Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Traveling and Lemony Lentil Soup

The past few days have been pretty unproductive. I've gotten all of my immediate school work and reading done, but haven't been studying or working on my projects that should be getting attention. Instead I'm restless and have tons of energy for exercising, cooking, and just being on my feet in general.

I started having caffeine on Sunday, so that could have something to do with it. I also think my diet has been giving me increasing energy for the past month (more about that later). But the main thing that has been distracting me is thoughts of traveling.

We are headed to New York for my Spring Break and we couldn't be more excited, as neither Aaron or I have ever been. We have already planned where we will have dinner every night and most of the places we want to check out. Getting to stay with family makes it even better, since we can benefit from their time living in the city.

Then, the other day I had an interview for a summer internship in Mexico. We went to Mexico for our honeymoon, but in my mind I have never actually been there because the resort hardly counts. I've been badly wanting to go to Mexico since college when I wasn't allowed to study abroad there because I was a senior, so the possibility of spending a couple months there got me excited.

Those two things just sent me into a spiral of collecting photographs of places I want to travel to someday, or places I've already been but would like to show Aaron (collecting via my places to go pin-board on Pinterest).

Even though I know its likely I won't see all of the places I want to in my lifetime, it makes me so happy to think about the possibilities. It has made me realize how I need to prioritize travel in my life more, like I did in college. The only difference is now I have somebody to come along with me and share the memories.

Since its been so springy out (it rained yesterday) and my mood has been so bright, I found the perfect recipe to compliment my mood: Lemony Lentil Soup. Although its spring like outside, its still in the 30's, so a citrusy soup is a great combination.

(click on the link above for much prettier pictures!)

The best things about this soup are that its cheap, pretty easy (takes around 30 minutes), and makes a lot. It also will warm you up and make you feel like spring is just around the corner at the same time. We love this soup and will be making it again soon.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


On Wednesday this past week we were warned of a coming "winter storm" which would wreak havoc on us by snowing all day (the last time that happened it took me an unacceptable amount of time to get home from work). Luckily, the weather report was wrong and the snow didn't start until Thursday evening. We woke up to an inch or two of snow perfectly covering every single tree branch. It was really beautiful so I snapped some pictures out my car window on my way home from the gym.

Capital Square at 7 a.m.

It was slightly magical and I may have slightly enjoyed it, but my feelings changed two hours later when I was on my way to class and the snow was melting and falling off the trees in wet chunks onto unsuspecting heads.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Parsley Carrot Salad

Is any one else excited that February is almost over? I can't believe how fast it has been going, at least in relation to the hellish slug of last semester. February is one of my least favorite months, second only to January with its seemingly endless days of freezing cold. At least February is a shorter month. This winter has been extremely mild compared to Madison last year. Unlike Aaron who loves snow, I'm not complaining, although the global warming issues that might be causing it do concern me.

With the end of February, I'm also hopeful this will be the end of winter. Last year, winter seemed to last forever. We had some sorta warm days but it was chilly and in the 40's and 50's until June. I'm crossing my fingers that we don't repeat that lovely weather this year. I'm ready to be sitting on the Union Terrace with a pitcher of beer!

Unfortunately, the end of February also means the start of mid-terms and kicking the semester truly into gear. I have three midterms the first week of March, what a drag.

To get me through the reading and research I have been doing since this semester started, I have been making big bowls of salad variations on Sunday or Monday to eat for lunch all week. Some have been a flop and I had to throw them away because I just wasn't eating them, which makes me feel incredibly guilty (I'm sure my parents told me starving kids in China would be happy to eat that broccoli when I was little). However, this salad recipe is so great and simple and I look forward to lunchtime when I can eat a big bowl of it!

The salad ingredients are simply shredded carrots and a bunch of parsley. The light cumin lime dressing mixes in perfectly, I'm surprised how simple but delicious this salad is. I like to top mine with sunflower seeds and sometimes eat it on top of mixed greens (as pictured) or kale. Today I had it over warm quinoa for a more substantial lunch. Try it!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lunch Dates

Valentine's Day lunch.

For the past month or so Aaron has been assigned to a job on the UW campus not too far from where most of my classes are. I'm also free around lunchtime on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, so we have been trying to get together for lunch at least one day a week. Its nothing fancy, we just eat our packed lunches in one of the break rooms in the building he is working on, but its fun to see each other in the middle of the work day.

Although we eat breakfast together every day, its at 6:00 a.m. and neither of us is very talkative. We usually are looking at our respective technology apparatus (not good for communication... but at least we are sitting together!). At lunch we are both more awake and we leave the technology at home so we can actually talk about what is going on.

It is also cool to see where Aaron works so I can at least make some sort of connection to all of the stories he tells me. His project at this building is wrapping up soon, but he is assigned to work on the one next to it after this, so hopefully we'll be able to keep our lunches going all semester!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Palak Tofu

Palak Paneer is one of my favorite Indian dishes. We can buy paneer at our local grocery stores, but I found this recipe a while ago using tofu in place of the paneer and was intrigued. Aaron and I had this for dinner once before, while doing the elimination diet, and I wasn't a big fan.

Well the time came around to try out tofu again and I'm at a loss for what cheap meal to make, so I decided to try it again. This time I made some changes and found it much more delicious to eat. The tofu is great baked!

Disclaimer: I try not to eat a lot of tofu/soy products because of the unclear health effects. Some say there are benefits, others say its bad for you. I used to rely a lot on soy for protein, so I have tried to cut back this year. I use almond milk instead and get my protein from vegetables, beans, and nuts. But I know some people eat tofu and I really enjoyed this meal, so I wanted to share it. I even ate the leftovers for breakfast the next morning.

Some changes I made to this recipe:

-Bake the tofu at 300 degrees for about an hour and fifteen minutes instead of frying (no spattering and crunchy crust!)
-Add a splash of almond milk at the end.
-Leave out the garam masala (the taste is strong, if you want to use it I would say go with only half a teaspoon)
-Serve on a bed of raw baby spinach leaves. The combo of cooked and raw spinach is a nice contrast.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Raw Kale (or any greens) Salad

There are many ways to eat kale, but this happens to be my favorite. Yes, I like this more than kale chips! Its simple (5 ingredients) and its raw, but it doesn't taste raw. This is also a great change up for typical salads and its perfect for winter. You do have to get your hands a little dirty though!

The key to getting tender kale for salads is to massage it with lemon juice, salt, and olive oil. You can see the kale starting to break down and wilt a little bit. Letting it sit for a while works the magic.

When I first made this salad I followed the recipe from The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen to a T, and it turned out perfectly (here is the recipe).

Now I just whisk some lemon juice, olive oil, salt and garlic (sometimes) in a bowl, then pour whatever amount looks right over my greens. After massaging the dressing into the greens, every piece gets perfectly coated with dressing. After a day in the fridge the kale even absorbs all of the dressing at the bottom of the bowl. Kale is good on its own, but the combo of kale and collard greens is one of my favorites. Dinosaur kale also works really well and is less chewy then curly kale.

One you have your greens massaged :) you can top them with whatever you want. I've been eating this for lunch for the past few weeks. As you can see one day I did half an avocado, sunflower seeds, and grapes, but you can put whatever you want on this and I'm pretty sure it will still taste good.

Plus, everyone should probably be eating more kale. If you are trying to eat more green things, this salad is a great way to do it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Staying active when you're really busy

This semester I have a lot of projects and papers instead of weekly homework assignments to keep me busy. That means I have to be self-motivated. It also means a lot of researching, reading, taking notes, and hours in front of my computer. That means I need to make extra efforts to get enough exercise.

Being active makes me feel healthier and relieves stress, which in turn helps me focus on research when I need to. Here are my suggestions for how to stay active during grad school (or when you are really busy):

Bike to campus. This has been difficult with the winter weather. I have been taking the bus and I am anxiously awaiting the first signs of spring. The weather is nice enough this week (mid 40's) to bike, but unfortunately my bike is getting a tune up and may need some repairs (yay warranty). Biking is faster than taking the bus and I can leave whenever I want. (Try biking to work if you aren't in school!)

Maintain a paid membership at a gym. We just renewed our gym membership for another year. It was a hard decision because their are 3 or 4 free gyms on campus, which would save a lot of money over the course of the year. The problem is I doubt that I would ever go and we couldn't go together on the weekends. I like the routine I have at my gym, I like where it is on the square, and most importantly, paying for it motivates me to go! I know I am paying about $1.50 per day for my membership, so I keep that in mind and when I don't feel like going I think of that $1.50 going down the drain.

Stand up while you read. We have sooo much reading and research to do during graduate school that I find myself sitting for most of the day. It is also hard to stay awake during some of the more boring chapters, which can lead to unnecessary naps or eating for energy. One solution is to stand up! I will put my book or computer on the counter and work from there, or take a print out of a paper and read it while I do cardio at the gym. I will be working on this goal more this semester as the reading seems to have doubled.

Walk to bars and restaurants. In my class and group of friends we seem to find plenty of time to socialize. Walking to these places means a little extra exercise. I realize this is less possible for a lot of places in the U.S., which is why I love living in the city. There are so many bars and restaurants within a 2 mile radius (which I consider walkable, depending on the weather). They key here is convincing your significant other to walk with you.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Fill the Bowl- Women's Hockey Game

Over the weekend Aaron and I went to a UW women's hockey game. It was a special event called "Fill the Bowl." Tickets were free for UW students and only $1 for everyone else (although Aaron had to pay $3 because there was a $2 service fee on his ticket...). All of the money went to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Madison, so that was pretty cool.

Because tickets were free/cheap we got to sit much closer than we did for our basketball game experience a few weekends ago. I'm afraid of heights and I do not like being at the top of a stadium. Might as well watch it on t.v.!

We actually ended up in the student section, so we stood for the game and enjoyed all of the dances/vulgar chants that are apparently routine at every sporting event.

My favorite part of the game was the halftime show, which featured two youth girl's hockey teams playing each other. They fell so many times, it was adorable.