Thursday, June 25, 2009

What a Day!

Wow, I'm just amazed at all the sad celebrity news this week! I've been glued to the TV most of the afternoon trying to keep up with the is-he-or-isn't-he coverage around Michael Jackson. It's just been in the past couple of years that I've started to really enjoy his music. Hopefully he'll enjoy some peace now that he seemed to struggle to find here on Earth.

Annnnyhoooo. I knew I wanted to keep lunch on the lighter side tonight since I'm planning on a pasta dinner but didn't feel like a salad. After staring at all the yummy goodness in the fridge I had a flashback to some lettuce cups that a friend made one summer day a couple years ago. That version involved ground turkey but conveniently I had some Boca Crumbles in the freezer just waiting on a day like this. They're not much to look at but were very tasty!

I sauteed some chopped onion and garlic until translucent, added a bit of red bell pepper, some cumin and chili powder, the Crumbles, and a little bit of water and covered for a couple of minutes. This was the first go-round with the Crumbles. I don't love them and if I were a meat-eater would likely have been a bit disappointed but used in a sauce or a flavorful taco recipe like this they held up pretty well. The texture was decidedly different...a little on the mushy side. Nice to have on hand for a quick lunch or dinner though.

The lettuce cups were on the small side once wrapped so I added an apple and a couple of cherries for some balance. Boy, did I ever underestimate how filling the wraps would be! Half an apple is just hanging out in the fridge waiting on me.

In other exciting news, I had a job offer! Wooooooo-hooo! It's a temp-to-hire position at a local university and I'll be starting in the next couple of weeks. We're in the process of ironing out some of the details, but oddly enough it's a position that I interviewed for a couple months ago that's come open again. Funny how the world works, isn't it? How's that for a reminder to put out lots of positive energy in the world? It really does come back around. I think I'll have a glass or two of wine tonight to celebrate!
Good morning! I woke up nice and early to the warm sunshine this morning and took my time getting out of bed. It's so relaxing to just lie there enjoying the morning and not feeling rushed. The Beanpole often jokes that I'm becoming more and more like our cat and perhaps it's true!

Yesterday's oatmeal was delicious but today called for something a little lighter so I started with a pina colada Green Monster. It ended up being a little too much and turned warm too quickly, even with a couple ice cubes added, so I didn't quite finish it. There's about 1/4 left. I need to remember to make mini-smoothies so I don't end up wasting as much. Oh well. One of these days! To supplement the smoothie and fill the belly for a little longer I added a multi-grain waffle with almond butter and fresh berries.

My landlord is refinancing the place so she and the appraiser came over to take a look (hence the late posting) and in talking with her I found out that she has a friend who has some experience in the event planning field and got her name and number. I'm really excited about all the possibilities that are opening up now that I'm reaching out and pursuing something that I've always had in the back of my mind. Being laid off wasn't easy in a number of ways but I've really reached that point of making the most of it and becoming more and more engaged in the local community and building a new network of really great people. This might be one of the best things that's happened to me in the past year! Today looks to be pretty good. I'm camping out at home watching the Cubs game and getting some more resumes out there. GO CUBS!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Hot Mess

Sorry for all the weather chatter lately! Yikes. But, as anyone in Chicago will happily tell you we KNOW how to talk about the weather. There are so many jokes about it - all based in reality. Don't like it? Give it thirty minutes and it'll be different. : )

After eating out for five straight days while on vacation (and not wanting to buy groceries right before the trip) my goal for this week was to eat as many meals - if not all - at home as possible. Tonight was an exception though because I had a chance to meet another blogger! We met at Red Ivy in the Wrigleyville neighborhood (yes, that Wrigley) for their Wednesday $5 personal pizza special. I live several blocks away and with the sun beating down and a heat index of 105 degrees I was a sweaty, panting mess by the time I arrived. Sorry Lisa! I guzzled a huge glass of water and started to cool off in time for the pizza, which was delicious! The sauce was a little sweet and the crust nice and doughy. Ooops - a slice was already gone when I remembered to take this photo.

Objects in photos may appear considerably larger than reality. It truly was not as big as it seems but even so, I debated bringing half of it home for later. Surprisingly it was not overly filling even in the heat so I left only one tiny slice and the walk home was much more pleasant since the sun had set behind some buildings. As we ate we talked about life lessons, the progression of careers, and living frugally in the big city during tough times. We're really fortunate to have so many fun free events and great parks here and it's going to be a fun summer to take advantage of them.

**I took a look at the blog earlier and it looks like my links aren't working. I'm planning on doing some updates in the next couple of days so this should be fixed soon, but in the meantime please be sure to visit (cut and paste) for more info on Lisa and her blog**

Keepin' Cool

Yummmmm, all that hot oatmeal kept me full even longer than usual today, likely due to the heat. It's starting to cloud over and storms are expected but hopefully they'll blow through quickly and we can get back to some sunshine! I figured the best way to keep cool and eat light today was to whip up a salad. I LOVE salads when dining out but they never seem to taste quite as good at home. This doesn't seem to be the case for most meals but salads just have a little something extra when prepared in a restaurant. Anyone else feel that way about salads or any other particular meals?

Today's mix was some loose leaf lettuce, tomato, red bell pepper, carrot, kernels from one of the fresh ears of corn I bought yesterday, a couple sliced strawberries, about 1/3 of the remaining half of avocado, a tablespoon or so of Annie's sesame dressing, and an ounce of goat cheese. It was delicious - a wonderful combination of crunchy, creamy, salty, and sweet. I think the fresh corn made it special! A couple thin slices of pretzel bread rounded out the meal, but an hour later I'm feeling a bit hungry and will probably have a tiny snack before heading off to dinner.

I also got some fantastic news from a friend this afternoon! Nothing is set in stone right now but it could be a really great opportunity so keep the fingers crossed!

Berry Berry Good

Whew! I used our tiny little window unit A/C last night for a couple hours to cool the place down - which works pretty well when you're talking 600sf - but turned it back off to sleep. Man was it hot when I woke up! We were already at 87 degrees at 8am. Impressive in June. Nevertheless I kept thinking how tasty a nice big bowl of oatmeal with tons of berries would be. It's a little embarrassing to admit, but I definitely made the bowl and camped out in front of the window unit to eat it! I try to run the A/C as little as possible for energy savings as well as maintaining predictability on our electric bill but a girl's gotta do what she's gotta do for the oatmeal! It may not appear as such but under the strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, coconut, banana, and chocolate chips there are actually oats in the bowl!

Today's to-do list isn't quite as hectic as yesterdays but I do have a bunch of emails I need to catch up on and some people to connect with that I've been trying to find an extra couple of minutes to do. Tonight I'm having dinner with Lisa Marie from another Chicago blog! She and a friend started Laid Off Ladies several months ago and I love their blog! It's full of great ideas on how to keep the spirits up when going through this type of transition and I can't wait to meet one half of this duo. She's even spent some time in my beloved South Carolina!

Time Flies

Yikes! I'm sad to say that I missed the networking event last night. I was ready to go, save for getting dressed since it's steamy, and got distracted with some other work and next thing I realized the event was halfway over. Oh well - there are plenty more to come. After debating for a little while I finally settled on having breakfast for dinner. Eggs were sounding particularly appealing so I whipped up a veggie scramble. Nothing fancy, just some eggs, a bit of cheese, red pepper, tomato, and 1/2 a small avocado. YUM!

Washed it all down with an (unpictured) glass of pomegranate juice with a couple splashes of seltzer. I've discovered that caffeine and I just can't work it out and will have to make the most of this separation, but I'd been craving Coke all day. Upon reflection, though, I realized that it was really just the carbonation I wanted and decided to stick with this healthier concoction. I'm definitely one for giving in to the cravings (within reason, of course) but sometimes a simple switch is all it takes to satisfy the craving.

The scramble was filling thanks to the cheese and avocado but even after the "cocktail" I wanted something sweet, so I polished off a small bowl of fresh berries. So cool and refreshing on a hot summer night!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bang for the Buck

It's been a productive day! I got a ton of work done, unpacked, grocery shopped, and managed to squeeze in a much-needed vacuuming and dusting. Life is so much calmer with a clean house! Contrary to expectations summer has finally arrived in Chicago and it's in the mid-90s today. We have a window unit in place but since it's only in the 80s in the apartment I'm leaving it off to keep the fresh air a-coming and enjoying lounging around in shorts and a tank top. When I left last week only the thought of the South Carolina heat got me out from under the best sleeping bag known to man.

Have I told you about my favorite produce shop here? It's most commonly known as Stanley's but I've been known to refer to it as my mecca. Seriously, this place is fantastic. It's almost nothing but produce with a few local bakeries represented and a month-old deli. One half of the store is dedicated to organic produce and the other is conventional. My favorite part of shopping there is that I don't have to break the bank to get fresh, organic produce. I absolutely adore Whole Foods but like so many others find that my bank account is not quite as fond of them. Stanley's isn't perfect. They don't always carry everything (no cucumbers today, really?) and sometimes I have to pick up an item from the conventional side, but I don't mind since I'm also supporting a locally-owned and operated business. Six on one, half a dozen on the other. Here's a glimpse at today's loot:

Organic Items:
-2 Pink Lady apples
-2 d'Anjou pears
-1 mango (sneaky little bugger isn't in the photos because he tried to hide in the bag when I got home!)
-1lb baby spinach (anyone familiar with the Green Monster understands why so much)

Conventional Items:
-looseleaf lettuce
-1 red bell pepper
-5 ears corn
-2 portabella mushrooms
-2 tomatoes
-8 bananas
-green onions

The best part? ALL of that came to $35.02. Really. It should last me about a week and a half. You might notice a couple other items here as well - my precious Trader Joe's Raw Almond Butter, and a couple of bars to try while I'm on the go this week. The amount of produce I picked up could probably feed an army when combined with the grains and fish already here at the house, so I don't put much stock in the argument that it's not affordable to eat healthy. I buy organic when I can and that does cost a bit more but overall I'd still rather eat conventional fruits and veggies than a host of overly-processed junk labeled as "healthy". Can someone help me down from my soapbox? Thanks.

Anyway, when I returned home and lugged the gatherings back from the car it was HOT! I wasn't terribly hungry but wanted something fun to taste so I made a Pina Colada version of my Green Monster. A little coconut milk and pineapple on a sweaty day goes down quite nicely! Add a banana and four cups of spinach and you've got yourself a well-rounded drink. Gustus Cat seems to think so as well.

I have an event to attend this evening that is offering appetizers but I'll probably try to stay away from them for the most part. It's being held in an Italian restaurant and it's always hard to tell at these functions what does and does not contain meat. I learned that lesson the hard way last week after a delicious but dangerous stuffed grape leaf. As such I want to eat enough to be able to handle a glass of wine to mingle with but keep me from getting too hungry, so I also had a Boca burger topped with a bit of cheese and ketchup. A bun would be too heavy today with the heat but a little bit of pretzel bread isn't!

Time to go get ready and head downtown!

Catch of the Day

Wow, it's been some time since I last blogged! I'm doing the standard "it starts on Monday" procedure usually reserved for correcting bad habits and starting anew with some fresh perspective. Cooking has been taking a back burner (sorry) lately for a number of reasons but it's more than time to get back to the kitchen and enjoy all the tasty treats that spring and summer have to offer.

The Beanpole and I spent a long weekend in the Carolinas basking in the warmth of the sun after the cool, rainy days in Philly and Chicago. Needless to say the refrigerator is rather empty at the moment save for some pathetic leftover strawberries what used to be leftover tempeh. After dumping my bags at home and checking on the Gustus Cat last night I popped over to the local market for a quick dinner and ended up with a Kashi GoLean frozen dinner of black beans, mango, and pilaf. I try to avoid frozen meals most of the time and don't feel too bad about this one since Kashi is a pretty healthy (nutritionally and ethically) choice.

All this time off from blogging has created some bad habits, however, and I neglected to take a photo of dinner OR the multi-grain roll with almond butter and strawberry preserves that I had for breakfast this morning. Instead, I'll leave you with a photo of my favorite lunch from our long weekend. I enjoyed every single bite of these babies!

I'm off for a run to my favorite produce store in Chicago to load up on fruits and veggies for a week of healthy meals to get back on track after vacation! I have a long list of to-dos today, an event to attend this evening, and I'm hoping to snag some beach time tomorrow afternoon if I can get caught up on everything after the trip. Summer seems to have finally arrived in the city!