Sunday, January 30, 2011

141/365 Breakfast: morning oatmeal

Remember that overnight oatmeal I mentioned a couple posts ago? One of the things I love about it is how well it keeps in the refrigerator. It makes breakfast in the morning very easy for the rest of the week!

When I first started at my current job a couple years ago, one of the first things each of my new coworkers (independently) mentioned was how much they love the office's Friday-morning routine. Everyone in the company shares responsibility for cleaning the kitchen by rotating a week of cleanup duty. When it's your week to clean the kitchen, you bring in breakfast for everyone on Friday morning.

The usual fare includes bagels, fruit, and doughnuts. But every once in a while someone gets creative and motivated and actually cooks something. This week, I applauded the guy who did just that -- and he took it to the next level by actually cooking something on the stove at work (as opposed to a casserole made at home and brought in).

He made Pumpkin Oatmeal, a recipe you can get on the Food Network's site. It was great! And that got me thinking: How might I be able to replicate this in a single serving?

Wouldn't you know it, but one of my favorite sites, Fit Sugar, has just that! A recipe for a single bowl of pumpkin oatmeal. I have pumpkin puree in my freezer left over from when I baked a pumpkin last fall, and that's exactly what I'm going to use. I think it's going to be wonderful. What a great way to jazz up a bowl of oatmeal -- and clear out the freezer at the same time.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s, f/4 at ISO 640

Thursday, January 27, 2011

140/365 Breakfast: Green smoothie

Do not be afraid.

You're only seeing this through your computer screen, so it can't get you.

I mentioned that I've been working with a nutritionist recently. Well, one of her first recommendations for me was that I should try to eat a serving of greens at every meal. I like green vegetables -- spinach, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, lettuce, kale -- so it sounded like a task I could easily take on.

But then, in practice, I struggled with one meal: breakfast. Beyond adding spinach to my eggs, I had a hard time coming up with other ideas. The thought of having a salad for breakfast doesn't exactly make me want to jump out of bed in the morning.

Thankfully, there are some really tasty green juices on the market. Then I started thinking, what if I made my own? That's got to be better, right? I don't own a juicer (and don't plan to buy one any time soon), so that brings me to smoothies instead.

Time to experiment.

I've put my blender through its paces, trying multiple combinations of ingredients on my own, but they all fell a little short. While drinkable, they weren't yummy. And forgive me, but I want my breakfast to be yummy.

Google "green smoothie" and you'll get hundreds of recipes. Since my personal experiments weren't measuring up, I decided to pick one and give it a try. I landed on the "Classic Green Monster" from Oh She Glows. Short list of ingredients, easy to adapt. Cross your fingers...

It's great! And worth repeating! Woohoo!

My version uses So Delicious Coconut Milk, one frozen banana, two handfuls baby spinach, ground flax seeds, and my new favorite Alton Brown cashew butter. Blend it up, and voila! You get a bright green smoothie that is really tasty. And trust me, the banana and cashew butter are the dominant flavors. The spinach mainly adds color and nutrients.

While it may remind you of the clip below, I encourage you to be brave, find the fun of your inner child who likes the idea of drinking bright green smoothies, and give it a whirl!

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s, f/4 at ISO 640

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

139/365 Breakfast: Steel-cut oats

Breakfast theme day two!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm a big oatmeal eater in the cold winter months. I usually go for the rolled, old-fashioned style oats that I can whip up quickly in the microwave in the morning. But I recently gave steel-cut oats a try (pictured here), and they're great!

They take longer to cook -- about 20 minutes if you do it on the stovetop -- but I've found that Alton Brown has come through for me again. I found a mention of his method for overnight steel-cut oatmeal on a blog, tried it, and it's awfully handy! Dump the ingredients in a crock pot before bed, turn it on low, and voila! Breakfast is hot and ready when you get up in the morning. Love it.

I actually haven't made the recipe exactly as written; I've left out the dried cranberries and dried figs, opting for a plain oatmeal that I can then add to later. I'm generally able to get four servings out of this batch of oatmeal. I like to divide the leftovers into individual containers, refrigerate them, then pull one out for breakfast during the week. The reheating method mentioned in this post at The Kitchn is exactly what I do.

Are you a fan of oatmeal? I'm always looking for a great new mix of flavors to try. What are your favorite things to mix in it?

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s, f/4 at ISO 640

Saturday, January 22, 2011

138/365 New theme!

It's been a while since I tried a series of photos in a theme, so let's do one!

Inspired by the list provided on this post at Digital Photography School, I decided to take it on. First theme up? Breakfast.

Mmm, breakfast. A meal I never, ever skip. Mom ingrained in me the need for breakfast at a young age, and I feel absolutely miserable if I don't get food in my system first thing in the morning. I don't know how people survive without it!

In the winter time, I tend to get into a routine of having oatmeal at least four days a week or more. Warm, satisfying... I guarantee you'll see oatmeal photos in this theme.

I'm a big fan of eggs, though, especially when they're loaded up with lots of veggies and mushrooms! I've recently discovered how good a sprinkle of garlic powder can be on them, too. I love making this kind of a scramble/omelet, especially on the weekends.

My recommendation for the best omelet in Indianapolis? Cafe Patachou, hands down. Everything on their menu is delicious, but their omelets are so good I can't bring myself to order anything else. I've tried omelets at many other places, but none measure up to Cafe Patachou's lightness and fantastic mix of fresh mix-ins. It's divine!

Where will this breakfast theme take me next? Stay tuned...

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s, f/4 at ISO 400

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

137/365 Alton Brown's cashew butter

I'm quickly becoming one of Alton Brown's biggest fans.

Alton Brown is one of the Food Network's chefs, and his show, "Good Eats," is a fantastic mix of scientific information and cooking how-to. It's far different than your run-of-the-mill cooking show, and I'm completely hooked on his energy, knowledge, and the way he builds recipes by starting with teaching you how to make the base ingredients. (You can catch episodes on Hulu if you don't get the Food Network.)

Alton Brown's latest book, Good Eats 2: The Middle Years, is one of my favorite gifts from this past Christmas. I've gone through it page by page and have made a list of the recipes I want to make immediately.

One of my first new attempts was his recipe for Cashew Butter -- a tasty alternative to peanut butter, made with just four ingredients in a food processor. It's even easier than making hummus, if that's possible!

I've been getting wonderful raw cashews from Whole Foods, which have a great natural sweetness and no added salt, so I used those in this batch. He calls for walnut oil in this recipe, but I substituted the safflower oil I had on hand and it worked great. In his book, he says this will keep in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for up to three months.

The result is so good it almost tastes like a decadent dessert! I'm having to watch that I don't eat too much of it at a time; savor, savor, savor.

Bonus/side note: If you're looking for a super-easy way to make rice -- a method that allows you to walk away from it and not worry at all about it boiling over -- try AB's recipe for baked brown rice. It works perfectly every time. Thanks again, Alton Brown!

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s, f/4 at ISO 400


Monday, January 17, 2011

136/365 Starfruit from Florida

For the past few months, I've been working with a nutritionist to see if I can make some health improvements through eating habits alone. It's been an interesting learning process, and it's definitely an adjustment!

One of my fears going in was that she would tell me to cut dairy products out of my life, and I love dairy. Milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream... serve it up! Sure enough, one of her first recommendations was to cut back on it. Surprisingly, it hasn't been as difficult as I expected it to be. Soy milk isn't an option, but I've found that the So Delicious milk substitute made from coconut milk is very good, and I learned I can live with goat's milk, as well (go figure).

At our last meeting, she brought me a couple of starfruit from her sister-in-law's tree in Florida. I can't imagine having these growing on a tree in the yard! I'm so used to Midwestern fare like berries and apples that it's strange to think about having your own starfruit -- or even orange -- tree in the yard.

I have to say, though, the starfruit was fun to photograph, but not so great to eat. It had no real flavor, and I expected it to be sweeter. It may not have been quite ripe, so I'll try giving it the benefit of the doubt.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/250s, f/4 at ISO 100 by a window in natural light at about 4:00 p.m.

Friday, January 14, 2011

135/365 Mouse in the house

I've reached a milestone that I didn't realize existed: I've encountered my first mouse inside the house.

I'd rather have continued living in peace without reaching this milestone, but I suppose it's bound to happen, right?

I found the evidence first in the drawer under my oven where I store baking pans, of all places. I went to pull out a baking sheet and found scraps of shredded paper towel that I knew hadn't been there a few days earlier!

So, after a thorough washing of all those pans, the hunt was on! First task: buy traps. I chose the old-fashioned spring-trap method primarily because I didn't want it to eat poison then curl up and die somewhere where I couldn't remove it -- which inevitably would have made the entire house smell for days. Yuck.

Bait: peanut butter.

I set two traps to start, hoping that I was hunting just one mouse and not multiples. [I know from personal experience, having had pet mice as a kid, that when girl mouse meets boy mouse and they fall in love, babies come by the dozen -- and very quickly!]

After the first night, I checked the traps and soon learned that I had a crafty mouse on my hands: the traps were licked clean, peanut butter gone, and the traps still set.

Darn it!

I reloaded the bait, set a third trap, went to work, and found a repeat of the same scene when I got home. Three clean traps, all still set.

Darn it again!

This continued through the next morning. At this point, I felt as though I was just giving the mouse a nice meal of high-quality protein. What I hoped was that he'd start getting sloppy. Get lazy, don't be so careful, and be a little less gentle when prying that peanut butter off the bait paddle. After work on the third day, I stopped at Lowe's and got two new kinds of traps. Perhaps it just required a different weapon? Perhaps my cheap traps from Dollar General weren't sensitive enough?

What happened next was exactly what I expected: I got home from my Lowe's run, and wouldn't you know it but one of my original traps had finally worked. He got sloppy. Success!

I've left some baited traps set in the kitchen just to make sure there wasn't more than one, and the coast looks clear. I now have seven mouse traps -- of three different designs -- ready to go for the next time.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s, f/4 at ISO 320

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

134/365 A fan of sunsets

During the holiday break, I got a chance to see my aunt and uncle from Michigan. My aunt, in particular, loves sunset photos, so this one is for her! A love of those vibrant skies must run in the family, because my dad (her brother) is a big fan, too.

What kind of photos do you find yourself drawn to? Are you a fan of sunsets? Or perhaps your discerning eye leads you to prefer sunrises? Are photos of good food your cup of tea, or do exciting sports photos snag your attention? Other people (myself included) can't resist a good flower photo, and others like more wildlife or nature. Or perhaps you're in the Urban Decay or Abstract camps.

We all have our own styles, and I love that about photography. Give a room of photographers a challenge to photograph the same subject, and they'll all turn out different work. And everyone has a specialty and a passion.

Where would we be without art?

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/125s, f/4 at ISO 320 at about 5:45 p.m.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

133/365 Happy New Year!

Can you believe we're nine days into 2011 already?

As much as I love the holidays, it's nice to be starting a fresh new year. Thinking ahead, imagining what it might hold, planning what new things I'd like to do... I find it to be a positive time of year.

Do you set New Year's Resolutions? I do, but my family has always called them "goals" instead of "resolutions", because a goal sounds much more optimistic and positive than a resolve to do something different.

So, what are some of my goals for this year?
  • Take some more cooking classes. I enjoy taking classes of all shapes and sizes, but I'm particularly interested in expanding my cooking skills. In particular, I'd like to take some classes that teach some of the fundamentals of cooking, along the same lines as the Knife Skills class I took in 2010. 
  • Expand my Etsy shop, both in products offered and sales. 
  • Read at least one new classic novel. This one is a goal for me every year. Last year's feat was Wuthering Heights, and I don't expect I'll be reading it again any time soon.
  • Learn some new beading techniques, so I can continue to make my own jewelry. I've already signed up for two new classes that I bought in a Groupon deal last fall.
I hope it's a great year!

What about you? What are some of your goals for this year?

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and 430EX Speedlite, 1/100s, f/4 at ISO 640

Monday, January 3, 2011

132/365 I went shopping in Chicago and all I got was this lotion

One of my girlfriends invited me to drive up to Chicago with her for a day last week while we both had time off from work. Compared to the way I usually plan vacations (weeks and months in advance), this was pretty spontaneous for me (less than two weeks ahead of departure). I know, I know, this is truly living on the edge.

Anyways, it didn't take me long to say, "Yes, absolutely!" and we started planning. We drove up on Tuesday morning and met up with another of her girlfriends (a new friend for me -- and a fellow Etsy seller!), who lives in the Edgewater/Andersonville area north of downtown.

We spent Tuesday afternoon and evening walking all around Edgewater, Andersonville, Lincoln Park and the shops at North and Clybourn.

View Larger Map

After logging more than 13,000 steps on my pedometer that day (about 6.5 miles!), I have to say that my nerdy favorite new shop was The Container Store.

Oh my.

For a person who simply adores getting new storage bins, plastic tubs, and organizational Post-its, this place was heaven. And word on the street is that Indianapolis is getting one later this year! I may not have bought anything -- I didn't want to carry my haul around with me all day -- but I came away with tons of ideas and inspiration. Also inspiring was West Elm, another store we don't have in Indy. I got a couple kinds of lotion -- both creamy and solid -- at Lush, which has proven to be a weak spot for me in the past.

We capped off a fantastic Tuesday at a wonderful new restaurant: m.henrietta. It's an offshoot of m.henry, which only serves through lunch. I had one of their specials of the day, a stuffed acorn squash with sides of swiss chard and root vegetables, and it was absolutely delicious. I'm itching to try to replicate the squash myself. I was also incredibly brave and tried a mussel after my dinner mates couldn't stop raving about how they were the best mussels they'd ever had. For a seafood-squeamish person like myself, this was a big feat!

We slept in on Wednesday, had waffles, then made the trek back to Indianapolis. It was a brief but excellent trip that surprisingly didn't include any ventures into downtown Chicago. I'm planning on heading back with Mom when the weather warms up, though, and I know I'll be bringing home more goodies then!

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and 430EX Speedlite, 1/100s, f/4 at ISO 640