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recipe: spinach & lentil israeli couscous with harissa chicken.

July 18, 2012

Can you believe it? I’m actually posting a recipe! It’s been quite a while, I know.

On the path to meal planning again (and continuing our attempts to eat healthy), I made this dinner a couple of nights ago. I was trying to use what I had in the pantry and fridge. After looking through my ingredients (hence, the odd measurements below), this dish was born. It was easy, no fuss, healthy and pretty tasty! Both my husband and I agreed that I’ll have to make it again and put it on our meal rotation. It was also the first time I ever used Israeli couscous (or pearl couscous);  the couscous reminded me of mini versions of tapioca pearls (ohmywordilovebobatea). It was an interesting texture but not one that weirded me out. I also used a harissa spice mixture that I don’t normally use in my cooking – should use this stuff more often. You can totally make this without chicken; add chickpeas (or maybe smoked salmon? yummm) for some protein. Anyways, I hope you like it!

Spinach & Lentil Israel Couscous with Harissa Chicken (serves 4 as a side)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked Israeli couscous
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups pre-cooked frozen diced chicken breast
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen spinach
  • 3/4 cup ready-to-eat black lentils (or cook your own)
  • 1/4 tsp harissa spice mix

1. Using a large pot, bring chicken broth to a boil and add the couscous. Let boil for a minute or two, then remove from heat. Cover the pot and let the couscous sit for 15-20 minutes. (My experience with this method was the broth did not get fully absorbed but the couscous was cooked enough.) Drain the broth when the time is up and couscous is done.

2. In a small pan, toss the diced chicken in a little bit of canola or olive oil, then add the harissa spice. Heat chicken thoroughly, mixing it well so the harissa coats most of the chicken. Set aside when done.

3. Thaw frozen spinach and heat lentils according to package directions.

4. To mix everything together, transfer the couscous into a large bowl. Add the chicken, spinach and lentils. Mix well. Top with the following: feta cheese, freshly ground black pepper, slivered almonds or dried cranberries (or all!).

As you noticed, I used some frozen things. They were not “fresh” ingredients but they were available to me. With this busy season I’m about to jump into, I’m okay using frozen things right now. As long as our bellies are full and we’re getting good nutrition, I’m good to go! But feel free to cook your own chicken breasts and lentils. Use fresh spinach if you have it. If you don’t have harissa, use oregano or some sort of Italian herb mix. I think this dish is very versatile and I look forward to playing with it and adding different kinds of veggies/ingredients in the future.

blog fail and a plan.

July 17, 2012

So yeah. Blog challenge? I failed. Though it’s a fun idea, I’m afraid my new mom status hinders me from blogging regularly nowadays. I’m currently juggling working from home (trying to find 8 hours throughout the day to work on the computer) while taking care of a 3-month-old baby while keeping the house in order while trying to feed us decently healthy meals. Whew! But instead of being negative, I’ll just give you DAY 17 – post seven random facts about yourself.

1. I am okay stomping down little cockroaches but tiny (as well as big) lizards give me the worst heebie-jeebies! I mean, I really don’t like them. I don’t like to get near them, I don’t want our cat bringing them into the house. They’re just gross.

2. I lived in Ireland for 5 weeks in the summer of 2002.

3. While I like to eat healthy, you have to understand that fried chicken is probably my most favorite food item. Ever.

4. I am thirty years old and have only had 2 cavities in my life.

5. I don’t have a career, but I love my job as an administrative assistant at a large university. Working with students can be really fun and rewarding!

6. I can eat rice every single day. But I don’t do this because that’s a whole lotta carbs.

7. I don’t wear makeup, unless it’s for a special occasion.

On another note, I have to come up with a plan. You see, I go back to the office on Monday, July 30th. Back to busyness. Head first into the chaos of the fall semester. I’ll be working 40 hours a week, as is the usual for full-time employees. I’ve done this before, for many years. But with a baby? Nope, never, uh-uh. I am swimming in unchartered territory. Gotta come up with a plan so we don’t end up eating frozen pizza every single night!

Here’s what I’m thinking:

Monday nights – salads

Tuesday nights – cook one of my go-to recipes

Wednesday nights – omelets

Thursday nights – rice/couscous/barley & vegetable bowls

Friday nights – family night (dinner will probably be salads from Wendy’s or Chick Fil A)

Saturday lunch/dinner – follow a recipe; make some freezer meals

Sunday lunch/dinner – eat leftovers or cook a new recipe

With four nights set, that just leaves me with 3 dinners and 2 lunches I have to figure out. I don’t think it’ll be that hard to come up with some healthy and tasty to eat. I hope. We’ll see how this goes!

What about you, my friends? Any one in the same boat as me and have to come up with a meal plan?

30 and loving it!

July 7, 2012

Day 7 of the July Blog Challenge

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if you could live in any time period of the past, when would it be and why?

I love this question because I love history. Part of me wishes I could have majored in history in college. So to answer, I would pick the British imperial century (1815-1914). Some of my favorite books like Around the World in 80 Days and Les Miserables were set during that time period. I especially love reading about British exploration of India.

So . . .

today is my birthday! 30th birthday, to be exact. But ten years ago today, I was here:

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I was serving as an intern with Wonder Voyage Missions. It was a great experience – living in Athenry, Ireland for 5 weeks in the summer of 2002 while helping lead teams from the U.S. That summer we hosted 3 teams. At the time of my twentieth birthday, we were hosting our first team, a fun group of college students from west Texas. What I remember about my birthday is we were dropped off somewhere in Galway’s city streets and had to find our way to this amusement park of sorts called Leisure Land. It was so much fun trying to navigate our way through this bustling city. I also remember going on my first and only ferris wheel ride that day. It was near the beach area, during an air show. Here’s the view from the ferris wheel:

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And now, ten years later, I celebrate my thirtieth birthday! It’s been a great day so far and a wonderful start to this new year. How did I celebrate? By spending it with some of my favorite people ever. My parents came over this morning and cooked me a Filipino breakfast. Yep, that’s what I requested. A good ‘ol fashioned Filipino breakfast. Scrambled eggs, tapa (cured beef), bangus (smoked milkfish), dilis (dried anchovies) and plain fried rice. Odd to you but absolutely delicious to me. It was quite a treat. Then, I took my parents and my baby to our town’s community market. North Texas humidity and heat was awful so we only stayed for like, 10 minutes. Afterwards, we went back home to pick up my husband and off we went to take my first ride on our town’s new light rail. I’ve ridden trains before but I just had never ridden this particular light rail since it opened. I know, I’m like a kid. I really was so giddy that I got to ride a train for my birthday! What can I say? I’m very easily pleased. It was so much fun :) Plus, it was also my son’s first train ride. He won’t remember today so I’ll just have to take him again when he’s older!

Imagewith my mom at the train station

Imagewith my dad

Imagewith my husband and son

Imagemy son and I

After our little train ride, we ate at one of my favorite restaurants in town. Good food and even better company. So yeah, compared to most people’s thirtieth birthday celebrations, mine was very very low-key, maybe even dorky, but it’s what I wanted. I didn’t really need to have an “adventure” to ring in my thirtieth birthday. I’ve had a very good life up to this point, with so many adventures. My life is full! I’ve gotten to travel to seven different countries, all before I turned 25; I graduated with my bachelor’s degree when I was 21 years old; I have a tattoo (which I got while in Ireland – how cool is that?); I’ve gotten to hike the Slieve League (Europe’s highest sea cliffs), stay at the foothills of the Himalayas in a small town in China, prayer walk in the Bale National Park in Ethiopia and see the splendor of the Canadian Rockies; I’ve run 4 half-marathons and a handful of 5Ks; I rode in two homecoming parades with my BSM friends; I got married to my best friend when I was 23; I had my first baby this April; I love my job as an administrative assistant at one of the largest music colleges in the country; and I have the best family and friends. I’d say I’ve been pretty blessed, don’t you think? I have SO MUCH to be thankful for.

So, I embrace my 30′s! I embrace possibly looking like I’m not 18 years old anymore, hehe. I embrace the challenges and adventures ahead. I embrace growth, even if it is painful. And I continue to embrace my God who has molded and shaped me to be the woman I am today. Happy birthday to me!

bah!

July 6, 2012

Okay, okay, here is my day 4, 5 and 6 :) for the July Blog Challenge (from Peanut Butter and Jenny).

Day 4 (late) – if you could rid the world of one thing, what would it be?

I would get rid of the germs that riddle a lot of the world’s water supply. That way, everyone can have clean and safe water to drink.

Day 5 (late) – post a picture of something or someone that made your day special.

That’s easy! My two guys:

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Day 6 (today! hehehe) – if you could spend 15 minutes with any celebrity, who would it be and why?

Since this one didn’t specify what type of celebrity, dead or alive, I’ll go with this – Eric Lidell. Do you know who he is? He is the Scottish man “Chariots of Fire” was based on. He stood up for his beliefs despite what other people said/ordered him to do. I would want to ask him about his faith in Christ and how he lived a life of true conviction.

On another note, did you have a good 4th of July? We did! We went to a Filipino party/potluck. It wasn’t just a party of Filipinos but other friends of different nationalities as well. What a better way to celebrate our country’s birthday than to celebrate the melting pot that it is?

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(photo taken by a friend; we had quite the Filipino and American spread!)

And no fireworks for us this year. Texas is just too darn hot! We went home after the party, watched a movie and enjoyed the air conditioning :)

Ahhh, that’s the life!

july!

July 3, 2012

Hello out there! I know, it’s been a while. I’ve been busy :)

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Image(yep. my house was messy.)

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Yep, these days are flying by. I can’t believe it’s July already! But before we move forward into this month, I also had a grand ‘ol time celebrating 6 blessed years with my best friend:

 ImageNothing fancy for our 6 year wedding anniversary. A friend watched our baby while my husband and I ate at a fancy restaurant in town. Then, since it was like 100+ degrees outside, we found a post-dinner activity indoors – reading books and hanging out at Barnes & Noble. It was an early evening for us but fun nonetheless. So grateful for my husband!

And now, July. Which brings me to this. Goals. I like goals. I’m making a goal right now – for the month of July, I will do the July Blogging Challenge (thanks for idea, Jenny, and for the encouragement, Lindsay!). And yes, I know it’s already day 3 in this challenge so I’ll just do the first three posts here :)

Here’s the challenge (from Jenny at Peanut Butter and Jenny)!

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DAY 1 (late) – write your goals for the month.

My goals? I want to get into an exercise routine again. None of this sporadic stuff. I’m in that in between stage of not fitting into my pre-pregnancy clothes and my maternity stuff is a bit big for me. I’d love to be able to lose a couple of pounds this month but I know not to rush it. 9 months on, 9 months off, right?

Another goal is to re-establish my daily quiet time with God. This is THE priority. 

DAY 2 (late) – if you could offer a newborn child one piece of advice, what would it be?

Ha! I would tell my son, there’s really no use in struggling. You WILL be swaddled for your nap times. Just go with it, shut your eyes and enjoy dreamland.

and . . .

DAY 3! – what was the last movie you saw in theaters?

I saw “Mirror, Mirror” with a friend. The movie was not very good. There were entertaining parts but overall, it was major fluff. And the girl who played Snow White, Lily Collins, was no good at all. I have to say it was a cringe-worthy performance.

See you tomorrow!

a good excuse.

May 6, 2012

I know it’s been a while since I’ve written. I have a good excuse, I promise!

Yep! It’s because this little guy (we’ll lovingly call him Mr. T or T-man here) was born on Friday, April 13, 2012 – 8 lbs 4 oz, at 20 and 3/4 inches long. We love him!

Isn’t he adorable? My husband and I think so. We are so blessed! Granted, we’ve got a steep learning curve but we’re adjusting as best can be. Hence the lack of blog posting. I’ve literally got my hands full – right now, T-man is nestled on my right arm. Yep, I am typing this with my left hand, one key at a time.

For now, blogging will be sporadic. Maybe in between baby’s naps? Ha! Who am I kidding? I’ll do my best, though. I miss blogging on here!

That’s it for now. But I’ll be back!

recipe: simple bruschetta.

March 22, 2012

I guess I’m on a tomato kick. Ever since I ate my first BLT the other day, I’ve just wanted to full immerse myself in the world of tomatoes. This past weekend, my husband and I went on our babycation – we stayed at a local B&B down the road from our house (literally, like 5 minutes away) – the B&B consisted of two houses on one of the historic neighborhoods near our downtown area. The particular house we stayed at was built in 1916. In the middle of the two B&B houses is an Italian restaurant. We’re not big on chain restaurants so for our special dinner, we thought we’d try this place. We ordered the bruschetta appetizer plus some main dishes. And you know what? We were disappointed with the appetizer:

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There was hardly any tomatoes on the bread (which was soggy French bread). The olives were an okay touch (I gave the red onions to my hubby). But what got us the most was the overpowering taste of balsamic vinegar. It took away from the taste of the tomatoes (that were lacking, anyway) and olive oil. We recalled a restaurant we ate at in Port Angeles several years ago for our anniversary – we had the best bruschetta there.

Anyways, I’ve had a hankering for bruschetta ever since this weekend so on my way home from work today, I stopped by the local bakery to pick up some good bread (half a loaf of sliced semolina parmesan) and at my new favorite grocer to pick up some locally grown tomatoes and basil. I knew dinner would be tomato basil soup (defrosted from a batch I made several weeks ago) so I wasn’t sure if eating bruschetta as our appetizer would be overkill. My husband didn’t mind one bit. After looking online for a simple bruschetta recipe, I noticed the myriad of variations. I just kind of threw this together and we both enjoyed it immensely. My husband even declared it delicious and better than what we ate at the Italian restaurant this weekend. I’m a happy wife.

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Simple Bruschetta (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • two large plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 12-15 basil leaves, sliced thinly (or torn into small pieces)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil (and extra for the bread)
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • coarsely ground black pepper
  • kosher salt
  • block of parmesan cheese
  • 4-6 slices of good bread (I’m sorry I didn’t keep count), torn into 2-3 inch pieces
  • garlic powder

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Brush each piece of bread with olive oil and sprinkle with some garlic powder. Set aside. When the oven is hot enough, place the bread on a cookie sheet and lightly toast, for maybe 5-10 minutes (I wasn’t watching the time closely, though I did look in the oven to see how the bread was browning).

2. Combine diced tomatoes, sliced basil leaves, olive oil and garlic – mix gently until combined.

3. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

4. When the bread is lightly browned, remove the cookie sheet from the oven. Spoon the tomato mixture onto each piece of bread. Freshly grate some parmesan cheese over the bread and tomatoes and put the cookie sheet back in the oven for 2 minutes. Remove from oven when done and serve bruschetta immediately.

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Feel free to add your own spin to this recipe. Really it’s more of a guideline (for me, at least). Add some balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar, if you want. Or more garlic! The sky’s the limit. Sort of, hehe.

On another food note, I’ve been making a mental list of things I will consume after baby boy is born. Such as: frozen, self-serve yogurt, a Lambec and Chilean blue mussels (a local restaurant carries this appetizer and it is AMAZING). My father-in-law sent me a picture of moules (maybe a kind of mussel?) that he and my mother-in-law ate at a restaurant on the Isle of Wight recently:

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Ahh, shellfish. This preggo brain of mine cannot stop thinking about mussels, especially the Chilean ones I just mentioned – it comes with this delicious broth and artichoke pieces and french bread on the side, so you can sop up the broth. So good! Anyways, I’ve got only 3 more weeks to go (hopefully) before baby boy is here, as of this Saturday. Can you believe I will be full term (37 weeks) so soon? I am ready to hug and kiss my baby (and ready to eat these mussels!).

Good night!

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