Sunday, January 30, 2011

Package from Ben and Amy!

We miss Ben and Amy an irrepressible amount.  If you followed our Korean blog you know that we had a strong connection with them from the get go and our friendship grew really strong... then we left.  It's amazing, no matter how excited we were to travel and to come home, the first thing we said to each other when we got in the cab that morning to head to the bus station was, "Sheesh, I'm really going to miss them." 

Our friendship is a little unexpected in some ways.  On paper, we're completely polar.  In fact, right after we met them in Korea we looked them up on Facebook (as is the new norm in socializing).  And what we found made us pretty nervous.  We're political and ideological opposites.  Penguins and polar bears.

It made us clam up and act a little awkward during our next couple of hang outs.  The first time we went over to their place we ended up watching The Devil's Advocate.  I don't think any of us wanted to watch it.  It was just so awkward and poignant that we didn't know what to do.  

Of course, all the awkwardness was for naught.  We have way more in common than what's made obvious on the surface.  Our world views are startlingly similar.  We want the same things from life.  We share many of the same joys and rant about most of the same problems, large and small.  Our solutions may be different, but it's never really mattered.  They listen to us and we to them.

Maybe we should all run for senate?

I kid.  Kind of.

Anyway, we received our Happy New Year package from them a few days ago.  Our management had had the box for two weeks before notifying us.  That part wasn't so great.  Especially since Amy had lovingly enclosed two packages of ornate rice cakes.  They might have been alright two weeks ago.  They were definitely not when we got to them.  So, that was a huge bummer, but the remaining contents were super exciting. 

From left to right: bag full of little Korean candies and teas, choco peanut snacks, rice ball molds (featuring two sizes of kids' faces and a bear!), soap from their resort in Thailand (smells like lemongrass), mandu folder, and awesome paper wreaths that Amy made out of repurposed magazines.

Ben's contract is up in December.  We can't wait.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Thought

Or, rather, the beginning of one.

My brother is on a fabulous trip to Las Vegas with his family.  He does have to work, however. Obviously, we're all really excited that they're out having fun.  They had a rough couple of years.

Because we're all so happy for them, we've been saying things like, "Enjoy, you deserve it!"  As if there is anything that would keep my brother, or anyone for that matter, from deserving a trip or a divergence from normal life.

Our culture's relationship with travel and leisure is strange, don't you think?

Back to Basics

This is a 50 lb bag of rice.  You can't buy this in a regular grocery store.  Ian picked this up at Pacific Market for 50 cents a pound.

In Korea, we ate around 15-20 lbs of rice a month and I crave it when I haven't eaten it in a couple of days.  I've always preferred it to noodles and I feel much better after a half cup of rice with dinner than a slice of bread (even if it is homemade).

Granted, short grain rice isn't the best nutritionally.  It's simply tough to beat it's versatility.

Now the question is, where do we store it?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Vegan Pizza with Whole Wheat Crust

We're not up to a whole lot lately besides getting the apartment together and working and I'm trying to post as much as possible, so I'm ending up with food posts.

Ian makes pizza for a living, so he's pretty quick when it comes to throwing together dough.  In my opinion, dough makes or breaks a pizza.  A lot of people say it's in the sauce (also important), but that foundation really has to be there.

Here's Ian's "Quick Pizza Dough" recipe:

1 tbsp yeast
1/2 c warm water
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp oil
1 1/4 c flour (we used whole wheat)

Preheat the oven to 425, give the yeast 5 minutes in the water to activate.  Put the flour in the mixing bowl, add the salt to the oil and combine the wet and dry.  Knead with a mixer (or by hand) until it shows elasticity.  Stretch it out into two personal size pizzas, add your favorite toppings and bake for about 20 minutes.

There's no need to proof this dough, hence the quickness.

I like my pizza with artichokes and chopped almonds.  The sauce is really good.  No paste, only fresh tomatoes, garlic and spices processed and then cooked down.

Good with a Drop Top, but then again, what isn't?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Or are they muffins?  I choose not to pigeon-hole these delicious little dudes.

I got the recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, but I subbed most of the oil for applesauce and about 1/3 of the granulated sugar for brown sugar.  I also didn't frost them (the recipe calls for cinnamon icing), for those two reasons, it's up in the air whether they are cupcakes or muffins.

They stick to the wrappers way too much.  It might be because of the low fat content.  Also, these are the cheapest cupcake papers ever.  That could have something to do with it.

I knew that the cookbook had a recipe for pumpkin cupcakes and I had a can of pumpkin puree that I'd been planning to use.  I really like pumpkin and chocolate together, so I thought I was being totally clever when I bought the chocolate chips.  When I got home and flipped the book open to that page, what did I find?  The recipe already called for chocolate.  Go me.

One thing is for sure; they don't taste low fat or vegan.



We got to talk to Ben and Amy tonight for a couple of hours.  Sheesh, we miss them.

They may be counting the days until they leave Korea, but we're counting the minutes until they move their lives over to Portland (and their little dog, too!).

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

E'Njoni Cafe

Due to a schedule miscommunication, Ian ended up closing tonight.  Since being stuck in a mall food court makes dinner surprisingly difficult, I decided to swing by and bring him sustenance when I got off work.  I found an Ethiopian (slash African, slash Mediterranean) restaurant on my phone and headed over.

E'Njoni Cafe is tucked away on Killingsworth Street, which makes it a little difficult to get to, but it's worth it.  The place has a fusion atmosphere that really suits the cuisine's region, the staff (I think it's family run) is super friendly and the food is cheap and delicious. I ordered take away, so I didn't take pictures of the place itself.  But, we'll be heading back there.

The place does serve meat, but the menu has a lot of vegetarian (mostly vegan, actually) choices.  I took some pictures of our order with my phone, but forgive the presentation as it's in disposable serveware and we were in the mall.

I also picked up some apple curry bao (Asian (Chinese, mostly) rice buns) from Steamers because I've been curious about them.  I was a little disappointed with those, but Ian liked them.

Peanut Yam Soup $3.  It needed either a little acidity or sodium, but I really liked it.  Maybe my favorite part.

Veggies (greens, red lentils, chickpeas and okra) wrapped in injera (traditional Ethiopian/ Eritrean bread) $8  This wasn't exactly what I expected.  I ordered a plate with the three separate sets of veggies.  I knew it came on bread, but I didn't know it would all be together.  The flavors were great, but I'd rather eat each on its own.

Close up of the okra.

The bao and some brown rice.  Around $6 from Steamers.  The buns were good, but the apple flavor wasn't super pronounced.  The Japanese curry flavor definitely reigned.  The bao was well made, so I think I might try the other flavors.  I also want to try to make bao and other rice cakes/buns at home.  The Pacific Market down the street has rice cake flour.

We also saw The King's Speech tonight.  I highly recommend it.  The cinematography is wonderful and it's beautifully acted.  It has inspired me to learn more about pre-WWII Britain.  It would be "Britain" in that case, right?  And not "England?"  Either way, I'm interested.  I think a trip should be in order for the future.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

30 Day Challenges

Time to get down to business.

The point of this blog is to exhibit how average folks can live healthy, conscious lives by making small adjustments to their lifestyle.  It's feasible to be sustainable; not everyone has to go all No Impact Man about it.

So, I've decided to do a set of 30 day (roughly, we'll do it by calendar month) challenges to get us rolling.  This is partially inspired by Mipa over at Alien's Day Out. She gives herself lists of challenges/goals/resolutions for the year.  

We're halfway through January, so I'll use these weeks to gear up.  Here are the 11 challenges that I will commit to for the rest of the year.  Ian has also agreed to come along on the adventures.

No artificial ingredients.  No aspartame (or other chemical sweeteners), high-fructose corn syrup, chemical flavorings or colors, preservatives, or other processed nonsense.  This is something we're already working on, so it's a good first choice to get our asses in gear.

Chemical free household.  Spring cleaning will be a little different this year.  This also includes parabens in body products, as I don't want cancer.

Seasonal food only.  We're lucky because our position allows us to make use of both Washington and Oregon's growing seasons.  Time to take advantage of it.  This month will hold a whole lot of asparagus and pear inspired salads.

Focus locally.  Portland is awesome.  We'll use this 30 day period to support the local economy and stay away from chains.

80 miles/week.  Between the two of us, Ian and I will drive no more than 80 miles in a given week.  My commute to work is 18.6 miles.  It's going to be an interesting month.

Anti-consumerism.  30 days of no purchases other than fuel and whole foods (no prepared foods).  I hope our friends still like us after this one.  We'll end up buying flats of beer in the last week of June...

No refined sugar.  I have a feeling we're going to learn a lot about excess sugar showing up in foods you wouldn't expect.

Cut utility expenses by 25%.  Water/Electricity/Natural Gas/Food/Fuel/Etc.  Should be an easy month for this lofty goal.

DIY.  We'll eat food we've canned/prepared ourselves, use homemade soaps and products and solve all household issues with our own hands.

Waste management.  We take our garbage (nonrecycling) out twice a week.  For thirty days we'll manage our trash output by composting and using recyclable material.

Sustainable holidays.  Handmade gifts, ornaments and goodies.  No excess waste. Anything purchased will come from a local, sustainable source.

So, there it is.  Of course, a lot of the blog will be focused on these challenges.  I'll bring you updates (including any failure for the sake of honest reporting) and fill you in on anything rad that we've learned or discovered.  Not every post will be centered on this theme, however, because variety is the spice of life; is it not?

Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Puzzle Pieces

Things are coming along nicely in our apartment, so I thought that I would share some of the progress.  Keep in mind that each of these photos is extremely contrived.  It's still chaos in here, but I moved it around a bit to allow the place to show it's potential.

Be sure to knock on wood, but I'm confident we'll be done (painting and all) when February rolls around.  We'll be ready for our housewarming party in time for Ian's birthday (2/24), so they'll coincide nicely.  I'm starting to feel pretty good about things around here.  It's been difficult because I haven't wanted to be in our apartment at all.  Also, friends are starting to feel a little weird about my unwillingness to have anyone over.  Time is of the essence.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Checking In

Hi guys!

I'm so sorry that I haven't been posting.  We're in the process of furnishing our apartment and, if it was chaotic before, it's doubly so now.  I have a hard time being creative without a place to work or structure.  But, it will get better soon.  And when it does, you'll hear from me 3-4 times a week.

Thanks for being patient.  We'll get there.