Spreading kindness

Nicole Voris

It has been a really rough week.  The United States election did not go the way we expected it to, and it's been difficult grappling with the reality of what it means.

I have decided to take this opportunity to try to spread kindness.  As individuals we can work to make the world a better place, but when we do it collectively, it can be momentous.

Here are some of the ways I choose to be kind and spread positivity:

Charitable Donations:  We have already made a donation to Planned Parenthood.  Our plan is to donate to a different charity we believe in each month.  So far we plan to donate to Planned Parenthood, ACLU, Greenpeace,  Kind,  and NILC.  If you have more suggestions, please let me know.

Vegetarian Diet:  We don't eat that much meat, but  are going to start cutting even the little meat we do.  There are many reasons to do it including animal welfare, the environment, and concerns about the ethics.  I am choosing to vote with my dollar and eat mostly plant based meals.  Yayyy for green chile bean enchiladas!

Supporting Public Programs: I regularly take public transit, but I will make an effort to take it more.  I also plan on utilizing the services of the Public Library more often.  I want to continue to educate myself and help educate others.  In the past I have taken steps to volunteer at my local teen homeless shelter, but for various reasons, did not end up volunteering.  I plan to finish what I need to do and volunteer for this important organization.

Kind to Strangers:  Because I walk and take public transit often, I encounter many strangers from different walks of life.  I have never been unkind, but I will try to be more open and kind. For example, offering my seat, allowing someone to pass in front of me, or just a simple smile.  I will also work to protect people if I see them being harassed or if they feel unsafe.

Make Art:  I encourage you to put your feelings into art and to share it with the world.  Channel your feelings into your creativity and add some thought and beauty into the world.

If you have any ideas for how else we can spread kindness, let me know in the comments!

 

Urban Gardening Adventure

Nicole Voris

Recently Oliver and I have gotten into gardening.  Living in the middle of a city, this isn't the easiest feat.  We are very lucky that our apartment has an awesome balcony.  

Now we are very much beginners, and we have definitely made many mistakes and killed more plants than I'd like.  (I wish they had all lived.)  But I want to take you on a tour of our plants.

The first plants we started with were bougainvilleas.  These are some of my favorite plants and to me they represent Southern California.  I love seeing the pink and purple flowers climb and take over the structures that support them.  Here are the four "Thai Delights" we're raising.

 The day we brought them home (March.)

The day we brought them home (March.)

 Today!

Today!

They're growing really well despite both us and El Nino overwatering them. We've figured it out now and they're doing much better now!  Find more photos of our plants below. 

 little cactus and beginnings of cat grass

little cactus and beginnings of cat grass

 Tomatoes (planted them 10 days ago) Our first try at urban food gardening!

Tomatoes (planted them 10 days ago) Our first try at urban food gardening!

 Already planted from Home Depot. But we love the pot and these succulents!

Already planted from Home Depot. But we love the pot and these succulents!

 This is our little indoor terrarium from Ikea.  Sochi LOVES to eat plants.  So this is the only way we can have plants in the house without him destroying them.   

This is our little indoor terrarium from Ikea.  Sochi LOVES to eat plants.  So this is the only way we can have plants in the house without him destroying them.   

Although we're new, and have made many mistakes, we're learning as we're going.  It's super relaxing and wonderful to cultivate life. 

Weekly Greens

Nicole Voris

I assume we all know that vegetables are super good for us.  They are total super foods.  So many vitamins!  It can be hard for me to get enough of this amazing genre of food in my diet.

I am not vegan, or vegetarian, or gluten free.  I try not to limit myself to certain foods and I allow myself to indulge in cravings.  Living in the ballet world I know that it is way too easy to take a diet too far to the point that it is just a full blown eating disorder.  Don't beat yourself up or feel guilty because you ate meat or sugar or bread.  Please love yourself and your body and just try to have a nice balanced diet.  And drink a lot of water!  Water is miracle liquid.

That being said... I love salads!  A nice green salad with just olive oil and sea salt, a caesar salad with chicken, a chef salad, a cobb salad,  greek salad, shrimp salad, potato salad, egg salad, marshmallow salad!  They are all amazing.  When it comes to making them I tend to get lazy.  It feels like a lot of work to put all the ingredients together and to make the dressing for just one meal.  I would try to order them when I went out to dinner, but that just felt like a waste of money.  I knew I could make a better salad at home and when I go out to eat I tend to want to eat an entree.

Cut to the new weekly approach I have started taking.  I now make one huge salad after I get back from the grocery store.  I generally go to the store Tuesday morning, so I make the salad in the afternoon.  In the last four weeks I have made four very different salads; a cobb salad, a spinach caprese inspired salad, a blueberry almond salad, and this week a greek salad.  By changing it up each week I both am getting a lot of variety in my diet and am not getting bored.

Here's the greek salad I made this week.

So far during this experiment I have only used spinach as my base green.  It lasts well, is high in protein and vitamins, and I like the way it tastes. The bag I get is two pounds.  This week I included grape tomatoes, Kalamata olives, garbanzo beans, red onion, and cucumber.  I normally include a chicken breast, but since one can of garbanzo beans has 21 grams of protein I decided to use them as the big protein source.  Also included, but not pictured because I forgot, is gorgonzola cheese.  I LOVE cheese.  A ton of gorgonzola cheese sprinkled on a salad is amazing.

For the dressing 

This week I made my own dressing. I combined:

1/2 cup of Olive Oil, 5 Tbsp of pomegranate vinegar, juice from half the lemon, 1 tsp sugar, squirt of mustard, dashes of oregano, basil, and sea salt.  Also included, but not pictured, is two crushed garlic cloves.  Because garlic is the greatest flavor in the world.

 

Combine all your salad ingredients.  I only used half the onion, half the cucumber, and about three fourths of the tomatoes.  Do it to your taste/how much your container can hold. 

Combine dressing ingredients and shake!  I got this awesome dressing container as a gift a while back and I love it.  You can just use a mason jar though!  Also, this huge tupperware container is what makes my salad experiment work so well.  It keeps the premade salad so fresh, and being able to see it makes it really easy to take out for lunch or snack.

Keep the dressing and salad separate until ready to serve.  When hungry combine, and chow down.  For this salad I will toast and butter a piece of sourdough bread as a side.  It's amazing!

This has really gotten me to eat more greens and is super nice and convenient. It might work a little too well because the salad is usually gone by Thursday night!

Do you have favorite salad recipes?  Let me know and I will try them!

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Polenta Mish Mash

Jeanette Kakareka


I haven't always enjoyed cooking, but after I moved to San Francisco years ago (my foodie heaven,) I learned to appreciate all kinds of food as well as cooking them. This has served me well, because I used to be a very picky eater!

Most of the time, even if I have a recipe, I don't listen to it very carefully. I modify recipes to fit the ingredients I have and my own tastes. I'm also pescatarian just because I like it, (which means I eat seafood but not meat--not a religion,) so I adjust for that. That said, I encourage you to change my recipe to suit your own needs, and I recommend you to be creative!


// INGREDIENTS (enough for four generous servings)
Boxed polenta
Canned chopped tomatoes
1/2 canned white beans
1/2 canned chickpeas
1/2 one head of cauliflower, cut into bite sizes
Two red sweet peppers, cut into bite sizes
Two chicken breasts, cut into smaller pieces
1/2 onion, chopped roughly
3 cloves garlic, chopped thinly
1/4 vegetable stock cube
Olive oil
Coriander
Cumin
Ground black pepper
Salt
Sage leaves

 

 

 

// HOW TO


Step one // Heat up the oven to 200 C. Prepare a deep baking dish by greasing it up with olive oil or a spray so that nothing sticks. 

Step two // Chop up the pepper, onion, and chicken into pieces about this size. (We used chicken because my boyfriend likes meat. But, this recipe has protein in other places, so you can skip it if you don't eat it, like me. Also, we use a lot of onion because we love onion. Feel free to use less.)

Step three // Give a light coating to it all with the coriander, cumin, black pepper, and salt. (Sorry, I never measure spices, but as you can see here, pre-mixed, everything has some spices but they're not drowning in it. Make it to your preference.) Then mix it all together with your hands to evenly coat it all. Add sage leaves on top. (We used sage because that's what we already happened to have.)

Step four // Put baking dish into the oven. This will take about 15-20 minutes, but keep checking to make sure nothing gets burnt. If anything is done before the rest, take it out and save it in a bowl.

Step five // Begin making polenta according to instructions. I also added 1/4 vegetable stock cube to the water to give it some extra taste. We used half of this box which was 375g. 

Step six // Meanwhile, start boiling water for the cauliflower. Chop up the cauliflower into bite sized and add to boiling water. Wait until they are soft after a few minutes, then drain. 

Step seven // When polenta and cauliflower are ready, and the veggies and chicken in the baking dish look cooked thoroughly, scoop it all out of the dish and into a bowl to save. Pour polenta into baking dish and spread it all out with a spoon or spatula. 


Step eight // Pour canned chopped tomatoes evenly over top of polenta.

Step nine // Drain and rinse beans and chickpeas. Layer over top of the canned tomatoes. Add another few shakes of ground pepper and salt to your liking. 

Step ten // Chop up garlic finely. Now you can go ahead and layer all that you've already cooked, as well as the garlic. Put it back in the oven for another five minutes. (We also wanted soup and garlic bread to go along with it, so we started heating that up as well.)

Step eleven // When it's all looking and smelling delicious, carefully take it back out of the oven, serve, and enjoy! :-)

Pretzel Making Lazy Saturday

 

Nicole Voris

I love soft pretzels!  Have you ever had a mall pretzel?  Or one of the Mickey Mouse pretzels from disneyland?  With a little cheese dip?  Amazing!

One day while having a lazy Saturday I started to get a serious soft pretzel craving.  I have been wanting to try making them myself for a while.  I have helped my mom make them a few times and I decided to seize the day and make my own soft pretzels.

I used this recipe from Sprinkle Some Sugar: Soft Pretzel Recipe

This post is less about the mechanics of how to make pretzels and more how to make pretzels on a lazy Saturday. ;)

1:  Go to three different stores to try to buy baking soda.  Luckily we live in walking distance to said three stores.  Finally get to the final store and buy two because they are buy one get one free.

2: combine all those ingredients in your lovely kitchen aid mixer that does 90% of the work.  If you don't have one thats fine.  You'll just have to do that 90% and feel superior to me with your pretzel making skills.

3:  Make sure that your Iphone is playing music from your vintage record cabinet.  Because: #millennials

4: Let your dough rest,  also rest yourself.  Preferably with a mimosa. #lazysaturday

5:  Time to start rolling out the dough,  forming pretzel shapes, giving the baking soda bath (good thing you have two boxes),  and baking.  You can absolutely do this by yourself, but it is easier/fun to do it with a partner!

 Rolling the dough made me realize that all those hours of rolling play dough in preschool paid off.

Rolling the dough made me realize that all those hours of rolling play dough in preschool paid off.

6: Take them out of the oven and smother in butter. 

7: Eat four of the eight pretzels in about 5 seconds. 

The pretzels turned out really great.  I really enjoyed them and will make them again.  It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, but it created a lot of dishes.  As much as you can wash dishes as you go so you aren't left with a huge mess!  Next time you have a lazy day, follow my instructions and let me know how it goes! 

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