Healthy Quinoa Mac and Cheese (and a story about my neighbor)

Rain

It’s been raining off and on for the last week, which is awesome news since California is facing a pretty terrible drought right now. I was under the impression that everybody is aware of this fact, until I saw my neighbor down the street walk outside yesterday and turn his sprinklers on immediately following a massive downpour.

I wanted to shout at him, but he looks mean so instead I just glared at him from my driveway.

What I felt like:

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What I’m guessing I looked like:

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Anyway. All this rainy weather is making me crave comfort food. And for me, comfort food = carbs covered in cheese. Luckily, I’ve found a carb + cheese combo that is fairly healthy and doesn’t contain a ton of processed crap. I haven’t blogged much about it yet, but Dave and I have been making an effort to cut out processed foods. Mostly this involves me making batches of quinoa and whole wheat tortillas on Sundays while having daydreams about being alone with a big plate of fettuccine Alfredo.

Michael Fettuccine

My only thought right now is, “I wonder if there’s garlic bread in that bag?”

In an effort to satisfy my carby, cheesy cravings without consuming a ton of frankenfoods, I concocted this delicious lunch that I can heat up in the microwave at work because my life is sad and I eat at my desk almost every day. Womp.

Quinoa mac

Don’t judge, this was taken with my phone under fluorescent lighting.

Healthy Quinoa Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:
1 cup cooked quinoa (about 1/4 cup dry)
Chopped veggies: mushrooms, tomatoes, onion, broccoli, really whatever strikes your fancy
1 wedge Pepperjack Laughing Cow (or any of the other flavors)
Salt + pepper, to taste

Season the quinoa with a little salt and pepper. Throw the quinoa and veggies into a microwave-safe bowl, and heat on high for a minute. Test the temperature, and heat more if necessary.

When the quinoa and veggies reach your desired temperature, remove from the microwave and mix in the wedge of Laughing Cow with a fork.

Yes, the Laughing Cow contains a few mystery ingredients, but you’re only using one wedge and you’re also getting a good amount of healthy grains and veggies. Plus, it’s really filling: eat a bowl of this for lunch, and I guarantee you won’t be pacing in front of the office vending machine at 3 p.m. facing the gut-wrenching decision of Cheetos vs. Doritos. (Cheetos, duh.)

Give it a try! And then go eat a plate of Alfredo for me.

Sparkling White Sangria Recipe + Deck Progress

I have a really good sangria recipe to tell you about, but first, an important announcement: WE HAVE DECK FURNITURE!

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We technically had deck furniture before, but it was plastic and old and every time we got a strong breeze the chairs would end up scattered all over the yard and then they’d stay there for weeks because we’re too lazy to go pick them up and I’ve watched enough reality TV to know that that a yard full of broken, plastic lawn furniture is the first step toward an appearance on “Hoarders.” So when my parents offered to give us their deck furniture when they moved to Hawaii, we were super excited to take it off their hands. In addition to being sturdy and wind-resistant, it also has an umbrella so I don’t have to reapply my SPF 110 three times during dinner. #melaninproblems

(BTW, SPF 110 is a real thing, and it is awesome.)

We don’t have a truck, so the furniture has spent the last two months at my aunt and uncles’ house. However, my mom was visiting last week, so she, my brother, and my grandma loaded it up and brought it up to us on Sunday. We thanked them by feeding them barbecue and this delicious sangria:

Sangria

The bad news: This is the only picture I took, because I was so busy hosting my guests refilling my glass. The good news: I wrote down the recipe before imbibing, so now I can give it to you:

Sparkling White Sangria
1 bottle sweet white wine (I used moscato, but a riesling would be good too!)
1 bottle Champagne or sparkling white wine, chilled (I used sparkling moscato, which made it extra sweet!)
1 cup strawberries, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
1 lime, sliced
1 orange, sliced
Handful of blackberries

Combine the wine and fruit at least 4 hours and as many as 24 hours before serving, and chill. Just before serving, add the sparkling white wine or Champagne and mix well. If you want, spoon out some of the fruit from inside the container and place in the glasses before filling. Pretty! Delicious! Makes you feel like Olivia Pope!

Olivia Pope wine

P.S. – If you make it with both regular and sparkling moscato like I did, it’ll probably be sweet enough without adding any sugar. If you use a less sweet wine, give it a taste before serving to see if you need to add sweetener (I’d suggest honey, agave, or raw sugar).

May 2015 Playlist

I’ve got a new playlist to share with you, thanks in large part to a major accomplishment in my life: I recently discovered that you can shuffle different Pandora stations together.

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I’m sure I’m the last person in the world to know this, but whatever. I’m also not on Snapchat, and my Google search history may or may not include, “What is bae?” Anyway, a few weeks ago I was listening to what I thought was Avett Brothers radio, when suddenly I found myself listening to *NSYNC’s “Bye, Bye, Bye.” I was kind of confused, and then I realized I had accidentally clicked a button to shuffle all of my stations, allowing me to enjoy some glorious 90s pop along with my indie rock/bluegrass. HOW DID I NOT KNOW THAT EXISTED? Anyway, I decided to shuffle my four favorite stations that day, and I haven’t skipped or thumbsed-down a song in weeks. WEEKS. Are you ready for this? Shuffle the following stations to have your mind blown:

– Of Monsters and Men
– The Avett Brothers
– Florence + the Machine
– 90s Pop

The hipster rock/bluegrass/acoustic guitar provides the perfect backdrop for getting shit done, and then bam! An old school 90s party ballad wakes you up and makes you want to get up and dance. Every time I hear Christina Aguilera or N*Sync I’m transported back to being a 14-year-old overall-short enthusiast with Tonya Harding bangs, and suddenly my grown up problems don’t seem so bad. My floors need to be mopped and I’m probably not saving enough for retirement, but my bangs do not resemble a trailer-park-figure-skater-murderess. I’ll take it.

So anyway, here’s a mishmash of what I’ve been listening to lately:

I hope you enjoy it. I’m off to watch Empire Records, because YAY 90s!

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Back in the swing of things

Thanks to a work training and a quick trip to visit my family, I’ve spent one night in my own bed in the past week. This morning it felt SO GOOD to wake up and get back to my normal routine. (Coffee. Blogs. Work. Exercise. Sleep. Repeat.) My training was held at a casino in Reno, so basically my nights from Tuesday-Friday looked like this: tumblr_lzpm6hmfkx1rpq0uwo1_500_zps8ebddcf2 Just kidding! I was in bed by 9 every night and the only thing I was grinding on was the world’s biggest piece of New York style cheesecake, which I discovered at one of the casino’s coffee shops:

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That big boy lasted through three nights of Forensic Files marathoning. MUCH WILD. VERY PARTY.

We had a lot of downtime in the evenings, and one night I decided to go swimsuit shopping at a nearby mall. NOTE TO SELF: scrutinizing your thighs under fluorescent lighting after eating 5,000 calories worth of cheesecake is not a good idea. And speaking of scrutinizing thighs, I watched my brother compete in his first fitness competition on Saturday night:

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Apparently that’s what 4% bodyfat looks like. I’m depressed, pass the cheesecake.

He competed in the physique division, and I’m not totally sure what that means aside from the fact that he got to wear board shorts. This was great news, since I can’t imagine anything more uncomfortable than sitting next to my parents and grandma while watching my little brother flex his muscles in a bedazzled scrote tote. I spent most of the bodybuilding portion worrying that somebody was either going to poop their pants and/or have an aneurysm from the sheer force of their flexing, and the highlight of the bikini competition was my grandma shouting, “How does she even stand up?” when a contestant with particularly large implants took the stage. my-reaction-when-I-get-into-an-argument-with-women-homer-simpson-hide-in-bush-disappears Anyway, I’m pretty much in awe of his dedication – he worked out six days a week and basically ate chicken, egg whites and vegetables for the last five months in order to look like that. I was starting to question whether we’re actually related, but when we met up after the show he said that all he wanted to do was drink a beer and eat a really big burger. We may have also driven to two grocery stores at midnight to find some ice cream. That sounds about right. The rest of the weekend was spent visiting with my parents, whom I haven’t seen since they moved to Hawaii back in March. It was awesome to spend some time with my mom on Mother’s Day, even though she’s a jerk and texts me pictures like this all the time while I’m at work: 11182185_10206379527706077_9014370125745713902_n Rude, right? It’s a good thing I love her, or I’d be irritated :) HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, MOM!

Life Lately

It’s spring, guys! I’m so grateful for the longer days, blooming plants, and all the cute dresses hitting the stores. This one came home with me last weekend, and this little number will join it as soon as it goes on sale. (Ann Taylor and LOFT have so many online sales that I refuse to pay full-price for anything there.) Anyway, enough about dresses: here’s some springy stuff we’ve been up to lately:

We’ve finally started Operation: Deck Beautification, thanks to these deck rail planters from Lowe’s. They’re only $12 each, and having a bit of color out there makes SUCH a difference:

Deck Flowers

On Friday night, we celebrated the arrival of spring at Scott River Ranch’s May Day Festival:

Maypole

Sadly, I did not drink enough beer to show off my sweet maypole dance moves.

They served a fantastic dinner of their grass-fed beef, a just-picked-from-the-ground salad, and warm potato salad. This ranch is so cool – their cattle live in green, wide-open pastures, they don’t brand or rope their animals, and they make the slaughter experience as decent as possible (read more here, if you want.) I may have had a few beers and then decided to purchase a $40 tri tip.

Note to city dwellers: this is REAL farm-to-table dining.

Enjoying a tasty steak dinner in a barn overlooking a pasture full of cattle. #sorrynotsorry

On Saturday, we headed over to a cool little brewery called the Drunken Goat for a tasting event. This might be my favorite local event ever: You pay $12 for a pint glass, and then they give you all the beer you want. So it wasn’t so much as a “tasting” as it was a mid-day bacchanal that left me with the world’s worst hangover. But still, it was worth it because $12 ALL YOU CAN DRINK BEER.

Drunken Goat

I very much resembled that goat by night’s end.

After the beer tasting, we went to our friends Rob and Jenn’s house to watch the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. Rob didn’t make us his famous grilled cheeses, but I’m going to forgive him because it was his birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ROB! Now make me a grilled cheese.

I leave this afternoon for a work trip in Reno, and then the day after I get back I’m heading down to Redding to watch my brother compete in his first bodybuilding competition. My main goal from that event (besides cheering for my bro, obviously) is to get a picture of my grandma posing with some mostly-naked juiceheads. WISH ME LUCK.

I Might Be a Crazy Cat Lady

If you follow me on Instagram, then you know we have been trying to find a harness that fits Whiskers, our portly cat, for quite some time. I posted this picture last night, and my sister commented that it looks like we’re a heartbeat away from pushing him around in a stroller. This is when I realized that all my followers probably think I’m a mega creep.

Whiskers Harness

So I just wanted to clear things up: We don’t roam around with our cat on a leash, and I have never put clothes on him (although I’d probably force him to wear this if I thought I could get it on him without losing half my blood supply in the process).

No, the harness business all started because of Whiskers’ assholery every time we hang out on our back deck. If we’re out there, he paces up and down along the sliding glass door, making loud, obnoxious meowing noises that I can only assume are nasty words in cat-language. If you have to go inside to grab something, you have to execute a three-step maneuver that involves slipping your body between a three-inch crack in the door while simultaneously kicking your leading foot out blindly to dissuade him from darting outside, and then slamming the door shut as fast as you can behind you. After a few beers, this task turns into a Mission Impossible scenario, and we start questioning if it might be easier to just crawl in through the air ducts and rappel down into the living room.

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You know you wanted a visual.

Dave’s solution to this problem was to create a little cat run along the side of the fence. That way he can be outside with us, but he can’t jump the fence. (Our property butts up to a big field full of all kinds of animals who would love to eat our cat for dinner.) ¬†Only finding a harness to fit his considerable girth has proved to be quite the fool’s errand. We could tell that none of the cat harnesses at Walmart would be big enough, so we figured we’d be safe with small dog size. When that was too small, we moved up to medium dog. Which looked like this:

Fat cat in a little co-ooat

Chris Farley, the cat.

Essentially, our cat is the size of a Rottweiler. Anyway, we finally found one that seems to be working. He hung out with us for about a half hour last night after dinner, eating grass and sniffing rocks and talking to birds. Apparently all that excitement tuckered him out, since he spent the rest of the evening passed out on our laps. My friend Corinna posted this on my Facebook, and I realized that I probably am a little bit of a crazy cat lady because I would totally buy it:

Cat beltSo yeah, maybe I actually *am* a little bit of a crazy cat lady. But at least this hasn’t happened yet:

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Fooood

My department at work put on a three-day kids’ event last week, and between the prep leading up to it and actually working the event, my diet and exercise routine kind of fell off the rails. I tend to not eat when I’m busy/stressed, so I’d go all day without eating a proper meal, then come home and The Hunger would kick in. And The Hunger? It is not satisfied by healthy food. It wants carbs covered in heavily processed meats and melted cheese. tumblr_ln8ddo7XVZ1qawe6co1_500Also, Cadbury Creme Eggs.

So between that and my lack of exercise (I think I ran once last week?), I woke up feeling pretty awful this morning. I did a 25-minute cardio interval workout at home before work, and I’m so glad that nobody was watching but the cat, and I think even he was judging me a little bit. I decided that to help keep myself on track, I’m going to do a food journal week on the blog. If this kind of thing makes you stabby, you may want to skip out and check back in next week. And if you’re a voyeur like me, here’s what I ate yesterday: IMG_4763.JPGBreakfast: Oatmeal with stevia, cinnamon, and raspberries. I only eat old fashioned oats, because the quick-cook kind are mushy and tasteless and essentially evil in food form. Also, aren’t our new Target dishes pretty?IMG_4765.JPGLunch: Avocado egg salad on an English muffin. Between my pastel blue egg salad (thanks, Easter!) and those carrots that look like they have leprosy this was kind of an awful-looking lunch, but it tasted awesome.

Dinner: Cauliflower crust pizza, topped with chicken, a little barbecue sauce, onions, and mushrooms. And a couple slices of crispy bacon because Dave demanded it. I did not take a picture, because it would have required pausing between taking it out of the oven and shoveling it into my mouth, Buzz McCallister-style.

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Beat that, ya little trout sniffer.

All in all, it was a delicious day of eating, and I feel so much better when I eat good food instead of crap. Shocking, I know.