December Rewind

I wanted to do a quick rewind for December since I completely forgot about posting. I post more frequently on Instagram and Twitter. It’s just much easier to snap and post with my new iPhone 6s Plus. I wasn’t sure if I wanted such a big phone but now that I have it, I am so happy with it.

Work kept me busy as usual but the last 2 weeks were a little slower since most people were out on vacation.

The first weekend saw us celebrating our 13 years together at a winery in Quincy WA. It was such a fun time to spend with only each other – wine tasting, hot stone massages and a languorous dinner with more wine.

Vines resting for the wintertime #stefmike13

A photo posted by @astromei on

I actually returned to the kitchen quite a bit too. I haven’t really been cooking as much in the last 2 years. I still do simple meals but nothing elaborate. I have not been inspired. This past month, the baking bug bit me. I made peanut butter cookies, coconut macaroons and bacon gingersnaps. All delicious if I might say so myself.

Bacon Fat Gingersnaps, thanks to @seriouseats

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We celebrated our first Feast of Seven Fishes. It was our excuse to eat good seafood on Christmas Eve. We made chorizo-stuffed squid, smoked oyster pate, smoked salmon canapés, seared scallops, baked shrimp scampi, Dungeness crab and black-bean sautéed Manila clams. SO good!

Christmas morning was filled with Sagan’s excitement. He is really into Christmas. It’s the perfect age. The rest of the time was quiet but staying in pajamas, listening to music, and watching movies made it perfect.

Then we went and watched the new Star Wars movie. I am still reeling from it. I felt like an 8 year old all over again.

Last night was another New Year’s Eve that we stayed in. However, there were no fireworks audible in our new place. That was refreshing. I kissed Mike just before midnight and just before we fell asleep, Sagan woke with complaints of growing pains. Poor little guy. (He’s fine now, it just comes occasionally in the night)

I think that brings us up to today, Jan 1 2016. Happy New Year, my friends! So far today, I’ve gone to the grocery store so we can have some good eats this weekend, undressed the Christmas tree and put away the decorations. Now I’m sitting down to finish up this post and continue binge-watching “How to Get Away with Murder”.

HAPPY 2016! This year, I seek to LIVE, LEARN and LOVE!

Sparks

If you have heard about the new organization movement (KonMari) by Marie Kondo, you would understand the title of my post. My main take from her method is that you would want to only keep or obtain things that spark joy in your life.

Everyone, these are my current sparks:

Borns – I love 10,000 Emerald Pools and of course, Electric Love. But one of my favorites is Seeing Stars and his new single (The Emotion) from the upcoming album (Oct 16), Dopamine, has been on repeat.

Cassava Tortillas made with cassava flour (not the same as tapioca starch which is more chewy and gummy). Grain-free, gluten-free and nut-free. Amazing texture.

Journal prompts
– I wake up and write down 3 things that I am grateful for, ask myself how I am feeling and at the end of the day, write down my favorite part of the day.

Boxing – Mike installed the heavy bag he got me a few years ago in the garage and I am going to put on these pretty pink gloves and show it who’s boss. Ha! Really, I’m starting slow at a moderate pace. Three to Four 2-minute rounds of basic punches, such as jabs, crosses, hooks and uppercuts, with one minute rest in between rounds.

I finally completed my 30-day foundation course with Headspace and have recently begun a new pack. This has helped me so much.

What are your current sparks?

Marinades

For those of you waiting patiently for my AFTER picture of the dining/kitchen space, I am almost there. Thank you for waiting, it’s almost there. I just have to get that corner and the wall re-imagined. The pic above is just a teaser of our new dining pendant. If you are follow my Pinterest boards, you’ll know which one I picked.

For the wall, I decided to go with what I have, in terms of art. Since the wall is right behind the back door of the house, crowded shelves are  not a good idea. I had a shelf there before but it seemed too crowded. The kitchen cart and oven are going away and I will need to find a new spot for my rubber plant. I’m looking forward to the final reveal, just as much as you are.

In the kitchen, I’ve been making up different meat marinades. This weekend, I modified this marinade for some galbi/short ribs. Instead of sugar, I used kecap manis. It gave a good flavor and nice caramel color. Instead of pear, I used apple sauce. The sweetness of this marinade probably doesn’t make it paleo or primal. Still, it is so very tasty.

I also made some char siew/Chinese BBQ pork. Bee has a wonderful recipe that smells just like char siew should smell. I know that is an odd comment to make but you know how sometimes you try to recreate a flavor and you never quite know that secret ingredient/s? Bee shared a recipe that brings me home.

Roasted cremini mushrooms

Use your favorite oil (I used olive oil and ghee), season with kosher salt, granulated garlic and ground black pepper. Stick under broiler for 12 minutes at about 400 deg F.

Perfect side dish for any paleo/primal meal.

This past week

Cooking some new dishes: Gulai Sayur, collards simmered in spicy coconut milk; Mashed sweet potatoes in chai-infused coconut milk; Lemongrass Chicken Thighs (I marinated, Mike grilled); Coconut jello (no sugar, just coconut water, coconut milk and unflavored gelatin).

Listening to sad bastard (mostly!) music from songsfortheday (thanks to Loobylu!) My favorite song at the moment is Take Me Out by The Wooden Sky. Perfect for a long quiet drive with a loved one, as Adam suggests.

Watching Sherlock. I like the way the series has gone. Very clever.

Would love to taste this gluten-free torte from Macrina Bakery – Torta Gianduja – a six-layer rectangular torta with alternating layers of a chocolate espresso cake and chocolate hazelnut cake glazed with a rich bittersweet chocolate ganache and decorated with hazelnuts.

Trying out new photo app on iPhone called Snapster. You can make your own filters. Neat.

Spring/Happy Easter

The sun is out, Seattle is, once again, scintillating. My camellia begged to be photographed.

We made these delicious stuffed strawberries. There is a little powdered sugar whipped in the mascarpone cheese but the lemon and strawberries were perfect.

I tried a new recipe today. Basically, I will cook 3-4 lbs of chuck roast or pork shoulder in the pressure cooker so we have protein stashed in the fridge for those nights when we want a quick meal or when I want to boost my breakfast with protein. Last week we made pressure-cooker carnitas, this week, it’s barbacoa. Slow-cooked beef. Of course we are not going to eat it as a taco but probably in a salad with shredded cheese, sour cream and fresh avocado. I recommend this recipe. I added more chipotle chillies (5-6) because I like more heat. Mike thinks this is the best shredded beef he’s ever tasted, but he’s biased and you already know that. Still, it is a simple recipe and takes a short prep time. It even cooks quickly in a pressure cooker. These days, I often find myself using my pressure cooker several times a week. I love tender, falling-off-bone meat.

As I type this, my pressure cooker is hissing again. Twice in a day! I’m making this lamb stew for dinner and serving it with roasted parsnip puree. I know that it sounds like a fall meal but the fragrant spices of this Spanish dish remind me of warmer days. I made two changes: (1) switch out Italian Parsley for cilantro. There is something about fresh cilantro that balances that richness of the lamb; (2) use lamb shank instead of stew meat.

Have to run for now. Going to put the boy to bed before I indulge in my Easter supper.

Around here

Our little S turned 8 months today. 8 months. I can wrap my brain around 8 weeks, but 8 months? I can’t imagine 8 years. I am pretty sure that it will come around soon enough. And I will be lamenting about how it all flew by. Did I say in the last post that he is not crawling fast? I stand corrected. He is fast now and I can only imagine how much faster he will move in the next week or so. He seems disinterested in actual toys and would much rather navigate my un-baby-proofed workspace. He pulls the drawers out from the apothecary chest, tries to pull out my cookbooks from my Sapien bookcase and constantly crawls to fiddle at the wheels of his grandpa’s office chair. Unstoppable.

In other news, Scarlett has a new neighbor. My folks’ house is right next door and is so close to being completed. Only the fence left! Will share a pic of the front yard between both houses when it is done. I got a free gate out of their new fence installation but they have to share one not-so-new fence that belongs to Scarlett. (oops!) Maybe in a few years, we’ll get a new fence.

Today marks my one month at Crossfit. I am still loving it and have not missed a single class. That is an achievement for me. I did the same WOD (Workout of the Day) yesterday that I did on my first session. I made so much better time. It surprised me. Although I am nowhere near doing an actual pushup or an actual pull-up, I am definitely pushing my limits and getting stronger. Carrying S around also helps with that but I have to say that it is getting easier to carry him around.

Primally, I made some Thai meat balls, inspired by this recipe. Here is mine:

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs grass-fed ground meat
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, lower white parts grated
  • 1/4″ galangal, grated (about 1-2 tbsp after grating)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (I like to make sure the meat is well-seasoned. An under-seasoned meatball is just not right.)
  • 3 tbsp almond meal
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 Thai bird chillies, chopped finely (optional)

Mix all ingredients together in a big bowl. Form meat balls and pan fry.

We served it with organic salad greens tossed in olive oil, fish sauce and some lime juice. My new favorite salad dressing.

Tomorrow, I try my hand at some art journaling. On a small scale. But I feel that I might be hooked.

Oh and have you heard about PostalPix for getting prints of your iPhone/Instagram pictures? I ordered some and will see how the quality is.

Going primal

Almost everyone starts the new year with some sort of “going to be healthier” resolution. I didn’t make any specific resolutions this year except that I would be brave as well as good to myself and my boys. It is very generic but that’s because I honestly did not have time to think of specifics. Just a good general direction would surely work for me. Somehow, despite the lack of specifics, I still stumbled onto this new resolution of eating better.

Several weeks ago, M made mention of his Crossfit box starting a 7 week paleo/primal challenge. He started bringing home books such as this and this. Knowing my history with diets, I was skeptical. But I listened to M’s description of this lifestyle change and read up on it. Then I came across this book by Gary Taubes, he challenges conventional wisdom on diets and talks about the science behind why people get fat. I was intrigued but I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. I have a phobia of diets. They were always failures and some how I attributed the blame all on me. Then I remembered my new year’s resolution so I told M that I would go on this challenge with him. I think such changes are always a little easier with someone by your side, doing the same thing.

Now, I am a week into this new eating and I haven’t felt this good in a long time. I don’t drag ass out of bed anymore even when S wakes me up several times a night. I don’t feel bloated after meals. Even the really bad eczema I’ve had since pregnancy has now started to recede. I don’t know how long I can keep up this change but I really do feel much better. I won’t go into the numbers I read on the weighing scale because that is nothing compared to how much better I feel. I’ll miss rice, noodles, pasta and bread for sure but at this point in my life, good health and plentiful energy are my priorities. Skepticism is always a strong follower of change but as the old adage goes, the proof is in the pudding *grin*.

The other added benefit is that I am back in the kitchen and I am being creative with what ingredients I can use. I’ve been able to come up with some delicious meals with “allowed” ingredients and I don’t feel restricted at all. What’s interesting is that I find myself cooking 3 or 4 vegetables per meal.

I wanted to share my favorite meal so far –

Thai-style Basil Beef Lettuce Wraps

Ingredients

  • 2 lb organic ground beef (Costco sells it at a good price!)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic (I love garlic), minced
  • 1/2 zucchini, diced
  • 1 cup Thai basil leaves (again, I love Thai basil so I like to add lots of it)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • Fish sauce or sea salt
  • White pepper, ground
  • 1 head butter lettuce

Method

1) Brown the beef in the coconut oil, remove to a plate. Leave coconut oil and beef drippings in pan.

2) Saute onions for about 5 minutes until soft then add garlic. Saute for about another minute or so. Add zucchini and saute further, another 3-5 mins.

3) Add beef back in, season with fish sauce (Red Boat fish sauce is high quality fish sauce if you have to be strictly paleo. If you decide to use sea salt instead, it will not taste as authentic Thai but still good) and white pepper.

4) Add in basil leaves, stir into meat and turn off heat.

Serve up with lettuce leaves to wrap meat. No need to worry about utensils.