Israeli Cous Cous Mediterranean Salad. PS, I leave for Europe in 9 days

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In 9 days, I’ll be boarding a plane that will initially drop me off in Stockholm. From there I’ll go to 14 more countries/23 more cities in two months (!!!!!!!!). Trying to contain my excitement. This has been in the making since my trip to Europe last summer.

When I was there last summer, I studied abroad in Italy, learned how to make authentic Italian dishes from a little Italian lady and did some minor weekend traveling.

Last years trip to the Grana Padano Cheese factory, one of my cooking classes with my Italian instructor and the Olive Oil factory:

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That was enough to get me saving and planning for this trip I’m about to embark on. I won’t be doing as much cooking as I did my previous time (only a few simple dishes cooked in hostels), but I’ll be going to a ton more countries. My goal for this trip is to not only see new things, places and people, but also to taste new cuisines to inspire a few new dishes to add to my upcoming cookbook!

Once I get back, official recipe testing and cook book creating will be on the way! Lots of work to be done, so before the madness and as a graduation gift to myself… Europe it is.

Here’s probably the last recipe I’ll be posting in a while. But don’t worry! This isn’t the last for two months. I’ll be posting about my experience abroad, the food I eat and the workouts/hikes/classes I do.

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Israeli Cous Cous Mediterranean Salad

serves 2

Ingredients

1 pre-cooked chicken breast, torn into bite sized pieces

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/3 cup dry israeli cous cous

1/2 cucumber, chopped into bite sized pieces

1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half

1 green bell pepper, chopped into bite sized pieces

1/4 cup thinly chopped red onion

1/4 cup goat cheese crumbles

1 handful italian flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

7 large basil leaves, thinly sliced (julienned)

2 small garlic cloves, sliced

1 small chunk of either grana padano or parmigiano reggiano cheese (you’ll need a micro grater to grate this)

2 tablespoons pine nuts

salt

1. Make the Israeli cous cous. In a small pan, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil on medium heat. Add the Israeli Cous Cous and stir around, toasting the cous cous for about five minutes. Add 2/3 cup water, raise to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 5-6 minutes and then drain excess liquid. Put this to the side to cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

2. Make the pesto. You can either use a mortar and pestle or a food processor. I think the pesto tastes 1000000x better when made with a mortar and pestle, but it’s up to you. Combine the pine nuts and garlic in the mortar. Crush until the ingredients almost form a paste. Add the olive oil and basil and crush/grind. This process takes a few minutes. Lastly, stir in about 2 tablespoons of micro grated parmigiano reggiano or grana padano¬†cheese and a pinch of salt.

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3. In a large bowl, combine the cooked chicken, bell pepper, cucumber, parsley, tomatoes and onions. Pour the pesto on top and toss to combine. Separate the mixture into two bowls or plates and top with the israeli cous cous and goat cheese crumbles.

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Cauliflower asparagus “risotto”

I didn’t make this with the intention of creating an alternative to risotto, it just happened that I accidentally did so in the process of simply trying to make dinner. 

This meal is incredibly filling. I paired it with a caprese salad and that was more than enough for dinner. It looks like it won’t be, but the high fiber cauliflower makes you much more full than equal amounts of rice would.

  
This recipe is easy, but the prep is a little time consuming so crack open a bottle of wine and invite a friend over to gossip as you chop, grate and dice away!

  
 

PS that caprese salad was for three people.. As is this recipe.

Cauliflower asparagus “risotto”

Serves 3

Ingredients:

1 head of cauliflower

8-10 stalks of skinny asparagus

1 shallot 

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds 

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 

Juice from 1/2 of a lemon

4 tablespoons olive oil (half used for cooking, half used for the sauce)

1/4 cup grated cheese: A harder cheese of your preference, one that melts well (I like using stinkier cheeses but you can use a mild one if you prefer. Real parmigiano reggiano would work or anything else you have lying around)

 Salt and pepper

1. Heat a large pan to medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. 

2. Chop the shallot and add it to the pan. Cook for 2 minutes. 

3. While the shallots cook, cut the bottom two inches off of the asparagus. Toss the ends. Chop the rest of the asparagus into 1 inch pieces. Add to the shallots and sprinkle with salt. Cook and stir while prepping the cauliflower.

4. Cut the leafy part off of the cauliflower. Grate the entire head using a cheese grater. Add this to the asparagus mixture.  

5. Sprinkle about half a teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper into the mixture. Drizzle another tablespoon of olive oil into the cauliflower. Stir the mixture around every 1-2 minutes. Cook for 8 minutes. 

6. Using a dry pan, toast the pumpkin seeds: Heat the pan to medium high and add the seeds. Shake the pan every 20 seconds or so. Only let the seeds toast for 1-2 minutes. They very quickly burn so make sure you don’t leave this pan until the seeds are done and you take them off of heat. 

7. Grate the cheese and stir into the cauliflower. Turn the heat off below the cauliflower.

8. Combine the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil with the Dijon mustard and lemon juice. Mix well and stir into the cauliflower. Stir in the toasted pumpkin seeds.

9. Salt and pepper the finished product to taste.

10. Pair a super light salad with this or a very small piece of meat. I really mean it when I say that this is surprisingly filling!

  
  
And make sure to eat it outside on a beautiful summer night with people you love! And wine, of course :)

My bitches (dogs..and cats) make me happy

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People who own animals (particularly dogs) tend to be happier and healthier people. Because of the necessity of walking dogs, they make the owners more active and spend more time outside (which in turn gives you more vitamin D, which studies have found decreases risk of depression). They also make people happy simply by having the company of unconditional love that animals provide.

Fun fact: when a dog sees their owner, their brain releases the same hormones that are involved in our brains when we are in love. You are your dogs life. They love you. What else could anyone ask for?

I’ve had pets my entire life. We call our house “the Bates Zoo” because we’ve literally housed it all: 2 turtles, 2 doves, 5 dogs, countless finches, 3 fish and at least 10 cats. Right now we only have two dogs and two cats (which is a considerably smaller number considering our past amount of animals).

I can’t imagine living a life without animals. Actually I can. When I was in college, the majority of the time I didn’t have any pets. For a year and a half I had my cat, Sherlock, living with me but other than that, only humans inhabiting my apartments.

It wasn’t that it was awful not having animals, but it was lonely. I would wake up without a kitty sleeping next to my face and come home without dogs barking and jumping on top of me.

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This may sound strange, but my animals have provided me of so much through out the years. Coda (the dog I’m snuggling with above) is my dog that I’ve had since I was 9 years old. She’s my protector. We got her from a kill shelter when she was 8 months old. She had previously been abused and was a little skittish around people and other animals. After a while, she grew to love me and my family and become protective of us. Whenever I’m with Coda, I honestly feel safe.

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CODA THE ENFORCER!!! Kind of kidding. But I actually do feel safe when I’m home alone at night and she’s standing guard by my side.

And then there’s Rusty Roo.

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Rusty’s my love bug. She is the definition of pure and innocent happiness. As soon as I see Rusty’s little face stretched with a human like smile and her enormous booty partaking in a full body wiggle of happiness, any day is made 100000 times better. Everyone loves Rusty.

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She’s also a little sausage and about 15 pounds overweight, but that just means that there’s more of her to love.

Rusty is a semi-feral pup. Well, her mom was. My uncle found her mom on the 4th of July hiding in a dumpster. He took her in and realized a few weeks later (as she was giving birth to 10 puppies) that she was pregnant. 14 year old Autumn successfully convinced her mom to take one of the 8 week old pups in and no one has ever regretted that decision.

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Rusty Roo the Love Bug Guru.

Sherlie (Sherlock) was a feral kitten that I adopted from the pound when I was in school in Tucson.

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He was covered in fleas, ringworm and mites when I first got him. He had a rough little childhood going through multiple therapies to rid him of all his disease. Then when he was a year old he had a bad case of kidney stones and we thought he wasn’t going to survive. But we did everything we could to remedy him of the stones and now he’s disease free! He’s a feisty little snuggle puss full of personality. He’s lovey at night and in the morning when he sleeps right next to (and often on top of) my head. And during the day he chases the unrequited love of our other cat, Callie.

Sherlock made coming home after school to an often times empty apartment a lot more enjoyable.

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He’s also extremely photogenic and kind of a ham.

My animals make me happy. They give me a purpose on days when I have nothing else to do and provide me of ample love and laughter when I need it most.

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They need me. I need them.

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And even though my mom doesn’t like to admit it, she needs them too.

My animals make me happy which ultimately makes me healthier.

A win, win if you ask me.

The perfect little avocado toast

On Tuesday morning, I went to the farmers market in Torrance with my mom. We got there around 7:30 am even though it doesn’t open until 8, partly because we love farmers markets so much… But mostly because my mom wants to beat the crowds. 

We piled up our little cloth bags with fresh herbs, tomatoes, various sprouted beans, avocados, lettuces, fruit, potatoes… Everything. We loaded up the car with all of our goodies and drove home. There are three smells that are my absolute favorite smells.. 

1. The smell of what I deem “fake water”. You can usually smell it during the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Weird. I know. But I like it.

2. Lavender oil rubbed on the back of the wrists.

3. The smell of my car freshly filled with farmers market finds.

The compilation of herbs, fresh fruit and veggies is so aromatic and always makes me feel clean and healthy.

Anyway, fast forward to today when I’m walking home from work. Starved. I decided to pop into an organic bakery that I know uses their own sourdough starter (instead of active dry yeast) and buy a whole wheat loaf of sourdough bread. Using the compilation of goodies I got from thee market the other day… I came up with this!!

  
Avocado and sprouted mung bean toast

Serves 1

Ingredients

2 slices of whole wheat sourdough bread

1/2 an avocado

1 small handful of sprouted mung beans (or any other sprouted bean)

A tablespoon olive oil

1 cup mixed greens 

1. Preheat your oven to 350.

2. Put the bread in the oven for 2-4 minutes. Just until warm, but not toasted.

3. Spread the avocado equally over the two slices. Distribute the mung beans between the two toasts. Drizzle the olive oil on top of it all. Serve with the mixed greens.

Easy. Now go eat! 

The simple act of being kind

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I feel extraordinarily at peace with where I am in life right now. I have an incredible family, I live in a beautiful city, I’m able to pursue my passion for nutrition and fitness while living rent free with my parents and I have great friends who can make me laugh and remind me once again how lucky I am. My life is full of ups and downs, as most people’s are. There’s no such thing as someone having a problem-free existence. The happy moments wouldn’t be so happy if it weren’t for the unfortunate moments as well. And that’s the thing I think most people forget: everyone has problems. Our own problems always seem exponentially larger than anyone elses because they are¬†our own problems. So we lash out, we blame, we convince ourselves that the person who was rude to us has no right to be so mean.

Trust me, I’ve worked in the service industry since I was 13 so I know how awful people can get. Never worked as a waitress before? Well, you can really tell what a person is like by the way they treat people who “serve” them. So I came across my fair share of jerks and a**h****.

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This is me at my first real job. I was a waitress for 2.5 years at a local breakfast spot in my hometown. My friend (on the right) and I used to watch a lot of “SpongeBob Squarepants” on rainy days when it was slow…

But letting those people who are having a bad day ruin your day as well will do nothing but continue the vicious cycle of people being dicks to each other. From my years of experience of working with and around jerks, I’ve learned that the only way to deal with these people while still coming out as a positive and happy person, is to spread some random acts of kindness to others.

Think of a time when someone was rude to you and you lashed out back at them. Did you feel better? Did the “lashing out” cause you to be happy? Did it solve any problems? Most likely, the answer is no. It can be hard to be kind to those who are so mean to you, but ultimately, you will be happier and in a better place because of it.

If being kind to jerks is too difficult, try first being kind to those you don’t know.

When I was in school, I was living off of a very tight food budget. There was one particularly stressful day where I was freaking out about my future because graduation was approaching, I was scared to leave my friends and I felt lost in a sea of confusion and anxiety. I took a break from studying and walked to the store to buy some lunch. Outside of the store, there was this homeless lady who drew pictures to sell for food. She was probably in her late 60’s. She never begged or asked for money. She just went along drawing pictures in exchange for food to keep her alive.

Seeing her made me forget my problems and think about her. I felt the need to bring some positivity to her life in any little way that I could. Instead of spending my money on lunch for myself, I bought a sandwich and a hard boiled egg with a water bottle to bring out to her.

She thanked me and I talked to her for a little about her drawings. She mostly drew pictures of the people that walked past. She told me she liked to draw people and imagine what their lives were like.

After I left to return to my studying, my anxiety was gone and I felt happy. Reaching out to someone else and displaying a little act of a humanity reminded me that happiness is all that matters in life. Instead of lash out from my anxiety and fear at the first person I could, I did the exact opposite. It made me feel happy. It spread happiness to another human being. My negative emotions were replaced with positive ones.

You don’t have to be charitable in order to be kind. Just remember that none of us on this planet want to be sad or lonely. We all want to belong. We all want to be happy. Just the simple act of being kind is enough to spread happiness to all of those around you.

Laugh when you feel sad.

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Smile when you’ve been wronged.

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Hug those that have forgotten how to be happy.

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Spend time with family.

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Make time for friends.

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Do what you love.

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Simply be kind. And you will be happier for it.

1.

Chia pudding. For those days when the alarm clock isn’t your friend (always).

This morning, like many of my mornings, I had three alarms set: 5:45, 5:47, 5:50. Yes, as in the morning. When the suns alarm hasn’t even gone off yet. 

On these days, I have work at 6:45 am so I don’t have a whole lot of time to physically make breakfast, so I pre-made these little guys the night before!

I make a big batch so all I have to do is grab a little jar in the morning and take off. I would love to have the luxury of sitting down to a warm meal with a cup of tea, sitting in a wooden chair with a blanket while watching the sun rise… But that’s not my reality right now. I watch the sun rise from inside my work. But my little chia pudding cup makes me a lot happier about it!

This makes three 8 oz servings. Enjoy!

 

Chia pudding pot

Ingredients:

1 cup vanilla yogurt (preferably organic)

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/3 cup chia seeds

1 tablespoon real maple syrup or honey

A pinch of cinnamon (optional)

2 sliced strawberries per serving  

1. Mix the yogurt, almond milk and honey/maple syrup until well blended. 

2. Add in the chia seeds and stir until combined. Let sit for 1 hour or over night. After an hour, split them into separate containers with sliced strawberries and a pinch of cinnamon on top!

Matcha… Yuck-a

Today’s my day off from work. Most of my friends have real jobs so they can’t hang out with me when I have free time… So I do a lot of activities by myself. I try out new coffee shops, I go for runs, I spend all day cooking/writing and occasionally binge watching shows like An Idiot Abroad, Game of Thrones or Friends. 

I was that kind of paralyzing bored today where you feel like absolutely nothing can entertain you and you end up just sitting on the couch all day moaning about how bored you are. It’s a vicious cycle. I know it’s a viscous cycle. So on my third episode of The Ricky Gervais show, I forced myself off of the couch and made my way down to a coffee shop the next town over that I’ve never tried. The only cure for boredom is to do something you’ve never done before. Trying a matcha latte would be my thing to do today. 

  

Perfect!! It looks so pretty and it’s so healthy that it MUST taste good too, right?!

Wrong.

I was really excited when I grabbed my pretty little cup of green from the barista. I sat down, took my picture and then sipped away. I was greeted with a chalky texture and earthy flavor. The flavor I actually didn’t mind so much, the texture is what bummed me out.

  

I knew that matcha was green tea powder but I just didn’t expect it to taste like powder. It left a green mustache on my upper lip that I wasn’t aware of for a solid five minutes.

  

Notice my little green ‘stache? My mom did. She thought it was funny to keep me in the dark for a bit while I chatted away, looking like I made out with the hulk. 

After I got past the initial powdery shock, it actually tasted kind of good. Like milky green tea. I still probably wouldn’t order it again, despite being high in antioxidants, trace minerals and certain vitamins. 

But I gave it a go. That’s all I can ask of myself as well as of anyone else. 

  

It really does make for a pretty picture though, doesn’t it?