It’s the Simple Things


It’s 11:00pm and I’ve just finished sweeping my kitchen and living room floors for the third time today. After mopping both, I scraped up the remains of the Rottweiler hair and washed another sink full of dishes. I have my first hour of MSW field placement supervision bright and early tomorrow morning and I didn’t finish all my homework due for this week. Know what I’m thinking? stress It’s all just fine.

Because it’s the simple things in life.

Like spending a chilly, rainy, relaxing autumn Sunday morning with your best friend, learning the proper form of (and gaining a new appreciation for) yoga.

And coming home to a handsome guy with fresh coffee who says things like this to me on a daily basis:

And then meeting him again for lunch.

How about watching these two play until they’re so pooped that one is sprawled out on the floor and the other couldn’t manage the last few inches to the floor and parked it on the bottom step. Phew. It’s a rough life.

I must add enjoying farm fresh peaches while throwing together a simply delicious dinner to the list.

Baked sweet potato fries: sea salt, agave syrup, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice (to taste)

Black lentils: sauteed portobello mushrooms & red onion, with fresh mozzarella seasoned w/ cumin, sea salt and tossed with white balsamic vinegar

Let’s also add a polish change to the list.

And while doing homework, a simple pumpkin scented candle brightened the entire room.

My homework truly is simply wonderful as well, even though I tend to think otherwise. I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to pursue what I love and pour through articles and books that resonate with me.

And a welcomed interruption from my simply wonderful homework to read a kind comment from a simply fabulous new blog friend.

And all the while, remembering this quote on a shirt that I purchased today from the yoga studio:

Duly noted.

Remember: it’s the simple things.

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Quinoa Mish Mash


I hate wasting food, especially produce. So, I came home from work the other day and threw together a dish with the remaining produce in my kitchen that had not yet turned moldy.

Some of us have a hard time cooking without a recipe in the kitchen and some of us have a hard time cooking with a recipe in the kitchen. I prefer to cook without. I’m quite certain I can thank my mother for that, who is a gourmet cooking instructor. Now, in no way am I equating myself to her level of expertise (my sisters are scoffing right now), but I like to think she rubbed off on me a little.

Here’s how I avoided wasting eggplant, tomatoes, spaghetti squash, onions, green peppers, zucchini, bread and fresh mozzarella (that was quickly becoming not-so-fresh).

Stab a spaghetti squash as many times as you can handle and then throw it in the oven at 350/400 degrees for about a half an hour. Cooking times will vary if you have an oven that was created after 1950. I don’t.

While I do love this oven because without it I wouldn’t have one, I don’t think it loves me back. If I want the oven to heat to 400 degrees, I have to set it at 475. If I want to bake something, I have to presume that the treat will turn out soggy in the middle, regardless of how long it’s baked. Hence the reason why I did not post the vegan pumpkin bars I made the other day. Boo.

Back to the topic at hand…

I chopped an onion, two large tomatoes and a baby yellow tomato, as well as two baby eggplants and three baby green peppers and threw them into a heated pan with a little olive oil. I then watched the brawl that was going down in my kitchen.

What kind of doggie playdate host am I for letting King sit on Bru’s head? Ehhh. I’m sure we all can recall a few times when we weren’t exactly “cordial” while playing with our best friends. I know I can. Post brawl, my veggies were sauteing nicely.

I added two heaping spoonfuls of minced garlic, as well as a spoonful of organic tomato paste to enhance the flavor. It was time to throw a lid over the mixture and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Don’t worry if your lid doesn’t fit. Things will still work out in the end. I promise.

While my veggie stew was simmering away, I made some zucchini pasta (Emily @ The Front Burner has a great post outlining the process). For those of you who are unfamiliar with zucchini pasta, it’s easy and quite delicious. Simply take a vegetable peeler and peel the zucchini until you reach the seeds. You don’t want to cut into the seeds, as they will ruin the flow of the “pasta.” So as not to be wasteful (as I was by throwing zucchini peels onto the floor), I chopped up the zucchini core and threw it into the stew. 

By now your spaghetti squash should be cooked through. If it’s too hot to handle (ahem, like Miguel), then throw it in the freezer for a bit until you’re able to cut it open and remove the contents.

Spaghetti squash is one of my favorite foods. It has so much flavor and offers a lot in the way of cooking variety. If you’re unfamiliar with how to get to the yummy center of a spaghetti squash, read on :).

Take a sharp knife and cut into the squash skin. Cut it in half, lengthwise. You should be able to do this quite simply, as the squash should be fairly soft to the touch, since it’s been baked. Once it’s been halved, use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Once all the seeds are removed, use a spoon or fork and run it along the flesh of the squash to remove the “meat” in shreds.

While my veggies were still stewing and my squash and zucchini were settled, I boiled a cup of quinoa to add to my dish. I also decided it’d be a good idea to use the last slice and a half of Wild Flour Bakery bread that I bought from the Headhouse Farmers’ Market about two months ago. Don’t worry, I had it in the freezer :). This bread was so delicious and froze wonderfully.

I blended the bread in this mini cuisinart food processor that works like a charm. It used to be my grandmother’s. Isn’t it amazing how older products last longer?

I also shredded the last half of a mozzarella ball I picked up at a farm stand with my best friend Laura this past weekend. An aside here — I’m starting my 8 week beginner yoga class with Laura tomorrow morning. What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning. I’m so excited!

All the ingredients lined up:

Bru couldn’t resist a sniff.

More play brawling, just because they’re cute. And fun. And make me smile. And hurt my feet when they step on my toes.

Because I had just recently made a tomato sauce and several soups, I wanted to be a tad more creative with this concoction. I’m sure we all have a lot of tomatoes left over from the end of the season, and this is how I chose to utilize mine.

I mixed the cooked quinoa with several spices: a little sea salt and ground pepper, garlic, onion, turmeric (a tiny bit) and dried parsley. I then used it to layer the bottom of my pan. Next, I added half my veggie stew.

I then added the layer of zucchini pasta, followed by the spaghetti squash. The rest of the veggie stew was layered onto the squash and topped with the bread crumb & mozzerella mixture, to which I added olive oil, sea salt and pepper and basil to taste.

Bru just can’t get enough!

The finished product prior to being committed to the oven. Sadly, I forgot to take a picture when it was done! What kind of blogger am I? This turned out to be a delicious dish that I have eaten for lunch for several days, and will freeze for dinners. Now that I’m in graduate school, it’s a must for me to cook larger batches of fresh, healthy food, so I when open the fridge/freezer, I have enticing meals to choose from. I’m also thinking about adding it to my mother’s Thanksgiving day menu as my submission. My vegetarian sister would be so thrilled that she’d probably force me to make more for her to bring back to NYC. We love leftovers. Even if we have to threaten each other to get them.

My meat-eating sister? Not so happy. Sort of like when Anthro is closed on a cold, winter’s night.

Coming soon:  

  • No workout equipment? No problem! My friend Megan and I improvised and we took pictures as proof 😉
  • Snacks on-the-go: grad school style
  • The common American diet: Megan let’s me “clean” up a day of her meals

Question: What are your go-to recipes when trying to use up the last bits of produce & extras in your kitchen?

simply fit. simply clean. simply happy.

Natalie

Natalie

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How to Enjoy Homemade Soup (without making it yourself)


 

Step 1: Find a boyfriend that cooks. Preferably one that belongs to a food club; this way you know he’s not a sham.

Step 2: Buy him a fabulous birthday gift, but make him work for it first. Scavenger hunt, anyone?

Looking high…

…looking low.

After a search through every room in the house, he went back through, stumbled upon a crazy Fourth of July hat, and managed to use his Mensa brain to uncover a strategically placed…

Pillowsac! Disappointed? I would be too. Miguel wasn’t. Good thing it’s his birthday and not ours.

Step 4: Spectate has he proceeds with the laborious process of removing a bean bag the size of a full size bed out of a package the size of a duffel bag on his birthday. Don’t judge. I had a good view. Now you do too.

Step 5: Sing “Happy Birthday” prior to forcing him to blow out fake candles.

Step 6: Lastly, take the birthday boy out for an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet! Attempt to pace yourself. Give up hope at pacing him.

(Please excuse the forehead scars. Blame rugby.)

Step 7: Do as your boyfriend says when he reminds you by saying, “Don’t you want to take pictures of this for your blog?”

Chicken, mushroom & kale soup ala Miguel

Chop shiitake and button mushrooms, as well as kale and red onion. Unfortunately (or fortunately), we don’t measure anything when we cook. By “we”, I mean Miguel, since he did all the dirty work in this case.

 Saute in olive oil. Add chicken (if you desire), wild rice and chicken or vegetable broth.

 Add spices to taste: garlic, onion, sea salt, white pepper and coriander.

Recognize a job well done, while clothed in the best t-shirt you own. This will be posted on the blog after all.

Play with puppy.

Enjoy soup with whole wheat roll after simmering for about 30 minutes.

The soup was delicious, as one can likely imagine. I promise to have more thorough instructions on recipes in the future.

Oh, yes. And wish the chef a very happy birthday!

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Preparation.Preparation.Preparation. (Laura)


“I’m a big believer in the fact that life is about preparation, preparation, preparation.”

Johnnie Cochran

I hope everyone had a great Labor Day!   I was fortunate enough to have a long weekend, and was able to enjoy a nice Monday off!  My long weekend afforded me the opportunity to get my act together and really start focusing on training for my upcoming 5K!  Just a little background for you all – back in July a flyer had been circulating around my workplace for a race benefiting a local child who has an incurable disease.  I have never participated in a 5k before, and figured this would be a great opportunity to start.  Not only would it serve as a motivator to start working out again, it also was for a good cause – what a win-win situation!  So of course, I signed myself (and my husband) up for the race.

Well, somehow my summer schedule became much more hectic than I ever imagined.  My daily runs dwindled, and before I knew it, several weeks had passed and my training had completely stopped.  It’s now September and the event is only 2 weeks away!  Last week, I finally started training again.  I began by running 2 miles each day, and now I’ve bumped it up to 2.5 miles.  On Saturday, I’ll increase my distance to 3.1 miles, giving myself a week to practice for the actual race.

The most difficult aspect of training for me is simply getting started.  Today, I came home from work exhausted.  There was nothing I wanted more than to climb into my comfy clothes, relax on the couch and just have a night off.  I started my M.B.A. classes again last night, and the late night hit me like a ton of bricks today.  However, with the race just a week again, I knew I would have to push myself.  I got out the new pair of sneakers I just bought (my reward for training so hard ;-), grabbed my IPod and headed out the door.  As soon as my feet hit the pavement, I got into my training zone and suddenly my run wasn’t so bad.

My new kicks and IPod - all set for my run!

Some days, it’s realllllly hard to stay motivated.  Life has a funny way of catching up with you, with increasing demands from work, family, and the house (especially with my ongoing kitchen renovations!).  It would be much easier to just give in to temptation and have an easy night off.  However, I set a personal goal to run and complete this 5K.  I keep that goal close to my heart, and try to stay focused on it.  I know achieving this goal will be a great feeling, and I use that as a motivator to keep pushing myself forward.   I’m excited to update you as my week progresses, and can’t wait to cross that finish line on the 18th!

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Philly. Farmers. Fork.


It’s that time again! “What time”, you say?

Time for more Philly, more food and more farmers.

Off we go…

 

Riley’s ready.

And off we venture, while taking in the sights.

Destination: Headhouse Farmers’ Market.

A small market in Philly, but one of the best I’ve visited.

We did a little perusing. I always like to view all that the market’s vendors have to offer, prior to buying any items.

 Hello, gynormous watermelon.

  

  

My boyfriend loves peppers and ultra spicy items. I was so excited when I saw this beauty — referring to the plant, of course 😉 Isn’t it so neat? I’ve never seen a pepper plant before and I just loved the various colors. Consider it purchased!

 

 I lugged the plant home, along with my other produce on my shoulder.

 

 Farm fresh eggs, peaches, a mix of baby tomatoes & pluots.

If you have not tried a pluot, please do. It’s a hybrid of a plum and an apricot.

Simply delicious.

 

After our trek to the market, we headed off to brunch at a restaurant called Fork in Old City.

 We couldn’t resist yet another wonderful Philly restaurant.

 

 

 

 

 I ordered the house-smoked salmon. Typically, I never eat bagels, but I was clearly obsessed with smoked salmon this weekend. 

Introducing the same wonderful company as last night: my older sister Hilary, Scotty Ce and my oldest sister, Missy.

 

 

 

 Aren’t they precious? Now, let’s eat! 

 

 See the fries in the middle of the table? Hil and Scotty Ce love fries.

They order them at almost every meal to share. Cute, right?

 

And so ends our wonderful weekend together.

Sisterly love in the city of brotherly love.

 

Oh, and for those of you who were wondering… Miguel loved his pepper plant 😉 

Laura and I have some exciting ideas we’re brewing up. We’ll see you soon for the unveiling!

 Clean kisses — xoxo — Natalie

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Simply Philly


So, it’s Brown Betty time. Finally! Hilary and I have tried, on several occasions, to go to Brown Betty to gobble down a fabulously yummy cupcake, but have failed every time. Either we forgot we were going to go, or it’s closed on the days we are able to visit. After traveling around Rittenhouse, I had a lightbulb moment and blurted out, “Brown Betty!” We were walking in the wrong direction, but our cupcake cravings had us quickly switching routes. Though we were hungry, tired and achey from walking miles in flip flops, we started our journey to this famed bakery.       

Guess what we found.       

       

       

So, you’re telling me that I got a parking ticket today AND Brown Betty’s is closed? Breathe, Natalie, breathe. Oh wait. There’s another location that’s not too far. I think we can drag our exhausted selves a few blocks if it means there will be a frosted piece of chocolatey goodness at the end of the hike. Off we go…       

Guess what we found.       

       

Now guess what the sign on the door said. “Sold Out.” Seriously, Natalie. Brreeatthheee. Literally, as we were walking up to the door, the bakery lights were turned off. I didn’t get a picture of the sign. I couldn’t drag myself the last few steps only to be smacked by the bold words killing my dream while simultaneously worsening my hunger. Oh well. I suppose I have an excuse to visit my sister in Philly again soon. Strictly a cupcake weekend that will be.       

On the way back to the apartment to rest and freshen up for dinner, we stopped by Grocery, a petite speciality food store, to take in the sights.       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

All together now… “Yummmm!”       

I grabbed one of these to go, to quiet my cupcake hunger:       

       

After Grocery, we headed back to the apartment, relaxed, drank a glass of wine and had a few snacks prior to heading out to dinner.       

We chose to dine at Twenty Manning Grill. Boy, were we were thrilled w/ our decision.       

       

       

While waiting for our table, we posed for a few pics…       

Scotty Ce (Hil's BF), Hil & Missy

 

The Sisters

 

Soon after our photo shoot, we were seated. We loved the atmosphere.       

       

And loved our food selections even more.       

       

       

       

Cheers!

 

I chose the Farmers Market Beets as my entree and the Crispy Brussel Sprouts as a side to split with Missy. The waiter brought over four baby baguettes w/ rosemary butter, sea salt &  fresh cucumbers from the chef’s garden as our amuse bouche (that one’s for you, Mom).       

       

       

My company’s eats:       

Scott's scallops - please forgive his dorkiness

 

Hilary's pan roasted chicken w/ mashed potatoes & peas

 

I won’t bore you with another picture of the beets, which is what Missy also ordered. Missy was sure to point out Hilary making love to her peas as she shoveled them down.       

We finished off with an underbaked (which is actually how it’s described on the menu) chocolate chip cookie w/ vanilla ice cream.       

       

Scott loves salt…       

       

…so does Miguel.       

       

Didn’t anyone give them the memo regarding refined salt?       

Sea salt, boys, sea salt!       

        

Forgive my tangent. Leftovers were taken…       

       

and pajamas were donned.       

       

Another fabulous restaurant and farmers’ market on the agenda for tomorrow, you say? I’m not arguing with that. Sweet dreams!

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It’s a French Kind of Day


10:30am and the Philly adventures continue! We slept in. Don’t judge us – we were on vacation 🙂

      

On a leisurely walk with Riley and Hilary to my car with the intent to move it to avoid a ticket, we, ironically enough, found a ticket placed lovingly on my windshield by the local traffic cop. Happy Saturday from the Philadelphia Parking Authority! Good thing we didn’t let it ruin our day. What’s $36 anyway? Yeah, we’re cool like that.      

Off to the creperie! A good crepe and a yummy latte will band-aid anything in my book. And if they won’t, please don’t let me encounter that wound.     

Why hello, Beau Monde. So happy to meet you.      

      

What a delicious way to start off the day.    

Smoked salmon crepe w/ leeks and creme fraiche.      

      

Enjoying time spent with my best friends and my best beverage…      

      

      

Then our lovely waitress, my new favorite person, delivered the requested goods.      

 

Hilary's banana and berry sauce crepe

 

Missy's mushroom, egg and goat cheese crepe

 

My smoked salmon, leek and creme fraiche crepe

 

 Hello heaven. Goodbye heaven. It’s been real.     

     

Off to do some really important things. You know. Change the word type things. Like shopping at Anthro and visiting a farmers’ market and patisserie. My life is hard. Well, it will be next week when I continue graduate school and two jobs, among other daily life responsibilities. I’m not complaining!     

Since I’m watching every penny due to my return to school, I just took in the sights at Anthro, as well as the other two stops.     

Anthro’s decor never ceases to amaze me…     

Can I please live here?     

     

     

     

I’m feeing inspired. How about you?
Next stop: Rittenhouse Farmers’ Market.

Ry and I waited for mommy and Aunt Missy prior to heading to the market

 

The flowers were breathtaking. Please enjoy.     

     

     

     

     

     

     

Local & fresh produce, baked goods and meats:    

    

     

    

     

    

     

    

     

    

     

    

     

    

     

    

My boyfriend’s obsessed w/ meat. Seriously – he eats a pound of steak every. single. night. He’s made attempts to eat grass fed & organic. That’s why we’re dating. Ehhhh – I suppose he has a few other good traits. Sorry that my cheap self didn’t purchase the meat, Migs.    

I hope you enjoyed the picture slide show of the farmers’ market. On to Miel Patisserie, where we quenched our thirst w/ a jasmine, green tea, peach nectar iced tea.    

     

    

     

My sister Missy’s real name is Melissa. Miel means honey in French. Melissa means honey bee. One year my mother was so obsessed w/ Missy’s name that every gift Missy received had a honey bee on it. Missy didn’t care for honey bees all that much. It was funny. I suppose you had to be there.    

    

     

    

     

    

     

   

    

We chatted some more. I think this serious conversation entailed contemplation regarding Sammie Sweetheart and Ronnie’s ultra-healthy relationship on the Jersey Shore. “She didn’t look dumb… she didn’t know he was making out w/ a new girl every night after he called her the b-word and went out clubbing.” I don’t know what’s more pathetic. Young women’s lack of respect for themselves (and having it splashed all over the media), or our lack of respect for our own intellect ;).  [Speaking of women’s lack of self respect & esteem… please visit two blogs that have certainly earned my support: www.operationbeautiful.com & http://facesofbeauty.org]   

     

    

     

Poor Riley Rooter was exhausted (as were we), so we walked to Hilary’s boyfriend’s apartment to drop him off to play with his brother, Toby, who you may have met here.    

     

    

     

    

     

    

     

    

     

Tober Lobes is a cutie pie. He requested that I show you all his happy self and his new haircut. You like?    

After we put Riley to rest, we went on our way to FINALLY find Brown Betty, a popular cupcakery in Philadelphia.    

Part deux coming soon. Au revoir mes amis!    

Clean kisses – xoxo – Natalie    

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