Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Going Meat-Free: My Top 10 Vegetarian Recipes

If you've seen any of the recipes I've posted the past couple of years, you may have noticed a lack of meat.  I do eat seafood, but the word "pescatarian" makes me feel like an enormous snob, so we'll just say I don't eat mammals.  Or animals with feet.  Or snakes.  I guess this is why there's a word for this diet.

Most people assume I've cut out meat for nutrition reasons, but in reality, I think meat-containing diets can absolutely be healthy.  And actually, vegetarian diets can be a really bad idea if you don't know what you're doing.

When Will and I both hopped on board the meat-free wagon, it was a huge challenge at first.  The biggest challenge was figuring out what the heck I was going to make for dinner!  All of my old recipes had meat in them!  I think many people (my previous self included) have the idea that every meal has to be centered around meat.  It sounds silly, but I seriously had no idea how good food could be without it.  I can honestly say there's not a single old meat-containing recipe I like better than any of the food I make now.  And it's a lot cheaper, actually.  Meat is expensive!  After experimenting with a lot of recipes, I've compiled a pretty solid set of go-to recipes.  Will calls it the "All-Star List".

Since I've had several people ask for vegetarian recipe advice, and I tooootally know how hard it can be to try the meat-free route, I thought I'd post a list of some of my favorites.  I post a lot of my own recipes here, or some that I've found and altered, but unless you follow me on Pinterest, a lot of them are never mentioned.  And even some of the Pinterest recipes I've tried have been duds.

So without further ado, here are some go-to recipes for meat-free folks... or if you're just looking to cut back on food expenses.  Enjoy!

1. Edamame Fried Rice
This is a much healthier take on the standard Asian takeout.  With a boost in fiber from brown rice and only a tablespoon of canola oil (packed with unsaturated fats- the "good" fats), this is a guilt-free, meat-free way to enjoy Asian fare.

2. Spring Pesto Tortellini
This recipe from Prevention RD (Nicole rocks!) is perfect served with white wine on a hot day.  Pesto pretty much rules my world in the summertime, and paired with crisp asparagus, it's incredibly refreshing!
Photo from Prevention RD

3. BBQ Black Bean Pizza
One of my favorite summer recipes, this pizza is fantastic on the grill!  Sweet corn and black beans with the smokiness from barbecue sauce is an unexpected and delicious combination.

4. Black Bean Enchiladas
I have yet to find a better Mexican recipe than these black bean avocado enchiladas.  It's the perfect combo of veggies, protein and fiber-packed black beans, and enchilada sauce... My mouth is seriously watering.

Some tips:
  • I love using whole wheat tortillas for these to get additional fiber.  
  • While these are unbelievably tasty, I've found they're not nearly as good as leftovers (we're talking about soggy tortillas here, my friends).  In other words, these would be best served to a larger group, or use a smaller baking dish and make fewer of them if it's just for two people.
Photo from Creme de la Crumb

5. Coconut Curry
Feeling like Indian tonight?  This is the simplest recipe ever.  The curry sauce is delicious, and like many of the recipes above, it makes enough to serve all your favorite people!
Photo from Detoxinista

6. Grilled Eggplant Burger
Can you tell I'm in summer-mode?!  This is another favorite grill-able meal.  Did you ever guess you could still grill as a vegetarian?  Forget the burgers guys, the thinly sliced eggplant with fresh basil, tomato, and onion is crazy good.  Toast the buns on the top rack for an added delish-factor!

7. Avocado & White Bean Wraps
Adobo chiles are the secret to the yum-level here.  Not only are these things tasty and filling, but you don't feel like a beached whale after eating them.  Plus, they're simple enough to make when it's Monday and the motivation is nonexistent.
Photo from Eating Well

8. Greek Lasagna
While this Greek Lasagna is the best cold weather soul food I could imagine, I've been known to make it year-round.  Even my meat-loving family back in Indiana digs this stuff!  It's especially fabulous for serving a large group of people or for tasty lunch leftovers the next day (and the day after that, and the day after that!).

9. Spinach Artichoke Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Cheese.  Need I say more?  You won't need dessert (or another meal for 24 hours) after eating these bad boys.  Decadent should be in the name of this sandwich.  Yummy... in... my tummy.
Photo from Joy the Baker

10. Portobello, Broccoli, & Red Pepper Melts
Oh Martha, you've still got it.  These may look like just an appetizer, but thick sliced portobello mushrooms mixed with veggies and cheese makes this a surprisingly filling dish.  Another perfect dinner to throw together after a long day of work.  Pair with wine.  Obviously.
Photo from Martha Stewart.  

Monday, July 7, 2014

How It's Looking- A living/dining room update

Did everyone have a fabulous fourth of July?!  I still can't believe it's mid-year already.  We spent our day biking (at the crack of dawn when it's still possible to breathe outside), "swimming" (AKA bobbing around in a pool without actually exerting any energy), eating/drinking with pals, and enjoying fireworks and the extended hours of Crescent City Park on the Mississippi.  Don't worry, I won't be sharing photos of various fireworks.  But I will share this:

Aaaanyway, it's time for another house update.  I think the last time I photographed the main part of the house was at Christmas.  Also, we've been sliding small updates in, not mentioning them, and pretending like no one will notice.

For instance, we painted the dining room and kitchen, as well as all the trim near the crown molding.  Did anyone notice the walls suddenly weren't yellow anymore in this post?  I think it helps tone down the "everything around me is yellow" factor.  The cream cabinets, yellow ceiling, yellow walls, and yellow trimming between the molding was making me pine for something blue-toned in my life.

Yes, the ceiling is still yellow.  Uggggghhhhhhhhh.  Sorry.  Every time I think about painting a ceiling it makes me groan for extended periods and feel like I might vomit.  It may be a while before we tackle that beast.

We've got a few new pieces of art hanging out in the living room these days.  The two larger pieces are mixed watercolor and ink by Geza Brunow- his stuff is awesome.  Check out his "Kings" pieces.  They make me smile so much!

Then we balanced out the fancy schmancy art with some pieces that are more tolerable to the Arvin budget.  The top piece we acquired for $2 (!!!) from a guy who lives nearby and doodles little pen on paper pieces like this all the time.  The bottom right is a postcard-style advertisement for the Tennessee Williams Festival we picked up at a performance of Night of the Iguana at a warehouse in the Marigny.

Here's the 2-buck doodle a little closer:

Remember when I mentioned how bright the 60W bulb seemed in this fixture I pieced together?  I switched it out for a 40W.  It was a good move.  I also love the shape.  Ooh lala!

I've gotten into the habit of picking up flowers every week, and it's fantastic.  Flowers make me happy.  So do ice cream, chocolate, and cake.  Keep that in mind, friends.  My birthday is nearing.

You may have noticed (above) the little cabinet to the left of the window.  It was a Craigslist find we snagged for $50 a few weeks ago.  Plans are to paint it.  More on that soon.

So what have you been up to?  Any home-updates on the to do list?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Outer Beauty

Have I really not posted anything about the backyard yet?  Let's have a glass of wine and check it out, shall we?

Fortunately when we bought the house, the backyard was in pretty good shape.  Here's what it looked like:

The landscaping layout was already in place, the whole thing was fenced, and the deck had been built.  We also inherited a barge wood table and outdoor chairs, which has been perfect for entertaining.

Here's what it looks like now:

String lights, lanterns, and an outdoor rug have made it a bit cozier.

I know what you're thinking about that picture above.  Jackie's looking very regal.  Here's another regal shot.

We also mulched, added some extra plants, and stained/sealed the deck.  After 12-hour car rides, staining decks is 2nd in my list of "things I wish could be done when I snap my fingers".

 Here's what the deck looked like last month (I don't know why Jackie always seems to be standing over there when I'm taking pictures):

Penelope the Palm Tree is lookin' sexy in the corner.

And check out the new garden!  Doesn't it look like I actually know what I'm doing?  Turns out everything grows like madness down here.  This is just after a massive basil harvest that got us 3 large batches of pesto.  Yay, pesto!  Boo to eating so much in one sitting I have to lie down to avoid throwing up (Yes, that happened to me this week.).

This is what it looked like about 6 weeks ago:

I get these wild hairs and feel like I want to plant every vegetable known to man, then I remember that the drive to care for plants only strikes me every now and then.... so I need to start small.

Not surprisingly, the mint is taking over like a pug in a Dingo factory.

I started these babies from seeds, folks!  Woop woop!  If only I had a cow and the knowledge to make cheese.  I'd be eating Caprese everything until the end of time.  You can check out a whole bunch of ways to eat tomatoes, basil, & mozz together here, by the way.  Yummy to my tummy.

We've loved using the backyard for drinks, dinner, and game nights in the evenings.  Ain't she a real beaut'?!

So, what's left on the to-do list back here?
  1. Add some lighting for evening entertaining.
  2. Start a small vegetable/herb garden.
  3. Get a palm tree.  Because we can.
  4. Stain the deck.
  5. Seal the fence (uuuuggggghhh).
  6. Sand and re-stain the barge wood table.
  7. Replace the single door to the laundry room and French doors to our bedroom.  We might as well have cardboard propped in the doorways.  The doors are not efficient.  At all.
  8. DIY a pergola over the deck, where the bistro table and chairs are.
  9. Take out the pea gravel and replace it with brick- We started out really liking the gravel, but it's pretty obnoxious after a while.  For one, it's really uncomfortable to walk in.  With shoes on, it feels like I'm walking in sand, and barefoot it feels like.... well, like I'm walking in gravel.  Second, we have brick along the sides of our house and in a little patch near the center of the fence.  It looks sooo pretty when it's all rustic and mossy.
  10. Paint the trim a different color.  We've actually already done this out front- I'll be sharing that shortly.
  11. Get a whole bunch of chickens and give them all "old lady" names!  Okay, this one will probably be on the back burner for a while...
Clearly, we have a long way to go.  Let's end on a positive note:

Thursday, June 5, 2014

I DIYed a light fixture and didn't electrocute myself!

Come basque in the glory of successful wiring with me, my friends.  Perhaps you think connecting a white and black wire into the proper places on a lamp is child's play, but to me, it feels like I missed my calling at becoming an electrician.  I want to wire and rewire ALL the lamps!

Anywho, it all started when Will and I were complaining to each other about how dark one corner of the living room is.  We have lamps in 2 corners, the TV in a 3rd, and then there's the corner dark enough to be a make-out corner at a middle school dance.  And because I don't want anything shady (pun) going on around here, I set out on a light search.

The space isn't big enough for a table and lamp, and a floor lamp would be awkward, so I knew it would have to mount to the wall.  I've always drooled over these fantastic light fixtures that only people much wealthier than I can buy:

Being willing to spend much less money on a light fixture than these require, I started considering a DIY option.  I'd seen a lot of basic single light cords, like this one from IKEA, so I knew there had to be a way to rig something up.  I didn't like the simplistic look of everything I found on the internet though.  I was hoping for something more... vintage.

Then, the wonderful Michael at Inspired by Charm wrote this post with some extremely helpful info about where to buy separate light sockets and cords.  Clearly he picked up on my stuck-in-a-DIY-situation brain waves.  I ordered the antique bronze cloth covered lamp cord and the antique brass lamp socket on eBay, then found a wall mount pulley for $14.50 on eBay as well.

Everything came in the mail a few days later looking a little like this:


Saturday morning while Will was running around the neighborhood being fit, I sat with coffee and bonbons (ok, maybe just coffee) and started wiring the cord to the light socket.  I Googled some videos that showed me where to put the hot and neutral wires (so as not to electrocute myself or burn down the house), and had the thing together in about 20 minutes.  I will not be held responsible for anyone who electrocutes/shocks themselves or burns their house down... thus, I won't be demonstrating how the wiring is done.

Next, I took off the wheel of the pulley, thread the cord through, and put it back together.  

To keep the cord in place (so the light won't sink lower and lower from the pulley after it's hanging), I used a bit of fishing wire to tie it to the base of the pulley.

I screwed in one of the 60 watt old-school lightbulbs that are all the rage these days, then the last step was mounting it to the wall.  Boom.

It's quite nice having more light in the living room at night.  Plus those vintage bulbs give off such warm light, it makes everything feel cozier.

After using it a lot, I'm considering getting a 40 watt bulb instead, so it doesn't burn my retinas when I stare adoringly at it.  We'll see.

What do y'all think?  Anyone else on the hunt for new lighting these days?