Food

Leftovers

I know Thanksgiving was a week ago and any leftovers you had are long gone, but this leftover creation is just too good not to share!  By Sunday, my Mom – who is the queen of not wasting food – had had enough of Thanksgiving leftovers and was about to toss out some plain cooked sweet potatoes.  Good thing I intervened!  I had been planning on making a sweet potato chili of sorts that night, so figured I could re-purpose them somehow.  My mom also gave me her immersion blender the night before when I mentioned wanting one for Christmas – score!  So on my drive home, I had a bright idea – since the sweet potatoes were cooked (read: almost mushy) and I was the proud new owner of an immersion blender, why not make a coconut curry sweet potato bisque of sorts instead?

On my way into town, I stopped at the grocery store, googled my vision, and quickly settled on this recipe: Curried Sweet Potato Soup with Coconut Milk.  Of course, I modified it, but I needed a base from which to build.

I doubled the recipe and baked a few more sweet potatoes while I was cleaning that late afternoon.  I also had an acorn squash that had been sitting on my counter for longer than I’d like to admit, so I decided to throw that into the oven too.  By the time I was ready to make the soup, the sweet potatoes and squash were cooked through and cooled slightly.

I failed as a blogger and didn’t take photos of the process, but did manage to take one of the final product:
sweet potato soup

The soup came together very easily and with minimal effort.  Wyatt was my sous-chef and helped me decide what spices and how much we needed (lots of taste-testing in this one).  I also learned that he’s an excellent veggie-chopper – the salad that we served the soup with had some teeny-tiny red peppers and green onions, which I love but am always too lazy to chop so fine!  These are clearly traits one looks for in a partner.  We ate the soup with some crusty bread and the salad while sitting on the couch – three remotes is the making of a romantic ambiance.
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Made with leftovers or not, this soup is definitely worth whipping up this weekend!  It’s one of those soups that gets better with age – I’ve been eating leftovers all week and the flavors really melded.  Enjoy!

Coconut Curry Sweet Potato Soup
Adapted from About.com
Makes ~8 servings (freezes well)

5 medium sweet potatoes, baked or roasted
1 acorn squash, roasted
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
Olive Oil
2 tbsp garam masala
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp tumeric
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt
pepper to taste
~1 32 oz container veggie or chicken broth
2 14 oz cans light coconut milk
plain greek yogurt, sriracha hot sauce, and crusty bread (for serving)

1.  Saute onion and garlic in some olive oil for ~ 5 min, until translucent
2.  Add spices and stir constantly for ~30 seconds.  Remove from heat.
3.  Scoop the sweet potatoes and squash from their flesh into the pot and coat with the onion and spice mixture.  Add the broth and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for ~15-30 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool slightly.
4.  Using a food processor or immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth.
5.  Add coconut milk and stir well.  Simmer for ~5-10 mins.  Taste and adjust spices as needed.
6.  Serve with a dollop of plain greek yogurt and some sriracha hot sauce as desired. Enjoy with crusty bread!

How did you use your Thanksgiving leftovers?

Thanksgiving

Happy December, everyone!  I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend filled with family, food, and relaxation.  We always do Thanksgiving with my Dad’s side of the family, who traveled from Massachusetts, North Carolina, and that state up north to my parent’s house in Cleveland for the long weekend (and my brother flew in from NYC!  We missed you, Atlee – she’s in Israel!).  It was a loud, fun, loving weekend together.  Some highlights:

1.   All. The. Food.  aka, “Ode to Laurie Chait”

Thanksgiving Dinner!

Thanksgiving Dinner!

I could (and probably should) write an entire blog post dedicated to my Mom, the hostess.  Words cannot begin to describe the amount of preparation and work that goes into welcoming ~10 people for 4 days straight.  I know there are plenty of families with larger Thanksgiving Dinners than mine, but most people don’t start the feast the day before and end it three days after!  Over the course of Wed – Sat, my mom fed everyone multiple meals, just one of which was Thanksgiving dinner, and all of which were homemade: three types of soup and grilled cheese, a Mediterranean feast, and chili (along with many many leftovers). We only “ate out” once – pizza Saturday night (served with salad, of course)!  She ran the dishwasher three times PER DAY – which means she unloaded the dishwasher three times PER DAY.  Now, of course my brother, Dad, and I pitched in, but as only the woman of the household can understand, when it’s your house…things are just different.

My Plate

My Plate – Round One

Mom, you’re the best.  I can only hope to be as gracious and warm a hostess as you one day!

2.  Cards Against Humanity
A couple of weeks ago I bought Cards Against Humanity – “A party game for horrible people”.  If you’ve never played the game, I insist you buy yourself an early Christmas present and gather a group of your most raunchy friends (or in my case at Wyatt’s Friendsgiving, total strangers) for hours of hysterical laughter.  My brother and I were just about to start a rip-roaring game of Scrabble when he said to me, “You know what we should do sometime?  Play Cards Against Humanity with this group.”  I stared at him and said, “I have it upstairs!”.  Siblings thinking alike.  So we gathered up the crew minus the little girls (sorry, Devon and Dylan – soon enough you’ll be old enough for highly inappropriate humor!), sat around the fireplace, and spent the next two hours laughing uncontrollably and being surprisingly (and somewhat strangely) comfortable with the amount of dirty things being said by our parents and other more “mature” relatives.  We played until there were no cards left.  I’d call that a win!  #newtradition.

Just some of the family

“How Does Obama Unwind?”

3.  “The StairMaster Incident”
On Saturday morning before “The Game”, my Dad took me, my brother, and my cousins Debbie and Talya to his gym to work off one bite of pecan pie.  After taking Debbie and Talya through this workout, Talya and I hopped on side-by-side StairMasters for a little calorie-burn, 80’s style.  I’ve been using the StairMaster at my trainer’s gym, and the one there has the user input “steps per minute”, which are typically between 80-100 for me.  So, I entered in “90”, but this StairMaster was programmed by level and not steps per minute….meaning my entry of “90” took the machine up to its max level of speed, 20.  Which was probably the equivalent of 180 steps per minute!  It started racing, and before I could figure out how to stop it I had crashed to the ground.  Aside from a banged up ankle I was totally fine, and highly amused  – especially when the old man running the front desk rushed over to ask me if he should call “9-11”. So, yeah…that happened.

4.  OSU vs. M*ch*gan
OSU: 42.  M*ch*gan: 28.  Need I say more?  Never mind how we got there (with great difficulty) and the fact that our star second-string QB is now hurt (poor JT…).  The right team won!

Buckeyes!

Buckeyes!

5.  Family
Despite all the craziness that comes with this weekend every year, I’m so so so grateful that everyone makes the effort to travel far and wide to be together.  I’m very lucky to have such a fun, lively, supportive family where anything goes and everyone can be themselves.  I love you all, and look forward to seeing you again in 360ish days!

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From Left to Right: Debbie, Cliff, Talya, Dad, Me, Dylan, Devon, D, Jake Mom. Not Pictured: Aunt Neva, Uncle Yossi, Cousin Atlee

What were the highlights of your Thanksgiving weekend?

Holidays

The Holidays are here!  ‘Tis the season of overspending and overeating, right?  I’m not going to try and tell you otherwise – the fact is, the Holidays have a reputation of being stressful for a reason.  There are presents to buy, festive gatherings to attend, family members to see.  Talk about expectations!  Add to that the copious amounts of cookies, wine, and fancy hors d’oeuvres, and it’s no wonder many people start the new year with loosened belt buckles.
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I’m no expert, but I have read my fair share of health/fitness magazines and healthy-living blogs over the years, and I think I do a pretty good job of maintaining my weight (and sanity) throughout the stressful Holiday season.  So I thought it might be helpful to share some tips for how I stay “healthy” without sacrificing enjoyment during the Holidays.  Keep in mind, these tips are just some of what works for me – to each his/her own!

Top Five Tips for Staying Sane and Healthy During the Holiday Season

1.  Be picky:  The Holidays are full of tempting occasions:  office potlucks, cookie exchanges, cocktail parties, family dinners – the list goes on.  Each of those occasions is bound to be filled with an assortment of tempting food and drink – cheese plates, fancy appetizers, kiss cookies (a personal favorite), popcorn tins, red wine.  When you’re feeling spirited and jovial as we tend to around the Holidays, it’s easy to want to “live it up” and eat and drink everything.  But if we do that, we’re bound to consume things we don’t even like that much, or aren’t even special.
So before eating something, I like to ask myself:  do I really like xyz?  Is it something special for the Holidays?  You’d be surprised the number of times the answer to those questions is “no”.  Cheese plates are a good example – yes, they are tempting, but do I really want a boring cheddar cheese cube and cracker?  Instead, I prefer to save my calories for foods that I know really are unique to the Holidays, like my work husband’s (yes, that’s a thing) peanut butter buckeye balls.  He brings them in every year and every year they are to-die-for.  #worthit.

2.  Be mindful:  This is a tough one for me, and one that I’ve worked on over the years.  My eight-year-old self wants to eat all. the. cookies.  Why stop at three when I can eat 25 and be no worse for the wear?  Except the problem is, I’m not eight anymore.  I’m 30, and I can’t eat 25 cookies and not pop out of my pants, or at the very least feel gross.  It’s more important to me to feel good and fit in my clothes than it is to eat 25 cookies.  But of course, knowing that and actually putting it into practice are two different things.
That’s where mindfulness comes in.  Instead of eating all 25 without even registering the action, I savor each cookie.  I take small bites, I eat slowly, and I take mental note of what I’m eating and how it tastes.  If, after two or three cookies, I really really want another, then I have it.  But I am consciously making that choice rather than mindlessly consuming just because it’s there.   This, when combined with tip #1, makes for a much more satisfying experience – I’m eating something I really want and really paying attention to how much I’m enjoying it.  After all, isn’t that the key to life?

3.  Start healthy:  Throughout the month of December, cookies and treats line the spare tables in my office more than discarded sheets of paper.  It’s nearly impossible not to be tempted by them.  I love cookies, and I would hate to think of a December without enjoying some (or many) of them.  But one thing I never do is have a sweet before lunch.  I’m always amazed at the number of my co-workers who mindlessly (see #2) grab a cookie before they’ve even checked their email.  To me, that just sets the stage for a day of over-eating and sugar crashes.  Instead, I eat a healthy breakfast (future post!) and lunch before indulging in any sweets.  That way, I’ve saved my sweets for a time when I actually crave them – after lunch, not before.

4.  Make time to exercise:  This is a big one!  All the time I hear of people, even regular exercisers, who just throw in the towel during the month of December.  I’ve even read interviews with celebrities who claim to not exercise the entire month (yea, right).  I, on the other hand, believe in the exact opposite, and not for the reason you might think.  Yes, exercise might help you maintain (not lose) weight over the Holidays.  But more importantly, it helps you feel so. much. better.  I feel the same way when I travel for work – even if I eat a ton, getting in a workout helps me feel like normal.
You might be saying, “but I’m too busy to workout!”  Yes, you might have to skip a workout to attend your work Holiday Happy Hour,  but you don’t have to skip all of them.  Schedule exercise into your day the same way you schedule showering, and I guarantee you’ll find room most days.  As I tell my Spin class, “if there is one thing you do during December, make it coming to Spinning on Monday nights”.  Workout in the morning, arrive at the party an hour late (no one will care that much), squeeze in a quick two miles at lunch.  Make it work for you.  If you can find a way to exercise throughout the Holiday season, I promise you that at the very least, you’ll feel less stressed and more in control – and who doesn’t want that?

5.  Go easy on yourself:  Last, but definitely not least, go easy on yourself.  There is nothing that drives me crazier than all these health magazines and their recipes for “lightening up the Holidays” or suggestions to have “just one drink”.  Come on, people – the Holidays are meant to be enjoyed!  Of course, that doesn’t mean you should eat and drink everything in sight (see #1 and #2), but it does mean that if you have a few too many cookies or glasses of wine, the world won’t come to an end.  I try to view the next day, or even the next meal, as a fresh start.  There really is no point in obsessing about something you already consumed.  So yes, be picky and be mindful, but after that, just enjoy!  After all, isn’t this the most wonderful time of the year?!

What are your tips for staying healthy while enjoying the Holidays?

Adventures

Slightly delayed, but I thought I’d share some Adventures from this past weekend!  Enjoy!

Wine and Brunch
On Friday night, Jackie and I had a date night at Sidebar 122, a wine and tapas bar downtown.  The atmosphere was cozy, the wine toasty, the food tasty, and the company fabulous.  Jackie and I used to go on date nights all the time – don’t get me wrong, we still do, but probably not in the frequency we did when we 25 and felt the need to hit the town every Friday and Saturday night.  Another big difference is that now, when we go out to dinner, we’re home by 10:30 with a sleepy wine haze instead of hitting up Bar Louie and surveying the man scene.  #30.  We drank this fabulous bottle of cab (I had more than my fair share…hey, she drove!) and a few tapas: goat cheese and tomato “dip” with pita, the house salad, and mussels.  It was tasty!

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Then, on Sunday, I had a to-die-for brunch at The Crest in Clintonville.  I wrote about dinner at The Crest back in this Adventures post.  I love The Crest – what’s not to love about a gastropub?  Great drinks, great fries, cozy atmosphere.  I had been to The Crest for brunch once before and wasn’t as impressed (my breakfast tacos lacked flavor), but this visit was an entirely different story.

My “date” and I shared the Fig and Goat Cheese Waffles and the Breakfast Burrito, along with hot coffee.  As a savory breakfast person, it’s very rare that I order waffles or pancakes for brunch.  But we both thought these waffles sounded too good not to order (ok, to be fair, he wanted the strawberry and basil waffles…but I won out), and they were to-die-for.  The waffle itself was just slightly sweet – not overly figgy or goat cheesy.  That glob on top?  That’s a honey goat cheese ball – yep, a honey goat cheese ball!  And the breakfast burrito was also very tasty – the chorizo was a bit spicy and the cream sauce on top was really flavorful.  We did not eat all of this – not even close – but I may have eaten the leftover burrito a couple of hours later.  I will be back, and hopefully soon!
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Girls on the Run 5K
On Saturday morning, I braved the freezing temps to participate in the Girls on the Run 5K!  For those of you who are unfamiliar, Girls on the Run is a nationwide not-for-profit organization that conducts 24-session programs to teach girls physical, emotional, and mental well-being skills.  At the end of the 12-week program the girls participate in a celebratory 5K event.  I’ve been volunteering as an assistant coach with the group for many years and believe wholeheartedly in their message.  Future post!  But for now, I’ll leave you with a photo of the race right before it started – it’s hard to tell, but the road was packed with girls ages 8-14 – not something you see everyday.  So fun!

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Thanksgiving #1
On Saturday night, I attend my first of three Thanksgiving dinners – and I don’t even like Thanksgiving dinner that much!  Some friends of Ashley and Johnny’s invited me to their annual “Friends Thanksgiving”.  It was my first time attending such an event, and it was really enjoyable!  Chris and Sarah’s home in German Village felt like an English cottage – so quaint and festive and cozy.  The food spread was quite impressive – check out Chris at the head of the table (and this was just some of the food! Note that his wife Sarah is not pictured).
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Unfortunately, my contribution to the feast was a complete bust.  I made my Mom’s Cranberry Orange Jello, which is more salad-like and less jello-like and is super refreshing when served with turkey and mashed potatoes.  I’ve made it before with success, but this time it did not properly mold and I had to throw the entire thing away!  I know what I did wrong (not worth getting into), but suffice to say this is why I hate “baking”.  Luckily I also brought a fresh green salad for something light, so I wasn’t completely empty-handed.  Hopefully the two dishes I’m making for Thanksgiving #2 (“Friendsgiving”) this weekend – cornbread stuffing and green bean casserole – turn out better than the jello did!

Thanks, Chris and Sarah, for including me in your lovely evening!

Horses
I saved the biggest adventure for last – horses!  Up until Sunday, I had never been up close and personal with a horse.  And then that changed!  The new man in my life, Wyatt (yes, I know you’re thinking “new man?!”  yes, I’m still thinking that too!  He’s not getting a formal introduction today, but I promise that will come.  sit tight and keep reading:)), grew up riding horses thanks to his mother.  Apparently he was really good in his heyday, and continues to stay close to the sport by visiting his family’s two horses on the regular (1-2 times / week).  When he learned that I had never been around horses, let alone ride one, he just had to change that!

Pericles

Pericles

So on Sunday afternoon (after the epic brunch), I donned my most barn-appropriate clothes, some old boots, and a brave face and headed to the horse barn!  Wyatt’s family has two horses:  Pericles and Perseus (he was a Classics major…).  His mom rescued both horses – Pericles is an off-the-track Thoroughbred rescue and Perseus a Palomino Quarter Horse.  Pericles can be ridden (carefully – he’s pretty feisty apparently), but Perseus can’t be – at least not right now.  Persues is lame in his front hoof due to complications from an abscess from stepping on a nail in a world competition (yes, I may have pulled that description directly from a text…you think I can remember all of that?!).

Persues

Persues

Before you get all excited thinking that I actually rode a horse, I didn’t.  But I did touch them!  And groomed them and even picked mud out of their hooves (that’s the technical name for it).  I also watched Wyatt ride Pericles, and found that I actually kind of enjoyed being in the barn!  Imagine that.  I’m told that I was more comfortable / natural than most newbies and that horses feed off that energy – I call that a win 😉  Hopefully it won’t be my last time in the barn – maybe I’ll even ride some day!

Quite the weekend of Adventures!  Here’s to another one ahead!