a perfectly rainy, fall day

I love rainy fall days.

I love the intoxicating smells of wet leaves on the grass.

I love running in the rain.  In my shorts.  In 60 degree weather. 

I

I love rainy fall days.

I love feeling water pour through my sneakers.

I do realize, FYI, that this isn’t exactly normal.  But somehow this sensation brings me back to being a little 7 year old, running through puddles and dancing in my bathing suit with my older brother and sister.  I guess that little girl never left me.

But perhaps best of all, I love to come home.  Dry up.  Throw on some comfy clothes.  Blare the country music station. 

Throw on my apron and make dinner happen.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I see a recipe once on a food blog, I usually make a mental note of it.

When I spot that same recipe twice, I save it to my favorites. 

 But when I see the recipe three (or four!?!) times, I throw up my hands in surrender and I make it. 

While there seems to be a lot of steps to making Channa Masala, it’s actually quite easy to make.  This dish came together in 30 minutes, start to finish.  The rice–which took 40 minutes–was the most time consuming part of the entire meal.  😉

Here are a few things to keep in mind while making it…

(1) Despite what people tell you, you can use dry ginger in place of the fresh.

If you have the fresh stuff, use it.  You’ll notice a difference.  But if you’re like me and don’t happen to have any fresh ginger in supply, this will work out just fine.

(2) Always test your jalapeno peppers before using them.

A wise person once told me that not all jalapenos are made equal.  Some will be ‘burn-your-mouth’ hot, and others will be as mild as a sweet bell.  You really have to taste a small peice to see what you’ve got. 

Today, mine was x-tra spicy, so I deseeded and only used half. 

…oh yeah, and always cut the spicy jalapenos small.  Especially if you’re sensitive to heat like me. 😉

(3) Know when to use real butter.

There are times when olive oil makes a wonderful substitute.  Most times, actually.  But then there are times when only real butter will do.  This was one of those times.

(4) Learn patience.

I have a hard time with this one.  I would cook onions in a minute if I could.  But you’ll get the sweetest, most mouth watering onions, when you practice your patience and let them cook.  Slowly.

(5) Measure out your ingredients ahead of time.

This saves you the stress of trying to throw random spices in at a minutes notice. 

(6) Have fun!

I consider this to be the most important step.  Never overlook it. 😉

I served the Masala over brown rice and topped it with the squeeze of a fresh lemon.

A side of kale chips was set out in the middle of the table.  Completely up for grabs by any and all.

Today really was such a perfectly rainy, fall day. 😀

Channa Masala—(serves 4)
as seen on Eat, Live, Run

  • 2 15 ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 inch knob ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 2 tbsp butter

In a large cast iron skillet, heat the butter. Once melted, add the onions and cook for about 15 minutes on medium low heat, or until golden brown.

Once the onions have caramelized, add the garlic, ginger and jalapeno and stir well. Cook for about two minutes or until it starts to smell like heaven on earth.

Add the tomato paste and pince, using above photos as an example. This is very important and if you don’t do it right your dish is pretty much doomed. No pressure.

Add the coriander, cumin, cayenne and tumeric and stir well. Then add the diced tomatoes, chickpeas and garam masala.

Cook for about five minutes or until the chickpeas have heated through. Finish with a squeeze of lemon and top with plain yogurt and cilantro if desired! 

Question: Rainy fall days—yay or nay?

a rainy day

If I’ve learned one thing about running in the rain, it is this: you will reach a point where you can’t possibly get any wetter.

Somehow that’s a consolation for me, and I absolutely love reaching the poing where I quite literally become one with the run. 😉  That point where avoiding puddles becomes meaningless.  The point where the rate of the rain determines my pace. 

A hard downpour makes my legs turn over quicker.  Sprinting, almost.  

A slow, methodical rhythm of a drizzle is my favorite.  My pace becomes slow and steady, as I take in the pleasures of a rainy day.  One drop at a time.

Running through the rain is one of life’s simple pleasures.  I highly recommend it.

And—remember—you will reach that point where you can’t possibly get any wetter.  😉

With the temperatures dropping, dropping, dropping, hot oats are once again becoming my breakfast of choice.  

I’ve always enjoyed pureed pumpkin in my oats.  I’ve always enjoyed cottage cheese in my oats.  I don’t know why I’ve never thought to combine the two.

But they marry perfectly together, they really do. 

I stirred in the cottage cheese at the very end of the cooking time, to avoid “melting” the cheese.  Been there, done that.  Nobody likes a stretchy cottage cheese.

This produces a very voluminous bowl of oats, and it’s super filling to boot.  Between the protein from the cottage cheese ‘n’ milk and the fiber from the oatbran and pumpkin, you’ll be going, goin, going all morning long. 😀

Spiced Pumpkin and Cottage Cheese Oat Bran

  • 1 c. milk + 3/4 c. water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon + a dash of nutmeg
  • 1/2 banana, sliced
  • 1/2 c. pureed pumpkin
  • 1/4 c. oatbran
  • 1/4 c. 1% cottage cheese, nuked for 10 seconds to take the chill off
  • toppings: Natures Path Pumpkin Flax Granola with almond butter
  1. Bring milk, water, spices, banana and pumpkin to a boil in a small saucepan.  Add oatbran, lower heat, and cook until thickened (about 3-5 minutes), stirring after every minute or so.
  2. Add cottage cheese, turn heat off, and pour into bowl.  Top as desired.

Question: How do you most enjoy a rainy day?

taco night

The day was dark and gloomy.

Rainy.  Dark.  Gloomy.

Rainy.

Which is exactly why I decided to cook tacos for dinner tonight.  You can’t possibly frown while eating a taco.  I’ve tried.  Impossible!

Besides, tacos are one of the easiest meals to prepare.  They’re literally on the table in 30 minutes or less.  Perfect for a busy, crazy, hectic weeknight.  Also perfect for a rainy evening, when you might need that extra smile.  Tacos are where it’s at.

To start, I diced up one whole onion and one whole pepper, and sauteed them over high heat in just enough water to prevent sticking.

When the veggies were tender, I threw in 1 lb. of 93% lean ground turkey and kept the heat at medium.  Remember to make sure that it’s the lean variety that you’re buying.  Some ground turkey/chicken have ground up meat fat in the final product, and really aren’t lean at all.  This reduces the cost for them and increases the fat content in your meal.  Not good.

(as an aside, you could also use kidney beans for a completely vegetarian meal if you prefer, or double the recipe but use half beans/half meat!)

While the meat and veggies were cooking, I heated the oven to 425 in order to heat these guys up.  They only take 3 minutes or so, so pop them in last minute when everything is done.

I love the 365 blue corn chips from whole foods, both for the ingredieints and for that crunchy flavor.  They’re great!  I’ve seen all natural taco shells at hannafords and stop & shop as well though.

Getting back to the meat and veggies.

Once the turkey meat is no longer pink and cooked throughout, I  add in 1-15 oz. can of diced tomatoes. 

+ a packet of dry taco seasoning mix.

These can be really tricky, my friends.  I searched high and low for a brand that did not carry MSG or maltodextrin or partially hydrogenated oils.  They’re hard to find!  My sister makes a homemade version, which she promised to give me once she has it perfected, with all the measurements just right.  In the meantime, I use the store brand.  Yes, the store brand.  The only one that does not contain funky ingredients just so happens to be the cheapest.

Go figure.

Once all the ingredients are mixed together, I bring it to a boil for a minute or so before reducing it to low.  Add water as needed to help it thicken up. 

Then it’s time to throw the taco shells into the oven…

…while taking out any toppings you might want for your taco.  This is what makes taco night so fun.  Everyone can make his or her taco exactly the way they want it.   Avocado?  Cheddar cheese?  Onions?  Lettuce?  Tomato?

Yes, yes, and yes.

I like mine with everything.

I think tacos are a lot like melty icecream cones.  Messy, yes.  But totally worth it.

As always, I ended on a sweet note…

…date x 2! 3!

Turkey Tacos

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 lb. 93% lean ground turkey OR 2-15 oz. cans kidney beans OR 1 lb. lean hamburg
  • 1-15 oz. can diced tomatoes, partially drained
  • 1 taco seasoning packet mix
  • hard taco shells (figure 2-3 per person) OR whole wheat soft tortilla wraps
  • favorite toppings (i.e., cheddar cheese, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado, etc)
  1. Saute onion and bell pepper over medium heat in just enough water to prevent sticking.
  2. Once veggies are tender, add ground meat or beans.  Cook until meat is no longer pick and cooked throughout.
  3. Add diced tomatoes and taco seasoning mix, plus enough water to help it thicken (1/2-3/4 c.)
  4. Bring to boil for one minute or so, then reduce to low.
  5. Heat taco shells in 425 degree oven for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Add favorite toppings and serve and SMILE. 😀

Question: Is there any food that you like to make on a rainy day?  Aside from baking muffins, I like to make special meals that make everyone smile to erase the dark, gloomy clouds.  Things like tacos, heartwarming soups, or food on the grill tend to top this list. 😀

A Rainy Afternoon

I have a few secrets when it comes to enjoying a rainy Saturday afternoon. 

First, prepare your favorite breakfast.  Usually I’ll choose a hot bowl of fruit-sweetened oats because I love how cozy and heartwarming this is on a cold, wet, rainy morning.  However, there are other times—such as today—when I take the other route and go with a cold breakfast. 

  • 1/2 c. oatmeal
  • 2 T. wheat bran
  • 6-oz. plain yogurt
  • 1 banana, diced
  • 5 strawberries, diced
  • cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves
  • toppings: Natures Path Pumpkin Flax Granola, 1 tsp chia seeds, scoop of Justin’s honey roasted peanut butters (finally found it in the grocery stores!!!)

Savor.  Slowly.  Preferrably in bed, while listening to the rain hit the roof. 

This next one is optional, but I highly recommend trying it at least once.

Go running in the rain.  If you’re not a runner, go for a walk in the rain.  Enjoy the rain drops.  Walk through puddles.  Just have fun and entertain your inner kid at heart. 

p.s. running to and from your car with umbrella in hand does not count

Once back at home, dry off and put on your most comfy sweatpants and fuzziest socks.

Turn on your favorite music and start jammin’ in the kitchen.  Singing optional, dancing a must.

Bake.  This is the final step because the point is to slow down and take your time. 

Tomorrow I’m making minestrone soup for my Pepere and the rest of the family, so I figured I would bake some blondies to bring along as well.  I had so much fun toasting the pecans, melting the butter, and whisking the batter into a silly frenzy.  The whole experience was enough to make me swoon with utter delight.  *Sigh* I find such happiness and satisfaction in baking desserts. 

These bars are intensely sweet (think of a melty, ooey-gooey chocolate chip cookie, studded with pecans and white chocolate morsels—with a sweetness factor x 10 ).  But that’s the way I like my desserts.  If I’m going to have a sweet, I want it to be the real deal.  That being said, I also like to cut them small so that people can enjoy in moderation.  Cutting them into 40 squares keeps the calories and fat at a reasonable amount for a dessert, while the flavor and sweetness is enough to knock your socks off upon first bite.  

You’ll find blondies at many coffee shops because they are best served with a darkly roasted coffee or an espresso.  The bitterness is a great offset to the sweetness.  Enjoy! 😀

Blondies—Cook’s Illustrated version

  • 1-1/2 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 12 T (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1-1/2 c. packed (10-1/2 oz) light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips (or hershey dark, which is what I used)
  • 1/2 c. white chocolate chips
  • 1 c. pecans, toasted and chopped coarse (optional but recommended)
  1. Adjust an oven rack to middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 13×9-inch pan with cooking spray.  Cover bottom and sides with foil, pushing into corners and up sides.  Spray with cooking spray.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl.  Set aside.
  3. Whisk melted butter and brown sugar together in a medium bowl until combined.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.  Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture until just combined.  Do not overmix.  Fold in the white and chocolate chips and nuts and turn the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with the rubber spatula.
  4. Bake until top is shiny and cracked and feels firm to touch, 22 to 25 minutes.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  Remove the bars from the pan using the foil handles and transfer to a cutting board.  Cut into 40 squares and serve.

Question: What are your secrets to enjoying a rainy afternoon at home?

schedules and productivity

Rain storms are beautiful.  And so is the sun that comes out the next morning, working hard to help dry things up.  I honestly can’t decide which I like more.

This morning I had plans.  Plans to walk 4-miles with mom.  Plans to cut the entire lawn.  Plans to work on some internship homework.  Plans to be productive!!!

First things first…

  • 1/2 c. oatmeal
  • 2 T. wheat bran
  • 1 banana, smashed
  • 6-oz. plain, nonfat dannon yogurt
  • toppings: 1 T. Galaxy Granola Very Vanilla, 1 tsp chia seeds, 1 T. Teddy peanut butter 

I’ve been loving this combo lately.  It’s very much like overnight oats, only there’s no soaking period.  This results in chewier oats which I love. 

mid-morning snack: grapefruit and almonds

It was a little strange having a set schedule for myself today.  Not too long ago, I was an undergraduate nutrition major who lived on a very tight schedule.  But this past month has been the most laid-back, free-flowing month since…well…probably since being a high school student! 

But not today.  Today I was organized.  Determined.  Productive. 

Lawn mowed?  Check!  4-mile walk with mom?  Check!  Internship homework?  Check!  Sometimes it feels good to have a planned schedule. 😀 

Time for lunch!

  • mixed greens
  • carrot, diced
  • tomato, diced
  • leftover sauteed summer squash and zucchini
  • can of sardines
  • feta cheese
  • 1/4 avocado, diced
  • splash of balsamic vinegar and orange juice

+ kashi crackers!

I’ve been attempting to eat sardines at least once a week, but haven’t actually had them in a while now.  I forgot how yummy they can be on top of a salad!   

My internship homework is actually quite enjoyable right now, I’ve got to say.  The material is really interesting, and it’s all the stuff that applies directly to what I’ll be doing as a future RD.  Fun! 😀 

p.s. my afternoon snack was the same granola bar recipe that’s under the recipe page, except I used chopped dates, added in some coconut, and replaced the flax with chia seeds…a very yummy combo!

If you’re currently on the fence about roasting vegetables, I’m begging you to give it a try.  I promise that it will make you rethink many vegetables.  And, aside from helping to retain many of the nutrients, roasting also brings out a whole new flavor dimension.  Brussels sprouts become crispy and buttery with just a touch of salt and oil.  Squash becomes soft, velvety, caramelized.  Kale becomes light and crisp. 

Cauliflower becomes sweet and earthy. 

One cauliflower with one onion and two teaspoons of olive oil on a cookie sheet, sprinkled with salt & paprika, and baked for 25 minutes at 425.  Does it get any simpler?  This poor cauliflower didn’t even have a chance on the dinner table.  It was quickly demolished by three hungry diners. 😉

Also on the menu for tonight was the last of the Runners World lentil taco’s, which I took out from the freezer last night.  It reheats well, and makes for a quick dinner.  I topped mine with lettuce, chopped tomatoes and a sprinkle of feta cheese. 

I have been on a role with reading lately, and I’m just starting a new book by the creator of Orangette, entitled “A Homemade Life.”  If the first two pages are any indicator of how the rest of the book will be, I’m in for a real treat. 😀

Question: Do you like to keep a strict schedule, a loose schedule, or do you like to plan as you go?  I like to keep a strict schedule when school is in full swing, but I’m more of a loose schedule kind of person.  I like to think that plans can change at a seconds notice if I need them to.  It keeps life interesting and flexible. 😀