Some Updates + Life Lessons

I started this blog last summer. Little did I know how much maintenance a blog requires! It took me half the day just thinking of ideas, writing meaningful content, taking quality pictures, and editing the whole thing. I concluded that I’d rather just enjoy the experiences, rather than constantly stopping to think about my blog and take a decent picture.

I really loved blogging though. I loved sharing my hobbies with others and getting feedback. So I decided to stick with my Instagram account which I can maintain better all year-round. I’ve also morphed my Instagram a bit; at first, I mostly shared pictures of food. I wanted to have an audience, and I thought an audience needed a specific idea to follow (#puddlegram anyone?). But strange as it is, a life lesson crept up on me during this blogging/instagram/social media experience. I posted things I thought people wanted to see, but catering my interests to the needs of others didn’t make me happy. Now I have a place to share whatever I like: books and libraries, vegetarian/vegan food, homemade recipes, all things Michigan, speech therapy and my classroom, sustainable living, maybe a bit of nerd culture (for Eric). That’s who I am, and that’s fun for me. Stay true to yourself, right?

See you on Instagram! #beyourself


Healthy Eats on Vacation in DC

Eric and I went on vacation this past week. We haven’t seen his parents since our wedding, plus our 1-year anniversary is coming up this month. I was lucky enough to eat Eric’s mom’s homemade food, which consisted of many Korean foods like duk mandu guk, japchae, dukboki, and fresh, organic veggies straight from her garden!

Halmuni in the garden

Grandma (Halmuni) in the garden

We also decided to visit Washington, D.C. during our stay. We toured several museums, the botanic gardens, and the Library of Congress. (Did you guys know all Smithsonian museums are free to visit?) However, we had a difficult time finding decent, healthy places to eat there. We indulged for some Indian food at Rasika in downtown DC, but we really wanted to focus on eating healthfully and not gaining weight during vacation!

Luckily we found Hawwi Ethiopian Cafe and Restaurant. We had never tried Ethiopian food before, and we had no idea there were so many Ethiopian restaurants in DC. I tried the vegan sampler, and it was delicious! The food came on a bed of injera, or spongy sourdough flatbread, and consisted of red lentils, collard greens, cabbage, potatoes, and green beans and carrots. The lentils tasted slightly tangy and the injera sour, balanced by the smooth, buttery potatoes and hearty veggies.

Hawwi Ethiopian food

Veggie sampler at Hawwi (plus Eric’s meat plate in the back… boo)

Within a wealth of steakhouses, chain restaurants, and delis, it was so nice to find this gem of a place! What are some healthy options to eat when you guys are on vacation?

Healthy Basil Fried Rice

Fried rice. Simple, quick, and easy – as long as you’ve cooked your rice ahead of time, that is! I like to make it in the morning before work, so its ready to go when I come home. Then just fry up your egg or tofu, add veggies, and you’re golden.

Healthy Basil Fried Rice

Some recipe notes: I fry my eggs in coconut oil or butter. It doesn’t seem to affect the taste, and its healthier too. Coconut oil also has a high temperature point, which browns the egg nicely.  I use Bragg’s liquid aminos instead of soy sauce, and I find it tastes just as good. For the veggies, I use frozen mixed vegetables from Meijer, which work really nicely. Alternatively, you could throw mushrooms or onions. You can add broccoli, but remember that it’ll take longer to cook.

fried rice

This recipe is great for a weeknight dinner! What do you guys like to put in your fried rice?

Challah Bread from the Smitten Kitchen

We were blessed with an overabundance of eggs this week: two dozen from my uncle’s farm and a dozen from our local co-op. I decided to make challah bread, or braided egg bread, from the Smitten Kitchen. In Jewish culture, the Sabbath begins on Friday night, and families traditionally open their first Sabbath meal over two loaves of challah.

This simple recipe requires 5 eggs, and its unbelievably good for French toast.

I began with the ingredients: bread flour, yeast, sugar, salt, olive oil, eggs, and sesame seeds. In a large bowl, I dissolved the yeast in lukewarm water, then added the sugar and salt. I whisked in the oil, then added the eggs one at a time. (Sorry about the picture quality; it was a rainy, dark day.)

ingredients for challah bread  liquids

Time to add the flour. This recipe called for 8 cups, but 7 cups seemed to do the trick – possibly because I used bread flour. The recipe got thicker and thicker, forming the dough.

dough  dough mixed

I kneaded the dough until it formed into a smooth, elastic, heavy ball. After two risings, I cut the dough into two halves. I further divided the halves into six balls each, then rolled them out to form long strands, like breadsticks. I braided the six strands together, using the Smitten Kitchen’s method.

dough kneaded  dough rolled out

I put the two loaves on the baking pan, gave them an egg wash, and let them rise for a third time. After an hour passed, I gave them another egg wash, sprinkled sesame seeds on top, and put them in the oven to bake for 30 minutes.

braided, no rise  dough after risen

Finished product! A perfect way to open the Sabbath.

challah bread just out of oven  challah on cutting board

Do you guys make any traditional dishes for special occasions or holidays?

Fiesta Soup with Garbanzo Beans, Corn, and Tomatoes

Fiesta soup is a super quick and easy meal, perfect for when you don’t really feel like cooking. I’ve been baking challah bread all day, thanks to an abundance of eggs, and I was getting hungry! This soup, perfect for a cooler summer day, was ready in less than 30 minutes!

fiesta soup recipe card

For this recipe, I used colorful vegetables (red onion, yellow corn, tomatoes, green onion) to make the dish bright and festive. Tomatoes, lemon, and feta gave it a slightly acidic taste, while cumin, paprika, and red pepper flakes added a bright, zesty flair.

fiesta soup

Colorful fiesta soup – plant-based and gluten-free!

We just had to eat it with the freshly baked challah bread. It went together surprisingly well – the milky, egg-y bread balancing out the acidity.

fiesta soup with challah bread

Mixing Jewish and Mexican tastes and cuisines

This soup is so flexible – if you don’t have an ingredient on hand, its easy to substitute. For example, kidney beans instead of garbanzos, white instead of red onion, cayenne instead of red pepper flakes, and any type of cheese would probably work. In fact, you could remove the cheese altogether to make it vegan and add Fage Total 0% yogurt instead.

What recipes do you guys make when you don’t feel like cooking?

4-Hour Classic French Baguettes from Farmgirl Fare

Homemade bread is such a treat – the delicious smell when its baking, the crackle of the crust when its cut, and my happiness when I see Eric gobbling it up!

I haven’t made baguettes for a while, but when I went grocery shopping on Monday, I couldn’t pass up a great deal on fresh mozzarella – $1.80 for 8 ounces! Fresh mozzarella deserves fresh bread, so I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.

I used Farmgirl Fare‘s 4-hour Parisian baguette recipe here, which I’ve made before and love. Ingredients are simple: flour, instant yeast, water, and salt. I also used a large mixing bowl, a baking stone (you can always use a baking tray), a plastic scraper (you’ll need it), parchment paper (again, you’ll need it), damp kitchen towels, and ice cubes.

baguettes ingredients

Only four ingredients: flour, yeast, salt, and water

I began by combining bread flour and yeast, mixing it with the scraper, and adding the water. It formed quite a sticky, clumpy mass. I sprinkled the salt over it, gave it a quick mix, and covered it with a damp towel to rest. This allowed the gluten to form, which helps give the bread its shape and texture, and the damp towel kept it from drying out.

dough, before sitting

Bread dough, after first mix

When I came back after 20 minutes, the dough had softened somewhat. I used the scraper for the bits still stuck to the sides of the bowl, then dumped it onto a lightly floured surface.

dough, after sitting

Bread dough, after sitting 20 minutes

I kneaded the bread for ten minutes (here’s a how-to video). I don’t worry too much about technique – as long as you’re manipulating it somehow, it will work. I knew it was done when the dough formed into a firm, smooth, heavy, sticky ball. I put it back in the greased mixing bowl, covered it with a damp kitchen towel, and let it rise for 45 minutes. When I checked on it, it had nearly doubled in size (it was a warm day).

the dough, after kneading

After kneading and first rise

I gave it a quick turn and let it rise for another 45 minutes. The “double-rise” technique is a necessity of bread making, as it develops the gluten structure and prevents so many gaping holes caused by the air in your bread.

bread, after second rise

Second rise

After the second rise, I preheated the oven to 500 degrees with the baking stone and cast iron skillet inside. I shaped the baguettes, using the technique at the bottom of the page of Farmgirl Fare’s recipe. (Sorry, the top baguette is a little lopsided haha.) I formed the couche using the parchment paper and kitchen towels and let the bread sit for another 30 minutes. The couche is essential because your bread will rise and expand, and the couche prevents the baguettes from sticking together and keeps their shape.

baguettes, rolled out

Baguettes, shaped into loaves

Time to bake! I quickly scored the loaves (the knife marks you see) and transferred them onto the baking stone, using the parchment paper. I very carefully stuck a handful of ice cubes into the skillet to create steam inside the oven, which helps the loaves develop a nice crackly crust. Lastly, I turned the oven down to 450 degrees. After 20 minutes, they turned a lovely golden brown.

baguettes on the cutting board platter

Just out of the oven!

The loaves turned out wonderfully. I cut them right away and served them with the fresh mozzarella, basil, cherry tomatoes, balsamic vinaigrette, and olive oil.

baguettes, the whole spread

Our delicious dinner

Yum! They were also just as good the next day.

sliced baguettes

Baguettes with fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and basil with balsamic vinaigrette and olive oil

Have you guys ever made bread before? What were your experiences?

Basil-Parsley Pesto Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Olives

I started a balcony herb garden a few months ago, and an overabundance of basil and flat-leaf parsley led to one of my favorite summertime recipes: pesto! So I gathered my ingredients to make this delicious sauce: basil, parsley, walnuts, garlic cloves, Parmesan cheese, salt, and olive oil.

Basil-Parsley Pesto Pasta Recipe Card

I combined all ingredients, except the olive oil, in the food processor.

pesto ingredients, before

Ingredients for pesto, except olive oil

Then I processed it until a thick paste formed. I absolutely love the vibrant green color in this photo.

pesto, without olive oil

Pesto ingredients, processed

I slowly drizzled the olive oil in as I processed some more. Pesto, simple as that!


Voilà! So green and vibrant.

The thick, chunky pesto worked really well with radiatore pasta, mixing perfectly with the small, ridged shape of the noodles. (Apparently, an industrial designer came up with radiatore, based on on the look of a radiator. Who knew?)

radiatore   pesto pasta, mixed

Cherry tomatoes and black olives completed this summery pasta dish.

pesto pasta, plated

Dinner for two, all in less than 30 minutes!

So simple, fresh, and delicious! What recipes do you use to make pesto?