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Lentil Salad and Roasted Beets

August 14, 2011

For my 21st birthday this year, Drew gave me The Country Cooking of France by Anne Willan. It’s a great cookbook with the most beautiful pictures and really interesting recipes. Each chapter is devoted to a different type of dish, including soups, pork and charcuterie, and yes, even frogs & snails, and there are recipes from every region of France, complete with cultural and culinary information about each. My family lived in Pau, France for six months in 2002 and then again in Poitiers, France for a month in 2003, so it’s a country which is very near and dear to my heart. My sister and I were totally immersed in a French public school and those six months hold some of my happiest memories.

In honor of Drew’s birthday, which was last week, we decided to invite another couple with whom we are good friends to a dinner composed of dishes from said cookbook. We made baked tomatoes stuffed with goat cheese and herbs, a gratin of swiss chard (we actually substituted beet leaves since there wasn’t any swiss chard at the grocery store) with cream, Mediterranean marinated mushrooms, roasted brussel sprouts, and warm lentil salad. I wish we had taken pictures but Drew and I got so caught up in cooking that we didn’t have time. Next time, I think we’ll do a lot more prep work in advance!

The warm lentil salad, known as Salade Tiede de Lentilles, was one of my favorite dishes of the evening. I’m not going to publish the recipe on my blog since I didn’t make any significant changes, but you can find a similar recipe here.

Since I had leftover beets after using only the leaves for the gratin last night, I decided to roast them this afternoon. When I studied abroad in Spain last summer, my host mom would usually serve canned beets with every lunch, and I knew that I liked those okay…

Roasted beets are even better, y’all (but of course they are – they’re super fresh and warm!).

Roasted Beets
(with some guidance from Mark Bittman)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Chop stems, leaves, and weird alien tails off beets.

2. Admire beautiful color!

3. Wrap each beet in foil and bake in oven for around 45 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when they feel tender when pierced with a knife.

4. Let them cool and then enjoy! They’re really nice plain or you can even add a little butter.

Some of my lunch today: leftover lentil salad, roasted beets, and broccoli & mushrooms sauteed with salt, pepper, and a little nutritional yeast.

Enjoy the rest of this beautiful weekend!


Mindful Eating

August 13, 2011

Here’s the honest truth: I don’t cook myself anything special for most meals and I usually am distracted while eating, tippity-tapping on my laptop or mouth agape, watching the latest reality tv stars bicker. That truth – my truth- is not okay with me. That’s because it doesn’t fit with my general life philosophy of appreciating each moment as it comes while living in a way that is thoughtful and compassionate.

I’ve been spending a significant time at Barnes & Noble lately (sorry, Starbucks, lots of love!) and earlier this week, I purchased The Natural Kitchen: Your Guide to the Sustainable Food Revolution by Deborah Eden Tull. It’s a very helpful guide to working towards creating a more sustainable lifestyle, especially with regards to shopping, cooking, and eating out. It includes awareness exercises, checklists, and a nice glossary (for those of us who might not know the exact meaning of words like “wildcrafting” or “xylitol”).** I recommend it if you are at all interested in learning about sustainability and what your personal role might be.

In her book, Deborah Eden Tull, who interestingly enough is also a Zen Buddhist monk, addresses my problem — eating mindlessly far too often. She suggests setting aside at least one time per week to carefully prepare a beautiful meal and then to enjoy and savor it, without the distraction of technology. It is my goal to do just that more often each week.

So this morning, instead of simply pouring my Kashi Go Lean and almond milk into a bowl and calling it breakfast, I took the time to make myself bran muffins with raisins and an egg white omelet with feta, arugula, red bell pepper, and onion.

I usually make my muffins from scratch, but my mom gave me this box of bran muffin mix and I decided to use it. I highly recommend it because it makes a good bran muffin base for you to add whatever you like – raisins, chopped fruit, walnuts, honey, etc. The only extra ingredients you need are a Tbsp of butter, an egg, and 1/2 cup of milk (I used unsweetened almond milk, since I’m supposed to be avoiding soy due to my hypothyroidism and it worked just fine).

I plan to keep track of my progress on my journey to mindfulness. I hope you will take the time this next week to sit down, whether you are alone or with those you love, to a special meal and to slowly take it in each flavor and smell.

“There is no enlightenment outside of daily life.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

**Wildcrafting: “the practice of harvesting plants from their natural, or wild habitat, for food, medicine, or other purposes.
Xylitol: “a sweetener made from vegetables, mushrooms, berries, but most often from birch. It is a sugar alcohol and is known to be good for the teeth.”

Here’s a kick in the hiney, just in case you need it.

August 10, 2011

Maybe you don’t. Maybe you’ve already made bread a million times.

If you haven’t though, get up off that thing and make this bread. Don’t be scared – it’s easy. It will practically make itself. You just have to give it a little help.

I used Heidi Swanson’s “Easy Little Bread” recipe, which you can find here.
It’s a mix of all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, and rolled oats. It doesn’t take long at all to combine all 8 ingredients – flours, oats, yeast, honey, water, salt, and butter, and then you just have to let the dough rise for half an hour and then bake for 35 minutes.

You’ll like it, I promise.

There’s a first time for everything.

August 10, 2011

Hey sweet friends! I apologize for my absence over the past few days. This weekend, I went home with my boyfriend to celebrate his birthday with his family, complete with lots of yummy chocolate cake and Super Smash Brothers playing (by Drew and his brother and sister, not by me since I chose Samantha the American girl doll over a Gameboy back in third grade and have never quite caught up since then).

There’s been some excitement in my life — I realized that I lost both my debit AND credit card right before leaving for Drew’s house on Friday. I think they accidentally fell out of their pouch, which is attached to my keys. I’ve ordered new copies of both but in the meantime, I’m surviving solely on cash money – living on the edge and all.

Monday morning, though – that’s when things got really interesting.

This is my planner, which I love dearly and use to meticulously record every day’s activities.

This is what it has to say about Monday.

Basically, I passed out three times after waking up, and the paramedics came (at least five of them and so quickly! that’s encouraging just in case anything ever happens), checked me out, and told me I needed to go to the hospital or to urgent care. Enter Drew — superhero boyfriend. Lemme tell ya, if I ever had any doubts about Drew’s loyalty, all of them have been dispelled. He’s definitely seen me at my worst this year. We spent a couple hours at the urgent care center and I had my vitals taken, my blood drawn, and an EKG test done. I’ll pause here and tell you that I’ve always been pretty healthy. Besides being hospitalized as an infant for a couple of weeks due to a serious, still unknown illness, I’ve never had to go to the hospital for any reason. Never broken a bone, never gotten stitches, never even had allergies, zilch, nada. And I’ve definitely never passed out, but evidently, there’s a first time for everything.

Back to Monday morning’s craziness – having my blood taken was not very fun. I’ve been told I have shallow veins before and boy, was that true. The nurse couldn’t find any in my arms and decided to use a butterfly needle in my right hand. The blood started to come out and then stopped and literally did not come out at all. She told me this was a sign of dehydration and tried the other hand, which thankfully worked! My EKG test results were irregular, so the doctor told me I would probably need to see a cardiologist and a neurologist later in the week but that they would call me to schedule appointments.

I received a phone call last night and it turns out that I have hypothyroidism, which means my thyroid is underperforming. Some symptoms are: low metabolism, cold intolerance, low body  temperature, Raynaud’s phenomenon (this seems to run in my family – basically, your feet and hands turn purple and blue), being prone to dehydration and dry mouth, dizziness, sensitivity to alcohol, fatigue,  and trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. The doctor prescribed me Synthroid, which is a pill that is taken each morning before breakfast and is basically a synthetic hormone to replace what my body is not doing a good job of making for itself. The pharmacist said that it would do nothing but make me feel better and more energized, but if I start to have side effects then obviously I’ll rethink the medication. I’m supposed to go back to the doctor in six weeks to have my blood tested again.

I did some research to see if there were any dietary concerns associated with hypothyroidism. I’m primarily supposed to avoid alcohol, calcium and iron supplements, walnuts, and soy. Also on the list of things to eat in moderation are these raw veggies – broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, mustard greens, radishes, rutabagas, spinach, and turnips. Whaaat? How will I survive? Just kidding, it will fine. I didn’t find this dietary info on my actual prescription, so I think it will be fine to eat normally on the medicine. Interesting, nonetheless.

I’ll keep you updated on how things go over the course of the next few weeks!

Mini DIY: Canvas Bag Lettering

August 5, 2011

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE looking at DIY projects online. Mainly on Pinterest and Design*Sponge. I don’t usually end up making them but it’s still fun to see how creative people are and comforting to know that if the economy ever completely goes down the toilet, you totally can make anything.

A few weeks ago, I bought three canvas bags at Hobby Lobby to use as reusable grocery bags. I’ll be honest – I don’t always remember to bring my own bags with me to the grocery store, but I really do try. Did you know that Target gives you 5 cents off for every bag you bring? That’s a small amount but it’s definitely worth it and you’ll feel like a better, more aware citizen of the world. Anyways, I decided that I wanted to make my bag my own by writing a meaningful phrase on it.

Materials: alphabet stencils, a ruler, blue painters tape, and a green fabric marker + canvas bag

Basically, I just measured and carefully placed the letters,  taped them down on the bag, and then traced them. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. So easy a caveman could do it, in fact.

It was incredibly simple to do but now every time I see those words, I’m instantly reminded of a message that I would do well to keep in my heart all the time.  I chose “Too blessed to be stressed” because forgetting how fortunate I am and how many blessings I have is a reoccurring theme in my life.  Perhaps too optimistically, I had imagined that after April 27, 2011, I would forever be grateful at every moment and less capable of irritation over immensely first world problems, but no, the heart, my heart specifically, doesn’t work quite that way. I can’t see the tornado damage from my new apartment at all, so I can almost forget that the tornado happened and how I felt in the days and weeks that followed. But then I start driving towards Starbucks, towards Ulta, towards anywhere on McFarland Boulevard, and suddenly you can see everything – crushed homes, crumpled cars, trees snapped like matchsticks – and it hits me like a ton of bricks every time. Yet there is good at work, too — the tree in front of where my house stood, despite its battered braches, is growing green buds and leaves that I see each time I drive past and it is a reminder that things get better, that there is always the potential for growth.

“Meridith Food”

August 4, 2011

For the past few years, my friends and family have fondly referred to my diet as “Meridith food.”

I don’t think my eating habits are that strange, but since according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal most Americans consume salad only 36 times a year, perhaps I am more atypical than I had originally thought. I eat a lot of veggies and mixed greens or spinach with every meal — my body craves them. I do, in fact, monitor my protein intake (everyone asks me this so I feel like I have to go ahead and say that) and I usually choose tofu, beans, or a veggie burger to go with my greens. I probably shouldn’t admit this – no, I know I shouldn’t admit this – but one time (today) I roasted 3/4  of one of those bags of broccoli and cauliflower, a small package of mushrooms, a small zucchini, and nearly an entire onion for lunch and ate it ALL. …yes, I am still full. And you know salsa is the new ketchup, right?

Have you guys listened any of the Joy the Baker podcasts? I just started and they’re boyfriend-friendly, because even Drew likes them. Joy and Tracy are hilarious, and you should listen to them at

When we were in Oklahoma for the family reunion in July, I went into an antiques store with my dad and grandparents and ended up purchasing a set of hand-painted dishes from Spain. After studying abroad outside of Madrid last summer, I knew I had to have them. I used to refuse to go antique shopping when I was younger but now like it. There’s something so cool about things that have been used and loved. Here they are:

I love pretty and interesting dishes.

And now I’m off to bake four dozen cookies for an open house hosted by my internship tomorrow! I’m thinking espresso chocolate chip and oatmeal with white chocolate, craisins, and pretzel pieces. Sweet and salty, mmm.

Welcome to my crib!

August 3, 2011

As promised, here are some pictures of my apartment. So far, I’m really, really happy with it. After I lost my house in  the tornado, a lot of people were worried that I wouldn’t have a place to live in the fall, but luckily, I had already planned to live in an apartment AND rent furniture. It worked out perfectly!

This is my kitchen – it’s just the right size and you better believe there will be so much cooking and baking going on this year. And yes, I have four kinds of flour and six kinds of sugar, ahem.

My dad convinced me to buy this little chef’s table from Target and I’m so glad he did because it’s really nice to have the extra space!

Zee living room.

Love this rug!

My bedroom. On the bed is Puppy, who I’ve had for 19 years and who still doesn’t have a name other than Puppy. I was a very original child, you see.

Huge bathroom! I love all the floors here.

And giant walk-in closet! I think this might be the biggest closet I’ve ever had, y’all.

I’m excited about my balcony! It’s nice to be able to sit outside with a bowl of cereal in the morning.

So that’s that.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to finish episode 34 of 30 Rock.
Happy Hump Day!