Thursday, January 31, 2013

Soup in a Blender!

Recipe Thursday seems to have become my only blog post each week. Whether or not that means my life has become incredibly dull or that it revolves around food, I'm not entirely sure- maybe a combination of both. I can't help that I live for my next meal.

A few weeks ago I remembered that my Vita-mix came with its own cookbook which, in all my excitement about smoothies galore, has sat gathering dust since I got it. Looking through it I realized how many cool things I've been missing out on, including soups. As in, you make the entire soup in the blender- no pot and no mess! Pretty cool, right? The Vita-mix's motor is so super awesome that when you let it run for a few minutes it actually heats up and cooks the soup.

We decided to try tortilla soup. I started by gathering my ingredients:

A stalk of celery, a little bit of red bell pepper, a carrot, roma tomato,  some onion,
yellow squash, a mushroom, cumin, and vegetable broth.
 Then you put everything in the blender

The cookbook even lists the ingredients in the order that you're supposed to put them in the blender. Softest (meaning liquid) to hardest- turns out I've been doing it wrong all along!
And let it go for about 5 minutes, until steam starts coming out (or foam, in my case):

I got a little worried that the whole thing was going to explode. I had to use all my
willpower to let it run the full five minutes.
Pour it into bowls and enjoy!

Carl made some Mexican-y fish to go with it, baked with bread crumbs, a bunch of secret seasonings, and salsa. It was quite a delicious and effortless meal- as easy as chopping vegetables in half. If that doesn't make you want to go drop a few hundred dollars on a blender, I don't know what will!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Recipe Thursday: Quinoa and Kale Patties with Sweet Clementine Vinaigrette

For this week's recipe I thought I'd try something out that I've drooled over on Pinterest. I don't know about anyone else, but despite my love for Pinterest, I have to do it in very small doses so as to avoid feeling like a complete failure at life.

"Why am I not more organized?"

"I should set aside more time for cleaning."

"Why don't I make a recipe from scratch every single day?"

"I think it might be time to buy a house so that I have the space to try out all of these designing ideas."

"I really need to work out more. If I'm not doing 100 burpees every day I'm not reaching my potential."

"How come we don't have more parties? At this rate I'm never going to have the chance to make all these cleverly themed drink and appetizer recipes."

... These thoughts and more are what overcome me every time I get on Pinterest. I always have to give myself a pep talk afterwards to remind myself that I don't completely suck at life.

Anyways, back to the recipe. I've been wanting to try quinoa for months now and I finally built up the courage when I made these delicious quinoa and kale patties. This blogger is clearly a much better photographer than I am so I went light on the pictures, but I couldn't help but take a few:

The ingredients: green onions, parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, garlic, and eggs. I've got the
quinoa cooking in the bottom pot and the kale steaming above it (I was pretty proud of my ability to maximize time, space, and energy with my double boiler!).

Once the quinoa cooks and the kale steams you just mix all of the ingredients together, form into patties, and pan cook. Easy peasy!
As usual, I served the patties atop a bed of lettuce. It makes for such an exciting and satisfying salad.
I was surprised at how much I liked quinoa! It tastes a lot like rice, but it's a little bit lighter. I think I would have been stuffed if I ate the same quantity of rice. The patties were absolutely scrumptious; this was one of those meals where we sat and ate in complete silence for 5 minutes or so because we were so focused on the food.

At a loss as to what to top the salad with, I was forced to pull out my Iron Chef hat and come up with a dressing using the ingredient of the day: clementines. I had just bought a big case of them and thought something sweet might complement the flavors of the patties. I'm proud to present you with an Allison Bussells original:

Sweet Clementine Vinaigrette

1 clementine
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp agave nectar
1 clove of garlic

I didn't expect this to turn out as great as it did so these measurements are approximates because I was just dumping stuff into the blender haphazardly. As with any dressing it's pretty easy to play around with the ingredients to reach your desired flavor. I blended all the ingredients for about 30 seconds and then poured it into a cute little carafe that I saved from some gourmet dressing that I splurged on a while back. I wish that my picture captured the cuteness of the dressing carafe. Shucks.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Living the Frugal Life

I mentioned a few posts ago that Carl and I are embarking on "Extreme Budget 2013" in an effort to both save more money and eliminate student loans. As January draws to an end and the reality of long-term frugal living sets in, I'm finding that my initial enthusiasm for the budget is turning into a feeling of dread and premature defeat. We don't make nearly enough to be extravagant with our spending in the first place, but we certainly enjoyed our fair share of eating out, barhopping, and personal indulgences on the old budget. Now we can eat out approximately 1 time per month... at Moe's.

I'm a list-making enthusiast so I've been enjoying planning out all of our at-home meals and groceries. I thought I'd give couponing a try- you know, if Honey Boo Boo's mom can do it I totally can too, right? You always hear about those people who leave the grocery store checkout with the store owing them a refund for the three cartfuls of groceries they plan on putting in their basement stockpile for the impending apocalypse, and I thought if I could get in on a little bit of that action I could save us a lot of money. I signed up for all of the appropriate coupon websites and started going through this week's featured coups when I came to a sad realization: I don't buy anything that the coupons are for! It's all uber-processed food, or weird frozen stuff, or health and beauty products that I don't use (everyone knows that I rarely shower). What about a coupon for bananas or lettuce? Where's all the healthy stuff? No wonder Honey Boo Boo's mom is the person she is today; she's forced to buy crappy processed food with her coupons. So frustrating!

Has anyone else had any luck with this kind of thing? Part of me feels like I gave up too soon, but the other part is somewhat relieved that I don't have to put the effort into keeping up with the coupons. It seems like an awful lot of hard work, as does money-saving in general. I'm determined to stay determined, though, and hopefully have some budget friendly tips to share with you all along the way.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Recipe Thursday: Red Pozole with Beans

Hi! I can't believe it's Thursday again. I had every intention of writing a blog post earlier this week, but somehow the days just got away from me. I figured it was time to fill everyone in on my new job, so I'll give a quick update before I get to the recipe.

I started my job on January 2nd, which I think is an ideal time to begin any job or big endeavor. It really gives meaning to the whole, "new year new you" saying. A true fresh start. My position was newly created as a response to the mortgage department's increasing sales volume, so it was nice that I didn't have to fill a predecessor's shoes or anything like that. I get to pave my own way in terms of setting standards and establishing norms for my position. Fifteen days in I still can't quite come up with an accurate description of what I do, other than "mortgage processing," which entails more than you'd ever imagine, especially with all the strict new regulations. I've learned something completely new every day! I love the variety, the challenge of multi-tasking and prioritizing the plethora of things that I do, and I've found that I'm a lot more interested in mortgages than I originally anticipated. Granted, I don't actually ever get to meet the customers (which is somewhat of a blessing), but seeing the process from start to finish behind the scenes is very cool. I still haven't gotten used to waking up in the morning and not dreading going to work. It's very refreshing, and I hope it stays that way.

Carl was out of town the past few nights for a work event, so to celebrate his homecoming I made Red Pozole with Beans, another recipe from Michael Natkin's Herbivoracious. Pozole, I learned, is a Mexican soup or stew- stoop, as Rachel Ray would say!- with hominy, beans, tomatoes, and chiles. Shopping for ingredients proved to be quite an endeavor. I'd never even eaten hominy before tonight, so trying to find cans of hominy in the vegetable aisle was like looking for a needle in a haystack. I actually had to Google images of hominy so that I knew what i was looking for. I almost gave up after about five minutes of feeling like a freak for staring so intently at the canned veggies, but I'm glad I persevered. In case you're like me and haven't tried hominy before, it tastes a lot like tortillas... which makes sense when you think about how tortillas are made. Carl and I had a big 'duh' moment as we were discussing this during dinner prep. I also had issues locating the dried chiles that the recipe called for. Publix is usually pretty good about carrying somewhat obscure ingredients, but I could not find a single dried chile in that entire store. I tried Food Lion because they have a big Hispanic food section and sure enough, that's where I found them. Once I got my ingredients gathered, here's what I had:

Two cans of hominy, vegetable broth, a can of pinto beans, and some fire-roasted diced tomatoes. Two limes, two dried chiles, garlic, onion, and cilantro. Not pictured: vegetable oil and oregano.
The recipe called for 3 cans of vegetable broth, but I just used one and subbed in water and a little extra salt to save some money. It also only called for 1/2 can of tomatoes but I was feeling crazy so I used the whole thing.

To start, you cut the stems off of the chiles and then boil them whole in a little bit of water (just enough to cover them) for about 20 minutes. I realized towards the end of the boiling period that my water had all evaporated, so be sure to check on it a few times. Once the chiles are softened you blend them and the remaining liquid to make a chile puree:

Scary chile fire-water! Mine actually didn't turn out too spicy- not sure if it's because I had to replace my water or if these particular chiles weren't as hot as others. 

Set the chile water to the side for a while.

Then you sautee the onion and garlic, adding the tomatoes, about 1tsp of oregano, and broth/water after a few minutes. Bring it to a simmer and then add the beans and hominy (rinse and drain first). Let it all cook for about 10 minutes and then add the juice of the limes and the chile puree.

That's it! It was super easy, especially since Carl chopped the onion and garlic for me. We topped the pozole with some cilantro and served it alongside nachos:

Yes, I'm aware that I burnt the nachos.
The recipe supposedly yields 4 servings, but holy cow do we have a lot of leftovers! We'll be eating pozole for days, so it's a good thing that it's delicious. Another thumbs up for my new cookbook.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Recipe Thursday: Chickpea Fritters

Well, here we are: my first Recipe Thursday since I don't even know when. I'm pleased to report that I haven't eaten out once since my last post (except for a work lunch, which was someone else's treat). I can't say that I've been whipping up tons of complex recipes from scratch because that just wouldn't be true. But I made sure to try one new thing so that I would have something to share. Behold, the chickpea fritter:

I was immediately attracted to this recipe when I saw the word fritter, and even more so when I glanced at the ingredients list and it wasn't full of weird stuff that we don't already have. The recipe came from the cookbook, Herbivoracious, which Julie and Ernie gave to me for Christmas. This was the first recipe we tried, and I've got to say, I'm impressed. As usual, I messed it up a little bit, so here is the ingredient list that I used:

Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup scallions (which was one scallion "frond," thinly sliced)
5 garlic cloves was what the recipe called for, but we have one of those squeezable garlic bottles so I'm not sure how much I actually used... several big squeezes!
a few shakes of dried rosemary
some salt
grated zest of 1 lemon
juice of half a lemon
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup sesame seeds

*I accidentally got a little mixed up with my dry measurements, but I think as long as you end up with 1 cup of dry ingredients it should be fine.

Once you've rounded up your ingredients you just throw everything into a food processor:

And pulse until everything is mixed, but not yet smooth:

At this point Carl and I both took a little taste and it was very hummus-y. Yum!

Then you fry them in a little bit of olive oil for about 3 minutes on each side. At this stage it's important that your kitchen and living room fill with smoke; that's how you know they're good.

We ate them atop some green leaf lettuce with spicy chow chow. Carl threw in a little honey mustard and ranch for good measure. They were absolutely delicious, and tasted just as good leftover in my lunch today.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, everybody! Instead of talking about the fact that I am 5 days late in admitting that it is 2013, I'm going to focus on more exciting news. I think it deserves a drumroll.

Maybe even trumpets.

Ok, here goes:

This is my ONE HUNDREDTH blog post.


Wow. I can't believe that I've had so much to talk about. So, to my 11 followers: thank you for your readership!

I hope that everyone had a fantastic Christmas and New Year's. I had more time off than I've had since college and it was wonderfully refreshing, despite the fact that I was stricken with the holiday plague and out of commission for a lot of my break. I was incredibly bummed because I so rarely get sick and it isn't every day that my whole family is in the same place at the same time. What are the odds that the two events would coincide!? We still managed to have fun, just in a very lazy, snotty way. And because I've been really slack about adding pictures to my posts lately, here's one from New Year's that I'm sure everyone has already seen:

We actually stayed up past midnight this year!

Festive as they are, I really wish Carl and I weren't all beaded up because this is one of the rare times that we're both relatively photogenic.

Has anybody made any wild New Years resolutions? In light of last year's failure I decided to keep it fairly simple this time around:

I resolve to floss my teeth at least once a day.

Totally doable, right?

I'm also going to make an effort to not watch TV before 8:30 (p.m.), but I don't want to commit to it as a resolution because sometimes after a bad day couch time is a must. I'm hoping that the lack of entertainment will inspire me to exercise and clean and cook more- really all of the activities that I haven't much participated in over the last two months.

I AM going to be cooking a lot more for a multitude of reasons:

1) 2013 is the year of the budget. I'm sick and tired of student loans and I don't want to see their stupid faces in 2014, so by the end of this year they will be toast. The prospect of this makes me so giddy. Almost as giddy as I got when I sat down earlier today to make our budget. Inevitably, the "leisure and eating out" section took the hardest hit; therefore, we are going to be doing a lot more dining in. Which is good news for you all and leads me to my next point.

2) I plan on reinstating Recipe Thursday! With all of the recipes I'm going to be whipping up it should be no problem coming up with something to share.

3) I got an awesome new lunchbox from Louis and Aditi for Christmas and I want to do it justice by packing more exciting foods than PB&J.

4) It's healthier!

So there you have it. 2012 is going to be a tough year to top, but with all of the flossing and cooking I'll be doing I think 2013 will be just as great!

Thursday, December 13, 2012


I am unbelievably excited for Christmas this year. I've been marking the days off of my magnetic advent calendar with increasing enthusiasm; now that only a day stands between me and vacation I feel like I'm about to explode! I'll fill you in on more Christmas details soon, but I wanted to kick off the season with a tribute to my all-time favorite holiday songs. I'm kind of a Christmas music junkie, and from Thanksgiving to New Years I'm content to listen to holiday music non-stop. If I had to pick my top ten, here's who makes the cut:

10. "Mr. Grinch"- Thurl Ravenscroft (I had no idea who sung this song until about 2 seconds ago. Who knew!?). It makes the list because it's such a juicy compilation of insults. I love it! "Your brain is full of spiders, you have garlic in your soul..." them's fightin' words.

9. "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"- Mariah Carey. Say what you will about me, but I really am burnt out on "All I want for Christmas is You." Please, it was my favorite song in 1999 when I got the Mariah Christmas CD, but now it's totally overplayed. Someone needs to recognize her other Christmas songs.

8. "Christmas all Over Again"- Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Tom Petty does Christmas and it is everything you hoped for and more.

7. "Wonderful Christmas Time"- Paul McCartney. This song is so peppy, it really makes me want to go shopping. Take note, retailers.

6. "Old Toy Train" - Raffi. Are there any other children of Raffi out there? He is the greatest, and I will force feed him to our future kids, whether they like it or not. His Christmas album gets two thumbs up, but this song is one of my favorites.

5. "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"- The Pointer Sisters. This is the first song on A Very Special Christmas, and will forever remind me of being hopped up on the Christmas spirit as a child. The best part is right at the beginning: "I want a BICYCLE!"

4. "Jingle Bell Rock"- Hall and Oates. Because I love Hall and Oates and I love Christmas. If you have an extra minute or two, this video is really a gem.

3. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"- Judy Garland. I swear I get weepy-eyed every time I hear this. A definite classic.

2. "Christmastime is Here"- The Peanuts. Ok, really the entire Peanuts Christmas album is to die for, but this one has to be my favorite. The Peanuts are timeless, and so is this song. It only got better for me when I watched the Arrested Development episode where all the characters are moping around to it.

1. "Little Drummer Boy"-  Bob Seger. While I love each and every rendition of this song, Bob just has a way of making me really feel for that poor little drummer boy. Plus, how can you not like a song that allows you to sing "pa rum pa pum pum" repeatedly? I rest my case. Clearly, the makers of this video agree with me.