he joked that he felt like he was being asked to sample and rate each dish. He liked them all. We were both especially impressed with the pumpkin curry sauce.

After dinner, I decided to make one more dish. For this purpose, I peeled and chopped my first ever butternut squash.

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Thank God for Youtube, but it still took me about 15 minutes.

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The cubes are now in the slow cooker, submerged in almond milk. I’m planning to end up with a vegan cheesy sauce for a pasta casserole, so stayed tuned for the results.

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Camping at Black Moshannon State Park

This past Saturday, Dave and I took our first couple’s camping trip since moving to PA. This is a little surprising considering Dave used to camp on the regular during his years with Boy Scouts. His Eagle Scout skills definitely go under-used these days, but we’re hoping to change that. He has a lot to teach me, from setting up a tent in a reasonable time-frame to building a fire to packing the right gear.

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We got to the camp site around 3 p.m., went for a hike, and got back just in time to get the fire going before it got dark.

It was in the low 40s even during the day (I don’t know how low the temps dropped at night), so the fire was necessary. I don’t know if it’s Dave’s Oregon-ness, but he didn’t really feel that it was very cold, while I was freezing the entire time. Sitting by the fire was my favorite part. Once it gave off enough heat, we could star thinking about dinner.

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The first course was Jewish Cinnamon Maple Whiskey Challah. Our friend brought it to a party we went to on Friday night and gave us some of it to take camping. It was absolutely delicious. He has since sent me the recipe and I hope to try making it sometime soon.

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The second course was a quinoa/potato salad with dried cranberries and roasted pine nuts. Not your typical camping fare, but a good idea since it didn’t need to be refrigerated and was hearty and filling.

For dessert, we had some dark chocolate before getting to my favorite part:

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Spiced apple cider made by holding a kettle directly over the fire from a piece of wood. 

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We enjoyed the cider while I read out loud from a book we’ve been reading together since April. It was so nice. This sounds lame and cliche, but I really never feel like I am unplugged from technology anymore and there is rarely space in my head to do some good old reading from an actual book. Being in nature with nobody but Dave and away from phones and laptops made me so much more receptive to the story. 

I was cold during the night despite about 5,000 layers and a mummy bag. This was mostly due to my lack of an inflatable pad. Overall, I really liked the experience though, and we’re kind of thinking of a two-day backpacking trip for the spring to see if that’s something we would enjoy doing together. Until then, I will stick to my heated apartment and soft mattress!

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Return to the Stove

I know, I know — zero posts for nearly two months, what gives? Well, now that I have a quarter of a year at my new job under my belt, spending more time on my fitness and healthy eating goals may be justified again. And chronicling said pursuits, of course.

What have I been doing aside from working? Well….

My brother visited in October for 11 days and we explored New York, D.C., and State College together. All explorations were naturally accompanied by great food.

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This was a Turkish restaurant by the UN. Such a great night.

… Dave and I ran a 50-mile relay race with five friends. It was an amazing experience — the weather, the beauty of central PA, the company, the running. I am hooked on this event and want to do it every year we live here.

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This is me passing the baton, a shiny purple wrist-band, to my team mate. Who knew that volleyball jacket from 2001 would serve me so well? This was the third chilly-weather race I’ve done in it.

(That guy, by the way, was the best team mate ever. He ran 6-minute miles and volunteered to take the most difficult legs. Definitely made up for my 11-minute mile pace….)

… I indulged in everything fall — Pumpkin beer, apple cider, haunted houses, pumpkin pie/ice cream/lattes, and of course, pumpkin carving.

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We created these beauties with our friends the night before Halloween.

… And, I did very little cooking. I was bad. If I cooked, I just used old recipes I already had. Busy-ness will do that to you. October was seriously insane. So was September. But the insanity isn’t going to stop anytime soon, so it’s time to step it up!

I have a new fitness plan that plans out my fitness priorities from now until I turn 30 (June of 2015). Essentially, this means I have progressive running goals assigned for each month plus an additional exercise priority, like swimming, biking, fitness classes, or Yoga. The plan is to work out six times a week with one rest day.

Then, at the beginning of each month, I actually map out how I will be exercising on each day. This month, I will be running 3 times a week, shooting for 3 miles each time at a 10-minute pace. I expect to reach that closer to the end of the month. Right now, I’m still slow as a snail.

This month, my supplement exercise, if I can call it that, is fitness classes at Kinetik Fitness. I went for the second time tonight and it kicks my butt. I love it though. It’s totally different from what I would do on my own and also from any other fitness classes I’ve done. Each class is different and members never know who will be teaching on any given day and what they will be asking you to do. The workouts combine cardio and strength training and are often done in circuits, with partners, etc.

And, since I’m talking about stepping it up, I also am focusing on cooking new things again. Tonight, I made not one but two dishes without recipes. I know making up dishes may not necessarily sound appealing, but I really want to get very good at intuitive cooking. If there is such a thing.

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The first meal — our dinner for tonight and lunch tomorrow — is a cauliflower/broccoli/potato casserole. All I added to the vegetables was almond milk, garlic salt, pepper, and Trader Joe’s vegan cheese.

Maybe it’s because I was super hungry from my workout, but this was delicious. I went back for seconds for sure.

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The second dish — our dinner tomorrow and lunch Thursday — is a shrimp curry. I was pretty proud of this one since it was my first real attempt at making curry myself. Basically, I was at the store, contemplating buying the glass jar of curry sauce, but the ingredient list turned me off. Too much unnecessary stuff. So this is a basic mix: coconut milk and curry powder.

The other ingredients are: olive oil, shrimp, red and green peppers, paprika, garlic salt, and garbanzo beans. I later added brown rice to let the curry soak in and make it very, very tasty for tomorrow evening.

Here’s to November, fitness, and home-made food!

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