Family Ties

Wednesday afternoon, my brother called asking if I could come stay with my nephew Jack (who is about 20 months old) because they needed to take my other nephew Gideon (who is almost 3 months old) to the emergency room. As any aunt would do, I immediately left work and headed over to my brother’s house so he could go to the hospital to be with Gideon and my sister in law, Aricka. It was a bit of a scary situation, but luckily everything turned out fine. They ended up needing to stay at the hospital over night and Gideon had to have surgery in the morning. (He handled it like a champ and I’m sure everyone at the hospital fell in love with him.) I stayed at my brother’s house with Jack and he and I hung out that evening and spent Thursday playing together. I was so glad that I got to spend some quality time with Jack, despite the circumstances!

Thursday morning, I checked TimeHop like I do every morning.  As I scrolled through the photos I realized that exactly 5 years ago, I decided to move to Richmond, where Mark and Aricka had moved one year earlier. I had just finished a job interview and after the interview, Mark took me down to Carytown for lunch at Can Can.

Lunch at Can Can in 2010

Lunch at Can Can in 2010

I had gone into the interview not really expecting much to come of it, and planned on going back to my job and my friends in Columbus, but something clicked and I knew I’d be moving.

me and mark The job offer was awesome and everything, but I never would have moved had it not been for Mark and Aricka. Mark and I have always been close and I’m thrilled that he gave me a sister in law as wonderful and awesome as Aricka. Moving 8 hours away from the only home I’d ever known was a little scary but it was a whole lot less scary knowing I had these two here.

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I guess the point of this sappy post is to say that I’m so thankful to have my brother and his family close by. I’m thankful that they encouraged me to invade their city and make it my home. So much has changed over the past 5 years and I’m so thankful for how things have worked out. I absolutely love Richmond. I love the city, the people, my church  (the bloggers!) and I especially love being close to family.

Aricka, Alex, Me, and Mark

I don’t know what I’d do without this bunch!

Do you live near any of your family?

Parmesan Spinach Couscous

All the snow we had a couple of weeks ago led me to crave lots of warm comfort food. But after many days without groceries, I was starting to have limited options. I dug around the pantry and spied a box of couscous I had purchased and forgotten about. Thank goodness for pantry staples, right? So I whipped up a quick lunch that filled us right up with just a few ingredients.

parmesan and spinach couscous dish

Since this recipe calls for couscous, I should point out that there are two common types of couscous. Moroccan couscous is small and cooks very quickly. The grains are about the size of cornmeal. Israeli couscous is larger and takes much longer to cook. I used Moroccan couscous but you could try this with Israeli couscous if that’s all you have., you’ll just need to adjust the cooking time.

parmesan and spinach couscous

Parmesan Spinach Couscous
Author: 
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • ½ medium white onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1½ cups of dry couscous
  • 2½ cups of water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup spinach
Instructions
  1. Dice the onion and mince the garlic, or push through a garlic press.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil and add the onion and garlic.
  3. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes or until the onion begins to caramelize.
  4. While that cooks, bring the water to a boil.
  5. Add the couscous, stir, and remove from heat.
  6. Let sit and then fluff with a fork once the water has been absorbed.
  7. Add the couscous, salt, parmesan cheese, and spinach to the onion and garlic.
  8. Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat, until the spinach had just started to wilt.
  9. Serve hot.

healthy Parmesan & Spinach couscous This came together so quickly and easily. You could add peas or swap in kale for the spinach, depending on what you have on hand. I’m sure it would be great with some pine nuts sprinkled on top as well. The flavors reminded me a little bit of the farro risotto I made a few weeks ago, but with a different texture.

I feel like the past few days have been a little quieter. The weekend was packed with activity so I’m thankful for a few low-key evening hours. Alex has been working a lot at night, so he hasn’t gotten the same luxury of relaxing. With him being busy and evenings being occasionally open, I’ve started reading more. I just started Dataclysm (a book about fascinating big data insights written by one of the OK Cupid founders) and it’s so good. It’s a quick and easy read that kind of makes you laugh at how crazy some of the data is. It had been on my list of books to read for a while so I was excited to find it on the shelf at the library. I’m trying to make more of an effort to spend more time off of my computer, so a good book makes it easy.

Have you read anything good lately?

Easy Moroccan Lentil Stew

It started with a Pinterest search for recipe inspiration. I came across this Martha Stewart recipe and I was excited because I had all the ingredients on hand and it seemed simple enough. After chopping my carrots and adding onion (rather than shallots) into my olive oil, I scrolled down to the bottom of the recipe and read some of the reviews. Almost every person that commented said it was bland. No flavor. Boring. Basic.

Uh oh.

So after I dumped in the lentils and began to let them simmer, I tried to think of what else I could add to this recipe to spice it up. I scrolled through a few Moroccan stew recipes for ideas and took a chance by adding in  a few spices. Honestly, it turned out better than I expected and I’m glad I measured everything out so I can make it again! I was originally going to add bulgur to this dish but I decided to keep it gluten free so more of you could enjoy it!

moroccan lentil stew

5.0 from 1 reviews

Easy Moroccan Lentil Stew
Author: 
Recipe type: Stew
Cuisine: Moroccan
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side.
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • ½ medium onion
  • 2 large carrots (or ~12 baby carrots)
  • 1 cup of dried brown lentils (red or green would work, too)
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • ¾ tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • Dash of black pepper
Instructions
  1. Start by mincing the garlic and dicing the onion and carrots.
  2. Add them all to a large pot with the olive oil.
  3. Cook over medium heat for 6 minutes until the onion and carrots begin to soften.
  4. Add the lentils and water and simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Add the salt and spices and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  6. Serve hot.

moroccan stew Alex and I had this for lunch on one of the many snowy days last week. It was a perfect warm-you-up-from-the-inside type of recipe but I have a feeling we’ll be making this again soon. Alex gave it a good review and it’s a recipe that can easily be made ahead of time and packed in a lunchbox. It’s also really healthy and lentils are an awesome (and cheap!) source of protein.

It’s supposed to be pretty cold here the rest of the week, so I plan on making more comfort food!

Do you go “off recipe” or do you like to follow recipes exactly?

Avocado Orange Salad

I have a new favorite salad. That’s a big deal because when I have a salad I love, I tend to eat it over and over again. I went through a feta + balsamic phase, a kale + tahini phase… now I’m into avocado + orange.

Reasons why this salad is awesome:

  •    It’s naturally vegan + gluten free
  •    You only need 5 ingredients
  •    It’s so freaking delicious

avocado orange salad horizontal Have I convinced you yet?

Avocado & Orange Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Salad
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
This recipe serves 2 as a side salad or one person as a large salad.
Ingredients
  • 4 cups of mixed greens or spinach
  • ½ avocado
  • 1 navel orange
  • 2 tbsp sliced almonds
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Dash black pepper
Instructions
  1. Segment the orange by slicing off the top, bottom, and peels.
  2. Over a bowl, cut into the orange on the lines of the membranes to remove the segments. Squeeze the remainder of the orange to get the rest of the juice.
  3. Reserve the juice for the dressing.
  4. Whisk the olive oil with the orange juice and add in salt and pepper.
  5. Dice the avocado and add to the mixed greens.
  6. Top with orange segments and almond slices.
  7. Dress just before serving.

 

avocado orange salad
I’ve made this twice in the past week. I made it for Alex and I and I made it for my family when they came to visit. I just can’t get enough. Avocados already have a standard spot on the grocery list, but I think I’m going to be stocking up on oranges so I can make this salad whenever the craving strikes! I have a suspicion that it could work well with mandarin oranges as well, and that would make this come together even faster!

Are you all staying warm and cozy this week? I worked from home a couple of days this week thanks to the snow fall but I was definitely getting cabin fever on Wednesday night. It was nice to be able to stay home so I could shake off the last of my cold, but I missed being around people! Luckily, I’ve got plenty of social events planned for the weekend so I think I think the extrovert in me is going to be pretty happy.

What’s your current favorite salad combination?

Chilly Monday Meals

Alex and I were lucky to have Monday off for President’s Day, so we got to spend a little extra time with my family while my parents were in town for a visit. Alex and I were both feeling a little under the weather so we slept in until almost 8:00. Once I rolled out of bed, I immediately ate breakfast.

breakfast toast cropped I had some toast (along with some vitamin C gummies to ward off the impending cold). No coffee for me, since I wasn’t feeling great. I also had a few handfuls of chocolate chip Teddy Grahams after a quick trip to the grocery store. (What can I say- I love them.) I picked up a few essentials since we knew snow was coming.

My family came over for lunch and I ordered food from Carytown Burgers and Fries. They have the best black bean veggie burger. I whipped up a salad to go along with the burgers and fries to balance things out a bit. The burgers are so big that Alex and I just split one but it’s still plenty to fill you up!

IMG_7556 We spent the afternoon hanging out with my parents, just sitting around the living room chatting. My dad helped us on a few house projects while they were here and we started brainstorming more things to work on. In an old house, there is never a shortage of projects ;)

Once dinner time rolled around, snow was falling and I started making macaroni and cheese. I’ve finally found a way to make it with almond milk, since we never have dairy milk in the house. It’s taken a bit of tweaking but I’ll share the recipe soon!

easy macaroni and cheese2 We had our macaroni and cheese with some leftover salad. I’m working on getting more greens into my dinner since I tend to eat carb-heavy and not as veggie filled as they used to be.

Alex had to get some work done after dinner so I played the piano while he worked. My parents brought me a few boxes of music from their house, so I had lots to dig through. (I went through an ebay phase in college where I would order boxes of sheet music. It was a little crazy.) Once Alex finished working, he came down and played some music with me. I love playing music together, especially old hymns. I grew up singing these hymns and it’s amazing how the words just come right back!

Cold snowy night, playing hymns together. Life is good. #happy #rva

A photo posted by Liz Thomson (@iheartveggies) on

We ended the night watching a little Netflix and sharing a bowl of popcorn. Not a bad place to be as the snow piled up outside! We ended up with about 6 inches here in Richmond.

 Is it snowing where you are?

Weekend Family Time

We’ve been enjoying a long weekend over here in the Thomson house, and it’s been filled with family time! My parents came to visit late Friday night and are here until tomorrow morning. I love having them in town and it also means we get to spend lots of time with my brother, sister in law, and my adorable nephews.

Alex and I celebrated Valentine’s Day on Friday night, with a casual dinner out and some champagne at home. Alex didn’t fall for the “you don’t have to get me anything” line and surprised me with quite a few awesome presents!

Spiral slicer I’d been wanting a spiralizer for ages and he claims that it’s the only kitchen appliance I didn’t have yet. (That’s not totally true… but almost true.)

RVA Mug I’m also loving this Richmond mug which is a reminder of lots of our favorite places. Isn’t it cute?

We spent most of Saturday and Sunday with my family and it’s fun just being together. My sister in law had a cute (and delicious) Valentine’s Day surprise for all of us.

sweet treat Have you heard of these cupcakes in a jar? They’re called Wicked Good to Go cupcakes and they were on Shark Tank! We each got our own unique flavor and Aricka knows me well so mine was chocolate and peanut butter! It was so good.

Dessert and babies? Clearly it was a good weekend.

IMG_7482 Baby Yawns.
IMG_7477 That look wins the cutest baby nephew ever award.

My mom and I did try to work in some exercise by doing laps around Target on Sunday. According to her FitBit, I think we hit almost 5,000 steps just by circling the store. When you’re talking, the minutes (and steps) just fly by! I can’t wait until the weather warms up and we can start walking outside. It’s been freezing here and we’re supposed to get snow today! The wind alone was enough to knock our power out on Saturday night, so let’s hope this winter storm isn’t too bad. Brrrrr.

P.S. Did you make this vegan deep dish cookie yet?

Did you celebrate Valentine’s Day?

[Vegan] Deep Dish Chocolate Chip Cookie

There were a lot of potential titles for this post. “Single Serving Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie.” “Deep Dish Chocolate Chip Pie.” But “Single Serving Vegan Deep Dish Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie” seemed a little long, so I had to shorten it. You get the picture though, right? This is an easy vegan cookie recipe that is plenty for one person or just enough for two. (But you better really love the person you’re sharing it with… because it’s really good.)

Alex hasn’t been feeling well, so Wednesday was a low key night. I stopped at World Market on my way home from work (I can’t resist their adorable kitchenware) and then I spent the night at home on the couch. Well, I spent a lot of the night in the kitchen, but you get the idea. I made dinner and I fully intended to share the salad recipe with you because it’s my new favorite salad… but that will have to wait for another day.

vegan deep dish cookie

Today, we need to talk about cookies. Sometimes, the craving just hits. And we’ve all learned to listen to our cravings, right? The downfall happens when you make 2 dozen cookies because you were craving a cookie but then… since there is a whole tray there… That one is broken so I might as well eat it. That one is kind of a weird shape, I’ll just eat it. Oh my gosh that one has too many chocolate chips, I have to eat it. Ok, maybe it’s just me. But single serving dessert recipes take the temptation out of the way while still satisfying a giant craving.

I decided to keep this recipe vegan so my non-dairy/egg consuming friends could join in the fun. If you wanted to make this gluten free, you might have to play around with flour substitutes a bit. Little recipes like these can be a bit finicky so I can’t promise results, but if you try it please let me know how it goes!

single serving deep dish vegan chocolate chip cookie

[Vegan] Deep Dish Chocolate Chip Cookie
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Vegan
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
 
This single serving recipe makes plenty for one or just enough for two!
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp Earth balance spread (or butter if you’re not vegan)
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • ⅛ tsp vanilla
  • ⅛ tsp baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1½ tbsp mini chocolate chips
  • Non-stick cooking spray
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375.
  2. Spray the inside of a 6″ ramekin with non-stick spray.
  3. In a small bowl, melt the butter and combine with the brown sugar and white sugar.
  4. Stir until there are no lumps at all.
  5. Add in the vanilla.
  6. Slowly sift in the dry ingredients.
  7. Stir until combined.
  8. Add in chocolate chips and press the dough into your ramekin.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown on top.

I tried to let mine cool for a couple of minutes but it was really hard not to dig right in.

deep dish vegan cookie bite Of course, since Alex was sick I scooped half of this into a second ramekin which sort of ruined the cuteness of sharing a tiny dessert… but I’m determined not to get sick.

My parents are coming in town this weekend which means lots of family time (and time with my brother, sister in law, and nephews) and getting sick would mean I don’t get to hold the baby. Needless to say, I’m drinking lots of water, taking my vitamins, and trying to get lots of sleep!

What’s your can’t-stop-eating dessert?

[Sun]day in the Life

I thought it would be fun to do a little “day in the life” type of post. I haven’t done something like this but I was thinking it would be interesting to do this periodically and see how things change over time, sort of like the what I ate then vs. now post from last week. Apologies for all the iphone pictures, but obviously I didn’t have my camera with me at all times!

7:00- Alarm goes off. I lay in bed for another 15 minutes or so before convincing myself that it’s worth it to get out of the warm cozy bed, because the Sunday edition of the New York Times is on the porch.

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7:15- Make a giant pot of coffee, read all the best sections of the newspaper (Sunday Review, Travel, and Business section) and skim the rest.

7:45- Eat a homemade breakfast sandwich while finishing up the Business section. The avocado was perfectly ripe so it was extra delicious.

breakfast sandwich

9:15- Try to keep Alex distracted with the paper to avoid working on the basement. (Not really. I knew the basement needed to be done, but relaxing on the couch sounded like more fun.)

9:30- Start the second coat of paint on the basement ceiling. We primed it on Saturday, so painting was a little easier. We used a paint sprayer, so painting over pipes and wires wasn’t a big deal. The painting part is easy, but the cleaning up part is hard. The best part is dancing around in our ghostbuster-looking suits. Really though, it’s a good thing we had them. The last time we painted, I had quite a bit of paint in my hair. I’m not known for being careful.

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11:00- Abandon Alex in the basement after we finish the painting part and head upstairs to start cleaning up the house. That’s certainly the one thing I miss about having a tiny apartment. It takes much longer to clean our house!

11:30- Decide to make sweet potato fries for lunch. Preheat the oven and start slicing.

12:00- Call Alex for lunch. I literally just eat these sweet potato fries with avocado dip. Alex also has a veggie burger.

avocado dip vertical

1:00- Clean up lunch and take a shower. Blow dry hair which takes 9 million hours. Thick hair is a blessing and a curse.

1:30- Alex and I drive around looking at open houses on the Northside of town. Yes, we just bought a house, but we love looking and getting ideas. We tour two houses, and then head home.

2:45- I hop on Skype to chat with the folks at Blog Talk TV.

blog talk tv interview

Oh look, that’s me on the screen! I spend the afternoon chatting with the crew about blogging and the Virginia Bloggers network. (I’ll let you know when the episode airs on TV!)

3:30- Run to CVS for shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, and other random things we were running out of. Drive back home to get Alex.

4:00- Head to City Church. I love love love our church. It is a great service, as always.

5:45- Get home and Alex and I are both pretty hungry. We are low on groceries but we always have pasta in the pantry so I make macaroni and cheese. Seriously, you can’t go wrong with macaroni and cheese.

macaroni and cheese

Red pepper flakes for the win. I actually measure things out this time so I can share the recipe with you. (Once I take prettier pictures of it… I’ll share!)

6:30- Sit down to dinner and eat while watching an episode of The Following. Such a terrifying show. I can’t even decide if I like it, because it’s so scary.

7:30- Hop on the computer to start writing Monday’s blog post. Edit photos, finish recipe.

8:30- Read a bit more of the Plate and Pixels book I mentioned on Friday. It’s so good!

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9:45- Start getting ready for bed. Washing my face, brushing my teeth, all that exciting stuff.

10:15- Head to bed. I used to be such a night owl but now I like to get up early before work so I can have some quiet time and get blog stuff done. That means an early bedtime!

What time do you go to bed? Are you an early bird or a night owl?

Linking up with Jenn for What I Ate Wednesday!

Garlic Sweet Potato Fries w/ Creamy Avocado Dip

Phew. What a title. This recipe is a fun one because it combines a few of my favorite things: french fries and avocado. But thanks to the baking of sweet potato fries and the addition of Greek yogurt into the dip, this recipe is one you can enjoy without worrying about calories and all that. (Not that we worry about calories over here. We agreed on that, didn’t we?) Anyways, it was hard to take these photos because I kept eating what was on the plate. Oops.

First, let’s talk about sweet potato fries. I’ve been making them since college which means I’ve made all the mistakes you can make when baking something this simple. Here are my tips for perfect fries:

perfect sweet potato fries recipe

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s move on to sweet potato fries 201. There still not complicated, but the addition of garlic is heavenly. Once you ad the avocado dip… look out. Alex liked the dip so much he dipped his fries in it and covered his veggie burger with it. That’s a good sign.

garlic sweet potato fries with creamy avocado dip

Is it just me, or does that sort of look like a fin? Whatever. It’s delicious.

Garlic Sweet Potato Fries w/ Creamy Avocado Dip
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
This recipe serves 4 as a side dish and makes plenty of avocado dip to use on burgers!
Ingredients
  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 avocado
  • ⅓ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • ½ lime
  • ¾ tsp salt
Instructions
  1. For the fries:
  2. Preheat the oven to 450
  3. Slice the potatoes into thin wedges and toss into a large bowl.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil.
  5. Using a garlic press, smash 3 cloves of garlic into a bowl. (If you don’t have a garlic press, you can just finely mince it.)
  6. Toss the potato wedges to coat with oil and garlic.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes until lightly browned.
  8. For the avocado dip:
  9. Slice the avocado in half and remove the pit.
  10. Scoop out the flesh of the avocado into a small bowl.
  11. Add the yogurt and stir until combined.
  12. Squeeze in juice from the lime.
  13. Stir in the cilantro and salt.

Seriously, this dip could go on anything. Ok maybe not anything, but at least veggie burgers, tortilla chips, carrot sticks, burritos, tacos… there are lots of options.

avocado dip vertical

Someone hand me a spoon. I’m going back for seconds.

I made this for lunch yesterday, while Alex cleaned up the paint sprayer. We were painting the basement ceiling which was quite an undertaking. (One coat of primer on Saturday, one coat of ceiling paint on Sunday.) The next step is the floor… and then we’ll start all over on the second half of the basement. To compensate for the less-then-fun home activities I bought some more furniture. The living room is finally coming together so I’ll post some pictures soon!

What’s your favorite condiment?

Things I’m Loving

This has been such a fun week so I thought I’d share a few of the things I’ve been loving lately:

Social Dinners

dinner with tess

We’ve been enjoying dinners with friends a lot this week. Our friend Tess had us over last night, so we got to enjoy a delicious dinner in her gorgeous house! Seriously, I felt so inspired just being there. Isn’t that a wonderful feeing? Look at this beautiful dinner setting!

Food Photography

plate to pixel book

Plate to Pixel arrived on Monday and it’s been hard to put down. I’m only about a third of the way through it but I feel like I’ve already learned so much! If you’re trying to get into food photography, I’d highly recommend it. It’s been a detailed yet easy read so far.

Homemade Kombucha

homemade kombucha diy

Alex and I started brewing our own kombucha back in December and it’s been fun to have it in the fridge at all times! It’s so good, and so much less expensive than buying it at the store. Would you guys be interested in a how-to post? I could definitely document the brewing process! (And if you’re in Richmond, I’ll give you the scoby to get started!)

Juicing

morning juice

After a few months without juicing, I dusted off my Hamilton Beach Juicer and got back in the groove. This is the basic “recipe” that I follow but I love adding lemon when I have it! The ginger is the perfect kick of spice. I’m thinking I may try a grapefruit version this weekend…

What are you loving today?