OMG. What IS this?!

>> Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Any guesses?


How about looking at the different parts . . .


Maybe a view from the top would help . . .


What is that? Chickpea mash? Maple syrup? Sprouts?!


You'll just have to wait and see!


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Weekend Stuff and Giveaway Winner

>> Monday, March 28, 2011

Our lives are crazy right now. I don't even know where to start. But the most stressful part is definitely selling our place. This weekend, we were driving to visit our best friends Lindsey and John (and baby Gavin, who you met here) . . . and -- while en route -- got a call that someone wanted to see our house that afternoon.

Great! Wait!!! AWFUL!

We typically request 24-hours notice before a viewing. This person was only in town for the day. So, we had to turn around the car and clean our place for an hour or so. Annoying? Yes. Educational? Also yes. You see: We must live entirely like we are guests in our own home. I hate every minute of it, and I can't wait till someone offers. Please, universe, have someone offer soon!

But we finally got to see Lindsey, John, and Gavin. It had been WAY too long, and we're looking forward to nicer weather so we can see them more often! Of course, no trip would be complete without a photo-shoot:


Such a gorgeous family!


Other weekend highlights: A 10K run in the sun on Saturday morning (despite the temps being around 15 degrees F -- ick!); more crepe-cake making; Indian food takeout; Sister Wives -- more episodes than I'd like to admit; omelet night with my brother; a clean house (as mentioned above -- the crunch may have been a blessing in disguise).

Yesterday, I ran 10 miles on our treadmill . . .


. . . which gave me enough time to squeeze in multiple episodes of The Secret Life of the American Teenager. I'm seriously obsessed -- likely because I didn't have enough drama in my own life as a teenager.


Last night, I used Tara's Random Number Generator to pick our lucky Shabby Apple Giveaway winner:


Congrats goes out to Cassie, who writes: "Please dress me up. I'm in need of a cute dress for summer weddings!" But don't worry if you didn't win. You can still enjoy 10% off all items!

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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Friday (Morning Routine)

>> Friday, March 25, 2011

I tried the No-Shampoo method for a few days (probably not long enough), and it just didn't work for me. My hair is thin, fine, and greasy. It's a lovely combination that just doesn't seem to take to baking soda and vinegar. Still, I'm committed to finding a kinder way to stay clean and fresh.

I've transitioned to a more natural shampoo/conditioner that are both phthalate-free: Nature's Gate. So far, so good. I love the tea tree conditioner most of all.


In further trying to detoxify my routine, I've also stopped using my usual hair thickeners, hairsprays, and other products. But when I do absolutely nothing to my hair, it lays completely, pathetically flat.

Then I got an idea:


I love how my hair looks after a good soaking in the ocean. This look is pretty easy to replicate at home. All you need is coarse Kosher salt (regular probably works fine, too) and water.
  1. For every tablespoon of water (I like using warm water), I use a pinch of salt.
  2. I mix until the salt is completely dissolved and then -- on damp-ish or dry hair -- use my fingers to put some on my roots and ends.
  3. Then, I blow dry upside-down and finish with a bit of natural pomade (Jason) for shine and definition.
  4. Of course, the whole thing would be much easier with a spray bottle, so I intend on getting one soon.
I'm still tweaking the process, but my hair has a ton more body with the salt water. It's a bit dull without the pomade . . . and it's piecier with the more salt used.

Overall, I'm pleased! (Please excuse the dirty mirror . . . well, entire bathroom)


Yes. That's a spoon on my sink -- to mix the salt/water. Other stuff in my morning, getting-ready-for-work routine:


BREAKFASTS

Remember the Milk and Honey Smoothie? I've found that you can prepare at least three different breakfasts using pretty much the same ingredients.
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 2 teaspoons honey (or maple syrup)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup uncooked rolled oats
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
  • Dash (or 3) of cinnamon
First, there's a basic oatmeal:


Method . . .
  1. Cook 1/2 cup rolled oats in 1 cup water.
  2. Stir in 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce, 2 teaspoons maple syrup, ground flax, and some cinnamon.
  3. Whisk together some peanut butter with almond milk to create a sauce.
  4. Add sliced banana and chia seeds.
Then, there are these crepe-cakes:


Method . . .
  1. Blend together 1/2 cup rolled oats (uncooked) with 1 cup almond milk, 1/2 cup wheat flour, 2 teaspoons maple syrup, 1/3 cup applesauce, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda AND baking powder, ground flax, and a dash of cinnamon.
  2. Make as you would "normal" pancakes. (Though, wait until there are LOTS of bubbles and the edges are firm -- see photo below -- before flipping.)
  3. Add in chocolate chips if you're feeling indulgent.

The resulting pancake is thin and almost crepe-like. Also, the color is a deep brown from the applesauce.

How have you tried to green your morning routine? I have a long way to go, but every little step counts! Just leave a comment or email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com.

Don't forget -- today's the last day to enter the Shabby Apple Giveaway. One lucky reader will win a dress. And the rest of you can enjoy 10% off all items!

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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Snow Day

>> Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Snow again. And another snow day for Stephen. Thankfully, this time the roads aren't actually bad at all. So, it's a nice, quiet day at work. Still, whenever Stephen finds out about a day off, I'm up early with him. The benefit?

It gives me time to make a hearty breakfast.


What's inside?
  • Rolled oats
  • Bananas
  • Pine nuts
  • Cinnamon
  • Maple syrup
  • Dark chocolate almond butter
No offers on the house just yet. It's only been on the market a week, though. Everyone we talk to (professional real estate people or not) seems to think we'll be able to sell within the 60-day period we set. I'm just nervous that someone else will swoop in and put an offer on the house we want -- breaking our contract.

In the meantime, we're both trying to stay positive and optimistic. (Trying being the operative word.) I've been making lists of everything we'd need to do to the "new" place. Frankly, it sounds like a lot.

But it's all do-able.
  • Paint all rooms
  • Paint all trim white
  • Rip up carpet/clean floors throughout
  • Order/install new carpet for family room/tile for kitchen
  • New refrigerator, washer/dryer, cook top, wall oven, dishwasher, and microwave/range hood
  • Paint kitchen cabinets/install new hardware
  • Get estimates for solid-surface countertop
  • New sink/faucet
  • Paint bathroom vanity/remove shower door/consider new tub
  • New light fixtures/fans for all rooms
That's the main stuff that "needs" to get done right away. There's definitely more. If all works out, we'll be moving in around July 4th -- which is perfect. Stephen will be off from work; I'll have some vacation time. Ahh. If only someone would buy our house!

Sigh . . .

Don't forget to enter the Shabby Apple Giveaway. One lucky reader will win a dress. And the rest of you can enjoy 10% off all items!

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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Why I love Walking

>> Tuesday, March 22, 2011

There are periods of time when I feel like I'm productive. Making progress. Dealing well with all my obligations and responsibilities. There are other times, like NOW, when I feel like I'm floundering. Or simply unwilling to make space in my schedule and mind for the gazillions of things that are required of me.

It's not all bad stress. Far from it, really. I try to make the best of things, though. Eat well, sleep 8 hours each night, make time for fun stuff.

E.x.e.r.c.i.s.e. (That's a biggie.)

That's exactly why I love walking. When I feel entirely overwhelmed, tired, cranky, or even sick, a walk -- 9-times-out-of-10 -- perks me up. Gets my blood pumping. Relaxes me. Lets me think. And in an entirely different way than running, which often does these same things. Sometimes, friends, I'm just too stressed to run.

It happens. If it happens to you, know that it's OK. An hour long walk cures what ails you perhaps moreso than a run. You can even split walking into spurts throughout the day and still gain great cardiovascular benefits. Great stress-relieving moments. Fresh air. You can sneak in guilty pleasure-TV, too (oh, how I love The Secret Life of the American Teenager!) -- SANS guilt -- if you have a treadmill.

I guess that's all I wanted to write about it. So, next time you feel crazy . . . take a walk.

How do you deal when life gets super busy? Just leave a comment or email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com.

Don't forget to enter the Shabby Apple Giveaway. One lucky reader will win a dress. And the rest of you can enjoy 10% off all items!

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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Black Bean-Tempeh Burgers

>> Monday, March 21, 2011

This weekend -- as most weekends do -- went entirely too fast. We spent Friday night finishing all the cleaning we needed to get done before some people viewed the house Saturday morning. (No news on offers yet, but we're hopeful the nicer weather might bring a few more people through this week.) Sigh. Saturday was a blur. Sunday we had brunch with my brother and his girlfriend and then collapsed. That's the short of it.

Movies watched . . .

  • The Fighter (loved it)
  • The Switch (meh -- it was OK)
Meals eaten . . .
  • Omelet with peppers/onions/cheddar (my new favorite meal of all time, apparently)
  • Panera Garden Veggie/Pesto Soup with 1/2 Tomato-Basil Sandwich (another favorite)
  • LOTS of Indian Takeout (Tarka Dal, Vegetable Korma, Mutter Paneer)
  • Black Bean-Tempeh Burgers (recipe below)
New stuff . . .


I needed a pair of good walking around shoes. I tend to wear flats, which aren't great for work-break walks around campus. These are the new Merrell Pace Gloves. They retail for $100, but we both had coupons and got 'em for around $85. They remind me of Vibrams . . . and they are made with running in mind. Especially on trails.

We'll see. So far, I'm really just loving them for everyday wear. The active-anything-the-mood-strikes wonderfulness. I love how they look, plus they are in the minimalist fashion -- so more natural foot movement


BLACK BEAN-TEMPEH BURGERS

What you'll need . . .
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 green pepper
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1 package tempeh
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Sesame oil

Method . . .
  1. In a food processor, pulse the green pepper and onion until well chopped. How coarsely or finely chopped is up to you. We made ours pretty fine.
  2. Add in the black beans and tempeh. Pulse until well incorporated.
  3. Then put mixture in a medium bowl. Pour in the oats, paprika and flour (you may need more flour, depending). Mix well until everything is well distributed.
  4. Store half the mix away for tomorrow's dinner. Then divide the other half into four equal portions. Shape into patties using your palms (and some flour to prevent sticking).
  5. Heat a pan on medium-high heat with a bit of sesame oil (olive or veggie oil works, too, I just like the flavor). Place patties on pan. Cook on each side until golden brown.
  6. Optional: Top with cheddar cheese while nearly done on the stove. Then cover for a few minutes to melt the cheese.
  7. Serve on buns or toast with hot sauce and mustard.

Let's get closer up . . . YUM!
Protein-y goodness!


Don't forget to enter the Shabby Apple Giveaway. One lucky reader will win a dress. And the rest of you can enjoy 10% off all items!

So, like I said above. I'm obsessed with the onion/green pepper/cheddar omelet. How about you? What meal are you turning to time and time again? Just leave a comment or email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com.

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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Shabby Apple Giveaway

>> Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hey, everyone! It's a gorgeous day here in upstate NY -- I even think temps today might reach into the lower 60s. I love every minute of it! Still working away at our house. It's looking nice . . . but no nibbles or bites just yet. We're a bit discouraged, but hoping that the nicer weather brings some people by this weekend.

Here's what I'm wearing today. Not the best I've ever put together, but I've packed away so many clothes and have so much laundry to do. At least it's a skirt!


Now, if you like style, keep reading. Shabby Apple (a great site with lots of cute women's dresses) contacted us recently about partnering for a giveaway. Of course, we said YES! And if you don't win, you still get a discount.

That's right: You can enter to win this gorgeous dress, handpicked by us:


To see more photos, click here. And here's some more info from the site . . .

A true gem of a multi-tasker, the Azure Coast dress, with it's playful puff sleeves and no-nonsense shirt collar, is perfect for the office or a weekend getaway at the shore. This ocean-colored beauty sports faux-wrap styling—the skirt closes all the way—giving you the look of your favorite wrap dress without the anxiety of worrying whether or not you're unintentionally showing too much leg.

Wanna win? Here's the scoop:

THE PRIZE: One Azure Coast dress from Shabby Apple. Value: $82.00.
TO ENTER: Leave a comment with the words DRESS ME UP somewhere in the mix.
IN ADDITION: Tell us a little about your spring style essentials.
GIVEAWAY CLOSES: Friday, March 25th at 9:00PM EST
PRIZE SHIPS: USA only.
ALSO: To win, I need your email address -- so please provide it (or your blog link so I can find it -- just some way of contacting you) or, unfortunately, you cannot win.
PS: One entry per email address is allowed. The winner will be selected using Tara's Random Number Generator and announced Monday (3/28) morning.

But you're really ALL winners! All readers can enjoy 10% off at Shabby Apple. Just use the coupon code: neverhomemaker10off. And don't forget to "like" Shabby Apple on Facebook (you can fine 'em here) -- that way, you can enjoy special promotions and exclusive discounts on more women's dresses.

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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Microwaved Chocolate and PB to the Rescue!

>> Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Speaking of vegan foods, I've fallen in love with a quicker-than-quick dessert I found on Averie's blog: Microwave Chocolate-Peanut Butter & Oat Bars. Her recipe takes the best of a no-bake -- and makes it even easier!

Incredible . . .


Especially perfect now that our house is on the market. We've packed away most of my cookie sheets and other tools, which makes baking difficult. Still, the chocolate cravings come in waves. Once (OK, twice) a night. Though, I can't exactly bring myself to messing up the kitchen. We've been cleaning nonstop for what seems like an eternity!

I just adapted Averie's recipe in terms of quantity. Recipe makes an entire 8 x 8 pan of thick bars . . .

What you'll need . . .
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons almond milk
  • 1-1/2+ cups rolled oats (uncooked -- measurement is give or take)
Method . . .
  1. Put the peanut butter, chocolate chips, vanilla, and almond milk in a microwave safe container and heat in 30 second increments. Stir until everything has melted together.
  2. Add the oats. Stir to coat well. Mixture should be well moistened, but somewhat crumbly. Experiment to see how you like it best.
  3. Then coat the 8 x 8 inch pan with some plastic wrap. Pour in the mixture . . . and use another piece of plastic wrap over your hand to press mixture until it's even.
  4. Refrigerate for 10 to 20 minutes.
  5. That's it!

STAYING SANE

Working full time . . . and then coming home and cleaning full time . . . SUCKS. The good news is that our place is aaaaaaaalmost completely "done" and should be totally finished tonight. The bad news is that we have to keep it spotless until we get a contract.

To free my mind from some stress, I took time last night to sneak in my 12-mile long run. I skipped it Sunday because we had so much to do. I ran the first 6 miles indoors on the treadmill. Then, I got bored (my next episode of Secret Life of the American Teenager wasn't loading on the ROKU), so I took it outside for the rest. Daylight savings has been AMAZING. I returned home around 7:30 . . . and it wasn't dark yet!

Also, reason #148,827 why I love half marathon training better than full: I CAN DO MY LONG RUNS DURING THE WORK-WEEK IF I WANT TO. Max run time is usually around 2 hours. And recovering from 12 to 14 miles isn't that big a deal compared to 18 to 20.

Love, love, love.

How have you been dealing with the time change? I very much welcome the extra daylight hours. But my productivity in the morning has shot w.a.y. down. Last week, I wrote about how much I enjoyed switching my runs to the morning. That's not the case now. I'm lucky if I can drag myself out of bed in time to get to work.

Just leave a comment or email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com. And thanks for all your congrats on my recent 4-mile race PR and your support over the whole PETA board issue.

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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House Stuff, New PRs, and Diets

>> Monday, March 14, 2011

HOUSE UPDATE 

After some negotiations, we came to an agreement with the seller of the house Friday afternoon. We settled on a fair price -- with a 60-day house sale contingency clause in the mix. This means we have 60 days to sell our home. If we don't, the deal it off.

So. Our house goes on the market . . . TODAY. Yeah. That's right. We spent the entire weekend shining up the place, which involved quite a laundry list of tasks. Worst of which was hanging a new door for the kitchen pantry. (I hate having to make things square, the darn thing wouldn't shut for HOURS until we fussed over it a ton.)

We still have a lot to do, but we're hoping this process is a speedy one. When we were looking/offering the first go-around, all we had to worry about was getting a loan. Oh, how I pine for those days . . .

If all works out, I figure the earliest we can possibly move in is the first week of May. The latest would be in July. Worst case scenario has us staying in our current place, which is all spiffed up. It's win-win-win, really.

WEEKEND RACING

We cleaned and hauled and cleaned some more. I did have time to squeeze in a St. Patty's race, though. A 4-miler, and I'm quite proud with my new PR for the distance: 29:15 (7:18 pace -- smashed the old PR by 45 seconds).


I also placed 3rd in the 20-29 age group of 102 gals. 12th of all 357 women. And 103 of 747 overall participants. Not that I'm counting. :)


(It's finally getting nicer out -- we needed sunglasses!) My friend Dani also ran the race and kicked some major butt. Who that other guy is in the photo, we have no clue. But from the looks of it, he enjoyed himself immensely.

VEGANS VERSUS THE WORLD?

After we finished cleaning Sunday, I sat down -- quite exhausted -- and caught up on some blogs and news. Then I checked my traffic (again, I'm a stats dork) . . . and I saw I was getting some visits from a post in a PETA board.

At first I thought: "Maybe they are sharing a vegan recipe of ours -- that's cool!" And then, my heart sank when I saw this:


All in response to our Becoming Un-Vegan post. I'm not going to dwell too much on the negative comments in reaction to the original post. Nor will I focus heavily on the few devotees who decided to bring their anger to our site's comments section.

Still, I don't get the harsh judgment from all these strangers.

My response: I don't judge friends/family members/people in general based on their diets. Way more goes into eating and health than ethics. I very much appreciate and support the vegan diet. Being vegan myself for many years and trying hard at it, I know it isn't right for me. There's really no defense necessary beyond that.

It wasn't all bad: This one comment in response made me smile. Because this girl obviously gets it. Diet is a choice and it's extremely personal.


This all being said, I have made a decision about my diet recently that I was planning on discussing later this week. I'll get into it more soon, but in short: I've tried fish a few times now (tilapia and salmon). It isn't working out. I don't crave it. I'm not in love with the flavor (texture mostly). I hate cooking it (so weird, but it's just like a chore to me!).

So, though I don't love labeling, for all intensive purposes, I'm back to being a full vegetarian. It's where I feel the healthiest, happiest, and most alive. Why do you eat the way you eat? We're all different . . . but it's interesting to me how controversial diets can be.

Just leave a comment or email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com.

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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In-a-Pinch Chili

>> Friday, March 11, 2011

Chili is the easiest, most nutritious meal I can ever think to create in a pinch. Happily, all the ingredients needed are either bulk/dry or in cans. So, if you stock your shelves just right, you can rest each night knowing you'll always have SOMETHING to make for dinner that is satisfying and healthy.

Please excuse the steam clouding this photo. I couldn't wait to eat it.


QUINOA IN-A-PINCH CHILI

What you'll need . . .
  • 2 cans (or one large) of kidney beans
  • 1 can low-sodium corn kernels
  • 1 large can whole tomatoes
  • 1 to 2 cans low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup red quinoa, cooked
  • 1/2 cup TVP (optional)
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced (or garlic powder)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
Method . . .
  1. Cook quinoa by mixing the 1/2 cup quinoa with 1 cup water. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Drain and rinse the kidney beans and corn kernals. Set aside.
  3. In a large stock pot over medium-high heat, pour in your olive oil and garlic. Let cook for a couple minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Toss in the kidney beans, corn, tomatoes (juice and all), vegetable broth, quinoa, and TVP. Add the smoked paprika and salt. Bring to a boil.
  5. Then cover and let simmer for half an hour. Or less, depending on your time crunch. Squash the tomatoes before serving with the back of a large spoon.
  6. Serve with 3-hour Naan or 5-minute Naan.
*** This meal tastes great alone or with some melted cheddar. I highly recommend adding the cheddar.

HOUSE UPDATE

More house madness today. We're waiting to hear if our offer has been accepted. I'm. On. Edge. In the meantime, we're clearing out every nook and cranny. Cleaning every crevice. Patching every hole. Etc. I'm already exhausted and we've hardly scratched the surface.

Hope you all have a fabulous weekend!

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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Ahhhh!

>> Thursday, March 10, 2011

Not much time to write today. We're putting in an offer on another house that we fell in love with. (Yeah. I guess you could classify us as house whores. Or something like that.) This time, it's smack in the center of everything we have going on. No, really! It's one mile away from where I work (goodbye, driving -- hello, walking/biking!). We'll see if they accept our offer, which includes a hefty 60-day house sale contingency (have to sell our place first . . . or no dice!), but we're keeping our hopes high and our excitement level at a minimum.

It very well might not work out. It very well might not work out. But, worst case, we'll still have our lovely home. No too shabby.


Needless to say, I feel somewhat crazy today. We have to fix some stuff before we're ready to list our place (THIS WEEKEND -- no pressure or anything!). And clean. A lot. There's still the whole matter of getting the sellers to agree to our offer. Who knows?! Enough about that (for now).

OTHER STUFF
  • I bought a foam roller this weekend to help deal with my IT band problems. So far, it's working out wonderfully. I want to give it a few more weeks before I declare it a total success. But thanks to all of you who suggested it!
  • I ran 5 miles this morning as part of my half marathon training plan. In the MORNING. And it was fabulous. I'm going to try again tomorrow to get my butt out the door early. This always happens right around when we spring back . . . and I get too tired again. Positive thoughts!
  • We've made 3-hour Naan every day for almost a week now. And I'm not sick of it. Last night, we paired it with a new curry dish I'll share sometime soon. Yum!
More soon! I sort of wish it was still Monday, and my biggest concern was getting snow out of my socks.


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Chocolate Chip Cookies and Broken Dreams

>> Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I baked a lot on our snow day. In addition to the 3-hour Naan, I couldn't resist making something sweet. I had been eying the The Post Punk Kitchen's vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies for a while. Especially since the recipe requires no butter or egg substitute.

I couldn't exactly run to the store during a state of emergency to stock up on the usual ingredients.


CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
(A modified version of the PPK's Chocolate Chip Cookies)

What you'll need . . .
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon golden flax meal
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cups chocolate chips

Method . . .
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, toss in the brown sugar, canola oil, almond milk, flax meal, and extracts. Mix on high for a few minutes. Until extremely well blended.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, and salt). Then add them to the wet and mix until everything is moistened.
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  5. Scoop heaping tablespoonfuls onto your cookie sheet and flatten a bit with the palm of your hand. (Because you used oil, the chocolate chips tend to fall out of the dough -- just press 'em back in.)
  6. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes -- until edges are golden brown. Then set aside to cool for a few minutes. If you can wait that long.
***This recipe yielded one full sheet of large-ish cookies. If you want smaller ones -- about two sheets -- use only a tablespoon. And don't let your fingers near the batter. I couldn't resist eating a lot of it -- the almond extract is essential!

WHY I LOVE PARCHMENT PAPER

In the past year or so, I've become a parchment paper convert. I never used the stuff when I started baking. Then I picked up a roll one day, used it, and more time passed before I replenished stock. I make A LOT of cookies. So, I gave the stuff another try . . . and I can't go back now.

But I have a question (because my only experience has been a bad one): What do you think of silicone baking mats? I bought one on a Christmas Tree Shops excursion, and used it once. It smelled like burning plastic . . . so I grew concerned with what was baking into my batch.

Yikes!


IN OTHER NEWS . . .

Our dream house (you know -- the one with the nice view?) is a bust. After some thoughtful deliberations, we decided to stop pursuing it.
  • Location, location, location . . . It was pretty far out in the country. Not that this is a terrible thing. But we're both so used to convenience and being able to shoot from place to place. As we saw our lives moving forward, we couldn't see driving into town to pick up kids from soccer practice, to go to the gym, to pick up sugar at the grocery store, etc.
  • Running routes: Were sort of awful. The place was on top of a hill. Which means running either way on the road entails running at least a mile (or so) downhill before any flat surface. No bueno.
  • $$$ sucker, maybe: The place had electric heat. Not desirable in the Northeast. Though the reported utility bill was low-ish, we're pretty sure the guy living there is a true outdoorsman. Or a hippie (the only non-family photo in the house was of John Lennon -- which initially scored the place extra points). Or both.
  • The unknown! Perhaps the most compelling reason of all. There's a lot of natural gas drilling/fracking going on in our neck of the woods. NY state is holding off on drilling for now -- but this place is around some prime spots. Besides the chance of contaminated well water, the plowing down of trees, and a host of other iffy things -- even if we chose not to lease our land to drilling companies (we wouldn't -- EVER), who's to say our neighbors wouldn't? Or that nice old couple with 80 acres to their name down the road? It could be a huge problem . . . or it may never happen. But the unknown made us pause enough to say: "No, thank you."
Plus, we're not in a bad situation with our current digs. We're off to look at a few other places tonight. So, we'll keep y'all posted!

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Snow Day and 3-hour Naan

>> Tuesday, March 8, 2011

We got 18 inches of snow in 18 hours Sunday night through Monday morning. Crazy, I tell you! I had absolutely no idea a storm was forecasted -- especially one of such magnitude. The roads were closed Monday . . . so I didn't have to go in to work. It was fabulous.

Now, Stephen (an English teacher) is more than used to snow days.


He's had what seems like at least one day off per week all winter! Lucky guy . . .


OK. I know that isn't entirely true. But it was nice, for once, to enjoy some unexpected time of my own at home. Almost makes me wish I'd chosen teaching as my career.

Almost.


Time off from work means more time for baking. Despite efforts to clean up my eating a bit, I couldn't resist trying a new naan recipe, which I adapted from one I found on AllRecipes.com.

Quite honestly, it's just as good as naan I've had at Indian restaurants.

3-HOUR NAAN
(Pressed for time? Check out the 5-minute naan, too!)

What you'll need . . .
  • 1-1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • Pinch of coarse Koher salt
  • 2 heaping cups bread flour (about 2-1/4 cups in all)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons almond milk
  • 1 egg, beaten

Method . . .
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the warm water and yeast. Let sit until frothy (about 10 minutes).
  2. I the bowl of an electric mixer, hand-whisk together the flour and salt. Set aside.
  3. Add the maple syrup, almond milk, and egg to the yeast mixture. Mix until well incorporated.
  4. Then add the wet ingredients to the dry and use the dough hook to knead for 5 to 7 minutes. Dough should be elastic and smooth.
  5. Cover the bowl with an oiled piece of plastic wrap for 2 hours.
  6. Then divide dough into 6 to 8 pieces and let rise for another hour.
  7. On your stovetop, spritz a pan with some canola oil and heat over high heat. Take each piece of dough and flatted with your fingers/thumbs/etc.
  8. Then flip and cook until golden. Repeat with remaining pieces.
  9. Use a pizza cutter to cut each piece into 4 triangles.
  10. Brush with butter or Earth Balance, if desired.

This naan goes together famously well with the Thai-Style Vegetable Korma recipe from the other day. Or any other saucy dish that begs for some bread for dipping. We can't get enough!

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Friday

>> Friday, March 4, 2011

We're going to tour our dream house again tomorrow afternoon. Sadly, we've heard that several other people are peeking through it today. In fact, just as I write this post they're probably poking through what we want to be our kitchen cupboards and master bedroom.

That's where the not-getting-too-excited thing is coming in to play. (Even though it's so, so hard!) We aren't 100% ready to list our house yet. We have a couple repairs before it's ready. Ugh. I wish we were just buying house. It's so much simpler!

So, fingers, toes, arms, legs, and anything-else-you-got crossed!

THE OUTFIT


Shirt: J. Crew (clearance)
Jeans: Citizens of Humanity (really, really old)
Scarf: Cynthia Rowley (via TJ Max)
Shoes: Payless


Do you dress down on Fridays? My workplace doesn't have a stated policy on the matter. So, I've taken it into my own hands. Just leave a comment or email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com.

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It's Time . . .

>> Thursday, March 3, 2011

Time to start training for something again. (Yeah. Despite the llllllllong hiatus from running posts, I am indeed still a runner.) Though, even as I write this, I feel a slight twinge/tightness in my IT-band. I'm not totally healed, but I'm starting to think that this injury is one that may stick around. However, it's much, much better than it was -- and I've been able to run 11-milers without much trouble. Sticking between 20 to 30 miles a week.

A half marathon is where I'm setting my sights this spring. How I'll be training is somewhat different than in the past. I'm having some difficulty accepting these changes. I consider myself rather open-minded about fitness, but with racing always favored time on my feet running versus cross-training.

The knee begs otherwise. So, here's the plan. At least for now.


Some points:
  • I'm easing back into weekly mileage. When I started getting better enough to resume regular running, I was still on marathon mindset. (I affectionately call what happened to me last fall "marathon blue balls" -- all the training with no payoff -- so I'm still trying to get a fix, I guess.) I felt weird if I didn't run at very minimum 6 miles each workout. I have to remember that 3 is still legit. Each Thursday run will be 3 miles max.
  • I reserve the right to aqua jog any of these workouts as desired or necessary. Especially on Tuesdays, where I feel I'll treat some of those days as speedwork. (Much of aqua jogging revolves around intervals, repeats, and "sprints")
  • I'll run my long runs at a slow pace. I have a 15K and test-it-out half race schedule for a pace runs. Otherwise, call me the tortoise!
  • Swimming will be key on the Sundays after races to keep my cardiovascular endurance humming . . . all while giving my joints some rest. 
To be quite honest, having this plan out there . . . well . . . it makes me accountable now. I already feel tremendous pressure. But in a way, it's good to give racing a try again. After my fall plans fell through, and especially after my first DNF, I've had a lot of anxiety associated with racing.

For this reason, I'm not looking for PR this year. I'm still riding off last year's string of great races. And that's OK. I don't run to win. God, no. I don't run for the races, really. I just like it.

Still, if anyone has more tips on dealing with IT-band issues (returning to running after the injury, specifically), I'd love to hear 'em. Just leave a comment or email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com.

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Vegetable Korma -- Thai Style

>> Wednesday, March 2, 2011

When we want a fast, delicious dinner in a flash, we look to Indian food. Though traditionally, I'm pretty sure most dishes are carefully simmered and fretted over for hours upon hours, you can still make something great in far less time. Like this dish, to which we gave some Thai flair without the fuss -- adding coconut milk and peanut butter.

No, kids. This isn't your mom's vegetable korma. (Excuse the dirty stove-top.)


THAI STYLE VEGETABLE KORMA

What you'll need . . .
  • 1 cup chopped cauliflower
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon shredded ginger
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 can (1-1/2 cups or so) coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter

Method . . .
  1. In a large pan, heat the oil on medium-high heat until hot. Then toss in the garlic and onions. Cook for several minutes until softened/glassy.
  2. Toss in the spices and bay leaves. Stir around until everything is well coated.
  3. Add the cauliflower, green pepper, and chickpeas. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes until softened.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the peanut butter and coconut milk (we used that spicy peanut butter . . . but you can just use regular). Then add the mixture to the pan.
  5. Cook for another 10 to 20 minutes. Then serve and enjoy with naan (new recipe to come!)!
Yeah, that's right. From chopping to eating, this takes around 30 minutes. That's why we love Indian food so much! Well, it's also insanely delicious.


So, it appears the comments section hasn't been working well since last night. Not only that, I just recently discovered that some of you have tricked the system and been able to comment using Blogger versus Disqus. The downside: I don't get to respond to your comments. I just know they're there. And they are much appreciated.

I can't believe to describe the level of frustration I feel! GRRRRRR! Please, dear readers, know you are loved. Your comments are so very, very, very much appreciated. And we'll be working on a better system ASAP.

Promise.

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