Monthly Archives: May 2012

My Favorite Cookbooks…

Adam and I usually eat dinner at home 5 out of 7 nights a week. While we do a lot of on-the-fly cooking without true recipes, we probably use our cookbooks a lot more than most people do in this age of food blogs and websites. Not a bad thing, considering how many we own! (Although, with our impending move, we’re planning on donating a lot of those we don’t use often… if you’re interested in receiving FREE cookbooks, just let me know and I’ll send you a list of what we’re giving away.) I thought I’d do a round-up of the cookbooks that we turn to most frequently. These are predominantly vegetarian, “whole foods” cookbooks, but I think that they’d be a great resource for anyone who just likes to eat good food.

Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson
This cookbook from Heidi Swanson (of 101 Cookbooks fame) is a staple in our house. I love it so much I’ve given it at least three times as a gift. This cookbook is divided up into five sections: Build a Natural Foods Pantry, Explore a Wide Range of Grains, Cook by Color, Know Your Superfoods, and Use Natural Sweeteners… plus a bonus section on Basic Recipes and Techniques. While we probably haven’t even made half of the recipes in here yet, that’s mostly because we keep making the same ones over and over again! A few favorites include:
+ espresso banana muffins (delicious!)
+ creamy wild rice soup with sweet potato croutons (has a great spicy curry kick!)
+ spring minestrone with brown rice (comes together pretty quickly and makes a ton!)
+ giant crusty and creamy white beans with greens (at one point, we were making this one weekly)
+ sprouted garbanzo burgers (also on her website)

Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson
The follow up cookbook to Super Natural Cooking, I purchased this book the week that it came out. She divides this cookbook up into meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Snacks, Dinner, Drinks, Treats, and Accompaniments. There are so many recipes in here that I have flagged that I haven’t gotten around to yet, but here are my favorites so far:
+ chickpea stew (made this recently and added in some fresh spinach to get some extra greens… so good!)
+ white beans and cabbage (excellent with a poached egg on top)
+ bran muffins (okay, this may make us sound like octogenarians, but both Adam and I really like bran muffins and this is a great recipe)
+ little quinoa patties (these take some time, but make them over the weekend and eat them for lunch all week)
+ kale salad (the combination of kale, coconut and soy sauce may sound odd, but it somehow totally works)

Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source with More Than 200 Recipes for a Healthy and Sustainable You by Terry Walters
This cookbook is broken up into seasons (uh, as indicated by the title), which is pretty handy. While there are times that I will make a winter recipe in the summer, or vice versa, it’s nice to be able to flip open to one section and see recipes filled with seasonal produce. Also, the recipes tend to be a little heartier in the winter and lighter in the summer, which is usually how I tend to eat anyway. As an added bonus, all recipes are vegan and almost all are gluten free (or can be adapted to be gluten free), but she’s not at all preachy about the vegan lifestyle. It just happens to be animal-product free, delicious food.
+ crispy sesame carrots (I’m not a huge cooked carrots fan, but these are goooood!)
+ sweet and sour stir fry
+ pineapple tempeh kabobs (a great bbq alternative to veggie burgers)
+ lentil apple walnut loaf (we made this A LOT this past winter – tastes just like stuffing!)

Clean Start: Inspiring You to Eat Clean and Live Well with 100 New Clean Food Recipes by Terry Walters
The follow up to Clean Food, I added this cookbook to my wishlist after enjoying so many recipes from the first cookbook. More of the same, but in a good way. :-) Haven’t had this one too long, so I haven’t made many recipes out of it yet. One I make frequently is:
+ Asian spinach with peanut ginger sauce (this is a super easy and quick weeknight meal, tossed with brown rice or rice noodles)

Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless
This is not a vegetarian cookbook, but Rick Bayless includes many “riffs” (as he calls them) on his recipes that are vegetarian, and his recipes are very adaptable. Although we tend to make a lot of the same (delicious!) recipes over and over again, it’s a rare week that we don’t make at least one recipe from this cookbook. A few tried-and-true recipes that we make often are:
+ Avocado-Mango Salad with Fresh (or Blue) Cheese, Bacon and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds (we make the vegetarian “riff” substituting caramelized onions for the bacon, and often skip the cheese)
+ Swiss Chard (or Spinach) Tacos with Caramelized Onions, Fresh Cheese and Red Chile (unless we make a special stop to pick up queso fresco, we usually use goat cheese)
+ Tomatillo-Sauced Enchiladas with Spinach and Mushrooms (I don’t even really like mushrooms, but I’ll eat them in this)
+ Mexican Beans with Chorizo and Greens (vegetarian “riff” sans chorizo – we eat this A LOT)

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman
Now, we’re had more “misses” with this cookbook than we’d like, but it really is a great fundamental cookbook to have around that I have to include it on a list of recommendations. We’ve learned to read through the recipes in this cookbook more carefully… sometimes it’s as easy as adding sauteed onion and garlic to a recipe to boost up the flavor. Anyone familiar with Bittman’s recipes knows that he provides a ridiculous amount of variations for each recipe. There are so many recipes, I can’t even begin to go through the cookbook and let you know which ones are our favorite.

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The Search…

(You can read the intro post to our house hunting adventures here.)

We decided to get serious about our search for a house in January. We got a recommendation for a real estate agent from our friends and met with her the first week of February. We then ended up going to see seven houses our first weekend out, then saw three more later that week. There were two of those that we went back to for a second look, but ultimately we decided not to put an offer in on any of them.

That basically got us caught up on what was on the market in our desired locations and our price range, so from there on out we only ended up seeing one or two houses a weekend. The last weekend of February, we saw the first house that we felt like we wanted to put an offer on. We discussed it with our agent and she contacted the listing agent to find out whether they’d received any offers yet and how long they’d be accepting them. She learned that there was already one offer on the house that afternoon and that they were expecting another that night, so we started to get moving so that we could put in an offer the following morning. We planned to meet our agent at the house at noon to walk through one more time and talk through our offer.

At 9am the next day, we learned that the first offeror had come back with an offer above list price and the sellers accepted it.

Another house we liked came on the market the next week with an open house scheduled for Sunday, so we got our agent to show us the house on Saturday. It was a one-story rambler, about a mile from the metro, with a good sized back yard and an awesome screened-in porch. It had a large finished basement with a separate laundry room/workshop and a bathroom. We knew we wanted to put in an offer, so we let our agent know as soon as we got back from the showing and then went to the open house again the next day for a second look. Our agent learned that they were going to accept offers until Tuesday evening, which gave us a full day and a half to discuss our offer price and strategy and to carefully read through all of the paperwork, since this would be our first offer.

We really wanted the house and went in pretty aggressively. We had a very flexible closing date (the owners had school-age children and weren’t sure when they wanted to close), we went in with an escalation clause to above asking price, we didn’t ask for any closing costs. It was the best offer we could put on the table and we were pretty confident we were going to get that house.

I’m sure you can see where this is going.

We didn’t get the house.

Our agent knew the listing agent and found out that we had been just beat out by an all-cash offer that waived the appraisal. Which, essentially means we were beat out by an investor (for what was likely the second time in as many weeks). The house has since been sold and they didn’t actually pay much more than what we offered, but obviously we weren’t able to waive the appraisal or the lender approval, so it probably wouldn’t have mattered even if we’d offered more.

At that point, I was getting pretty frustrated. Almost every three bedroom house that came on the market in the neighborhoods we were looking in was being listed right at the top of our price range – and even then we were getting beat out by people who didn’t even want to LIVE in those houses, but just wanted to buy them with cash and flip them. The next two weekends came and went without anything new coming on the market that looked appealing to us. At that point it was mid-March and I figured maybe we should take a break and things would look better in a month or two.

And then, a house popped up in our email alert that we had to go see…

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May Goals…

I actually did a great job with my April goals! Woohoo!

1. Go to boot camp at least twice a week.  I ended up going an average of twice a week – twice I went two times, one week I went three times, and another week I went once. It wasn’t as hard to get up at 5:20 as I thought it would be… as long as I was in bed early. (This was the main reason I didn’t do so well the last week… Adam was out of town for work and I have a harder time falling asleep when he’s not there.) Today was my last day on my 30-day Groupon and I went even though it was pouring rain. And then I promptly came home and paid full price for another month of classes.

2. Clean out my closet. I went through my closet and my storage boxes of clothes. There wasn’t too much to get rid of since I tend to go through my clothes every couple of months and take things out to donate or throw away. I still need to go through my dresser and see if there’s anything I can weed out there… I probably own more lounge clothes and t-shirts than I really need, even though I do change into them as soon as I get home from work or the gym during the week.

3. Watch less television. I only watched  “off-limits” television shows one day the whole month! (There was a lot of sports watching though with baseball starting.) The week Adam was gone, there was one night where there wasn’t any sports on and, obviously, Adam wasn’t around to hang out with, so I ended up watching some Parks & Rec. (I realize I could have read something, but, uh, see May Goal #3.)

May goals…

1. Continue to go to boot camp at least twice a week. In order to get what I consider to be my money’s worth (i.e., bring the average price per class down to lower than if I did the drop-in rate), I need to go at least 10 times in May. Also, once we move at the end of the month, we’ll no longer have our apartment gym to rely on, so I want to make sure I get into the habit of working out regularly, in the mornings, and outside. We still have our other gym membership for classes and weights, but their treadmills aren’t as nice as the ones we’ve gotten used to in our building, so we’ll try to start running outside before work.

2. Participate in Mission: Put Together. This seems like a good follow up to April’s clean out the closet goal. I participated in M:PT last year and it was lots of fun. (And I won a free pair of GAP jeans!) You should do it, too! My outfits tend to be on the boring side, since I don’t have a whole lot of leeway when it comes to work clothes, but it still gets me to actually put some thought into choosing what I’m going to wear each day.

3. Read a book. It’s so sad that I need to actually write this down, but apparently I won’t take the time to read unless I am part of a book club or I set it as a goal.

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