Monday, May 28, 2012

Already Summer

It's hot, varying between bright and hot and thunder-stormy and hot. I feel like spring lasted for about thirty seconds. Everything has leafed out, and flowers are either fading or gone. We were too late for the wisteria pergola at the Central Park Conservatory Gardens, but at least we saw some in Brooklyn.

The Harlem Meer looking parkways.

Wearing maxi skirts, white, sandals, sunglasses, sunscreen, putting one's hair up, and seeking shade have all become obligatory.

On the plus side, the roses are starting.

Nothing but leaves. Not that I'm complaining.

I love all the outcroppings of giant rocks in Central Park. Reminds me of what the landscape may have looked like hundreds of years ago.

Devin gave me this beautiful garnet necklace several years ago. It strikes me as mildly medieval/Tolkienian, plus garnet is my birth stone, so I love it. I've been trying to remind myself to wear my jewelry more often.

Sheep Meadow dotted with sunbathers.

The Upper East Side of the park.

And our East-Side-location-only treat: Jamba Juice! While ubiquitous in CA, finding it here requires a bit of a trek.

Pomegranate Paradise on a sweltering day = well worth it.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Week 3: Eggs and Gluten-Free Grains

Breakfast: Baked salmon, asparagus, and quinoa with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Salmon for breakfast is weird, you say? As I like both sweet and savory breakfasts, I thought it was pretty great. And I've re-fallen in love with quinoa. Fluffy, nutty, chewy, and a complete protein all on its own.

Lunch was one of the most delicious things ever: Salade Niçoise. Aside from Gado Gado (an Indonesian dish I first had in Holland), Salade Niçoise is my very favorite composed salad. Starting from the top and clockwise: poached green beans, boiled new potatoes, a soft boiled egg, roasted cherry tomatoes, marinated artichoke heart, and tuna mixed with Kalamata olives. The dressing is olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, shallot, and basil. This combination of flavors makes me so happy.

This salad traditionally calls for raw tomatoes, but I roasted mine in olive oil and rosemary 1. because roasted tomatoes are delicious and 2. because cooked tomatoes have like a bazillion times more lycopene than raw. Here's the before...

...and the after. Yum!

For dinner, I made sweet potato fries...

And had them with braised cabbage with caraway seeds, salmon, cilantro, parsley, and lemon juice. I coated the sweet potato chunks in olive oil and ground flax seed, since I've gone a little flax-happy (I add it to smoothies, soups, sauces, etc).

And Now for a Recap/What I Learned:

These past three weeks have been pretty great. I've added a bunch of delicious new recipes to my repertoire (kale chips forever!), I lost five pounds (three pounds the first week, and one pound each of the next two weeks), and I have more energy and have been exercising more.

However, it hasn't all been totally awesome; Having a restricted diet can be an isolating experience. I definitely feel more sympathetic towards vegans (Not that I'd ever go that way, mind you. If you are, more power to you. It's hard work.), and have increased empathy for people with food allergies. My friends were really nice about my choice to do this cleanse, even if it was something they'd never choose to do themselves, but it still feels awkward when you're the only one ordering a salad at brunch while everyone else has bacon and eggs and pancakes. I also had to refuse to feel guilty about refusing food, which is especially hard if someone made it themselves.

The cleanse ends on Monday, and I'm going to add a few things back into my weekly food routine at home: Tea, Greek yogurt, goat cheese, and Parmigiano-Reggiano, honey and maple syrup, and chicken, turkey, and pork. I've decided not to cook with or eat wheat flour, all other dairy, processed sugar, red meat or processed food/drinks at home...forever! However, I am going to occasionally eat the ingredients listed above sparingly when we go out for a treat once or twice a week (like at Shake Shack for burgers, Red Egg for dim sum, or Dinosaur BBQ for delicious southern food). The foodie and the health nut in me have irreconcilable differences.

There is one thing I'm giving up completely: Diet Coke and all other soft drinks. Even if Diet Coke has no calories, it still contains a crazy amount of chemicals with zero nutritional value. I'm going to be substituting plain iced tea when I crave Coke at restaurants.

And finally, a shout-out to my great-sport boyfriend Devin, who has been super supportive and who hasn't had a cheeseburger from Shake Shack in three whole weeks in solidarity. You're the best.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I Love Kale and So Can You

Because kale is mentioned as a "superfood" so often by health nuts (like me, I guess?), it has kind of a bad reputation as something you eat because it's good for you, not because it's delicious. It's true, it is good for you: it has a lot of beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, and a whole slew of other nutrients you can read up about on the Wikipedia article, if you're so inclined. But, as it happens, it can also be incredibly tasty--if you treat the right kind the right way.

For the first eight months of living in NYC, I could only find curly kale (the stuff on the left). I cannot express how huge of a bummer this was. But then yesterday at Fairway, out of the blue, there were piles of dinosaur kale (middle) and Russian red (on the right)! It was as if all my hopes and dreams had come true.

Let's start with dinosaur kale, also called Tuscan kale, lacinata kale, or cavolo nero. My mom (who introduced me to these greens in the first place) makes this amazingly delicious shredded dino kale salad that has turned even the staunchest anti-veggie people on to this dark green, kind of scary-looking plant. This has been my first chance to re-create it!

You'll need: 1 bunch dinosaur kale, one clove garlic (minced or pressed), salt and pepper to taste, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Cut the tough stem out of the leaves, then cut them crosswise into a thin chiffonade. Mix the garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper together and let stand for 5 minutes. Toss the dressing with the kale, then add all but 1 tablespoon of the parmesan. Mix again, and top with remaining parmesan. Even if you don't like vegetables, you'll like this.

Russian red kale! I got the most excited when I saw this, because it's the prettiest, and because I think it tastes the best.

I like it so much, I just steam it. It has a really sweet, mild flavor which I want to mess with as little as possible.

On to the curly kale, which at one point was my nemesis. Just steamed, it really isn't that great...and since it's the most common kind, I can see why people have a negative opinion of kale if this is all they can find. But! Last week I learned how to make kale chips, which transforms these ho-hum leaves into something compulsively eatable.

First, tear the leaves into 2-inch pieces. Then toss them with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees, lay the leaves out on a tray, sprinkle them with sea salt and sesame seeds, and stick them in the oven for 30 minutes.

Here they are after crisping up in the oven. My oven is really small, so if the leaves aren't that thick, they're done after 30 minutes. If you have a normal-sized oven, take the pans out after 30 minutes, flip the chips, and stick them back in for another 20 minutes.

These are an intensely great snack, and have caused me to consume an entire bunch of kale in one day more than a few times.

Enjoy! And eat your greens!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sneak Peek: Our Manhattan Studio Apartment

So, we've done some sprucing up since my last post about our apartment back in August. We have things on the walls! Things on tables! Things on the bed! Since the apartment came pre-(dorm quality) furnished, the only things we have control over are what we put on the surfaces and walls. Here's a 360 degree trip around our 13 by 17 foot living/sleeping/dining space. Kitchen, closets, and bathroom omitted (for now).

Plants on the windowsill! An herb trio (thyme, sage, and rosemary) from Trader Joe's, a bowl of succulents snipped and then carried in my luggage from my parent's California yard and planted in a pot acquired at a Ren Faire, some basil chilling in a jar of water.

Avocados ripening, much-expanded California backyard ivy, and a mini weeping willow tree also from TJ's.

This wall is partially dedicated to postcards collected/sent to me from abroad, as well as pictures of sky (which we lack here).

Our desk, which is mostly used for storage since neither Devin nor I work particularly well sitting at a desk. Devin's books on the top shelf, mine on the middle, then DVDs and a pet cat from Devin's mom on the bottom.

Three photographs I took: pink blossoms and a bee, giant amethyst crystal form the Museum of Natural History, flowers growing on Columbia's campus.

My cookbook collection and a little display of peacock-related items. I like to display my jewelry rather than squirrel it away in a box, so that I remember it exists.

Carved box that reminds me of my grandparent's coffee table, a peacock pendant from India, and a lovely pair of tear-drop earrings my grandparents brought me from a trip to Spain.

Coffee table? So far no coffee has been placed on it.

My collection of California photographs, all taken by me or one of my parents (excluding the copy of the Dutch still life that resides in San Francisco's Legion of Honor). Sticker on the mirror also reminds us of where we're from.

Another way to display jewelry, this time with an ocean theme.

Shell-shaped earrings from an antique shop in Denver, CO, key from my mom's childhood jewelry box, Monterey Bay Aquarium pendant, some buttons, and two pendants that were high school graduation gifts.

I love keeping my pearls in an abalone shell. The luster of pearl and mother of pearl is luminous.

Pearl earrings in a baby abalone shell guarded by my octopus ring.

Dining nook with Tin Tin poster.

A person!

Food-related photographs by me, plus a bunch of food-related Dutch master postcards I picked up in Den Haag while travelling around Holland.

The only glimpse you're getting of the kitchen in this post, plus the audial triptych I drew for Devin a while back.

Front door with a good-luck charm from a friend hung over it, closet guarded by Alex DeLarge.

Dorm-issue dresser.

Two ink and water portraits I did of John Steinbeck and Flannery O'Connor, plus pictures (from left to right) of Devin and me, my grandparents, my mom at age 12, and my childhood cat Genie, a blue-point siamese.

Since I like flowers (such as this gorgeous white peony), I often save glass jars. One used to contain applesauce, another vanilla, and another capers. Lovely bee's wax candle and carved wooden chalice gifts from friends, sprout of a jade plant from my parent's giant plant back home.

A few family photos and family-related items like an aerial picture of tulip fields (Devin is half Dutch-Indonesian) and a watercolor of the Swiss Alps by Devin's sister Erica, who now lives in Switzerland.

The door to the closet, vestibule, and bathroom, bedecked with our bathrobes. And the bed!

Beautiful blue blanket hand-crocheted and gifted to us by Devin's mom, a down comforter, awesome sheets Devin picked out, and a Sakura print sheet I picked up during undergrad.

Bedside table.

A paper doll, a photo of the orange rose bushes by my parent's house that I took when I was 10, a polaroid of my cat Whiskers who lives in California, and a Van Gogh postcard I got at the museum in Amsterdam.

How I keep my glasses and my perfume, plus a monarch butterfly.

My rock jewelry collection.

We like it here. Fargo in the background helps.

One last shot to give you a sense of how big the room really is. Thanks for visiting!