Wow, am I a slacker. Although, not really. While I did not blog last week, I promise I was not laying around motionless, brainless. No, I was on full stress mode times 1,000.
I moved into a new apartment last weekend and spent all day with my loving mom and dad packing, and then unpacking. In the meantime, my dad and I went to a local restaurant known for their outstanding selection of beers on tap and in bottle. I had never had the opportunity to have a beer with just my dad, ever in my life. As funny as it sounds, this truly was a moment I will never forget in my life. We sat and caught up on how the family is, and then found ourselves in this deep intellectual conversation about the ecological succession of local NY lakes due to the invasion of zebra mussels. As a semi-pro bass fisherman, my father has a very different outlook on the ecology of lakes that scientists do. Instead of worrying about testing different variables, etc, my father is very observant and analyzes the ways in which the lake is changing over time due to the zebra mussels. Oh science! Anyways, it truly was an amazing time and I am more than thankful for having both my mom and dad there to help me move. We enjoyed some burritos from my favorite mexican place that is now walking distance from my new place and they headed home.
My first night was tough, I was tired, and emotional because of having my parents there to help me. But I slept like a rock and haven’t felt lonely or uncomfortable since. I love my new place! It is so much bigger than my old apartment and I dream at night about the summer and having a backyard and garden space… it’s like I’m home, just smack middle in the center city. I cannot wait to have my friends over in the summer for barbeques and good times!
So, this past week was living hell. On top of the usual day-to-day teaching — lesson planning, parent meetings, crew meetings, student issues, grading, etc. I had a two-day PD I was co-running, a magazine that I needed to finish (which got corrupt the day I was ready to send it for printing… I don’t want to talk about it), town hall meeting, and cooking with students after school. I think this week was really a breaking point for me. I feel so empowered that I survived it the way that I did. I feel stronger as a teacher and multitasker. I feel thankful for my awesome team of teachers that helped me through it. Being at my school is a breath a fresh air. It’s stressful, to the max, but someone always has your back — true collaboration at it’s best!
Thursday I had dinner with a former mentor of mine from a local university. We talked for four hours catching up and I found myself and him saying (about me) multiple times: “This is my year”. And it really is. I’m at a school that pushes me further in my professional career everyday. I have an outstanding and supportive family. I met a man who loves me for who I am, softly pushes me to be better, and supports all of the crazy efforts that I tackle on a daily basis. I’ve moved into a new apartment that is perfect for my lifestyle. And, I have two amazing vacations planned for this year!
So, enough about me. Let’s talk cooking. And let’s talk DIY-ing!
My cooking today was a little light as I was finishing up a bunch of DIY projects around my new place, but my fridge of full of food to be cooked all week. I’ve got vegetables galore to be roasted and eaten over salad greens – really in salad mode lately – I think it’s my body and minds wishing it was really spring.
My favorite thing I made today was lentils dahl with cauliflower. Lentils are seeds, super delicious and full of fiber and protein. Native to the Indian cuisine, they are often cooked with curry and tumeric. If you simmer lentils for hours, they turn into the mushy soup with very little rigid shape left to the seed. Lentil dahl cooks for hours in spices with onion and garlic. For my recipe, I added carrot and cauliflower for some added phytonutrients. So here ya go:
1 cup lentils (I used brown, red is preferred)
2 cups water (1 cup coconut, 1 cup tap)
1 cup coconut milk (added periodically as liquid is soaked up by lentils)
1/2 cup shredded carrot
3/4 cup shredded cauliflower
1/2 chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs curry powder
1 tbs tumeric
*Simmer (on medium) lentils in water until water is evaporated. Add coconut milk and more water, add vegetables and spices. Simmer on med-low for 4 hours.
This pot of lentils dahl with last me all week for sure. Even though the weather is supposed to get warmer, we are also going to have rain/snow, so I’m sure I’ll enjoy these to warm up my soul :)
Next up, something completely new – Shrimp and polenta bowls. When I was at trader joes, I saw some polenta and said, hey why not! So, when on pinterest, I noticed a lot of recipes with creamy polenta topped with various combinations of vegetables and meats. So, based on what I had in the fridge, I came up with this:
1 lb polenta (pre-made) – warmed with coconut milk in saucepan until smooth and creamy.
Shrimp (I used medium sized, and cooked only 12 shrimp – simmered in frying pan with shirarcha)
*Prepare polenta and keep cover on until needed.
*Saute onions and mushrooms (no oil), set aside. In same pan, saute asparagus on medium heat (so it gets caramelized) and set aside.
*Assemble polenta bowls with all ingredients and top with freshly cracked black pepper.
Lastly, I went back to my roots. I made some quinoa breakfast bake (found on previous blogs) but changed it up by added one fresh pear (diced) instead of the applesauce. It gives it a hint of sweetness on the tongue which sometimes I don’t get from my quinoa bakes because I do not add any sugar – just sweetness from the banana and natural homemade applesauce.
I also made some kale salad that I love. The Asian version that my friend Chrissy makes. I bought the baby kale special for it this time and it’s so worth it. I didn’t have any almonds so I used pecans. It was still delicious because of the sesame ginger dressing that you make with it, but I would prefer the almonds.
When I cook dinners this week, I’ll be making general taos cauliflower, Asian warm cabbage slaw, polenta fries (hopefully when my friend Rach comes to visit), broccoli avocado salad and roasted vegetables for salad. Next weekend I’m thinking of taking a vegan perspective on St. Patty’s day. So, check back in for that for sure!
Here’s some of my DIY craziness at my new apartment. Some of these creations are inspired by Pinterest, some are my own ideas. My favorite is the jewelry rack. An old spice rack I found at an antique place for $9, painted it black and added some hooks – beautiful! I love the stone insert that it came with, gives a hidden door to a final cubicle that holds my most valuable necklace.
Another favorite is my entertainment center gone wet bar. I bought some hardware to turn the shelves into wine glass and wine bottle holders. I got this beauty for $20 last summer, painted it then and used it for entertainment center at my old place. Why buy new things when you move, just refurbish what you already have!
A small thing, but exciting – my spice racks. $2 wooden crates at ACMoores and black paint, nailed to the wall. Spice jars I got from an online outline that my stepmom found – absolutely love these momma! Just need to get some chalkboard paint to re-do the labels with.
Lastly, my mason jar storage unit. This is a Pinterest find and I love it. Obviously missing one jar – I didn’t have enough hose clamp and need someone to drill a hole in it to screw onto the wood plaque.
Also, the planter one that my stepdad and I made a few weeks back, added some soil and seeds – and look, after one week I have my first little seedling! So excited! Summer is so close I can taste it!
I hope you are inspired this week to push yourself further. Remember, no matter what life throws at you, you have the power within yourself to tackle it. Find that power, and make some change in the world this week! See you back here next Sunday with some St. Patty’s day inspired meals – obviously, I am 1/16 (maybe) Irish, so it is not a question that I’ll be cooking Irish delights! :)