Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Joining the party: WIAW

So, there is a fun blogging event that takes place every Wednesday called " What I ate Wednesday"
hosted by Peas and Crayons.  Given that I've rededicated myself to the blog, I decided to join in on the fun! It's a great way to find other food blogs and just get an idea of what other people eat on a given day. (Admit it, we are all just a little bit nosy)

Last night, my choice workout of the day was a spinning class. It had been so long since I put myself through one of those that I felt like a newbie. But, thankfully my peers were amazing. One gentleman helped me get situated, installing the appropriate pedals since I don't have cycling shoes yet, while the kind woman next to me made me feel right at home with her kind words and warm smile.

Jennifer, the coach, was perfect - kind, motivating AND she picked the best soundtracks to work out to!   That always helps. 

Needless to say, as today progresses my body feels more and more sore. But if I have to experience pain in life, I hope the only pain I experience is just plain muscle soreness from a rigorous workout.

The morning started off with a stop at Starbucks were I picked up this cup o' energy:

Tall Soy Caramel Frappucino
Lunch later in the day can be described either as a vegan pizza or maybe Armenian Bruschetta -- I toasted a whole white pita bread till it was perfectly crunchy and topped it with an array of barbecued veggies all smashed together and mixed with a dash of olive oil.  Now this is what i call Fast Food. 

Armenian Bruschetta
Lunch was followed by dessert....
Dapple Dandy Plum
Somewhere in between the above meals and dinner I spent my afternoon searching for and applying for jobs. I have to say the job market for law school grads in nothing like they painted it to be when we applied four years ago... Advice in this realm will be much appreciated.

Dinner was an homage to the grill again: BBQ corn, veggie patties, golden potato and a side salad.

I'm Stuffed! 

Now.... I wait around impatiently till Yoga tonight :)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Try a different perspective

Life may not be progressing as you had planned, but it doesn't mean things are " just awful" or that you are "having a bad day". 

Just yesterday I went to the gym for my weekly session with my personal trainer. ( When I signed up for the gym, I took advantage of a promotion and purchased six sessions with a trainer) As I was warming up on the treadmill I saw My  trainer walk up to some other  girl, smile, and proceed to sign her in to a training session. 

"Maybe he's just helping her out on the computer for another trainer", I thought to myself. 

"We've been training on Monday mornings regularly now, plus I got sick last week during the session and we agreed I should come an hour later so I can actually eat a breakfast before I come in, he can't have double booked me, right?" 


Off they went into the masses of men and women sweating their hearts out in the weight room. 

Initially, my reaction as to think " Wow, really? But I planned my week according to this. I was gonna have an insane session today, then take tuesday off to go dress shopping for my friend's wedding because I'd be too sore to workout anyways."

But, shortly after verifying that he had in fact double booked the session and leaving a message for him to give me a call, I changed my perspective.

"Ok then... I'm at the gym, in this area of town, how am I going to best use my time."

I decided to check out the schedule of classes for the day and wouldn't you know, yoga was scheduled to begin in 45 minutes!  I hadn't practiced yoga in at least a year and I knew my body needed it. 

One catch. I needed a yoga mat, and I had thrown out my old one after using it in an outdoor bootcamp class.  On second thought, I'm glad I don't have a yoga mat because it gives me something to do until the class starts.

So, in that 45 minute gap, I found the closest store which sold yoga mats and bought myself a brand new one. Having plenty of time left before class, I then let myself wander into another store, walked straight to their sale rack and bought myself some new workout clothes.

Long story short:

My botched training session turned into a super productive morning where much needed workout attire was purchased and my yoga practice was given a much needed awakening.  I like to think of such situations as God's way of reminding me ( nudging me) to take care of myself and remain open to new and various options instead of limiting myself to tunnel vision. Ie: Keeping my eye on one goal and only seeing one way to get there. 

In food news :

Barbecued Golden Potato
I've continued to enjoy my vegetables like a good girl :)

Grilled Onion

I've been experimenting with some new recipes, but they havn't reached the level of perfection I require before I share a recipe with you.

Experiment #1:  A pasta sauce made with butternut squash, tomato, tomato sauce, wine wine, onion, garlic and nutritional yeast.   I loved it, but would like to try it with more layers of flavor.

Experiment #2:  Bulgur with tomato, cinnamon, onion and other spices. Though my youngest sister liked it, I personally think I overdid it on the tomatoes. Somethings just taste better when they are kept simple and pure. 

Finally, I've exploring vegan desserts again. Case in point -- Green Tea Ice Cream with Coconut Milk

Though I love coconut and I love matcha green tea -- these two are not a compatible match in my book. I'm guessing the best matches are going to be coconut with chocolate, nuts and coffee .... 

What do you think?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

They told me ...

They told me...

...  if you don't eat meat or eggs you will be hungry
... your cravings will overcome your will power
... you don't have the strength to make these changes

Well, I'm here to tell them. Nice Try.

My hunger is actually more rational these days. I actually get full after eating a reasonable portion of food. The childhood mantra of " you must clean your plate" is long gone. I am actually eager to fill my days with fruits and vegetables -- new creations, new discoveries.

This morning, breakfast consisted of a smoothie made with two simple ingredients- watermelon and frozen strawberries.  The best part of all?  It kept me full longer than a breakfast of " hearty eggs" kept the rest of my family full.

Lunch today a simple barbecue'd eggplant salad followed by a snack of hummus and whole wheat bread.

I'm looking forward to a dinner of a multitude of barbecued vegetables ( pictures to come soon). But for now, these pictures are of a dinner from earlier this week. How can you feel like you are missing out when you have amazing roasted potatoes; barbecued asparagus, zucchini and broccoli; and a simple salad of tomatoes and cucumber tossed in a lemon dressing.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Vegan.Again.For Good.

....Except maybe one day a month where I'll let myself splurge on cheese. Maybe.

The idea of being Armenian and Vegan is out there. I know. I was a vegetarian for about five months at one point in time and I heard all sorts of banter from my Armenian friends. One individual even alleged that God wanted us to eat animals, why else do they exist?  A majority of Armenian dishes included either meat and potatoes or barbecued meat and potatoes.

But, I finally have a comeback for those who claim got put animals on the planet for humans to consume:

     "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in it fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food."  Genesis 1:29

Simply put, we and all other living creatures get to eat all the fruits, veggies and greens we would like.

I'm not hear to preach about being vegan or vegetarian. Don't worry -- my mom lives for steak and it works for her.  However, those who have followed the blog for a while also know that I've always had issues with weight-loss.  Interestingly, during my brief dances with veganism in the past I always felt amazing, lost weight and never felt deprived.

Combining the facts that I have about five weddings/engagements to attend in the next year; that i'm already 27 years old; I've had a crazy past year full of changes and fresh starts; and it's time to take ownership of my life and my future regardless of what those around me think -- i embarked on the vegan lifestyle this week. For Good.

Considering that I spent most of the summer working out from 10-15 hours a week and saw minimal results on the sale, I find it exhilarating that after a few days of veganism I am already seeing results.  I hope you stay with me as I take this new step and share with me your advice and insight.

The week began with a trip to Whole Foods for a few supplements and a quick lunch after a morning workout :

Coconut milk, Vanilla Almond Milk, Nutritional Yeast Flakes, Avocado rolls, Sesame Tofu, and Coconut Milk Green Tea Ice Cream

Lunch was a simple plate of avocado rolls and sesame tofu.... but I think I managed to make it look pretty... no?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Grilled Summer Salad

To those of you who aren't Armenian, this salad may be a bit out there, but my Armenian friends will be scowling at me for lack of creativity on this one. It's a salad found at nearly every summer Armenian barbecue.

It's not only ridiculously easy to make but its pure nutrition in a bowl :)

There is no specific ratio of vegetable to vegetable so get creative and feel free come up with a combination that suits your preference.

Bell Peppers ( Red, Green, Yellow, Orange)
Anaheim Pepper

Green Onion
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Of course no summer barbecue is complete without grilled corn!

Leave them on until there is just enough char, then put them in a bowl of salt water. This will not only cool them down, but let them absorb some of the saltiness.  If you don't mind scorching hot corn, then just go from grill to plate like we did last weekend ;)

Tomazella Salad

Juicy succulent home grown tomatoes layered in between layers of sliced creamy fresh mozzarella and I call it Tomazella. That's right, I've named it!

This past weekend we were attending the "last pre-labor day" BBQ at a friends house. Their garden is blessed with an abundance of fresh tomatoes throughout the summer and we had to make it a part of the dinner course ( though it made an appearance as an appetizer and at breakfast too....)  Luckily, our hostess K happened to have fresh mozzarella in the fridge. Eagerly I asked for basil, hoping it was a member of their herb garden. But alas, the Caprese Salad was not meant to be.

But, when one door closes a window opens, right??

Determined to be resourceful, I found same incredibly fresh green onion and garlic at my disposal and the Tomazella salad was born.


2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 stalk of green onion, diced
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
Fresh sea salt
Fresh cracked pepper

Monday, August 15, 2011

When I'm not in the kitchen.....

 I'm out and about taking pictures of course!

 I'll put these and others on the Photography link from now on....

I just love the opportunity to indulge in multiple hobbies!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Luxury defined by a carrot cake

Luxury is defined by our personal experiences -- molded by our opportunities and deprivations. 

Since I no longer have my own kitchen to muse about in, experiment and make a mess of at will, the simple opportunity to work in a kitchen to create a new recipe has become a luxury. After days of negotiating and pleading my mom gave me permission to attempt a layer cake in her kitchen.  An opportunity for which I am very grateful -- Thanks mom!

I first understood this concept of luxury when I traveled to Armenia seven years ago. Though I stayed in the capital Yerevan, I had the opportunity to explore the country. I saw both the good and the bad -- not only the new developments but also the villages stuck in time. One weekend we took a trip the the region of Karabagh, a contested area of land fought over in recent history.  The churches were riddled with gaping wounds brought upon by the weapons of war and the people were missing members of their family yet an opportunity to get together with friends new and old brought about the best in them. Smiles lit their faces while generosity and camaraderie fueled the amazing welcome and warmth they created for us visitors It was in these experiences that I truly understood the luxuries of having running water ( both hot and cold), an indoor restroom, and an air conditioner in the peak of summer. Who am I to complain about life challenges and obstacles when they are nothing compared to those suffered by people around the world?

With that brief foray into the past, I'm grateful to have the opportunity to bring you back to the present with my recipe for Carrot Cake, filled with a simple cream cheese sour cream filling. Granted, I was racing against the sun last night to get the pictures taken, so the filling was added a little bit early. Please forgive the delicious goopiness. It looks much better today :)

Marina's Carrot Cake Recipe

2 cups of flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground all spice
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons coconut oil
4 eggs
1 cup organic sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups grated carrot
1 cup grated zucchini
1/2 cup raisin
1 cup chopped walnut
3 tablespoon orange brandy


8 oz cream cheese
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons organic sour cream
1 capful vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 12" cake pan with butter and flour and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together and set aside.  In a small bowl, soak the raisins in the orange brandy and let it sit while you work on the rest of the cake.

Next, in a mixer, whip the sour cream, coconut oil and sugar until it is thoroughly combined and smooth. Slowly add the eggs in one at a time and whip until it reaches a smooth light consistency. Now set the mixer on "low" and add the flour in 1/2 cup at a time. Be careful not to overmix the dough.  As the dough begins to thicken, gradually pour in the orange brandy, alternating with the last bit of flour.

Finally, fold in the carrots, zucchini, walnuts and raisins. 

Bake for 60-65 minutes. 

P.S. I used a thin wood skewer to poke my cake and check for doneness... Any other techniques?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mushroom Pancetta Risotto

After nearly two months of living in the library and staying away from the kitchen I finally had the opportunity to make my first post-bar exam meal...

Two simultaneous event occurred to prompt the above meal:

     1.   After three days of testings for nine hours a day, yours truly drove in traffic for nearly two hours to her parents house. Depleted, exhausted, depressed, and disappointed by the anticlimactic conclusion of the often darkly described exam I walked over the threshold and made a beeline straight for the piano. Granted, by the time I got home it was about 9:40 p.m.  and apparently my mother had decided it was time to call it a night.  " Oh no! Piano at this hour?!  Please, I just want to go to sleep."  The look on her face said it all, she was genuinely exhausted and knowing she, like myself, had difficulties falling asleep I took pity on her. "Ok" I responded, " Just two songs please, let me just play two songs, I NEED IT".  In a combined effort of understanding an compromise I was able to play a couple songs on the piano I had missed so much. She knew very well if allowed, those couple songs would have turned into a couple hours...

         The next day, still unaccepting of the fact that my summer of legal immersion had come to its conclusion, I set about to filling my day with long-ignored hobbies. Among these, a trip to the local library and of course dinner plans.  " I'll take care of dinner today mom, just let me know what you want, and consider it done."  Excitedly my youngest sister interrupts with " Risotto please please! Make us some risotto!" 

         2.   A simple Facebook request. I announced the impending return of my food blog ( optimistic thinking here)  and asked if anyone had specific requests. Much to my delight, my best friend from elementary school made a request for my risotto!  Granted, this post won't have the recipe because I believe risotto requires step-by-step pictures to get the full impact of the process. But, she has been promised a private lesson as soon as I hop on a plane to the East Coast ;)

Two requests for risotto from two valued members of my life was enough to make the decision for me :)

One last exam this coming Friday and academic freedom will hopefully be mine. Life will move onto new(and old) goals  of health/fitness, piano, reading books for pleasure, writing and of course blogging.