Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Peanut Butter Christmas

Now that my fever is no longer rendering me immoveable and nonfunctional, I figured I can sit, relax, and write a blog post.

It was the weekend before Christmas…and all through the house…not a creature was stirring…not even a mouse…

Except in the kitchen, where Hannah was busy, making cookie upon cookie, and batch after batch. Because she sucks a gift giving, and baking cookies is way easier.

From about 9:40am to 1pm, and then again from 11pm to somewhere between 2-3am on Saturday I spent it in the kitchen working as fast (yet as carefully as I could) to get my cookie batches baked and sorted. I never know what to get people for Christmas, (except immediate family) so all my friends get their favorite cookies. This year I made two huge batches of snickerdoodles that were spilt among 5 of my friends, 1 batch of chocolate chip split among 2 friends, 1 peanut butter batch split among 2 (the Boy’s were experimented with), and 1 GIANT batch of oatmeal chocolate chip split among a few different people. The baking continued after Christmas on Wednesday when I made a batch of orange sugar cookies for the boy I babysit, regular for my brother, and baked oatmeal raisin and oatmeal chocolate chip for my dad and another family I babysit.

I’m proud to say I did not eat a single cookie, or lick my fingers at all. None of these cookies were made Hannah-friendly, and I didn’t feel like ruining Christmas, haha.

Wahoo for self-control!

With all of my baking and delivering, Tuesday had been long awaited. Who doesn’t love Christmas?

For me, Christmas is about my family. I love holidays like this because I get all my family together. Despite how dysfunctional it can end up sometimes; it’s always entertaining.

This year has held a lot of ups and downs for us, so I did try and get everyone something they would love. For my brother, I bought all four seasons of the original Batman animated series (he nearly cried). The entire weekend (we traded gifts early) every time heard was some other batman scene. I found three new books about adventures on the sea for my dad. Lastly, for my mom, I ordered a bat’leth. Anyone who’s a fan of Star Trek knows that it’s the weapon of the Klingons. My mother is in love with the Klingons.

As I was careful to pick out a few gifts my family would love, my family did the same for me. My brother bought me the exact steamer pot I wanted. I love vegetables, but a person can only make so many stir-fries. Christmas Eve I unwrapped a big box of Peanut Butter & Co. peanut butter. It was the exact gift assortment I wanted, Dark Chocolate Dreams, Smooth Operator, The Bee’s Knees, Mighty Maple, Cinnamon Raisin Swirl, and White Chocolate Wonderful. Mmmmmmhm…

I sat on my parent's bed singing, "I got a box of peanut butter, I got a box of peanut butter, I got a box of peanut butter..." They found it entertaining, for the first half hour. 

Even though my brother was sick and later on my dad and I would find out just how much fun the illness can be, the regular Christmas routine carried on (due to the meticulous “Christmas training” I used to put my family through on how Christmas morning works, I don’t think it will ever break).

We all gathered in the cozy warmth of my parents room to open presents. My parents always tried to teach my brother and I that Christmas isn’t about getting a gift, it’s about remembering Christ was born, and that His life and love is the reason to give. So my favorite part of Christmas is just spending as much time with my family as possible, no matter the size of the present pile under the tree. Simultaneous with being together, is accepting each other as we are. For instance, my mom waking us all up at 8:30 instead of 9:30 because she accidentally hit the hour button on her alarm clock. My accepting the fact that I need to be in the same room with my brother while he hacked up a lung every 5 or so minutes.

(Sick people make me nervous. I hate being sick. I sucked it up to be around him during Christmas, but look where that got me? In bed for a full day straight with a fever that wouldn’t break till the next morning. Well the bright side is my brother’s starting to feel better.)

After presents, my family heads over to my grandparents (basically, we cross the street), for Christmas dinner with my mom’s side of the family.

I even got a surprise from The Boy. He texted me after dinner with instructions to go into my grandparents basement (sketchy, I know, right?) He said there, you would find one of your three gifts. I walked down to find a giant piece of orange wrapping paper hanging from the ceiling.

Behind the wonderful wrapping job, is my very own, heavyweight bag. I now own an object that I can punch and kick as much as I want to without reprimand. I am a happy girl.

This year, dinner consisted of ham, scalloped potatoes, sweet potato casserole, broccoli, carrots, bread, eggplant parmesan, and deviled eggs. My plate looked like this:

A big heaping pile of sweet potato casserole (surely my favorite on the table), honey-glazed carrots, and a few pineapple rings off the ham. Oh and of course, deviled eggs. You can never forget the deviled eggs.

Why do I love the sweet potato casserole so much as to make the usual side dish my main course? Well, one, it’s sweet potato. Two, the silky richness of the sweet potato mixed with the crunchy pecans on top, with the gritty brown sugar? Mmmmhmm.

In fact, on Friday night, I may or may not have finished off the rest of the casserole for dinner.

So as I fill myself with gluttonous portions of peanut butter (one of my friends also bought me a jar of Dark Chocolate Dreams and Cinnamon Raisin Swirl), laugh at my brother as he retells every batman episode, try and get my father to lift his nose from his books, and shake my head at my mother as she YouTube’s bat’leth kata routines, I’ll look back fondly on this Christmas and sit back to welcome the New Year.

Friday, December 21, 2012

I Wonder If I Smell...

I wonder if I smell.

I don’t think I do.

I mean no one’s ever told me I do. Well, except for my brother, but that’s an exception for two reasons. One, he’s my brother. Two, when he did, I’d just finished a three hour workout. I think I’m allowed a little stink after that.

But otherwise, I’ve only ever heard good things about my smell.

So when the girl who sat next to me for the first few weeks of math class suddenly moved over a chair without explanation…I was a bit confused.

Of course she has the right to sit anywhere she wants to. And maybe she’s like me; maybe she just doesn’t like people that much.

But if it’s not a certain stench I give off, it’s left me wondering what it could be?

The other day in class I suddenly had an idea. I chew. It’s an 8am math class, I have to eat my breakfast right at the beginning. I usually bring cereal and let’s face it, it’s gonna be a little crunchy.

Mmmm…The awkward moments my eating gets me into…

The girl does seem to be secluded. We weren’t like best friends or anything, I don’t think we said more than the polite “Thank you” when passing out handouts to each other. It’s not a giant loss and there are many reasons for why it could of happened.

Whatever the reason, I hope I don’t smell.

The good news of today is……….that I’m practically jumping with joy to announce that yesterday was my last final. At 9:08am I officially finished my first semester in my sophomore year of college.

Looking back on this semester it’s hard to see where it all went. Late nights studying for rough exams? No, not really. Early mornings to find parking, and long days to fit in a good schedule, yes, but late nights no. Parties? Eh, I’m not a “partier” in that sense, I kept my head pretty sober this semester. Still, even with a clean head it’s like being trapped under a crashing wave and not knowing which way is up. I’m not so sure where my time went and what to do with myself now that I’m free. I have to admit that most of it went into making peanut butter sandwiches to take to school for dinner.

This past semester, out of all the peanut butter sandwiches I’ve made and left in the fridge, these two top the list:

The first is a classic; I’ve seen it over and over again. I never realized how good it was till I tried it myself. Honey and peanut butter.

Anyone out there ever had one? What’s your favorite way to make it?

Toasted? Grilled? Straight out of the jars?

For me, I spread honey on both slices, then the peanut butter (homemade). Then I let it sit in the fridge overnight, when I go to class I bring it in a lunchbox with an icepack and eat it for dinner.

As you can see, I made a lot of these.
By now, the honey and peanut butter have mixed and thickened each other. The bread is cold, the honey-peanut butter filling is rich hand sweet. As I open the lunchbox it’s hard to dismiss the strong burst of honey and homemade peanut butter (definitely the best part of the whole experience).

The second sandwich is more on the weird side, more…expected of me, by those who know me.

Peanut butter, BBQ sauce, and apple.

Would you try it?

I mix peanut butter and a bit of BBQ sauce (enough to taste it well, but not overpower the peanut butter). Then I slice the apple into either thin circles or thing strips. Spread the mixture on both sides of the bread and place the apple to cover one slice. Put it together and either eat it then or (like I did for school) leave it in the fridge overnight for dinner the next day.

Also, if you’re lactose intolerant like myself, but LOVE the taste of grilled cheese, grilled peanut butter sandwiches are a must. The BBQ and peanut butter sandwich makes a great griller.

The semester may have flown by, but I’m glad it’s over.

More time to do what I like: read, workout, experiment, and eat.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Last Week of Meat

My last week of meat.

Yup. I’m doing it. I’ve officially decided to revert back to my vegetarian tastes. However, this time, the plan is to still be able to walk a flight of stairs without having to sit and catch my breath after.

(Anemia is not fun. If it ever asks you out, turn it down.) 

Everyone is pretty supportive of my decision; The Boy doesn’t mind as long as sometimes I’ll eat chicken if he cooks it. That’s okay with me, but eventually that will probably end as well. 

So last week was in fact, my last week of meat. 

In celebration, I began to slowly wean myself off but also enjoy a few final dishes. 

Tuesday night I came home to my mother making shepherd’s pie. The aroma of peppers, onions, and hamburger sautéing in the skillet convinced me I wasn’t going vegetarian that night. The creaminess of the potato topping, the peppery kick, and the refreshing bites of corn convinced me to have a second bowl. 

Thursday night my parents took The Boy and I out for dinner at a local restaurant. It isn’t exactly a Hannah-friendly place, but there are a few dishes I can eat. I went with a warm, spicy bowl of chili. During that, I decided to definitely find some vegetarian chili recipes. 

Today is Friday, my last day. Although, that’s probably not true. I’m so strict with myself as it is, that in the beginning I’m sure a few bites here and there of the old favorites will slip through now and again. Here on out however, I will be steadily watching my intake and working to get it done to none. 

Why? I’m not exactly sure. The whole animal rights thing is a small part of it, I do believe that needs to change, but it’s not the key motivator for me. Really, I just also believe that it is possible to live a healthy (even healthier) life without meat. I guess I’m going vegetarian for the health benefits and my taste buds (they like meat, but they’re pretty content not eating it). 

I haven’t quite made my decision about eggs yet. Those will probably stick around for a while. So technically, with my lactose intolerance I would be called a ovo-vegetarian. 

As I begin my newest food journey I’m going to share one of my best go-to recipes. A vegetarian stir fry. 

In Thai cooking, everywhere you look you’ll see, “Peanut Sauce.” Surprisingly, I’m not such a fan. I’m don’t know why, it sounds exactly like something I’d jump on. It has to be one of the spices they use or something. Just doesn’t go well for me.

The product I didn’t like, the idea… I absolutely loved.

Peanut butter is rather versatile when you get to know how it works. 

It melts when heated (obviously), it solidifies again into a clumpiness if cooled off afterwards. Add a little warm water and get it heated right and keep stirring, now you’ve got yourself a peanut butter sauce.

I found this out when cooking a veggie stir-fry one night. I had zucchini, summer squash, carrots, celery, and bell peppers. I knew this combination would be a perfect canvas for my peanut butter sauce. 

But just peanut butter? That’s not weird enough for me 

I went to the fridge and grabbed what I already knew to be a great complement for the base of my sauce creation - Horseradish Mustard. (Feel free to laugh, gag, or do whatever to gain your composure before reading on.)

Yes, yes, I know, it sounds disgusting. But if you’ve ever had horseradish mustard think about it for a second. You know that nice little kick it’s got to it? It goes EXCEPTIONALLY well with my homemade peanut butter. To be honest, I didn’t think it would either till I tried it on a sandwich.

So here’s the recipe to my not-so-famous-with-anyone-but-me Veggie and Quinoa Stir-Fry.

(*Note - this recipe could probably serve two if you double the serving of quinoa, but I’m kind of a pig when it comes to peanut butter and veggies so I usually finish it off myself)


- 1/4 Cup Quinoa
- 1/2 Cup of water (I tend to add a little extra)
- Pepper to taste
- About two drops of horseradish mustard (if I had to guess, about a teaspoon? Maybe half? I eyeball it)

- 1 Tablespoon over olive oil
- 1 Small or medium zucchini
- 1 Small or medium summer squash
- 1 Medium carrot
- 2 Stalks of celery
- 1 2/3 Cups of sweet corn

- About half a tablespoon of horseradish mustard (or to taste, but don’t overpower the peanut butter)
- 2 Tablespoons (or so) of peanut butter
- A couple teaspoons of honey (optional)


1) Cut all veggies (except corn) into thin slices

2) Boil water, add quinoa, then reduce and simmer (covered) until most of the water is absorbed

3) While quinoa is cooking, heat the oil in a pan, add zucchini, squash, carrots, and celery

Make sure you have a big enough skillet!!
Learned that the hard way.

4) As veggies begin to soften, stir together the sauce ingredients. You may have to add a little but of warm water

5) Once the veggies are fully cooked (celery will still be a little hard, that’s fine), add in the corn. Add in the peanut butter mixture and stir till all veggies are coated and a sauce has formed. You may have to add water.

6) When quinoa is almost done add in the pepper and the horseradish mustard

7) To serve, pour quinoa into a dish and layer the stir-fry on top

I swear it tastes and smells better than it looks!

8) Enjoy :)

I’ve made many variations of this dish. The veggies change and so does the sauce. One of my personal favorites is BBQ sauce and peanut butter, over bell peppers (any color works), an onion, celery, carrots, apple, and pineapple or mango. Sometimes I omit the quinoa and just eat the veggies, I usually make enough so I don’t need a base. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Weekend Adventures in New York!

Last weekend The Boy and I took the train to New Jersey to visit my aunt and uncle. As I stated in my previous post I was nervous about overeating, but trying to stay positive by telling myself even if I did, I’d be okay. 

Well, now we’re back, and I’m telling myself I’ll be okay. 

Friday night we arrived in NYC and my aunt picked us up. We decided to drive back to New Jersey for dinner. After dropping our stuff off, we headed out. Finding a good place to eat in New Jersey is like looking for a jar of peanut butter in my kitchen (trust me, it’s going to be there). The mention of a NJ creation called “Disco fries” convinced The Boy that a local diner was the place to eat (I tasted one, I can see what the buzz is about). They are this mesh of fries, gravy, and mozzarella. It’s not exactly appetizing to look at, but the one I stole (without cheese, mozzarella, yuck!) blew any fry out of the water for me. I can see where the phenomenon started.

(Sorry for the terrible pictures.)

We sat down in a booth on an especially packed night for the diner Park West. My aunt wasn’t kidding when she said you can find pretty much anything on their menu. To fully read the menu would take a good 20 minutes alone. Lost in the labyrinth of unknown and familiar dishes, I worked my way through the lists. While a good portion of the food seemed to be Hannah-friendly, I stuck to my good old friends, the salads. I chose the Honey-Mustard Grilled Chicken Salad. The presentation was beautiful. Large chunks of grilled (and blackened!) vegetables - zucchini, eggplant, carrots, tomatoes, and topped off with asparagus. The thin, tender grilled chicken was set on a bed of crisp spinach. While my eyes were occupied traveling the different slopes of the dish, the honey-mustard dressing softly and sweetly rose to my nose. As for taste, well, when I decided to be done, let’s just say there wasn’t much left.

After dinner my uncle called and we met him at Houlihan’s for his dinner and our dessert. My will power tried to stop my taste buds, but as I searched this new menu, I found a Hannah-friendly treat and couldn’t resist. Raspberry Sorbet. Three mounds of my least favorite color, but three scoops of silky rich sorbet. The tang of the raspberry came through just enough to not be overabundant. 

The next morning The Boy, my aunt, and I took the ferry into NYC. Here we walked around a few 9/11 memorials. I’d never been there before, and even though I was still really young when it happened, it was strange walking around that place. There’s still an air that floats above the people viewing the sight, a solemnness that no one could think to disturb. There aren’t many images from my childhood that I remember vividly. However, the TV screen showing a plane crashing into one of the Twin Towers, my mom so absorbed and calling my brother (only four years older) to come into the living room quick will take a lot to be removed. It was the only image I saw of it that day too, my mom took my brother upstairs to watch it, letting me watch a movie and have the day off from school. I didn’t understand what was going on, but somewhere in my head I knew something wasn’t right at that moment. 

Next, we asked a vender who could give us walking directions to China Town and Little Italy. A Hannah-friend lunch was found in Little Italy at Caffe Napoli. NYC menus are pretty forgiving. While they do serve white flour pasta, they also offer whole wheat and gluten free. I indulged in chicken marsala with whole wheat penne. I’m not sure how to describe the chicken, I love chicken marsala but I don’t eat quite enough of it to know the right words. However, when writing food, the important part is to give your opinion. My opinion? I’d eat it a second time. The penne was cooked perfectly, soft, but sturdy. Not sure if people use “sturdy” for pasta, but it was. It wasn’t disintegrating as soon as it touched my tongue. The sauce was as it should be, a pool for the main elements to swim in. Smooth, velvety, and just enough flavor. 

The Boy adventured to something new and tried gnocchi with red sauce and mozzarella. He then stated that he enjoyed it a lot, but every time he thought of it he thought “Yucky.” While I’m sure it’s delicious, the name does seem to give that impression…

Once we had finished stuffing our bellies with a full lunch, we headed to walk around for a bit till we could take a cab to the show. My aunt surprised us with tickets to Stomp. Loved it. The atmosphere of watching the performers create music with the oddest things was entertaining but also invigorating. The show holds so much energy. It’s hard to not enjoy it.

Before Stomp, however, we happened to pass Pinkberry. 

Of course, if anyone is a frozen yogurt fan and has eaten at Pinkberry, they know you do not just “pass Pinkberry.” 

So even though my belly was happily satisfied with meat and pasta, my mouth craved the creamy chill of frozen yogurt. The Boy and I shared a medium and we got Chocolate Hazelnut. Mmmm. Must I say more? 

Later that night we tried to see if we could get a spot at the Hard Rock Cafe or Dave and Buster’s. However with a two-hour wait at 7pm, we figured the Hard Rock was out of the question. So we kept walking. Eventually, despite the obvious reluctance on my uncle’s face, we chose a decent Japanese restaurant, Haro. As my aunt wanted to rest and relax from our long day, she gladly approved of the quiet, soothing “ambience.” My uncle, regardless of the fact he doesn’t like Japanese, found a dish he would eat. My aunt and I had a hard time choosing, sushi? A dinner? It all looked good. 

I enjoyed Teriyaki Chicken (hmm…I seem to have consumed a lot of chicken, I never noticed until writing this, interesting) and a role of avocado sushi (my favorite). I know most people like fish sushi, but I’m not a fan of fish. Plus, for me, the texture of avocado, the explosiveness of it as you throw a piece in your mouth is hard to beat. One bite and it splits open and there’s a luscious gush of that undeniable avocado flavor. As for the chicken, I probably could have used a couple more grill marks on mine, but, personally, I think I’m just a little obsessed with burning things. The teriyaki sauce was the highest end of sweet and savory. Again, the presentation was beautiful. It wasn’t like the restaurants that just pile everything on the plate; it was elegantly placed. 

The saddest day of our trip came too fast. The last one. Sunday, The Boy, my aunt, and I decided to waste some time at the mall. We ended up wasting five hours there. The Boy now makes me look like a slob with his fedora hat and new jacket. Seriously, I’ve got to start wearing my good clothes like all the time now. No more of this comfy t-shirt deal. I knew he was handsome, but sheesh. 

I got a dress that could top any outfit any day. The only issue is it’s not the type of dress you wear every day. Somewhere between feeling absolutely gorgeous in it, the look on The Boy’s face when I walked out in it, and the mild but slightly persuasive words of him and my aunt, I became convinced that buying a full-length gown might actually make sense. Either way, I love it to pieces. 

I think buying the dress made up for doing something I NEVER do. 

I ate mall food. 

In my head, I was a little scared. But this food court had some decent places. Not like the ones here at home. I got to enjoy one of the top foreign foods on my favorite foods list. Thai food. Mmmm so good! I first had it when I went to upstate NY to visit my best friend, Buds, since then any chance I get it’s one of my first picks. In the line you could pick either rice or noodles, and then two other options of meat or veggies. I got rice noodles with BBQ chicken (oh wow, again with the chicken. This is started to seem a little pathetic) and a vegetable mix. Surprisingly, I liked it. It wasn’t like world class or anything, but decent for a food court. 

That night, although I didn’t snap a picture (it was too good to wait), we had a homemade dinner with my aunt and her family. We feasted on whole wheat pasta, homemade sauce, a plethora of meat to choose from, and string beans and potatoes. For once I did not have chicken (although it was an option), instead, I went for the sausage. Yum. It was a good choice. My aunt’s parents are from Sicily. They are always a joy to be around. You know that feeling you have when you finally come home to those who you call family? Well, I’m only related to my aunt through marriage, but whenever visiting it’s always like coming home to second family. It’s just the type of people they are. 

As we enjoyed our winter meal (they made sure to let us known they would rarely eat that heavily during the summer months), we discussed our day and enforced will power to not eat every bite on the table. There isn’t much superior to a big meal with good family and friends. I don’t think we could have ended the trip in a better way.