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Remember?

While home:

I forgot how much of a freak my dad is. 

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I remembered how fun vegging with my fam is. 

I forgot how much it sucks to leave home. 

I remembered to pack lots of good healthy eats for the road trip back to LA.

I forgot to bring utensils to eat said food.

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I remembered to ask the gas station attendant to help me out.

I forgot gas stations expect people to be eating processed food crap (a spork!?)

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I forgot how boring the I-5 is.  Then, I remembered how boring the I-5 is.

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I forgot it was Halloween.  Then, I remembered and didn’t call the cops.

I forgot long car rides make me too lazy to cook. 

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But then I remembered we had leftovers

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I forgot to practice moderation. 

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I remembered that having seconds and thirds will still never make me too full for dessert. 

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I even remembered to take a picture of history.

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One hit, one miss

I made this a few days ago, but never got around to posting it…because I had a few issues along the way…so in case you thought all my recipes ended in success, here’s a bit of a reality check. 

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I got this acorn squash at the farmer’s market. 

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Issue #1 occurred with my lack of knife skills (slash intimidation with big shiny metal).  If you feel comfortable making a crushing blow down on a squash, more power to you, but I’m not quite there yet in my culinary career. 

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As a result, my cut ended up being slightly off center leaving me with a 70/30 spilt squash (rather than the even 50/50 cut I was going for).  You may be thinking this isn’t that big of a deal (and you’d be right, it wasn’t).  But for tutorial sake (and true squash baking perfection), having equally shaped/sized halves will allow them to cook uniformly.  Instead, I had to take the smaller portion out of the oven earlier, because it wasn’t as thick and therefore didn’t need to cook as long as the larger portion. 

I’ll get back to that later though…because now I want to turn my attention to the seeds. 

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I love roasting pumpkin seeds, so I figured I shouldn’t let the squash ones go to waste. 

I love salty seeds, but this time I went with a sweet recipe. 

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Sweet roasted squash seeds

  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp coconut oil, melted (I used Tropical Traditions Gold Label organic coconut oil pictured below)
  • 1/2 tsp NuNaturals liquid stevia (alternatively, you could use 1 tsp of vegan sugar)

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*As a disclaimer, I did receive the Tropical Traditions Gold Label coconut oil from the company to review.  Point blank, after one taste, I am already in love with it.  I can’t wait to share more recipes with you guys. 

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Mix all the ingredient up in a bowl and then spread them onto a baking sheet with cooking spray.

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Here’s where issue #2 reared it’s ugly head. 

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Oops!  

The apartment went from smelling of heavenly coconut bliss to completely reeking.  What a disaster.  In case you were wondering, this was after just 8 minutes under the broiler. 

So what did I learn? 

Toast your seeds with the oven on 400 and have patience.  Don’t use the broiler because they will char like a vampire in the sun.  Once you pre-heat the oven to 400, it will only take 10-20 minutes for the seeds to brown.  Toss them a few times to make sure they get even exposure.  There’s always next time…

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Now back to the squash. 

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Place each “half” face down in ~1 inch of water and put in a 400 degree oven. 

After ~45 minutes they should get soft enough to pierce with a fork.  That’s how you can tell if they are done.  Depending on how mushy you like your squash (or what you are planning to do with it), you can keep cooking it as long as you want.  Since I was planning on stuffing the acorn squash halves, I kept them slightly less mushy than I typically like. 

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Can you see the fork prong marks? 

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I let them cool while I prepped the inside stuffing. 

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Wheat Berry Stuffing (yields way more than can fit in the acorn squash)

  • 1/2 cup soaked wheat berries
  • 1 small bell pepper
  • 1-2 large carrots
  • 1/4 cup roasted red pepper hummus
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast

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After everything is mixed up separately, scoop it into the squash and either (a) put it back in the oven for a few minutes, or (b) go the lazy route (yes, please!) and pop it in the microwave for a quick minute. 

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Voila!

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The combo of hummus, apple cider vinegar, and nutritional yeast is one of my favorites ever.  It makes for a bangin’ savory sauce with a delicious cheese-like flavor. 

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I chopped the larger portion in half to facilitate the grubbing process. 

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The smaller portion was more of a mess to eat, but whatever, I made it work.  I’m such a trooper.  😉

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I polished off the leftover stuffing on the side and it was the perfect fall dish.  I love stuffing squash.  I’ve tried several kinds of squash and Delicata and Butternut are my favorites.  What’s your favorite squash?

If you’re interested, here are a few stuffed squash recipes I’ve made before:

Stuffed pumpkins with brown rice, beans, corn, and tomato

Stuffed kabocha with chickpeas & quinoa

*More in the recipes tab

Tens

Happy 10/10/10 to all my fellow number lovin’ freaks 🙂

Friday Kyle & I headed up to the Bay Area to spend the weekend with my fam.  Saturday was harvest at my fam’s vineyard. and the Cal v. UCLA football game.  And today, Sunday, we are heading back to So Cal.

Here are some pics from the weekend, some food, some not.

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Eats for the I-5

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Cheerios, raw nuts, pumpkin seeds, carob chips, and raisins.

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PB & Jizzle (ew?) & Gingerfizzle (so glad Synergy Kombucha is BACK!!!)

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K-Sizzle (ok, I’ll quit it with the -izzles now…)

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Sabra hummus & Costco falafel

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Kona begging Marie for a walk.  How can you deny that face?

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Marie showing Milo (post-walk) how to drink water (he’s not a big fan of the H20).

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New product! 

My parents always have a pantry full of snacks, and since I’m “the finisher” of the family, this bag had it coming as soon as I stepped in the door. 

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RiceWorks flavored gourmet brown rice chips. 

There are six flavors and after trying the sea salt ones, I want to try all the rest.  These were so good!  Definitely nothing like the rice cake fluff I was expecting.  Texture-wise they are like a more grain-y tortilla chip, but the brown rice makes the flavor totally different. 

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I decided to incorporate them into a dinner salad with spinach, strawberries, and avocado

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Crushed crunch. 

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The dried cranberries were a bit of an afterthought, but at least they got a photo, unlike the balsamic vinaigrette dressing (which never got it’s shot in the spotlight. 

Kyle took these pictures of his own salad because he thought it looked so pretty.

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His had leftover BBQ chicken, crumbled feta, cherry tomatoes, and carrots. 

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And yet he refuses to do a guest post…

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What a cute ‘lil bugger. 

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Pre-gaming with my parents. 

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What a pitiful game :( 

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What do you do when you are drunk and your team just lost (but your parents’ team won)?  Make them buy you a Mexican feast.  CASA!!!!

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My beast of a burrito.  Plus some surrrrious salsification.

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I made a huge bowl of guacamole for the fam to share with 2 1/2 avocados, lime juice, and pico de gallo.

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Buritto butt.

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It was a perfect summer fall day, so we all ate outside. 

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Grilled veggie burrito with both pinto and black beans

If you are in the Bay Area, Casa Gourmet is a local hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint that is practically legendary in the neighb. 

Good weekend.

Get over yourself

That’s what I had to say to myself yesterday.  Boy oh boy what a weird day. 

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As some of you know, I’ve been growing my hair out to donate.  It’s been hard these past few weeks because I’ve really wanted to cut it.  It’s gotten to be such a pain.  I mean just look at that mane.  It’s unruly and impossible and takes way too much time to manage.  But there is an 8 inch length requirement to donate.  That’s a lot of hair!  And while I do have a lot of hair (I mean a LOT), chopping off 8 inches doesn’t leave me with quite as much as I feel comfortable with. 

Each morning I wake up and think, maybe today? 

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…and then I pansy out, throw my hair in a bun, and say maybe tomorrow… 

Truly, I feel blessed to even have this dilemma.  Which is (a) what I keep telling myself and (b) what ultimately keeps me from cutting off 5 inches out of comfort vanity. 

You see, since the wedding I’ve gone back and forth a million times, but I keep coming back to the same thing: it’s hair, it grows back, and I’m lucky enough to be able to grow it.  I feel selfish even debating it.  It sounds so vain to contemplate trimming a few extra inches for the sole purpose of being comfortable with my appearance.  I’m not that girl (I hope). 

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Yesterday, I had a feeling the time had finally arrived (I even took photos before leaving the house [see above]).  I packed up a cashew butter and jam sammie on an Ezekiel english muffin and off I went to my work immunization review and physical.  What fun that was! 

Naturally I fit in a Starbucks run.  My grande soy misto led to a rather unpleasant wait as I held my bladder hour after hour.  I’ve never been to a medical appointment that doesn’t take six times as long as it needs to.  I always arrive 30 minutes early like they suggest, only to sit in the waiting room an extra 60 minutes.  But I digress…after relieving myself giving my urine sample, I headed back to my car, chatting with my sister on the way.

*Side note: she just passed her personal training certification test (!!)*

This is when it happened. 

I saw a salon (run by Aveda) that had a special: “all the day’s proceeds go to breast cancer research.”  Man, if that wasn’t a sign, I don’t know what is.  So I did it.  I bit the bullet and walked in and next thing I knew…

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Oh sh!t son. 

So I know I look happy in this photo, but that’s really just me trying not to hurt the stylist’s feelings.  Inside I was FREAKING the eff out.  We’re talking full on identity crisis.  I feel dumb being so dramatic about this, but that’s truly how I felt. 

The second I got in the car I burst into tears…and proceeded to cry the entire way home.  What the [bleep] is wrong with me?!?!  I couldn’t believe I was being so emotional over hair.  Hair!  To be fair, you can’t tell from the one photo I posted above what the cut really looks like.  My only criteria was that it fit in a ponytail (I’m a runner, yo!), and the hairdresser still messed that up.  I’ve got a semi-Victoria Beckham bob going on because the back is WAY shorter than the front.  Way WAY way shorter. 

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For the record, that’s actually nine inches. 

Now, a day later, I’m a bit embarrassed by my reaction.  The entire day I was wavering between shock and despair.  At one point I even looked up the stages of grief.  And then, I took a long look at myself in the mirror and decided I had to get a grip (it’s about time, right?). 

It’s just hair, Elise.  Get over yourself. 

Finally (lightbulb) I remembered my initial motivation for growing it out.  All along I knew it was going to be hard.  Change is hard.  But my hair went to make a real-hair wig to be distributed by the American Cancer Society, and the monetary donation that the haircut cost me went to breast cancer research.  In other words.  It was worth it. 

It would be a waste to have my locks trimmed because I was more worried about my appearance than doing something good.  I’m still not in love with my hairdo, but I’m okay with that.  I know that other women are fighting far bigger battles and I’m fortunate enough to have my health, which is a much more precious gift than a cute ‘do. 

For me it’s just hair, for 2.4 million women, it’s life.

For info on donating your hair to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths, you can find more info here.

Sorry for the lack of food photos…I’ll have a normal post up later. 

Producing centerpieces

Oops!  Did I promise no more wedding posts?  My bad.

I realized after I posted the last one that I had forgotten about the centerpieces.

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They were a personal project – and nearly cost me my sanity – the week leading up to the wedding.

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This is the trunk of my mom’s van after 5 trips to 3 different grocery stores…with over 60 pieces of produce.   

Are you thoroughly confused yet?  How about another piece to the puzzle…

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If you’re asking yourself “are those red bell peppers in there?” you’d be right.  

Because I lost a significant amount of sleep over how these centerpieces would turn out, I feel obligated to do a post about them. 

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My goal was to make the centerpieces pretty and personal at the same time.  So how does a hungry hungry hippie do wedding centerpieces?  With produce of course! 

*Side note: our florist was NOT keen on this idea at first and it took a LOT of convincing, but in the end I’m so glad I pushed for it because it was so unique and special. 

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With over 20 tables to decorate, I definitely had my work cut out for me.  On top of that, I had to take into account the season and bouquet-ability of the produce.

We missed the pomegranate shipment by two days, but fortunately figs were a nice Plan B Plan F. 

And then there was the matter of explaining to guests how to find their table…

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Kyle is a PowerPoint whiz, so making this map for the guests took him 3 days (instead of the 3 weeks it would have taken me).  It was still a bit of a nightmare finding all that clip art, though, and I ended up just drawing a few myself.  The headache was worth it…

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Pretty cool, huh!?  I thought so :) 

They even made for some tasty fancy decorations the next day at my parents house. 

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Brunch time!  After Kyle and I checked out of the honeymoon suite at The Lafayette Park Hotel, we joined the rest of my fam for coffee and chit chat. 

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Mix-master-pops whipped up some bloody marys and mimosas.  I personally detest bloody marys, but mimosas are the only way I’ll drink OJ (and the best excuse to sip on champagne before noon). 

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A few other family members came by before heading home, so we all enjoyed a nice brunch together, starting with bagels & lox.  I don’t even know what lox actually are, but I did have a dark rye bagel with hummus.

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I also had some orzo spinach salad (recipe posted here). 

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No, this fruit was not from the centerpieces. 

Melons and berries were vetoed due to their size…like Goldilocks’ requests, the fruit for the centerpieces couldn’t be too big or too small.  It needed to be just right.  They also needed to be hideously unripe (aka hard as a rock) to prevent them from juicing all over the place.  As you can see there were several things to be taken into consideration…

But back to brunch. 

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This is a recipe worth sharing.  It’s vegetarian, not vegan, because it contains egg and dairy. 

Asparagus and Mushroom Strata

Ingredients:

  • 1 (1 lb.) loaf sourdough bread, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 1 large or 2 small leeks, white portion only, chopped
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 12-15 mushrooms, sliced
  • 10 eggs
  • 2 ½ cups milk (I used Lactaid)
  • herbed goat cheese*

Directions:

Cut asparagus into 1” pieces and cook in pot of boiling water until just cooked.  Immediately immerse in ice water to cool, keeping them bright green.  [Can be done ahead and refrigerated]

Sauté mushrooms and set aside.  [Can be done ahead and refrigerated]

In a 13”x9” baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray, layer half of the bread cubes and half of the asparagus, mushrooms, leeks and goat cheese.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Repeat layers once.

Whisk the eggs and lactose-free milk together in a bowl and gently pour over bread mixture.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Remove strata from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking.  Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until center is set and top is slightly browned.

Let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.

* If you are lactose intolerant, you may still be able to handle goat’s cheese.  Unlike the dairy products of cows, the lactose in goat’s cheese is greatly reduced during the fermentation process.  Also, the fat molecules in goat’s milk are much smaller than cow’s milk and lend to greater digestibility.  However, lactose intolerance shouldn’t be confused for a milk allergy, which deals with the proteins found in all kinds of milk.

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Yum!  I had seconds and thirds it was SO good!