Thursday, December 22, 2011

Drink of the Week: Yerba Mate

This is the drink that got me through finals week. While everyone else was chugging coffee, I needed something with a lot of caffeine to replace the coffee I can't enjoy!

I first came across mate when I was studying abroad in Poland. My roommate was from Argentina and she brought some with her to share with us. If you read the wikipedia page I linked to, you'll see there is a culturally appropriate procedure to drinking mate. Unfortunately, I am totally not following that.

But this was on sale at Whole Foods a couple weeks ago:

It looks a little weird and the longer it sits, the greener it gets (which I found out after leaving half of a cup sitting out all day). Overall, I have been plowing through my bag of mate. The earthy taste is delicious and its a great pick-me up for early morning study sessions. I brought it with me since we will be in Michigan this week, so I can enjoy it every morning and not have to worry about scrounging for some really old tea in someone's cupboards.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Popcorn and Ice-cream

Last night for dinner we ate popcorn and ice-cream.

Ok to tell the truth we had dinner at four o'clock like old people, because I encouraged Aaron to make a super delicious-yet-time-consuming soup as an effort to stop him from watching movies, which was distracting me from studying. By the time the soup was done our apartment smelled so good we couldn't resist eating an early dinner.

Of course, come 8 o'clock I was hungry again, so the resident popcorn popper got to work over the stove and then we topped it off with some pistachio gelato. It reminded me of the times in the summer when my mom let us eat popcorn and ice-cream for dinner. I'm guessing this only happened once, but my childhood memories have distorted it into being a somewhat regular occurrence.

Mom? Oh also, why do I have a stomach ache this morning?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Old Sugar Distillery

Last night, after a long day at work and a couple hours working on a policy memo, Aaron talked me into heading over to the Old Sugar Distillery. We have seen their stuff at our local liquor store, but never tried any of it. I needed a break from working and its only a couple blocks from our apartment, plus there comes a point where the brain refuses to focus on a computer screen. Another plus is the distillery closes at 10 p.m., so it guarantees an early bedtime for someone facing the last weekend before finals.

We got there just early enough to snag a table away from the door, which was letting in the below zero wind every time it opened. This was our first time visiting, so we weren't sure what to except. We just knew it looked cool from the outside.

Inside, it is a small place surrounded with oak barrels. There is a big bar, some bar tables and a couple picnic tables. There's also a piano and it looked like a group had just finished playing live music when we arrived. Although they don't serve food, you can get your dinner delivered there, which is pretty cool (someone ordered pizza). Oh and no waiters here, you have to go to the bar to order!

Anyway, on to the most important part: the drinks. We tried four drinks from their cocktail menu. It was hard to decide because everything is tempting. We had just finished a greasy cheesy meal though, which meant we were looking for drinks to settle our stomachs... so we avoided the Gringo and the Chai latte, but they were definitely popular among the crowd.

Our first round was The Standard for me (their rum on the rocks with lime) and the Main Street for Aaron (whiskey, bitters, sugar, and ouzo). The first sip of the rum was a little off putting, but eventually it settled down and had a nice sweet aroma. I don't have much to say about the Main Street. I had one taste and didn't like how warm it was and how red it looked.

The next round, I opted for the Honey Cap, which was a lot of lime and sugar muddled with their Honey Liqueur, topped with soda water. The menu warns that it goes down easy, and it did. It was delicious, a little sweet and sour, and refreshing.

Aaron got the Whiskey Sour, which was also really good. Their use of real limes instead of bottled lime juice in each of the drinks was essential.

At this point it was past my bed time of 9:30, so we called it a night but plan on going back after finals are over to test the other drinks.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Some Thanksgiving Pictures

I've been to busy to post anything this week! Sorry, but the end of the semester is quickly approaching (thankfully), so we've been busy. Here are some pictures from Thanksgiving:

Aaron and his second cousin Jack. Well pretty sure he is a second cousin. We aren't sure about all of the family arrangements.
Causing trouble.

Aaron and Ruth.

Monday, November 28, 2011

New Car

To celebrate our four month anniversary, Aaron and I decided to get ourselves a present. But when I sat down to write about it I realized I never mentioned our 3 month anniversary present. I never mentioned it because taking its picture would mean I would have to clean our whole apartment from top to bottom, and thats Aaron's job. Just kidding! But when you live in a 3 room apartment and you get tons of awesome wedding gifts, things tend to clutter a little bit and look crappy in a picture.

Anyway, I know I wrote in some wedding thank you notes that we were saving our money for a couch, and we were lucky enough to have it delivered last month, about a month ahead of schedule (seriously, we ordered it in August and it wasn't scheduled for delivery until around Thanksgiving). We were so excited because 1) all we had to sit on was a futon; 2) neither of us had ever bought a real piece of furniture before. Also it is super comfortable and awesome and the L-shape means we can both lay down at the same time. We also saw it as our first big purchase together. But that didn't last very long.

First of all, we drove home to Michigan in our "lovely" Saturn and when we came back our muffler started making noise. Then winter started to threaten us with all of its wind and wetness and snow.

Most of you know that sometimes it seems like you need a sleigh just to get around in winter. You probably don't know that I really don't enjoy winter mostly because I hate driving in it. The only thing that kept me comfortable going to and from work last December was knowing my car had all-wheel drive. But then we sold my car when we moved here.

And also last December the Saturn got stuck in that little bit of snow that gets left next to the curb when they plow. Luckily Aaron was driving at the time and someone stopped and pushed him out, but basically when I thought of winter all I could think of was being stuck on the side of the road or in a ditch because the Saturn weighed as much as me. Even our combined weight would not keep us on the road.

ANYWAY long story short we decided to buy a new car. We picked our new Subaru Outback up last week and got to spend our 4 month anniversary driving it to Michigan for Thanksgiving. It was a much more enjoyable ride than normal, complete with new car smell and heated seats.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Carrot Ginger Soup

Since the weather has been below freezing every morning for a couple weeks now, I guess its time to admit that fall is ending and winter is coming. To me, that means it is appropriate to have hot soup multiple times a week.

We have made this soup twice and loved it both times. By "we" I mean I put the ingredients on the grocery list and then Aaron made the soup- team effort! Here is the link to the recipe: Carrot Ginger Soup. It says coconut milk optional, but I don't think its optional at all.

Besides being delicious, this is a way for me to consume an orange food without having the starch from pumpkin, sweet potatoes, or regular squash. However, after doing a smoothie fast and then spending a week strictly without starch I'm not sure this will be a sustainable diet for me. I was hungry the whole week and I felt like I was eating wayyy too much animal to make up for the starch and beans I wasn't eating.

While I don't mind having fish once in a while and usually like eggs and cheese a few times a week, more than that has not been sitting well with my conscious or taste buds. I also think not having healthy starches around (like sweet potatoes and other starchy vegetables) leads me to eat less healthy starches and more bread (which I did immediately after my self-imposed strict week was over). It might just be a problem of adjusting to a new diet, but I think its time for a new approach.

I will probably try eating those vegetable based starches and not having wheat, corn, rice or beans. I think that will be easier for me and may still have some benefits. For now I'll go worry about my statistics mid-term and resume the quest for the perfect diet after Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


As I face my second round of midterms (starting tomorrow morning!), I'm reminded of the importance of confidence. For someone who found college to be somewhat easy and only sorta time consuming, this first semester of graduate school has been rough. I've never been the type of person who started their homework on the day it was assigned or spent days studying for one exam, but it seems necessary just to keep up. (Also the thought of having four classes next semester instead of three, while continuing to work, is slightly horrifying, but thats beside the point of this post.)

I'm sure I'm not the only person in my program who has wondered if I'm smart enough for grad school. At that point (like when they are handing back a test where the average score was close to 50%) our professors like to remind us that we would not have been admitted if the admissions committee wasn't confident in our ability to succeed. I try to keep this in mind and I find that the confidence boost does help me study a little bit longer, or just put down the computer and enjoy a few hours relaxing.

... and then I struggle to write a paper that is beyond what I would call high school level words because it seems my writing skills stuck around for me to get a Bachelors degree and then called it quits. Then I start to question the admissions committee decision. So then I have to rely on my backup confidence booster, which is to tell myself that also getting a fellowship means they thought I was more than just capable of passing, but also of doing really well.

(Which gets me through finishing a paper, but I'm wondering what will get me through finals? The promise of winter break?)

I always knew confidence was important but until now I thought of it more for little kids. That "you can do it, believe in yourself" encouragement that they have to learn to get through learning how to walk, running a mile in gym class, and standing up for themselves. I guess I had internalized it and forgot about it, but good to know that long ago learned confidence is still there and capable of propelling me a little bit further towards completing something.

Monday, November 14, 2011


I am a scone lover, but my standards for scones are set pretty high. First of all, I do not want it to be soft and pillowy at all. If I wanted a muffin or cake, I would eat a muffin or cake! The most disappointing thing to me is biting into a scone and realizing its just a blob shaped muffin.

I want a scone that has a thick, crunchy outside and the correct crumb to buttery ratio on the inside. I also don't want it to be super sweet. The icing on the top can be sweet-ish, but the actual scone should not be noticeably sweet at all.

As you can see, my feelings on scones are strong and I am often disappointed. Luckily, we seem to have hit the apartment jackpot, since we live less than a block away from some of the best scones I've ever had. Lazy Jane's Cafe and Bakery is a popular breakfast spot where people are always waiting outside for weekend brunch. Their breakfast is pretty good and cheap, and since we live so close we can usually get there before the rush, but we know the real treasure is the scones.

They probably know that too because they opened a little storefront bakery two houses down from the Cafe so you can buy baked goods without waiting in line. We stopped in on a recent Saturday morning and there were no scones left! Luckily a batch was coming out in ten minutes, so we waited, sampled some drinks, and then were rewarded with fresh from the oven raspberry scones. Worth the wait (and I also caught a glimpse of the large bowl full of butter chilling in the fridge... its what makes them delicious... its also why I don't make them at home).

Friday, November 11, 2011

Drink of the Week: Satisfaction Jackson, a double IPA from Ale Asylum

I haven't had a drink of the week post in a while. Luckily this one should more than make up for it.

Satisfaction Jackson comes from, Ale Asylum which is a Madison brewery that dominates the local IPA market with their Hopalicious. Neither of us are huge fans of Hopalicious, but really enjoy their other beer.

We first read about Satisfaction Jackson on our first trip to the Ale Asylum brewery. It wasn't available yet, but we made sure to come back when it was to have it on tap. Delicious. The waitress told us they release it and have it until its gone. We are still able to get six packs of it, but have only had it on tap at a few other places (served in a goblet, lame).

We also took a tour of their brewing facilities, which are packed to the brim with only one bottling line. They are planning a move to a bigger place soon.

Satisfaction Jackson is a double IPA, which means its strong, bitter, and pretty bold. It is also a little more pricey. Its definitely not for everyone, but thats okay because it means there's more for us!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Last Outdoor Farmer's Market for 2011

Saturday was the last outdoor farmer's market for this year, marked by the crisp air and extremely low prices on squash. We marked it by stocking up on our favorite jam, finally buying some smoked trout, and getting a pound of cheese curds.

It was a perfectly sunny morning and less crowded than usual, which makes it easier to navigate. Still, after 3 sides we made a beeline for my favorite cheese stand, Hook's, and called it quits. Its sad to know we'll have to wait until April for the next outdoor market, which at that time will be almost all cheese and bread. I'm not ready for winter! Although hopefully we will have some exciting news this week that will make me more ready... stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Almond Butter Stir-Fry Sauce

While you wouldn't know it from my past few posts (pizza... mac and cheese...) I have been making a lot of progress on my no-starch diet. Unfortunately, I fell of the bandwagon a few times this weekend, but in general the only starch I have been eating is flour, usually in the form of one piece of spelt toast a day (its supposed to be easier to digest, but it doesn't taste great).

Its been hard to give up the bread, because it settles my stomach. I recently had a cold which gives me an upset stomach from all of the congestion going on. I'm finally feeling much better, so I'm optimistic about being able to thrive on fruit, vegetables, eggs, fish and nuts.

After trying to expel nightshade vegetables from my diet, I found that most bottled sauces and dressings are off limits because they contain the vague word "spices." Not knowing whether that meant paprika, or red pepper, etc, I avoided them like the plague (and well they probably aren't that great for you anyway). I now know I can tolerate small amounts of nightshade vegetables, probably because the chemicals aren't built up in my body, but I'm still pretty strict.
Luckily, we found some recipes for homemade sauces that are perfect for a stir fry, and this is one of them: Thai No Peanut Sauce. We've made it multiple times since first trying it, usually with veggies and shrimp.

The ingredients are pretty basic, especially if you are used to cooking Asian-ish dishes.

1/2 cup almond butter (really good with peanut butter too, if you can eat that)
1/2 cup canned coconut milk
1/2 cup applesauce
Juice from half a lime
1/2 tbsp fish sauce
1.5 tsp fresh ginger (you could probably substitute powdered)
1 clove garlic, crushed

Just mix it all together and put it on whatever you want! Its a thick sauce that is good for dipping as well. The website has other serving suggestions. If you're anything like Aaron and me, you'll be scraping down the bowl to get every drop.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pizza Heaven

Remember the post about not being able to eat normal pizza? I'm starting to think that is not a problem at all and tomato sauce is just a distraction from the great toppings. We found another winner for the no-tomato sauce pizza. Caramelized onions, pear, and gorgonzola cheese.

My friend Jacqi recommended it to us when she was visiting. She said she used to make it twice a week and until her boyfriend got sick of it. After tasting it, I can see why twice a week would seem like the right thing to do, because it is the most delicious pizza.

We were lucky to get local pears and a big hunk of Hook's gorgonzola from our farmer's market. The crust came from the Willy St. Co-Op after my attempt at pizza dough making flopped (for the first time ever, not sure what went wrong!).

There is no recipe for this pizza because its literally just this: make a lot of caramelized onions, spread them on the dough. Slice some pears thinly and spread them around. Put chunks of gorgonzola all over. Bake and then hide in your room eating the whole thing yourself because you won't want to share.

But I did share... and Kristen thought it was delicious too.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Over the weekend, Aaron and I were lucky enough to visit some extended family who live near Duluth, Minnesota. If you look on a map, you'll notice that means driving all the way to the very top of Wisconsin. Northern Wisconsin is a strange place that reminded me a lot of northern Michigan, but with more cheese and tractors. It was also my first time in Minnesota, so I was excited to visit a new state. (Good news about Minnesota: the speed limit is 70, unlike the people of Wisconsin who insist on keeping it at 65.)

On Saturday, we drove literally into the middle of nowhere to the "Little Shack" complete with wood burning heater. We road four-wheelers, got muddy, and Aaron cut up some trees.

A beaver dam.


After stopping at the local bar, which really reminded me that I was in the middle of nowhere Minnesota, we watched MSU beat Wisconsin in a close game.

We were lucky to have a sunny and relatively warm day to actually enjoy being outside, because when we left to drive home the next day the weather was like this:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mac and Cheese and staying positive

After a rough week of mid-terms and a bad cold, its important to focus on things I do well, like making this delicious pumpkin mac and cheese. It helps my health to stay positive. Since Aaron has been doing most of the cooking, I've become pretty disconnected from the kitchen. While I get a lot of school work done while Aaron makes dinner, sitting down to eat isn't as rewarding as when you spend time making the meal.

I made this macaroni and cheese earlier in September before grad school got out of control and it was a really filling, delicious weekend lunch.

It didn't seem right to share it then, since it wasn't really pumpkin season yet. Finally, after the week of sun and warm weather, we've had clouds, wind, rain and general spookiness that screams Halloween. For a while we were anticipating fall and I was planning cozy meals of soup and warm dishes, then it was 80 degrees outside and we didn't want to actually eat anything warm. Now, something like this pumpkin mac and cheese can be enjoyed hot off the stovetop.

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese. (we used aged wisconsin cheddar and think you should too!)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Wedding

This past weekend Aaron and I travelled back to Michigan to attend a special wedding.

My Grandma got married! They were both married for 57 years before losing their spouses and now they found each other. We had a great time with family and got to watch Michigan State beat the University of Michigan.

Here is the bride and groom cutting their cake:

Aaron and I are no longer the newlyweds in our family.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Capitol view of Madison

We sorta live in that direction.

Last weekend we took our friend Kristen to the Wisconsin State Capitol and climbed up to the top, where you can walk around the outside of the dome. Here are some pictures in case you were wondering what the view looks like from the top of the largest state capitol building.

Lake Monona/Monona Terrace. If anyone didn't know, downtown Madison is built on an isthmus between two lakes. We live in the isthmus-east area and the campus is west of the isthmus. Its confusing if you don't look at a map. Google it!

Also, those black things are dead birds caught in a net, presumably to stop birds from making nests under the dome. I thought everyone should know when you look at those pretty pictures of the capitol you are seeing a lot of dead birds.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Firefighter's take over the square

This past weekend, one of my friends from college came to visit Madison. It was her first time here and with 80 degree weather and sun, we spent most of the weekend outside showing her around. It was a beautiful weekend (lucky for the 12 or so wedding parties we saw on Saturday)!

October is turning into a busy month. I have my first midterms this week and next and we're planning to be out of town for the next two weekends, then its Halloween, which is a big deal here. I can't promise I'll be posting a lot of stuff, but at least I can share some pictures.

Sunday we wandered into this fire fighter fair of some sort. At first we thought there was a fire, then maybe a parade, but turns out it was the start of "Fire Safety Week."

There were fire trucks everywhere and lots of little kids getting plastic hats.

Aaron: Wants to see which truck has the tallest ladder.
Kristen: Not impressed because her brother-in-law is a firefighter.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Berry and Goat Cheese Pizza

I love pizza and have for as long as I can remember. I have very distinct memories of going to Pizza Hut to get a personal pan pizza after reading so many books for "Book-It." But what was even better than the personal pizza? The pizza lunch buffet, because it had every type of pizza (including my favorite, hamburger) plus dessert fruit pizza! Of course, this was back when I could eat who knows how many pieces of pizza without feeling full. Now I only eat 1 or 2 pieces of pizza at a time, but the idea of fruit on pizza is still very appealing.

So when I found this recipe, of course I wanted to make it. Its like Pizza Hut but probably a little more healthy and grown up. We didn't do the mini's because this wasn't for a party appetizer, it was all for us.

We have made this pizza once before using fresh fruit. This time we used frozen because it looks like we've reached the point where fresh berries are no longer affordable. It didn't make a huge difference, but the pizza was definitely less crisp overall, although the bottom was still crunchy. It helped make the jam more of a sauce, so it was sort-of a good thing.

After telling a few people about this pizza and getting less than excited reactions, I am guessing you might not want to try it. But I'm telling you its worth the effort (which is pretty minimal if you already have your pizza dough made). And you can definitely customize it with any berries, nuts, or cheese that you like.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Diet Number 2

I'm gearing up for another diet. The Elimination Diet helped immensely by pin-pointing nightshade vegetables and coffee as things that upset my stomach, but all is not completely well. I experience some sort of digestion issue on average... once a day! Sometimes I'm lucky and it waits until I'm at home and can lay down and pout about it. Sounds fun huh? There comes a point when you have had enough and are willing to try pretty much anything.

The problem with the Elimination Diet was rice, lentils, and other starches were allowed from the very beginning. While I felt best at this time, I was mostly focused on not having the painful stomach aches that came from eating tomatoes and other nightshade vegetables. After months free from those stomach aches, its time to focus on the other issues. I guess this was inevitable and now is as good of a time as any.

I will be cutting out all starches over the next few weeks, which will mean not eating a lot of my favorite foods: sweet potatoes, pumpkin, bread, tortillas, beans, etc. To compensate for the protein in beans, we'll be having a lot more fish and eggs. It sounds horrible and I'm sure everyone will wonder just what I can actually eat now (I'm brainstorming), but I'm pretty optimistic that it will be worth it.

This week I have had my fair share of pumpkin, hummus, rice, acorn squash and lentils. For next week, I'm focusing on just avoiding rice, corn, and beans/legumes. Its a good start!

I'm going through all of my recipes to find ones that will be acceptable. So far I'm looking forward to trying some different salads and soups, and a lot of spaghetti squash. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!