July 28, 2010

Laguna Beach


It's been almost a week since my last post, and I have so much to catch up on--but instead of doing a super long post I'm going to focus on the main event: 

This last weekend was spent babysitting in Laguna Beach. The family I babysit for here in Evanston had a wedding to attend and asked if I could come along to help out. How could I pass up an offer like that!?

I like to take any opportunity to travel- I think it's so great to discover new places, people, and ways of life. And this weekend was definitely a look into a wayyyy different life...

Let me start from the beginning.

When we arrived at the Montage Hotel, we needed some lunch- and stat! I was really hungry and craving something cool and refreshing. When I saw Crab Gazpacho on the menu, I knew I had to have it.
^^It was served in a bowl inside of a bowl of ice to keep it super chilled.^^

The verdict? Ehh. Not enough crab, and I like my gazpacho a little chunkier---and with croutons too! I feel like bread/croutons are an integral part of gazpacho, and this was definitely lacking.

What wasn't lacking was the views at the hotel.
The grounds were immaculately manicured, and attention to detail was impeccable. They thought of everything here!

One thing that was unexpected was the overcast weather. It was overcast until about 3PM when the sun would finally break through the clouds. It was beautiful! And the cloudy-ish non-humid weather was actually a fantastic break from the smoldering Chicago weather that in my opinion is ENOUGH already!!! So sick of it!

The menus for lunch were perfect for light, filling, healthy meals.

There was ahi tuna salad...
^^In a coconut bowl^^

A grilled veggie pesto wrap...
^^With terra chips---haven't had those in so long! YUM!^^

A salmon salad with Israeli cous cous...
^^Not as good as it looked :( ^^

Also soba noodles with tofu and veggies.


I need to start cooking with soba noodles more often! So healthy and such a great texture!!

Every morning I got a great work out in. The first morning I ran a very hilly 4.5 miles through one part of Laguna. The town is such a typical beach town, with houses built into the hills and very steep roads. The second day I took a beach boot camp class that seriously kicked my ass! It was so difficult and I was SO sore after. Have you ever taken a boot camp class at the gym? Yeah try that on soft sand---ouch! I was supposed to run 9 miles for my training on Sunday, but because of how sore I was and also because of all of the hills it was nearly impossible. I think I got about 8 in--- and I was totally wiped out! Last day I was there I went swimming for about a half hour. It was so nice- and I forgot how hard swimming is! It really does work every single muscle in your body- and it's so great because it's low impact. So gave my legs a nice break :).

Needless to say, I was starving for breakfast every morning!!! Between the work outs and chasing three (adorable amazing!!!) kids around all day, I felt like I was always hungry. And constantly eating...

We ordered room service most of the days. I stuck with oatmeal for the most part, and tons of fresh fruit...

^^And some French Press coffee^^

GOTTA start making French Press- So strong like I like it and So easy!

The wedding festivities were endless. From a diner dinner on Thursday, to beach olympics Friday, to a western BBQ dinner Friday night, to the actual wedding Saturday, and an incredible brunch Sunday--it felt like we were there for weeks! Take a look at some FOOD highlights...

^^Smores station^^

^^4 cakes...^^

^^For a contest on which to cut^^

...The lego one won! It was so yummy---chocolate cake and those wheels were made of rice crispy treats!

The Sunday Brunch...

How cool are those center pieces? I love the concept of fruit as art!

^^Speaking of fruit as art...^^

^^My buffet pickings^^

After the brunch, the wedding festivities ended. Saralyn and I went to the Festival of Arts/Pageant of the Masters. It's this event that happens for a month or so every summer in Laguna Beach.

^^This year the theme was "Eat Drink and be Merry^^

How fitting :)

There were some beautiful pieces of art-of all types-- I really was enjoying all of the photography over anything else. One artist had taken a road trip through Colorado and captured so many awesome shots of nature at its finest--Something about seeing pictures of streams and creeks through mountains just sends chills down my body--just incredible.

^^The family I babysat was so nice to get me the poster on the top left--- I had mentioned earlier that I loved it and they brought it home for me that night! Thank you!!!^^

After the festival, we wanted to get some food in town, and away from the hotel. We were recommended this place- Taco Loco. We were told it was healthy and delicious--- so why not!?

Well, it was soo my kind of place!

^^The restaurant was on both sides of that little garage^^

One side was for ordering and drinks, and the other was where you picked up your food. It was very hippy-ish---between the food and the people who worked there. Plus there was a dessert called the "Hemp Brownie". I had to ask what it was--- It was just a vegan brownie made with hemp oil.

Ok onto what we ordered...
^^Fish taco for me, Mushroom taco for Saralyn^^

And we got the special of the day...
^^Mahi Mahi Nachos---AMAZING!!!!!^^

We of course loaded up with guac and spicy salsa-- mmmmm!!!!!!!

For dinner that night we went to a place called Z Pizza whose tagline is "Authentic Flavors, Organic Ingredients^^.

It's amazing what good ingredients can do to improve flavor!
^^Greek salad^^

^^Pesto Eggplant pizza on WW crust^^

Watch for this pizza to be recreated in my kitchen ASAP. It had pesto, caramelized onions, mozzarella, eggplant (sliced SO thin) and pine nuts. Perfection on a crust.

I'll end with some beautiful scenery pictures---some that will soon be joining my wall of travel pictures in my bedroom. It was just so pretty in Laguna!

As I mentioned it wasn't so sunny- the colors were muted and duller--- and all of the dark coves meshed with the deep blue water color was instantly relaxing. Too bad my iPod has been broken. Some  Alexi Murdoch would have been the perfect fit.

Now it's as they say "back to the grind"
^^Typical oats^^

All I can think about is SLEEP! Can't wait to get to that... 

July 19, 2010

Veggie Burgers and Rusted Root

Wow I've been MIA.

Just a few noteworthy things over the past week or so...

I went to Crate and Barrel and bought some new plates/dishes so my pictures are prettier...

^^PB smothered pancakes with bananas^^

I also made Black Bean Veggie Burgers again...I am so obsessed with these homemade bean burgers lately, my head has been overflowing with new ideas for them!

Recipe for black bean burgers: MAKE THESE!
I paired the black bean burgers with red quinoa, roasted peppers, caramelized onions, and balsamic kale.

^^Close up at the veggie burger!^^

Do you like this new bowl? I do!
^^Filled with oatmeal topped with wheat germ, banana, peanut butter^^

I have been eating peanut butter 'cause my sister and I ran out of Almond Butter. Not to worry though, we finally got around to making more the other day, and it was our best batch yet! We made it sans-cinnamon this time though.

On Sunday I woke up and ran 8 miles! I'm not gonna lie, I was really nervous. My foot had been hurting me all week and I really thought I had Plantar's Fasciitis.  I iced and rested and to my pleasant surprise I was okay by Sunday! I mapped my run and set off- it was SO hot outside. I ran with a water bottle and brought little power gummies for energy which I ate at about mile 4. It's so hot out lately it's tough to stay hydrated. Dehydration has been a problem for me and it never has been ever before--- I actually ended up running my last mile on my treadmill because I was just tooooo hot outside it was dangerous!

But in the end, I did it. And unlike last weekend I felt okay afterwords and not like I wanted to pass out. I made this energizing lunch for myself...
^^Nectarine, Black bean burger, garlic spinach, goat cheese potato tomato salad^^

I know it's nothing exciting or anything, but I've been so into garlic spinach. And I'm now into this potato salad. Want recipes? Here!

Sauteed Spinach with Garlic
Olive Oil
Salt, Pepper
Heat skillet over medium low heat. Put a little bit of olive oil into pan and throw the spinach in. Add a pinch of salt and a bit of black pepper. The spinach will shrink...a lot. So put more than you think! When the spinach is on there for about a minute, throw in some minced garlic and saute for about 2 minutes. Done!

I used to put the garlic first, but sometimes it would burn---and burned garlic is the worst. So do it this way- it's good to have some fresher garlic in there. 

Goat Cheese Tomato Potato Salad
1/2 cup Roasted potatoes, warm
1/2 cup Cherry tomatoes, halved
5 basil leaves, chopped into ribbons
1/2 inch slice of goat cheese log
Salt, Pepper, to taste
Toss everything together! The heat of the potatoes will melt the goat cheese enough to coat the salad like a mayonaise would. 

And it's so flavorful and fresh too, especially with the addition of the basil!

At night I went to Zig Zag's in Lincoln Park. SO good. I got the Florence Pizza. And we all split the Firecracker Calimari as an appetizer. The best part second best part is they give you free fresh, warm chocolate chip cookies with your bill! The BEST part is that it's BYOB! Corona Lights? Sure!

This last weekend was the Garden Walk Festival in Lincoln Park. So we went last night to see Rusted Root perform. They were so good, and it's so good to have a new band to listen to! I hate when my music gets stale to me... Actually listening to Rusted Root right now and loving it!

If you don't know them, I'm sure you know this song...

Such a pretty night!

But a little too hot and sweaty...ewe.

"Send me on my way!"

Today my nana surprised us with some freshly picked cucumbers from her garden!

I decided to smother a sandwich thin in Greek Olive Sabra Hummus and top it with cucumbers!

She also brought us some Rapini

After work I ran some errands and got to work on some new veggie burgers!!!

This time I didn't make the black bean kind, I used Angela's burgers as inspiration and went my own direction, as usual :) 

Here's how it went...in pictures...


And in words:

Jamela's Curry Veggie Burgers
2 cans chickpeas, drained
1 large carrot cut into rough pieces
1/3 cup dried rolled oats
1/3 cup almonds
1 Tbs Coconut Oil (or butter)
1 Tbs curry powder
1 Tbs cumin powder
1/2 Tbs cinnamon
1/2 Tbs coriander
Salt, Pepper to taste (They're vegan so you can taste the "dough"!)
1/4 cup peas (frozen or fresh)

1/4 cup corn (frozen or fresh)
4 basil leaves cut into ribbons
Preheat oven to 350. In food processor, process carrot, almonds, oats, and coconut oil. Add 3/4 of the chickpeas. Process until smooth and until it looks like a dough. Add spices and process to combine. Pour mixture out into a bowl. Add remaining chick peas, peas, corn, and basil. Use a spoon (or your clean hands) to combine. Form into patties and place on sprayed baking sheet. You should get 6 patties. Bake for 20 minutes on one side, flip, and bake another 20 minutes. You're looking for crispness and for them to heat through- there isn't raw egg or anything, so you don't have to worry about undercooking!

I LOVE getting my hands in this "dough" and forming the burgers. After they bake they are SO delicious. I really REALLY recommend trying these. Not only are they easy, but they are super healthy and packed with nutrition.
^^I made some garlic spinach to go with it...see it peeking out??^^

I also wanted to use another cucumber- and not fuss with it much. Fresh ingredients don't need much fuss.

Israeli salad is the perfect way!
^^cucumber, cherry tomato, salt, pepper, lemon juice, olive oil^^

All together now!

Lastly I made some balsamic tofu for tomorrow--or for some other time--b/c the oven was already on.
^^Just cube and dry the tofu-- sprinkle with balsamic--put on sprayed baking sheet--roast on 350 for about 20 minutes or until crisp. These make great croutons that double as a protein source!^^

Gonna do a quick foot ice-bath and then I'm off to bed. Hope you enjoy these recipes and I hope you're inspired to try one or a few yourself :)