Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Some perspective to consider about poverty and developing countries:

"Even if the poverty trap is the right diagnosis, it still poses the question of why some impoverished countries are trapped and others are not. The answer often lies in the frequently overlooked problems of physical geography. Americans, for example, believe that they earned their wealth all by themselves. They forget that they inherited a vast continent rich in natural resources, with great soils and ample rainfall, immense navigable rivers, and thousands of miles of coastline with dozens of natural ports that provide a wonderful foundation for sea-based trade."
-The End of Poverty, by Jeffrey Sachs

Monday, January 30, 2012

Maple Roasted Walnuts

Here is an addicting snack that hits all of my cravings: sweet, salt, fat, cumin. Yes we go through an obscene amount of cumin... and cinnamon for that matter. I love these walnuts and studies show people who eat nuts are actually skinnier, despite the high calories. Probably because they are crunchy, satisfying and keep you full for a while meaning you eat less of other stuff. I gave these to our parents as part of their Christmas gifts and I've found they are well received by everyone I've shared them with.

These walnuts taste fancy and smell like the expensive sugar coated almonds we used to get at the mall, but they are soo easy to make! This recipe is similar to the cashews I made last spring, but walnuts are cheaper and better for you, so I prefer this version. This recipe is also less sticky, meaning they cool/dry faster and can be in your mouth in half the time. I think they would be really great with a dash of cayenne pepper for people who can tolerate spicy foods.

1 cup walnuts*
1 tsp olive oil
4 tsp maple syrup*
1 heaping tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

*I usually end up using a cup and a half depending on how wet they are after adding the liquid.
*I have only used real maple syrup, but I think this would still taste good with one of those maple flavored syrups... I'm pretty sure one of my friends tried it.

How to do it:
Preheat oven to 350.

Mix walnuts with olive oil and maple syrup (do the olive oil first, it makes the maple syrup pour from the tsp easier).

In a small bowl mix salt, cumin, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Pour spice mixture over the walnuts and stir well until everything is coated.

Transfer walnuts to a baking sheet or 9x13 cake pan lined with parchment paper. Non-stick would work fine too, but I prefer no clean up! Bake for 10 or 11 minutes and allow to cool before removing them from the parchment.

Try not to eat all of them yourself.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

One year in Madison

A year ago today we were unpacking boxes in our first Madison apartment.

Its been a year of exploring, great food, lots of good drinks, budgeting, sports, parties, biking, hiking, freezing, sweating, swimming, wineries, breweries, dieting, cooking, protesting, voting, studying, learning, making friends, and making this our home.

We have really enjoyed living here so far and hope to check out even more cool places this year.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Wedding Pictures: Us

For the last day of sharing our wedding pictures, I have some of my favorite pictures of the two of us. One of these is being custom framed as we speak and I can't wait to get it up on in our apartment.

I would characterize planning a wedding as a labor of love. Lots of labor to culminate in one day filled with love to propel a couple into the next stage of their life. I'm glad our part is over, we have these beautiful pictures to look back on, and we can spend this summer and fall enjoying other people's weddings!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Wedding Pictures: Reception/Party!

I'm guessing the reception was everyone else's favorite part of our wedding day. By this point I was unfortunately feeling sick and ate and drank very little, although you can't tell from the pictures. I knew everyone else was having a great time and enjoying the Hopslam even if I couldn't, which made me feel better. And we definitely danced a lot. Wobbelling down the street to our hotel at the end of the night was one of the longest and best walks of my life.

I'm proud of everyone who went out afterwards (which was our goal).

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wedding Pictures: Wedding Party

After our wedding ceremony, we got to spend a lot of time taking pictures and hanging out with our bridesmaids and groomsmen. Aaron and I both agree this was one of the best parts of the day because we got to spend time celebrating with some of our best friends, siblings, and cousins. Being able to all ride together in a limo meant everyone could relax and have fun, which is something we wouldn't have traded in for anything else (thanks to my Dad and Nancy for funding our transportation)!

Also thanks to all of our wedding party who paid for lunch, snacks, drinks, that pool game etc. and for hanging out with us all day while your dates entertained themselves. It meant a lot to us.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Wedding Pictures: Ceremony

It is hard to pick a favorite part of our wedding day. Each part had its own specialness or fun to it, but the ceremony is definitely at the top. Although it was extremely hot and humid, I don't remember feeling uncomfortable at all. I remember sneaking smiles with Aaron while our mom's read and being totally focused on what was going on that moment. It was almost like things were in slow motion.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Wedding Pictures: Getting Ready

Today is our 6 month wedding anniversary, so I thought this week would be an appropriate time to share some of my favorite wedding shots. I can't believe its only been six months. It has felt like an eternity, probably due to my first semester of grad school. Speaking of school, the second semester starts today!

We are headed out tonight to celebrate at Sardine. It happens to be Madison's winter restaurant week, so we'll be enjoying a three course dinner for $25.

Here's the first set of photo's. Even though I told Aaron not to drink before our ceremony, I do love the picture that came with it. And you'll also notice Ruth way up in my dress, fixing it like only a sister can do.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Sugar Problem

A great thing about the chocolate hazelbnut spread recipe I posted the other day is that it tastes like dessert without having any refined sugar in it.

One of the biggest benefits I found from doing the Elimination Diet was cutting out all refined sugar from my diet. I felt great and my blood sugar levels were noticably more stable (I still get hungry but I can control it and I'm less cranky). I am hoping to continue with mostly refined sugar free eating habits.

Sugar only on special occasions is something a lot of people try to live by. The problem with this is there are too many special occasions in my life. Friends come to visit, a party, some coworker's birthday or baby shower, holidays, etc. This turns into multiple special occasions a month and then its no longer an occasional sweet treat, but a big part of your diet. Its too much sugar for me. I do believe celebrating is important, but I feel like that can be done with a special meal or activity that doesn't need to include a sweet ending.

I am re-doing the elimination diet now so I don't need to worry about having sugar for a while. Once I am finished I plan on limiting any type of refined sugar to a immediate family member's birthday (mine or Aaron's) or anniversary celebration, plus the occasional piece of pie when visiting my mom. If I don't set limits for myself it is too easy for me to grab something sweet (or bake it myself) and then lose all of the health benefits of being sugar free.

In reality, there are plenty of natural sugar options: dates, agave, maple syrup, fruit (especially pears, bananas, and applesauce), so you don't have to miss out, you just have to bake it yourself.

Maybe you don't think you consume that much sugar, but if you really look at what you are eating and drinking you might be surprised. If you are concerned about sugar like me, here are some unlikely places I've found it hiding:
  • Bread. Sugar is often the 2nd or 3rd ingredient in pre-packaged bread. We buy bread from the bakery section instead which only has flour, yeast and water or oil.
  • Tomato Paste or canned tomato products. Often as high fructose corn syrup!
  • Dried Cranberries. Luckily the bulk section at our stores have apple juice sweetened ones.
  • Salad Dressings. Your best bet is to make your own!
  • Flavored Yogurt. Tons of sugar in this stuff, try plain greek yogurt with honey or maple syrup instead.
  • Granola Bars. Look for date or honey sweetened bars, like Lara Bars.
Most of this is packaged food so you can be safe by just avoiding that in general and always reading labels.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

I have been seeing "homemade nutella" various times throughout the year. One recipe, fromEleana's Pantry, finally caught my eye because it included ingredients I am familiar with and that sounded good to me.

I had leftover hazelnuts from Christmas gifts and then we received some agave nectar in a tequila set for Christmas, so I decided to use it to make this. I did not buy hazelnut oil, I just used olive oil and it still tastes fabulous. It is a little thick though, and the recipe suggests adding more oil to make it creamier. I didn't want to add more olive oil because I was afraid of the flavor. Next time I think I'll either buy hazelnut oil or use a little coconut milk or almond milk to thin it out.
Aaron has been eating it with pretzels.

See all the wonderful things you can make with a food processor?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Make your own Nori Rolls

Aaron and I have been looking for a good sushi place in Madison since we moved here last year. We had tried four or so different restaurants and were disappointed every time. There was the night we waited over 45 minutes for 2 rolls, the time we spent $16 on a special roll that was smaller than a normal spicy tuna roll, etc. Plus I actually like to taste the fish in my rolls. I don't go out to restaurants to eat cream cheese.

Friday night we finally ate at an acceptable sushi bar. Its tiny and the only reason we hadn't tried it yet was the long wait. It was some of the best sushi we've ever had and still reasonably priced. I just wish they took reservations for parties of 2 and they would save some super white tuna for me.

Anyway, on Saturday we decided to try making our own vegetarian nori rolls. We don't have a bamboo rolling mat, but I was inspired by this post from The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen.

After searching around Whole Foods for a while, we found everything we needed including the "sweet brown rice." I didn't know this was a real thing and neither did the Whole Foods staff who told me they didn't have it and sent me to the bulk section to get white sushi rice. Lo and behold there was a bin of sweet brown rice. We also got wasabi and coconut aminos, which is a low sodium substitute for soy sauce or tamari (I'm doing the elimination diet again and haven't added soy).

The rice was very sticky! This ended up being too much rice, next time I'll try to make a thinner layer.

Cabbage, carrot, green onion and avocado for filling.

This recipe made 8 fat rolls and it was ridiculously easy. Now we have snacks for the week. Also if you have a hangover the plain avocado roll is particularly satisfying. Next time I'll try adding some cooked or raw fish.

I highly recommend you try this if you enjoy nori rolls. It is much cheaper than store or restaurant bought (10 nori sheets cost about $5 here... one roll in the prepared foods section is $5-$9). The brown rice is much better for you than white and you can make these as simple or as elaborate as you like.